THE latest State Bank data has painted a depressing but realistic picture of the large scale manufacturing (LSM) sector. There has been a progressive decline in LSM’s growth rate over the last at least four years. From 10.7 per cent in 2005-6, it came down to 8.8 per cent in the following year and in the next year it was no more than half of what was achieved in the preceding year. A number of factors have come together to cause such a serious slowdown in a sector that leads economic growth. Stagnation in the textile sub- sector which has a share of 24.49 per cent in the LSM sector is said to have played a key role in the declining fortunes of this sector. Credit off-take by the textile sector had started slowing down in 2005-06 because by that time expansion and modernisation in the sector had come to a halt despite the fact that the industry was running at full capacity. The same was the case in the cement, fertiliser and auto sub-sectors. So, therefore, the growth rate in these fields had to slow down significantly as a consequence. And the fear is the performance of the LSM sector during the current year would be even more disappointing as without additional capacities, this sector is hardly in a position to raise its output.
In addition, the civil upheavals of 2007 and the political uncertainties of the current year are seriously impacting on the overall investment climate in the country causing the LSM output to suffer the most. Also, shortage of power, escalating fuel costs and spiking interest rates would certainly make the investors think twice before risking their resources in long gestation ventures. And there seems to be no quick fix solutions. Over the years the government, under pressure from IMF and the World Bank, has withdrawn itself from the business of doing business. So, it is hardly in a position to do anything about this problem on its own except play the role of a facilitator for the private sector. But then that is what it has been doing all these last 10-15 years.
Unfortunately, the private sector used its high margins of profits for speculating in the stock exchange and buying real estate. If it had the interest of the national economy at heart it should have been using the boom time of the last six years to go into higher value addition and capture new markets especially in textile goods. And now the chickens are coming back to roost. But then it is not the end of the world. The two, the government and the private sector, can still retrieve the situation by joining hands to share the tears and toils for a better future.
CAN the Middle East ‘emulate Europe’, as advocated by French President Nicolas Sarkozy? Launching the 43-nation Mediterranean Union on Sunday, the French president, who is also the president of the EU for the current six-monthly tenure, said the Middle Eastern nations must learn to ‘love each other instead of continuing to hate each other and wage war’. He cited Europe as a model for putting behind it the wars that ‘century after century, repeatedly, brought barbarity to the heart of civilisation’. However, the truth about the grim Middle Eastern situation came home to the conference when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert did not have a handshake. Nevertheless, this was for the first time that top-ranking Syrian and Israeli leaders were present together at an international conference. The red carpet treatment given to the Syrian president was also an acknowledgment of Assad’s role in the peace accord, brokered by Qatar that averted a possible civil war in Lebanon.
Even though it is quite a large grouping, the Mediterranean Union has modest aims. As the declaration issued at the end of the conference said, instead of tackling big political goals, it has chosen to focus on regional projects in six sectors — cleaning up the pollution in the Mediterranean, building highways, disaster response, education, solar energy and helping medium enterprises. As conference co-host Hosni Mobarak said these were challenges to be met for the benefit of the region’s growing population.
The Middle East has a long way to go before it can emulate Europe. The continent has reached the present ‘idyllic’ state after its fundamental geopolitical problems had been sorted out. Germany has been unified and the ‘communist threat’ is no more. However, in the Middle East, Babylon, where human civilisation began, is burning. And the greater part of Palestine, home to the world’s three monotheist religions, is under occupation. The Mediterranean Union can play an effective role in solving the Palestinian problem because its European members follow a relatively balanced policy on this question. While the regional projects selected by the 43-nation grouping will no doubt attempt to make a dent in the region’s gargantuan social and economic problems, the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza by Israel and its periodic forays into Lebanon continue to destabilise the region. Without putting an end to the violence in Iraq and turning a two-state solution in Palestine into a reality it is difficult to see how the region can have the kind of peace Europe has.
Costs of survival
LIFE on the threshold of destitution calls for some desperate, at times unnatural, measures. Take a report in this newspaper, which stated that Edhi Foundation personnel in Hyderabad were distraught to see two women in the span of just 24 hours turning up at their offices to give their children up for adoption. One woman had brought a six-month old infant citing abject poverty as the reason to forsake her child. Another mother approached the centre to keep four of her brood as her husband, a bangle craftsman, had married for the second time and was unable to support two families. However, upon being informed that the centre’s policy does not permit parents to see their children once they have been adopted, she changed her mind. But no such luck for the newborn who has been sent to Karachi for perhaps a home that is a cut above its own. Although these, and many more that have not made news, remain portraits of misery and horror, the situation hardly comes as a surprise.
After all, Pakistan stands at 137 in the UN’s Human Development Index (HDI) and 33 per cent of its population lives below the poverty line. Meanwhile local statistics are bleaker: 49 million people live below subsistence level, eight children are born per minute and 500 out of 10,000 mothers die during pregnancy. Clearly, indigence intensifies when healthcare schemes and family planning projects are unable to confront cultural and religious barriers. One way out of poverty for many families would be for their womenfolk to take up gainful employment, if they have not so far. Women have to be more conscious of the benefits of joining the work force and not see employment as another taboo. The need for a civic movement that compels the government to provide social security to its poor cannot be underestimated or over-emphasised. In the end, poverty eradication policies must extend beyond monetary empowerment. The real remedy lies in enabling people to live with self-respect and dignity.
OTHER VOICES - Pushto Press
Mass killings by allied forces
IN response to the Taliban attack on the allied forces in Afghanistan’s Nooristan province, US forces bombed markets and residential areas leaving 40 people dead and dozens other wounded. Abdul Haleem, the spokesperson for the province of Nooristan, said that the bombing caused a large number of casualties including women and children.
It may be recalled that only a week before this bombing, attacks by the allied forces in Nooristan had left 22 non-combatants dead and a large number wounded including women and children. Just two days after this incident, the allied forces bombed a marriage procession in the Kamali region of Haski Meeni district of Nangarhar province, leaving [22 people dead]. This bombing was carried out in response to the Taliban attack on a military post in Nangarhar. Even if the attacks carried out in the current year alone are taken into account, it becomes clear that the allied forces have been psychologically defeated by the Taliban and now the common man is bearing the brunt of [this loss]. The Nangarhar incident is a prime example. The allied forces bombed the marriage procession at a location that is at an estimated two hours’ distance from the site where the Taliban carried out their attack on the military post. The allied forces had even been informed about the marriage procession but they still chose to bomb it and left a large number of civilians dead and turned the joy of marriage into a source of mourning.
This is the main reason why the presence of allied forces, who were initially welcomed, is now resented by the Afghans six years later. The hatred rises with every non-combatant, civilian death … and for this only the allied forces can be held responsible. The allied forces had arrived claiming that they would help the Afghan people reconstruct their country and ensure their security. But these claims turned out to be a farce. Instead, over time the Afghans have witnessed an increasing number of deaths and growing displacement of non-combatants.
According to a report, the allied forces have killed 1,400 civilians in the first four months of the current year. The president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, should take notice of the killings of civilians and groups of Afghans. It is the president’s responsibility to make sure that there are no civilian casualties in the unilateral attacks by the allied forces. Otherwise there is every possibility that the common Afghan might join hands with the Taliban to expel foreign troops. — (July 15)
— Selected and translated by Khadim Hussain.
Keeping one’s word
PROMISE has been deemed sacrosanct from ancient times. Keeping one’s word is seen as a sign of character and integrity; hence the maxim “A man is as good as his word.”
Except complex deals, which need to be concluded in written form to avoid misinterpretation, countless business transactions are clinched every day simply by word of mouth. Prices are settled and orders executed simply on telephonic instructions. This is possible because the parties ‘trust’ each other to be true to their word.
Moreover, all the commitments people make every day do not relate to money or goods. And even in the case of every transaction involving money or goods, it would be physically impracticable to have them written down and witnessed. Trust is all the more important, because the sanction of the word of mouth rests on a person’s integrity. Both parties to a verbal transaction know that it would not be actionable in a court of law.
The entire social edifice therefore rests on mutual trust and the understanding that people would fulfil their obligations. History is replete with chronicles of people who even braved death to fulfil a promise. Consequently, those who renege on their promises are treated as pariahs and social outcasts.
Islam goes a few steps farther, because it envisages a homogeneous society that is bound in a fraternal tie. The tie would snap and society would disintegrate if people reneged on their contracts and covenants. It therefore gives religious sanction to promises made and undertakings given by making them actionable in a ‘court’. In Bani Israel (17) verse 34, comes the directive; “And keep the covenant” with the warning: “Surely of the covenant it will be asked (on the Day of Judgment).”
The importance of keeping pledges occurs as early as Sura Aal-i-Imran, verse 76. After referring to how some People of the Book retracted from their promises to the Gentiles, it says, “….but he who fulfils his pledge and fears Allah, for verily Allah loves those who are pious.” (The word used is muttaqeen which translates variously as those who fear Allah, pious, et al).
The fifth sura, Al Maida, opens with the straight command to the Believers: “O ye who Believe fulfil your undertakings.” Still further on, fulfilling covenants is described as one of the attributes of true believers. Sura al Momenoon (23) begins with the good tidings that “Successful indeed are the believers…. that are caretakers of their pledge and their covenant….” Further on, al Ma’arij (70), verses 32, 33, 35 adds more good news saying that those “who keep their pledges and their covenant and those who are firm in their testimony” will be among the “honoured ones in the Garden (of Bliss)”
All, these exhortations, inducements, admonitions and warnings relate to oral undertakings. A mention of written contract occurs only in al Baqara (282) where an elaborate arrangement has been prescribed for deals “involving further transactions in a fixed period of time.” Obviously because by their very nature such contracts are complicated, they are required to be made in writing. The writing is to be done by a scribe as dictated by the person who incurs the liability, and duly witnessed.
Because people sometimes swear an oath to buttress a promise, Islam takes note of this factor as well and treats the case of broken oaths more seriously. For example, whereas the culprit who breaks a verbal pledge would be ‘asked’ (on the Day of Judgment), the one who breaks an oath must pay a penalty in this world.
Yet, while prescribing the penalty in verse 89 of al Maidah Allah draws a fine line between wilful and unintentional oaths that admirably redounds to His compassion towards
His erring creatures: “Allah will not take you to task for that which is unintentional in your oaths but He will take you to task for the oaths you swear in earnest. For expiation feed ten indigent persons on a scale of the average of what you feed your own folk, or the clothing of them, or the liberation of a slave. If that is beyond your means fast for three days. That is the expiation for the oaths you have sworn. And keep your oaths.”
But truth is an essential concomitant to the fulfilment of promises and oaths. Unless a person is regarded as truthful, no one will entertain his pledges and promises.
The character of the Prophet offers a shining example in this regard. He had won the sobriquet of “al-Ameen” (the Trustworthy) from friends and foes alike, at quite an early age, owing to his reputation for truthfulness.
Islam, therefore, lays great stress on pure, unalloyed, truth. It deplores lacing truth with falsehood, because, doing so could be more harmful than a clear lie, and it would be done by design only to mislead people with some ulterior motive. Moreover, whereas a lie can be brought home to the liar, the offender who dilutes truth with falsehood may not be easy to detect so mischief may occur. Hence, the Quran, in al Baqara: 42, clearly admonishes; “Confound not truth with falsehood, nor knowingly conceal the truth.”
But it is not enough just to speak the whole truth. The real test of truthfulness comes when one is giving evidence. The status of witness has therefore been elevated as “witness for Allah” who must be steadfast in the cause of justice, and not be swayed by any personal considerations. “O ye who believe! Be you staunch in justice, witness for Allah, even though it be against yourselves, or (your) parents or (your) near relatives, whether (the case be of) a rich man or a poor man. “(Al Nisa: 135). It would therefore, be evident that Islam takes a holistic view of personal transactions so as to promote fellow feeling and fraternity.
Meet Raymond Malik
FEWER cabinet members have been skewered as gleefully as the adviser to the prime minister on interior affairs and narcotics control, who has been depicted as a de facto prime minister, a Chia-head Rasputin and an unelected dilettante. But in Hollywood, Rehman Malik is the fearless Pakistani official who alerted the world to Al Qaeda.
Mr Malik is heroically featured in John J. Miller and Michael Stone’s The Cell: inside the 9/11 plot, and why the FBI and CIA failed to stop it. The 2002 book was turned into an Emmy-winning made-for-television movie four years later, with no less than Art Malik — who has worked with David Lean, Tom Stoppard, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Patrick Swayze — playing ‘Raymond Malik’. Take that Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
The former FIA additional director is no jiyala-come-lately. Nawaz Sharif’s government had jailed several officials perceived to be Pakistan People’s Party loyalists including Mr Malik, who was sharing a cell with Pakistan’s present High Commissioner to the UK Wajid Shamsul Hasan when former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto came to see them.
“I am surprised the Americans have not raised a hue and cry over the arrest of Malik,” wrote Ms Bhutto in her diaries for Slate.com in 1997. “Malik was part of the team that responded to the US request for Pakistan to extradite the notorious terrorist Ramzi Yousaf wanted in the New York World Trade Center bombing. The American negligence of Malik will hardly embolden others to risk their lives for global values in the future. Malik has been charged with stealing a car. He has the receipt for it.”
There’s been no looking back since he got into trouble again with Mr Sharif in 1999 for the BBC documentary From Pakistan to Park Lane via Illford, which chronicled the former prime minister’s alleged corruption and abuse of power. The documentary was based on a 200-page report authored by Mr Malik and posted on the PPP website.
Two years later, Dr A. Rehman Malik became chairman of Rodcom Europe Limited, a telecommunication company headquartered in London with operations in Jordan, Nigeria, South Africa and Sri Lanka, and his Edgware Road flat became the default PPP secretariat. Mr Malik emerged as a power player last year for his part in the PPP’s truce negotiations with President Pervez Musharraf.
When the cabinet portfolios were being finalised, no one wanted to take charge of the interior ministry. After all, the but-one predecessor, Aftab Khan Sherpao, had faced two assassination attempts. In email exchanges with Linda Bird Francke, the ghost author of Daughter of the East, shortly before her own assassination, Ms Bhutto wrote, “I don’t like people I know being almost blown up” and “The attack on Sherpao, on Eid and in a prayer place was ghastly.” Credit to Mr Malik for stepping up.