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DAWN - Letters; May 3, 2005

May 03, 2005


Ecosystem assessment

THE international work programme millennium ecosystem assessment (MA) was officially launched in June 2001 by the UN Secretary-General and recently completed successfully in March 2005. Its goal was to assess the ecosystems of the world with a view to meeting the needs of decision-makers and the public for scientific information concerning the consequences of the ecosystem change.

It focuses on the benefits and services people obtain from the ecosystem and also how changes in ecosystem have affected and will continue to affect the human well-being in the future decades.

An ecosystem is an area where living organisms and the non-living environment coexist as a single functional unit. The MA deals with a full range of ecosystems existing in the world which provide a mix of services like provision, regulating, cultural and supporting services to mankind.

It is designed to meet the needs of stakeholders, including four international conventions, the business community, the health sector, NGOs and indigenous peoples. It looks for management, conservation and the sustainability of the environment. It synthesizes information from numerous sources which is reviewed by a board of directors composed of experts in the field.

Some 1,360 experts from 95 countries were involved as authors of assessment reports (with only two lead authors from Pakistan, including myself). The findings are contained in 15 reports. Basically the task of the MA was carried out by four working groups: condition and trends, the scenario, the response and the sub-global working groups.

The findings of the MA were launched and released on March 30, through press briefings and seminars held in London, Washington, D. C., Tokyo, Beijing, Delhi, Cairo, Nairobi, Rome, Paris, Stockholm, Lisbon, Brasilia and Sau Paulo. In other countries the authors of the millennium ecosystem assessment spread the word to the press. A message from UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was also released the same day.

In Pakistan there is a dire need likewise to propagate these findings through press and media so that we also assess our ecosystems for conservation, management and sustainable use.



Sensible retreat

NO democrat can approve of a general presiding over Pakistan. The fact remains, however, that the army and its business interests now pretty much determine all that happens in the country and increasingly so in foreign policy. Mr Ayaz Amir in his column (April 22) “Not even Munich, simply a meltdown” makes our general seem more ineffective than Chamberlain when pitted against Hilter. This is an extremist position. But there is a need to think differently.

Half a decade of crying hoarse about UN resolutions and demanding a plebiscite in Kashmir has led Pakistan nowhere. Both sides now have bloated armies, an ignorant bureaucracy and not-too-wise politicos — people who feel that the acquisition of F-16s by both sides is a sign of progress, although some sensible voices warn that this dumping of deadly weaponry is principally to bolster California’s armament industry.

It is now important that the younger brother in the dispute should take the lead and force the older, obstinate one to match the move. Had Pakistan not been such an irritant over the years, it would not have lost its prestige in the foreign policy arena.

Now it must make compromises, but in the process ensure that Kashmiris on both sides of the Line of Control end up with better living conditions and have far greater autonomy politically.

India in turn ought to spend far more resources to make the Muslims in Kashmir prosperous and happier — and do whatever it takes to make this happen. The equitable distribution of water from the shared rivers is critical and needs to be solved. Meanwhile, it would make sense for both countries to pay far greater attention to sustainable and clever water-saving agricultural methods, where there is an awful lot of waste.

Making free travel across LoC ought to extended to all travel across the two countries. Both countries should now work towards allowing visitors to enter and obtain entry (and even work) permits at the borders and airports. Over a period of a year or two, this could help pave the way towards economic prosperity in the region.

What Pakistan and India and others in Saarc should jointly stop is the wholescale invasion of the US service sector and their dirty industries, which are dying to squeeze money through overseas investment. Only a cohesive and peaceful South Asia can stand up to the pressures that the multinationals are set to impose.

The general has the opportunity to become today’s Gorbachev, and by his compromises help to make the region more prosperous and spiritually happy. Let’s have porous borders — not just in Kashmir but throughout Saarc.



Diplomatic fiasco

THE recent incident in Brussels involving a delegation of Pakistani senators, including Senator Samiul Haq, has been a source of great embarrassment for our country. EU parliamentarians refused to meet the Pakistani delegation since they had reservations regarding the inclusion of Senator Haq in the delegation. It should serve as an eye-opener for our government regarding the image of our religious forces in the western countries.

I fail to understand why our government despite its repeated claims of enlightened moderation does not end its parleys and honeymoon with these forces that are a source of constant embarrassment for us in the international arena and of great internal insecurity for our country.

The president keeps on preaching enlightened moderation wherever he goes but I am afraid that his approach of “taking one step forward and three steps backward” will not yield any tangible results. Some concrete and sustained efforts are needed for the achievement of the goal of enlightened moderation.

The senator in question is the head of a seminary famous for its support of the Taliban in Afghanistan. How can our government preach enlightened moderation when such people are taken on official visits abroad?




A COUNTRY is as good as its representatives. The EU treatment of Maulana Samiul Haq is not surprising. In fact, it is natural that those preaching hatred should receive a taste of their own medicine.

The blasphemy laws, mistreatment of women, human rights violations, attacking bill boards and sporting events, killings of members of the minority communities, ban on music and films and inclusion of the religion column in passports are all achievements of the MMA, the JUI and JI. These people can say and do anything in Pakistan, but they have to know that others don’t have to accept them no matter who they represent and under what package.


San Francisco, CA

Clifton Cross

APROPOS of Mr Ardeshir Cowasjee’s column “The Clifton Cross: a complete mess” (April 24), it is clarified that the KPT is contributing to the reconstruction of the road infrastructure in Karachi to ease the traffic problems. It has pledged to contribute Rs2.5 billion towards the rehabilitation and development of roads, bridges, flyovers, underpasses of the city. The development efforts are visible and will bear fruit soon and benefit Karachiites, in general, and residents of the Schon Circle area, in particular.

The KPT, through its consultants, had prepared different design options for Schon Circle. The existing design was implemented after the approval by the authorities concerned. As the right turns were taken by only a nominal percentage of traffic and any overpass would have ruined the facade of the commercial buildings around, the approving authorities had not agreed to an overpass. It was done in consonance with the demands of the shop owners of the area.

However, to address the concerns of the citizens of Karachi, the KPT is considering fresh options, one being a cloverleaf. It will provide right turns in all the four directions and also interconnect with the underpass at grade roads. Hopefully, this design will not detract from the aesthetic and commercial value of the Schon Circle area. The inconvenience faced by the people residing in the Schon Circle area is temporary and for a short period.


Senior PRO, KPT


Managing PIA

THIS refers to the letter from Tahir-ul-Mulk under the heading of “ Managing PIA” (April 24).

During his tenure with the PSO, Mr Tariq Kirmani had signed a support statement to the World Economic Forum’s “Partnering Against Corruption (Principles) Initiative” (PACI).

The PACI announced at the foundation’s annual meeting recently that 62 companies had signed the support statement to the PACI principles.

The PACI principles are derived from Transparency International’s Business Principles for Countering Bribery and call for two fundamental actions:

A zero-tolerance policy towards bribery, and the development of a practical and effective implementation programme. The companies’ support means they will either implement anti- bribery and anti-corruption practices based on the PACI principles or use them to benchmark and improve their existing programmes so that they achieve the objectives of the PACI principles.

Mr Tariq Kirmani would do well to bring PIA under this umbrella too.



What one expects of Pope

A CLOSED doctrinal ally of Pope John Paul, Pope Benedict XVI has made it clear that he will stick to his predecessor’s conservative policies, although cardinals have expressed the hope Pope Benedict would show a softer human image now that he is Pope.

The world today is divided on the basis of religion, faith and culture. One person who can be effective in bringing this gulf is no other than Pope Benedict. He might have had different perceptions in the past in this regard, but now he should be a changed personality.

Christians and Muslims, especially Turks, have great expectations from him. When a lawyer becomes a judge his vision also becomes broader and he starts seeing things from an independent angle. The same should be true for Pope Benedict.

One of the manifestations of change in his attitude would be that the new Pope instead of opposing should expedite the process of Turkey’s entry into the European Union. This would bring Christian and Muslim worlds closer and would strengthen the Muslim liberal factions who are threatened by extremist forces.

Turkey has always been a symbol of liberalism and moderation in the Muslim world. What to talk of present Turkish rulers even Ottoman Turks restored Christian heritage instead of destroying it.

As history tells us, when Ottoman forces reached the doors of Vienna Sultan Mohammad Sulaiman ordered them to stop because this city was the centre of art and culture. Jews persecuted in Spain sought and found refuge in the Ottoman Empire. The 500th anniversary of this act of asylum-giving was celebrated in 1998 when the Israeli president visited Turkey to remind the world of this act of tolerance and generosity on the part of the Turks.

Different Christians sects — persecuted by fellow Christians — moved into the Ottoman-ruled parts of Europe to find peace and happiness.

In today’s Turkey people belonging to various faiths and divergent cultures are living in complete peace and harmony in a secular atmosphere. By making Turkey a member of the European Union this kind of environment can be extended to other Muslim countries as well.

The world is coming closer at a tremendous speed. Thanks to electronic media the voice of hatred spreads like jungle fire, but the message of love and peace is also spreading with the same speed.

The institution of Pope whose voice is being heard all over the world even among Jews and Muslims can be very effective for this purpose also. I am sure Pope Benedict is fully aware of his effectiveness and power and will use it not for Christians only but the whole humanity.



Spending on PhDs

THIS is with reference to the news item (April 26) regarding spending Rs50-60bn to produce 20,000 PhDs in the next seven to eight years. The nation will always remember Dr Atta-ur- Rehman for this planning in our special circumstances.

In Sindh we have 222 colleges, but not a single college has enough faculty members. For example, Abdullah College for Women, Karachi, has 6,000 students and 56 faculty members. The student-faculty ratio is not very different all over the country.

Most primary and secondary schools have no furniture, drinking water, toilet and other facilities for children. The situation is very bad in rural areas. People do not want to send their children to government schools anymore.

The country needs massive investment to develop infrastructure for primary and secondary education. Basic education is the right of our people and this should not be denied to them.

It is regrettable that the government has decided to spend billions to produce PhDs at the cost of basic education to the people which is necessary for progress and enlightenment.

I wonder who are the people who decide about the number of required PhDs in Pakistan and who are responsible for prioritization of issues in education.



Child health education

AS advances are being made in paediatric post-graduation with sub-speciality post-graduation, it is suggested that the CPSP should promote a separate paediatric college like the College of Paediatric Child Health Pakistan which will integrate and promote, as well as observe, guidelines for paediatric sub-speciality post-graduation. It is also suggested that there should be specialist training in general paediatric practice to create more competent general practitioners in paediatrics, resulting in overall improvement in child health and care.



First car?

IN the late 1980s, a Karachi-based company had indigenously designed and manufactured a pick-up van, which was better and cheaper than its imported counter-part. But it failed due to unknown reasons. The company then shifted to Rawalpindi and again indigenously-manufactured a Pakistani car.

This was placed on show at the Islamabad industrial exhibition. Once again, this car failed, due to unknown reasons. The dejected owner then offered the company’s assets to a court of law to be disposed of to pay his debts. So, the car recently unveiled in Karachi is not the first but the second indigenous Pakistani car. This is to keep the record straight.



Creating doubts

A NUMBER of private channels host talk shows. These are telecast live with call-in options, resulting in senseless questions answered by incompetent experts. Sometimes these concern controversial matters which create doubts in the minds of the viewers. Since these channels are viewed by millions on satellite, these so-called experts are sowing seeds of discord which, in turn, encourage the enemies to spit more venom and stoke the fires of hatred.



Production of cotton

THE cotton production target for the year 2004-05 was fixed at 10.70 million bales and the achievement was 14 million bales. Encouraged by last year’s achievement, the cotton production target for the year 2005-06 has now been fixed at 15 million bales. Although the cotton production target for 2005-06 is considered by some as a bit ambitious, it can be achieved if there’s a resolve.

To begin with, the agencies concerned with cotton research, both at the federal and provincial levels, are required to fill up the technical posts that are being kept vacant under the pretext of the government ban on recruitment to the detriment of research work.

It is also important that the agencies concerned with the supply of inputs like the certified seed of the approved cotton varieties, fertilizers, pesticides and supply of irrigation water must not fail in their assigned functions.

The extension services should be alerted to disseminate transfer of technology. If weather remains favourable to the plant growth and its development, the target of 15 million bales is not hard to achieve. Let us, therefore, take stock of our research organizations and their staff position and not leave things to chances.



Inquisitive minds

THIS refers to Mr Amar Jaleel’s article “Inquisitive minds”, published on Feb 27. I agree with his arguments about intolerance; its bad effects on the individual, as well as on a nation as a whole. Moreover, I agree that our beloved Pakistan has fallen victim to it.

I want to add that Pakistan was founded after considerable bloodshed and sacrifices to provide its citizens with peace and harmony. Its citizens were supposed to live in a castle whose strong walls were meant for shielding them from external aggression. But can anyone tell what have we been celebrating on different national events throughout the last 58 years? To be truthful, we’ve been celebrating a scenario where citizens of this peace-loving country are facing atrocities and persecution at the hands of fellow citizens, as well as the successive governments, in one way or the other.

But inquisitive minds can only think, and someone falling down a pit needs an immediate rescue. Therefore, we need ‘mending hands’ more than ‘inquisitive minds’.



Kashmiri leaders

THE Kashmiri leaders have been backing Pakistan’s stance on the Kashmir issue throughout the recent past, but now there seems to be an implicit change in their tone. There is a tinge of doubt or hesitation in their words and they seem to be drifting towards a different goal. Some voices from the other side of the line of control were already at variance with the position of this side. The JKLF has been demanding independent status. But now some pro- Pakistan parties are also veering towards the independence idea. Syed Ali Gilani’s group in Hurriyet is against the bus service and is considering the CBMs as a sell-out of the Kashmiris.

It seems that these voices would continue to change their tone and finally merge into the JKLF’s line of thinking.

This would be harmful not only for Pakistan, but also for the Kashmiris. If the Kashmiris are to fall back upon one or the other country for some reason, then Pakistan is the best choice for them politically, geographically and economically.