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DAWN - Opinion; March 31, 2008

March 31, 2008


Karachi 2020: a citizen’s view

By Naeem Sadiq

“Any city in the world can be improved in less than three years. It is not a question of size or a matter of financial resources. All you need is to have a shared dream. It is all about building a good equation of co-responsibility.”

— Jaime Lerner, Brazilian architect and urban planner

LOOKING at the 200-page-thick Karachi 2020 Master Development Plan, one is struck by two very uneasy realisations. First that the document is not a ‘plan’ as such, and thus would have a next to negligible chance of achieving its ambitions.

A plan must define precisely what needs to be done and who will carry the responsibility and authority to carry it out. It must offer a timeline, list the resources required and identify the indicators that will measure progress and accomplishment. By not defining these basic parameters, one can only create a well-meaning ‘wish list’ which may just as well be reprinted in 2020 as a new master plan called Karachi 2040.

The second concern relates to an inadequate focus on the needs and conveniences of those who constitute the core of any city — its inhabitants. A city is a place where people live, work and interact with each other and their surroundings. Humans, we are told, were not designed around cities. It is the cities that need to be designed around humans. A city needs to be people-friendly and people-centric. It does not need to be designed around creating endless opportunities for land-grabbers, construction mafias, cushy contracts, elitist country clubs, Acacia golf courses, Emaar projects, overnight Altaf Nagars and shady Sugarland waterfronts.

Karachi can be made into a clean, peaceful, pollution-free and pedestrian-friendly city. This can be done through political will, legal provisions, institutional development, scientific solutions and sharing of responsibility between stakeholders. It needs to shed its reputation as a city of extortionists and phone snatchers. It could start by providing simple facilities to its citizens. Every road could have walkways for pedestrians (with ramps for wheelchairs) and pathways for cyclists. People should be able to walk or cycle short distances in a comfortable and safe manner.

We could learn from Paris which in a 36-hour weekend in July 2007 placed over 10,000 bicycles on its streets, launching an ambitious bike-sharing system that is meant to “lead a revolution in the way Parisians move around the city”. The programme aims to help reduce pollution and keep the people of Paris physically fit.

Cars could be disallowed from the centre of the town. Dozens of ‘park and ride’ centres could be opened where people could park their cars and then walk, cycle or climb aboard CNG buses to travel within the city. A robust, people-friendly, comfortable and respectable CNG public transport system needs to be developed, so as to encourage all citizens to travel by public buses instead of those obscene fuel-guzzling status icons called Pajeros and Prados.

The Master Development Plan is also silent on the need to make Karachi a beggar-free city, and the humane and innovative solutions that could help achieve this objective.

It seems that in 2020 the children of Karachi will continue to block streets to enjoy a game of cricket. Well-maintained public parks, playgrounds and toilets must be developed as an integral part of each locality. Karachi 2020 is silent on the need to build a large number of clean and well-maintained public toilets, perhaps assuming that this primary biological function will not be exercised in the years to come. The figures given for parks and playgrounds are also grossly inadequate.

A city needs to have its own ambulance service, beyond what may be provided by good souls like Edhi and Chippa. The city must aim for its ambulances to reach the scene of accident in, say, 15 minutes when called on a well-advertised emergency number such as 999. Likewise the city fire brigade department needs to be upgraded to ensure that fire services can reach any location of the city within five to ten minutes.

A city needs to have a well-integrated disaster management system that can undertake rescue, recovery and mitigation measures in quick time. The city needs to introduce a solid waste separation system that is operative at the source of the waste, that is individual households. Animal slaughtering could be stopped at the household level and shifted to well-organised and hygienic slaughterhouses. Spilling blood and flesh on the streets and then claiming credit for an excellent clean-up job is neither public-spirited nor wise.

The 2020 plan is silent on another key issue as well. It makes no mention of alternate energy’s share in the city’s future power requirements or the extent to which solar energy use will be made compulsory for new homes and other buildings.

Citizens would want to see a tanker-free Karachi in 2020. The 12,000 water tankers that make 100,000 trips each day pollute the city, clog the roads and enrich a consortium of greedy tanker owners, operators and their patrons. In the meantime, the city needs to sort out its intertwined water and sewage pipelines and pinpoint what needs to be done to prevent the theft of 270 MGD of water from the bulk distribution network. A plan, however brilliant, can be easily destroyed by mismanagement and the water crisis is a case in point.

One hopes that the 2020 plan will transform Karachi into a model for other Pakistani cities. That it will strengthen urban development institutions. That the politicians will rise above their narrow affiliations and learn to respect scientific inputs. That citizens and professional civic bodies will participate massively in the entire planning and execution process. That there will be an effective legal and institutional framework allowing all sectors to work in an integrated, coordinated and cohesive manner.

Finally, the 2020 plan needs to see the safety of citizens as a key indicator of Karachi’s development. It may be best to begin the 2020 programme by targeting peace as the first priority. Will Karachi be the first weapon-free city in Pakistan by 2010?

Why are they still there?

Britain has 4,000 troops on the edge of a battle, but no plans to get involved. On Friday night its ministry of defence made it clear that this country, unlike the US, is not about to join the offensive launched by the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, against Shia militants in Basra.

A defence source said the operation against the Mahdi army had been planned, implemented and executed by the Iraqis. He said it was their operation and their responsibility to bring security to Basra and Iraq as a whole. Yet if Britain is distancing itself from a battle raging in a sector for which it had responsibility until Sept last year, then what are British troops still doing in Iraq?

This is not an easy question to answer. Senior British commanders have made little secret of their desire to leave, privately acknowledging that the British troops acted as a magnet for disorder, not its repellant. Gordon Brown said last year that he wanted to reduce troop numbers to 2,500 (the minimum required for self-protection) by late spring. But neither an early departure nor a further reduction in troop levels is politically viable. It would look like a retreat under fire, similar to Aden in 1967.

The signs on Friday, the fourth day of the battle, were not encouraging. As fighting spread to Baghdad, Nassiriya, Hilla, Amara, Kerbala and Diwaniya, the Iraqi defence minister, Abdel Qader Jassim, admitted that resistance had been stiffer than he had bargained for. In a change of tactics, Mr Maliki extended the deadline for militants to surrender their arms until April 8.

Facts on the ground in Basra were difficult to determine, but in telephone interviews it emerged that the battle for the streets of Basra had only just begun. One Mahdi army commander told the Guardian that it had captured a lot of the army’s vehicles, guns and mortars, and that its fighters were well accustomed to using the side streets as their battle space.

Mr Maliki is taking an enormous gamble in staking the reputation of his newly trained army against experienced street fighters in an urban terrain which is very familiar to them. His motives for doing so may be murkier than the mere desire to stamp the authority of central government on Shia militias. In Basra some saw the street fighting as a turf war between Shia militias, conducted in the run-up to crucial provincial elections in October.

Whatever is happening, it is not going according to script. When it left Basra city centre last year the British army said it was handing over control to the police and army. As we can see now, they never had control. Neither does the violence confirm the optimism of the senior US commander, General David Petraeus, who continues to claim that the surge of US troops has worked.

If the fighting continues, Britain has only two options: either to get back into a messy and bloody street battle, or to leave altogether.

—The Guardian, London

Undoing the damage

By Sanaullah Baloch

THE grand coalition of democratic parties that has been voted into power has to work hard and in the right direction to reverse eight years of iniquitous, undemocratic and authoritarian policies.

The Musharraf regime plunged Pakistan into political turmoil and institutional decay, and gave rise to centre-province confrontation, a crippling energy crisis and a generally anarchic state of affairs. Clearly, a sincere and concerted effort will be required to put things back on track.

The political theatre is now perfectly set for the coalition to play a planned and positive role in national affairs. The current political and economic unrest has to be addressed and solutions found to the myriad problems facing the country, including Islamabad’s unpopular wars against the Baloch and the tribal people of Fata. Balochistan is an unfortunate victim of President Musharraf’s ill-advised adventures. It has been suffering since the military took over in 1999 and began to pursue a policy of indiscriminate subjugation of the Baloch people. It ruthlessly suppressed the voice of the people of Balochistan and seized control of their natural resources by sending fighter jets and helicopter gunships to bomb innocent and unarmed civilians. Musharraf introduced the phenomenon of enforced disappearances in Pakistan to create a state of fear to silence dissidents.

He ordered the killing of veteran Baloch nationalist Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti. His policies resulted in the mass displacement of civilians. The sufferings of the people were further compounded when foreign and local aid organisations were prevented from providing basic assistance to the internally displaced population of Balochistan.

Sardar Akhtar Mengal has been detained since November 2006 without any charges being laid. Balach Marri, a young politician and son of a prominent Baloch leader, was killed in November 2007. Countless activists have been languishing in jail for many years without a fair trial. Every day police and paramilitary troops detain innocent citizens in violation of lawful procedure.

Musharraf’s infamous policies resulted in the deep alienation of the Baloch masses from the centre. Moreover, the continued political and economic marginalisation of the Baloch and state-sponsored violence against them has compelled the people of Balochistan to voice their concerns about the development projects undertaken in the province. They fear that these projects will not create greater economic opportunities for the indigenous population.

The new government in Islamabad has courageously announced that it will end the sinister policies of the establishment, such as the militarisation of Balochistan, state-sponsored violence, and the humiliation and planned dispossession of the people of the province to deprive them of their natural resources.

The coalition government must be very clear about achieving its aims and objectives in respect of Balochistan’s development. The need is for a U-turn on the neocolonial policy of controlling and plundering the province’s natural wealth. The resources available in the politically suppressed and economically marginalised province should be tapped to address the growing energy crisis. A political dialogue should be launched based on the explicit recognition of the people’s ownership of the natural resources of the provinces.

The Musharraf policy of controlling Balochistan’s natural wealth has proved a total failure. Even the costly military operation and establishment of a cantonment in Sui-Dera Bugti have failed to maintain a steady flow of gas supplies, which were previously available uninterruptedly with the support of Nawab Bugti and his tribe. In the last four years since the military operation was launched, production has declined by 14 per cent in the gas fields of Balochistan.

The federal government must first understand the issues before opting for a policy of change. The establishment’s stereotypical approach towards Balochistan has always sought to defame and discredit the political leadership of the province, especially those players who have refused to be a party to the establishment’s exploitative agenda.

A pro-people and sustainable political policy vis-à-vis Balochistan requires a bold decision by the political leadership in Islamabad. Winning the hearts and minds of the traumatised Baloch demands a genuine political initiative by the coalition. Some of the measures that should be adopted promptly are:

a) Instead of constructing military and paramilitary cantonments, which are only creating hatred against Islamabad, all available funds should be redirected towards the socio-economic development of the province’s conflict-stricken districts.

b) Pull back all military and paramilitary forces to their 1999 positions and remove all Frontier Corp check-posts established at variance with constitutional safeguards.

c) Immediately assess all damage caused to the displaced populations of Dera Bugti and Kohlu districts and arrange for the repatriation of the displaced people and pay them compensation.

d) Release all political activists and provide speedy and fair justice to those who have been imprisoned since 1999.

e) Cancel all allotments of civil/military lands made between 1999 and 2008 in districts Gwadar and Lasbela. A new allotment policy should be based on market prices.

f) End the policy of amalgamating locally recruited Levies with the police force. The less costly traditional Levies force must be modernised and equipped.

g) Draw up a policy of paying equal wellhead price for gas and 30 per cent royalty to Balochistan (15 per cent for the gas-producing district and 15 per cent for the province — presently the province receives 12.5 per cent royalty).

h) End the agencies’ role in Balochistan’s political, social and tribal affairs as they are regarded by the majority in the province as a source of instability which provokes conflict among the tribes and the political parties.

The above-mentioned confidence-building measures only need executive orders from the prime minister. These would help ease political tensions between the centre and the province.

However, this does not detract from the need for an in-depth political dialogue among the representatives of all provinces, including Baloch leaders, to restructure the Constitution of 1973 to make it more flexible and workable and reduce future risks of a centre-province confrontation.

The federal government will also have to agree to the granting of provincial autonomy to the provinces by abolishing the concurrent list and incorporating a new provincial legislative list in the constitution. The new list must give complete authority to the provinces over their natural resource, including oil, gas, copper and gold, as well as ports and shipping, to improve and facilitate their economic growth. Law and order issues and longstanding unemployment in the provinces, particularly in Balochistan, need to be addressed by giving the provinces control over the civil armed forces such as the Frontier Corp, Rangers and the Coast Guard.

The main coalition partners are signatories to the Charter of Democracy and the APDM charter. They are morally duty-bound by their pledges to stop military operations, restore normality and accept the political and economic rights of the people of Balochistan.

The writer is a member of the Senate.

The defining moment is here and now

By Prof Khwaja Masud

FROM time immemorial people have been pondering over the meaning of life. Is my life worth living? Have we been wasting our time so far? How many questions are stirred by the state of the world? How many fears and doubts are aroused over the predicament that our country is confronted with?

The questioning is more persistent and anxiety more acute when we approach the defining moment in our history. The existentialists sum up this state of mind in the word ‘angst’, which means anguish. But angst is more than anguish. It is anguish, plus anxiety plus fear. For us the defining moment is here and now.

We all find our answers. Periods like these often entail a crisis which offers both danger and an opportunity. Blessed are those who grasp the opportunity and avoid the danger.

No wonder many Pakistanis are making a determined effort to define the raison d’etre of Pakistani nationhood: what is our past, where do we stand, and where are we heading?

In questioning ourselves about the purpose of our existence, we are influenced in our doubts and convictions by a whole range of objective and subjective factors: the social group we belong to, the social needs we have. And the opportunities open to us.

Our personal quest is defined by our experience, the demands that we make on life, our religious and political views, and above all our sincerity regarding these beliefs. While young people search for principles to live by, the older generation ponders and evaluates.

There is no other problem which besets our mind so much as the future of democracy. By democracy we mean not only political democracy but genuine democracy with economic and cultural dimensions. Undoubtedly, democracy offers everyone a chance to pursue worthy aims in life, and enough sense of purpose and commitment to achieve them. Democracy makes great demands on each one of us. Are we prepared to accept the challenge?

Democracy is not handed to anyone on a platter. The way to democracy is strewn with blood, sweat, tears and toil. It is determined by the development of an individual’s self-awareness, his growth as a democratic personality and his ability to define correctly the substance of his life and his own role within the community. This is not something that a person can suddenly decide. It involves a protracted and often contradictory process. It is particularly true in Pakistan where democracy never had a fair deal, mainly because we have not succeeded in developing and strengthening civil society.

In most general terms, civil society stands for the structures that mediate between the citizen and the state. They include all types of associations and organisations. Modern democracy cannot function without a vigorous and vibrant civil society. Democracy is not merely a set of institutions; such institutions must be supported by tolerance, openness, transparency and empathy as well as forms of behaviour which can neither be decreed nor learnt overnight.

The existence of a well-written democratic constitution and basic respect for democratic culture are no doubt necessary but by no means sufficient unless the basic rules of democracy are internalised both by the politicians and the citizens. Internalising democratic values requires long exposure, awareness and education.

Bourgeois critics of the concept of civil society argue that it is a leftist, collectivist concept — an attempt to introduce something more than a society of individuals. On the other hand, it is clear that no matter what name we give to the web of civic organisations and initiatives, all democratic states depend heavily on such a network of grassroots activities and civic organisations.The only fault of those who uphold the concept of civil society is that they stress the absolutely necessary importance of people’s activities and their organisations at all levels. They believe in participatory democracy in which the initiative comes from the grassroots rather than from the elite at the top. We Pakistanis know what havoc the elite at the top have played with democracy and democratic institutions.

Modern society has become too complex to be ruled from the top. No problem can be really solved unless the people are actively involved in it.

Civility implies tolerance, compromise, the spirit of give and take and willingness on the part of citizens and leaders to accept divergent views. Civil society is a cast of mind — a willingness to live and let live. Islam prepares the ground for such a cast of mind on the basis of two Quranic commandments: “la ikrah fiddin” (there is no compulsion in religion) and “lakum dinakum wa li din” (for you, your religion; for me, mine). If a society lacks tolerance then not only civil society cannot flourish but democracy itself is in serious danger.

Civil society is neither the outright enemy nor the unconditional friend of state power. Civil society is the natural enemy of autocracy, dictatorship and all forms of arbitrary rule. Civil society is essentially a law-based society. It needs to be emphasised that it is no substitute for government. Civil society stands for genuine participatory democracy. The stirrings of a dynamic civil society can easily be felt when the demand for accountability and transparency gains ground, when women form associations for equal rights and when corruption is fearlessly exposed.

The existence of civil society implies a shared sense of identity, by means of at least tacit agreement on the basic issues of Pakistan. In a word, a sense of citizenship with associated rights and responsibilities is part and parcel of civil society: active citizenship underpins civil society. To be a part of the whole is a precondition for the whole to be a sum of its parts.

Where the government through its depredations and failures loses the loyalty of its citizens, citizenship is an early casualty. As legitimacy crumbles, civil society threatens to fragment as well. Shall we catch hold of the defining moment? It is time for each citizen to stand up and be counted.

Time to step down

By Manzoor Chandio

PRESIDENT Musharraf and Chancellor Metternich of the Austrian Habsburg empire have much in common. One of the most remarkable features the 19th-century European statesman and the 21st-century Pakistani leader share is that both saw themselves as unrivalled. Therefore they believed they must rule for as long as they wished.

Metternich said of himself: “There is a wide sweep about my mind. I am always above and beyond the preoccupations of most public men … I cannot help saying to myself about twenty times a day: how right I am and how wrong they are.” He also thought of himself as a kind of lamp or beacon which helped people find their way around.

Metternich emerged on the political horizon when Europe was in deep trouble and ideas of nationalism and liberalism were gaining currency. He wanted to preserve the ancien regime (the old aristocratic order) which expected people to be submissive and conformist. He hosted the Congress of Vienna to preserve the old order but failed.

Musharraf also emerged on the scene in troubled times. Initially he ruled through the establishment’s age-old formulas: the doctrine of necessity and PCOs. He began his rule as the country’s supreme executive authority and enjoyed sweeping powers as chief executive, chief of the army staff and president.

After 9/11 he became the defining feature of the Pakistan government, leading to a dramatic change in the country’s relations with the rest of the world. He became a friend of the United States and joined hands with President Bush in his war on terror. Musharraf managed to gather every self-seeking politician he could find to support his regime. Now they are no longer in a position to protect him. The MQM, for instance, has changed its stance by supporting the coalition parties which are demanding Musharraf’s resignation.

He held a referendum and managed to get a friendly parliament elected in 2002. But now there is a new parliament in place and it echoes with slogans of ‘Go Musharraf Go’.Like Metternich, Musharraf depended on the law-enforcement agencies to prop up his office. The spies of the chancellor haunted and jailed many prominent Hungarian and Italian nationalists because they were regarded as agents of change. Several hundred nationalist and liberal activists disappeared during the Metternich regime. The Musharraf government killed Nawab Akbar Bugti and Balach Marri and jailed Akhtar Mengal and Dr Safdar Sarki. Several hundred nationalist activists arrested during Musharraf’s rule are still missing. The killing of Baloch leaders in merciless military actions led to the resurgence of the nationalist movement.

People gave their verdict on nationalist lines in the Feb 18 polls. The Sindhis and Seraikis voted for the People’s Party, the mohajirs for the MQM, Punjabis and Hazaras for the PML-N and the Pakhtuns for the ANP. The nationalist parties in Balochistan had boycotted the polls. Had they not done so, the Baloch surely would have voted for them. Now the PPP is forming a government in the province for the first time.

The Austrian chancellor banned many books, newspapers, journals, plays and even paintings because they were propagating a nationalist Europe. He targeted intellectuals such as professors, writers or students. Musharraf targeted intellectuals by banning many TV channels and their programmes. He declared emergency rule, imprisoning the lawyers, political activists and civilians who criticised him.

Metternich championed the social dominance of the aristocracy. He believed the aristocrats would safeguard the old order. To preserve the old order, the Musharraf government introduced the local government system to empower feudal lords. In Sindh, he even created fiefdoms by dividing districts to accommodate landlords who could not gain power in the existing districts. He wanted the feudal lords to act as his proxies and exercise their authority over the people.

He even went a step further than Metternich when we compare the two against the backdrop of the judicial crisis in Pakistan. He eventually bulldozed the judiciary and incarcerated several judges and the chief justice.

His one-upmanship ultimately threw Metternich into complete isolation. This thinking not only destroyed him but also the ancien regime he wanted to preserve. Finally, he resigned when a mob stood thundering at the door of his cabinet.

Almost all political parties in the country are demanding Musharraf’s resignation. What is he waiting for? For the day when the mob will knock at his door?