You have to stand guard over the development and maintenance of democracy, social justice and the equality of mankind in your own native soil. [Mohammed Ali Jinnah]

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Reason to Believe - by Shehzad Roy

Source: Dawn

Op-Ed by Shahzad Roy

When I was 10 years old, I saw on the nine o’clock news on PTV a woman with a dupatta draped round her head saying, “Pakistan tareekh kay aik naazuk mor say guzar raha hai.” Then I turned 20 and again saw a woman, this time not wearing a dupatta on her head, saying with eloquence on the nine o’clock news, “Pakistan tareekh kay aik naazuk mor say guzar raha hai”.

Déjà vu… why? I tried to analyse the situation to find out how come Pakistan is still stuck at the naazuk mor even after the passage of many long years. I reached the conclusion that 50 per cent of our knowledge lies in asking the right question. Government functionaries, intelligentsia, armed forces, critics, human rights activists and, for that matter, all stakeholders ask questions. But they end up slinging mud at each other, for the simple reason that the questions they ask are never right in the first place.

The question usually asked is: “Why is the state of health and education in Pakistan in such dire straits?” The complacent response is: “At least we have some schools and a few hospitals. Something is better than nothing.”

After pondering over the state of education and health in our country, I realised that the “something is better than nothing” view cannot apply to education and health. Just imagine, would so many youth have agreed to become suicide bombers if proper education had been provided to them by the state? If they had been only taught to ask the right questions and had inter-faith dialogue at the institutions they attended, they would have thought thrice before embarking on mindless missions and most definitely have refused to be used as a pawn in the hands of others.

When it comes to healthcare, a lukewarm (something) effort — by a doctor of questionable credentials (something), to cure a patient by giving him a substandard (something) medicine or injection — has a high probability of killing the patient rather than curing him.

Quality education is every citizen’s right and its responsibility lies with the state. A paradigm shift is required in the mindset of state authorities, the people and the education system to save our future generations from destruction. The first step towards this shift would be changing the textbooks.

Just by building schools, training the teachers, increasing administrative controls, the issue of providing an education that makes a ‘thinking’ individual, will not be addressed. A student must learn from the textbook how to learn, change and inquire freely rather than becoming a “lakeer ka faqeer”. If we want our future generations to ask the right questions then a culture of discussion, interaction, proactive thinking and asking questions needs to be encouraged.

It’s high time that a quantum leap was taken in the education and health sectors. Nothing is as powerful as the idea itself, whose time has come.

The problems of education and healthcare are just the tip of the iceberg. Multiple interventions are required to turn the country around. To name a few: The state’s failure to provide timely justice (more than 70,000 under-trial prisoners are languishing in Pakistani jails), housing, power, employment, communication, clean drinking water (without which 250,000 children die annually) has created problems that should prompt the rulers to declare an emergency.

Whenever these questions are raised or talked about, most of us say, “Oh bhai! This is Pakistan.” My answer to this cliché is, where you live should not determine whether you live happily or live poorly and die.The difference between a developed or developing — rather declining — country is that people in the former are given a ‘reason to believe’ by the state and the media, that they are working to achieve and maintain a decent living. Whereas in the latter case, the state and the media fail to create this ‘reason to believe’ for the citizens. In the absence of this ‘reason to believe’, citizens lose a sense of direction and move and act aimlessly. The absence of this also leads to lack of thinking, questioning and movement by the citizens.

Only having a ‘reason to believe’ sets the ball rolling — slowly, but in the right direction. It is not strange when extraordinary people do extraordinary things. But when they have a ‘reason to believe’, even ordinary people start doing extraordinary things. That is precisely the moment when a group of people start turning into a great nation.

The writer, a pop singer, is president of Zindagi Trust, an organisation working for child welfare and education.

Army Headquarter - دو ہزار چار سو پچاس ایکٹر - Disgusting!!

Salient features:
- BIGGEST army headquarter in the WORLD
- 2.4 (arub) dollars estimated cost
- Being built on one of the most expensive lands in the world, without a penny being spent on the land ownership

Out of the 2,450 acres of the new army head quarter being planned in the heart of Islamabad, only 200 or so acres are planned for the actual offices, so what is the rest of the area for? What is the cost? Who is going to pay for all of this? Find out:

But the only sane question is: Isn't it the height of arrogance on the part of the planners for this disgusting mistake of another army settlement, especially when we are a nation so poor, so looked down upon, so torn, so lost? Doesn't army already enjoy all the benefits which most people in this country can't even think about except for a handful of people? In case Pakistan has such high figures in the treasury, shouldn't it be spent in less disgusting fashion?

Blogged with Flock

SAC, Lawyers and CCP issues a call for joint protest

2 Feb 2008.bmp

Reconstructing federalism

analysis: Reconstructing federalism —Rasul Bakhsh Rais

Ethnic pluralism of the Indus valley region, that now forms the geographical core of Pakistan, historically was never separatist in orientation but rather interactive and integrationist for thousands of years under local kingdoms and great empires

Federalism, the constitutional distribution of power between the centre and the provinces, has suffered heavier blows during the last eight years under General (retd) Pervez Musharraf than any other time in our history. The story of other norms and institutions is no less tragic, but how we manage issues of federalism is of far greater importance to the future of the country.

The significance of handling the federal question proactively and according to popular aspiration lies in two political facts.

The first fact is our national character as a multi-ethnic society. But this multi-ethnic character is like a marble shape, more intricate, inter-woven and complex than is commonly understood or recognised. This development that has taken place through migration, old and new, does not diminish the ethnic character of the provinces, their own ethnic mix notwithstanding. As has become clearer through painful experiences, the issue of provincial rights is one we can ignore only at the cost of damaging the federation.

The second political fact is that a multi-ethnic state like ours requires a democratic, federal framework of governance. Democracy would give peoples and their representatives a sense of ownership in the power structure and a stake in the political system, while federalism would give them political, economic and cultural autonomy. The theoretical foundations of a federal system lie in the concept of dual sovereignty, as it creates two sets of political authority: an effective and efficient national government, and state or provincial governments with separate and well-defined areas of jurisdiction.

Empirically, federalism has proved the best arrangement for ethnically diverse societies. Its recognition of social and political pluralism integrates different communities together in a single nationhood. Unfortunately, successive generations of politicians and policymakers in Pakistan have failed to demonstrate true understanding of ethnic pluralism and how to accommodate it in the political system.

Maybe they understood the issue of ethnic diversity but fudged it by representing genuine ethnic and regional demands as opposed to the interests of the federation. This falsification had another sinister purpose: to legitimise themselves as true patriots while labelling ethnic leaders and groups as traitors.

Our national leaders, both civilian and military, never came to grips with the ethnic and regional realities of the country, which were presented as more of a problem than an opportunity to build inclusive, participatory nationalism. The use of religion to create national solidarity that would cut through ethnic identities was too idealistic to be a pragmatic solution to the real political problem.

The ethnic identities of regional social groups are rooted deep in history, culture, language and folklore. The illusory assumption that these identities could be wished away or instantly substituted with another politically engineered identity was proved absolutely false. And if we continue to ignore the ethnic factor in our national politics, it will only add further pressures and demands on the central political system.

The problem is that most of our leaders have been uncomfortable in recognising ethnic identity as a legitimate human feeling. It is also lost on them that ethnic difference is and can be a legitimate basis on which regional groups can claim their share in national resources, power and decision-making.

Ethnicity in Pakistan or in other countries is not inherently antagonistic to building a nation-state. Those who make the opposite argument are fixated on the European notion of culture-based nations, which were formed after many years of immeasurable bloodshed for powerful groups, often minorities, to impose their cultural hegemony on less fortunate, weaker groups.

Most post-colonial states are ethnically diverse, and by necessity have to go through a painful process of adjustment, mutual accommodation and co-existence by mutual acknowledgement, respect and inclusive politics. Pakistan, compared to many other countries, has an ethnic complex more conducive to nation building than in many other places. It has many layers of integrative forces that we could have used, and still can intelligently use, in weaving our composite nationhood.

Ethnic pluralism of the Indus valley region, that now forms the geographical core of Pakistan, historically was never separatist in orientation but rather interactive and integrationist for thousands of years under local kingdoms and great empires. There cannot be better evidence for this than in the historical pattern of migration and voluntary relocation of populations, regional commerce and trade. This historical pattern, which has continued over the past sixty years, has further transformed the ethnic landscape of Pakistan into a marble shape that presents a diffused, patchy and inter-woven image of ethnic colours and cultures.

This has happened, though, without any assistance from the country's politics, which was divisive rather than integrative in its refusal to accept regional autonomy and ethnic rights as one of the guiding principles of Pakistan's secular nationhood.

Let me clarify the idea of secular nationhood: shared powers, responsibility and political significance among all regions and ethnic groups.

Never in any situation is social diversity an obstruction to evolution into cohesive nationhood. It requires a different kind of politics, which must be dictated by the logic of ethnic diversity. It is a kindly national solidarity that needs to be built from below upward by listening to concerns and voices from the constituent regions; not by acknowledging them as rightful players but giving them a say and a stake in national power and decision-making. The trust deficit that we have between the centre and the provinces is in proportion to defective national politics, which has not been appropriate for or responsive to the ethnic mosaic that is Pakistan.

The successive authoritarian rules that we have endured for decades have alienated some ethnic groups, fuelling anger and frustration among them. Military rule by nature has a centralising tendency, and in our case, in popular regional perceptions, it has become associated with the dominance of the majority ethnic group. The one-man political show that we have watched helplessly for the last eight years has greatly damaged our federal structure.

It took us a quarter century to reach national consensus on the 1973 Constitution, somewhat settling the federal issue as the regional political parties accepted distribution of powers. We have not lived up to that promise. We don't need to repeat how individual rulers have disfigured the document to protect their own power and place in politics. Pakistan must return to a democratic, federal framework to address the question of ethnic diversity sooner rather than later. We are already late, weakened and politically disoriented on this fundamental issue of national importance.

The author is a professor of Political Science at the Lahore University of Management Sciences. He can be reached at