DAWN - Opinion; 07 March, 2005

07 Mar 2005


Cost of political drift

By Zafar Iqbal

We have too many Cassandras. At the drop of a hat they claim that if they are not heeded the country will be destroyed. Admittedly, many of our governments have done their best to fulfil such prophecies. However, Pakistan has so far not obliged and is not likely to do so in the foreseeable future.

Nevertheless, it is legitimate for citizens to have concerns. There are several things which can be worrisome: the future of the economy; good governance; our political ineptitude; the low quality of higher education; increase in poverty and the problems created by General Ziaul Haq's embrace of fundamentalism.

What are our economic prospects? It is generally believed that growth in developing countries is achieved through saving and investment. Consumption is not encouraged. The holy grail of development is the achievement of export-led growth, which has so far eluded us. While we have had a fairly good rate of growth for the last few years, highly stimulated consumption has been an important contributor to such growth. Banks have money sloshing against their back teeth and are screaming, "come and borrow and fulfil your (wildest) dreams." These seem to comprise things like cars, refrigerators, airconditioners, computers etc.: you name it and you have it.

According to conventional wisdom, lowering interest rates should stimulate investment: it also reduces the cost of government borrowing. Regrettably, it also stimulates consumption if banks are prepared to finance it. This can only be controlled through some sort of quantitative restrictions - which are admittedly not very efficient but there is no alternative. Unfortunately, quantitative restrictions contradict IMF economic theology. Excessive stimulation of consumption is likely to lead to problems in the future.

The worrying issue is that the lowering of interest rates has not stimulated investment across the board for productive purposes. The only exception is the textile industry, which is expecting a bonanza from the lifting of the multifibre agreement. One has not come across any discussion of why this has happened. Most managers are busy preening themselves on their current performance and painting rosy pictures for the future. To add icing to the cake, they mention a booming stock market and the ever-rising prices of real estate.

To further add to our celebrations, FDI (foreign direct investment) is claimed as the answer. There is FDI but it is largely concentrated in the energy sector and some in telecoms. Both are desirable, but there is little or none in manufacturing. The energy sector is attractive because we appear to be offering a very good price for gas. Although the World Bank sponsored IPP (independent power producers) was a scandal in the way it was implemented, one hears that the new approach is more sensible. Except that we don't exactly know what it is.

FDI is dependent on the international image of a country. Since General Ziaul Haq enforced his version of Islam on us we appear dangerous and inhospitable to western visitors: dangerous because his political compulsions lead to a high level of internal ethnic and sectarian violence; no one likes being caught in a crossfire. Violence against white men came only after the US war in Afghanistan. There has not been any incident for some time, and even sectarian violence seems to have abated. We have created a certain amount of future trouble for ourselves in Wana, but hopefully, the authorities can bribe their way out of this.

We, nevertheless, remain inhospitable to visitors. There is no form of entertainment or relaxation available to anyone passing through or visiting. This is easily corrected but the government still seems to be apprehensive, so nothing much has been done so far. Dubai, in contrast, is an island of relaxation and is booming.

Not much progress has been made in improving the life of the poor in spite of the growth recorded over the last few years. It represents the failure of governance. As Roland Egger commented fifty years ago, the government of Pakistan was, in his opinion, over coordinated and under propelled. We seemed to have reached a stage where time is only spent in co-ordination, without any propulsion at all. Mr. Bhutto's "administrative reforms" represented a watershed for a rapid downward descent. As a senior civil servant complained at that time, there are only two kinds of 'cases': "those that are examined forever without decision or, those which are decided without examination." 'Case' is bureaucratese for a problem. The result is chaos or paralysis, which we see around us.

The federal bureaucracy is bloated and inefficient. Even twenty years ago, ministries were too large. I recall when I went as secretary, ministry of production, I had two additional secretaries, three or four joint: I never counted the deputy secretaries and section officers. All that the ministry really needed were a couple of deputy secretaries and a small supporting staff to interface with the government.

The real work of the ministry, which was monitoring the performance of the constituent industrial units, was supposed to be done by the experts advisory cell (EAC). This, unfortunately, left much to be desired because the EAC was not effectively playing the role for which they had been created. They had simply become an adjunct and the ministry sat on them like an incubus.

People who think they don't matter don't perform. At present there is a general feeling that if you do not have a military rank you do not matter. It lowers self-esteem. In such situations quick and effective decision-making is not likely. This also contributes to corruption. While corruption at the top has probably declined, it remains endemic at lower levels. Unless there is confidence at the upper levels this cannot be reduced. The federal government needs to be much smaller but staffed with better paid, more intelligent and confident people. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Governments cannot be downsized or restructured by a simple wave of the magic would.

Alleviation of poverty depends on job creation, provision of services for health, education and smaller families. How can this government stimulate the economy to create more jobs? The idea that the government should employ people even if there is no work for them is not affordable - it is at best a political ploy to keep your supporters happy.

The encouragement of SMEs and micro-credit helps but does not provide an answer. Improved health and education, particularly female education, could complement the efforts to persuade the poor to have fewer children; and thereby reduce pressure on the provision of social services. Much of this action has been devolved on local government.

There is a great deal of confusion about the roles of the various levels of government. The Nazims seem to be under the impression that they can do what they please, instead of concentrating on the problems of local government. In Karachi, for instance, the town councils do not seem to be functioning. The City Nazim also seems to have gone off at a tangent doing things, which he should not be doing, and failing to do what he should be doing.

The resurrection of local government was a good idea. Unfortunately, its implementation was inept: what they seem to have put in place is a near unitary form of government, which, if implemented, would marginalize the provinces. Whether this was deliberate or just happened is difficult to say. Probably a bit of both. Even if we assume that it just happened, it means that the NRB could not perceive the obvious. Any irrational move to drastically reduce the role of the provincial governments would be (and is) being fiercely resisted by the provinces. An excellent critique of devolution has been given by my colleague, Kunwar Idrees, in this paper of February 22, 2005.

The same applies to higher education. The quality of PhDs from our own universities is likely to be doubtful. A proliferation of third rate PhDs from low-grade universities, whether local or foreign, is not going to enhance the quality of higher education. Are we improving the quality of instruction? Are standards being gradually raised? The assumption seems to be that as soon as we have a large number of bogus PhDs everything will be fine.

There has been a lot of talk but little improvement. Reformation is an overused word; it means much talk about the future and no action for the present. Improvement, on the other hand, is concrete, and, therefore, visible; if it doesn't happen - the people concerned can be held accountable. That is why people avoid committing themselves to improvement.

The problem always lies in the leadership. In this case, it is because General Musharraf has no timetable and, therefore, no exit strategy. An open-ended approach to tenure leads to temporizing and procrastination. For instance, there is a lot of talk of moderating Islam but little has changed. General Ziaul Haq's laws remain in place. Having made a somewhat rash promise to get out of his uniform, the opposition has zeroed in on this as compromising 'democracy', which it probably is. But what they may actually be hoping for is a change of general. The real issue is of succession; when and how the next general is to be selected.

Without a concept of tenure and the resulting exit strategy there is no concern about succession or any continuity of policies. None of his predecessors even thought of doffing their uniform, but neither did they have an exit strategy. As a result, events just overtook them.

It's just not cricket

By Anwer Mooraj

It all started some time ago at a dinner party held the very day that the Pakistan cricket team had, with characteristic aplomb and predictable suddenness, once again thrown in the towel against the Australians.

A spokesperson for the growing anti-cricket establishment , who had more than a nodding acquaintance with Earl Haig, General Smirnoff and Charles Martel, lashed out at everybody in high places connected with the sport, and blamed them for the many disappointing performances of the Pakistan cricket team.

He also passed disparaging remarks against the head of state for appointing a person who, he believes, should never have gotten into the sport in the first place and would have been far better off continuing to research what he referred to as the juiceless genealogies of Indian princes. Naturally, he had a number of contenders for the job of cricket supremo, with his name at the head of the list.

This was in extremely bad taste. However, there is a reason for this frustration. Behind all this hype is the fervent belief that the Pakistan team is invincible and should win every time it plays. Nobody is ready to admit that the other side might be just that little bit stronger, that the team might suffer a psychological disadvantage, or that the captain cannot maintain discipline and loses his grip at the decisive moment.

The sport is so popular that every banker, broker, butcher, budding student and betelnut seller in Karachi has an opinion on the subject. In fact, each of these fans on various occasions has listed a variety of punishments to be meted out to players, committee members, selectors and the poor chap at the top who has all the bovine excreta hurled at him in the newspapers. That is, of course, whenever the Pakistan team loses a match! One of these enthusiasts suggested I should temporarily drag myself away from the future of democracy, legal reforms and open season for rape and contribute an article on the subject.

When I protested, saying I knew very little about the game, he reminded me that he had read in an article in The Star dated April 30, 2001, entitled 'The Captain's Dilemma,' that Mian Munawwar-ul-Haq and I still hold two All-India inter-school records for batting which are unlikely to be surpassed.

This took place in October 1947 in Panchgani. We were playing in the second eleven of St Peters against the second eleven of Sanjeevan Vidhala. Munawar-ul-Haq, the 'blaster', who came in at number four, hit an unbeaten 144 runs in around 90 minutes. This writer, the 'stonewaller', struck an unbeaten eight runs in a little over three hours in an innings of 220 for two declared. It still didn't make him an expert.

In fact, cricket is a subject that I have always given a wide berth. This is mainly because there are experts like Omar Kureshi and Mian Munawar-ul-Haq who have been writing on the subject for years, and who regularly enlighten readers in the press. In addition, there are at least another 80 million people in this country over the age of six, who apparently know much more about the game than I do.

Besides, there are too many vested interests involved. People lurking in the wings waiting to take over, sending oblique references to the president; people hustling for contracts, and urging sports reporters to attack rival claimants. There are too many accusations of giving and taking bribes, match fixing, betting and whatnot. On one occasion, a former high court judge was asked to conduct an investigation that cleared a former Pakistan great. Even the scandal surrounding Waseem Akram, the world's all-time greatest one-day bowler, was particularly distasteful.

Whatever comments are made will have to be reminiscences.The sport isn't what it used to be in the days of A.H. Kardar, the strict disciplinarian.. One fondly remembers those days when we clung to the radio and Omar Kureshi, surely one of the world's great commentators, kept us informed of the antics of Sarfaraz Nawaz and Hanif Mohammed in Jamaica, Manchester or Perth. Since we couldn't see what was going on he had to give a ball-to-ball account of what was happening.

Many years later, when cricket matches were televised, one remembers him saying that as viewers could see what was happening, commentators should speak when they think they can add something worthwhile to the visual experience.

One wishes some of the current commentators would heed his advice, especially Navjot Singh Siddhu who, once he spots the microphone, thinks he is in some sort of competition to see who can hurl the largest number of words at the instrument. What a vocabulary he has. When Siddhu is around, Boycott , Bothan, Lloyd and Raja don't have much of a chance. Talking of commentators, Blofeld of the Sharjah earrings, was hugely popular in this neck of the woods. But this writer's favourite must remain Ian Chappell whose cynicism and wry comments are truly refreshing.

There is a nice story about the great Henry Blofeld making a public apology to Ashley Giles after years of jocular comments about his bowling action and effectiveness. " Any time the West Indies lose, I cry." It is almost as good as Allan Border's reaction on facing Muttiah Mualitharan for the first time in 1992. "There is a popular misconception that umpires are a refuge of time-warp-locked geriatrics waiting for a listing in Genesis."

Cricket lore in Pakistan is studded with a series of great mementos. Hanif Mohammed at Lords in 1954, throwing the ball from the boundary directly at the stumps, which won us the match; the fierce discipline of A.H. Kardar and Imran Khan; Salim Malik's single-handed demolition of India in Eden Gardens, after hitting Kapil Dev for four fours in one over; Wasim Akram on a hat-trick in the World Cup. The list is endless....

Pakistan has over the years produced some truly great batsmen - Hanif Mohammed, Asif Iqbal, Zaheer Abbas and Javed Miandad, to name a few. And so have the Indians with Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, Azharuddin and Rahul Dravid. But one wonders if any of these batsmen could possibly match the sheer brilliance and killer instinct of that one-man fantasia that surfaced in India in my student days.

His name was Mushtaq Ali, the swashbuckling master of the cross bat, who when he connected would send the ball into orbit. He knew every stroke and cut in the game. He was every Indian student's hero. He played for the Muslims in the pentangular tournaments, and along with Dennis Compton batted for Holkar against Bombay. When he was at the crease, the fielders spread to the far corners of the field and pirouetted on the boundary line. He was that kind of batsman.

Dennis Compton was fond of narrating anecdotes about 'Bomber' Wells, a spin bowler and great character who played for Gloucestershire and Nottinghamshire. Like McGrath, he used to bat at number eleven since one could not bat any lower. When Wells shouted yes, for a run, it was, according to Compton, merely the basis for further negotiations. Compton, however, was not much better. According to John Warr, he was the only person who would call you for a run and wish you luck at the same time.

Compton was a member of the same club that was frequented in the 1930s and 1940s by a famous Indian cricketer, the Nawab of Pataudi. My father was fond of narrating the story of the time when Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands objected to the Indian's presence at the bar, and demanded that the barman should remove the 'wog'. The story is probably apocryphal, but it is a good one and bears repeating. Pataudi got off his stool, delivered a sharp blow on the chin of the Dutchman and said to the body that lay supine on the floor, "That, my dear, was from one prince to another."

The Pakistan-India clash is about to begin. Inzaman-ul-Haq, who normally prefaces every answer with a quotation from the holy book, even when his team receives a sound thrashing, has already done his bit to stir up enthusiasm by saying he has a strong, young team. The bookmakers see India as the favourites and the war will soon be on. May the best team win, and let's remember, cricket, like chess, is only a game.

A case for more autonomy

By Mian Ashiq Hussain

Over the last two and half centuries, we have seen two types of federalism at work: imperial federalism and people's federalism.

The former filtered from top to bottom, with the centre granting powers to various units of the empire to sustain a workable relationship between the colonies and the imperial power. There were abortive attempts to grant local autonomy while retaining the advantages of centralized power. Imperial federalism petered out, and empires like Great Britain gradually shrank to the confines of the motherland.

There are distinct advantages for federations created with the consent of the federating units and the will of the people: a vast domestic market, influence in the international market and accelerated development and national integration. The US is an example where the central government was voluntarily created by the federating units. Meanwhile, enlightened collective interest is guiding the sovereign states of the European Union towards a 'United States of Europe'.

Pakistan is another example of a country that emerged from the free choice of the federating units. Any attempt to transform it into an imperial federation, where the centre becomes the source of authority, would be a negation of its foundation.

The dividing line between common interests and autonomy, however, has remained obscure. One reason is the orientation of local politicians whose mindsets subscribe to the tenets of imperial federalism. The other is the repeated failure of civil governments to set the country on the course of meaningful democracy and the tradition of vesting all power in individuals. Also, the bureaucracy is unwilling to see the diminishing of its influence in any sphere.

Contrasting sharply with standard practice in many other countries, in Pakistan local government ordinances cannot be altered, repealed or amended without the sanction of the president, under the sixth schedule of the Constitution.

Ordinarily, the division of responsibilities between the provinces and federation is not a complex affair. Every common subject, that cannot be controlled by or restricted to the provinces, goes to the federation. The rest is left to the provinces. The division is rational and objective. For instance, land and goods attached to it are generally provincial subjects: agriculture, mining, forests etc, fall in the domain of provinces. It follows, then, that estate duty in respect of property, and duties in respect of succession to property, should also go to the provinces. Auqaf is also a local affair.

In the 1973 Constitution, however, the first two subjects are on the federal legislative list while the last one is on the concurrent legislative list. The overlapping of legislative subjects and the consequent distribution of funds results in acrimony between the federation and the provinces. For instance, the NFC awards have repeatedly triggered debates and disputes. If tax subjects were distributed between the federation and the provinces instead of tax revenue, there would be little cause for controversy.

The division of subjects should be purely functional, providing the requisite collective power to the centre on one hand and maximum autonomy in local matters to the provinces on the other, thus avoiding unnecessary concentration of powers which has a negative impact on national integration.

It is unfortunate that our constitution makers found it convenient to proceed on the basis of the Government of India Act 1935 which might have been a good model for democracy but was a poor design for federalism. The 1962 Constitution of Pakistan was, in effect, the continuation of the concentration of monarchical powers in the hands of the president. This concentration of powers was mainly responsible for the disillusionment of the leaders of the Pakistan movement in East Pakistan, eventually leading to its secession.

There is a contradiction between democracy and federalism. Democracy lays great emphasis on majority rule while federalism necessitates equality between the federating units. A blend of democracy and federalism was the historic achievement of the Philadelphia Convention in 1787. The national government was made strong enough to ward off anarchy and march towards progress. The states also remained strong. The House of Representatives gave due weight to majority rule while the Senate ensured equal representation of the states. Both the principles play an equal and key role in legislation.

Such a balance has not been struck in Pakistan. That obscurity initially delayed the making of the Constitution and then resulted in its repeated scrapping. The present Constitution does not assign an equal role to the Senate. Legislation by majority vote in the joint sitting of National Assembly and Senate is a deviation from the principle of equality. A money bill may originate in the National Assembly alone. The Senate can only make recommendations which may be considered by the National Assembly, but that have no binding force.

The National Assembly has almost exclusive power to legislate on fiscal and financial matters. This completely deviates from true federalism. The Senate, therefore, has no effective check on the powers of majority provinces in lawmaking.

Fiscal autonomy is vital for regional economic development. Almost all major crises have emanated from the unequal distribution of taxing powers between the federation and the provinces. There is hardly any justification for the distribution of revenue, collected by the federation, between the centre and the provinces by the National Finance Commission. What is the difficulty in distributing tax subjects (as opposed to tax revenues) between federation and provinces? Customs duties relate to foreign trade - a federal subject.

Central excise, being a tax on activities spread over across the country, may be assigned to the federation. Similarly, taxes on income relate to income-earning activities all over the country, hence a federal subject, with the exception of tax on agricultural income. All residue taxes, particularly sales tax, should be assigned to provinces.

The concurrent legislative list is another undefined area. It needs an immediate review so that subjects with national implication are added to the federal legislative list with the rest going to the provinces. For instance, arbitration, trusts and trustees, tourism, ancient and historical monuments, archaeological sites, zakat, evacuee property, population planning and social welfare are spheres of local management and control.

The federation need not waste its energies on such matters, and no hindrance should be created in handing over these subjects to the exclusive control of the provinces. The federation has just to play a leading role, providing the provinces and the people of the country necessary protection and opportunities to progress and prosper. A well-defined federalism would lessen unnecessary strain on the federation and also leave the provinces free to advance.

South Asian nuclear security regime

By Mirza Aslam Beg

The nuclear stand-off between India and Pakistan over the past quarter of a century has reached a point where saner elements in both the countries have started thinking of developing a common strategy for maintaining South Asian nuclear security regime for peace.

The year 1998 was the turning point for Pakistan. Its ambiguity on nuclear policy was put to test by India and Pakistan demonstrated effectively its capability, establishing a level of nuclear deterrence, which ultimately has led to confidence-building measures between India and Pakistan and has modified the climate of confrontation.

The proposal for South Asian nuclear security regime was mooted by the eminent Indian scholar, M J Akbar, editor-in-chief of the Asian Age, who accompanied Mr Natwar Singh, the foreign minister of India. I met Mr M J Akbar on February 16 in Islamabad and discussed the concept. The same day he participated in a panel discussion organized by a private TV channel and discussed the concept of South Asian nuclear security regime. The main features of his proposal were:

One: Iran is under threat for suspected nuclear proliferation and if that threat materializes, the whole region will get destabilized and Pakistan will become a front-line state in the emerging global nuclear stand-off, thus impacting India directly.

Two: There is a need for evolving a joint nuclear strategy between India and Pakistan to face such impending threat.

Three: By working on a joint nuclear strategy, India and Pakistan would be able to safeguard their nuclear status, which has helped establish a stable nuclear deterrence in South Asia.

Four: The civil society should have a role in this respect, and informal study groups may be formed in both countries to study and analyse the proposal and make recommendations for establishing a nuclear security regime in South Asia.

The proposal has its merits but there are some grey areas, which need to be viewed with caution:

One: India's nuclear doctrine envisages joining the "nuclear club of five", hence their nuclear policy supports stockpiling of nuclear weapons - approximately 400 - with an intercontinental strategic reach, considered necessary to play the global role as the emerging geo-economic power of the 21st century.

Pakistan has no such ambitions. As early as 1989, Pakistan adopted a policy of nuclear restraint. The main features of this policy were: a minimum credible nuclear deterrence; no hot tests to be carried out, since cold tests had proved fairly successful (reliability was tested in May 1998); and to continue developing missiles to reach all territories of India, implying that Pakistan's nuclear capability will remain India-specific and Pakistan's nuclear capability will not compensate for its conventional capability. Obviously, nuclear policies of India and Pakistan are divergent. How can such divergence be corrected and harmonized?

Two: India has justified its nuclear doctrine on the basis of threat from China - the 'enemy number one'. Pakistan sees no such threat from China. How would the joint nuclear doctrine of India and Pakistan address the Chinese concern?

Three: The proposed India-Pakistan nuclear strategy for South Asia is to cater for the contingency emerging after an attack on Iranian nuclear installations materializes. Why should India and Pakistan wait for a crisis to arise and not pre-empt it? In order to pre-empt, we have to reach out to Iran and make it a part of the joint nuclear strategy on the basis of 'US-Nato nuclear security regime'.

Iran has declared its intentions not to make nuclear weapons, but would retain uranium enrichment capability for peaceful purposes. Therefore, it would be proper to consider 'outsourcing our nuclear strikes' to Iran - as US and Nato have done: "A specific number of nuclear warheads which, under US and Nato war plans, will be transferred to US non-nuclear allies to be delivered to targets by their warplanes." "Preparations for delivering 180 nuclear bombs are taking place in peacetime", and equipping non-nuclear countries with the means to conduct nuclear warfare, is inconsistent with today's international efforts to dissuade other countries from obtaining nuclear weapons."

The arsenal is being kept at eight air force bases in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey and Britain." If India and Pakistan want to dissuade Iran from going nuclear, then 'out-sourcing a nuclear strike' becomes essential. Iran has the missiles, which can reach Israel. Iran fears nuclear capable Israel, and by outsourcing our nuclear strike to Iran, a credible nuclear deterrence will be established in the Gulf Region, the West and South Asia.

This strategy will thus serve as a meaningful effort towards non-proliferation: "A non-proliferation policy, must therefore, achieve clarity on the following issues: How much time is available before Iran has a nuclear weapons capability, and what strategy can best stop an Iranian nuclear weapons programme? How do we prevent the diplomatic process from turning into a means to legitimize proliferation rather than avert it? We must never forget that failure will usher in a new set of nuclear perils dwarfing those which we have just surmounted." (Henry Kissinger - Dawn 26 February 2005).

Four: The Kashmir issue is receding into the background as the CBMs gain pace, like the agreement for bus service from Muzaffarabad to Srinagar, from April 2005. The Kashmir issue has kept the two nations hostage for over half a century. Can this burning issue be swept under the carpet? The symptoms of the flames turning into a wildfire are predicted by CIA, National Intelligence Council: "Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the training and recruitment ground for the next generation of professionalized terrorists, who will create a framework for the spread of radical Islamic ideology, inside and outside the ME, Central Asia, (South Asia) SE Asia and western Europe."

A significant development took place, on February 16 when I met Mr. M. J. Akbar. Soon after the meeting, the bureau chief of a national daily came rushing to me to break the news that twelve Iranian nuclear sites had been hit by missiles. He said, Radio Tehran broke the news, which was picked up by our private electronic media. I said such madness was just not possible. It was indeed a disturbing news. But by late evening, it transpired that the news was fake. Whether the news was fake or prompted, it did help Iran "test the nerves of the United States and Israel," who promptly declared that no such strikes had been carried-out. Thus, nuclear deterrence between Iran and Israel crossed the threshold of ambiguity, which indeed is a meaningful development.

On the part of Pakistan, Chinese sensibility will remain paramount as Indian nuclear capability is China-specific. With regard to Iran, Pakistan and India must not wait for the holocaust to occur. They should rather attempt to pre-empt such a happening. The best way would be the outsourcing of nuclear strikes to Iran as the US and Nato have done. The strategy therefore must also include Iran as it would ensure stability in the Gulf region, the West and South Asia.

The South Asian nuclear security regime could become a reality if Kashmir issue is seriously addressed well in time because the developments taking place in Iraq and Afghanistan are ominous, as these would not only intensify the Kashmir war of liberation, but would have a global impact, as predicted by CIA. Being pro-active is a better option than being reactive.

The writer is a former chief of the army staff.