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DAWN - Opinion; November 29, 2005

November 29, 2005

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An institutional graveyard

By Shahid Javed Burki


THERE is good news from Islamabad. Some 80 potential donors met in the city and pledged over $6 billion to help the country recover from the ravages of the earthquake of October 8. Most of the funds raised are to be used to rehabilitate the more than three million people left homeless and without economic assets. If money was the only constraint, this would spell the end of the country’s travails. But that, unfortunately, is not the case.

Faced with this enormous burden to reconstruct an economy on which some 10 million people depend, the Pakistani state will also need to rebuild itself. Over the last 60 years, the state has been weakened to the point that it barely functions.

In the last couple of columns, I have drawn comparisons between the Indian and Pakistani situations to make the point that there are things about India that gives it enormous advantage over Pakistan in many fields. This is particularly the case in the effort by the two countries to develop and modernize. India will succeed in spite of the fact that some of the economic and social problems it faces are more serious than those that we face. After all, India is much more crowded than Pakistan.

With some 15 to 20 per cent of the world’s poor, the burden of poverty it carries is also much heavier. There is great inequality not just among its more than one billion people. Some of the Indian states in the country’s north and east have a per capita income that is one-fourth of the average achieved by some of those in the west and south. There are serious social and political problems in the country that the various systems in play are barely able to handle.

In many parts of the country, women still face great discrimination. Wife burning to punish young women for not bringing sufficient dowry for the groom’s household is sufficiently common to worry sociologists and social workers. The system of roads, railways, bridges and ports is straining under the impact of a rapidly growing economy. India has done even less than Pakistan to improve the physical infrastructure it inherited from the British. The Indian bureaucrat, in spite of all the investment the country has made in its fabled Institutions of Management, continues to believe that his job is to obstruct rather than to facilitate. And yet, India now has the reputation of a country that works; Pakistan that of a country poised on the edge of an abyss.

There are many reasons for this of which I count four as being really important. The Indians do a much better job of representing themselves outside the country than we do.

This helps to bring in foreign capital, technology and management expertise. They have also invested much more — and much more intelligently than we have done — in creating a highly skilled and well informed work force. I commented on these contributors to India’s growth in last week’s article. Today I will write about one other difference between the two countries — a difference that gives India a better chance of succeeding than Pakistan in the new global economic and political order.

India today has a much stronger institutional base than we do. Over the last half century — certainly after the assumption of power in 1971 by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto — Pakistan has systematically destroyed the institutions it inherited from the British Raj. India did the opposite by significantly improving upon its institutional inheritance.

In the institutional graveyard we find in Pakistan, tombstones carry such names as the civil administration and the system of governance; the judicial and legal systems; political parties, and the political system; the systems for formulating and implementing economic and social strategies; colleges, universities and the system of education.

Two institutional structures that have survived are the military and the press, the latter because of the relative tolerance displayed by a number of recent administrations, especially the current one. However, I will suggest in a later article that a free press without a political system that represents all segments of the people cannot do its job adequately. It can only point out the blemishes that exist in society but cannot correct them.

Why have we created this graveyard of institutions?

The question has been asked and answered several times. Unlike leaders and leadership groups in India, those who have ruled Pakistan came to believe that the institutions that were in place stood in the way of their ability to reach their goals. Some of the time the goals were personal enrichment or concentration of power in a single pair of hands. Even when the rulers’ aim was to improve the welfare of common citizens, most institutions were regarded as bumps in the road to be traversed.

The process of institutional decay began the moment Pakistan gained independence. The country’s first generation of rulers did not have a firm political base. Not prepared to trust the masses, it bypassed them. Thus began the tradition of rule without consultation, discourse or representation. At the same time, the urgent need to rehabilitate and resettle millions of refugees who had arrived from India led to the use of unconstrained state power. Evacuee property — the assets left by the departing Hindus and Sikhs — was disposed off at the will of administrators whose actions could not be easily questioned in the courts. The seeds of corruption that was to mar the Pakistani landscape in the decade of the 1990s were, in fact, planted in the soil immediately after the country was founded.

The first seven years of President Ayub Khan’s administration were committed to the economic development of the country, a goal that was achieved with considerable fanfare at home and celebration abroad. For some time, Pakistan was feted as the model of development.

Nonetheless, Pakistan’s first military ruler did not appreciate the important point that the process he had begun could not be sustained without a functioning judicial system, representative politics and freedom of expression.

In this approach he was encouraged by a number of development theorists who believed at that time that strong military governments led ably by visionary leaders could deliver their countries from economic and social backwardness. There was not much point in consulting the people with the help of a representative system of government or giving them voice with the help of a free press. Even an independent judicial system was seen as obstructing the path to rapid economic development.

Ayub Khan came down hard on the judicial system, on the development of political parties, on developing a representative system of government, and on the press. On the other hand, he developed a sound system of economic planning and management, a local government structure that brought the state closer to the people and an educational system that began to improve the level of human development. Had he not suppressed the first set of institutions he and his government would not have fallen so easily to the predatory designs of an ambitious general who was much less well equipped to govern.

Ayub Khan would not have succumbed had he allowed the press to freely report on some of the economic tensions that were caused by his model of development, had he put in place a political system that could find relief for those who felt that they had been left behind by the fast pace towards reaching economic goals that were once believed to be unachievable, had he permitted the judges and the judicial system to keep the fast moving economic and social systems within legal bounds. Ultimately, the institutions he did not build, or those that he did not develop, destroyed those he had created with tender loving care.

The destruction of institutions continued under Ayub Khan’s successors, General Yahya Khan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The two together put away the system of bureaucratic management. That system may have had many faults but it also attracted high quality human resource to its ranks and provided reasonably good governance. It worked well in the area of economic management. And Bhutto’s heavy hand fell on the system of education, bringing politics into college and university campuses. Bhutto also continued the Ayubian practice of suppressing the freedom of expression and manipulating political processes to achieve personal goals.

Once again, as had happened to Ayub Khan and Yahya Khan before him, the institutions that could have saved him from being dislodged by the military were simply absent when they could have served a useful purpose for him. In fact, tragically, Bhutto was sent to the gallows by an institution — the judiciary — that he had himself subverted.

President Ziaul Haq continued to show not only the same disdain for institution-building that was shown by his predecessors. He went one step further and began to use the state to bring religion into politics, the economy and society. In doing so, Zia was not responding to public demand: he, like some of his predecessors, was putting in place what he thought the people needed or should require.

Zia’s Islamization programme left a legacy with which the country is still trying to come to terms. While bringing religion into many spheres of public life, the Zia administration did practically nothing to resurrect the institutions without which societies simply cannot develop. The political system remained largely unrepresentative, political parties continued to be manipulated to serve the ruling master, the judiciary was forced into submission and the legal system atrophied.

Eleven years of civilian rule interspersed with five general elections underscored one important point about institutional development: that periodic reference to the people, without the support of institutions, is not a recipe for the development of a representative form of government. The two mainstream political parties that were given the opportunity to govern made no effort to prepare the ground for erecting a permanent structure of governance in which people would openly participate. That had been accomplished in India; given the chance once again, the Pakistani leaders let the country down once more. Theirs was total failure which once again encouraged the military to step in.

My assertion in the first article of the present series that the military takeover saved the country from plunging into a political and economic abyss has been contested by some of my friends who were very active in politics at that time. I continue to believe that a break was needed in the trajectory the country was pursuing at that time. But the question is whether progress has been made since October 12, 1999.

The answer has to be in the negative. Once again there is a belief that institutions are not important; what are needed are the leader’s goodwill, determination and vision. Under President Pervez Musharraf there has been no progress in terms of developing civilian institutions, improving the state of the judiciary, strengthening the legal system, developing the capacity to do strategic thinking in economic affairs, forcing the development of political parties, and laying down rules for succession. And by requiring the military to enter not only politics but also many civilian activities, he may have hurt the one institution that had survived the general decay in the country’s institutional foundation.

Fundamentalism in America

By Naeem ul Haque


ALTHOUGH Islamic fundamentalism is blamed by many in the West for being responsible for all the chaos prevailing in the world today, a close look at Christian fundamentalism in America leads one to conclude that this powerful movement has become a very serious threat to world peace. In recent years, as a society, America has become more and more religious and started looking at political issues more from a theological perspective than ever before.

This has enabled the Christian fundamentalists to define and influence a political agenda for America that raises new questions about America’s real intentions to dominate the world.

The influence of these fundamentalists on the American foreign policy has never been greater than now. Also known as the religious right, this powerful movement, dominated by Evangelists, has made the security and territorial integrity of Israel its main objective in seeking to influence the American foreign policy, and in pursuing this course, identifying Islam as its main adversary. This is a dangerous and unfortunate development which puts an ugly — and unnecessary — emphasis on the schisms between the two great religions of the world, Islam and Christianity.

One important reason for this is the Christian belief in the doctrine of pre-millennial dispensationalism. The doctrine says that mankind is now in the next-to-last dispensation, the church age, which will be followed by the millennium. The trigger for the millennium will be the second coming of Christ who will establish a worldwide kingdom centred in Jerusalem. First, however, Christ’s return will be marked by the Rapture in which the dead whom God wishes to redeem are resurrected and the living who are selected for salvation are swept from earth to heaven.

Those left behind will undergo the horrors of a seven-year tribulation which will culminate in the battle of Armageddon in Israel and the annihilation of the Antichrist. Christ will return amid the slaughter and establish his thousand-year rule. The re-establishment of the Jewish Temple on the site where the Al Aqsa mosque is situated is also a pre condition for the return of Christ under this doctrine. Hence, the religious significance of a Jewish state with sovereignty over Jerusalem.

In expressing their worldview, the leaders of the religious right in America have found an ideal partner in the neo-conservative politicians and thinkers who have dominated the two Bush administrations. Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Karl Rove, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith and Bernard Lewis have led the shaping of the Bush administration’s dangerous and disastrous approach to tackling the perceived threat to American interests and domination of the world.

Under the combined influence of the religious right and the neo-conservatives the Bush administration has pursued the imperialistic notion of using military threat and action to pressurize and bring changes in the countries which oppose its policies.

The emergence of an independent Palestine with Israel withdrawing to pre-1967 borders remains unacceptable to the powerful Jewish-Christian fundamentalist-neo-conservative axis in America. As a result, President Bush has refused to commit himself to a timetable for Palestinian independence and has put aside steps to start talks on the roadmap to peace in the Middle East. This is highly irresponsible and regrettable.

In the aftermath of 9/11, the demonization of Islam by Christian fundamentalists has continued unabated in America. Well-known preachers like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Franklin Graham have routinely been critical of and insulting to Islam and the Holy Prophet (PBUH).

They remain President Bush’s and the Republican Party’s single biggest constituency and their influence on the conduct of the war in Iraq has been so strong that they have persuaded the Bush administration to allow them to set up at least nine evangelical churches in occupied Baghdad alone during the last two years.

Pat Robertson recently called for the killing of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez because he has been opposing American policies. A large number of conservative scholars under their influence have written extensively about the “dangers” of Islam and consider it as the biggest threat to the western way of life. Some of these scholars have come up with their own interpretation of the Quran which conveys a highly misleading and negative impression of the Holy Book.

The emergence of a strong Christian Zionist movement in America with powerful advocates in the congress is also part of the greater effort to ensure that America refrains from taking action for the creation of a sovereign Palestine with its capital in Jerusalem. The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews holds every year a day of prayer for Israel in churches all over America. Its leaders have termed Palestinian statehood as irrelevant and regard Al Qaeda, Iran, Saddam’s Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Hamas and Hezbollah as “evil”. The popular British novelist John le Carre not long ago declared in an article that fundamentalist Christianity has pushed America into a period of “historical madness”.

The Christian fundamentalists see the Iraq war as a crusade. The head of the National Association of Evangelicals, Kyle Fisk, says, “Iraq will become the centre for spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to Iran, Libya and the entire Middle East. A free Iraq allows us to spread Jesus Christ’s teachings even in nations where laws keep us out.” Many senior officials of the Bush administration see the Iraq war as a battle against evil doers and frequently use terms like “moral clarity”. President Bush underscored this theme in his State of the Union address of 2002, when defining the war as one between good and evil he said famously “either you are with us or with the terrorists”. According to a recent article in the Daily Mirror, Bush reportedly told Blair that he felt like bombing the Al Jazeera TV station in Qatar for broadcasting anti-American programmes. This only proves that extremism has found a natural ally in the current American leadership.

The tremendous power of the religious right has had a disconcerting impact on the psyche of the liberal and progressive forces in American politics. Most leaders of the Democratic party find themselves moving to the centre and shying away from taking traditional liberal positions on important national and international issues. The conflict between right and left in America has never been so intense. The American political landscape between the liberal east and west coasts is littered with the conservative, religious right supporters, who constitute a very potent force in any national election.

President Bush’s victory over Al Gore in the presidential elections of 2000 showed their strength as Bush won more electoral votes than Al Gore in spite of trailing by almost half a million votes.

President Bush’s margin of victory in the last presidential election against John Kerry underscored the importance of the religious right as they were aggressively courted by the neo-conservatives who ran the Bush campaign on issues that were dear to the religious right. Bush won 78 per cent of the white evangelical vote.

The Iraq quagmire has given the Bush administration a reprieve from pursuing a resolution of the Palestinian question. Under no pressure to seek another term of office Bush has allowed himself to play more and more to the gallery. The war rhetoric is now focused more on the fighting — but clearly waning — spirit of the American forces. An attack on Bush’s policies in Iraq is considered an attack on the American forces. In spite of the fact that there has been no attack on America since 9/11, the war on terror continues to be the top priority of the Bush administration. No one knows how long this war will continue and what specific conditions need to be met in order to bring the war on terror to an end. There is no end in sight.

To be fair, the Christian fundamentalists of America do not represent the views of the Christian majority of the world. In Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia most of the Christians do not share their views. As churches lie empty in Europe and the poor of Asia, Africa and Latin America focus more on their economic problems, the Christian fundamentalists of America may find themselves isolated in their struggle to define political issues from a religious perspective.

Local leadership in quake relief

By Ahmed Sadik


FROM what has been appearing in national newspapers since the October 8 earthquake devastated Azad Kashmir and parts of the NWFP, there seems to be little or no coverage being given to the local leaderships of these very sensitive areas and territories. Instead, there is far too much reporting on foreign aid components and foreigners who have reached the quake affected districts, and conjecture about the aid pipeline.

Far too many NGOs with foreign antecedents have arrived or have been brought in which does not augur well for the post-rehabilitation situation which is expected to last for some years.

The political thinking in Europe as well as in North America about South Asian matters is now, unfortunately, very decisively tilted in favour of India. In the post earthquake situation, there can be all sorts of adventurers in various garbs going about the business of “looking after” suffering humanity in Kashmir and the affected areas of the NWFP.

We are not new to such happenings. We already have available to us a fairly long experience of Afghanistan having gone through that nation’s political vicissitudes of the 1970s, the 1980s, the 1990s and into the 21st century, covering a political territory that has included the Soviet occupation, the transient Taliban regime and the present American-Nato occupation. The only thing different about the American-Nato occupation of Afghanistan is that it is showing signs of observing no time-limit whatsoever.

That was all near home. But the present earthquake phenomenon is right inside our country and some of its very sensitive parts.

There is, therefore, a very strong possibility that the aid bonanza being funnelled into Pakistan from abroad at this point is going to be used to undermine the situation, from Pakistan’s point of view, in both Kashmir and the earthquake-affected parts of the NWFP that are physically closest to Afghanistan.

One is quite sure that the Pakistani government and the ministries of foreign affairs, Kashmir and the Northern Areas and defence would be well aware of these possibilities and pitfalls that are the natural concomitants of such a highly volatile situation.

The recent troubles and killings in Gilgit and Skardu are part of a troubled scenario that may well have been stirred up more by design than accidental happenings.

In the ultimate analysis I have no doubt that our valiant armed forces that are fully aware of all such machinations will nip such designs in the bud. But we must not forget that only constant vigilance can be a continued insurance of our freedom.

It is in this context that one finds it necessary to stress the role of the local leaderships in the earthquake-affected areas. They belong to all political parties and they are the ones that have the requisite roots in those areas.

At present, by all accounts they are far too conspicuous by their absence and this is not a good sign for the country. This is also a clear indication of local apathy among the political elements.

It could mean that the political parties are being kept out of the relief and rehabilitation process. For what reason this is happening one does not know. The armed forces of Pakistan have performed yeoman’s work in the past few weeks in conducting search and rescue operations in AJK and the NWFP but there can be no substitute for doing this in conjunction with political forces irrespective of party lines and configurations.

The prime minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, the leader of the opposition in the AJK assembly, senior leaders, particularly Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan and his sons, ought to be in the frontline of the present relief and rehabilitation effort that is underway. It would not be fair to relegate them to the backburner.

If we do not give the Kashmiri leaders the front seats that they deserve in right earnest, we would only be falling into India’s trap. Look at the position of eminence the Indians have given to their Kashmir chief minister Mufti Mohammad Saeed who by all accounts is no pushover.

And of course, we must not forget that, thanks to Condoleezza Rice’s growing influence in American foreign policy and her friendship with the Indian-American community based in America, it is India that is the strategic partner of the United States in South Asia.

The respectability bestowed upon India by the United States in recent times has been phenomenal and is grossly disproportionate to what used to be once upon a time an equitable formula with which America thought fit to deal with the two Commonwealth nations.

Now India and the United States are officially into sharing nuclear technology which is probably the ultimate display of mutual respect for the aims and objectives of each other. This is all the more reason for us to play our political cards right in the rebuilding and rehabilitation of the earthquake zones.

This is not only a time for healing the body politic of Pakistan but also an opportunity to do so. As a nation we must do an outstanding job in rehabilitating all those who suffered losses. We must do the sort of reconstruction that will be remembered as an uplifting of the damaged areas.



© DAWN Group of Newspapers, 2005