DAWN - Opinion; September 06, 2006

September 06, 2006


Meeting Balochistan’s needs

By Shahid Javed Burki

THE accession of Balochistan was treated in yet another way. What goes today by the name of that province did not exist in 1947. The British administered the area lightly. A few urban municipalities were governed by political agents — officials who belonged to a central service. The administration of the land owned by various tribes was left to the tribal leaders. Accountability to the central authority (for mostly law and order) was assigned to a ‘shahi jirga’.

Several states — Kalat and Lasbela being the largest — were ruled by provinces as were more than 500 other states in the British domain in India. How were the wishes of such a diverse community of people to be ascertained? Again, to go back to Muhammad Ali’s account: “For Balochistan, the viceroy decided to entrust the responsibility to the shahi jirga and the non-official members of the Quetta municipality. They voted unanimously to join the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan.” But the political future of what was to become Balochistan did not end with this action. There remained the matter of the states and that proved not to be easy. One of the states, Kalat, proved difficult to absorb into Pakistan. It took military action to finally convince the Khan, the ruler of Kalat, to throw in his lot with Pakistan.

The way Pakistan was assembled into a state did not lead to the creation of a nation. The country that came into existence in August 1947 was a collection of a number of diverse geographical entities. Each unit had its own history, language, culture and — most importantly — its own form of governance. Of the four provinces that are now Pakistan, Punjab to some extent and Sindh to a lesser extent had some experience of democracy. Even in these, the landed aristocracy wielded enormous power over the people. In the Frontier Province and Balochistan, tribal chiefs and sardars had monopoly over political power. A sense of nationhood did not develop. Once the excitement of having gained a country wore off, nation-building made little progress.

This then was an inauspicious beginning; it became even more troubling once the issue of governance came to be tackled. This was the case in particular with Balochistan. Once again, the question came to be addressed in Pakistan’s formative years. The first participant in the debate was Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s founding father.

As the political scientist Khalid bin Sayeed points out in his book, Pakistan: The Formative Phase, Balochistan, at the time of Pakistan’s birth, was politically very backward as compared with other directly administered provinces of British India which had gone through constitutional changes in 1910, 1921, 1930 and 1935. “Balochistan, on the other hand, had not gone through these various stages of a parliamentary form of government.”

How to govern this area became an issue very soon after the birth of Pakistan. It was addressed by Mohammad Ali Jinnah in a speech at the Sibi Darbar on February 14, 1948. “I have come to the conclusion that our immediate object can be best achieved by making the governance and administration of Balochistan more directly the concern of the governor-general himself acting in close collaboration with the acknowledged representation of the people. For this purpose, I have decided to constitute a governor-general’s advisory council, a body which will enable the people to play their full part in the administration and governance of their province. Thus, gentlemen, in some ways you will be better off than the other provinces of Pakistan. Here you will have a governor-general’s province and you will become my special responsibility and care, and let me assure you that in this sphere of activities, the governor-general will adopt such measures as may be necessary, in consultation with the advisory council from time to time.”

Jinnah, in other words, was laying the foundation of direct central authority over the province, an issue that was to acquire enormous importance in later years. In fact, the governor-general was questioned by the press a day after the speech at the Sibi Darbar whether his suggestion that a province directly administered by the chief executive would be in a better situation than other provinces did not amount to his preference for a dictatorial rather than a democratic form of government.

That certainly was not the case, he replied. “I was thinking of provisional measures which would help in getting things done, rather than lengthy processes involved in full-fledged parliamentary discussions.” That impulse to trust central authority over the will of the people can, therefore, be traced back to the Quaid-i-Azam.

Governance in Balochistan was dealt another blow in 1955 when the leadership finally agreed to provide a governing framework for Pakistan. In doing so it decided to reinvent the country’s geography. The four provinces of the country’s western wing were merged to form the One Unit of West Pakistan. The objective was to balance the eastern wing, today’s Bangladesh. At that time the eastern wing had more people than the combined provinces in the western wing. A democratic system based on one person one vote would have tilted the political power towards Dhaka. This the elite-dominated western wing was not prepared to countenance. The solution was to create two provinces, one in the country’s west and the other in the east and give equal representation to the two in the national legislature.

This was the “principle of parity” that became the foundation of the short-lived constitution of Pakistan. It was adopted in 1956 and abrogated in 1958 when the military intervened in politics for the first but not the last time in the country’s history. The One Unit scheme made Balochistan’s common people lose their cultural and historical identity. The stage was set for the mounting grievances on the part of the people of the province. Lahore, the capital of West Pakistan, was too distant from Quetta to be of much use to the people of the province to redress their problems.

The discovery in the 1950s of vast deposits of natural gas in Sui, in the southern part of the province, provided Pakistan with a tremendously rich source of energy. Beginning with the period of Ayub Khan and continuing to the present, a vast network of gas pipelines was laid to bring Balochistan’s gas to consumers across the country. Today, Pakistan has one of the most extensive gas pipeline networks in the world. However, there is an irony in that Balochistan is the least covered area by the pipeline. While consumers in other parts of the country have benefited by gaining access to a relatively cheap source of energy no such accommodation was made for the province’s people. This was to become a major source of irritation for the people of the province, a grievance that was successfully exploited by some of the tribal leaders, most notably Sardar Akbar Khan Bugti.

That notwithstanding, the central authority could have shown some sensitivity to the mounting frustrations of the people of Balochistan and their leaders by doing two things. One, the province could have been given a more generous royalty for the exploitation of gas and other minerals that constitute a rich resource for the province. That could have been done within the framework of the National Finance Commissions that are supposed to agree on formula for the sharing of federal resources, the so-called “common pool”.

The Constitution requires this exercise to be carried out every five years. The last time it was done successfully was in 1996 when I chaired the NFC. My experience left me with one strong impression. Punjab is too large a unit within the Pakistani federation to allow other provinces to flourish. In the commission I headed, Punjab was represented by reasonable people but once they put on their provincial garb they sidestepped the national interest. They fought hard to preserve the provincial interest which could not accommodate large natural resource-based royalties to the provinces that possessed them. All provinces other than Punjab have natural resources vital for economic development. Balochistan has gas, copper, gold and granite. Sindh has gas and coal. The NWFP has gems and hydro-power. Given the stage of development of the various provinces, Punjab is by far the largest user of these resources. It should be prepared to pay for them.

The only way to preserve the Pakistani federation is to break up Punjab into three provinces, southern Punjab headquartered in Multan, central Punjab with its capital in Lahore, and northern Punjab with Jhelum as its capital. With an enormous increase in tensions in Balochistan, what is required is a radical solution which will also give the signal to the people of the province that those currently in power are determined to find a way to accommodate the interests of the smaller provinces.

The second way of keeping the provinces fully involved in national affairs and becoming working components of the Pakistani nation is to devolve power to them. That was the intent of the Constitution of 1973. However, none of the administrations that took office since the Constitution was adopted, operated the federal system as envisaged by the framers. In fact, the Constitution was subverted by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the man responsible for obtaining consensus among the many groups trying to make the Pakistani nation.

One accomplishment of the regime headed by General Pervez Musharraf is the creation of a system of local government where power vests in the elected representatives of the people. The system, however, has its opponents, in particular the members of the national and provincial legislatures who must surrender some of their power to elected nazims and deputy nazims. The regime must not give up on the system.

These two systems are already in place and they can be worked on to lessen the growing frustrations of the people of Balochistan. In addition, the government also needs to rethink its development strategy in order to address the problems faced by the rapidly growing population of the province.

Something like the Marshall Plan needs to be launched that would carefully analyse the problems and prospects of the province, determine how the economic rate of growth could be accelerated, and benefits delivered directly to the people, in particular the young.

The tragic death of Sardar Bugti could become a tragedy for the nation, for national integration and for the survival of the Pakistani nation-state. Or it could be an opportunity for the leadership to take the country towards the type of fully representative federal system that was the foundation of the Constitution of 1973. In addition, a large development plan needs to be put in place; it would not be cynical to call it the Bugti Plan for Balochistan Development. It could honour a man who has become a martyr in the eyes of many because of the manner of his death.


Will justice be done?

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE government’s sloppy attempts to ostensibly right the wrongs committed by Ziaul Haq’s infamous Hudood Ordinances have complicated matters further.

Proclaiming himself a champion of women’s rights and in response to the chastisement that has been heaped on him by human rights activists and feminists, General Pervez Musharraf belatedly moved in August to introduce amendments in the Hudood Ordinances.

Earlier, he had promulgated an ordinance — that was widely hailed — providing for the release of all women jailed on charges under the Hudood laws.

As the proposed amendments have come up for public debate, the government finds itself caught between the devil and the deep sea. Its attempt to keep its move on a low key failed to win for it the support of the MMA who are the self-proclaimed guardians of the people’s morals and believe that they know Islam best and so they are entitled to use religion for their political ends. For the MMA, it seems that the greatest challenge that faces Pakistan is to keep its women under check even if it leads to injustice of the highest order.

The official approach, that has been characterised by a policy of appeasement, prompted the choice of an innocuous title for the proposed piece of legislation, namely, the Criminal Law Amendment (Protection of Women) Act, 2006. The government had thus hoped not to provoke the MMA. But the MMA was provoked and its legislators not only tore up the bill but also threw the shreds of paper on the floor of the House and stamped on them, though the bill had Allah’s name and a reference to the Quran inscribed in it.

Its policy of running with the hare and hunting with the hound did not win the government the approval of the liberals either — although in its attempt not to break ranks with the MMA at a critical time when it was about to file a no-confidence motion against the prime minister, the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (Parliamentarians) proposed on August 21 that a select committee should reconsider the bill. The committee has reviewed the bill which is to be taken up by the House on Thursday.

Human rights activists have not been too happy with the amendments proposed since their demand has consistently been for the total repeal of the Hudood laws which are regarded as being unconstitutional having been promulgated by a military dictator without the sanction of the Assembly. The matter has been taken up in different forums. In Karachi, two consultative meetings were held to analyse the amendments clause by clause. Activists in Lahore also met to comment on the matter. The women expressed scepticism and were not at all convinced that the loopholes in the amended law would not be used against them.

Today society — that is those who make their voices heard — is sharply polarised between the anti-Hudood Ordinances lobby and those who interpret them as God’s laws — hence sacrosanct — and demand that they should not be touched. The middle ground is taken by the moderate school of thought in the establishment which wants to amend rather than annul the Hudood laws to make them more palatable. It is this opinion in the government that was instrumental in the drawing up of the bill and introducing it. The PPPP while pressing for total repeal decided to go along with the government-proposed amendments since they provided some relief. It is a different matter that this bill has fallen victim to national politics and the misogyny of the mullahs. It has, therefore, been changed again and again. One does not know in what shape it will be tabled on Thursday.

At a consultative meeting in Karachi, Makhdoom Ali Khan, the attorney-general, argued that the amendment bill was a “step forward” and would make Pakistan a better place to live in. More steps would follow. He appealed to all present to “think” about the amendments and the advantages it offered.

The major attraction of the amendment bill — the text that was initially introduced in the Assembly — is that it addresses the three key flaws in the Zina Ordinance that have inflicted untold misery on the women of Pakistan. First, it removes rape (zina bil jabr) from the Hudood Ordinances and inserts a new section in the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) that makes kidnapping, abducting a woman to force her into marriage or prostitution and rape a crime. Thus the injustice done to women by equating rape to illicit intercourse would technically be done away with.

Another major feature is that a case of zina cannot be brought against a woman by any person making the charge. Under the amendment, only a court of competent jurisdiction receiving a complaint will examine the complainant and at least four eye witnesses, upon oath, of the act of zina. If the presiding officer finds sufficient ground for proceeding with the case, the accused will be summoned. Thus the practice of anyone making a malafide charge and having a woman thrown into prison will be checked.

Thirdly, where a charge is found to be groundless or if the woman is not found guilty, the law of qazf will automatically apply to the person bringing the charges.

Yet women are sceptical as their faith in the legal system has been shaken. As one of the participants at the consultative meeting put it, they trusted Makhdoom, but not Musharraf. Their distrust of the government was vindicated when the MMA and some PML-Q members nearly succeeded in having the deleted sections of the Zina Ordinance reinserted that would make zina a punishable crime under tazeer enabling the police to pick up women accused of it. The Hudd law at least makes witnesses mandatory. Had it not been for the PPPP’s Sherry Rahman’s spirited defence of the original amendment, women would have found themselves worse off than before.

The future of the amendment bill now hinges on the outcome of the Assembly proceedings. Meanwhile, women activists meeting under the aegis of Aurat Foundation, Karachi, have decided to propose a bill declaring Ziaul Haq’s Hudood Ordinances unIslamic and repealing them. In the same bill they will propose a new simple and brief law within the framework of the Quran asking for the testimony of four witnesses before Zina could be taken up as a crime. This proposed bill is being drawn up by retired Justice Shaiq Usmani.

The most intriguing section in the amendment bill under discussion is section 502B in the PPC which makes publicising “any case of zina or rape whereby the identity of any woman or her family member is disclosed” punishable with six month imprisonment or a fine or with both. In the original Hudood Ordinances this was punishable if it was done “without her consent”. The government never tried to enforce this law even though many newspapers used rape stories to resort to sensationalism to increase their circulation. The government’s attempt to impose a blanket ban on reporting rape might have something to do with the negative publicity it received rather than to protect women from sensationalism. According to the PPPP, this clause has been removed by the select committee.

One will have to wait and see what actually emerges in the bill when it is tabled. The sensible move would be to encourage the media to draw up a code of ethics and observe it voluntarily. This paper has been observing one without being ordered to do so. We do not disclose the identity of a rape victim except when she herself comes forward to fight her case. This approach has enabled the media to extend a helping hand when it has been sought.

Offering advice in politics

By Hafizur Rahman

SUCCESSIVE governments in Pakistan have all had a battery of advisers whose role was to know exactly what advice would find favour with those in power and which advice was to hold back. The present government is no exception. Its team of advisers is undoubtedly the best in decades, and yet it fumbles and stumbles. Maybe what it needs is a good psychologist.

In the United States, there are too many psychologists and psycho-analysts and anybody who can afford has a psychiatrist. They constantly go to him for advice of all kinds in moments of national stress, during business crises, for family problems, in matters of love and sex, when they are making a lot of money and when they are not making any money.

I am sure even President Bush has one. His problem is that the Arab world is not happy with him. The job of his psychiatrist must be to console him by explaining to him the convoluted psyche of the Arabs, and for this he has to be a Jew, as any other person would only cause him further stress by speaking the truth. As in Pakistan so in the US, advisers are not supposed to be truthful.

Just as we instinctively seek God’s help when in trouble, Americans turn to their psychiatrist, who, in their slang, is called ‘shrink’, and pour out their innermost thoughts into his ear. He then tells them what is wrong with them. This they already know, of course, but they go to him just to spend their surplus income. Psychiatrists are to Americans what pirs are to most Pakistanis.

Friends who have lived in the US tell me that the country is teeming with psychiatrists. It doesn’t take much to set up one’s practice. All you should have is a degree of the soothing manner and the confidence to insist that you are correct in your analysis even when you are wrong. The idiot lying on the couch should trust you and his/her cheque book should be handy.

If I know that the US has psychiatrists galore, the late Dr Rashid Chaudhry knew it better than me. He was one of Pakistan’s better known psychiatrists. I remember how some years ago he advised Pakistani politicians to keep a psychologist with them who could tell them in advance what reaction their press statements were going to evoke among the public.

According to him, political leaders armed with the psychologist’s advice can trim their sails accordingly and not waste time and energy in making frivolous, untimely and wild remarks in public, which most of them usually do.

The trouble is that in Pakistan there just aren’t enough psychologists to go around, while politicians grow like mushrooms.

In fact, language experts may have to revise the metaphor and we may soon be saying that in this country mushrooms grow like politicians.

And if 50 or more politicians of various hues and views are to be helped by one psychiatrist, imagine the confusion. With more than 60 political parties registered with the Election Commission the poor chap will have to be excused if he mixes up his facts. He may advise a patient from the Jamaat-i-Islami to visit the mazar of ZAB, and, by having a good cry, go through a catharsis. On the other hand, a Bhutto fan may be asked by him to recite the words “Ziaul Haq Mard-e-Haq” ten times after each meal. He won’t last long that way.

An old friend has something to add to Dr Rashid Chaudhry’s observation. He says the advice that politicians should obtain constant guidance from psychologists is no doubt sound because people in politics are always carried away by their own oratory and tend to ignore words of wisdom uttered by others. But the reverse could also be true, and some politicians have been known sometimes to give sound advice.

He explained it like this. In Karachi there is a sincere worker devoted to the cause of the physically and mentally handicapped. He is absolutely devoid of politics. When ZAB’s government helped him in his cause, so dear to his heart, he was all praise for the man. Then came General Zia, who, much to this worker’s happiness, put his entire authority behind the welfare of the handicapped and did more than anyone could imagine.

During Ms Benazir Bhutto’s first term, this man praised the general at an official function for his contribution to the cause. The result was that he had to flee for his life from the place with the jiyalas in hot pursuit. Had this zealous worker kept a politician in attendance the mistake of praising Ziaul Haq in a PPP gathering could never have been committed.

Quite true. That is why I say that no one in the world, not even the greatest psychologist, can claim that he knows all there is to know about human behaviour, and needs no advice himself. Rulers are especially adverse to advice that is not to their liking, however timely and sagacious it might be for them and the good of the government. Munnoo Bhai, the poet, TV writer and columnist, tells an interesting story.

A number of newspaper columnists were invited by ex-PM Benazir Bhutto, some time before the dismissal of her second regime, with the express purpose of stating their honest opinion on national and political matters. After she had spoken at length, and stressed the desirability of free and frank expression of views by her guests, one of them, the boldest in the gathering, wanted to know if they could really speak out their mind.

On receiving the royal assent, the man began to speak. After some fifteen minutes of his conveying his honest and forthright assessment of the situation as he saw it, she got up and left without a word. After waiting for half an hour for her to come back, the columnists were told that the meeting was over, for the PM had an important engagement.

Maybe some of the advisers of the present government have heard this story and prefer to remain silent rather than offer advice which they know for certain will not be welcomed by the powers-that-be. That has been the fate of all true advices in history, and will continue to be so in future.

Ignoring gun-crime data

TWO years ago this month, the federal ban on assault weapons expired in the United States. Since then, sales of such weapons have almost certainly increased, and the number of crimes in which they have been used has undoubtedly risen.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to know for sure. That’s because the public and law enforcement agencies no longer have access to information they could routinely get just a few years ago.

A decade ago, the federal government was beginning to make some progress in making information about crime and guns more widely available. During the Clinton administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms started analysing its vast database for the first time and in 2000 released its “Commerce in Firearms” report. This report — which was supposed to be issued annually — was full of information about gun sales as well as sales patterns of weapons used to commit crimes.

—Los Angeles Times