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DAWN - Letters; July 14, 2005

July 14, 2005

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London blasts

IT was not love for Islam that triggered the devastating bombs paralyzing London’s enviable city transport services on July 7. It was pure and simple hatred for the sole superpower — the giant which not only enjoys possessing the power of a giant but enjoys, equally, the freedom to use it like a giant — and its supporters.

All those countries, as also individuals, irrespective of their religious identity, who have supported the US in the bloody game played by it in countries that, by chance, happen to be Muslim homelands, are the targets. Even the holiest land of Islam, Saudi Arabia, has not been spared. The Muslim ambassador of Egypt, the leading Arab country, was captured in Baghdad and put to the sword. His Pakistani counterpart, the Muslim envoy of an Islamic Republic, was lucky to have escaped an assassination bid. Pakistan itself has been the scene of numerous suicide bombings. Its head of state and head of government, both Muslims, have had a narrow escape.

Mr Blair should not have played Sancho Panza to the American Don Quixote. And, perhaps, the British electorate shouldn’t have re-elected him as prime minister.

JAFAR WAFA
Karachi

(II)

THE July 7 bombings in London have shocked and pained millions of peace-loving people around the world. These blasts in central London, the heart of liberalism, home to hundreds of thousands of non-conformists and dissidents hounded and persecuted in their own country, could not be the work of a sane mind.

It was a swinging city in the sixties and an abode for millions who loved fun and entertainment. Great thinkers, writers, poets and political activists from all over the world sought asylum and lived there peacefully.

The people of London should not be frightened by these blasts. They must not give up their way of life. After all they had faced the wrath of Hitler when he rained bombs on London. Great traditions of freedom of expression must never be discarded come what may. Only London can boast of a Hyde Park where at any time during the day dozens of political activists from Asia and Africa can be seen speaking about conditions in their own countries.

HASIN AHMED
Karachi

(III)

EVERY time an act of terrorism is committed anywhere, a mysterious clandestine website claims responsibility, apparently aiming at diverting the world’s wrath towards the poor Muslims, who are faced with severe repercussions and punishments in various forms.

The planning of such acts is primarily aimed at harming the Muslims, because these are prohibited in the holy Quran. Therefore, in all fairness, investigators should also try to find the real culprits who harbour such highly devilish motives against the Muslims.

S.M.I.I RIZVI
Karachi

(IV)

LONDON also became a victim of the ill-conceived policy of George W. Bush and Tony Blair, who have assumed the role of arbitrators of freedom and morality while their actions and pronouncements negate both.

The London carnage may leave a deep scar on the face of Britain’s multi-cultural and multi-religious community. No sane person in the world can support such heinous attacks on innocent civilians, whether in London, Madrid, Istanbul, Gaza, Iraq or Afghanistan.

Associated Press correspondent Amy Teibel has reported that former prime minister and present finance minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu was about to use the London subway at the same time on July 7 to attend an economic conference at a hotel near the scene of one of the blasts. Scotland Yard informed the Israeli embassy on July 7 morning that some attack was imminent, which prompted Mr Netanyahu to stay back at his hotel. This may sound coincidental, but after the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers, it was rumoured that Jews working there had been forewarned. All this smacks of a hidden hand.

ALI ASHRAF KHAN
Karachi

Kalabagh Dam

APROPOS of Mr Khurshid Anwer’s letter (July 11), it may be clarified that Kalabagh is not Punjab’s dam. Mr Anwer’s observations regarding equitable operation are valid. It has however already been done.

While hydropower generated at Kalabagh will be fed into the national Wapda grid for use by the whole country, stored water is to be shared by the four provinces as follows: NWFP 14 per cent, Balochistan 12 per cent, Sindh 37 per cent and Punjab 37 per cent. It may be noted that Sindh has been given more water than its due share. Its population and irrigated area are far short of Punjab, yet it will enjoy the same water share as the latter.

This writer has urged repeatedly that Pakistan needs the Kalabagh dam to help mitigate water and power shortfalls. What a painful paradox. While our people are suffering because of unprecedented shortages, we let as much as 38 maf (million acre-feet) of surplus water go waste into the Arabian Sea every year. It happens for want of a large reservoir such as at Kalabagh to store surplus river flows. But its construction is held hostage to a quagmire of regional politics.

It is indeed regrettable that a small lobby in Sindh is in the forefront to oppose the Kalabagh Dam. Their stand is that Sindh would become a desert after construction of the Kalabagh Dam. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact of the matter is that Sindh needs Kalabagh Dam more than any other province, as was pointed out in this writer’s paper ‘Pakistan’s Syndrome of Hydropolitics’ presented to the IEEP (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Pakistan) Congress at Lahore in July 2002. On the contrary no viable way can be visualized by which Sindh can avoid becoming a desert without Kalabagh.

It was not a piece of rhetoric. The argument is that Sindh’s population is expected to increase by 11,000,000 by the year 2010. In my assessment its minimum additional water requirement would be five maf. Will those in Sindh opposed to the Kalabagh Dam kindly enlighten the people by what viable alternative they propose to meet their additional water requirements by 2010 — less than five years hence?

B. A. MALIK
Chief technical adviser
UNO/World Bank
Lahore

Mukhtaran Mai

BEFORE General Pervez Musharraf banned Mukhtaran Mai from going to the US, a Yahoo search on her name (Mukhtaran) came up with less than 10,000 results. A similar search now reveals 249,000 results, and this number is growing day by day. This should be a lesson for the Pakistani regime whose folly and incompetence know no bounds. What was the point in trying to stop Mukhtaran from going?

Her story had already been covered extensively in the international press before. If she had visited the US, some aspects of the government’s response might even have been applauded, like providing security for Mukhtaran, something not common in such cases. But they blew the chance. Not only that, General Musharraf’s branding of NGOs as “westernized fringe elements” was appalling. NGOs are an important aspect of any country’s scene, and are perhaps more important in terms of emerging economies like Pakistan because of the lack of quality social services available for the public.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, among others, is no “fringe element,” for it provides help to those who need it most. The government should also stop harassing Asma Jahangir, a brave human rights activist in Pakistan. Among numerous other achievements, she once freed a blind woman who had been gang-raped and then imprisoned for adultery. What is westernized about that? Human rights aren’t western; they are universal.

TAIMUR M. KHAN
Illinois, USA

Open borders

AN interesting book, Orient Express, perhaps published at the centenary of the inauguration of the famous express train on October 4, 1883, has noteworthy anecdotes like the one on page 22. It is about the then British foreign secretary Ernest Bevin who, when asked to explain his foreign policy, is reported to have replied: “I want to be able to go to Victoria Station, buy a ticket and go where the hell I like.”

Well, Sir, he had said the right thing much before the right time. This has now become true so far as Europe is concerned to which England is joined by the under-channel railway tunnel. I wish our foreign minister should also widen his mental horizon to the level of Earnest Bevin so that one may be able to go to the Karachi cantonment station, buy a ticket and go “where the hell one liked” — Dhaka, for example, via Delhi, Lucknow and Kolkata.

Let us aim at running a “Dhaka Express” on the Karachi-Lahore-Delhi-Lucknow-Calcutta-Dhaka route, may be up to Rangoon as well. Also a Tehran Express on the Karachi-Quetta-Zahidan-Tehran route. I do not know if Zahidan is connected with Tehran by rail. If not, track can be laid. This will be to the financial, cultural and tourism benefit of the two countries. The next step may be to connect Tehran with Turkey. Will our foreign minister rise to the occasion?

SALAHUDDIN MIRZA
Karachi

Cantonment board

CONSTRUCTION of properties, cleaning of garbage, maintenance of green belts and watering of plants, repair of damaged footpaths, service roads and main roads and removal of encroachments in 20 blocks of Gulistan-i-Jauhar are under the administrative control of the Cantonment Board Faisal (CBF), Karachi. The citizens living in this area pay conservancy and house taxes to the CBF but do not get proper services in return.

Garbage is scattered all over the green belts, service roads and main roads in Blocks 15 to 20 of Gulistan-i-Jauhar. The footpath is damaged and has not been repaired for a long time. Portions of footpath and service roads are occupied by encroachers

The director-general of Military Lands and Cantonments and other relevant officials of the CBF are requested to take necessary steps to provide relief to the residents.

COL (retd) IKRAMULLAH NIAZI
Karachi

PIA and wheelchairs

I TRAVELLED by PIA on July 10 from Amsterdam to Karachi on PK-765. At Amsterdam airport I asked the staff dealing with the flight to provide me a wheelchair. To my surprise the staff demanded 50 euros (Rs3,600) and they told me that it is only PIA that is charging for this facility.

The authorities concerned are requested to immediately intervene for the withdrawal of such discriminatory charges.

ASMAT KHAN
Karachi

Hasba Bill

THE prime minister concedes that ‘Pakistan has an image problem’. The president never tires of preaching his vision of ‘enlightened moderation’.

A draconian and backward-looking Hasba Bill is awaiting debate in the assembly of the most conservative province in the country. The bill is clearly unconstitutional but the federal government does not have the nerve to fight it tooth and nail. One act of appeasement after another, one capitulation following the one before. This is not a recipe for either fighting militancy and terrorism or improving the image of the country abroad. However, the government can show that it is fighting for an open society and for upholding the rights of women and minorities by stopping the enactment of the Hasba Bill as a new law and abrogating the archaic and mediaeval Hudood laws.

Pakistan is still viewed by the rest of the world as an epicentre of terrorism and militancy. Unless the government forsakes political expediency and makes sincere efforts to improve the country’s image by concrete action, not only will the world continue to shy away from serious investment in Pakistan, its students desirous of studies abroad will find the doors of European universities closed to them as has already been happening with regard to schools in the United States.

MASOOD HAIDER
New Jersey,
USA

(II)

NO province should establish or make laws against the Constitution of the country. The federal government should stop all types of funding to the NWFP government if the province tries to go against the Constitution. This will be a big tool for the federal government to stop any illegal activity by local governments.

SHABIR SABRI
USA

(III)

THE Hasba Bill introduced by the MMA in the NWFP Assembly has stirred a big commotion from the opposition parties and human rights activists who have termed it undemocratic, unconstitutional, inhumane and even un-Islamic.

Throwing away copies of the bill by some of them on the assembly floor has been given an altogether different twist by the MMA, as they have equated such an act with desecrating the name of the Holy Prophet which was written in the text of the bill. This is typical of our ulema who always give a religious colour to an otherwise innocent act by playing upon the sentiments of innocent and naive people. Anything said against their version of governance is declared by them as un-Islamic.

The word ‘secular’ is an enigma to them which they wrongly interpret as ‘La deen’, instead of its real meaning of being ‘non-monastic’ — above religion or not concerned with religion, which is not being anti-religion. Similarly any enlightened moderation is wicked and sinful to them. Any advancement in education, medicine, etc., is a fulfilment of the American agenda to them. They are imperceptibly and gradually nibbling away at the progress and advancement of the Pakistani nation in the name of religion.

The introduction of the Hasba Bill at this juncture is yet another ploy to hoodwink the innocent masses into voting for the religious parties in the coming local elections, just as they had exploited their electoral symbol ‘book’ in the last elections.

COL (retd) RIAZ JAFRI
Rawalpindi

PHF affairs

BRIG (retd) Musaratullah Khan was appointed Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) secretary in 2000. Initially he promised a lot: “My target is to win back the World Cup and the Olympics.”

Leave alone winning these titles, Pakistan failed to even reach the victory stand in either of these events. During his tenure the national team failed to win even minor titles like Asian Games, Asia Cup, Commonwealth Games, et al.

At the junior level, in spite of being hosts, Pakistan failed to win last year’s junior Asia Cup losing 2-5 to India. Prior to the recent junior World Cup, Musaratullah had bragged that three-year planning had been put up in preparing this team. Yet Pakistan failed miserably and finished seventh.

If Brig Musaratullah has any moral courage he should immediately step down from his post as secretary. Otherwise the prime minister in his capacity as patron of the PHF should sack him.

FAYYAZ A. KHAN
Lahore

Blocked plots

THIS is to bring to the attention of the president, the prime minister, the honourable chief justice of Pakistan, the interior minister and the CDA chairman the plight of 100 or so plot-owners of Sector F-11/4, Islamabad, whose plots have yet not been delivered to them by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) due to illegal occupation of the land since the last about one decade.

The area in question is called Bekhan Saaidan where illegal occupants have foiled any half-hearted attempts by the CDA to give the plots to their rightful owners.

Apart from causing agony to so many people who dream of having their own house in Islamabad it is also sending a negative message to foreign and Pakistani investors who see the rule of law being flouted so flagrantly in the federal capital itself, right under the noses of all the bigwigs.

Can one expect some answer in these columns from the CDA chairman or the interior ministry?

DR MALIK NAZIR AHMED
Karachi

Indirect taxation

WE pay in terms of our time and money for senseless traffic jams when a VIP decides to take to city roads. One just wonders if this is a form of indirect taxation too.

Aren’t we entitled to a tax refund for braving such situations?

ZAFAR SALAM
Karachi

‘Agony of delayed justice’

THIS refers to two of Mr Kunwar Idris’s articles, “Agony of delayed justice” (July 3) and “Spreading of justice at grassroots” (July 10). In both these articles Mr Idris describes the lamentable role of an overburdened judiciary and over-legislated judicial system in the dispensation of justice. He concludes by suggesting the establishment of panchayats at grassroots level. His proposed panchayat will consist of five impartial and honourable men.

Now the question arises: how do you define an impartial and honourable person? In rural areas an uneducated chaudhry or wadera by the virtue of his wealth and relations with police and high officials imposes himself as the most honourable and impartial person in public affairs. He is the top adjudicator.

The panchayat system is already in existence, though in primitive form. The chaudhry dominates it and uses it for his personal ends. In most of the cases he adjudicates while putting all the norms of justice on one side in favour of his party. And the downtrodden people cannot challenge his decision anywhere.

If we accept the suggestion of Mr Idris and this chaudhry-dominated panchayat comes into existence, adjudications will inevitably turn out to be as in Mukhtaran Mai’s case. This would in return further aggravate the existing situation. Furthermore, there would not and cannot be uniformity of laws applicable to these panchayats because of the differences in culture. It would only give the chaudhry the monopoly of victimization of impoverished people.

The remedy lies in increasing the number of judges consistent with the increase in crime. Their training period should be increased from one month to two years. The salaries of judges also must be increased substantially to enable them to make ends meet.

KASHIF ALI
Sheikhupura

Corrective measures

THIS is in response to Mr Sabihuddin Ghausi’s letter (June 29). The passenger had to face inconvenience at the check-in counter at Jinnah International Airport, Karachi, due to swapping of boarding passes.

The management has taken notice of this lapse. PIA regrets the inconvenience caused to Mr Ghausi and values his effort to inform the management. Corrective measures have been adopted for the convenience of our customers.

SAMINA PARVEZ |
General Manager
Public Affairs
Karachi