Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Sovereignty and honor of Pakistan

Dr. Umar Khan

Dr. Khan belongs to a Lahore based Think Tank.




Sovereignty of Pakistan


American drone bombings apart from killing thousands of Pakistanis has divided the society. The recent missile attack on the settled area of Hangu has further deepened this cleavage. On one had there is a segment of society that approves of drone strategy and believes and preaches that smart bombs cleverly differentiates between the good and the bad before killing. They also argue that the terrorists have killed tens of thousands so a few hundred or thousand more innocent deaths are justified especially if we are getting money from the US. This segment of society is more vocal belonging to the upper strata at times accused of collaborating with the killers for personal benefits. The other group opposed to these killing by drones blaming it for loss of innocent lives and sovereignty of Pakistan. They get labeled as extremists, Taliban apologists and at times “Ghairat Brigade” suggesting that they are looking for national honor that is absolutely impractical for a poor country like Pakistan.


In an interdependent modern world nations don’t enjoy absolute sovereignty like a few centuries back. Still there are acceptable and unacceptable limits whose boundaries at times get blurred. Aerial attacks in another country with missiles causing human loss is considered absolutely unacceptable in any serious setup and society. Surprisingly still there are more drone justifiers in Pakistan, its chief victim, than any other place.


The strong legal position leaves many options for Pakistan like going to the UN and the International Court of Justice with a decent chance of winning.  It doesn’t resort to these measures despite making lots of empty noises due to two reasons. 1. Pakistan’s record in fighting terrorism has at times been questionable and 2. Its economy is on life support, extremely feeble needing constant foreign help or may I say alms to survive.


This pathetic situation has made Pakistan the most abused and maligned helpless punching bag of the super powers. It gets its people killed from all sides, suffers a damaged economy due to wars and then gets blamed for everything. Inability to protest against them makes it even more pitiful.


Now it absolutely clear that the biggest threat to Pakistan’s sovereignty doesn’t come from any foreign intrigues or maneuverings but our own self-destructory behavior and habits. Let us see  


Our habit of getting in other’s wars acting like hired guns along with our megalomaniac ideas of strategic depth and conquests despite a wretched economy has really harmed our people. This deviated thinking has brought bad name to Pakistan and has nearly left us isolated in the world with no friends. This erratic policy and state of mind has caused great harm to our sovereignty and honor and must stop. We don’t need to conquer other countries or influence them instead focus on improving the lot of our people.


The other main threat to our national sovereignty is a weak economy which basically depends on the balance of income and expenditures. Anything that worsens this balance is a culprit affecting our sovereignty and honor. Let’s try to identify the biggest villains here,


Tax evasion lowers the national income and is rampant here.. The richer a person the less he pays the taxes. Tax in a modern state is a duty and not an optional philanthropy. The country and its people, particularly its poor need and deserve it. Unscrupulous tax evasion is a very serious crime in the world not very far from other heinous crimes. Our top politicians and businessmen working hard to show their opulence and wealth somehow behave oppositely while paying their dues. Surprisingly some very prominent politicians still get votes from the poor despite all too obvious deviances in fulfilling their national duties by paying taxes. Going through the tax returns of some very prominent politicians and businessmen whose lifestyle would be difficult for Bill Gates to emulate, one finds them extremely poor on papers but practically filthy rich.


Corrupt tax collecting practices are rampant causing terrible losses to national exchequer. Many FBR officials themselves discourage people to pay taxes at times punishing them for it. They are more interested in the cut for themselves personally rather than collecting revenue for the state. The lavish life style of tax department officials has been all too apparent for quite some time. This might have been a major factor in bringing down the national tax revenues gradually to the extent where we are now making us the least taxed nation. According to the most estimates people are taxed but this revenue doesn’t reach the national treasury.


Our government and its expenditures have simply gotten out of hand. Government jobs have become aplenty and most sought after because of lavish salaries and perks along with opportunities of corruption. For the work a single person does in the private sector ten people are employed in the public sector still unable to complete their assignments. Repeated governments loaded government departments and organizations with their cronies for years making them too over employed and inefficient. These people are extremely pampered but having nothing to do spend most of their time doing negative things as nuisances created fetch benefits in the form of bribes by the hapless people.


PIA, Steel Mill, Railways and all government departments and offices have become a drain on the national exchequer. Over Rs 500 billion is spent every year just to keep them afloat. They need to increase their efficiency and big cuts in their payrolls to make them viable. Instead of earning revenues, these have become grave burden on the state and its people needing regular cash infusions and Pakistan has to beg other countries for this cash they squander.


The generosity shown by many government officials on state resources showing absolute disregard for discipline is another reason for our financial troubles. Outside of all schools and markets we see flashy government cars and fuel being misused. Expenses incurred on PM and President House, bureaucracy and military has gone beyond all limits. Despite asking for repeated sacrifices from our people the governments never tighten their own belts bringing us to this state of affairs. Unnecessary foreign trips wasting resources is another major source of waste along with many other ways.



Corruption in the government has touched new heights since successive governments learnt new ways of selling the future generations with impunity. They realized the power of their signatures while negotiating sovereign loans and contracts and used these ruthlessly to enrich themselves. IPPs, rental powers, railways engines to name a few, made many politicians and bureaucrats rich at the expense of our future generations and we are still condemned to pay for their unscrupulous and corrupt practices. Some of the worst offenders are no more but known by very respectable titles like shaheeds.  


So we see that any business man who doesn’t pay taxes, contractor that overcharges the govt, officials who misuse electricity or cars paid by the government are actually compromising the national sovereignty and honor of Pakistan not unlike Mir Jaffar and Mir Qasim’s of yesteryears. Their unscrupulous actions have tied the hands of our government giving an opportunity to the American officials with threats to Pakistanis with cutting aid for protests against drone killings. They want us to keep on getting our people killed with a smiling face. Not a very desirable situation.


Se we see that financial corruption and irregularities compromises national sovereignty in addition to robbing the poor or haqooqulibad which is unpardonable in Islam. If we are sensitive or serious about our national sovereignty and prestige we must, treat financial crimes not as civil matters but something much more serious like high treason with the punishment these deserve. Many sociologists feel that the mother of Pakistani problems is its moral collapse where illicit gains have stopped carrying a stigma weakening the foundations of all institutions and the society. Financial immorality has become totally acceptable despite the heavy cost it incurs to Pakistan and its people. These severe punishments would be more appropriate and help the moral abyss we have gotten ourselves into. We have several examples in today’s world where self respecting nations give capital punishments to such unscrupulous people.


Sovereignty, honor and dignity doesn’t come easy nor can it be begged. We must fulfill our role to bring our society and country in the league of respectable and dignified nations. We have to rid our society and government of inefficiency, wastage of resources and corruption that has brought Pakistan and its people on their knees. Beggars aren’t choosers nor are they considered respectable anywhere in the world. We have to come out of this rut and break the begging bowl. We have to protect the national coffers being brutally looted by those with the responsibility to protect and use it. If we cant, or don’t want to discharge our duties we loose our right to demand respect of all kinds. We will effectively lose not only our right to life but also right to protest against massacres of Pakistanis which would be uttermost height of helplessness.





Saturday, June 8, 2013

Recounting and thumb impression audit for clarification of electoral doubts

Dr. Umar Khan




Recounting and thumb impression audit for clarification of electoral doubts



The recently concluded elections are probably the most controversial in the history of Pakistan including the notorious 1977 elections which paved the way for Zia’s martial law. PTI started questioning fairness of these elections and was soon joined by MQM, PPP, JUI, JI and even PML(N) in certain seats. This development has seriously affected the standing of results making all this exercise less credible.  Luckily NADRA came for rescue and offered to arrange a recount in the questionable constituencies along with thumb impression audit for a little expense which appellants can be made to pay. Nawaz Sharif and PML(N) being the biggest winner have the most at stake and if clean as they claim, should have jumped at this opportunity to come out as just winners and expose the bad losers. Election commission can also improve its credibility and integrity through this exercise as some appear to be questioning viciously. Surprisingly none of them is interested in using technology to clear doubts hovering on these election results.


I was surprised and flabbergasted as to why winners who are victims of aspersions on these elections aren’t keen to come out clean and expose the culprits or the naggers.


If recount of the polls with thumb impression audit is done with the help of new technology either the winners of elections will come out clean or in other case bogus polling will be exposed. These supposed inconsistencies might not have affected the results. Once bogus polling is exposed, then with the help of same NADRA we will be obliged to question the persons whose thumb impressions were repeatedly used for bogus voting. The presiding officers and other polling staff who let this happen will also be needed for questioning. Naturally these officials can’t indulge in such dishonesty without any coercion which might expose their high powered backers. These in turn can ultimately expose  the forces behind this exercise.


Elections determine who assumes and exercises power, so naturally many try to influence its outcome. State apparatus in Pakistan didn’t want to lose their grip on power after partition and wasted 24 years before holding the first general elections. Establishment tried to manipulate the results of the first elections held in 1971 but did it very awkwardly failing miserably. Ultimately establishment’s failure to accept the popular verdict in 1971 broke the country into two but the lust to influence election results didn’t diminish.


After the sudden death of Gen Zia in 1988, establishment was forced into a situation where its nemesis PPP led by BB appeared to be clearly winning the elections. Establishment considered PPP as a security risk secretly proclaimed stopping the PPP and BB from coming to power a matter of national interest and worked hard to block their path. An unknown businessman from Lahore who was working as CM Punjab, on the insistence of some Generals was picked as BBs challenger and all resources were used to make him a political leader of standing that could challenge the popularity of PPP and BB. All facilities were made available to him including the deep connections of the establishment with the media.  Strange indecent slogans were devised and even inter provincial feelings were aroused and used. PPPs imminent clear majority was blocked.


All this might have been unfair but even more negative elements were put into play. New ways of scientific election rigging were devised by the disciplined agencies with the help of bogus voting lists and taught to their protégés in politics. The political class associated with the establishment was led by no other than Nawaz Sharif who turned out to be a good student and learned all these unfair techniques well. Supreme Court judgment in Asghar Khan’s case exposes this unholy nexus very clearly. No wonder in Punjab only the old experienced horses won seats leaving the inexperienced shocked. Even PTI only won the seats of oft criticized new entrant turncoats in Punjab.


What this resulted in was that we knew the winners before elections quite accurately in the 90s. I still remember PPPs stalwart Aitzaz Ahsan saying publicly on the stage in 1993 elections that those who ousted Nawaz won’t let him back, so vote for me. The same trend continued in 2002 elections where Musharraf’s supporters were to win, and they did. 2008 elections might have been a bit of aberrancy due to BBs replacement with Zardari but the trend continued.


Before the 2013 elections the decisions were apparently made and their implementation was a forgone conclusion. Nawaz was openly meeting the representatives of foreign powers of all types being treated as a dignitary, while all surveys were predicting his return to power. Surveys and their effect on election results at times appear like the chicken and egg scenario, not knowing which came first, do the surveys influence the popularity or otherwise.


Local power brokers also show their worth in front of international players by influencing the election results or may I say ensuring victories for the desirable and defeat for the undesirable.


A quick look at the election results and much is cleared. The COD and its backers must be delighted as it was followed religiously with centre changing hands while Punjab staying with PML(N) and Sind with PPP. New spoilers like PTI are effectively marginalized.


So we see that there appears to be a list of well entrenched forces interested in keeping the current election mechanism where they can influence the outcome. Unfortunately in this setup factors other than the voters have final say in the outcome of elections.


Lack of trust on the electoral process caused by questionable elections breeds apathy among the electorate with a feeling of helplessness that nothing can change. The recent elections were different because electorate got really charged up which has now converted to a feeling of resignation with a hidden rage boiling down the surface waiting to rip open. We must not let it happen. A disinterested public in a country facing massive problems like Pakistan is not a good omen; let’s not hurt their belief in democracy and rule of law.


Unfortunately due to all these discrepancies and allegations our elections have attained the credibility not far from Iraqi or Afghan elections. We certainly deserve better. After all we are not occupied.


Democracy should be felt and seen too. Ideally there should be a recount with thumb verification of all the doubtful seats to clear all qualms. However if all this isn’t possible then maybe electronic voting in future is the answer. If third world countries like India and Philippines can use it so effectively so can we. We can start by having electronic voting in bye elections scheduled in the near future. After all we have ATMs in every nook and corner distributing BISP payments to the poorest making us well placed to convert to electronic voting.  This way we can effectively get rid of paper votes, boxes and the enormous staff which creates confusion and doubt. Democracy is important for Pakistan and we must strengthen it by all means possible and removal of doubts is one of them. Pakistanis have shown their trust in democracy and it must be valued and not allowed to ruin. People disenchanted with democracy can end up with worse options.





Saturday, April 27, 2013

Political awareness in Pakistan and PTI

Dr. Omar Khan,



Political awareness; and PTI

Out of many harmful legacies of 11 years long Zia era non party elections of 1985 were probably the most damaging. His declared motive was to help pious people get elected but actually he wanted to break the power of politicians, political parties and political institutions. This created a political class which wasn’t associated with any party or had any political stand on economy, foreign policy or anything and focused on small matters Zia and his coterie weren’t interested in. Local problems like streets and sewer along with divisive factors like Baraderie and sect gained in importance. Moneyed people and businessmen jumped in the empty playing field and invested heavily bribing voters who understood the futility of these elections and decided to grab whatever was offered. To make a workable govt of these nonpolitical politicians  Zia opened the national coffers to oblige, rather buy these elected representatives and open horse trading and auctions of elected reps became an acceptable norm. Corruption was successfully installed and elected reps after investing heavily in elections expected returns and returns they got making them pliable to the Generals while discrediting politics. Zia had achieved his goal,


It wasn’t always this bad in Pakistan rather Pakistan had a dream start with elections. It took 24 years to hold the first general elections and the results were amazing. Despite repeated derogatory allegations of lack of awareness, Pakistani voters elected the most liberal and progressive parties totally rejecting the extremists and backward looking political parties despite enormous help from the military dominated govt. The 1970 general elections were the only ones in which tribal/baraderi considerations were practically finished. These were the only elections in which young, educated middle class people not belonging to any dominant clan got elected. These results were shocking to the power hungry generals who refused to accept the people’s verdict and broke the country into two. Those times look so far and Zia effectively back rolled this progress.


All these tumultuous events on our political horizon maligned the word politics very badly. Honest, hardworking and educated Pakistanis considered politics a dirty profession/pastime which dignified people stayed away from. Unfortunately it doesn’t matter how much anyone avoids politics because it follows everyone affecting all aspect of life. Political parties had specific faces to offer with lack of education and scruples too evident. Grace and dignity was near nonexistent among the political class and in Pakistani parlance politics assumed the meaning of treachery while politician became synonymous of slick. Nonpolitical claimants of power helped in this transition for their own motives. Ultimately politics, the most important aspect of a nation state became absolutely devoid of talented and capable people with values and ethics. Naturally this put Pakistan on a retrogressive course with all the undesirable image possible in the world.


In this scenario when Imran Khan jumped into politics he became a target of ridicule for the veterans because he wanted to change the established rules. Resignation, passivity and fatalism were dominant in our society and conventional wisdom dictated that nothing will change here and everything will stay the same. In the 1997 elections most of the political workers belonged to a very certain personality type with certain vocabulary and demeanor. One look of a discerning eye explained what most political workers were looking for and more often that not it was monetary benefit. In addition to greed, strange favors were also expected like help in police cases or approach to influential quarters. If a certain candidate admitted his inability to provide these favors he was ridiculed for his naïveté. This was the political scene of Pakistan laboriously created to ensure crooks entry to assemblies who would be pliable enough. No wonder our assemblies were full of people of very dubious past.


All this looks so far away now as everything has changed. The middle classes and the highly educated now form the backbone of political workers class. They have certainly added a more than certain amount of dignity in politics. Average age has also gone down substantially and young, energetic and idealistic workers are seen working tirelessly. Youth, apart from other benefits still harbors some ideals, this society kills so effectively upon facing the reality at later age. These workers are hardly demanding and thanklessly donating themselves or raising money through their own resources.


Educated middle classes now make a substantial part of political rallies actively participating in canvassing.


The biggest surprise development has been the participation of women in Pakistani politics. Now we see highly educated women of all ages and classes, fully aware politically, attending rallies and actively participating in the political process. The 50% Pakistanis sidelined for too long are enjoying their rights and fulfilling their duties.


Whole of South Asia along with Pakistan are suffering from dynastic politics and certain families are considered privileged or loyal classes. PPP, the biggest political party of Pakistan’s leadership transferred on a deceased leader’s will to an underage child making the party look like a personal property. By holding true intraparty elections Imran Khan and PTI has effectively controlled if not outright finished nepotism and dynastic politics. The ticket refusal to cousin and brother in law confirmed the dawn of new era. Other parties who were comfortable with the old dynastic politics are getting pressurized by their workers and would have to hold fair intraparty elections whether they like it or not.


After going through turbulent decades and seeing no hope with the system that put them in these problems the educated classes have decided to take their future in their own hands. A crop of pseudo intellectuals had been preaching wait for a messiah to solve their problems but this policy has finally become obsolete. Talented Pakistanis of an earlier generation used to dream about migrating to another country as an escape but that option has become nearly outdated.  They have finally realized it is their life, their country and their future that is at stake and they can’t afford to leave it to politicians of questionable talent, class and scruples. Too much is at stake to avoid it.


This is finally putting the mother of all institutions, the political class and politics, in right hands. At last the ill effects of dark Zia era are subsiding. Politics has shed its stigma and is no more a socially unacceptable field. We see educated, successful and polished people in our political horizon. Pakistani women and youth are the most active and enlightened in the Islamic world. Pakistan is getting in right hands heading in the right direction. We have all the reasons to be optimistic about its future.