Pakistan: Politics without vision

Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi

The latest reports on socio-economic development in Pakistan show that the percentage of the households living in poverty has increased, crossing the figure of 40 percent. If overseas Pakistanis do not financially support their families, the number and ratio of the population facing economic distress would increase. Some financial support to such people becomes available through individual and organisational donations. It may be mentioned that the Benazir Income Support Fund, a welfare project of the federal government, gives Rs 1000 per month to the poorest of the poor families. This gives them some hope to live.

It is not difficult to conclude from the above facts that Pakistan’s economy is unable to create enough job opportunities to enable half of its population to lead normal life with an assurance of some regular income to cover the bare minimum cost of food and shelter, not to speak of education for children and health care.

The major blame for this failure of the state and the government is on the political leaders and parties. Most political leaders make long and passionate speeches for improving the quality of life for ordinary people and often accuse their political adversaries of betraying them. They play up these issues merely as a propaganda tool against their rival political party or leadership rather than seriously making efforts for socio-economic development.

The political disposition and conduct of most Pakistani political parties and leaders is inimical to socio-economic development and human welfare. They are unable or unwilling to recognise that they are their own worst enemies because their politics is alienating the people not only from them but also from the democratic system. The ordinary people are losing hope in the capacity of the political leaders to improve the quality of their life.

Politics in Pakistan is detrimental to human welfare for three major reasons. First, most political parties and leaders lack a clear vision for the future. They talk in vague and general terms about the welfare of the people or make unrealistic promises for improving the quality of their life. For example, the opposition parties will promise to bring down prices of essential commodities without outlining the plan of action or measurers to achieve this goal. They never offer a new plan of action as an alternate to the ongoing policies. The focus is only on criticism. Currently, the people are fed up with electric power shortages and the federal government faces serious criticism on this issue. The PML(N) encouraged and led street agitation on this issue in Lahore and other cities but it has never given a practical plan of action with various steps clearly noted for overcoming power shortages.

Second, the political parties often find it difficult to function as a political machine for addressing the problems of common people. They experience factionalism based on differences among leaders, local rivalries and personalised management of the party by the top leader and his close associates. The party often functions as a personal fiefdom of the leader and dissent is not tolerated, although the dissenter may not be expelled from the party. The rise and fall of local leaders depends to a great extent on the party position of their mentor in the party’s national leadership. Internal party politics often makes it difficult for the party to undertake a dispassionate analysis of the problems and suggest practical solutions.

Third, the major political parties are engaged in politics of confrontation. The PML(N) and the PPP are not competing with each other for improving the quality of life for the common people. The PML(N) is trying desperately to pull down the PPP-led federal government. It also hopes that somehow the Supreme Court or the military or both will knock out the federal government. The PPP-led federal government is engaged in the politics of deflecting the PML(N) pressure and staying on in power. Its alignment with the PML(Q) and the MQM has strengthened the position of the federal coalition that also includes the ANP and some independent members. Most energy of the two major parties is being spent on this unfortunate power struggle. If the PML(N) stages a sit-in outside the President House, the PPP responds by doing the same outside the Punjab Chief Minister’s office.

Under the present political arrangements in Pakistan, all major political parties have to share the blame of poor governance. If the PPP is leading the coalition government at the federal level and in Sindh, the province of the Punjab is ruled by the PML(N). The performance of the Punjab government is no better than the federal government. Both have demonstrated a poor capacity of governance. However, both are engaged in a propaganda war of attributing failure to each other.

The PML(N) does not have enough votes in the National Assembly to move a “vote of no confidence” against the PPP-led federal government. It is endeavouring to launch street agitation to remove the PPP-led federal government. It does not want the Senate elections to be held in March 2012 because under the present political dispensation the PPP and its allies are expected to perform better. The PML(N) therefore wants to paralyse the federal government so that either it is removed or new general elections are announced which will postpone the Senate elections. It is also targeting the MQM. On October 13, the PML(N) activists picked up a brawl with the MQM members in the National Assembly.

It will not be an easy job for the PML(N) to ignite a nationwide agitation because it does not enjoy the support of any other party. No single party can start nationwide agitation. Recently, the Punjab government has attempted to win over the Jamaat-i-Islami by allowing its student wing to hold its annual three-day congregation in the premises of the Punjab University despite strong opposition by the University Administration. This was a Jamaat-i-Islami political show whose leadership obtained permission from the Chief Minister. The university had to be closed for one-day to accommodate the political meeting.

All political parties, in power or outside, should understand that their brute struggle for power is self-destructive for them and the future of democracy. Pakistan faces serious internal threats due to economic problems and internal insecurity. These two problems cannot be addressed by street agitation or by pulling down federal or provincial governments. The major political parties should work towards addressing these problems rather than pulling each other’s legs. All of them can lose in this dangerous game.

Parents Urged Again to Limit TV for Youngest


Parents of infants and toddlers should limit the time their children spend in front of televisions, computers, self-described educational games and even grown-up shows playing in the background, the American Academy of Pediatrics warned on Tuesday. Video screen time provides no educational benefits for children under age 2 and leaves less room for activities that do, like interacting with other people and playing, the group said.

The recommendation, announced at the group’s annual convention in Boston, is less stringent than its first such warning, in 1999, which called on parents of young children to all but ban television watching for children under 2 and to fill out a “media history” for doctor’s office visits. But it also makes clear that there is no such thing as an educational program for such young children, and that leaving the TV on as background noise, as many households do, distracts both children and adults.

“We felt it was time to revisit this issue because video screens are everywhere now, and the message is much more relevant today that it was a decade ago,” said Dr. Ari Brown, a pediatrician in Austin, Tex., and the lead author of the academy’s policy, which appears in the current issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Dr. Brown said the new policy was less restrictive because “the Academy took a lot of flak for the first one, from parents, from industry, and even from pediatricians asking, ‘What planet do you live on?’ ” The recommendations are an attempt to be more realistic, given that, between TVs, computers, iPads and smartphones, households may have 10 or more screens.

The worry that electronic entertainment is harmful to development goes back at least to the advent of radio and has steadily escalated through the age of “Gilligan’s Island” and 24-hour cable TV to today, when nearly every child old enough to speak is plugged in to something while their parents juggle iPads and texts. So far, there is no evidence that exposure to any of these gadgets causes long-term developmental problems, experts say.

Still, recent research makes it clear that young children learn a lot more efficiently from real interactions — with people and things — than from situations appearing on video screens. “We know that some learning can take place from media” for school-age children, said Georgene Troseth, a psychologist at Peabody College at Vanderbilt University, “but it’s a lot lower, and it takes a lot longer.”

Unlike school-age children, infants and toddlers “just have no idea what’s going on” no matter how well done a video is, Dr. Troseth said.

The new report strongly warns parents against putting a TV in a very young child’s room and advises them to be mindful of how much their own use of media is distracting from playtime. In some surveys between 40 and 60 percent of households report having a TV on for much of the day — which distracts both children and adults, research suggests.

“What we know from recent research on language development is that the more language that comes in — from real people — the more language the child understands and produces later on,” said Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek, a professor of psychology at Temple University.

After the academy’s recommendation was announced, the video industry said parents, not professional organizations, were the best judges. Dan Hewitt, a spokesman for the Entertainment Software Association, said in an e-mail that the group has a “long and recognized record of educating parents about video game content and emphasizing the importance of parental awareness and engagement.”

“We believe that parents should be actively involved in determining the media diets of their children,” he said.

Few parents of small children trying to get through a day can resist plunking the youngsters down in front of the screen now and then, if only so they can take a shower — or check their e-mail.

“We try very hard not to do that, but because both me and my husband work, if we’re at home and have to take a work call, then yes, I’ll try to put her in front of ‘Sesame Street’ for an hour,” Kristin Gagnier, a postgraduate student in Philadelphia, said of her 2-year-old daughter. “But she only stays engaged for about 20 minutes.”

In one survey, 90 percent of parents said their children under 2 watched some from of media, whether a TV show like “Yo Gabba Gabba!” or a favorite iPhone app. While some studies find correlations between overall media exposure and problems with attention and language, no one has determined for certain which comes first.

The new report from the pediatrics association estimates that for every hour a child under 2 spends in front of a screen, he or she spends about 50 minutes less interacting with a parent, and about 10 percent less time in creative play. It recommends that doctors discuss setting “media limits” for babies and toddlers with parents, though it does not specify how much time is too much.

“As always, the children who are most at risk are exactly the very many children in our society who have the fewest resources,” Alison Gopnik, a psychologist at the University of California, said in an e-mail.

Pakhtun's status in Dubai
BY: Jehan Sher Yusufzai

Pakhtuns are famous for their tribal system and traditional culture. But this unfortunate nation has been the victim of internal and external intrigues since the British colonial period.Their land is green and fertile but without enough employment opportunities. This is because the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province has never been given its due share of the developmental projects launched in Pakistan.There is no dearth of talent among the Pakhtuns, but prejudiced politicians and elite have kept the community away from development. To survive in this situation the people have spread throughout the world to earn their livelihood. The Pakhtuns have some special qualities and habits for which they are respected not only in Pakistan but throughout the entire world, but one cannot find those qualities by studying Pakhtuns working in the UAE. The complaint is not for all the Pakhtuns but is focused on those who are uneducated, hailing from the far-flung areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.I have been working in the UAE since 2005. I feel very sad to see the ever-decreasing cultural values of Pakhtuns. In the 1970s, the construction boom of the Gulf countries attracted huge manpower from the South Asian countries. To benefit from the employment opportunities a large number of jobless Pakhtuns turned to the Gulf countries especially to the UAE and Saudi Arabia.According to a rough estimate more than 500,000 Pakhtuns are currently employed in the UAE. They are engaged in different professions — about 70 per cent of them in the transport industry and the remaining 30 per cent are employed in construction companies and odd jobs.Technology has revolutionised the world and the job market demands highly qualified workforce. But the Pakhtun youth who come to the UAE do not possess the required skills. Thus they cannot compete with other expats in this much advanced job market.Another problem is that the community members have to work in a multinational environment in the UAE, but few of them know how to deal with other staff members.It has also been observed that the people working here in various companies are not into nurturing healthier relationships for their own development. As a result of their inappropriate attitude, companies do not favour Pakhtun candidates at the time of recruitment.The financial position of the community is also not good as one can see huge businesses of Indians and Arab expatriates in the UAE market, whereas Pakhtuns only know how to drive taxis.Unfortunately, a Pakhtun generally does not have a financial plan to keep a balance between his income and expenditure. He earns money but does not know how to save it. Even when he sends money to his family back home it is without any specific schedule. It has also been noted that Pakhtuns spend lavishly on unnecessary things when they go back home on leave.The economic situation in the region has made their position weak and the salary structures of the workers are not very satisfactory in today’s recessionary environment. It is said that Pakhtuns are famous for their social contacts, but when it comes to those working in the UAE, the matter is quite different. They have developed a poor social system. The famous codes of Pakhtunwali such as hospitality, respect of the elderly, helping the sick and the needy no longer exists in the community here.Their joint accommodations (called dhara in the local dialect) are ruled by jealousy and they have failed to keep the inherited community values in their life in the UAE.Those elderly members of the community who have been living here since many decades do not help those who seek jobs although they can request their bosses.The community should have welfare organisations to assist its people in time of distress like other communities have in the country.A branch of AVT Khyber TV channel exists in Dubai but unfortunately it has never concentrated on problems confronted by the community. Its anchor focuses only on showing high-rise buildings and organises music shows which attract the Pakhtun youth to Dubai but they do not know the ground realties. The anchor has never pointed out the grievances and difficulties faced by the community.It is mentioned here the purpose of my description is not to devalue Pakhtun culture, rather I want to inform the ANP Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government of the problems the Pakhtun community isfacing in various Arab countries, particularly in the UAE. It would be better if the local government of the province appoints a commission of experts in Peshawar to examine the job markets in these countries and then evolve a comprehensive strategy to train the youth according to the job requirements. Also, the commission should be set up a small institute in Peshawar where the new overseas workforce will get preliminary information about the countries they wish to go before leaving the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Only then, they can regain their lost image, preserve their jobs and revive the traditions of Pakhtunwali. Now, with the advent of two Pashto TV channels -— the AVT Khyber and Shamshad TV – both can play a pivotal role in restoring the centuries’ old Pakhtun culture. The programmes, especially the cultural ones which are run on these channels are extremely fruitful for our new generation. This is why the channels are becoming popular among the Pakhtuns by leaps and bounds. I would like to remind their distinguished anchors to initiate such programmes which could create awareness among the expatriate Pakhtuns to cope with the challenges faced by them in the Arab Gulf countries.To make a long story short, lack of modern education, English language proficiency, latest job skills, rude attitude and ineptness at social interaction and dealings are the impediments being faced by Pakhtuns not only in the UAE but throughout the Mideast.