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DAWN - Letters; March, 12 2005

March 12, 2005

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India’s naval doctrine

SADLY for us, with regard to its naval doctrine, it is a fact that India has raced ahead of the rest of the Indian Ocean countries economically, politically and in science and technology, except for nuclear weapons and military missile technologies where Pakistan has excelled. India now enjoys the status of a regional power and is likely to achieve international standing in about 20 years.

As for India’s naval doctrine, its scope was made clear even before independence by such leaders as Chaudhry Zafrullah Khan, when as a member of the viceroy’s defence council he said that India’s interest in the west lay along the West Coast of Africa, and by Mr Asif Ali, a Congress leader, saying that India’s interest in the east extended to the Fiji Islands in the Pacific.

As India’s foreign minister in the 80s, Mr Vajpayee, in a talk at the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad, said that in the past this subcontinent had faced numerous invasions from the northwest and one from the sea. However, having secured India’s northern frontiers against Pakistan and China, the Indian government had decided to increase its naval power to prevent any aggression on Indian soil from either ends of the Indian Ocean.

India’s ability to exercise military pressures thousands of miles away from its coast is implicit in the build-up of its naval power with mobility. With a force composed of aircraft carriers with modern-strike aircraft, large landing ships carrying tanks and heavy weapons together with support ships carrying fuel, stores and munitions, the options are infinite. Other ships and conventional submarines carrying missiles that can strike targets up to 300 kilometres inland furnish India great superiority over other countries in the Indian Ocean. The planned acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines will give a multiplier effect by providing greater security to carrier groups when attached, and otherwise acting as general scourge to shipping in the Indian Ocean. Any nuclear-weapons capability would be a tremendous bonus to this emerging naval power.

Further, and more importantly, the competitive scenario developing in the Indian Ocean, particularly with increasing Chinese and Indian investment in strategic economic sectors in the Gulf region and in North Africa where the United States, too, has lately shown a resurgent interest, must remain of particular concern to all using the Indian Ocean. When elephants fight, it is the smaller animals that are likely to get hurt. Iraq has already paid heavily for Saddam’s oil concessions to China, Russia and France that are unlikely to materialize now. So too are the strategic raw materials of Central Asia, which now are within reach of the US but are again being competed for by China, Russia, Europe and India. Pakistan, located in the middle of this brewing tornado, has to act adroitly to safeguard its security and interests.

I am reminded of the Quaid-i-Azam’s policy of friendship with all and enmity towards none that Ghulam Muhammad discarded in 1953, a policy that should have been revived long ago. Anything else would be self-destructive just as was the case in 1971.

VICE-ADMIRAL (retd) IQBAL F. QUADIR Karachi

Absence of consumer protection

THERE is no price control mechanism at work at any level in the country. Prices of goods and services have skyrocketed since the coming into being of local governments.

It is said that “prices are being controlled through the traditional demand-supply formula” and the formula has failed to control. Prices of automobiles, drugs, eatable and goods and services et al are so high as to be perverse.

Before the launch of devolution of power plan on Aug 14, 2001, there existed price control committees. The executive magistrates who used to head these committees ceased to exist under the Local Government Ordinance 2001, and hence the void that has not been filled by any alternative mechanism.

Yet, when it comes to theory, this ordinance has a number of institutional arrangements for community empowerment, i.e., to protect the rights of citizens as consumers of goods and services.

The ordinance seeks to establish a five to 11-member (including one seat each for women, one for peasants or workers) village council in a village or a neighbourhood council in a neighbourhood in the urban areas to develop and improve water supply sources, arrangements for sanitation and solid waste management. It facilitates formation of cooperatives to improve economic returns, reduction of poverty and consumer protection.

The ordinance also provides for forming citizens’ community boards in every locality for improving service delivery through voluntary, proactive and self-help initiatives.

There are also committees that are supposed to monitor the functions of local governments, etc.

If all such committees fail to deliver, there are complaint cells to redress grievances of the common people and to get a feedback from citizens.

So bold is the local government ordinance 2001 that it has dared to think of establishing a Zila Mohtasib as well. That the orders of the Wafaqi Mohtasib get flouted day in day out in the republic did nothing to prevent the government from making such proposals.

In a nutshell, there are bylaws for articles of food and drink, for milk supply, for provision of washing places, traffic control, water supply, tanks, ponds and low-lying areas and provisions containing down to minute details regarding services and goods, but the word “consumer” is just not defined in the ordinance.

It was in this sense that the government (of Punjab at least) had to pass yet another act— the Punjab Consumer Protection Act 2005 (Pb. Act II of 2005) on January 25.

EFTIQAR HAIDER Islamabad

Vandalism in hospital

ON March 9, around 7pm, some injured students of the University of Karachi were taken to the Ibn-i-Sina Hospital in Gulshan-i-Iqbal for treatment. They were accompanied by a medical officer of the university and Rangers personnel. They were all provided care and were treated by a surgeon for multiple minor and serious injuries.

Around 9pm, when these patients were about to leave the hospital, a group of 20-25 people, all wearing helmets and armed with sticks, bats and other weapons, attacked the hospital and the students who had gone there seeking treatment. The attackers did this with total disregard to the patients, women, children, hospital staff and property.

The students previously attended to were beaten up again and this time some of them suffered critical injuries. The police were immediately informed at the 15 help number and they turned up, but by then the attackers had dispersed although some of them could still be seen hanging around in the nearby streets. This appeared to be a well-planned operation, carried out to precision.

What is distressing for me is, were the attackers university students or simple ruffians? Where were the Rangers and officials concerned who had accompanied the injured initially? Who is supposed to look after the welfare and security of people not involved in these kinds of activities? What was the fault of the women and children who had come to the hospital for treatment? Who will look after the rights of those people, as well as organizations, who provide such medical services?

Do we accept such cases in future or send them directly to government hospitals? Why do the Rangers and police not be present till the situation is brought under control? Where were the higher-ups during this law and order crisis? Who is going to take responsibility for the loss of property of the hospital, and what of the psychological and physical trauma to the health service providers?

DR S. H. Ghauri

Medical Director, Ibn-i-Sina Hospital Complex, Karachi

‘Murderers of history’

THIS refers to Mr Hafizur Rahman’s article “Murderers of history” (March 2). The new generation finds itself in utter confusion while studying

history.

My son, a student of O level, was given an assignment in class to write a research paper on the leaders of Pakistan. My son selected Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and completed his research paper, taking notes from various books written on ZAB, mainly by foreign writers, and really did a good job on the person who had “to pick up the pieces, very small pieces,” to “make a new Pakistan”.

But the paper of my son was rejected on the grounds that he had called ZAB the architect of Pakistan’s nuclear programme, and the man who gave the world the concept of “Third World”. This is one example of the state of mind of our educational institutions — not only a very distorted version of history is being taught, they are not even prepared to listen to the correct version.

ZAB is not the only person whose every act has been distorted by self-proclaimed historians to present him as an “evil genius”. There are other leaders too who have been adversely criticized, such as Liaquat Ali Khan for his decision to visit the USA first instead of the then Soviet Union.

Mr Hafizur Rehman has rightly stated: “The emergence of Bangladesh has been laid at Mr Bhutto’s door, while poor General Yahya Khan got nothing for his efforts”.

I hope people like Mr Rahman will come forward to make the so-called historians realize that they are murdering history and committing a sin for which the future generations of Pakistan will never forgive them. The self-proclaimed historians must not forget that leaders are born great and greatness cannot be thrust upon anybody to create a leader of choice.

AAMIR AQIL

Lahore

Security guards — a security risk

THIS refers to the bank robberies in Karachi in which millions of rupees were taken away by dacoits, many of whom turned out to be private security guards.

This places a question mark on the recruitment procedures for security guards. During investigations, a majority of those suspected of involvement couldn’t be cornered because of fake residential addresses.

The private security business has grown on a massive scale as companies are providing security to almost to all big business houses and local and multinational companies all over the country.

Recently in two robberies in Karachi — at the Galaxy Exchange Company and the Paracha Exchange Company — over Rs40 million was looted allegedly by private security guards.

The guards, however, managed to escape and documents about their identity with their respective companies were found to be forged.

They were so well trained that during all the robberies they did not forget to take away the video-cassettes of the surveillant cameras.

It is suggested that at the time of appointing these security guards a thorough scrutiny should be made, especially of their residential addresses.

Moreover, a guard must be appointed only when he provides a guarantor. Usually the salary of these security guards ranges between Rs2,900 and Rs4,000 (including overtime), which has to be increased.

RASHID ASHRAF

Karachi

Library law

APROPOS of Ms Zubeida Mustafa’s article (Feb 9) and Mr Manzoor H. Quraishi’s letter (Feb 16), I strongly feel that the education authorities are to be solely blamed for the prevalent decline in reading habits all over the country.

A cursory look at the curriculum — from Class I to degree classes — is proof enough that archaic teaching methods are still practised in our academic institutions. A child is sandwiched between the whimsical desires of parents for getting good grades and pressure by the teachers for completing the syllabus.

In the words of the great educationist Dr John Holt: “We like to say that we send children to school to teach them to think. What we do, all too often, is to teach them to think badly, to give up a natural and a powerful way of thinking in favour of a method that does not work well for them and that we rarely use ourselves.”

Moreover, the examination pattern prescribed by various boards places emphasis on rote memorization. Therefore, no meaningful academic activity takes place in the majority of government institutions and the purpose is served either by using guides, model test papers and coaching centres or using unfair means.

Keeping this scenario in mind, how do you expect that a library law, if framed, will do any good in an intellectually barren and bankrupt society?

I vividly recall my school and college days in Larkana when during classes we were encouraged by our teachers to participate in literary pursuits. During disturbances in Ayub’s era when we came to know in college that Habib Jalib’s Sarey Maqtal had reached the book stalls, we rushed to the town to get the book. The lucky five among us (as only five books were ordered by the bookseller) returned to the college triumphantly while the rest envied us.

In the mid-60s, conscientious citizens and teachers, including my father, established a children’s library in the Town Hall building, Larkana, and how thrilled we were as schoolchildren in filling up the membership forms and transact business with the librarian, who happened to be of our age.

However, the impoverished state of affairs that we face today can be overcome by restructuring and re-designing our educational system, fulfilling the aspirations of the 21st century. Advanced countries have already made literacy, including children’s literature, an integral part of their curriculum right from primary classes.

To quote from “Literacy Reading, Writing and Children’s Literature”: “Children’s literature is an artistically mediated form of communication — a conversation — that a society has with its young... they may also include poetry, drama and factual writings. Children’s literature is not something ‘less than literature’ — it is part of a literature continuum..Continual opportunities must be made for all children to be exposed to a wide range of texts from that literature continuum.”

In the words of Gabriela Mistral: “We are guilty of many errors and many faults, but our worst crime is abandoning the children, neglecting the fountain of life. Many of the things we need can wait. The child cannot. Right now is the time his bones are being formed, his blood is being made and his senses are being developed. To him we cannot answer ‘Tomorrow’. His name is ‘Today’. ”

CDR. (retd) NAJEEB ANJUM, Principal, Sir Adamjee Institute Karachi

Shifting of Expo event

NEWS that the Expo event, which has become a yearly feature in Karachi’s business circles, will be moved out of the city has drawn a sharp reaction.

At a meeting, representatives of the business community headed by the Karachi Chamber of Commerce were quick to term the move as a conspiracy against Karachi and Sindh.

While I agree with their contention that the Expo event needs to stay in Karachi, as an exhibitor at this event I can safely say that the needs of the event have outgrown its present venue.

The location and size of the Exhibition Centre in Gulshan-i-Iqbal is a source of problems for exhibitors as space is limited and there is a lack of facilities to properly exhibit our products.

It is my request to the Export Promotion Bureau to look for an alternative site within Karachi where this exhibition can be held. Such a site can be located on the outskirts of the city where proper facilities, including showgrounds as well as entertainment and exhibition areas, can be built.

If this is done, the problems and issues that are faced in holding the Expo event at its present site near the Civic Centre will be solved.

SHAFIQ AHMAD

Karachi

‘Who can say? What?’

THIS has reference to Mr Ardeshir Cowasjee’s column “Who can say? What? (Feb 27) in which he states that the Catholic Board of Education is the owner of the Catholic School. This is wrong.

The school is the property of the Roman Catholic community which has built this missionary institution out of its own resources.

DANIEL ALLARAKA

General Secretary,

Catholic Association Karachi

Ignoring public complaints

SEVERAL complaints have appeared in the media about the illegal charges levied by banks at the time of subscription of shares by various banks. But the State Bank, which is supposed to protect our interests, remains silent.

Other complaints relate to overcharging by foreign banks. In this case as well, the SBP does not entertain complaints and most correspondence addressed to it remains unanswered.

Ironically, millions are spent on heralding an unknown award given to a high official of the SBP. One needs to ask why banks are quick to sponsor such acts of personal promotion and who gets to foot the bill in the end?

SHAHID NIAZI

Islamabad

Reopening of KCR

YOUR editorial on the Karachi Circular Railway titled “KCR’s reopening” (March 10) is refreshing and quite eye-opening. It took the provincial government nearly a year to operate the KCR and that too on a line that is already functional.

To add insult to injury, we have been bombarded with banners congratulating the people for the reopening of the KCR. All this despite the best efforts of the president and the PM to have the circular railway functional at the earliest.

The actual circular railway remains shut with many portions already encroached upon and no sign that they are being removed.

One wonders why it took over a year to inaugurate a portion of the rail line that was already functional when one would have expected in this time that the whole line would start working again.

SHARIQ ALVI Karachi

Franking machine

I REGULARLY visit the night post office located in Karachi’s Hotel Metropole. I regret to say that this post office has been without a franking machine for the last several months, causing difficulties not only for the staff but also for visitors. The staff say they are waiting for a new machine.

I hope the authorities concerned will meet this need at the earliest.

SOHAIL AHMED SAQIB

Karachi

PPSC exams

ONCE again the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) has failed to hold examinations for the judiciary even after almost five months have passed. The last day of submission of applications was Oct 10. The PPSC and the high court are requested show some consideration for the applicants.

CERFREZ KHICHI

Lahore