Dawn – Threats to Indus Delta highlighted

Shazia Hasan

Karachi – Sindh – Pakistan, 15 October 2018. “All over the world, rivers naturally flow into the sea. But out here it is the sea flowing into the Indus Delta,” said environmentalist and researcher Nasir A Panhwar during his talk and presentation titled “Survival of the Indus Delta” at the Irtiqa Institute of Social Sciences on Saturday.

“The Indus Delta is a unique coastal system where the sea and the river meet, where the soil was very fertile due to the accumulation of silt from the river for thousands of years.

But after the diversion of the upstream water there the amount of silt has become less while bringing up various threats to the delta,” he said, while explaining that the delta included 17 major creaks starting from the Gizri Creek to Sir Creek.

“Due to the diversion there is a less fresh water flow in the delta now and so there is an intrusion of sea, a man made disaster,” he said. “Meanwhile, the rise in sea level is due to climate change, which is again man-made if we go into the depth of it,” he added.

“And because of the sea intrusion, the land is losing its fertility. The falling of the level of ground water has hurt agriculture. Farmers used to grow red rice here, which is no longer possible. Because of the non-availability of fresh water, the subsoil water if there is any is brackish,” he said.

“Fisheries too have been hurt as grazing land for livestock has also become scarce and the animals had to migrate. With the animals leaving, humans too have moved due to an increased lack of livelihood putting added pressure on urban centres.

Also frequency of cyclones and tsunami have made the poor people living in the area even more vulnerable,” he pointed out.

Pakistan is a signatory to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. “We do sign but then we also forget,” said Panhwar. “The Indus Delta is also a signified Ramsar site which should have been taken special care of as it has national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and an important eco system,” he reminded.

“Another harm done to the Indus Delta,” the researcher said, “was the destruction of the mangrove forests, which provided a natural shield against cyclones and tsunamis along with being the breading ground for shrimp and several species of sea life,” he said.

Among the researcher’s recommendations were revisiting the water accord of 1991 by incorporating the environmental flow concept and declaring the Indus Delta as the fifth shareholder of water distribution, besides the four provinces.

He also said the Government of Pakistan must establish an Indus Delta rehabilitation programme with an independent body to implement it. The government should also ensure at least 10 million acre feet water down stream Kotri Barrage immediately till such a time as the precise amount of water is accessed through a detailed study.

A comprehensive assessment of losses must be carried out and communities provided adequate compensation and a development plan should be launched while recognising the communities’ rights over all the natural resources.

Earlier, Kaleem Durrani of Irtiqa said that despite all its problems, whether political or social, Sindh had never given up. “History is reminiscent of the fact that Sindh has always stood up to challenges dealt with them through the in-depth knowledge of its own people,” he said.



Dawn – TLP threatens to paralyse country if Aasia Bibi is acquitted

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 13 October 2018. The Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) has warned of paralysing the country within hours if the Supreme Court sets Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy, free.

The TLP directed its local leaders across the country on Friday to start holding sit-ins within hours without waiting for a decision by the central leadership, if she is freed.

“Judges’ remarks have sown doubt among the party leaders and fears that she would be released soon,” Pir Afzal Qadri, patron-in-chief of the TLP, said while addressing a rally taken out to protest the possible acquittal of Aasia Bibi.

Reading out a four-point resolution approved by the party leadership, he said the possible acquittal would be deemed an attack on Islam, the Constitution and blasphemy law.

Responsibility for the subsequent law and order situation would rest with the judges, the government and all institutions supposed to protect the Constitution, he warned.

“The central leadership has already decided about a countrywide protest and local leaders should not wait for any message from the central leadership and start their sit-ins immediately,” Mr Qadri said, adding that these “nationwide sit-ins should continue till all those responsible for [Aasia Bibi’s] release are punished, even if the central leadership is incarcerated or killed”.

A number of TLP workers gathered on The Mall in Lahore and other major cities in the country, including Karachi, Multan and Gujranwala, to “pre-empt the acquittal”.

Police, unlike previous rallies, did not block Charing Cross till the last moment and even when the rally arrived at the venue, the road was blocked by the party workers who dragged barriers put up to block access to the Punjab Assembly building and encircled the crossing.

Addressing the rally later, firebrand TLP chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi not only seconded the decisions announced by Mr Qadri but also took on the judiciary, inviting the judges to a debate on the blasphemy law and its violations on television.

He concluded his speech by asking the workers to be ready for nationwide sit-ins. “Stay ready and wait for Tuesday when another important announcement would be made,” he said.

In Karachi, the TLP held a big rally warning the government against showing any flexibility in cases pertaining to blasphemy. The participants of the rally demanded the execution of Aasia Bibi and action against those pursuing a campaign in her favour.

Hundreds of participants marched from Hasan Square to Numaish intersection where leaders of the party addressed the rally. Traffic on main University Road and then on M A Jinnah Road remained badly affected.

The TLP leaders asked Prime Minister Imran Khan to come up with a clear policy on blasphemy laws and satisfy the people who had voted him to rule under the Constitution.

The charged participants of the rally on motorbikes, buses, cars and pickups chanted slogans vowing to protect the blasphemy law.

A TLP statement said the rally was part of its countrywide movement against the “possible acquittal of blasphemy convict Aasia Bibi”.

“There is a growing campaign for the release of Aasia Bibi and the recent steps coupled with statements from the people of the ruling party suggest that the government is considering a kind of relief for Aasia Bibi,” said Allama Razi Hussaini while addressing the rally.

These people are wicked and stupid and lack humanity
Man in Blue


Dawn – Child marriages prevention bill on the table in Balochistan

Staff Correspondent

Quetta – Balochistan – Pakistan, 08 October 2018. A senior leader of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), Sana Durrani, has urged the provincial government to move the Prevent Child Marriages bill in the provincial assembly for legislation as soon as possible.

Speaking at a joint press conference, along with representatives of different NGOs, including Robina Rizwan, Ms Samreen, Abdul Sattar Baloch, Gul Khan Naseer and Zia Baloch, Ms Durrani said that NGOs have played a leading role in the campaign for this bill to be presented.

She said that the bill was discussed in the assembly by members from both sides and the majority of the elected representatives agreed to go ahead with it. The only point of contention among some of them, she said, was on the matter of the points on the age limits of girls the bill addressed.

Ms Durrani said that the bill was about to be passed in the assembly but because it was the end of its tenure, the bill remained pending. She said that Balochistan was notorious for child marriages, which causes a high child mortality rate.


Dawn – General Ziaul Haq: The man to answer for a lot that went wrong with Pakistan

Haseeb Asif

Op/Ed, 08 October 2018. It is now generally agreed upon by most people that Ziaul Haq’s martial law changed Pakistan’s destiny for the worst. Most, but not all. A friend’s mother cried when Zia died because he prayed five times a day and was from the Arain clan, like her.

In Saba Imtiaz’s 2014 novel, Karachi, You’re Killing Me!, her protagonist quips: “If there is ever anything you can count on at Pakistani cultural events, it’s that Zia, dead for longer than most people can remember, can still be blamed for everything.” I share her scepticism.

I don’t believe in the Great Man Theory of history. I don’t believe individuals can single-handedly reshape the fate of millions. I believe great upheavals are caused by institutional and structural pressures and individuals only respond within a limited number of rationalised choices.

Whether Zia was there or not, there was going to be a conflict in Afghanistan between two opposing superpowers with assorted Saudi interests thrown in; the Iranian Revolution was going to happen anyway and bring sectarian violence in its wake; Pakistan’s third martial law was well in the making before he imposed it.

Military dictatorships in Pakistan have a certain sense of fatalism about them. Habib Jalib, the people’s poet jailed multiple times by Zia for penning verses against his rule, once wrote: “Virsay mein humay yeh gham hai mila, iss gham ko naya kya likhna? (We’ve inherited this sad state of affairs, why write this sadness as something new?)”.

Zia’s greatest legacy is said to be Islamisation but it had already taken root with the passage of the Objectives Resolution in 1949. The Council of Islamic Ideology, too, had been set up in 1962 by Ayub Khan. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s economic socialism had very clear Islamic overtones.

His efforts to unite Muslim countries were his major foreign policy initiatives. It was his 1973 Constitution that made Islamic Studies compulsory in schools. In 1974, Ahmadis were declared non-Muslims. In 1977, a federal law prohibited the sale of alcohol to Muslims.

Even our nuclear programme was deemed to be making an Islamic bomb. The anti-Bhutto movement of 1977, too, used the demand for Nizam-e-Mustafa (the system of the Prophet of Islam) to replace Bhutto’s social democracy. All that was before Zia came along.

This historical determinism, however, does not absolve him of his tyranny and the havoc he wreaked on the Constitution, democracy and political parties. Things could have been different with another tyrant. To start with, there was nothing certain about Zia’s rise to the top.

Bhutto bypassed seven senior lieutenant generals to make him army chief because he was deemed to be the most disinterested in politics. But as we now know, the army acts as an institution regardless of the individual heading it.

Consider the circumstances: the United States was not happy with Bhutto over the nuclear programme; the landed and industrial elite were not happy with Bhutto over land reforms and nationalisation; the army was not happy with Bhutto as per declassified American documents.

All this encouraged Zia to carry out his premeditated coup d’état that turned into a coup de grâce for democracy in Pakistan.

It is no secret that Zia lent heavily on Islam and ulema due to lack of popular support. Some of his concessions to ulema still haunt us to this day. The penal code was amended to add the death penalty as a punishment for blasphemy and increase the scope of what constitutes blasphemy.

In 1979, he promulgated the Hudood Ordinances with punishments such as lashes for adultery. In 1980, he set up the Federal Shariat Court to hear appeals in cases under the Hudood Ordinances. In 1981, he set up a hand-picked consultative body, Majlis-e-Shoora, to act as the federal parliament.

It was packed with ulema nominated by him. He also introduced mandatory zakat deduction from bank accounts, leading Shias to rise in violent protests.

By 1984, he was feeling so confident about the strength of his constituents, comprising ulema, spiritual leaders, business community and the military, that he decided to hold a referendum that asked if people wanted Islamic laws in the country and if their answer was to be yes then that automatically meant that they wanted Zia as the president of Pakistan for the next five years.

Nobody came out to vote. “Marhoomeen shareek huay, sachchai ka chehlum tha (The dead participated, it was the 40th day of mourning for the death of truth),” Jalib said of the level of public participation in it.

In 1985, Zia brought in an elected Majlis-e-Shoora instead. The elections were held on non-party basis after a government-appointed commission declared that political parties were un-Islamic. The members of Majlis-e-Shoora were chosen presumably on the grounds of an election candidate being sadiq (truthful) and ameen (honest).

These requirements were brought in as additions to articles 62 and 63 in the Constitution. The most well-known politician to come out of that exercise, Nawaz Sharif, was disqualified more than three decades later due to his failure to fulfil them.

Another gift of Zia’s era was the radicalisation of Islamabad’s Lal Masjid. Its prayer leader, Muhammad Abdullah, was close to the general before he became close to the Afghan Taliban’s chief Mullah Omar and senior al-Qaeda leaders. It took another military dictator two decades later to uproot the extremist influence from Lal Masjid in a bloody operation in 2007.

In hindsight, though, Islamisation seems more like political expediency than a well-thought-out system. His personal beliefs did not stop him from taking part in the Black September killings of Palestinians in Jordan where he was posted as a brigadier from 1967 to 1970.

When he wanted Bhutto framed for murder he asked Mian Tufail Mohammad, then head of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), to provide him with four people willing to testify that Bhutto paid them to kill a dissident politician.

He promised Tufail, by one account swearing on the Quran, that these witnesses would be pardoned after Bhutto was hanged. They were hanged immediately after Zia had gotten rid of Bhutto. That is when JI distanced itself from him.

He once had his picture taken as he bicycled to his office from his home, demonstrating an austere and protocol-free way of life. What the press did not show the public (and it could not because of the draconian censorship rules it was subjected to) was that hundreds of security personnel had secured the route before Zia started pedalling his bicycle.

He introduced laws to socially and politically ostracise Ahmadis but then went on to give an official award to Professor Abdus Salam, an Ahmadi of Pakistani origin who had won the Nobel Prize in Physics.

Beyond his religious hypocrisy, his actual enduring legacy is his systematic decimation of parliamentary democracy.

He introduced the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan in 1985 to protect his martial law from judicial review and acquire the power to sack an elected government and legislature on a whim, a power he exercised to dismiss the government of prime minister Muhammed Khan Junejo in 1988.

The same amendment was subsequently used three times in the 1990s to remove democratic governments midway through their tenures.

Zia’s crackdown on political dissidents and journalists resulted in the arrest of thousands of people. Many of them were incarcerated and tortured in the basements of Lahore Fort because the jails were all spilling over.
Public floggings of criminals and political opponents were a routine affair and hangings were often projected widely in the media to scare people into submission.

Zia also banned student unions in 1984, much to the impoverishment of youth engagement with politics in general and political challenge against fascist forms of conservatism in particular.

The effects of this repression were felt throughout the next two decades as political engagement among the urban, educated middle and upper-middle classes started going down and violent groups organised on non-political grounds of religion, sect and linguistic prejudice assumed massive firepower to deadly consequences.

Guns and drugs proliferated in his era. It was the age of Kalashnikovs and heroin. Automatic weapons, originally meant for Afghan mujahideen, were either smuggled into Pakistan or their replicas were produced in factories in tribal areas.

Drugs produced in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan were a major source of funding for the anti-Soviet warriors in Afghanistan. Illegal manufacturing and smuggling of both guns and drugs continue to this day in Pakistan.

Then there were around five million Afghan refugees, many of whom came to settle here permanently. But, then again, the British-era Durand Line that separates the two countries can be blamed for all these problems as much as Zia.

Is he responsible for every ill that plagues Pakistan today? I remain sceptical though I must admit that I did not have to live through his dictatorship.

The writer and journalist graduated from the Lahore University of Management Sciences with a degree in economics.

This article was published in the Herald’s August 2017 issue. To read more subscribe to the Herald in print.


Dawn – Europe’s perplexed Pakistanis

Pervez Hoodbhoy

City of Stockholm – Sweden, 06 October 2018. Pakistani immigrants to Europe tend to get a bad press. I was, therefore, pleasantly surprised by my brief encounter in Stockholm three weeks ago with a dozen or so well-settled, ordinary working-class Pakistanis.

Some had migrated from Mirpur (AJK), others from KP and Sindh. Their attitudes and lifestyles challenge the common negative stereotypes of Pakistani migrants in Europe.

Do you speak and read Swedish reasonably well? Are local laws fair and non-discriminatory? Do your children go to Swedish schools and do they have Swedish friends? Can you feel this to be your own country?

Receiving positive responses, I slowly moved on to the most sensitive of questions and held my breath: Would you be okay if your daughter were to date a Swedish guy? Marry him? And, finally, is Sweden where someday you might choose to die and be buried?

Except for the very last question (where some wavered) all other answers were again affirmative. Significantly, these were not well-heeled upper-class folks who readily form a globalised community.

Instead, they were bus drivers, hospital staff, and other blue-collar workers in love with their adopted country. They were trying hard to deal with the us-versus-them binary.

Were such attitudes more common the sickeningly familiar caricature of the backward, anti-freedom, unassimilable Pakistani migrant would vanish. But this wasn’t so clear once I probed further: could you kindly guess how many other Pakistan-Swedes are also largely positive about their new country?

Opinions varied but the consensus was clear — only a minority of first-generation Pakistan-Swedes, like this particular group, is fully at ease. Since they acknowledge getting a fair deal in their new country, what alienates the majority?

Answer: discomfort with the bay hayaee (sexual laxity) of locals and their deen say doori (non-adherence to religion — any religion). As with other Pakistani immigrants in Europe, some stridently reject the core values of their host country and condemn the ‘immoral’ lifestyles of the majority.

Why do Pakistanis enjoying the West’s pluralism stay silent about pluralism within Pakistan?

This unctuous piety is sometimes dubious, it stands against a pioneering research study putting sexuality as a key motivation for young Pakistani men to emigrate.

In his book: Masculinity, Sexuality, and Illegal Immigration, Human Smuggling from Pakistan to Europe, Ali Nobil Ahmad, a fellow at the Zentrum Moderner Orient in Berlin, finds the pull of deep-seated psychological forces no less important than the push of economic forces.

After interviewing dozens of young immigrant men from lower-middle-class backgrounds, Ahmad concludes that lure of adventure and libidinal frustration drives even relatively economically secure migrants.

Risking life and limb, they hope to escape a conservative society where every form of contact with women is forbidden, other than a family-arranged marriage, into a world where pleasures of the flesh are tauntingly visible through advertising and the global media.

Parents often marry them off before they depart but the problem doesn’t end there.

The sweet fruits of the Promised Land are enjoyed for a while but long term adaptation to the metropolises of Europe is difficult for many.

Most perplexing is the freedom enjoyed by Western women, with whom liaisons are short term. To shut out their ‘corrupting influence’, families arrange for cousin marriages or import brides. These are routine in Britain’s poorest areas where immigrants have ghettoised.

Growing conservatism and poor schooling in the homeland has made Pakistani immigrants less absorbable globally. As Pakistan steadily becomes less liberal and goes the Al Huda way, the changes are visible in habits and dress. The burqa issue resounds throughout Europe. That welcome for unassimilable immigrants has dried out is unsurprising.

A highly visible trend among Pakistanis is greater immersion in one’s own religious community. Even in North America where Pakistanis are generally wealthier than whites, the social life of most expatriates, the richest ones excepted, organises itself around mosques and Islamic centres.

Toronto, for example, is a city divided among Deobandis, Barelvis, Shias, Bohras, and Ismailis who have built their own places of worship and largely interact only among themselves. Ahmadis have a worship-cum-housing complex spread over 35 acres.

Isolation from the mainstream has extracted a price in the general well-being of immigrants, particularly for Pakistan-origin Brits. Muslim school students, of which a full 40 per cent are Pakistanis, have been documented as underachievers.

Muhammad Anwar, a social scientist and author of British Muslims and State Policies argues that Pakistani-Brits generally have education achievement levels lying at the low end of all ethnic minorities in Britain.

On the other hand, immigrants who share values with the host country can rise high. Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and home secretary, Sajid Javid, are obvious examples. Expectedly, wealthier, upper-class Pakistanis are familiar with Western cultural mores.

Educated in top-notch schools, they find the West hospitable. This year, as every year, thousands will make their way to universities across North America, Europe, and Australia. Others will rely on immigration sponsorship by family members who are already citizens.

Most, whether wealthy or poor, will try their hardest to never return home and many will succeed in becoming first-generation immigrants. Some dream of wealth, others of personal fulfilment. Still others want to escape a suffocating social and physical environment. Most will be preoccupied in making a new life for themselves.

But exceptions aside, such as the few I met in Stockholm, Pakistani immigrants to the West don’t insist on changing things back in the homeland.

That Pakistan needs to end discrimination against its ethnic minorities, women, and non-Muslims is heard but rarely, and that too only from Baloch, Sindhi and Kashmiri nationalist groups.

One could have expected broader participation because immigrants benefit from open pluralist societies that, by law, must treat all citizens equally. This, of course, is why Pakistanis choose to immigrate.

If first-generation immigrants lack activism, perhaps the second generation will compensate some day. When such voices for justice are heard loud and clear, and if they are joined by immigrant communities from other countries in demanding changes back home, multiple noxious xenophobic movements in the West will collapse like a pricked balloon. Let’s hope.

The author teaches physics in Lahore and Islamabad.


Dawn – Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights discusses attacks on minorities, regrets lack of progress

The Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights on Thursday said that all content concerning minorities in textbooks should be reviewed and suggested that any material spreading hate against minorities should be expunged from the syllabus.

Nadir Guramani

Islamabad Capital Region – Pakistan, 04 October 2018. The committee, headed by Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, said these suggestions emanated from a discussion on the state of minority communities in the country.

“We lie on international forums when we say that Pakistan’s government is working towards providing our minorities their rights,” Khokhar said.

“Years have passed since the Gojra incident and the Joseph Colony incident [where a mob torched houses located in a Christian-dominated neighbourhood of Lahore in 2013] without progress in the cases.”

“Claims were made about arresting the culprits and bringing them to justice,” he added. “However, the men arrested in the cases were eventually set free.”

Responding to the statement, a representative of the Punjab police briefed the meeting on the Joseph Colony incident.

“The police investigated the Joseph Colony incident and made arrests in the case. However, 63 members of the community went to court and recorded statements in favour of the culprits, which forced the court to set them free,” the representative told the meeting.

The committee commented that the culprits in the case were set free because of the lack of evidence against them.

“The system has continuously failed to safeguard the rights of minorities,” Khokhar regretted.

“If the police had support from political figures and the government, they would be able give better results,” the police representative retorted.

“When they use force, cases are registered against the police itself,” he said, adding that at this moment, the police itself needs protection.

Briefing on destruction of Ahmadi place of worship

Briefing the committee on the demolition of an Ahmadi place of worship in Sialkot earlier this year, the Punjab police representative said the issue had arisen when members of the community wished to add another storey to a place of worship.

“However, the administration took notice of the second storey being built and sealed the building. The situation worsened once people from the District Management Authority came to demolish the illegal construction.”

According to a Jamaat-i-Ahmadiyya press release from 24 May: “More than 600 miscreants chanting slogans joined in and started demolishing an Ahmadi worship place near the building”,

It added that the “vandalism” had continued until 4:30 in the morning.

During the meeting, in an apparent reference to the removal of Dr Atif R Mian from the Economic Advisory Council, members of the police said, “What can a District Police Officer be expected to do if members of the Ahmadi community cannot even survive on a government committee”.

“The police force needs the government’s support,” he reiterated.

Ad against Manzoor Pashteen discussed

Moving on, the committee chair took up for discussion a controversial ad targeting a Pashtun leader.

“An advertisement campaign regarding safety measures to be taken during the month of Muharram portrayed the chief of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) Manzoor Pashteen in a negative light,” the head of the committee observed, adding that the campaign had hurt the sentiments of the Pashtun community.

The Punjab government responded to the matter.

The Punjab government’s director general of public relations (DG PR) told the meeting that the ads had been released by the Punjab government.

“However, the video for these ads was made by an [independent] advertising agency and no department of the Punjab government was involved in its creation,” he said, adding that the matter had been investigated and the agency involved blacklisted.

“The director of coordination has also been removed from his post,” the DG PR said.

In response to this, Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the Ministry of interior’s letter to the advertising agency should be provided to the committee.

“The terms of reference through which the inquiry in the advertisement campaign was made should also be given to the committee,” Senator Babar added.

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) chairman told the committee that the ad had run on a state-run television channel and he had no authority over it.

“The state television channel does not fall under Pemra,” the chairman explained while adding that he did what he could do on the matter — that is, write to the state-run broadcaster and point out the ad for review.

The committee asked for a copy of the letter written by the authority to the TV channel.

Discussion on censorship

The committee also discussed the matter of media censorship in the country.

“Media persons are being pressured and the environment for working journalists is constantly deteriorating,” Khokhar observed, noting that this was against the spirit of Article 91 of the Constitution.

“The reality of pressure on the media should be brought to the fore,” Khokhar said, acknowledging that political parties have also raised the matter at various fora.

Member of the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) Duraid Qureshi told the committee that when members of the association raise their voices against censorship, their channels are taken off-air.

“I have come to this meeting on the Human Rights’ committee’s insistence; now they should take the responsibility of making sure our channels are not taken off-air,” Qureshi said.

During the discussion, Senator Farhatullah Babar claimed: “The Inter-Services Public Relations’ (ISPR) media empire is affecting the freedom of expression.”

“Asma Jahangir brought a petition to the Supreme Court in which she had asked that the ISPR should disclose which channels it funds,” Babar recalled. “This is the first time we’re discussing this sensitive matter.”

“If something happens to any member of the committee, then it should be assumed that the agencies were behind it,” he said.

“The committee will write to all inspectors general of police and tell them to register FIRs against cable operators who take channels off air,” the committee chairman assured.

“The ISPR termed [some] journalists ‘anti-state’ in its press conferences and on Twitter,” Babar continued. “I fear that matters will only worsen as we move forward.”

“[Therefore] this matter should not be confined to this committee. The committee should move ahead and name and shame [those behind press censorship],” he said.

“The Senate’s Whole Committee should be convened on this matter, which will prepare a report on the matter and present it to the chairman Senate. The relevant institutions should then be summoned for an in-camera debate on the issue,” he proposed. “We need a parliamentary committee on the freedom of expression.”

Senator Khokhar subsequently suggested that all PBA members speaking on press freedom be provided protection. It was also decided that the committee would hold a public hearing on media censorship.

“In the second phase, a meeting of a committee of the whole house will be called to address the matter of media censorship,” Senator Khokhar said.

“In the final phase, the committee will call the heads of the departments on whom fingers are being pointed,” Senator Khokhar said, hoping the matter progresses without hiccups and that he would not be forced to “take this last step first”.

“The heads of relevant departments will immediately be called in if anything happens to reporters who present themselves to the committee,” he concluded.


Dawn – Pakistan-India challenge

After the abrupt and bewildering cancellation of a meeting between the Pakistani and Indian foreign ministers by the Indian government, the speeches by the two foreign ministers at the United Nations General Assembly took on added importance.

Editorial, 01 October 2018. Would Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Sushma Swaraj try and rein in emotion and avoid further escalating tensions or would a fresh crisis in Pakistan-India relations erupt?

For now, it appears that India and Pakistan have stuck to their respective lines: India petulantly and counter-factually blaming Pakistan for the absence of dialogue, Pakistan calling for dialogue while emphasising that such a call should not be interpreted by India as a sign of weakness.

Given the unfortunate build-up to the UNGA, two relatively low-key speeches by the Indian and Pakistanis foreign ministers were perhaps the best that could be expected in the circumstances. What is far from clear is how and when the distance between the Indian and Pakistani positions on dialogue can be bridged.

For Pakistan, the challenge remains the same as it has been for at least two years now: drawing the world’s attention to the state of repression and violence in India-held Kashmir while also being able to discuss a range of other issues with India.

The Pakistani state has rightly insisted that a solution to the Kashmir dispute lies at the heart of long-term peace and stability in the region, but has also acknowledged that several other issues can be addressed in the meantime.

Indeed, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s letter to his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, was sensibly crafted and demonstrated a willingness on Pakistan’s part to not impose unrealistic expectations or demands on dialogue with India.

Yet, even though India has seemingly conclusively spurned talks with Pakistan for the foreseeable future, though in the context of South Asia, the foreseeable future can quickly change, Pakistan should continue with its balanced approach.

Arguably, the best possibility for Pakistan drawing the outside world’s attention to the harrowing circumstances that the people of IHK are living in is to maintain a reasonable approach to India in the context of the overall relationship.

For India, between now and the general election scheduled for next year, there will need to be a reckoning with the BJP’s perplexing attitude towards Pakistan’s government.

A reluctance to engage Pakistan in dialogue has been complemented by bellicose statements and a hawkish military approach, but it surely cannot be argued that India is any closer to achieving its goals.

All that the hawks in India have achieved is another wasted few years of opportunity and a region that is more tense than it was before the BJP returned to power.

If war is not a possibility, and it is categorically not in a nuclear South Asia, then dialogue is the only option.

When will India realise this?


Dawn – Minister’s suspicious visit to Kot Lakhpat Jail shocks officials

Asif Chaudhry

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 29 September 2018. Another case of political interference in official matters surfaced after Punjab Minister for Prisons Zawar Hussain visited the Kot Lakhpat Jail on Thursday and allegedly unlocked high security barracks.

The minister, along with ‘six suspected civilians’, allegedly held a secret meeting with the militants of banned terror outfits involved in suicide attacks in Lahore and under-trial sectarian inmates.

Through his visit to the high-profile prisoners, he created a risk of security lapse as he allegedly unlocked the barracks, housing 109 dangerous terrorists in sheer violation of Pakistan Prisons Rules 1978.

Presently, the jail houses 3,700 convicts and other inmates, including 300 death row prisoners, 45 foreigners, 70 high-profile/sectarian prisoners and those convicted by army courts, besides 2,200 other dangerous convicted inmates.

Minister Zawar Hussain allegedly forced his entry into the jail in the wee hours and stopped the jail superintendent and other senior officials from accompanying him as he went to meet the prisoners, says a detailed report dispatched to the home secretary by the prisons department.

Holds ‘secret meeting’ with terrorists, accompanied by six civilians; report of six-hour long visit sent to home secretary

It says the minister allegedly forced all the jail officials to leave the premises and made them wait outside it. He directed the officials not to enter the jail until he completes his ‘work’ as he seized the keys to the cells/barracks of the high-risk prisoners, unlocked the cells and met and interviewed the prisoners in violation of rules.

On resistance, he locked the official guards of the high-security blocks of the dangerous prisoners in a cell for ‘not cooperating with him’.

In his meeting with the under-trial militants of the banned terrorist outfits involved in suicide attacks in Lahore, he was accompanied by six civilians. The minister remained in the prison for six hours.

Superintendent of the Kot Lakhpat Jail Ijaz Asghar made these stunning revelations in his detailed report, available with Dawn, sent to Punjab Inspector General of Prisons Mirza Shahid Saleem Baig.

Mr Baig brought the matter to the knowledge of the secretary interior who ordered high-level investigation into the issue.

Earlier, incidents of political interference in the official affairs involving the PTI parliamentarians surfaced in Pakpattan and Chakwal, causing embarrassment for the party that has remained quite vocal against political interference in official matters.

In the fresh scam, the superintendent of the jail, in his report, mentioned serious violations of the prisons rules and the ‘mysterious activities’ of the minister and his six civilian companions. He took help of the CCTV cameras in the jail to prepare the report.

“According to the prisons rules 1978, the prisons guard is the custodian of the keys of jail corridor and it happened for the first time that the minister snatched keys from him and handed them over to a suspected civilian who was accompanying him,” the report says.

The six civilians who came with the minister took into custody the official walkie-talkie sets from all the deputed jail employees, it alleges.

According to the section 924 of the prisons rules, no one is allowed to enter the jail after it is locked at the specified time but the minister violated the laws and entered the premises without prior intimation.

The minister violated the section 925 of the rules, got the barracks unlocked and met high-profile prisoners along the civilian men, it says.

He violated the section 725 of the rules by locking the night officer and security guards, unlocking the Barrack 4 of the high value targets (prisoners), creating a serious risk for their escape.

According to the section 963 (ii) of the rules, no visitor is allowed to enter the jail without the assistance of the authorised prison officials.

“The minister stopped the superintendent of the jail to accompany him and also disallowed him to enter the jail,” says the report.

IG Prisons Punjab Shahid Baig refused to comment on the issue.

The spokesperson for the prisons minister denied the allegations of violation of rules by the minister.

Talking to Dawn, the spokesperson said the minister had paid a surprise visit to the Kot Lakhpat Jail for routine inspection and he had received many complaints against the jail officials from the prisoners who told him that the jail officials took bribe from them to facilitate them.

“The mobile phones service was also working. During the inspection, the minister found some prisoners of routine cases locked with the dangerous inmates.”

The spokesperson added that the prisoners told the minister that they were being served low-quality food and medicines were not available while 40 inmates were found asleep out of 69.


Dawn – PPP calls for immediate meeting of the South Punjab task force

The PPP on Thursday asked the government to immediately call an official meeting of a task force created to expedite the formation of a province in south Punjab.

Arif Malik

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 27 September 2018. Talking to DawnNews outside the Punjab Assembly, PPP lawmaker Ali Haider Gilani said that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had received votes in the elections on the promise of a new South Punjab province.

Gilani recalled that the ruling party had promised to kick-start the process for the creation of a separate South Punjab province in 100 days; however, with 39 days of their administration already having passed, the PTI had not yet called the first meeting of the task force.

Gilani also added that the PPP had reservations about the inclusion of Makhdoom Khusro Pervez and Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi in the task force.

PTI lawmaker Mohammad Mohsin Leghari had on August 15 submitted a resolution seeking the federal government’s initiation of the process for the creation of a Southern Punjab province.

The PTI had added the creation of a south Punjab province in its manifesto in May this year.

Separately, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had also raised the issue in April.

“We will make a separate province (out of south Punjab) and end the deprivation of this belt if you people support us,” he had told a political gathering in Multan.

PPP lawmaker Makhdoom Usman, referring to Bilawal’s remarks, called on the government to urgently hold a meeting of the task force.

He said that other political parties should be shown the road map that PTI has come up with for the creation of the south Punjab province in the divisions of Bahwalpur, Multan and Dera Ghazi Khan.

According to Article 239 of the Constitution, the process of creating new provinces requires a two-thirds majority in separate votes in the two houses of parliament and then a further two-thirds majority in the provincial assembly of the affected province.

Given the current party position of arch-rival parties in the parliament, as well as in the Punjab Assembly, the creation of the province has become a complex issue.

The PML-N and the PPP, both a part of the opposition in Punjab and the Centre, will not easily let the PTI have the credit of a new province despite the fact that both of the parties had already endorsed the cause of a new province in south Punjab.


Dawn – Trading potential [India-Pakistan]

Op/Ed 26 September 2018. It seems that while India and Pakistan exchanged hot words in the latest round of tensions between the two countries, the World Bank was putting the finishing touches to a study whose main conclusion is that both countries have a trade potential of some $ 37 billion if they can find a way to unlock it.

The region has clearly much to gain if, instead of barbs, the two countries traded goods and services. The figures produced by the World Bank is the highest such estimate that we have seen thus far; sadly, it is also apparent that the two neighbours are paying a heavy price for their continuing inability to engage in a productive manner.

For the moment, the high ground rests with Pakistan. It was the government of Pakistan that extended a hand for talks, and the government of India that invoked unreasonable grounds, as well as undiplomatic language, to reject the offer after having accepted it.

But the moral high ground is not enough: Pakistan must bring a solid negotiating position to the table. Given the disparity in size between the Pakistani and Indian economies, simple market access to Pakistan’s domestic market will not be enough to attract sufficient interest from across the border.

The biggest plum in Pakistan’s offering is transit trade rights to Afghanistan, which were signalled to Delhi as potentially being on the table, though rather late in the game.

Beyond that, Pakistan has access to the energy resources of Central Asia and Iran that can be leveraged very effectively once the geopolitics at play to the west are sorted out.

Played smartly, Pakistan can build a far heavier negotiating position than it has currently managed to do, and thereby create an interest where there is little at the moment.

For its part, India needs to learn to live in its own neighbourhood. For decades, we have seen it forge ties of trade and investment with distant countries, while ignoring its own neighbours.

As the largest economy in the region, it has to do far more to take up the responsibility for crafting greater regional flows, even if the value chains look more attractive in Southeast Asia.

Coupled with this lack of interest, India is also known for its reliance on non-tariff barriers as a tool to restrict trade.

The weakest part of the World Bank’s report is precisely when it comes to addressing this problem, where it refuses to see that the NTBs come and go with circumstances, ie their use as trade barriers appears to be centrally directed.

Instead, the report loses itself in the labyrinthine details of various trade bureaucracies. Nevertheless, the overall thrust of the report is a welcome breath of fresh air in a relationship that has so far been characterised by tense exchanges.