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The handshake that saves Saarc from Modiaarc

Amir Mateen KHATMANDU: The 18th Saarc Summit was saved from being declared as an utter failure by one small gesture—a handshake between Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi. The entire hall stood up in standing ovation and the two, perhaps noticing the jubilation, had to keep holding each other’s hands for some time. Nawaz extended his other hand to Afghanistan’s newly elected President Ashraf Ghani. The trio raised their clenched hands in air to respond to the intense capping. It all looked touching. As if the happiness of the one sixth of humanity that lives in South Asia hinged on this symbolic gesture. As if other Saarc members had heaved a sigh of relief hoping that this might release them from the curse of Indo-Pak rivalry that keeps their development hostage. Perhaps it was simply an outburst of two days’ tension caused by constant bad news. Not that anybody nurtured any high hopes from this Summit. It was clear from the word go that Pakistan would not initiate for peace after India’s unilateral cancellation of foreign secretaries’ talks. And India was not willing to retreat or, in the words of Pakistani official, “bite the dust” after its harsh stance. Yet the grim expressions shown by Nawaz Sharif and Nerndra Modi in the opening ceremony added to the tension. The Indian media that monopolises Nepal’s mini screen went haywire showing how macho was Modi. They replayed time and again where Modi did not care to even look at Nawaz Sharif while he passed by. One channel almost warned that if Nawaz tried the Mush trick by offering surprise handshake to Modi he would get a befitting response. The punchline was: Modi is a sharp shooter and no Vajpayee. Modi’s speech raised the ante further. Nawaz made an effort to confine himself to regional issues and not to vitiate the atmosphere any further. Modi sounded patronising and delivered a speech as a school teacher talks to students. There was too much of what I-Me-India would like to give Saarc ‘baby brothers’ only if they listened to his Pied-piper speech. It was ironic to listen to Modi’s grand vision about the Saarc, considering that it was because of his aggressive posturing against Pakistan that the regional organisation was not likely to progress further. But the Indian media was quick to give, well, a funny twist to his speech. Many channels interpreted that this was Modi’s grand move to isolate Pakistan as he intended to take the Saarc way forward even without Pakistan. “You might as well call it Modaarc,” I could not resist saying when pushed by a known anchor in a talk show. Who stops India from improving its business relations with the rest of its neighbors. Frankly, this has not happened in the last 60 years and is not likely to happen quickly no matter how you may apply Modinomics. he had given a go-ahead for Saarc progress with or without Pakistan. Sartaj Aziz was quick to welcome Modi’s big-brother role only “if India also starts behaving magnanimously as a big brother. The crux was: Act as Modi the magnanimous, not Modi the bully. All of this had other Saarc members worried, particularly Nepal. The hosts wanted at least a semblance of success to show off. There was no possibility of any structured Indo-Pak talks. But this did not stop journalists from checking every politician or bureaucrat that they could get hold of. Many suspected that there might be a Vajpayee moment; others were looking for a mere breaking of the ice. Even the three agreements on regional connectivity on energy, roads and railways looked in doldrums. The only possibility was an agreement on energy connectivity. But when Pakistan removed its objections, India raised its own, tying the signing of one with the other two. Either all of them or none! This got the Nepalese panicked. We could see the topi-wearing Nepalese running around in desperation. Thankfully, everybody agreed on the energy agreement. Finally, the ice broke at the retreat. There was hardly any choice for Nawaz and Modi who, along with other Saarc, leaders for locked up for over four hours. Nawaz Sharif confirmed that they shook hands first at the retreat and also exchanged pleasantries like decent people. “What else could we do; after all we are responsible adults; if our secretaries are not talking that does not mean we can’t say hello to each other; we can’t act like children and turn our faces the other way.” But he clarified that this does not change the Pak-India reality. Pakistan’s position remains the same that it will be India that will make the first move. We are told the Nepalese, backed by the Afghans and Sri Lankans, also helped ease up the atmosphere. We asked lots of questions to Prime Minister Nawaz on the plane? What is the future of talks with India? Does his chat with amount to a Saarc success? Will there be a follow up on this? He parried most questions by merely reiterating Pakistan’s position, saying, “only time will tell.” Yeah! only time will tell.

Guessing game over Nawaz-Modi meeting

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Amir Mateen
Wednesday, November 26, 2014 

KATMANDU: Let’s face it: the regional cooperation envisioned in SAARC charter cannot materialise meaningfully without Pakistan and India resolving their major differences.

 

This is reminded, once again, by the state of affairs here after nearly 30 years of the SAARC formation. On paper, there exists an ambitious agenda for the 18th SAARC Summit. This includes various initiatives for intra-regional connectivity through electricity, railways and roads, which might result into three possible agreements among SAARC members. What connectivity, you might ask considering the ground reality. The SAARC Big Two, Pakistan and India, are not even talking to each other, let alone mending their messy fences. You might find the summit theme “deeper integration for peace and prosperity” even more ironic.

 

Behind this charade of diplomatese and massive paraphernalia, the buck stops at the will-they-won’t-they suspense over a possible Nawaz-Modi meeting. Aboard the Prime Minister’s plane, Nawaz Sharif candidly admitted that India had left no choice for Pakistan after cancelling talks between the foreign secretaries of the two countries. He was absolutely clear that the request for talks has to come from the Indian side as “the ball is in India’s court.” He was so careful with his words that he particularly cautioned us (journalists) not to misquote him on this grave matter. He even requested us not to use an off-the-record joke that could be misconstrued.

 

He minced no words in admitting that the “obstacles” between Pakistan and India are not likely to let SAARC achieve its potential. If the European Union (EU) could integrate their economies and borders why can’t we have some minimal regional cooperation.” So true, considering that SAARC only has five per cent regional trade in comparison to the EU’s 65 per cent.

 

Obviously, Modi’s backhanded response to Nawaz Sharif’s extraordinary gesture of attending the Indian Prime Minister’s oath-taking had put the Pakistan Premier in an awkward situation. Modi comes to Nepal riding on the crest of successive victories, the recent being the BJP breakthrough in Maharashtra and Hariana’s elections.

 

However, Nawaz Sharif’s situation may not be so rosy. He will have to constantly look over his shoulders to check out on events back home where Imran Khan is all set to invade Islamabad again. The last thing he wants is Imran Khan to accuse him of a sell-out on India.

 

Perhaps Modi also has to take into account his domestic situation.

 

Even if we forget the RSS pressure, many insist, Modi may not want to show flexibility on Pakistan in the middle of elections in (Indian Occupied) Kashmir. Not after raising the ante by escalating tensions on the LOC and by attempting to change the constitutional status of Kashmir. But others insist that Modi also needs to deflect international pressure on restarting Indo-Pak dialogue before Barack Obama’s visit.

 

The rare spirit shown by SAARC heads of governments and states to attend Modi’s oath-taking is long gone. Five of the eight SAARC countries have got new governments but the contours of regional politics are yet to clear up. And it is not just Nawaz Sharif who feels awkward at the hands of Modi. Nepal’s ruling alliance got its share of flak when Modi almost chastised it on his arrival not to delay writing its Constitution. He said that he did not want to interfere in Nepal’s internal affairs but this was precisely interference. This was hardly the way to respond to splendid display of hospitality extended by Nepali people to SAARC leaders. Half of the city was there to welcome them with a spectacular show of Nepal’s cultural diversity, which, we are told, cost $30 million.

 

We don’t know what Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani might have in store when he meets Modi for the first time. Ghani is definitely no (Modi-fan) Karzai and may have ruffled a few feathers by going first to China and Pakistan while emanating some positive vibes. What we know is that Pakistan is pushing for China’s entry into SAARC from the status of an observer to a full member. Just as it was difficult for Pakistan to veto Afghanistan’s entry into SAARC it would become difficult for India to maintain its veto against China. If India can become a partner with China in BRICS and the recently formed China’s Asian replica of the IMF, it will have to come up with difficult to ignore logic to curtail China in Saarc.

 

Nutshell: The chances of a formal Nawaz-Modi meeting are slim. But the Indo-Pak politics has a way of surprising twists and another one can’t Be ruled out. The only way it will happen is if the Indians make a move and Pakistan gives them a face-saving way out of their very harsh stance. In any case, Nawaz and Modi will come across each other on at least four occasions in two days. It will be interesting to see if the two could maintain stern expressions on their faces for so long.

 

Hundreds of cameras will be looking for a small change in the mood.You never know when a smile leads to a small talk, which in turn can turn into a bigger exchange of, well, whatever. It’s unlikely but we journalists live in the hope of capturing some rare feats.

Sadia Widad-Ruma another victum of Rape will she get Justice

Sadia Widad

 

On 28thSeptember night around 12:30, saw a news tracker

 

She asked me I don’t want to merry I want  to get midwifery training  so that I could spent independent life, but we don’t know that her life would be victim of Rape and took her life told  Hidayet Mashi wiping his tears. He is Father of 23years old Ruma Miryem.

Ruma Miryem who was Raped 28th of September 2014 in Rawalpindi by Suhail , Jaqoub  and 3 other men and died because of internal Rapture in Bilal Hospital Rawalpindi.

Ruma Miryem was youngest among 6 sisters belongs to very poor Christen family of Chak 38DB Khushaband her father hardly afford her admission fee at Midwifery school. Her father Hidayet Mashi sends her to fulfil her dream. To pay her Hostel  and living expenses  her Brother in Law Mr.Nasir asked who is also from Chak 38DB Khushab  and running a Patient care center here in Rawalpindi which provides medical care at doorstep , so  Suhail Promised that he would give her one week training and then she could earn weekly 2 thousand which give her some pecuniary  relief but that’s not what happened she was  trapped by suhail and asked her to come to his office for training and after two hours he called her brother in law that Ruma came to our office and she was bleeding so we took her to hospital and she is not fine come as soon as possible she might not survive and after 2 hours he called Nasir again that she died.

According to hospital sources she was bleeding heavily that showed form inside.

SHO   Police Station Statalite town Ijaz Shah told that they captured both Suahil Mashi & Jacob Williem (Unlce & Nephew )  FIR registered under 302, 109 act  but waiting for DNA which is long process and it might take 6 to 8 months as only one

Department which issued this report and its look after all over Punjab, and we are bound to wait for the report because after this hideous act Suhail Mashi

Accused  that Ruma was characterless and was pregnant with 2 months ,while undergoing DNC her uterus damaged and  heavy bleeding let her to death our only crime was to took her to hospital and put my name in hospital admission form as her husband because we want to save her life.

Ruma Maryam’s Father said that we are very poor but still buoyant that if police will follow the law and no one tried to get influence them his Daughter will receive Justice.

 

 

Sadia Widad is a  radio journalist who has worked in development media sector as a media trainer and mentor. She tweets as @swidad (twitter.com/swidad)

Shadowy group pressures Oxford Uni students to drop Malala, Hamid Mir

By Murtaza Ali Shah
A shadowy group calling itself the World Congress of Overseas Pakistanis (WCOP) arm-twisted the organizers of Pakistan Future Leaders Conference (PFLC) 2014 at Oxford University to drop known journalist Hamid Mir from the panel of speakers and not invite Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousufzai in what has been described as the “victory of money and influence over truth and justice.”

PFLC, an initiative of the Oxford University Pakistan Society (OUPakSoc) held annually since 2010 for two days, started on Friday evening and concluded on Sunday (2nd October, 2014).

This scribe understands that WCOP is bankrolling this conference in the tune of around £5,000, which includes payments for local expenses and airfares of two persons from Pakistan, including a ‘favoured’ journalist - a former USAID consultant and government-servant-turned TV anchor.
The conference organizers at this prestigious university, which has a rich tradition of providing platforms for expressing all types of views, had earlier distributed leaflets and extended invitations, billing renowned Geo TV host Hamid Mir as a keynote speaker. An organiser had told this correspondent that Malala Yousufzai would also be invited, but this would not be disclosed until the last minute due to security concerns. 
Other publicized speakers included former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, veteran Pashtun leader MahmoodKhan Achakzai, analyst Saleem Safi and High Commissioner Syed Ibn Abbas.
WCOP had earlier committed to fund this year’s PFLC, and the choice of speakers, as per tradition, was left to the PFLC organisers. However, recently, the organisers were shocked when WCOP started warning them that all sponsorships in cash and kind will be withdrawn unless Hamid Mir and Malala Yousafzai are dropped and disinvited.
The WCOP also approached other small sponsors of the conference, asking them to withdraw their sponsorships. An organiser of the conference told The News that these sponsors had also told them that the presence of Malala Yousufzai and Hamid Mir will not be liked by two main directors of the WCOP, who are believed to have forced their agenda on the students without taking the rest of WCOP directors into confidence.
An organiser of the PFLC 2014, while requesting anonymity, told this scribe: “We were pressured to go against our two national heroes who are a pride of Pakistan and globally recognized for their contribution topublic causes. The problem is we don’t have money and thus have to rely on sponsors. The WCOP directors also used some officials from Pakistan High Commission to pressure us and we were left with no choice. We are sorry but it’s the victory of money and influence over truth and justice.”
The insider went on to say, “We were also told not to say a word about it or we will face consequences, there were financial threats and threats of dire consequences if we didn’t comply. We were literally put on the mat through heavy-handed tactics by the WCOP.”
When approached for the comment, a spokesman of the WCOP refused to disclose how much it was paying for sponsoring the PFLC 2014 and whether the payment was in cash.
“We are only liable to disclose this information to our members and office holders,” said the spokesperson.
The WCOP spokesperson added: “Hamid Mir firstly agreed but then apologised due to a conflicting appointment at Yale University. Malala's father declined due to her upcoming exams. PFLC has record of these conversations.”
The News is aware that Hamid Mir had cancelled another international engagement on the same days to accept the invitation offered to him by the OUPakSoc whose office-bearers have confirmed that Hamid Mir had agreed to speak at the event after their repeated requests.
A Pakistan High Commission spokesman refused to answer when asked that one of its senior officials had been involved in pressuring the students in association with the WCOP to drop Hamid Mir and MalalaYousufzai. The spokesman said: “We always support academic and cultural activities of Pakistani students studying in the UK. Therefore, the Mission is also supporting this event of the Pakistani students at Oxford.”
A senior director of the WCOP on condition of anonymity accepted that the platform of the group had been abused without the knowledge of those who support it. “We are definitely going to raise this issue and will ensure that the culprits are pinpointed.”
OUPakSoc leader Faraz Janan confirmed to The News that his society “does not have its own funding resources, as typically for any other student society, and we rely on external sources for our large events”.
Janan paid tribute to Hamid Mir and what he has achieved professionally. “We honour the professional calibre of Hamid Mir, keeping in view his esteemed journalism, his fight for democracy and contributions to the field of journalism which has been recognized by international institutions and the Government of Pakistan.”
But he refused to answer any questions about the involvement of the WCOP stating that the OUPakSocwill not “disclose” its budget. “I assure you that we have an audit system in place, which has a set procedure to tally and all finances are dealt with complete transparency.”
 
 
Murtaza Ali Shah, GEO and Jang Correspondent from London, tweets at @MurtazaGeoNews 
 

Marvi's expertise as media expert is impeccable from Mush to Sharif

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Amir Mateen

Islamabad—The PPP did exactly what it was expected to do—walkout from the National Assembly to show solidarity with the jailed workers of Oil and Gas Development Authority.

This happened after PPP’s Shazia Marri made a fiery speech. She was spot on to ask why the government sent the wretched protestors to jail after beating them blue with batons. They were, after all, a bunch of hapless workers out to save their bread-provider company from corporate sharks and vultures.

It was funny listening to Chief Whip, Aftab Sheikh, saying that the protesters had violated Section 144 that prohibited people from assembling in Islamabad. Come on, Sheikh sahb! You have many more anarchists still assembled at D-Chowk for the last 77 days. Many of them were found vandalizing PTV, the Parliament, even attempting to take over the PM House. Yet the government did not gather courage to take them on. Why take it out on some benign OGDC workers?

Khursheed Shah dubs Aftab as “Amrit dhaara,” the one who fits into every role. He is a one-man squad who covers for the lapses of the entire PML (N) cabinet. But the stocky whip from Attock has a way of getting carried away sometimes. It was funnier that Aftab remarked that the opposition was trying to steal limelight off the PML (N)’s great leap forward. Mao must be turning in his grave for the sacrilege of his leap mantra. We didn’t know whether to laugh or cry over this. Here was a government that was gasping for breath to survive. As if the PML (N) troubles were not enough, Senator Zulfiqar Khosa chose perfect timing to announce his, Brutus-like, parting of the ways with the Sharif clan. His claim that many more grave-diggers lurked in the ranks must have caused sleepless nights to PML (N) high command. After all, such betrayals are a family tradition in the battalions of ‘electable turncoats’ that PML (N) had herded to get into power. What did they expect from them? Many wait to be adjusted in the Cabinet. Others like Raza Hyat Hiraj have suddenly discovered dissenting themes.

Yet Aftab invoked Mao’s spirit to cover up for vacant Cabinet rows. Like most others, Chaudhary Nisar stayed away from the scene to avoid any more trouble. He hardly goes to the ever-belligerent Senate and he might just stop coming to the National Assembly as well—if the PPP continued with its ‘hooliganism.’ Or so hinted his sympathizers in the Press Gallery.

It made political sense for the PPP not to miss a rabble-rousing opportunity. With the PTI all out to monopolize opposition on the streets, now threatening Fortress Larkana, the PPP can’t afford to take it lying down. It is trying to bring into play old PPP planks of socialism, liberalism and economic equality, chanting Bhuttoism mantras. Perhaps too late in the day. How many terms of power do they need as compensation for the Bhutto sacrifices, one may ask.

Obviously, Bilawal’s tenth launching has not electrified PPP sympathizers in the way his new advisors had imagined. Old-timers like Aitezaz Ahsan, Raza Rabbani, Taj Haider know that nothing can change until Dady Zardari and Aunt Faryal rule the roost but do not have the courage to say it openly. At least not before the Senate elections in March. Sad.

The current National Assembly session ended on an impasse with no clear picture of where politics is headed. The PTI has accomplished some marvelous feats by mobilizing its cadres and reaching out to masses. Imran has definitely honed his communication skills. The chattering classes hate his repetitive rhetoric but he connects with the ordinary folk on complicated issues in simple language. But the PTI has not been able to decide whether it should fight its war from within the system (read parliament) or outside.

This was visible from the farcical show put up by the PTI this week. Grow up, guys, either you take the plunge or you don’t. Even his detractors admit that Imran will continue to mobilize big crowds in Islamabad in grand jalsas. The question is: whether he would be able to maintain the momentum in what is surely a long haul—a test match where, by the way, the skipper has the least percentage of winning (29 per cent) among all Pakistani cricket captains. And his ratio of drawn test is the highest. So it’s a draw so far.

What suits Imran is that the ruling party has utterly failed to respond to his challenge. The PML (N) is overly focused on the Cabinet reshuffle. As if this will be a panacea to all its woes. One is really tempted to know the criteria on which the reshuffle will be based. For all we know the trouble lies with the three major ministries dealing with the three biggest challenges of economy, energy and internal security. The issue is how to change or mend the Big Three at aged 60 plus. Enough is written about the failures in energy and internal security but the economic challenge is no less grave.

Somehow Ishaq Dar is stuck in the 1990s. Such is the power and aura of the Finance Ministry that other important institutions do not grow under its shadow. This includes autonomous bodies like the State Bank, the Planning Commission, even the Commerce Ministry and most regulating authorities that are needed even more while practicing unhinged liberalism and deregulation. Many think that Dar might do a better job in Commerce. Well, the issue is whether the PM has the stomach to bell the big cats. Forget the kittens that can be changed, diapered or thrown out.

Tail piece: Marvi Memon deserves kudos for presenting the annual report of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on media, broadcasting and national heritage. Her credentials of being a media expert are matchless. We know her father was Information Minister with Musharraf who facilitated her job as advisor to ISPR on media. We are told she was handy to advise Mush on foreign media at breakfast meetings. Jamali, Shujaat and Shaukat Aziz also took advantage of her immense expertise. She fell out with Imran Khan when he backed out after making her PTI’s Information Secretary. Or so we are told.

Alhamdulillah, Marvi is very much part of the government’s media team. No wonder the PML (N) is doing so well on the media front. But her forte is that she adapts to new situations, new leaders and new parties very well--and in record time. She has the ability to dig greatness in everybody she works with—even where there might be none. The last compliment is given by a person no less than former Prime Minister Chaudhary Shujaat Hussain. Mitti Pao!

Man from Chakri brings Parliament to deadlock--once again

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Amir Mateen

Islamabad—Chaudhary Nisar faces an unenviable situation for any politician. Anybody with weaker nerves would have given up politics and long gone home.

But not our man from Chakri! He stood his ground even when the PPP opposition walked out of the National Assembly twice in a single day.

Nisar seems to have a permanent fixture with the PPP. The last time he had used the T-word (tamasha) for the opposition behaviour, the Senate went on a month-long boycott and held its proceedings in the parking lot. We saw Round Two of his spat with the PPP recently when he had provoked Senator Aitezaz Ahsan with some offensive remarks. This had happened in the middle of the dharna war when the government could not afford to lose the PPP support against the PTI. A person no less than the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had to apologize to Aitezaz to bring the PPP back to the joint parliamentary session.

Round Three seemed almost like a repeat sequel of the earlier episode. Nisar has developed a knack for landing into trouble the moment he says something on the floor. The opposition was fuming over the use of “excessive power” by Islamabad administration against the workers who were protesting against OGDC privatization on Wednesday. Senator Raza Rabbani had taken up the issue in the Senate a day earlier. PPP’s Khursheed Shah followed it up in the National Assembly by boycotting the proceedings after invoking the spirit of Carl Marx to rescue the hapless labourers. MQM’s Rasheed Godel chipped in to uphold the working class revolution. So far, so good. Enters Jamshed Dasti who was booked a day earlier for supporting the rabble-rousers. He sat on the Assembly floor when he was denied to speak. Amid all this high class drama, walked in Chaudhary Nisar—perhaps for the first time in the ongoing session.

Nisar was politically correct to offer an inquiry. He said that he did not know that the administration had used such harsh means but asked for some ground rules for managing such rallies. What ground rules? The suggestion seemed funny after the D-Chowk mayhem. The PTI-PAT workers violated every rule under the sun and yet the administration did not have the guts to resist them. In contrast, a bunch of OGDC workers subjected to intense tear-gas and baton-charge for a much lesser crime. Then Nisar walked out while Khursheed Shah had taken the floor to give his opinion. This was seen as an affront by the otherwise dovish Khursheed Shah who went on to blast the PML (N) government: “you are not only blind but deaf too; it’s this very attitude that keeps causing trouble for the PML(N) government.”

The leader of the opposition went on to walk out second time in a row. Nisar returned after a while and wondered “why should the opposition stage such tamasha.” This was sure to keep the PPP away for the rest of the day—if not the current session. Half of the opposition is already on the streets threatening to resign from the National Assembly. Nisar made sure that the other half walked out leaving him relish ‘sunjian gallian’ as it happens in Mirza-Sahiba episode. He had an unmatched political career as an eight-time continuous winner until he landed in the troublesome Interior Ministry. He was seen as the biggest stumbling block against the war against Taliban. In retrospect, his arguments about the consequences of the operation seem so inaccurate. He could be easily held responsible for a one-year delay in Zarb-i-Azb, which cost us thousands of innocent lives. One would really like to see how Nisar will defend his ministry’s performance in the much-hyped Cabinet overhaul exercise that is supposed to start today.

In the larger context, the government’s privatization exercise seems as good as dead under the circumstances. The PML (N) wasted its honeymoon year when things were much smoother. It could have at least convinced the stake-holders about the soundness of its plan. It will be worth watching how the government will proceed on such ambitious agenda in such divisive times. The PTI is all set to roll stones against any PML (N) policy. And the PPP too is not likely to play ball on the privatization issue. Here is the damned-if-you-do and damned-if-you- don’t PML (N) dilemma. The PML can’t get out of its economic morass if it does not sort out mess in loss-making corporations. Yet the unstable political circumstances leave little room for executing such a grand exercise.

Tail piece: The PTI resignation issue is turning out to be such a farce. It could have easily turned up in the National Assembly to solemnize the resignations. Obviously, nobody wants to resign. Big Khan has already lost 20 per cent of his members in the National Assembly (seven out of 34 members). There is a big chance that the ratio might shoot up if Imran insisted on his decision. Friday is the last day before the current National Assembly session goes for a break. Chances are that the PTI will while it away to extract more time, hoping that this might prompt Imran to rethink about his decision. We keep our fingers crossed.

Tail piece 2: It was funny seeing Raza Hiraj talking about democratic practices and political morality. The gentleman turned into a Patriot turncoat (lota) on the first day that he entered the parliament in 2002. Since then he has changed three parties in as many elections. Yet he had the audacity to talk about political scruples.

Tail piece 3: Sheikh Rasheed must be the most relieved person if Imran Khan changes his mind on resignations. He said he would have no choice but to resign if the PTI goes ahead with the decision. There would be by-elections in four national and eight provincial constituencies in Rawalpindi-Islamabad area. It will be a tough call for the Sheikh from Lal Haveli to stay isolated in such trying circumstances. Wrong qurbani—isn’t it?  

 

Test of nerves as PTI resignations loom

Amir Mateen
Thursday, October 30, 2014

 

ISLAMABAD: Why doesn’t the PML-N get it? We all know that the PTI wants the National Assembly dissolved as it believes that it’s fake, redundant and what not.

 

The PML-N seems to support the PTI argument. Or so it seems from its revived practice of ignoring the Parliament. The trio of the Cabinet Big three — Ch Nisar, Ishaq Dar and Khawaja Asif — seem to have developed a certain anathema for the Parliament. Their presence in the House has become more scant than of the prime minister, who, by the way, is seen around more than his ministers. After all, it’s his neck that is on the line.

 

The problem is that the Parliament proceedings seem meaningless in the absence of the major ministers. For instance, one expected Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar to brief us about the Muharram security arrangements particularly after the bomb explosion outside a Karachi Imambargah. Forget about the much-hyped national security policy and the ineffective National Counter-Terror Authority, Nisar needs to brief the House about the ongoing Zarb-e-Azb every now and then. Half of the assembly proceedings revolved around the war against terrorists. Abdul Qadir Baloch did a good job explaining the official concerns about the rehabilitation of the Internally Displaces Persons (IDPs). But Nisar was required to explain the larger consequences of what remains Pakistan’s biggest war.

 

The story about the energy issue was no different. PPP’s Khursheed Shah wanted to understand the logic behind the ever-increasing electricity rates. He continued to mention that oil price in the international market have downed from $116 to $86 but the prices of electricity has increased by 46 percent in the last six months. He believed that the average cost for an electricity unit is Rs7 whereas the government charges around Rs22. Will somebody explain why, asked the Leader of the Opposition. We don’t know whether to approach Khawaja Asif for the response or Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, whom the man from Sialkot blames in the Cabinet meeting for meddling in his ministry.

 

Khursheed Shah sounded ominous when he said that “the government thinks the crisis is over; let me remind you that the black clouds still hover all around.” He drew the government attention to the closure of Pakistan Steel Mills and minced no words in reminding the government that it should take the opposition along on its major policies “if you want our help.” It was difficult to say whether this was an advice or a warning. The reference was obviously about the PTI resignations. We all knew that the 25-member PTI squad was sitting in the Deputy Speaker’s office to tender its resignations. Our mole tells us that three PTI MNAs —Nowshehra’s Siraj Muhammad, Swat’s Saleemur Rehman and Fata’s Qaiser Jamal — have openly defied the party leadership over resigning. This takes the tally of PTI rebels to seven out of total 34 (after the earlier defection of three others plus Javed Hashmi). PTI claims Shehryar Afridi is unwell but has committed to abide by the party decision. This goes without saying that none of the PTI members wants to resign. All of them resisted Imran Khan in unison on Tuesday night but the Big Khan would not let their Big arguments come in the way of the Big Revolution. Imran’s final verdict was a resounding NO. Hence everybody lined up to appear before the Speaker collectively.

 

Unsurprisingly, the government took the refuge behind the argument that every PTI should appear before the Speaker individually. This amounted to buying more time besides checking out if more PTI members were inclined to defect from their party ranks. It was easier for the PTI as well to simply go in the House and announce their resignations as was done by Javed Hashmi. They might just do it on Thursday (today) as claimed by some PTI stalwarts. But the question remains: how big this will be a jolt for the government.

 

Obviously, this does not auger well for the still nascent democratic process. The government, pushed to a wall, might just go ahead and hold the by-elections. This will only nudge the PTI further to play the role of a more aggressive spoiler, which could keep the polity more dead-locked. But this does not resolve the PTI problems. Who will force the governments in Balochistan and Sindh to dissolve Assemblies – even if the PML-N is pushed to hold national elections?

 

For all we know even Pervaiz Khattak has simply refused to oblige the Big Khan. This is why the PTI defies its own logic by not dissolving its own KP government. The PTI stands to lose over half of its party if Big Khan chooses to impose his decision in the KP. And how will the PTI ensure that the Parliament drafts electoral rules in accordance with PTI taste after resigning from the National Assembly. Of course, this is more about the ego of Big Khan who wants to offer the National Assembly members as sacrificial lambs. If it’s really about political logic or principles, the PTI should resign from the KP Assembly also.

 

Whatever the case, the PTI resignations are likely to add to political instability. It’s a big gamble for the PTI. It is yet to be seen if Imran Khan could maintain the political pressure to force early elections or loses his gusto in the coming months or perhaps years. There is only one way that the mid-term polls are possible: if Nawaz Sharif chooses to dissolve the National Assembly. In a way, this will be a bigger test for Nawaz Sharif than for the PTI to hold on to his nerves. In the meantime, it will require more than a Cabinet reshuffle to ward off the upcoming political crisis. And why should the prime minister decide about the fate of his Cabinet in closed door meetings. Why can’t his ministers give their presentation before the Parliament for everybody to see their performance? As if we don’t know about it. If only they had worked half of what they will claim in their presentations, the PML-N government would not be facing the crisis that it does.

The stalemate lingers on

Amir Mateen
Wednesday, October 29, 2014

 

Islamabad: The good thing about Pakistani politics is that nothing changes in a matter of weeks. You return to Parliament after a long vacation and find the political stalemate lingering on, except that the pendulum seemed to have swung slightly in favour of the PML-N government.

 

The parting of ways by Tahirul Qadri seemed to have punctured the dharna mast. The Constitution Avenue had partially recovered its glory. Gone were the baton-wielding PAT urchins who relished physical searching of the snooty Islamabad journalists, sarkari babus and the uniformed personnel who had to pass through the area to simply do their jobs. Also gone was much of the stench and filth that violated the sanctity of the symbolic structures that represented the will of the people. Maulana Qadri, who loves to lecture on every thing under the sun, perhaps forgot to sermon his followers a tad about the Islamic virtues of hygiene.

 

However, Imran Khan remains entrenched in one corner of the so-called D-Chowk. The sit-in may have lost its ferocity and mystique, which was largely created by an over-arching halo of conspiracy extending from Rawalpindi, London to as far as the North Pole. Yet the Big Khan vows to keep the D-Chowk aflame even “if he had to live alone in a tent.” Brave words indeed! We really don’t know what to make of this. Even his party stalwarts are not sure whether to love him or hate him for this. What we know is that Imran is unlikely to translate his gains into political objectives if he goes ahead with his plan of appearing in Parliament on Wednesday (today) to solemnise PTI resignations.

 

The gamble is likely to leave behind a hazy trail of unknowns. The resignations would deny the PTI the chance to contribute in electoral reforms, which was supposedly the main objective of its movement. The resignations, many say, might have had a bigger impact if Imran Khan had given them at the peak of his dharna. What if many more in the party refuse to resign? Will the PTI also resign from the KP Assembly? It is a catch-22 situation either way. If it is about principles then the PTI should resign from everywhere. The party, if it resigns from the KP Assembly, might confront an AAP-like situation, which got wiped off in India’s national elections as it failed to deliver in Delhi. The PTI is yet to deliver on its promise of an ideal KP government. There is a plethora of questions that surround the resignation issue.

 

This just might be the reason that the PML-N was found relaxed in the National Assembly. It was beginning to give vibes of victory, perhaps too early. Things seemed to have returned to old PML-N ways. The session started late with hardly any quorum in the House. The front rows of ministers were, once again, missing. It was only when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif came to the Assembly that a few ministers cared to turn up.

 

One can’t blame Nawaz Sharif from staying away from Parliament. The moment he entered the House a beeline of backbenches swarmed him one after another to give him applications. We could guess that most of them were requests for exemptions, quotas, licences, appointments, transfers and postings of their kith and kin, mostly in violation of standard rules. This is what governance is all about in Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif gets good marks as benevolent and magnificent in the party if he obliges his members. Who cares if this leads to a travesty of the rule of law and justice? He is dubbed as arrogant and rudely inaccessible if he doesn’t. This might be the crucial test for Nawaz Sharif, which will define his third tenure as prime minister.

 

This might also be the crux of Nawaz Sharif’s dilemma. His power rests on the patronage system where he obliges a grand mix of turncoat ‘electables’ through such ad-hoc bounties. But then he desperately needs to come up with drastic out-of-the-box solutions to appease the masses who, like it or not, have been galvanised by Imran Khan’s rhetoric.

 

Surely, Imran was able to put the complacent PML-N government on the defensive on its dynastic style of governance. He successfully drew public attention towards the elitist monopoly over power where ordinary folk have little chance of getting justice. It is crucial for Nawaz Sharif to neutralise this perception. The issue is how to go about it.

 

The Cabinet reshuffling and expansion is important, as the present lot has miserably failed to deliver. We saw the whole ruling party stirred up into action lobbying for a place in the Cabinet. Somehow the Big Four in the Cabinet are over confident that the party does not have the guts to change them. Maximum, there might be a change of portfolio but it should look like an elevation rather than demotion. Or so they believe. We keep our fingers crossed as Nawaz Sharif, we are told, means business this time around. The lot of junior minister and new entrants is having sleepless nights. We saw Anusha Rehman suddenly taking credit for enlisting Pakistan in some UN fraternity, forget the billion dollar grey traffic that continues in her ministry. We also saw Marvi Memons of the world giving look-busy impression jumping from one seat to another to show ‘performance.’ Even Ejazul Haq elbowed his way in to sit with the Prime Minister to clarify old enmities. Senator Abbas Afridi refuses to leave the front Cabinet row lest Nawaz Sharif forgets to give him a portfolio this time. But, then, is Cabinet reshuffle the answer to Nawaz Sharif’s problems?

 

The malaise, it seems, might be much deeper than that. It is yet to be seen whether Team Nawaz Sharif has any bright ideas to address what ails our society. Of course, the key areas are economic, energy and security. But then it is much more than that.

 

Tailpiece: We just hope that Nawaz Sharif gives us solutions in tangible form and not in the domain of spirituality as offered by one of his ministers today. Riaz Pirzada was asked about the steps that the government might have taken to avert any damage from the up-coming cyclone in Sindh. He said that being the scion of a spiritual family, his prayers were more powerful than the disaster management authority. As simple as that!

PM’s UN visit could’ve been made better

View from the Gallery
Sunday, September 28, 2014 

UNITED NATIONS: When it comes to the annual session of the General Assembly you can’t escape the Pakistan-India rivalry.

 

While the world is more focused on the escalating war over the Islamic State, the ever-deteriorating environment and the ever-increasing terrorism, South Asian watchers were more interested in the tit-for-tat war of words between Pakistan and India.

 

However, the context may have changed drastically for the two countries this time around.

 

Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi comes to the UN riding on the crest of an aggressive agenda, which will be followed by his formal visit to the United States. This is quite a turnaround for Modi who was denied a visa to Washington for his alleged role in Gujarat’s anti-Muslim riots.

 

Modi now looks forward to increase India’s bilateral trade with the US from $100 billion to $500 billion in this decade. He brings along an ambitious wish list that includes bilateral visa reforms, cooperation in IT and defence industries.

 

Modi was declared as “the most sought-after Prime Minister” by the New York Times. Heads of top US multinational companies, including General Motors, are lined up to seek meeting with the new Indian Prime Minister. Modi promises to open Indian market to them, which, in turn, would help turn around the Indian economy. The saffron-clad Modi launches a cultural invasion by mostly speaking in shudh Hindi. His public address to 30,000 Indians at New York’s Madison Gardens will be shown live to more thousands at the iconic Times Square.

 

All of this is in sharp contrast to an overly subdued and lacklustre visit of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. It was a credit enough that Nawaz was able to make it to the United Nations during a pestering political crisis back home. His arrival at least dispelled the perception that Pakistan was bursting at the seams with its Capital still hostage to marauding PTI hordes. The very hordes gathered a record crowd of over 1,000 protestors before the UN building to shout out their prime minister’s speech with “go-Nawaz-go” slogans. This vandalism kept Nawaz Sharif away from any public appearance, let alone from showing up on Times Square screens.

 

The only nuclear Muslim country, Iraq and Afghanistan, that should be important in the two flashpoints where the world and the United State are still bogged down. Yet everybody seemed more interested in what Iranian President Rouhani, Palestinian President Abbas and Egyptian President Sisi had to say. That Pakistan got little attention was more because of the country than its beleaguered leader. Like it or not, the world is interested in us for all the wrong reasons — terrorism, nuclear non-proliferation, Islamic radicalism and what not.

 

Yet Nawaz Sharif’s diplomatic team could have played a better hand even under difficult circumstances. They did not emphasise the prime minister not to stay over night in London. This made him miss host Barack Obama’s opening speech and then he skipped UN Secretary General’s lunch where he could have interacted with hundreds of world leaders. Obama gave time to the Ethiopian prime minister but we were reduced to the level of Vice-President Joe Biden. All they could do was to arrange PM’s bilateral meeting with minions representing Nepal and Norway.

 

And somebody wrongly advised him to meet, of all people, controversial tycoon George Soros. No doubt, Soros is helping civil society in Pakistan but no prime minister worth his or her salt would risk meeting him, considering his dubious role East Asian economic meltdown crisis.

 

It was funny how his advisers were found playing musical chairs during his address to the UN. It was awkward that Nawaz friend Sheikh Saeed was seated next to him while the adviser on foreign affairs was initially missing and then seated in the back row. Nawaz Sharif was the probably the only head of the government who had a uniformed military secretary sitting behind him. Even military juntas of Egypt and Myanmar avoided showing off khakis.

 

With so little to accomplish, the best option was to go extra harsh on the K-word, chest thumping to the Indians to lay-off. Not only did Nawaz remind the UN about its forgotten responsibility towards the plight of Kashmiris but he also expressed his disappointment that India had stalled talks by cancelling meetings between their foreign secretaries. This was the strongest support for the Kashmir cause in decades, which should make our hawks happy.

 

So it was quite expected that Modi had to respond to that by suggesting Pakistan to try the bilateral route if it wants to play the game of ‘Friends.’ But then Modi generally ignored Pakistan and focused on a greater agenda where he wants India to be in the bigger league of Security Council members. Surely, Nawaz Sharif made it a point by opposing any new permanent membership of the UN Security Council. This ended the India-Pakistan relations back to its earlier of one-step-forward-two-backwards mode. But then who cares where the world and the UN were headed. We still need to sort out our domestic laundry that our brethren were washing on the streets on New York this week.

Parliament leaves Dharnas to die their own death

Is the flood disaster man-made?View from the Gallery
Saturday, September 20, 2014 

Islamabad: So Parliament’s longest ever joint session ended with just a cosmetic admonition to dharna-wallas to behave and then go home. And if they didn’t they would still not be thrown out.

 

Those who expected Parliament pass harsh strictures in the end to root out the rogues camped outside were obviously disappointed. But it made sense, as the government knew that a sterner resolution might jeopardise the Parliamentary unanimity. It didn’t need to use force as dharnas were headed to their natural death.

 

Nawaz Sharif seemed to have backed out from his earlier fervor to accept almost 5.75 of PTI’s six demands. Elementary, my dear Watson. Nawaz Sharif is not the only one who thinks that the PTI balloon stands pricked. Imran Khan missed the opportunity when he could have walked out waiving victory signs. Even if he gets most of his demands accepted now he would not look like Khan the Victor. It would be more like the loser who returned home without Nawaz Sharif’s resignation.

 

The feeling of survival was writ large on Nawaz Sharif’s face when he lambasted the PTI for its “unacceptable demands. It was a different Nawaz Sharif from the worried and anxious prime minister who feared that his third government was slipping from his hand, sand-like, after a year in government. This was the prime minister who had weathered a very tense month with dark clouds hovering all over. Now, he is all set to leave for his visit to the UN with the comfortable knowledge that, whatever the results of the PTI/PAT sit-ins, two things ain’t happening: the so-called umpire has pulled back and the PM can return home to sign off the undesirable elements with ease. We are told Nawaz Sharif is not likely to stir any unnecessary fuss over who gets replaced at Aabpara and would go along the Rawalpindi recommendations. Why should he? Whoever comes to the ISI is likely to correct a very wrong and dangerous precedent set in the last eight years. Kayani was the first ISI head to become the Army Chief, if we disregard Ziauddin Butt’s example. This made ISI’s somewhat skewed counter-intelligence thinking the mainstream mantra of the army which had a deep impact on the institutional thinking. Kayani brought the legacy of interpreting our domestic and foreign policies through the ISI lens. This anomalous thinking continued to impact his nominee in the ISI even after Kayani’s retirement. That tradition might break now and the army is less likely to see the world through the ISI binoculars. Or so we wish!

 

Secondly, the PTI/PAT rallies got de-fanged after the PTV attack fiasco. The option of using violence to pressure the government is now off the table. Any foolhardy attempt by PTI/PAT is likely to be responded with equal force. And this time much of the public support is more likely to be against the marauding hordes than otherwise. In the meantime, Islamabad IG Tahir Alam will continue to pick up the suspects of attacks on Parliament, Secretariat, and the PTV. It can take months and years for those in jails to get themselves cleared from the heinous charges. This might break the back of Kaptaan’s middle order batsmen who shudder every time they see their pictures in the newspaper that they roll their pakoras in.

 

So the onus of keeping the fires of D-chowk aflame lies with the mighty Khan and his cousin Tahirul Qadri. Of course, dharnas are a double-edged challenge. Imran is striking a certain chord with those who want quick solutions to their daily problems. The masses who may have become sick and tired of the oligarch that sits in Parliament and fails to address their basic issues. Perhaps Imran needs to understand that it’s not the polls that are rigged but the system that asks voters to choose the lesser evil. Even Imran got pressured to give electoral tickets to the very ‘electables’ that he is supposed to be fighting against. They all come through the system of patronage based on the misuse of thana-katchehri. The man in the street can be swayed by his emotional rhetoric but may not get enamoured by his repetitive double-speak. It remains questionable how many sympathisers he may be losing from his confusing diatribes.

 

Power lobbies are surely scared of his mercurial daredevil adventurism. Big business might see him a threat to their elitist interests. No bureaucrat would be comfortable with Imran Khan after his naming secretaries, Police IGs, DPOs, even SHOs in public meetings. It’s obvious that he could be swayed into robotic action through paper chits given to him in a public meeting or whispering misinformation into his ear by the most dubious characters around him. Intelligentsia may view him as an irrational demigod who, it seems, learnt his half-baked history in bits and pieces with lots of chapters missing. Now we know that Oxford too admits sportsman because of just sports and they return home as blank as they had come. Perhaps one learns about Westminster politics by attending its proceedings and not by jogging around it. Even the khakis might be suspicious of Imran’s waywardness. His views on the postponed China visit clearly showed that either he does not understand the dynamics of diplomacy or is misguided by shady advisors. It remains debatable whether he is gaining or losing by his daily harangue - depending on what side of a very polarised aisle you stand.

 

ANP’s Shahi Syed was definitely on the other side of the political spectrum when he ripped apart Imran’s thesis on rigging through an emotionally charged speech. He literally made people cry with his description of how he buried 17 comrades who got killed in the election-day violence. He definitely stoked the Pashtun sentiment by recounting how they were being butchered from Karachi to Waziristan while the KP leaders were dancing in Islamabad. He had a point for parties like the ANP and the PPP when he said that the election commissioner was not Fakhruddin G Ibrahim but Hameemullah Mehsud.

 

Tailpiece: It is amazing that the story of flood fiasco has not been picked up by the opposition or the media. One just has to see water inflows and outflows from Mangla Dam and Rasul, Khanki and Qadirabad headworks during the crucial 20 days before September 6 when water was held despite clear Met forecasts of medium and high floods. Ironically, IRSA was predicting 20 per cent shortage of water for kharif despite flood warnings issued by Met office on August 14. If only someone had watched water levels in Jhelum and Neelum in Azad Kashmir and released water from Mangla before September 6 this would have enabled Jhelum water to cross from Head Rasool to Trimu before it got mixed up from water from Marala, Khanki and Qadirabad. If a lay weather reporter can understand this why can’t the Einsteins of IRSA and Water and Power Ministry get it! Crux: It’s man-made disaster which was avoidable.

 

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