Parleys in New York

By Najmuddin A. Shaikh


PRESIDENT Musharraf and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will have a meeting in New York to carry forward what both of them have agreed is an “irreversible” peace process. A considerable effort has been made, or at least so it seems to outside observers, to create a favourable ambience for the meeting. The exchange of prisoners at Wagah is one such effort.

While in terms of the substantive issues on which there is disagreement between the two sides this is a comparatively minor matter. But it does reflect a change of attitude towards humanitarian questions which hitherto were seen as bargaining pawns and highly ineffective ones in the confrontation between the two countries. Even now I am sure that a high level decision was needed to push through an exchange that many would have wanted to keep pending until all bureaucratic requirements, such as establishment of nationality had been met.

The most important development however has been with regard to the Kashmir dispute. The meeting of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with Mir Waiz Omar Farooq’s faction of the APHC and the reported agreement that India would appoint a senior political figure to carry forward the negotiations and to consider the proposals for moving towards a solution of the Kashmir issue that the Mir Waiz faction intended to table was an important development.

It was also important that the Indian government announced shortly thereafter that the Indian para-military force, the BSF would be moved out of Srinagar leaving the task of maintaining law and order in the city to the local police and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).

How important the agreement to appoint a senior representative to carry forward the dialogue will be only time will tell but Manmohan Singh in the past has proved to be a man of his word and there is therefore at least some ground for optimism in this regard. The removal of the BSF from Srinagar could be dismissed as cosmetic and may prove to be so if this means that additional contingents of the CRPF are sent in to replace them but it could be the first step towards alleviating the hardships that these paramilitary forces had caused to the Kashmiris, a conclusion supported by the announcement from the Director-General of the BSF that the entire BSF contingent in Kashmir will be moved out by 2007. I believe that conditions now exist in which the BSF could be moved out faster and in which regular army units could also be withdrawn but one must recognize that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is navigating in, what are for him, largely uncharted waters and must therefore move with caution particularly when his establishment tells him that there has been no reduction in the infiltration from across the LOC.

According to newspaper reports, Mir Waiz Omar Farooq maintains that the APHC has been authorized by the Indian Prime Minister to play a role in facilitating the Indo-Pakistan dialogue and believes that this means that India is agreeing to a tripartite dialogue. This may be an overly optimistic view but the very fact that the Indian prime minister is willing to see the APHC as a possible facilitator of a bilateral dialogue would mean that there would not be any objections raised to the APHC maintaining a regular dialogue with Pakistan.

It would be safe to assume that in the forthcoming meeting President Musharraf while welcoming the steps taken so far will press for more to be done and far more to be done within a short time frame. It is also safe to assume that he will get little satisfaction on this account. The only question will be how strongly the Indian leader reiterates his establishment’s view that Pakistan has not done enough to curb the militants from across the LOC.

It would be safe to assume that both sides will also agree that progress needed to be made towards creating a situation where boundaries or borders would become irrelevant. There may not be agreement, given Pakistani anxiety for a quick solution, that creating such an ambience will take time but our desire notwithstanding it would appear that the logic of the ground situation would dictate that Pakistan accept the need “to make haste slowly”.

While it is clear that there is no other problem between India and Pakistan that is more urgent than Kashmir it is also clear that this problem is going to take time to settle and that the best way to hasten a solution is to resolve the other outstanding issues in a manner that builds trust and confidence. There has been agreement during the meeting of the foreign secretaries earlier this month on some additional confidence building measures including new bus and truck services in Kashmir, the pre-notification of missile tests and the easing of restrictions on people-to-people contacts. These are important as is the agreement on the schedule for the composite dialogue and the setting of the agenda for the meeting of foreign ministers in October. These are all important but for the most part reflect the Indian push for facilitating people to people contact.

What is needed is a directive from the two leaders after their meeting in New York for their representatives to reach an agreement on issues such as Siachen and Sir Creek. This directive should reflect Manmohan Singh’s assertion that he trusts Musharraf and is prepared to do business with him. This should mean that in Siachen, as was agreed in 1989, there will be a troop withdrawal by both sides and talks will then focus on how the area can be converted into a “mountain of peace”. In other words India must not maintain that since there is no trust between the two sides it needs to have signed evidence of what positions the troops of the two sides are withdrawing from.

On Sir Creek similarly the Indians must show a greater sense of accommodation than was admittedly possible for them when the two countries were in a confrontation mode. Both countries are alarmed at the flouting of the rule of law in other parts of the world and should therefore aim at reaching an agreement that is in accordance with the spirit as much as the letter of the law. In other words India must not insist that in accordance with the Thalweg principle the middle of the Sir Creek should be the boundary between the two states because it knows that the Thalweg principle applies only when the waterway forming the boundary is navigable and Sir Creek is not and never has been navigable.

The settling of the Sir Creek is important not because it is a source of military tension or wasteful expenditure, as is the case with Siachen, or even because it will mean the demarcation of the only undemarcated portion of the Indo-Pakistan land border but because on the drawing of this boundary will depend the demarcation of the maritime boundaries and the demarcation of the zones in the Arabian Sea that will be available to the two countries for economic exploitation (EEZ). It is said that this offshore area is rich in oil and gas resources. India must not suggest that rather than demarcating the areas belonging to the two countries there may be an agreement to share these resources.

India can however suggest that, as a gesture of good neighbourliness, Pakistan and India should agree that the right to purchase such gas and oil as is discovered there and as is surplus to the requirements of the owner country should be offered first to the other before being put on the international market.

The Indian foreign secretary said at the end of his visit to Pakistan at the beginning of this month that some advance on these two issues could be expected in the coming weeks. One hopes that this advance is along the lines I have suggested and that such an Indian proposal will be made by the Indian PM to Musharraf.

It is of course a very welcome development that progress appears to have been made on the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline in the recent secretary-level talks between the two sides. According to press reports the Iranians have indicated that they are prepared to earmark 10 trillion cubic metres (TCM) of gas for the pipeline over the next thirty years while the Indians and Pakistanis calculate that their combined demand will be about two TCM.

What I found disturbing was the report that Pakistan would require one billion cubic feet of gas per day in 2010 and that this would go up to 2.5 billion cubic feet of gas per day by 2015 while the Indians who have spoken in the past of needing as much as 17.5 billion cubic feet of gas per day by 2020 are talking now of an offtake of only 2.1 BCFD in 2010 and 3.1 BCFD by 2015.

What the Indians have given as their demand reflects caution and we need to do likewise. Our estimate of our requirement of gas may or may not be overly optimistic but I am certain that it is overly pessimistic about the extent to which it can be met from more intensive exploitation of existing fields and the discovery of new fields in Pakistan. In these circumstances it would be right to ask that the pipeline have a capacity of 5.6 billion cubic feet a day because the combined Indian and Pakistani demand will grow to this level well before the expiry of the 30 year period of the contract. But Pakistan must make no commitment to buy this quantity of gas in the early years of the contract.

We have had a sad experience on this account with the private power producers and must not repeat the mistake again. The president and prime minister must agree to direct their experts to reexamine their figures and to be clear in their negotiations with the Iranians that the full capacity of the pipeline will not be utilized by 2015 but may have to wait upon the expected further growth of demand perhaps by the year 2020 or even later.

The Musharraf-Singh meeting in New York is likely to be an important step in the peace process. It seems that both sides have prepared themselves well for the talks. I only fear that officials on both sides may have urged caution and advocated such initiatives as are advantageous only to their side. It will be advisable for the leaders to cast aside such advice and move ahead with a degree of generosity. In this regard the burden is greater on the Indian side.

They need to moderate their approach to issues such as Siachen and Sir Creek and show the same boldness that President Musharraf has shown in modifying elements of Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir.

State of women’s rights

A REPORT says the Islamabad chapter of the Women’s Action forum (WAF) is being resuscitated. There is no mention in the report why and how it was allowed to die in the first place. Maybe the bureaucratic atmosphere of the capital was stifling.

The WAF is an almost militant organisation, ready to take on the police if the need arises, as it demonstrated in Lahore some years ago. It is not like APWA, a goody-goody body dependent on government goodwill for its welfare work. WAF knows how to fight.

One of our misfortunes is that when there is a civilian government political issues tend to overshadow everything else. We forget when we talk of women’s problems that we are talking about half the population. An even greater misfortune is the general outlook towards them. Women who try to highlight the question of women’s rights and privileges are strongly condemned by the powerful orthodox religious circles for raising issues which are immoral and un-Islamic.

The trouble with Pakistan’s aware and educated women (who are in majority in WAF) is that their enlightened minds do not accept the traditional interpretation of the Shariat on matters concerning women. They would like a revival of ijtihaad (as advocated by Allama Iqbal) to re-examine such issues in the light of modern needs. But they can’t be openly critical for fear of being labelled as heretics. Like men they too have been influenced by the liberal and egalitarian concept of justice coming from the West. While men too feel the same way about tradition, but since they are not affected they don’t have to speak out their thoughts. In the case of women the dilemma persists.

But apart from how religious orthodoxy defines women’s rights as compared to those of men, and punishments under the Hudood laws, we certainly cannot claim that we are seriously concerned about treating women well. It’s almost like our attitude towards the minorities.

An occasional Nawabpur shakes the entire country. The nation’s conscience is smitten and the press goes overboard in condemning the incident. But then we find that Nawabpur was no solitary aberration. Since then, more Nawabpurs have followed (just as there have been Shantinagars and Bahawalpurs in the case of Christians) but we just shrug them off as “another of those nude women things.”

A popular Urdu daily reported recently that (I translate) “In various prisons in the country nearly a thousand innocent women, falsely implicated in cases under the Hudood Ordinance, are incarcerated. This was stated by a reliable authority in the Women’s Division who said that all these women belonged to the lower strata of society, from backward rural areas mostly. Their contact with the world outside the jail gets completely broken, and then the prison officials consider it their prerogative to submit them to all sorts of indignities, even fornication and rape.”

These women find themselves imprisoned because, in most cases of unlawful acts under the Hudood Ordinance, the male culprits go scot free but the women get prosecuted — I don’t know by what strange process of law. And the height of cruelty and insensitivity is that if a woman becomes pregnant after being raped, her crime is proved by the fact of the pregnancy, while to indict the rapist the required evidence of witnesses to the act is not available.

It is a terrible situation and that, too, in the much-trumpeted “Islamized” Pakistan. And yet we go out of our way to show how women in the highly advanced and civilised countries are exploited and insultingly treated, and how Islam gives Muslim women a place of honour and a far better deal in society.

I am not being emotional when I say that men of this country, Muslims most of them, should hang their heads in shame at this state of affairs. There is only a difference of degree between us and the universally condemned Taliban? This is one of the outcomes of General Zia’s so-called eleven-year golden Islamic era in Pakistan.

There was another report about women’s affairs in another Urdu daily, though not so grim and heart-rending. It says that out of the total of more than 1,90,000 federal government employees in the country the number of women is a little over 9,000, of whom half are working in education. The paper avers that the male colleagues of these women put up various kinds of hurdles in the way of promotion of female officials, and the latter are sort of obliged to retire after reaching Grade-20.

I know it is not easy to accelerate the absorption of more and more women in government jobs. The feeding process is not adequate, and most women who are qualified enough for a good job like to get married and settle down to have domestic security rather than try to obtain economic security through employment. I also know that for a long, long time the percentage of women government servants is not going to be anywhere near the optimum fifty per cent, perhaps never.

But what the government and the male public servants can do is to shed their prejudices and make a conscious and determined effort to let women employees feel more comfortable. My point is that there is no cause for self-satisfaction, what to say of self-congratulation, in our public and private treatment of women, despite tall talk about honouring mothers, sisters and daughters. We may flaunt our sophisticated foreign education; we may take pride in our individual positions in enlightened society; but unless we bring about a radical change in our entire thinking on the subject of women, we shall continue to carry the stigma of a backward nation.

It is no crime to be backward in material progress and technological advancement. But it is certainly both a crime and a sin to be intellectually retrogressive. That is greater backwardness.

A world of haves and have-nots

By Zubeida Mustafa


ON THE eve of the millennium summit in New York, the UNDP released its annual Human Development Report 2005 which should help governments determine their progress or lack of it towards the eight development goals they had committed themselves in 2000 to achieve by 2015.

The UNDP’s own assessment is that the projections based on present trends carry a clear warning: “The gap between trend projections and MDG targets represents a huge loss of human life and human potential.”

There are sceptics who doubt if the goals can actually be achieved. The performance of many countries clearly establishes that if the political will exists in each individual government to improve the human capital which is any country’s major asset, the MDGs are not a pipedream. They set targets, some of them tough ones but not very unrealistic ones, in the field of extreme poverty eradication, universal primary education, promotion of gender equity, reduction of child mortality, improvement of maternal health, combating of HIV/AIDS, ensuring environmental stability and the development of a global partnership.

While the overall prognosis is bleak — the UNDP says that in some areas the goals will be met thirty years after the deadline in 2045 — we should concentrate on Pakistan’s own performance. Overall, Pakistan’s ranking in the human development index has shown an impressive jump from 142 out of 177 last year to 135 this year. The main factors that have boosted Pakistan’s score are the increase in its GDP per capita, a modest rise in its adult literacy rate (from 41.5 to 48.7) and life expectancy (from 60.8 to 63 years). The country’s improved ranking has also brought Pakistan from the category of low human development countries to the medium human development ones.

While this is encouraging, the main problem with our development pattern is the acute lack of distributive justice and the intense gender disparity in the country. The higher GDP does not indicate that the national wealth is equitably distributed. In Pakistan 20 per cent of the richest people control 42.3 per cent of the income while the poorest 20 per cent have 3.7 per cent of the national income.

This injustice shows in many other areas of life. For instance, the health sector is heavily biased against the poor who cannot pay for their treatment. Although the majority of the people are poor, the money spent on health in the private sector is double that of the government’s funding for its own hospitals and doctors. As such, the public sector hospitals are over-crowded, under-staffed and so starved of funds and medicines that they can hardly take care of the sick who come to them. Only those people go there who cannot afford to go to the private clinics/practitioners.

The irony of the situation is that it is the poor who are relatively under-nourished and in bad health. They are the ones who need more medical care than the rich but do not usually get it. Similarly, most of the 103 out of every 10,000 children who die before they are five-year-old are from the impoverished families. How many of the 500 out of every 100,000 mothers who die in childbirth every year would belong to the affluent classes?

The story is repeated in the education of youth. The private sector is by far the only source of good education for the children in Pakistan. The government has reduced its financing of education (1.8 per cent of GDP in 2002 from 2.6 per cent in 1990) and is not concentrating on its school system, as a result of which school enrolment in government schools has fallen and the growth in the private school enrolment is not as fast as it should be to clear the backlog of illiteracy. The so-called public-private partnership the government has been harping on has proved to be no more than a pretext for the government to disengage itself from the field of primary education.

With the rich growing richer and the poor becoming poorer, the gap between the haves and the have-nots is widening. This is not a healthy phenomenon. It has a serious human rights dimension. Equality of opportunity is the birth right of every individual — be it the opportunity to get decent education, opportunity to obtain good treatment when one is ill and opportunity to get a job to help him improve his prospects in life. If these opportunities are not there for everyone without any distinction, it gives rise to a sense of injustice which leads to crime and violence.

The UNDP admits that the MDGs do not directly address inequality; they are “distribution neutral”. With progress “measured by aggregating and averaging change at the national level” the inequalities are not recorded. It is now generally accepted that progress in one section of the population does not necessarily have a trickle down effect.

Most appalling is the injustice inflicted on women in Pakistan. While society and culture have traditionally been anti-woman, it is not easy to understand why the government has not been able to overcome the resistance to the emancipation of women and improve their status. Their literacy rate continues to be much below that of men (35 per cent as against 61 per cent), their gross school enrolment ratio is lower (31 per cent as against 43 per cent) and though there are more female legislators than ever before, thanks to the seats reserved for them by the present government, they are still a fraction (two per cent) of the lawmakers, managers and senior officials, while the woman’s share in income is barely one-quarter of the total national income.

Doesn’t this point to injustice of the worst kind? And then there is the violence against women the incidence of which is extremely high in the country. The president’s remark that violence is common in other countries as well and it is unfair to single out Pakistan and malign it speaks of a lack of sensitivity and understanding of the basic issue. Pakistan’s problem is that discrimination and injustice against women are embedded in the country’s political and constitutional system. The Hudood Ordinances, the Law of Evidence, the Qisas and Diyat laws heavily discriminate against women and they are a part of our judicial and legal system.

Worse still, those who are supposed to provide protection to women — that is the police and the law enforcement agencies — have themselves emerged as the perpetrators of heinous and brutal crimes against women. The experience of three women in the news recently, namely, Mukhtaran Mai, Dr Shazia Khalid and Sonia Naz, confirms that women who have suffered have also been required to put up with denial of recourse to justice. This is as bad as the original crime itself.

One wishes that those at the helm would only understand this basic truth. Injustice, when it is committed against someone on grounds of gender, ethnicity, social/economic class or any other factor, is bad for economic growth, bad for democracy and bad for social cohesion. It may lead to the growth of financial capital but adversely affects human capital and social capital without which no state can hope to develop.

Four years later

IT IS tempting to use the anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, to list, once again, the local and national errors that led to the chaotic response to Hurricane Katrina two weeks ago. But to do so would be to repeat precisely the same mistake that Department of Homeland Security officials have made — in response to demands from Congress and the public — over the past four years. Put simply, this is a nation that is very good at fighting yesterday’s battles, very good at distributing funds based on politics rather than risk and extraordinarily bad at fighting tomorrow’s unexpected challenge.

Since Sept. 11, for example, there has been a large and extremely costly focus on airline security. Some $18 billion has been spent on the Transportation Security Administration over the past four years; in some years, its budget has exceeded that of the FBI.

A good chunk of that money been wasted on bad contracts, awards banquets and undeserved bonuses. More important, the use of reinforced cockpit doors, and the doubtfulness of Al Qaeda being able or willing to repeat another multiple airline hijacking, throws its very necessity in doubt.

At the same time, vast sums have been scattered far and wide on local projects, many also of doubtful necessity, simply because powerful members of Congress demanded them for their constituents. The truth is that there are entire states that don’t need any homeland security funding at all. There are also some vulnerabilities that would be better dealt with locally, or even by the private sector. But instead of recognizing that reality, both houses of Congress have gone out of their way to ensure that everybody gets at least a small slice of the federal pie.

Meanwhile, neither DHS nor anyone else has focused hard enough on the major disasters for which the United States is still least prepared, namely a nuclear disaster or a biological attack, both of which would strain the nation’s public health facilities way beyond capacity.

It is still the case that far too little has been done to secure the nuclear and bioterrorism weapons of the former Soviet Union; that radiation testing is still not deployed with any precision at American ports; and that evacuation plans are, as became obvious this month, not geared to the immobile, not widely understood by either officials or by the public, and probably not feasible in many cases anyway.

—The Washington Post



© DAWN Group of Newspapers, 2005

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