Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!

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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Forsaken by the State

Note: The day Benazir Bhutto was murdered, December 27, 2007, it was the day when all the semblance of government evaporated in Pakistan; there was widespread anarchy and uncertainty; there was arson, loot, and destruction. Fear prevailed. As if the life and property of ordinary citizens of this country were forsaken by the State! Here is the Story:

Where there is no property there is no injustice.
John Locke

Regardless of the controversy whether we human beings are by nature good or bad, what is crucially required to keep our society intact is that we must be treated as free agents. This washes away all those excuses the science of psychology and its Freuds and no-Freuds have heaped on and which provide an eternal alibi for the criminals to prove their innocence under the guise of this or that mental state or illness, or this or that instinctual impulse which, it is pleaded, eventually forces them into acting that crime: that they were not just themselves at the time of crime (I would like, in such cases, that self of theirs to be punished at least!).

Thus, it is of immense significance, and both tradition and moral and social values, and law too, have it that everyone who commits an offence must be tried and punished accordingly. It behooves to be presumed that it is a certain person and it is he and only he who committed the crime. Otherwise, we will have only crimes, and no criminals, a state of affairs we cannot afford if we believe in justice and its dispensation as the sine qua non for the continuation of a society.

The true relevance of this requirement demonstrates well when we are faced with a concrete danger to our life and property. It must be noted here that property is not a separate entity from one’s self though physically it is; rather it is an extension of one’s self and his life. ‘Every man has a property in his own person. This nobody has a right to, but himself,’ Locke observed. He held that ‘the reason why men enter into society is the preservation of their property.’ Without property we, who are not all mystics, are just in the midst of a forced hermitage, a state of social and existential nothingness. Probably it is why we protect our property at the risk of our life; and, certainly it is why we take lives of others to grab their property. Also, it was why in the 18th century England stealing was punishable by death.

It is in this context that the focus of British classical liberals such as Locke (1632-1704) and Hume (1711-1776) on the protective function of government can be best understood. Locke maintains that ‘government has no other end, but the preservation of property.’ Hume believed that ‘the convention for the distinction of property, and for the stability of possession, is of all circumstances the most necessary to the establishment of human society, and that after the agreement for the fixing and observing of this rule, there remains little or nothing to be done towards settling a perfect harmony and concord.’

Thus, any authority that takes on the task of governing a people, for it the foremost thing is to extend protection of life and property to every individual under its jurisdiction so that he should live in peace and happiness. If it fails to deliver that, it loses the confidence and trust of its people. Converse to all this, the state in Pakistan, as a rule, has been quite unmindful of this foremost responsibility. In the heat of moments, such as the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, it just sleeps. Actually, whatever government is it, a civilian or military or any other, they have a theory to make excuse of: Let people vent their anger. They think this diverts people’s attention from the real issues and real culprits.

After the cold-blooded murder of Benazir Bhutto, the loot and arson that took place has shaken the confidence of all the citizenry. No doubt, her assassination must be condemned in unequivocal terms, and on the face of it is itself the strongest evidence of the state’s criminal negligence in protecting the lives of the people and their leaders. But of course it should not be taken as an excuse for the uncalled for lawlessness to prevail. No incident of any magnitude licenses anyone to incur damage to the life and property of his fellow citizens.

However, the fact is that as the news of her assassination spread, unruly mobs took to the streets and markets and let loose a reign of terror as if no administrative authority existed in the country. From big cities to small towns, routine life and businesses suffered a standstill for days. As many as 58 people were killed amidst the worst lawlessness. The state’s conspicuous absence from the scene further created a sense of fear and insecurity among the people. Though the initial estimates of loss and damage have started pouring in, the real damage that has shattered the society’s trust in the ability of the state to protect the citizenry is immeasurable.

Here are some horrible recounts of the loot and arson private and public property underwent:

  • The ensuing night of December 27 witnessed the horrible act of burning of a hospital in Karachi.
  • Inside a garment factory which was set on fire by the rioters in Karachi seven workers including a woman lost their lives.
  • 16 Edhi ambulances were set on fire.
  • Dozens of trucks which were torched in Korangi Industrial area included two trucks loaded with wheat.
  • About 36 factories, 3 restaurants, eights petrol pumps, 55 shops were torched in Karachi.
  • More than 900 private vehicles were torched in Sindh.
  • About 15 spinning mills in Kotri and 6 in North Karachi industrial area were destroyed or set on fire and more than a dozen factories in different industrial areas of Karachi alone were looted.
  • Both domestic and foreign trade came to a halt, and traders suffered a loss of Rs.10 billion.
  • Hundreds of cargo trailer-trucks loaded with milk, ghee, chemicals, fertilizers, pulses, wheat, machinery, fiber boards, fruits and vegetables were looted and burnt. The Karachi Goods Carriers Association estimates the accumulated losses at 193.5 millions rupees.
  • According to Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry 5 days of riots caused a corporate loss of Rs.80 billion, and the loss to GDP is to the tune of Rs.8.706 billion.
  • A total of 699 branches of various banks were looted, damaged, and burnt. The State Bank’s estimates of losses reach about Rs.1.2 billion.
  • Trains carrying passengers were stoned, attacked and burnt. In two cases, after forcing the passengers to disembark the carriages were burnt. In total, 6 trains, 78 train bogies, 26 locomotives, and 25 railway stations were set on fire. As much as 16 bridges, 18 level crossings, a number of railways cranes and motor trolleys were set ablaze. At six places, the rail track was uprooted and fish plates were removed; railways communication system also suffered damage. The loss is estimated to be more than Rs.12 billion.
  • The tax authorities estimate the Revenue losses amounting to Rs.35 billion.
This was not the first such incident when the people of Pakistan were forsaken by the state. Only a few months back in May 2007 Karachi was subjected to a most brazen show of lawlessness under the criminal silence of provincial and federal governments. The fact of the matter is that whenever there is such a public outrage, the theory: ‘let the people vent their anger’ comes into force and government’s administrative authority disappears altogether. As to the December 27 chaos, there are concerns that in some cases the looting particularly of banks was organized and was done by organized groups.

All this is outrageous. However, what is more outrageous is that government has set up a commission that will assess the extent of the damage done to private and public property. Whereas what is required is the setting up of a commission that should include representatives of all sections of society, and it should be tasked in the first instance with the determination of the fact why and how the law enforcing agencies and their bosses from top to bottom absented when the reign of terror was let loose across the country, and of course to ensure that there is law in the country those found guilty of negligence be awarded due punishments.

As to the demand of compensation being made by the manufacturers, traders, transporters, and small businessmen who suffered incalculable losses, they should realize that in fact it will backfire. Seeking compensation from government will no doubt result in levying of more taxes, and entrenching of the rentiers’ regime. Ultimately it will hurt their own businesses by reducing, already shrinking purchasing power of common man. The lawful course is to file damages suits in the courts against both law enforcing agencies and ransackers. That will set a precedent for the future also.

But as is expected the courts may not be able to provide them with justice, and in that event the government will be stripped of all the semblance of its protective function and a government for the people. Thus it will lose all moral, legal, and constitutional authority to tax the citizens. That will be the end of such regimes which have made Pakistan such a place for people to live where if there be choice they will migrate to other lands where their person and property is safe.

This article was completed in January 2008.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The road ahead is quite straight

This article was written last year in the wake of December 16 APS Tragedy to expose the Politicians' inaction. It's still relevant today on December 16, 2015.

The road ahead is quite straight

Beware of the politicians! They cannot think and act out of their politically blocked mentality! They are a victim of paradigms made of their own choice; that’s why they disdain rules, laws and the constitution, which require and bind them to act accordingly. They won’t break the paradigms, which ensure their short-term survival, and it’s seldom that they shift to newer paradigms of thinking and action in a broader perspective. Whenever that happens, that happens temporarily and perforce due to the force of the circumstances, like the one which the December 16 Peshawar massacre of the children generated, or under the pressure of the “Subjects,” “Awaam,” like the one which got Iftikhaar Muhammad Chaudhry former Chief Justice of Pakistan restored against the will of the whole “state” of Pakistan, which its politicians consider themselves to be the “Ashraaf” and “Haakim!” So the moment that pressure releases, they are the same politicians - Haakim and Ashraaf!

What are these paradigms of Paki politicians? First, see how they respond and react to such tragedies of unfathomable magnitude! Try to empathize the immense grief the Peshawar massacre caused: 132 is the number of those innocent souls death of whom has devastated hundreds of families, thousands of their relatives and friends, millions of their dreams, and shocked billions of human beings all over the globe! The unimaginable tragedy has jolted Pakistan’s “imagined enemies” also! And how the politicians, whether they are in the parliament or out of it, took it is more important, relevant and pertinent in the sense that it will show at the end of the day how the state of Pakistan is going to tackle the menace.

The first political paradigm comprises the narrative which includes:  condemnations, consolations, condolences, resolutions; and the likes. The second paradigm calls for meetings, conferences, APCs; and the likes. An APC of all the parliamentary parties we have already seen happening. Another highlight in this regard is the Pakistan Peoples Party’s demand to call for a joint session of the parliament. The third paradigm opts for constitution of commissions for inquiries, investigations; and the likes. There are various inquiries and investigations, announced and unannounced, already in the process. The fourth paradigm focuses on setting up commissions, committees for devising action plans. As a result of the above-mentioned APC, a parliamentary committee has been formed to devise a National Action Plan, which has already set up a Working Group. The political imagination never goes beyond these paradigms. Hence, it’s rarely seen that the action plans thus devised by such committees are put to work or put through. Nor are implemented any findings and recommendations of any inquiry commission or investigation committee thus formed.

Right from the beginning: Justice Munir Inquiry Report (1954), the only report the original text of which along with its official Urdu translation the then government made public, never put to any use; Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report, which inquired into the military debacle of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) never saw the light of the day nor were implemented any of its recommendations; Saleem Shahzad Inquiry Report, which inquired the mysterious murder of Saleem Shahzad, a renowned journalist, did not bear any fruit; and, Abbottabad Commission Report, which inquired into the circumstances under which Osama Bin Laden safely resided for years in Abbottabad, a military town, remains dumped in all respects. So that’s the fate of all the political paradigms!

As mentioned earlier the politicians seldom come to alter their paradigms, it amounts to saying that they won’t change them this time too, and though there is unprecedented outrage against the politicians as well as so-called powerful Generals of the army, the politicians won’t do anything worthwhile but such measures which help them water down the social and psychological heaviness that the Peshawar massacre of children has begotten. Most probably, they will drag the issue and allow time to lessen its intensity and finally bury it. Although executions of certain terrorists have started making headlines, whose dead bodies otherwise should have by now worn out in the graves, there is nothing substantial in the offing as the “measures and actions” the government is deliberating and taking now attest.

In contradistinction to it, what may be termed “cash politics” in point of fact takes no time to get launched; for instance, a number of power generation projects are in the pipeline, whereas no attention is being given to the real cause of the acute power shortage, i.e. mismanagement in the power sector. It is such opportunities that the Paki politicians are most interested in. In other words, it’s Cash Politics where the political paradigm of action may only be seen working actively. All other issues, whatever their magnitude and fatality, do not interest the Paki politicians.

In case, someone starts analyzing the present troubles, his findings will reveal that the miseries and killings the ordinary Pakistanis are undergoing today may be traced to such issues which were deliberately delayed and complicated by the politicians, and that they were never dealt with sternly and with determination. That list includes Terrorism, Extremism, Sectarianism, Non-Civilian Supremacy as the top most issues. The question staring us in the face is: Do the Pakistani constitution, rules and laws on the one hand, and the courts, police and other related institutions and agencies on the other are not competent enough to deal with these and like issues? The courts had already handed those terrorists death sentence whom the government is executing now! Also, if new legislation and new institutions were required in order to cope with these menaces, why it was not done in time promptly and efficiently! Why relaxing in political paradigms remained the way of the politicians? In conclusion, it may be said that the state of Pakistan has already got all that paraphernalia it requires to deal with these issues; do not give it turns and twists; leave your political paradigms; the road ahead is quite straight; have courage to tread it and focus on the Unity of Action, not on the Unity of the Nation, and Unity of the Politicians!

Note: This article was completed on December 20, 2014.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Crimes and the political alibi

“I am a politician; I cannot commit any crime; I am perfectly innocent!”

That is how, as we know at least in Pakistan, politicians argue. That manner of political self-defense clears the two-way traffic: criminals may become politicians; and, politicians may become criminals. Pakistanis have enough of both. And the breed is multiplying like rabbits. All the more, species belonging to other realms of social, economic, military, cultural, religious have started aping the politicians. They have learned the art of politics from them. That’s a hundred percent fool-proof method of overcoming any odds.

Also, that has rendered all the systems of accountability inefficacious. Why? Because, and it is awfully baffling that, all the systems of accountability are conceived, detailed and legislated by the criminal politicians or political criminals. Who can forget the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO)? And it is these politicians, tainted with criminality, who appoint the heads to these accountability systems, just like Chaudhry Qamar Zaman, has been appointed Chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). Just like the leader of the opposition party in the National Assembly, Khurshid Shah, has been made Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). Such systems are a product of the political-criminal complex in Pakistan.

The latest episode from this complex unfolded a few days earlier when on May 29 an anti-corruption court issued non-bailable warrants for the arrest of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani and Makhdoom Amin Fahim, former commerce minister and a member of Gillani’s cabinet. Both are senior leaders of Pakistan Peoples Party. Seven others include the list of the accused in this case which allegedly involves major irregularities of Rs.7 billion in granting freight subsidies to fake trading companies by the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP). Previously both politicians were issued three notices to appear before the court. As the notices were ignored (note their arrogance!), then bailable warrants were issued. Now non-bailable warrants have been issued with hearing adjourned till June 17.

The same day the former prime minister issued a statement and said: no case in this country was completed without implicating him whether it was the case of OGRA, NICL, NRO, TDAP or Haj scam. He added: the beneficiaries of the NRO had been exonerated but he was still facing the music. His political alibi was worded thus: ‘He asked the government to avoid crossing the limits of victimization and unleash it to the extent they could also bear it tomorrow. They had no stomach to tolerate even the fraction of what was going on against him.’

No sooner this news item flashed than the political machinery of Peoples Party got switched on and statements started pouring in the newspapers and TV channels to beat the drum of political victimization. Very next day co-chairman of the PPP and former president Asif Ali Zardari ‘deplored the victimization of former prime ministers Yousaf Raza Gillani and Raja Pervez Ashraf and former federal minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim behind the fa├žade of accountability as witch-hunting.’ He warned: ‘that bodes ill for the politics of tolerance, accommodation and reconciliation.’ 

This narrative of Political Victimization is very much typical and repeats itself on various occasions and for various personalities. Now it’s Asif Ali Zardari’s turn to mouth it: in his statement he pretended to be shocked while, according to him, the PPP was seeking to protect the democratic system through political reconciliation the government was chasing political opponents and thereby undermining the unity of political forces. His tirade is totally based on political alibi: he said that decisions in national policies whether in the rental power plants or subsidies or concessions in importing commodities were taken collectively and transparently by the cabinet in the light of objective realities and singling out the prime minister is patently wrong and smacks of political victimization. Also he found a poignant similarity between the hounding of Benazir Bhutto in late 1990s for the decisions jointly taken by the cabinet at the time and the chasing of Yousaf Raza Gillani, Raja Pervez Ashraf and Makhdoom Amin Fahim now for decisions taken by the cabinet. He advised the government to review its policies and stop witch-hunting and victimization of political opponents.

This narrative of political victimization amounts to this: all the decisions politicians make while they are in government, whether they prove to be good or bad, must be treated as unquestionable; since by dint of their electoral mandate they are innocent; and more than that by virtue of their being politicians and representing the people they cannot make any wrong decisions. In short, in their capacity of being politicians, they are infallible. And while they win elections, they place themselves beyond every norm, value, principle, and morality and law; thus, their infallibility perfects. Gillani’s and Zardari’s words quoted above are based on these presumptions. They may be termed as the Political Alibi.

Thus the political alibi claims the politicians must be considered and treated as beyond the law of the land. That means they are King, who used to be law unto himself. So they, the politicians of Pakistan, are law unto themselves. No need to try Yousaf Raza Gillani, Raja Pervez Ashraf, Makhdoom Amin Fahim, or Asif Ali Zaradri for any wrong-doing; they are infallible; they are themselves law of this land.

Or otherwise, if this or any other government think of trying or tries them, their narrative by implication means to say that, they will not protect the democratic system; they will give up political reconciliation; and so on. In this sense, the political alibi conceals threats of undermining the system. Just as psychological alibis provide criminals with excuses for their crimes, such as harming others, or murders in the name of honor, etc; in the same way, politicians use the political alibis as excuses to hide their inefficiencies, incompetencies, corrupt and dishonest practices, scamming, nepotism, cronyism, and misappropriating the public exchequer.

Finally it may be reminded that the law of Pakistan provides for no such alibi to any one, be they politicians. That was why they took recourse to the NRO; otherwise, such a law would have come to their rescue. If any charge is made against any politician, he / she should present himself / herself in the court of law and prove his / her innocence. Political alibi is no way of proving ones innocence; it may prove the guilt, instead!

Note: This article was completed on June 2, 2014.