DAWN - Letters; July 8, 2005

08 Jul 2005


Kashmir: a new perspective

THIS has reference to Mr Afzaal Mahmood’s article (June 27). The Quaid-i-Azam was an honest and straightforward constitutionalist politician. His view about power of state rulers after the end of British suzerainty was constitutionally correct, though politically unattractive. On the other hand, the view of Congress leaders was politically correct. However, it was based on expediency and duplicity, otherwise they would have implemented the principle of sovereignty of the people based on the right of self-determination in Kashmir state.

The Quaid-i-Azam adopted the option of partition after the majority community leadership rejected his moderate and genuine demand for constitutional safeguards for the rights of minority Muslims in a future set-up. He relied on the two-nation theory propounded by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and others which was based on historical, cultural, religious and other factors, as constitutional ground for the right of self-determination of the Muslim community for a separate homeland.

Those in Pakistan who now repudiate the two-nation theory are striking at the constitutional basis of the country and roots of the tree under whose shadow they are enjoying life and liberty.

As regards the Muslim minority of India, they are no doubt suffering, but setting aside the Kashmir issue will not usher in an amelioration of there lot. But for Pakistan, the rest of the Muslims would have met the same fate. In a Brahmanic society, the low castes and the non-Hindus cannot practically be favoured with any fundamental rights granted in the Indian constitution, unless they politically strive for the same unitedly.

Had the Congress leadership the mind and mentality to treat the Muslim minority fairly and justly, they would have accepted the Quaid’s minimum demands rather than risking partition, which they however accepted with reservations to strive for reunion. Hindu Mahasabha, which was the other side of the Congress coin, had similar views.

No wonder India is steadfastly pursuing its national policy of maintaining the occupation of Kashmir, and building dams and barrages to control Pakistani rivers and minimize their flow to turn Punjab and Sindh into desert, coercing Pakistan to seek some sort of re-union with India. Congress and BJP are two sides of the same coin, acting in unison and augmenting and supplementing each other’s efforts in this direction.

If the Hurriyat leaders have returned with the impression that they have to mind their own business and stop using Pakistan as basket for their eggs, then these people will be at the mercy of India to the detriment of their rights and the interests of Pakistan.

Mr Afzaal Mahmood has missed three important (Muslim majority) areas: (i) Rajori and Poonch districts of the Jammu region are ethnically, linguistically and culturally congruous and contiguous with Azad Kashmir and can jointly form one unit, (ii) Doda district and Gol Gulab tehsil of Uddhampur district of the Jammu region are similarly congruous and contiguous with the Valley and can jointly form one unit, (iii) Kargil and Drass tehsils of Kargil district of the Ladakh region are ethically, linguistically and culturally congruous and contiguous with the Northern Areas and can jointly form one unit.


Tax on taxed savings

A new tax has been enforced in the country, like of which cannot be found anywhere in the world because it is tantamount to double taxation. This is the new tax, under the old nomenclature of withholding tax, which envisages deduction at the rate of 0.1 per cent of the amount of cash-cheque exceeding Rs25,000.

It is a common knowledge that whatever amount exists in one’s bank account, the amount is deemed to have been already taxed, as such imposing tax on this saving again is nothing but double taxation. Thus by nature of its implementation the tax should be known as ‘savings tax’ instead of withhold tax or income tax.

Coming to the practical aspect of this tax, it can be said that the government may not be able to achieve more than 10 per cent of the targeted revenue.

The tax will only increase the labour of the bank staff with hardly any monetary gain. For example, if a sum of Rs500,000 is required to be withdrawn from bank through cash-cheque, instead of the usual one cheque, 20 cheques for Rs25,000 each will be issued by the account holder, thus increasing the work of the bank staff 20 times. There will hardly be any earning but expenses will be increased many times.

It is not clearly understood who will bear the tax, whether the drawer or the drawee of the cheque — admittedly most of such cheques will be cash-cheques, implying that the drawer and the drawee will be the same person, but cheques issued in the name of ‘ABC or bearer’ will also be treated in the same manner, that is subjected to tax deduction. Above all, it is not yet clear whether the drawer or the drawee (whoever bears the brunt of the tax) will get any tax benefit.

Summing up, it can be said that the national exchequer will hardly benefit by this law but the impact as a draconian law will be felt by the people. So, wisdom requires that the tax should be withdrawn, the sooner the better.


Local bodies’ elections

IT is time we stopped fooling the masses. The myths of non-party elections have been exploded many times since Ayub Khan’s introduction of “basic democracy” (BD) which had everything except the basics of democracy. Election to the BD system was a non-party affair but everyone who was there in those days knew well who had the fullest support of which party.

When these so-called non-political BD members elected members to the National Assembly the MNAs soon became a part of the Muslim League of Ayub Khan and the others — including four members of the Jamat-i-Islami — declared their affiliation with the Council Muslim League and many other smaller parties. Gen Ziaul Haq introduced the apparently party-less Shoora, which later on also became a “house of many parties”.

This time around, too, the institution of the local bodies was meant to remain apolitical. But everyone knows that despite official resignations from their political parties the elected local body members at all levels are known to belong to the party they came from.

One cannot understand the logic behind this smoke-screen and hypocrisy. If the political edifice from the very lower level is based on hypocrisy and double standards one can imagine where it will end and to which abyss the ill-advised system will take the nation to. It is most tragic that instead of making things easier, simpler and transparent every adventurer takes us for a ride and ultimately we fall badly only to start from scratch again.

This has been the unfortunate story of Pakistani politics after the murder of its first prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan and the dissolution of the subsequent assemblies and several martial laws and military governments.

Leicester, UK

DHA university

THE Defence Housing Authority, Karachi, has made strides in the field of education from the junior level to the higher in a short span of a decade and half. By now education has come to be the second largest sector of the DHA constituting around 36 per cent of its total manpower.

There are 14 English medium and five Urdu medium institutions within its fold, having over 15,000 students and 800 teaching staff.

In the beginning of 2002, the residents were informed that in order “to keep pace with the education development and give direction to its institutions, the DHA has planned to have its own university, a girls’ college (in addition to the existing one) and two more high schools”. By the middle of the same year, we came to know that “a charter for the DHA university has been approved by the government of Sindh”.

Already the DHA has been functioning as a campus of the Karachi University holding post-graduate classes in economics and Islamiat. Also, the DHA is by no means handicapped in matters of accommodation, funds and faculty for its own university.

It is, therefore, surprising that although three years have passed since the government of Sindh had granted charter for the DHA university, it has not been established as yet. It is also not being realized that the growing population of students find it increasingly difficult to travel to Karachi University (as university point buses and others do not ply via the DHA) and that a university in their own locality must greatly facilitate the pursuit of higher education.


Female genital mutilation

THIS has reference to Juliet Rix’s report (The Review, June 9) about the ill-fated effects of female genital mutilation (FGM) being carried out on numerous Muslim girls in parts of northern Africa. According to the writer, this practice has also now invaded the United Kingdom which has declared it as a criminal act. It is said that in the UK 100,000 women and 20,000 girls are at a risk of genital mutilation.

FGM is being practised by a minority group of Muslims and has acquired a religious mandatory ritual. This can cause many a health hazard throughout life, says Ms Juliet. Girls can find it difficult to urinate, periods can be painful, abdominal or pelvic pain is common, cyst and chronic low-level infections could result. It involves psychological problems as well. The procedure involves removal of all or part of the clitoris and labia as claimed.

What the correspondent did not dwell upon is its sexual aspect. This act represses the libido of sexual origin and reduces the accomplishment of highest bliss which is God’s gift to all living creatures. Circumcision is carried out on girls by cutting of all or part of the clitoris as a religious rite which reduces the sensuality and natural instinct.

This is being practised in India as well as in Pakistan by a minority group at the behest of their religious leaders. Should this be made a criminal offence here as done in the UK and elsewhere?


Salinity and biotechnology

IT IS estimated that total annual losses of soil in the world due to salts are about 20 million hectares. In Pakistan the productivity of soil is being lost due to waterlogging, salination and sodicity.

According to the Economic Survey 2004-05, it is estimated that about 38 per cent of Pakistan’s irrigated land is waterlogged, 14 per cent is saline. The total geographical area of Pakistan (in square kilometres) is 796,096 (Punjab 205,344; Sindh 140,914; the NWFP 74,521; Balochistan 347,190, Fata 27,220 and Islamabad Federal Area 906). Agriculture accounts for nearly 23 per cent of Pakistan’s national income (GDP) and employs 42 per cent of its workforce. Besides supplying raw material to the country’s industries, 67.5 per cent of population living in rural areas are directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture for their livelihood.

The salinity problem persists in Pakistan, particularly in the lower Indus Basin. Coastal areas of Sindh are an important eco-zone of the country cultivation of which only possible due to the availability of perennial irrigation water from the Indus water system. But since the area was at the tail-end of the Indus Basin, the water table was very near to the surface, which in turn had developed salinity due to the arid climate and capillary action. This had degraded the fertile lands of the zone. According to estimates, waterlogged and salt-affected area in the Indus Basin is 6.8 million hectares (mha) and salt-affected area outside the Indus Basin is 6.3 mha.

By replacing the old discipline of fermentation technology in Pakistan, biotechnology has the potential to evolve salinity/ drought-tolerant crops to help overcome national food scarcity as it offers urgent and indigenous solutions to salinity and low rainfall threatening cultivations in one-fourth arable area of the country. Generally, biotechnology is the process that exploits versatile metabolic machinery or component of living organisms to produce valuable metabolite from renewable sources. Though salt-resistant and drought-tolerant rice varieties — Sr-26-B and Orissa have already developed in Sindh — there is need to establish biotechnology, genetic engineering and tissue culture laboratories all over the country. Draft of biosafety guidelines was already prepared by the National Biosafety Committee.

The multiplication of the research can improve livestock numbers as well as environmental conditions of the deserted and saline area of Pakistan. In the desert of Cholistan, more than 80 hectares of land have been brought under trees of different species by using saline and rainwater. The area is presenting a good example of botanical gardens in the deserts. The other example is that of mustard (desi raya) that had been grown on sandy soils at Dingarh (Bahawalpur) under two irrigation projects of saline water. The experiment indicated that mustard can be grown on deep sandy soils with moderately saline water as oil and fodder crop.

The soil samples before crop sowing and harvesting were analyzed from salinity point of view. The salinity dropped from where salts have been leached by irrigation due to more porous layer of the profile and salinity has increased where salts have been deposited after irrigation due to low permeability of soil profile.

Moreover, there is need to initiate research projects aimed at countering the adverse effects of salinity and drought.


Commuters’ woes

THROUGH these columns I want to draw the attention of the transport authority of Karachi to the very bad situation of transport facility at Orangi Town (Sector 11) where there is no direct bus route for the Korangi Industrial Area. People who work in the Korangi Industrial Area face a lot of trouble in reaching their workplaces. Some time they have to change two to three buses and in this way they have to spend a lot of money and time to reach their destination.

Currently there is only one coach service from Orangi Town to the Korangi Industrial Area but this route does not cover the people of Orangi Town’s sector 11, Shah Waliullah Nagar.

I request the transport authority of Karachi to create a new UTS bus route for the people of sector 11-1/2, Shah Waliullah Nagar, which should follow the route: Orangi Town Sector 11, Shah Waliullah Nagar, Islam Chowk, Disco Mor, Orangi No. 15, Orangi No. 12, Orangi No. 5, Metro, Banaras Chowrangi, Valika Mills, Habib Bank Chowrangi, Nazimabad Petrol Pump, Liaquatabad No. 10, Hasan Square, Jail Chowrangi, Shaheed-i-Millat Road, Baloch Colony Bridge, Qayyumabad Chowrangi, Godam Chowrangi, Chamra Chowrangi, Darul Uloom.


Homoeopathic dispensaries

THIS is with reference to a news item “Homoeopathic dispensaries to be set up in July” (Dawn, June 28). No doubt homoeopathy has played a significant role in curing patients who had been declared incurable by practitioners of other modes. It has been proved not only a safe and natural way of treatment but also one that is cheap and affordable by the common man. Homoeopathy “cures patients and not disease” — a claim that distinguishes it from other medical sciences.

Unfortunately, homeopathy has never received official attention in order that it could flourish and be saved from the clutches of the so-called doctors who extort huge amount of money from innocent patients by prescribing self-made medicines; an act which is illegal, unethical and criminal. Not only this, but most homoeopathic medicines do not carry expiry date labels, which in some cases could prove to be fatal.

The efforts of the provincial government in Peshawar to promote homoeopathic dispensaries in all its 24 districts are appreciable. It is a good omen for homeopathic practitioners that the WHO has begun to recognize its importance.

The minister of health and all concerned are requested to look into the violation of homoeopathic rules.


Forex rates

WHILE the government is keen to provide facilities to overseas Pakistanis to remit foreign exchange through official channels, some of them maintain dollar A/Cs to draw rupees, where required. The State Bank of Pakistan issues daily rates of conversion but the commercial banks do as they wish, particularly foreign banks.

On June 21 the SBP declared the rate as Rs59 per rupee and money changers as Rs60.45. One foreign bank allowed to draw Rs58 per rupee. This way a wage earner lost by nearly two rupees per dollar. One Pakistani Bank was not so bad which allowed Rs59.65 per dollar.

Will the authorities look into the matter and ensure that banks pay as per exchange rates declared in the press. The matter with money changers is different.


Dumper accident

IT was horrifying to read about the four students who were crushed to death in their stationary car by a dumper truck in Karachi on June 27.

As a follow-up to this incident, Mr Omar R. Quraishi in his column on June 6 wrote that to avoid such incidents in the future, dumper trucks should be banned in the daytime or at least restricted to certain areas. I do not think that this is a solution.

It is not only dumper trucks, it is also water tankers, mini- and maxi-buses, trucks and even motorists who drive recklessly on our roads.

The ultimate solution lies in the strict enforcement of the law without discrimination, the emphasis being on ‘without discrimination’. I sincerely hope that the new DIG (traffic) will follow this rule and make our roads safer. If he cannot, then he should quit and allow someone else in his place who can do the job.


Mukhtaran Mai

A LOT has been written and spoken about the gang rape victim. This ‘jirga’ which took the decision and thus became an active abettor to this sordid affair is being overlooked. Each member of the jirga must be given the same punishment as the rapists.

A lot of crocodile tears are being shed and assurances given to the Mai which is all mere “lip” service. If the government punishes the jirga members, then this will also put the fear of God in them and would stop others from giving such punishments.

I do hope our government will act without waiting for orders from abroad to do so.