Pakistan: A revolution against whom?

In Pakistan, there may be a public disconnected from the power of the State, but there is no 'regime' to revolt against.
Asad Hashim
Al Jazeera
Pakistan is a country often described as being on the brink – of what, precisely, is up for speculation. There are fears economic, social and political crises, separately and simultaneously, will cause the country to implode into an ungovernable, anarchical mess: a failing, if not failed, state.

Indeed, there are those who argue that this has already happened.

On the one hand, it is difficult to argue with the point that the country is facing simultaneous challenges on several fronts.

With inflation on basic household items at 18.88 per cent (according to government figures) and unemployment at an estimated 15 per cent (according to the CIA’s World Factbook), households in Pakistan are feeling the economic pinch.

Simultaneously, the country appears to lurch from one political crisis to another. The latest issue in the political sphere could have come straight out of a spy novel: the case of Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor who shot and killed two Pakistanis on a Lahore street who he said were attempting to rob him, and was then released after the payment of $2.3 million in compensation to the victims’ families.

The opposition, led by Nawaz Sharif's PML-N party, has slammed the government for dithering over the issue of whether or not Davis had diplomatic immunity, and for allowing the deal to be struck, terming it a question of sovereignty.

Meanwhile, the opposition also continues to criticise the government for its performance on service delivery, revenue generation, economic policy and foreign policy (specifically its stance to tacitly stand by the US and its use of drone strikes on Pakistani territory, while simultaneously being unable to curb extremist attacks in the country).

Things do not appear much better on the social front, with public discourse lurching towards an ever-narrower view of what is acceptable, as evidenced by the recent killings of Shahbaz Bhatti, the federal minister for minorities, and Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, for their stance against the country's blasphemy laws as they currently stand. Analysts argue that the murders are indicative of a country where the social sphere is going through an upheaval that leaves less and less space for liberal discourse.

It is the Davis case, though, that Imran Khan, the leader of the Pakistani Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, believes will be the spark that lights public discontent into a mass uprising. Speaking to Time magazine, he says the country is "completely ready" for a revolution, "even more … than Egypt was".

Khan called for mass rallies to be held on the Friday after Davis was released, but only a few hundred people showed up at the PTI's gatherings. Several religious parties, too, called for demonstrations, but were unable to create significant momentum. This after weeks of rallies in several cities where thousands would call for Davis to be tried and hanged.

So what's the difference, then, between Pakistan and Egypt, or Tunisia, where popular uprisings based on several of the same push-factors (high inflation, rampant unemployment and a public that feels completely disconnected from the power of the State) have occurred?

"You quickly run out of the similarities [with Egypt and Tunisia]," says Cyril Almeida, an Islamabad-based columnist. "Far more interesting, and numerous, are the differences."

Almeida points out that the uprisings currently being seen across the Middle East are aimed at "long-running dynasties or autocratic rulers".

Protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, Manama’s Pearl roundabout and Sanaa’s University Square were united by one slogan: "The people want the fall of the regime".

"In Pakistan … we get rid of our dictators every ten years or so… There is no 'regime' to overthrow … the first question is: an uprising against whom?" asks Almeida.

And it is that question that strikes to the heart of the difference between Pakistan and Arab states that are currently facing political upheaval. The political landscape in the country is fundamentally different from that of the Arab states where uprisings are currently occurring, because while protesters in Tripoli, Sanaa, Manama, Cairo, Tunis and other cities were calling for dictators to be overthrown and free and fair elections to be held, Pakistan has no 'regime', and already holds elections.

"Why would you need an uprising against Asif Zardari [Pakistan's president] when you know 24 months from now that he's going to get chucked out? Who do you revolt against?" asks Almeida.

"You can argue that there can be a popular uprising against the political system itself, i.e. against electoral democracy predicated on routine elections and transfer of power, but then you're in a very different kind of uprising," he says.

Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi, a professor of political science and a political analyst, agrees.

"It is different [from the Arab world] in two or three respects," he told Al Jazeera. "First, the political system is not so oppressive in Pakistan, and you have a lot of freedom to express your views to organise against the government, set up political parties. And the media, unlike the media in the Arab world, is very free."

Moreover, Pakistan arguably already saw its own popular uprising in 2007, when lawyers led a successful political protest movement against former president, General (retd) Pervez Musharraf.

Second, Rizvi points to an existing framework of elections allowing for governments to be changed.

His third point, however, is as telling as the question of who to revolt against:

"Unlike Egypt, or even Tunisia, there is a lot of fragmentation, both political and religious. Split after split – the situation is very polarised in Pakistan. And the religious parties are too ideological and more literalist in their approach than the Islamic parties in [those countries]. The possibility of a nationwide uprising that involves all sections of the population – all political, ideological and ethnic groups – that kind of possibility is very limited."

Rizvi says that while there are "common factor[s]" in the population of Pakistan being very young, an "acute dissatisfaction with the performance of the government at all levels, whether federal or provincial", and "widespread alienation from the rulers and the democratic experiment", the greater danger in Pakistan is of a government that is unable to govern.

"Pakistan is threatened with a state of anarchy," he says, "rather than a nationwide agitation that would topple the government… the situation may be different in Pakistan, but that doesn’t necessarily mean things are stable."

An economy in crisis

Economically, too, Pakistanis are caught between a (increasingly expensive) rock and a hard place. With prices of household goods spiraling (though below the inflation levels of more than 20 per cent seen in 2008), and limited opportunities for work for both skilled and unskilled labour, they are feeling the pinch.

Kaiser Bengali, a well-respected economist who has worked with the Pakistan People’s Party-led government in the past, argues that the situation in the rural areas is not as bad as in urban centres, where "manufacturing is in a state of recession".

For Bengali, the main issue remains one of revenue generation. Without adequate revenue, the government continues to run a deficit of around six per cent, two percentage points above what was agreed under the terms of an International Monetary Fund emergency loan taken a little over two years ago.

Tax collection rates remain low, and "any new tax would meet opposition", Bengali says, because taxes that target industries would hurt the PML-N’s primary electorate in Punjab.

"Currently the government is trying to meet the deficit [targets of four per cent set by the IMF] by cutting development expenditure," he told Al Jazeera. That means less money for everything from road and infrastructure construction to income support programmes for the country's poor.

Bengali argues that between fighting an insurgency, providing flood relief and a "stagnation" of revenues, the government is forced to "squeeze" on development projects that not only provide infrastructure, but also jobs.

In recent months, the government has seen a large amount of political wrangling over the issue of a Reformed General Sales Tax (RGST) and a proposed agricultural tax that would target large landholdings.

Bengali argues that the RGST, an indirect tax, in actuality targets large industries as much as it does consumers, and that the agricultural tax is a "good political slogan", but difficult to enforce.

In a sign of how dire Pakistan's income emergency is, the government on March 15 unveiled a "mini-budget" that, between expenditure cuts and new taxes, would free up Rs120 billion. The move implements development expenditure cuts and introduces Rs53 billion in new taxes on income, imports, agriculture and other sectors. The taxes were introduced through presidential ordinances, exempting them from parliamentary approval, with the express intention of meeting the IMF targets.

Almeida sums up the economic stresses, independent of the government’s budgetary concerns:

"The economy is doing wretchedly, there is rampant unemployment and lack of growth combining to leave the urban poor particularly vulnerable, if not already plunged into a state of deep economic misery."

Of right wing parties and 'confused idealists'

Activists in Pakistan say that while the economic and political stresses exist in Pakistan, the difference in landscape makes an uprising unlikely.

Al Jazeera spoke to Fahad Desmukh, a Pakistani activist and journalist who has lived in Bahrain, where the February 14 uprising is currently calling for major political reforms, for much of his life.

"Bahrain is relatively free socially, but not politically … opposition activists have been jailed for demanding changes, so the avenues available for expressing social and political frustration are limited," he says. "On the other hand, Pakistan has a much longer history of political activity, with long-established political parties, student groups and labour unions. The parliament and the executive are elected, and the media is much more free. It means there are more avenues to express frustration and 'let off steam', as it were."

Desmukh argues that given the lack of a 'regime' to revolt against, the only kind of uprising that would "make sense" in Pakistan would be class-based, aimed at ending the country's feudal system. He concedes, however, that "this seems unlikely in the near future".

The only other option would appear to be protests against the country's military, which holds great influence over the political sphere, but Desmukh, Rizvi and Almeida all agree that such action is also unlikely.

Beena Sarwar, a political and human rights activist, argues that those calling for a popular uprising in Pakistan are actors "who know they will not come into power through the electoral process – the right wing so-called religious parties… and confused idealists like Imran Khan who seem to have no grip on political realities".

Sarwar says that included in this group are politically disillusioned educated young people who are "alienated from the political process" and are "fired by emotion, youthful zeal and vague ideas of Islamic supremacy and anti-Americanism".

She argues that wide-ranging political change "will come if the political process is allowed to continue", through the political parties and parliament, without interference from Pakistan's military, which, historically, has interrupted democratic transitions with coups.

Democracy’s 'birth pangs'

Rizvi, the professor of political science, and Almeida, the columnist, both disagree, however, at least in so far as the chances of there being any actual positive change.

Almeida says that while he expects elections to take place as scheduled in 2013, "electoral disappointments are likely".

"People forget that the only other option for power [the PML-N] is already in power in Punjab. It mirrors the PPP’s performance … between the PML-N in Punjab and the PPP in Islamabad, there is very little to tell them apart, in terms of incompetence."

"The latest phase of electoral politics is less than three years old, so I don't think there's any fatigue with the system, even if there's genuine tiredness with the current government… Ultimately the great worry for Pakistan is that it may not have enough time to go through the birth pangs of democracy because of the security situation."

Rizvi agrees that the outlook for political change is bleak.

"[The political parties] are good at engaging in polemics, they are good at criticising, but none has been able to present a formula or a framework for addressing socioeconomic problems," he says, pointing to the example of the issue of terrorism, on which political parties "make ambiguous statements and avoid taking a categorical position against particular groups".

"I don't expect [new political players to gain popular support] in the near future, because all the political parties lack ideals and a sense of direction, except in rhetoric.

"The thing I would repeat is my fear that increasingly the Pakistani state system is on a very fast downward slide. If it is not collapsing, it is losing its capacity to function effectively."

With another military coup unlikely, given that the memory of a Pakistan under Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf that was not doing much better is still fresh in most Pakistanis’ minds, and the likelihood of substantive political change from within the existing system being limited, at least in the short term, what appears most likely is that Pakistan will, as it has for so many years now, blunder on.

It is a country riven with ethnic, religious and political divisions, battling multiple insurgencies (in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Balochistan), and facing both economic and identity crises.

"And yet," as Anatol Lieven, a scholar and journalist argues in a soon to be released book, "it moves."

An ignorant friend

By —Farhat Taj
Daily Times

The tribal people fear the Pakistan Army’s aerial bombardment in FATA. The IDPs from all over FATA accuse the Pakistan Army of deliberately bombing innocent civilians while avoiding Taliban centres

Some time back, a piece in Foreign Policy suggested a referendum in FATA and the nearby areas of Afghanistan to ask the people if they were for or against a strict Islamist government. In case of a yes vote, any people in the larger region subscribing to a strict version of Islam could emigrate to the area. Dr Mohammad Taqi has elaborated how hollow this whole idea is via his article ‘A passport to dystopia’ (Daily Times, March 3, 2011). Dr Taqi’s article and Pakhtun comments in Foreign Policy on the piece should have encouraged the writer to reflect on his ideas about the Pakhtuns. A researcher with a sense of professional commitment would have done so. This does not appear to be the case with the writer Saleem Ali. Recently, he wrote an article in a Pakistani English daily and reproduced the following misleading ideas about the Pakhtuns on which I would like to comment:

“FATA is ungovernable territory and its population is decidedly more conservative than the rest of Pakistan. Islamists have political clout in FATA. There is an urban-rural divide among the Pakhtun whereby the urban Pakhtun blame the ISI for the terrorism in FATA while the rural Pakhtun in FATA embrace Islamism. The Bacha Khan Movement has no traction in FATA. The New America Foundation Survey last September is the most comprehensive survey in FATA. Tribalism in FATA is conflating with Islamism. There is an aversion to aerial bombing (US drone attacks) in the area.”

From a security point of view, FATA has never been an ungovernable territory since Pakistan came into being. It has always been under the control of the intelligence agencies of Pakistan. This is especially so since the ISI-CIA sponsored jihad in Afghanistan. Did the ISI and CIA operate their entire jihad against the Russians in Afghanistan from an ungovernable space? Were the Soviets so foolish that they could not destroy jihadi bases in an ungovernable space?

FATA is governable but the military establishment of Pakistan is deliberately projecting it as an ‘ungovernable wild west’ to the world because it needs the area for strategic games vis-à-vis India in Afghanistan. Does the writer have any idea about the pro-Islamism activities from the offices of political agents in FATA under the direction of the ISI? May I ask Saleem Ali why the Political Parties Act of Pakistan has not been extended to the area? President Zardari announced the promulgation of the act in FATA in 2009. Who is resisting a formal notification in this regard? Is it the people of FATA or is it the GHQ in Rawalpindi that is so averse to any idea of Pakhtun nationalist political parties operating in the area due to its eternal fear of Pakhtun nationalism?

There is no scientific evidence to suggest that FATA is more conservative than any other community in Pakistan. The fact that FATA is a gender discriminatory society does not explain anything significant in terms of the conservatism supposed by the writer.

It is ridiculous to hear that there is an urban-rural divide among the Pakhtun at a time when Pakhtun social activists are expressing their concerns over the growing ‘ruralisation’ of Peshawar and other cities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa due to a lack of human development caused by government policies. Can one indicate any significant rural-urban divide between Waziristan, FATA, Bannu and Tank in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, between Bajaur, FATA and Dir and so on? Actually, all areas in FATA are much more integrated in terms of culture, tribal links, familial ties, business connections and so on with the adjacent ‘urban centres’ in Pakhtunkhwa than among themselves.

Above all, there is no ‘rural-urban’ divide among the Pakhtun over the security situation in FATA. It is actually the illiterate ‘rural’ people in FATA who have suffered at the hands of the Islamists and straightaway hold the ISI responsible for their destruction. The fact that they cannot openly speak due to fear of the ISI does not give any justification to writers sitting far away to assume that FATA’s population subscribes to Islamism.

It is factually wrong that the Bacha Khan Movement has no traction in FATA. His movement has mainly been concentrated in villages, including villages in FATA. There are countless people all over FATA who are sympathetic to the movement. People linked to it were among the first eliminated by the ISI when it unleashed targeted killings in the area in 2003 to silence those who had the potential to question the presence of ‘state guests’ — al Qaeda jihadis in FATA.

How could the New America Foundation survey in FATA be comprehensive when it was conducted at a time when most of FATA’s people were IDPs outside FATA? The survey also suffers from other serious methodological and ethical errors that render it meaningless for a scholarly debate over FATA. My detailed critique of the survey will be published in the coming months.

There is no conflation between tribalism and Islamism in FATA. The tribes have made lashkars against the Islamists. The popular jirga-backed lashkars are much more representative of the tribes in terms of tribal identity than the ISI-backed multi-ethnic Taliban. Did the writer ever try to reach out to the lashkar leaders? Does he have any idea who the ‘rural’ lashkar leaders hold responsible for the atrocities committed against their tribes?

The tribal people fear the Pakistan Army’s aerial bombardment in FATA. The IDPs from all over FATA accuse the Pakistan Army of deliberately bombing innocent civilians while avoiding Taliban centres. There is, however, no aversion to the US drone attacks. They are welcomed because the drone never targets civilians. There have been large-scale human displacements in all tribal areas where military operations were conducted. There is no large-scale human displacement from North Waziristan, the area most hit by drones. I predict there will a huge human displacement from North Waziristan if and when the Pakistan Army launches a military operation in the area under US pressure.

“Are we achieving any success thus far with drones?” asks the writer. No, we have not achieved much with drones in the larger picture. But this is because the US is not doing enough to deal with the ISI. As long as the military establishment is using FATA as strategic space, terrorism will go on by state design. The drone attacks, meanwhile, frustrate the establishment’s design by killing its ‘beloved’ jihadis. For the tribesmen, the drone strikes are a significant achievement. They are precisely killing the multi-ethnic jihadis who have overpowered them.

“I am writing this as a friend of Pakhtuns,” says Saleem Ali. I accept his words at face value but his writings show that he is ignorant about Pakhtun history, society, culture and the current situation. In the words of Martin Luther King, “Nothing can be more dangerous than sincere ignorance.” Saleem Ali should educate himself about the Pakhtun or choose some other topic to write on. The Pakhtun are passing through a hard time and cannot afford ignorant friends.

The writer is a PhD Research Fellow with the University of Oslo and currently writing a book, Taliban and Anti-Taliban

Empowering Fata

GENUINE representation in the federation fosters a sense of ownership that strengthens specific

regions as well as the country as a whole. Unfortunately, parts of Pakistan continue to be marginalised, left out of the political mainstream at a time when national unity is of the essence. The most extreme case in this regard is that of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, a region that falls within Pakistan’s territorial boundaries but is not bound by its laws. Nor do the ordinary residents of Fata enjoy the same rights and privileges that, in theory at least, can be claimed by even the most deprived sections of society in other parts of the country. It is argued by some that tribal people have their own unique cultures and codes of conduct, which is true in the main. What is sometimes overlooked here, however, is that increased participation in the socio-political affairs of the country does not automatically lead to an erosion of intrinsic cultural values. If anything it empowers people and allows them greater freedom to live a life of their own choosing. Middle classes grow when the grip of a few is loosened to whatever extent, and with options and relative prosperity comes the prospect of peace. Alienation and poverty, needless to say, serve as an ideal breeding ground for militancy.

As speakers at a conference in Islamabad pointed out on Tuesday, we can start addressing at least some of the myriad problems facing the tribal belt by bringing the region into the national mainstream. Perhaps the first step in this direction should be to extend the Political Parties Act to the tribal areas so that people there get more options when it comes to choosing who represents them in Islamabad. The Frontier Crimes Regulation system that was imposed by the British a century ago and is still shaped by draconian concepts such as collective responsibility for the actions of individuals or families ought to be phased out and replaced by the Pakistan Penal Code. It will take time to right the wrongs of the past but a beginning must be made.

Whose blood? Whose money?

By Talat Farooq

It is like a slap in the face, a personal affront, legality and religious endorsement of the act notwithstanding. Raymond Davis has finally been delivered into safety and freedom by the federal government, the provincial government, the security agencies and the judiciary. How united we stand when it comes to serving our masters overseas!

Who wanted Davis back? America. And who was the guarantor and the mediator? Saudi Arabia. How did Saudi Arabia achieve this American objective in Pakistan? By using the Islamic-leverage; a strategy that Saudi Arabia has effectively applied since the Afghan-Soviet War in the 1980s. They have used the religious bent of the people of Pakistan and their sentimental attachment to the Prophet to help the US attain its foreign policy goals in Pakistan.

Raymond Davis is not only the murderer of two individuals, he is involved in espionage against the state of Pakistan. What right then did the Saudis have to arrange Davis’ return? Who were they to pay the blood money on America’s behalf? The sad truth is that we as beggars cannot be choosers.

The political hypocrisy of both the US and Saudi Arabia has never been more apparent than it is today. It is reflected in their responses to the peoples’ uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East. It is manifested in their prompt intervention in Bahrain and their delaying tactics in stopping the hand of Qaddafi. The Saudi role whether in Pakistan or Bahrain, has demonstrated how its monarchy works hand in glove with the US.

The question is how then do our mullahs find the Saudis to be the great upholders of the ultimate truth? Why are the Jamaat-e-Islami and the rest of the bearded lot only condemning America? Is the Saudi obsequiousness any different from Tony Blair’s catering to the fancies of George Bush?

The Taliban that have become the bane of our lives were manufactured by the military and mullahs with Saudi riyals. Why then do we consider them our benefactors? How is Saudi intervention in our internal matters any different from America’s violation of our sovereignty? The Saudis are as much responsible for what has become of Pakistan today as America and Pakistan’s security agencies. Saudi riyals have bought Pakistani vested interests with as much ease as US dollars.

The US and Saudi Arabia are not the only ones who stand exposed. More importantly, it is Pakistan. The politicians, the judiciary and the military establishment are all party to this drama. Raymond Davis, the murderer of innocent Pakistanis has left the country; America, the mass murderer of innocent people all over the world, has struck Waziristan with a vengeance.

Prime Minister Gilani tells us that the drone attacks were ‘irresponsible’ and the government has protested to the US. And the bases from where the drones flew, where were they, Gilani Saheb? In India? Afghanistan? America?

If there were any doubts about the nature of power politics in Pakistan, the Raymond Davis drama has dispelled them. The politicians whether from the ruling party or the opposition will always be remembered as cowards of the highest order. The representatives of the judiciary will be remembered as unjust, the military as inadequate, and the mullahs as hypocritical.

They are all working according to their respective agendas. The politicians want to loot and plunder while the iron is hot. The judiciary wants to rock the boat but not to the point of drowning itself. The military wants to protect its self-created monsters in North Waziristan and Punjab; the mullahs want to use religion to attain power and blame America but not Saudi Arabia. They all have their own axes to grind.

No-one gives a toss about the people of Pakistan. They do not matter; their integrity is a joke, their dignity for sale. They are treated like commodities, used and discarded. They are a mild irritant in the way of the high and mighty and their desires. They are insects that the elite don’t even notice when they crush them under their shoes. They once dared to dream of an independent country where they would live with dignity. They once believed that Jinnah’s Pakistan will be better than Nehru’s India. Today they are crushed, abused, broken and humiliated. Their blood is being spilled every day in the streets of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

But no one will ever ask for their forgiveness; no one will ever offer to pay their blood money in order to win freedom. They are nobodies, redundant, superfluous, and dispensable. They will remain uncounted, faceless and nameless for their life is not a matter of national interest for America or Saudi Arabia or Pakistan.

So let us then bow our heads and weep for the dreams that could not materialise. Let us bow our heads and weep for the self-respect lost along the way and for being betrayed by those we trusted with our lives and dreams; the ones we trusted with the future of our children. Let us weep for lost hopes and broken dreams. Above all, let us weep for never having the courage to stand up to the usurpers, the exploiters and the oppressors. Let us weep because our dreams were important to us but not that important.

The writer is a PhD student at Leicester, UK. Email:

Spy game: The CIA, Pakistan and 'blood money'
Chris Arsenault

The case of Raymond Davis has all the trappings of a 21st century spy novel.

It is a story of murder, prison and clandestine payments, starring a burly former US Special Forces soldier tangled in a murky web of intelligence agencies, competing diplomats and – differentiating his case from Cold War spy sagas – shady private military contractors.

Pakistani authorities released the CIA contractor from prison on Wednesday, after families of two motorcyclists he killed in January were paid a reported $2.3mn in "blood money".

Details surrounding the case are sketchy at best: a series of claims and counter-claims from various diplomats, agencies and organisations which are almost impossible to independently verify. And the stakes are high.

Privatising conflict

"The case highlights the fact that the US is engaged in a covert war in Pakistan - a country it has not declared war against," says Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater: the Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.

Davis, 36, once hustled for Blackwater, the controversial military contractor responsible for killing civilians in Iraq, which has since been rebranded as Xe Services LLC.

"He worked for Blackwater when the company was working on the drone bombing campaign with the JSOC [Joint Special Operations Command], and the CIA against high-value individuals in Pakistan," Scahill told Al Jazeera.

Davis owns Hyperion Protective Consultants, according to ABC News. The firm sells surveillance equipment and provides clients with "loss and risk management professionals".

In the new world of intelligence, individuals can wear several different hats, often at the same time.
"In theory, it would be cheaper to have government agents do the work contractors are doing: they don't get paid as much and there is no dedicated profit margin," says Eamon Javers, author of Broker, Trader, Lawyer, Spy: The Secret World of Corporate Espionage.

"There is a huge open question about the legal jurisdiction these contractors are operating under in war zones. They are not accountable to US military justice, as special ops would be," Javers told Al Jazeera.

Christine Fair, a Pakistan expert at Georgetown University says, "There is nothing abnormal about military contractors gathering intelligence, conducting warfare or helping with diplomacy", concerns about high costs, impunity and jurisdiction notwithstanding.

"The way we [Americans] do business, fight wars, provide assistance, and the way we run our embassies is being done through contractors," Fair told Al Jazeera.

Who is immune?

When Pakistani authorities arrested Davis in Lahore, he carried classic tools of the spy trade: a Glock semiautomatic pistol, a long-range wireless set, camera, flashlight and small telescope.

The initial public conflict between Pakistan and the US revolved around Davis's diplomatic status. The US said the contractor had diplomatic immunity from prosecution, while Pakistani authorities disputed the claim.

According to Fair, the issue of diplomatic immunity is simple and was "misconstrued" throughout the Davis saga. Whether Davis was a contractor or a formal embassy employee is not important for the question of immunity, she says.

"The diplomatic status of staff members is set by the sending countries," she says, referring in this case to the US. "The Pakistani government has one choice to make: to accept the terms or not to. Pakistan accepted the terms and issued a visa and then re-issued it."

There is no debate about the process for getting diplomatic immunity, as Pakistan and the US have signed the Vienna Convention which sets out the rules.

But Jeremy Scahill is not sure Davis's diplomatic status is quite so clear. "There have been some reports that the US tried to claim he was a diplomat after the events took place," Scahill says.

Conflicting crime stories

The events in question transpired on January 27. Davis was driving his car through a poor section of Lahore. He stopped at a crowded intersection. Two Pakistani men jumped off motorcycles and came towards him, with weapons drawn, according to American accounts of the incident. Davis opened fire with his Glock, killing them.

He said he fired in self-defence, assuming they were trying to rob him. Pakistani authorities disputed this claim, saying the men were shot in the back and Davis got out of his car to take photographs of the bodies.

Pakistani security forces chased Davis to a traffic circle a short distance away from the crime scene and arrested him. Before being taken down, Davis called the US Consulate to extract him from the dicey situation. The US sent an unmarked SUV tearing through the streets of Lahore.

It drove the wrong way down a one way street, killing a random motorcyclist, in a development that further infuriated Pakistanis. The three killings lead to widespread outrage, fuelling anti-American demonstrations.

"Those who oppose the partnership between Pakistan and the US have been making noise," says Rasul Baksh Raees, a political science professor at Lahore University of Management Sciences.

Wary of anger on the streets, Pakistan's government may have initially denied giving the contractor immunity to save face, says Muqtedar Khan, a professor of international relations at the University of Delaware.


Many Pakistanis, including the political opposition, are furious about US drone strikes and other killings in the country. But this is nothing new.

The intrigue concerns the identities of the men Davis killed - and the nature of his mission.

"Some suggest Davis was trying to document links between Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) and Lashkar-e-Taiba [the Army of the Pure], which would expose the ISI's links to the Mumbai attacks [of 2008]," says Khan. The US and UN Security Council have designated Lashkar as an international terrorist organisation.

In February, Leon Panetta, the CIA director, said the ISI-CIA relationship is one of the "most complicated" he has encountered during his time in intelligence.

"If Ray Davis was targeting Laskhkar or trying to establish links between it and Pakistani intelligence, that would be probably one of the most sensitive places to hit the ISI," says Jeremy Scahill, the author and investigative journalist.

In a US federal court in New York, a lawsuit was filed in 2010 against the ISI for backing the Mumbai attacks. Davis's conclusions could have damaged more than the ISI's public image. US tax dollars paid to Pakistani security forces under the auspices of fighting terrorism, not to mention a major financial settlement, could be at stake.

Christine Fair, the Georgetown professor, says two high-level Pakistani officials told her that the men Davis killed were ISI agents tasked with following him.

Davis worked out of a safe house in an obscure part of Lahore as part of a CIA cell investigating Lashkar, Fair says.

"The CIA cooperates with the ISI on certain issues," Fair says. "But these organisations also operate against each other. This is spy versus spy."

The origins of Lashkar can be traced to US support for forces fighting against the Soviets in Afghanistan during the 1980s, Khan says. Today, the group operates openly in Pakistan from a sprawling compound in the suburbs of Lahore, where it runs schools, hospitals and a blood bank. Hafiz Saeed, the group's leader, is a frequent commentator in the Pakistani press.

The group frequently espouses anti-Western ideology, targeting India, Israel and the US in their literature, says professor Fair, adding that "they never really operated to achieve those larger objectives – perhaps until 2004, when they started attacking the US in Afghanistan".

The ISI and some other branches of Pakistan's government see Lashkar as an important tool against India in Kashmir, a province claimed by both India and Pakistan, says Muqtedar Khan.

"In recent years, the balance of power has shifted significantly in India's favour, in terms of traditional warfare," Khan says. "The economic disparity is such that Pakistan cannot launch a conventional war against India for Kashmir," he says. Pakistan sees unconventional forces like Lashkar as crucial defences against its traditional rival.

Pakistan also worries about Indian dominance in Afghanistan after the US pulls out, and wants Lashkar ready to fill the vacuum of American power, Khan says.

Money talks

Raymond Davis's case has caused head-aches for the US and Pakistan. They both hoped it would go-away, but neither could lose face.

The payment of "blood money" to relatives of the men Davis killed - an accepted custom in Pakistan - was the easiest solution.

The sum of $2.3mn is exponentially higher than what the US normally pays family members when its forces kill innocents in Iraq or Afghanistan, Jeremy Scahill says.

Money talks, and such a large sum illustrates the importance of the case. According to Scahill, the blood money suggested by the US state department for victims of Blackwater killings in Iraq was about $5,000.

"What is even more important than the money, is what the Pakistanis and the ISI extracted from the US in exchange for [Davis's] release," Scahill says.

After "blood money" was paid, American consular officials whisked Raymond Davis out of the country. His exact mission, or the conclusions from the intelligence he gathered, may never come to light.

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, denied that the US paid family members. However, she wouldn't comment on who forked over the cash.

"It is rather a charade to suggest [the US] didn't pay family members," says Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst, who alleged that the payment came from Pakistan's ISI, which receives money from the US through bilateral military cooperation deals.

But Davis's political footprint will last, as anti-American protests spread across Pakistan, with people demanding more accountability from foreign forces operating on Pakistani territory. "Raymond Davis was basically the tip of the iceberg," says Professor Khan.

"He was not the cause, but a part of, the diverging interests between Pakistan and the US in the war on terror."

Punjab's Faith factory

Last year, while on a visit to Lahore I had to meet an industrialist at one of his factories.

The discussion between us soon drifted towards politics. Just two days before our meeting, there had been a deadly suicide bomb attack in Lahore.

It was the (thirty-something and well-dressed) gentleman who began the proceedings, but he soon said something that left me scratching my head. He asked (in Punjabi), ‘So Paracha sahib, has the situation in Karachi gotten any better?’

After realising that his question was not tongue-in-cheek, I wondered what on earth he was talking about.

Here was a man surrounded by frequent sights and sounds of devastation inflicted by rabid groups of extremists on politicians, military men, police and innocent civilians, and all he was concerned about was ‘violence in Karachi’?

‘Sir, shouldn’t you be more concerned about Lahore?’ I asked, smiling.

He failed to get my drift: ‘Paracha sahib, why don’t you people do something about the MQM?’

By now my smile had turned into a polite laughter: ‘Sir, was it the MQM or the PPP that blew up the Sufi shrine in Lahore the other day?’

‘I know you’re not so naïve, Paracha sahib,’ he said, ‘you know who is behind all these terrorist attacks…’

‘Of course, I do,’ I replied. ‘These terrorists are the same monsters whom we have been nurturing in the name of jihad all these years and …’

He let out a loud burst of laughter: ‘What sort of a media man are you, Paracha sahib. These so-called terrorists are all enemy agents!’

I knew that was coming, right on cue.

‘Well said!’ I applauded. ‘Whenever there is violence in Lahore it is blamed on anti-Islam agents, but violence in Karachi is blamed on the MQM, the PPP and the ANP? Very convenient.’

Switching back to Punjabi, the gentleman gave me a sideways grin: ‘Paracha sahib, you are a Punjabi, so I wonder why the sympathy with the MQM? Is it fear?’

I then reverted back to speaking in Punjabi: ‘Sir jee, it is not fear. It is curiosity about the mindset of the people of Punjab. We are highly intrigued about how in the face of overwhelming evidence that it is our own people who in the name of Islam, are going about blowing up mosques, shrines and markets in the Punjab, but you continue living in a make-believe world of conspiracies. But what do we, Karachiites know. We are, after all gangsters, right?’ I smiled.

A strain of slight anger suddenly cut across the gentleman’s face: ‘We are more concerned about the corruption and the scoundrels in this government.’

‘Very noble of you, sir,’ I replied.

‘Give Nawaz Sharif 5 years and he will change the fate of this country!’ he announced.

‘But sir, Mian Sahib so far only gets votes from the Punjab. And anyway, isn’t a cousin of yours a member of the PML-Q?’ I asked.

He ignored the PML-Q remark: ‘Mian sahib will sweep the next elections …’

‘…in the Punjab,’ I interrupted. ‘Is Pakistan only about the Punjab then?’

He laughed and shook his head: ‘That’s the problem with you. Punjab is blamed for everything! What sort of a Punjabi are you?’

‘Wah, Sir jee,’ I said with a smile, ‘it is fine if you go on and on about the Mohajirs, Sindhis, the Pashtuns and the Baloch, but throw up your arms in shock when someone even mentions the Punjab?’

‘We have done so much for Pakistan!’ He announced proudly.

‘Were you the only ones?’ I asked.

‘Why do you think Pakistan’s enemies are targeting the Punjab? They know its’ importance.’ He said.

‘Oh, so do we,’ I replied. ‘But we, Pakistanis, are our own enemies. Those killing their own countrymen in the name of faith, politics, greed or ideology anywhere in Pakistan, are the enemy.’

‘Faith has nothing to do with this!’ He announced, now with a sterner expression.

‘Precisely!’ I said, ‘and yet we keep calling it faith!’

By now he had lost me: ‘What do you mean?’

‘Sir, Karachiites or as you would like to call us – gangsters – believe that the Punjab does not condemn extremists enough. It is as if by doing this they feel they would be condemning faith itself, is that true?’ I asked.

‘We don’t think these extremists are even Muslim!’ He shot back.

‘Well, they say they are the best Muslims out there,’ I replied. ‘And anyway, if you think they are not Muslim, then why not condemn them the way they should be?’

‘How come you guys don’t condemn the MQM or the PPP?’ he snapped back.

‘Oh, we do,’ I retorted. ‘Just the way political parties should be criticised. But then they have yet to blow up mosques, shrines and markets, if you know what I mean.’ I replied.

‘And the PML-N does?’ He asked, raising his voice a notch.

‘Absolutely not!’ I said. ‘It just doesn’t condemn extremists the way it should, that’s all. Is it fear?’

The argument ended when his cell phone rang and he excused himself.

I said goodbye and on my way out was met by his manager who gave some going-away gifts: beautiful unstitched fabric, a nice shirt and a cardboard box.

Curious about what was in it, I opened the box in the car and found 9 slim booklets – all of them were on how to become a better Muslim. Viola!

It seems that the industrialists are getting spiritually industrious as well.

Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and

Federally-Administered Tribal Areas....Orphan or what?

Are the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) an orphan or a colony, and their residents second-class citizens or children of a lesser god that nobody in Islamabad ever talks of making them a province? The prime minister has just now vowed making the Seraiki province demand his party manifesto’s part. But not even he, not also the president, the FATA’s actual sole super-boss, has given just a fleeting thought to giving a province’s status to the region, which it qualifies for in every manner. Others are making demands for a separate province primarily on linguistic basis, though with strong political underpinnings. But FATA’s case is compelling on every merit - area-wise, population-wise, resources-wise, administratively, legally and even morally. When Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, accompanied by Bacha Khan, drove into the Khyber Agency on a journey in pre-partition days to seduce the tribal people into accession to India, they stoned his car and made him flee back with a bleeding head. And when Quaid-e-Azam visited the tribal people, they welcomed him with warmth and garlands. They indeed had overwhelmingly plumped for Pakistan voluntarily and lovingly. And the Quaid may have vowed to them not to interfere with their tribal code, customs and traditions. But certainly he had not contemplated keeping them from modernity or emancipation. Nor had they opted for any kind of medievalism or primitiveness. They had aspired for a better deal than dealt them by the British colonialists who had made of them a sort of buffer zone in the region with their rivaling power, Czarist Russia. But the Quaid’s successors proved colossally unworthy. They kept the British governance dispensation intact in all its colonial trappings in the region. The only change was the complexion of face, from gora to kala. The Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) of the British colonialists stayed in place in its entire cruelty to administer the region, with snooty, pipe-smoking bureaucrats sitting in the federal government’s offices looking at it disdainfully as some kind of an ungovernable Wild West and its inhabitants as some sort of wild people not amenable to uplift, progress and development. It is this innate bureaucratic contempt that accounts largely for the tribal people being kept denied of what is their legitimate and inviolable due. Had the region been given the due recognition as an integral part of the country that it merits by every canon long ago and its inhabitants given the rights that their compatriots have in the country’s other parts, it would have been a far better place than what it is today. But regrettably that was not to be. Leave alone giving the FATA a fully-fledged province’s status, it has been dealt all through a raw deal even in development and progress. Palpably, it is a resources-rich land, offering enormous opportunities in horticulture, forestry and minerals, just to mention a few. An attempt was made to introduce the region to development by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government and help its people to exploit the tremendous natural resources their land is endowed with. But sadly that endeavour lost steam and withered away after his ouster. Had indeed the region made a big headway in development, its residents’ economic progress would have in time blossomed into their social emancipation as well inevitably, sucking them into the national mainstream to a salutary effect all around. The region would have ceased to be an abode of conservatism. The tribal affinities too would have undergone a markedly positive change. And it would have turned into a forbidding place, too, for extremist proclivities and alien poaching. Still, all is not lost, even though the region is presently being buffeted by militancy, mostly alien-fuelled. Let it become a province, with its own elected legislature, its own elected government and its own separate governor. With a vested interest in the system, the tribal people would not only enact laws and policies suiting their needs and aspirations and conforming to their deeply-held tribal mores, codes, customs and traditions. They would also team up and adopt ways and means to obviate the menaces and threats to their peace, security and stability. In fact, it is the denial of this basic right that has eaten into the tribal people’s spirit to stand up to the dark forces of extremism, fundamentalism and militancy. They suffer from a gnawing sense of deprivation and step-motherly treatment, a sense lately aggravated enormously by the official neglect of their internally displaced due to military operations and by CIA’s freely increasing drone incursions that claim more of their innocents’, including women’s and children’s, lives than militants’. If indeed despite international implications, an autonomous Gilgit-Baltistan could be made of Northern Areas, why FATA, in spite of being internationally-recognised Pakistani territory, cannot be made a province?

Afghanistan: the threat of civil war

Daily Times
Musa Khan Jalalzai

Strong military leadership is impossible in an environment where political and ethnic affiliations rather than merit are the basis of promotions

The issue of mutual distrust between the US and NATO and the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the killing of innocent civilians by the US-led coalition forces, has been a matter of great concern for Afghan politicians. The rising power of the Taliban insurgency, desertions of Afghan army soldiers, ethnic and sectarian rivalries and massive corruption in the government departments have threatened the US and NATO stabilising strategy for Afghanistan. These are a few reasons behind the rift that caused distrust between the Karzai regime and its NATO allies.

Having expressed deep regret over the recent US killings of innocent children in Kunar province, a source in the Afghan defence ministry told me that the entire military command is highly disturbed and the majority of officers are not willing to further cooperate with the coalition partners. President Karzai urged NATO to stop civilian killings by mistake. “We are very tolerant people but now our tolerance has run out,” he said. The president cried as he held a girl who he said had her leg amputated following an attack. Now the issue of foreign occupation is openly discussed in military units.

Private debates in government offices, political circles and in military headquarters have recently focussed on the point that this unsuccessful war on terror has put in danger the territorial integrity of the country. According to the Afghan Human Rights Commission report, more than 520 children have been killed between 2009 and 2010 and some 200,000 children are living with disabilities as a result of wrongly directed US air strikes and crossfire among warring factions. In 2010, at least 2,800 civilians were killed and over 4,000 injured. The recent US resolve for permanent military bases in Afghanistan is seen by the ANA as a new formula of permanent colonisation of their country.

Nationalists in the defence and interior ministries have showed some reservations and disillusionment. They openly blame the Americans that they are pushing the country to the brink of civil war. A long-term US presence, according to sources in the defence ministry of Afghanistan, will bring further instability and undermine the hope of reconciliation with the Taliban and other militant groups. The Global Security Organisation in its situation report on Afghanistan has stated that the US war in Afghanistan has created many problems, neither addressing ethnicity nor factionalism. The Afghans loathe Americans and Americans are treating the Afghans like slaves. This mutual distrust has increased the importance of mercenaries like Blackwater to play their controversial role in the country.

Notwithstanding the US and NATO’s billions of dollars investment in the Afghan National Army and the police, this army has now turned against the American presence. Traders and truckers complain they are paying monthly $ 1,000-10,000 bribes to the provincial governors, police chiefs, and local military units whose territory they pass through. According to a recent report, warlords pay millions of dollars to the officers of the ANA every month. Business relations between private contractors and the army are thriving. According to the US exit strategy, it wants to equip, train and arm the ANA and the police before the expected military withdrawal in 2014, but the widespread drug addiction within the police and the army ranks is a big hurdle in the way of building a well organised army in Afghanistan.

Some Afghan military officers and soldiers were recently removed from service for their involvement in drugs offences. Some officers are running their own businesses to support their families. Every month, one-fifth soldiers of the Afghan army become absent without informing their commanders. They are not able to pay the rent of their houses, their children are not schoolgoing, and they are not willing to fight for Americans and corrupt Afghan warlords. Soldiers and officers of the army are from three backgrounds and follow three different ideologies. The first group has a communist background, the second group were trained in Pakistan as mujahideen fighters, and the third has an American, NATO and European background. This ideological, sectarian and ethnic division within the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the police department can cause an unending civil war in the near future.

Recruitment on ethnic and sectarian basis has created many problems. In 2002, as defence minister, General Fahim made some appointments on ethnic basis. In these appointments, of 38 generals, 37 were Tajiks and one was Uzbek. In fact, all these generals were associated with the Northern Alliance. If we look at the list of the 100 generals appointed in 2002, 90 belonged to the Northern Alliance. The story has not ended there. These and other appointments in the defence and interior ministries were followed by the removal of Interior Minister Hanif Atmar and intelligence Chief Amrullah Saleh for their non-professional performance. Both these officials had challenged President Karzai on his plans to reconcile with the Taliban insurgents. Mr Amrullah Saleh was found involved in many torture cases of Pakistani and Afghan detainees.

The command selection of the ANA is based on ethnicity and personal connections at the corps, ANA general staff, or ministry of defence level. Strong military leadership is impossible in an environment where political and ethnic affiliations rather than merit are the basis of promotions. Enforcement of discipline is another problem faced by the ANA. According to a recent US military report, units of ANA sell vehicles, weapons, fuel and other military equipment and are involved in outright theft of food provided by the US. The transmogrified ethnic face of the ANA was unveiled in the 2010 ethnic war between the nomadic tribes and Hazara population in Behsood district of Wardak province. Military command in the defence ministry was ethnically divided on the issue.

Generals from both Sunni and Shia groups were trying to arm the nomads and Hazaras respectively. This massive shift in the ethnicnisation and sectarianisation of the Afghan army officers will lead to another civil war between the Pashtuns and Tajik warlords. General David Petraeus’ plan of local defence is widely opposed in the military circles. He wants to copy the idea of the Pakistan Army qaumi lashkars (national militias) fighting Taliban terrorists in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. This plan, military observers say, will not work in Afghanistan.

According to Petraeus’ strategy, 10,000 unemployed Afghans will be put on the CIA payroll and prepared to fight against their countrymen. He wants to give them dollars and arms so that they can form a Pakistani style qaumi lashkar. This plan will not succeed, as the Afghans have now turned against the US presence in their country. Illegal detentions, searches and torture have ultimately changed their mind. Since 2001, hundreds of men, women and even teenagers have been arrested, tortured, and killed by the US forces. At present, NATO is fighting the Taliban, but doing nothing to address the ethnic divide, corruption and bridging the trust. In summation, the long-term US presence in Afghanistan will cause more problems, more casualties, destruction and violence.

The writer is the author of Britain’s National Security Challenges and Punjabi Taliban. He can be reached at

Why Pakistan has not caught the Middle East's revolution fever

By Reza Sayah
Few countries today are facing as many crippling crises as Pakistan. Some are identical to the problems that sparked revolutions and uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa: government corruption, unemployment, poverty and a floundering economy. But Pakistan has not caught the Middle East’s revolution fever.
Here are four reasons why:
1. Pakistan had its own version of a revolution in 2007. That’s when a largely middle-class movement, fed up with former President Pervez Musharraf’s military rule and failure to crack down on extremists, led an uprising against the regime. A civilian government came into power after the 2008 parliamentary elections that were widely viewed as free and fair. A few months later, Musharraf resigned as president and left the country.
2. Pakistanis have ample opportunities to let off steam and voice dissent through a remarkably free and vibrant press and political system. In Pakistan, trashing politicians is national sport that plays out daily on nearly two dozen 24-hour news channels. The only institution that is clearly immune to public criticism is the military and Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agencies. The relative freedom of expression in Pakistan is rare for an Islamic state, and it allows the public and opposition factions to vent their fury through public dissent instead of resorting to anti-government uprisings.
3. Pakistani culture is made up of at least six different ethnicities: Punjabi, Pashtun, Sindhi, Baluch, Muhajir and Kashmiri. Each has its own distinct culture and language. This diverse mix of ethnicities makes it difficult for Pakistanis to unite behind a single cause.
4. Pakistanis have many perceived enemies, so it’s often hard to decide whom to rise up against. Yes, the government in Islamabad is perceived as weak and corrupt, but many Pakistanis also view the U.S., Islamist extremists and India as its enemies, too. On any given week in Pakistan, you can find public protests against any one of these perceived enemies. Having too many foes reduces the intensity and focus of dissent, which are often prerequisites for an uprising.
There’s no sign of revolution coming to Pakistan, but this is still a country in a crucial region that desperately needs help and reform to address the most basic needs of its people. Change could come with the democratic mechanisms that are already in place there, but that will take a commitment from all institutions – including the powerful military – along with support from the international community and lots of patience.

The high cost of ignorance
DESPITE its lush forests, golden beaches and ancient temples, for me the most inspiring sight in Sri Lanka are the thousands of boys and girls in crisp uniforms walking to and from their schools across the island twice a day.

I never fail to be impressed by the fact that apart from uniforms, the government supplies children with textbooks and meals. Even during the height of the civil war, the Tamil Tigers were provided with funds from Colombo to run the schools in the area under their control.

Being a regular visitor to the country for many years now, I have never seen a child begging, cleaning car windshields at traffic lights, selling newspapers or working in any menial jobs. These are, of course, common sights in Pakistan. The result of this concerted, non-partisan effort in education over the years is that Sri Lanka has a literacy rate of 92 per cent.

Even though it has a significantly higher GDP per capita than Pakistan, Sri Lanka is very much a developing country. In addition, it has just ended a civil war that raged for over 25 years. Nevertheless, it has found the resources to finance a system that gives access to education to all its children.

Pakistan, by contrast, has seen spending on education drop from 2.5 per cent of GDP to 1.5 per cent last year. This is less than the subsidies given to Pakistan Steel, PIA and Pepco. As this newspaper wrote in an editorial recently, we spend seven times more on defence than we do on primary education. Needless to say, our bloated defence budget has not made us any more secure. On the other hand, even a year`s education for girls would result in a 10 per cent drop in fecundity. This would translate into a proportional fall in our frighteningly high population growth rate.

Even among the children who are lucky enough to go to school, the level of academic attainment is depressingly low: only 34 per cent of kids between six and 16 can read a story, while 50 per cent can read a sentence. Part of the reason for this dismal performance is that on any given day, 10-15 per cent of the teachers are absent. Thirty thousand school buildings pose a hazard to the students who are forced to study there, while 21,000 schools have no buildings at all. Education Emergency Pakistan

Many of these facts are available in the report .

But over the years, we — rulers and ruled alike — have been aware of the dire state of education in Pakistan. What has been lacking is not money, but political will. Indeed, provincial governments are generally unable to spend their meagre educational budgets. Bureaucratic inefficiency is as rife here as it is across the government. Provincial education departments are manned by some of the least efficient civil servants in the land. Education Emergency EE

Education ministers in the provinces are alleged to routinely demand a bribe for hiring teachers, and thus we end up getting the dregs of the product of a dilapidated system. Hence the rotten quality of the education our children receive. To dispel the notion that our school teachers are underpaid, () informs us that they receive more than teachers of low-cost private schools get. EE

Another urban myth demolished by is that a considerable proportion of Pakistani kids go to madressahs: only six per cent are educated — if we can call it that — at religious schools. Nevertheless, one out of 10 children not going to school around the world is a Pakistani.

Having a largely uneducated population imposes a huge cost, dragging the economy down and locking us into a spiral of low growth and unending poverty. The economic cost of ignorance and illiteracy is equivalent to a disastrous flood every year. Even Bangladesh, a much poorer country than Pakistan, is improving twice as fast as we are.

What makes our elites so blind to the obvious? In a word, selfishness. Their kids go to private schools and, if they can afford it, universities abroad. If they can`t, they are educated at one of Pakistan`s private colleges and universities. So they just don`t care how bad the state system is. Similarly, they get medical care at private clinics and hospitals, and have therefore allowed government institutions to deteriorate to the point of collapse. The problem with this `I`m OK, Jack` approach is that no society can develop without an educated population. With only a tiny percentage of children getting a decent education, there is no way Pakistan can progress and prosper. While even our dysfunctional elites see the problem, they are unwilling to do anything about it.

While a few of them support NGOs and charities that provide education to the needy, the magnitude of the task is such that only the state can provide the resources and the policies to achieve universal education. Thus far, it has shown no sign of either wanting, or being able, to bring about this revolution.

And yet, we aren`t asking the government to do anything it isn`t required to: constitutionally, all children between six and 16 are supposed to be provided an education. This pledge is reiterated in the 18th Amendment. Indeed, a citizen could, in theory, take the government to court for dereliction of duty. Suo moto action, Mr Chief Justice?

Perhaps we need to face up to the fact that our state machinery simply isn`t up to the task of running our educational system. Even if by some miracle, enough resources were made available tomorrow, it just cannot get the school buildings (the responsibility of provincial Public Works Departments, a byword for corruption), recruit good teachers, modernise the curricula, or monitor the system for quality. So what`s the answer? One possibility is that private schools could be paid directly by the state for each child on their rolls. Textbooks would be provided by a central agency, while another sets exams, and checks for standards before schools can get their funding. True, this system would be open to misuse and corruption. But anything might be better than the abysmal state education we have now.

Balochistan issue

Fida Bazai
The Balochistan problem is spinning out of Pakistan’s control. Islamabad does not have any clear long-sighted strategy to tackle the Balochistan crisis. It still relies on a myopic military plan. The situation is getting worst and exacerbating with every passing day as Islamabad couldn’t come out with a tangible policy to access Baloch nationalists. This situation of increasing uncertainty has profoundly affected trade and business in Quetta. Pakistan civilian government has given up on the Balochistan issue and left it at the mercy of intelligence and military. The track record of these two institutions on conflict resolution is not impressive. All sections of Pakistan’s domestic or foreign policies under the auspices of army and intelligence have always been counter-productive. International pressure Pakistan’s financial and emotional investment in Kashmir and Afghanistan for the last three decades has resulted in chaos and anarchy in Pakistan. Both dimensions of Pakistan’s foreign policy were undisputedly under army control. Pakistan doesn’t only face a mounted international pressure on both issues, but also suffering from an insurmountable series of religious and nationalist insurgencies. It shows that our armed forces don’t have any prudent approach to political problems. Unfortunately, Balochistan, which is the largest poverty stricken province with abundant resources, is falling in the domain of military. If Pakistan’s civilian government doesn’t come out with a comprehensive political solution to the Balochistan issue, it will reach to an irreconcilable position. It is time to confess publicly and deliver practically to reduce the misery of the people of Balochistan. They have been deliberately kept backwards and at the disposal of Nawabs and Sardars. The Government has neither established good institutions nor provided any health facilities. The ratio of poverty is exceedingly high and chances of employment are extremely low. If there is any position, it is filled by any candidates from outside of Balochistan. Even the ordinary jobs of clerks, peons and drivers are allocated to non-local people. The young section of the population, who is graduating now or graduated within the last few years, has increasingly felt these severe discriminations. It is significant to understand that the current insurgency is driven by the youth force of Baloch. The University of Balochistan is the epicentre of all anti-state activities. Insurgency The present insurgency is led by Berhamdagh Bugti, who is the source of eminent aspiration for young Baloch. Another important dimension of the movement is the participation of female youngsters. This is the first time that Baloch girls are actively participating in the movement and wholeheartedly supporting a nationalist demand of independence. The central government has to approach Baloch nationalist parties before it become very difficult to reconcile them. As a confidence building measure the government should stop intelligence operations, release missing people, announce new packages for Balochistan and execute them fairly. It is the government’s last chance to sincerely approach Baloch leaders and take them in confidence as well as award them some extra advantages to reduce their sense of deprivation. It is politically important and strategically significant to understand the composition of Balochistan. The eastern part of Balochistan is inhabited by Baloch people, but Quetta and the West of Balochistan exclusively consist of Pakhtun population. The award of extra favours to the Baloch should not be at the expense of the Pakhtuns in the province, who are currently peaceful and religiously abiding law and order. The packages and jobs should be announced from Islamabad and particularly for the backward areas of Baloch. There should not be any extra-leverage in the present setup to disturb other peaceful segments of society. For instance, Islamabad can announce the establishment of colleges and universities in the Baloch area and then preferably recruit Baloch people for most of the positions. Similarly, more hospitals and health institutions should be established and then staffed by local people. It is, however, extremely unfair to other nationalities, particularly Pakhtuns, who constitute a big chunk of the province population, to be ignored or marginalised at the expense of the Baloch people. It is the federal government’s responsibility to avoid any clash among the resident ethnic groups in Balochistan and bring deprived Baloch youth in the mainstream national politics.

Education Emergency Pakistan

Only 35 per cent of school children, aged 6-16, can read a story, while 50 per cent cannot read a sentence
Today, Pakistan is crippled by an education emergency that threatens tens of millions of children.

No country can thrive in the modern world without educated citizens.

But the emergency has disastrous human, social and economic consequences, and threatens the security of the country.

2011 is Pakistan’s Year of Education.

It’s time to think again about Pakistan’s most pressing long-term challenge.

The economic cost of not educating Pakistan is the equivalent of one flood every year. The only difference is that this is a self-inflicted disaster.

One in ten of the world’s out-of-school children is a Pakistani. That is the equivalent of the entire population of Lahore.

There is a zero per cent chance that the government will reach the millennium development goals by 2015 on education. On the other hand, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are all on their way to achieving the same goals. India’s improvement rate is ten times that of Pakistan, Bangladesh’s is twice that of Pakistan.

But, despite this gloomy situation, determined efforts can show results in only two years. What is required is an additional spending of Rs.100 billion, a 50 per cent increase over current spending.

Pakistanis have a constitutional right to universal education, a little discussed or known fact of the law. What has been overlooked in the discourse on the 18th Amendment is that education has now become a right and no longer a privilege as it was previously. Article 25A sets up a possible scenario where a citizen can take the government to court for not providing them access, or even be the grounds for a suo moto action.

At current rates of progress, no person alive today will see a Pakistan with universal education as defined in our constitution. Balochistan would see it in 2100 or later.

Just one year of education for women in Pakistan can help reduce fertility by 10 per cent, controlling the other resource emergency this country faces.

There are 26 countries poorer than Pakistan but send more of their children to school, demonstrating the issue is not about finances, but will and articulating demand effectively. It is too easy, and incorrect, to believe that Pakistan is too poor to provide this basic right.

Pakistan spent 2.5 per cent of its budget on schooling in 2005/2006. It now spends just 1.5 per cent in the areas that need it most. That is less than the subsidies given to PIA, PEPCO and Pakistan Steel. Provinces are allocated funds for education but fail to spend the money.

We presume the public school system is doing poorly because teachers are poorly paid, this is untrue. Public school teachers get paid 2/3rds more than their equivalent private low cost school counterparts; they earn four times that of the average parent of a child in their school. Despite this, on any given day 10-15 per cent of teachers will be absent from their duties teaching.

There is demand for education that is partly being addressed by low cost private schools, even one third of all rural children go to these schools (public schools can cost Rs.150 per month, low cost private schools the same or up to Rs.250). Despite the large presumption of the media, both domestic and international, this gap is not actually being addressed by Madrassahs. Only six per cent of students go to Madrassahs.

Only 35 per cent of school children, aged 6-16, can read a story, while 50 per cent cannot read a sentence. Their performance is only slightly better than that of out-of-school children, of whom 24 per cent can read a story. This alarmingly demonstrates the ineffectiveness of schooling.

30,000 school buildings are in dangerous condition, posting a threat to the well being of children. Whereas 21,000 schools have no building whatsoever.

Donors are not the solution, while they grab headlines regarding their development work, government spending remains the majority by an overwhelming margin.

Arab regimes must change or face revolt

Within less than a month, popular uprisings toppled the long-time presidents of Egypt and Tunisia, and revolts could spread to other Arab countries if they do not implement reforms quickly, analysts say.
"The Arab leaders are in a race against time: either they quickly adopt liberal changes, or they suffer the same fate as (the leaders) of Tunisia and Egypt," said Anwar Eshki, the director of the Middle East Institute for Strategic Studies in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Egypt's president Hosni Mubarak, who resigned after being in power since 1981, and Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who departed after ruling for 23 years on January 14, both bowed to unprecedented waves of popular protests.
Angered by injustice, unemployment and corruption, "the Arab citizen is not the same as he was two months ago" and "has proven he can bring down an Arab head of state after two or three weeks of demonstrations," said Paul Salem, the director of the Carnegie Middle East Centre.
Various Arab leaders, some of whom, such as Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, have been in power for over 40 years while many of those who have ruled with an iron fist have suddenly announced social security measures and political reforms.
The popular uprisings in those two countries "will have repercussions throughout the region" and the United States, which encouraged change in Tunisia and Egypt, will try to do the same in other Arab countries, said Saleh al-Qallab, a former Jordanian information minister.
"Who is next? No one can predict," he said, adding that this excludes Saudi Arabia, where "the process of reforms initiated by King Abdullah is moving slowly due to the weight of tradition and religion."
Eshki echoed that assessment, saying that "the United States will seek to avoid sudden change in the Gulf monarchies that could disrupt oil supplies to the world economy," but Washington "will advise them to engage in reforms and accelerate their implementation."
But he added that "the winds of change will blow on these (Gulf) countries. And if the leaders do not take the initiative, their people will."
The uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, which were initiated and led by young people using the social networking site Facebook and micro-blogging site Twitter, have showed the limits of Islamist activism, which Arab regimes have used as a scarecrow to ward off calls for reform, Salem said.
"Without adhering to an ideology," the uprisings have succeeded where Islamist movements have failed for decades, during which "they were presented or presented themselves as the only alternative to repressive Arab regimes," he said.
Salem added however that Mubarak's fall, in the eyes of Riyadh, "exacerbates the imbalance of power in the favour of Iran," which wants "an Islamic Middle East," and sees the departure of the Egyptian president as "the failure of the United States and Zionism in the region."
"The alliance of the Arab countries and the United States will weaken in favour of a degree of autonomy on the Turkish model, but these countries have no choice but to remain in the American fold," Salem said.