Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Scope and potential of compromise and national reconciliation

There may be a scope for compromise among well meaning liberals who wish to bring about an egalitarian system replacing the existing unjust and feudalistic order under the garb of democracy, and the Islamists, if not the die-hard terrorists. The common cause among the two, otherwise diverse groups could be a “just socio-economic order’. Liberals may have to forego or postpone their emphasis on Western values of wining and dining, flaunting and exhibitionism, vulgar and obscene media etc.

The Islamists may have to forego or postpone their emphasis on initiating Islamic interpretation and implementation with “cutting hands”, caning the defaulters, mishandling women and restricting their participation in economic life.

Ziaul Haque’s Islamic rule came with trying to impose “hand chopping” punishments without arranging and providing for the poor and hungry (the latter) as enshrined by Islam. Talibans in Afghanistan did violence to women coming out of their homes and interfered with relics of other religions. Pakistani Taliban flogged a girl and routinely destroyed girls’ schools. On the other hand, liberals insist on flaunting sexuality and nudity, even display of sexual acts on television and media, and all that goes with it. Both the diverse penchants can be delayed or if not totally, foresworn permanently, till happy and workable solutions are found.

Elimination of hunger, poverty an injustice can be the compromising agenda, if the two sides are faithful to their ideals. The recent revival of the judiciary should not be confused with the social justice. The former is legislative and even elitist while the latter is real, enduring and all pervasive. Liberals could never have the wherewithal to change the system while the Islamists have a wider base and can mobilize support, mass appeal and street power. Islamists need respectability and acceptability in the corridors of power, national and internal, and a marketable outlook. Jamaat e Islami originally, perhaps, offered a potential vehicle, but has now chosen an extremist path. Many in this country dread a collapse of the system and sudden surrender at the hands of extremists in the form of a hurriedly organized compromise. The alternative prognosis of a pervading war of attrition with extremists led by TTP is not a good prospect either which may leave us divided and under developed, with our neighboring India looking forward to reap the benefits. An intellectually negotiated consensus should reside as an option of the State of Pakistan.

Profile of a settlement

A conference of Pakistani Deobandi scholars and ulemas had been called recently by the government circles to garner support (and a declaratory supporting statement) against terrorism and suicide attacks. The organizers could not succeed in getting any fatwa or statement against terrorism unleashed by the Taliban, led by TTP and other factions. Indeed as reported by the daily Dawn newspaper and by its editor, everybody else was criticized and condemned for their failures; drone attacks, the US action in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the non-Islamic character of government in Pakistan. The conference reveals confusion in the minds of Deobandi scholars, if not outright support for terrorism. Earlier there was the Lal Masjid episode, in which demand for Islamist system was pushed by the extremists who occupied a children’s library and created a severe law and order situation. Unfortunately excessive force was used which resulted in many deaths and disappearances of the female students of the religious seminary. It is often said that this show of force by the rulers at the time resulted in further alienation of the extremists from the existing system and the Pakistan Army and impelled them towards a deadly terror campaign that materialized soon after the Lal Masjid episode.

Subsequently the Swat peace deal did not succeed and was followed by operation Raahe Nijaat, in which the whole city had to be evacuated and the infiltrators and terrorists had to be wiped out after a deadly military campaign. If we look for the common thread in the demands and the conduct of the extremists, and the participants of the Deobandi scholars’ conference, we can conclude the following:

  1. Resentment against immorality spread through the media and films, CDs etc with the assistance or benign neglect of the government(s) of Pakistan.
  2. Establishment of some obvious manifestations of Islamic system especially a fast-track legal system based on Qazi Adalat and Shariat.
  3. If they have their way, they would also have demanded several anti-woman initiatives, stress on beard and salaat etc.

On the first two, even liberals may like to support the extremists. Many of us would not like to show us on TV, what is being shown e.g. vulgarity and raw sexuality and almost copulatory acts. All kinds of x-rated films and songs encouraging flesh trade are not the grievances of the extremists but also have a common cause of conflict with an average law abiding and progressive Pakistani.

That the existing legal system of Pakistan is highly inefficient, corrupt and time- consuming and absolutely inadequate for the needs of an average Pakistanis well known and almost undisputed. Without sacrificing the fundamentals of the existing legal doctrine and regime, it may be possible to induct a fast track effective system which is available in the form of a Qazi system on which there are procedures and consensus.

Small cause courts, felonies and personal laws like marriage, divorce, inheritance etc., could be entrusted to Qazi courts, wherein both lawyer and police are avoided and side tracked. Most people cannot afford lawyers and police and want to have immediate recourse to an institution which is readily accessible, without intermediary and un-necessary costs and whose quick adjudication can be achieved. Qazi / Shariat adalat system could be introduced first in NWFP, in the districts where there is excessive demand for the new system. Localized referendum can be organized to ascertain the will of the people. In Punjab and Sindh also initially some rural areas could be given to the Qazi system.

Keeping in view the deteriorating situation and even expanding and intensifying terror campaign by the militants and fundamentalists, the choices before liberal forces are not too many. They may risk a future war of attrition at best and a take-over at worst. Pakistan’s states’ security cannot be left to the whims of a handful of liberals who may idealize western cultures and values, but are totally out of tune with the minds and attitudes of a largely uneducated populace living in harsh and difficult conditions. Poverty and extremism are usually best friends.

Attempts to force the change in seminaries curriculum and the associated pedagogy would not succeed. However, enmasse induction in these seminaries could be completed away by offering alternative education facilities to the children of the poor. Financial and modernization assistance such as libraries, computers and internet, provision of teachers of modern sciences such as economics, philosophy and natural sciences could in the medium to long run may dilute extremism and help produce more balanced and seminary graduates and scholars.

Cultural adjustments with Terrorism- some unconventional ideas?

Pakistan has just been through the havoc of floods and has to mange the aftermath of floods. Although the direct impact of flood has been borne by the victims, the indirect effect of the losses of crops, cattle, infrastructure etc would have to be borne by every body. Food shortage and inflation is already calling on us. In Pakistan, already one in four used to be starving under below the poverty line of minimum physical nutritional requirements. What will happen in the aftermath is any body’s guess.

Earthquake, terrorism and now these floods; some people say, it is Azab (God’s curse). Nothing would be crueler than this kind of characterization. Most of the sufferers are poor people, who have no share in the wrong doings of our society, and the rich and the powerful. Most natural calamities are defendable against to quite a degree. Elsewhere people have leant building earth quake safe buildings and structures which greatly reduce the damage and impact, if not eliminate altogether. There are reasonable protections against floods like dykes and dams. We either did not build dykes or those were not adequately high or strong enough or were not in good maintenance.

Even after such severe floods, there are people who say there is no excess water to be stored. Elsewhere, people have built dams to prevent or reduce the intensity of floods and to store water to fight drought. They are against Kalabagh dam and not against other dams such as Bhasha. KP has some reason to oppose it, but why Sindh. Some people suggest that expediency demands that the issue of Kalabagh dam be not touched lest it may ignite opposition to other dams as well. But the fact remains, that we are not willing to see the light of the day, even after even probably God tried to convince us of the merit of the case through sending these floods. It has been estimated that 45 MAF of excess water has flown in these floods, which is more than the combined storage capacity of all dams, existing and future ones including the,”dreaded Kalabagh dam”. The only reason the proponents of Kalabagh dam raise its issue is that it can be built the earliest and fastest as all planning work on it has been completed. We can start getting cheap hydro power in a matter of five years, while in other cases it may take twice longer.

Terrorist have not spared their Muslim brothers during or after these floods. Are they really Muslims? They are but they are misguided mufsideen. Who were Kharjis and what they did. This is not difficult to identify this old strain in Muslim society. They attacked Data Darbar earlier and now yesterday they again struck at Abdullah Shah Ghazi’s shrine and have accepted responsibility. Some or most fundamentalist parties and persons blame foreigners including the US for these atrocities, even after their admission. It means that TTP is directed by the US and India and Israel. They would not agree drawing these conclusions. There cannot be more thankless and unimaginative people than us to blame America for this.

There may not be any compromise with the terrorists but there can be a compromise with their front men and protagonists who are not directly involved but have considerable sympathy with the terrorists and their Jihad. Most fundamentalists avoid openly condemning terrorists may be due to the fear and more probably because of a common theme that the Pakistani state is almost a Darulkufr and it should be destroyed in its present form to be replaced by an Islamic system of their type where women are flogged and daughters kept away from schools. We may have to think about their ideology and thought process. Most poor people and by definition the majority of Pakistan seems to be in their favor-the fundamentalist clergy. Terrorism is expanding, it is not abated. Even if they are in not such a majority, as it may appear apparently, they are in significant number. Some accommodation has to be sought with them. Democratic conduct also requires that the liberals show some sensitivity to their version of ideology. This is not enough to say that we are all Muslims. The differences in approaches and understandings are great.

Surely some mid-ground can be found. The background talks that are going on with some of the good terrorists or our own terrorists should be accompanied by some negotiations on philosophical and ideological issues with their front men. Some cultural adjustments would have to be made. Flagrant demonstration of flesh business by pimpic media must end. Democracy does not, at least the stage we are in, does not need, that kind of freedom. Many other flagrant demonstrations of western culture may have to be suitably curtailed. It is often speculated that documentary and media evidence of objectionable materials and other unnecessary carnal exhibitionism is used by the terrorist organizations in their training and inculcation?

One may argue and perhaps quite justifiably that it may be downward slippery ride to the abyss. For the likes of fundamentalists and terrorists we are facing, even Saudi cultural restrictions are not enough. On the other hand Muslim liberalism may have to also define as to where culture stops and flesh business begins. At this moment, it is also a slippery ride into the western permissiveness of 1960s.

Certainly, this government has to tackle many problems, many being simply inherited. All people and parties should be cooperative and show some compassion and sympathy than simple and cruel opposition, criticism and condemnations.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Bonded Labor: More needs to be done than passing a law against it

Bonded Labor: More needs to be done than passing a law against it

Poor laborers and Haris are always short of cash and have to borrow, often from their employers, some loan, advance salary etc. Once they borrow it, they can often not pay back, mostly due to harsh borrowing terms. And thus they become bonded labor aka slaves. Infact lending to employees and labor is often used as a tool for inducting forced or bonded labor. Most share croppers fall into this trap, especially when the crop prices used to be depressed, which is no more the case. Unemployment, sickness, marriage, birth and legal and police entanglements etc, may create conditions enough for the poor to borrow and fall into this trap. The most abominable aspect of this practice is that the whole family is taken into bondage including children and women. Human trafficking and rape are common inflictions.

Anti-Bonded Labor Act had been passed in 1992, after the Supreme Court of Pakistan declared this abominable practice as unconstitutional. However , the situation has not changed much. No violator has been convicted yet, despite this widely prevailing practice among employers and agricultural land lords. More has to be done than having passed the law. Only if a few violators were targeted, tried and convicted, some discouraging signals would have been sent. Only once in a while, some media stories are published because of some extraordinary cruelty and stupidity of a violator.

Agriculture, Brick kiln, mining and household is the major sectors indulging in bonded labor practices. There are some unscrupulous religious elements that ideologically support bonded labor as slavery, the latter used to be a permitted practice in Islam. No more. But some people may always make a morbid case. There is a strong case that a clear Fatwa is issued against it and widely publicized.

There could be other market based tools employed to discourage this practice on the lines of Environmental labeling. Businesses could be encouraged not to deal with the individuals and companies indulging in Bonded Labor practices by the way of publishing a black list of such persons. Business federations own byelaws could adopt such a practice. Governments, federal and provincial, should also compile a list of such persons and entities, under which prohibitory orders could be issued. Banks, for example may decline to do business and extending loans to such persons, whose name is published in such a black list. If government finds it difficult, some NGO connected with the Labor Departments could assume the responsibility of compiling such a list. A lot of other steps could be taken creatively such as requiring suspected or impugned violators to issue and submit certificate that he or she does not indulge or has abandoned this practice.

Government of Pakistan Peoples Party has a special moral and political obligation to take action in this respect, as it has been founded on the pro-poor and pro-labor principles and philosophy. Other parties may also have propounded such philosophies, but PPP has a special standing and commitment in this respect. It would also be politically expedient. Sending influential violators Jails would create news. In politics, either you create news or your detractors or opponent would create news-against you. So go getting

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Improving governance:increasing government contact through social media

Times have changed.There was a time when transfer of phone set from one room to the other was illegal.Fax was illegal,as late as 1980's.Most government departments have websites although with varying levels of output and communication efficiency.

Governments now have terrific communication tool available in the form of social media.Increasingly ,government departments in Pakistan are putting themselves on face book,although this trend is in an initial stage.Only a decade ago , bringing about this level of communication by governments on their own would have cost millions of dollars.Governments (federal and provincial) ought to develop a communication policy on the utilization of social media,with a view to encourage the use of social and other internet media such as blogs,chatting desk(Information Desk).

A lot of time of people could be saved in travelling to the government offices and departments for finding information on various matters.For one small issue,one has to visit several departments and locations some times.Case processing could be put on the web as Courier companies have done.As one can know from the website of a courier company,as to where one's posted item is at a particular moment,similar could be the case with,NIC cards, passport,driving license,taxation etc.Chatting could supplement information desks,for the latter one has to travel to the location,while with chatting ,the same could be done without visiting.There are several advantages of chatting vs telephone: chatting is cheaper,more reliable and accessible,is amenable to quality auditing by the supervisors.We know the performance and problems of 17.A lot of travel time ,traffic congestion ,fuel consumption ,pollution and consumer frustration could be reduced by utilizing all these facilities optimally.Two decades ago,PPP government made Awami Markaz for roughly the same purpose, now Awami Markaz could be brought to peoples homes and computers.

Policy and facilitation can speed up the adoption of these tools and technologies ,which may take a longer time otherwise.In this respect , government should tighten up its relevant departments.Electronic Government Department needs to be reorganized and energized.Governance,performance and development come in small bits and pieces ,but if innovation and initiative is sustained , it can add up to a grand total,that is visible and perceptible.Concluding,following steps may be taken towards adoption of social media and other internet communication tools:

1) A formal communication policy with a view to encourage social media and other internet communication media.
2)Adoption a and induction of Face Book,Chatting,Tweeter and Blogging.
3)Blogging is cheaper and easier to maintain than websites,which often require specialists.
4)Maps of the locations of the departments should be published on the internet.This has become so easy and is free due to Google Earth.
5)Case processing history and status updation be posted on the websites of the departments,on the line and style of Courier companies.

Monday, October 4, 2010

HEC;Financial difficulties of the Universities

Reportedly University Vice Chancellors have threatened to resign over their budgetary difficulties.HEC's under which universities operate, had its budgets phenomenally increased during Musharraf regime.In pursuit of elitist agenda , a crash program was launched to elevate the level of higher(university) education and Science & Technology.The assumption was that by throwing money at something , one improves its quality.All kinds of fancy programs were launched and money was wasted. Some of the programs like building new universities with foreign faculty simply could not take off at all , while other continued with varying levels of output,efficiency and achievements.It was widely accepted that a lot of money was wasted under egotistical and whimsical programs without stake -holders support and objective bases and criteria.

We do not want to go into the details .Suffice is to say that most of those programs are not sustainable and would have to be trimmed or curtailed altogether.Priority has to return to the primary and secondary education.Besides,in the aftermath of floods , a lot of humanitarian rehabilitation of flood victims have to be done.However, there would be practical issues in curtailing programs for which third party contracts have been entered into or the Phd students that have been sent abroad.Such cases would have to be sorted out on a case-to-case basis.Prime-minister has reportedly formed a committee to sort out the issue . HEC and its subsidiary institutions have to return to real life situation and condition away from the aberrations of the past.Vice Chancellors are mature and experienced people and should be amenable to reasonable adjustments.It is not easy and even not advisable to take sharp turns,while contractual obligations should be met.

The need of the hour is that apart from ending frivolous programs , universities should launch programs towards enhancing their incomes and budgetary self reliance. I would not recommend enhancing fees to unaffordable levels,but would make a case of increasing subsidiary earnings through contract research ,endowment funds and fee and rentals.At least some(10-20%) of the budget should be earned through contract research.We have discussed this issue in detail elsewhere.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Flood Tax vs income tax on agriculture

Flood Tax is being contemplated by the government.Normally nation would have gladly accepted the additional load.However,there are several reasons that voices have been raised from popular circles against it.

Firstly,if it is levied on imports,it may be akin to be a tax on poor and the rich alike and may contribute to inflation.Secondly,if it is on income tax , it would mean milking only those,especially ,the salaried class which is paying its taxes without default. Thirdly,it has been argued and demanded that tax net should be expanded and exempted sectors brought into the tax net.Income tax on agricultural incomes and capital gains on stock shares are the two major exemptions.Debate has even extended among donors and public abroad,who think that Pakistan should start bearing its own load and shun the policy of foreign dependence on all kind of aid,flood and otherwise.The taxpayers in the west complain that if Pakistan's rich are not paying their dues ,why should their tax money should be helping Pakistan.

Just today Prime-minister Gilani has announced that some difficult decisions may have to be taken and that he was ready for that.Let the agricultural income tax be one of those decisions.Any body who earns taxable income ,should pay income tax as others do.There used to be an argument against this, citing low and depressed crop prices paid to the farmer.No more is that case valid today.International prices are being paid despite poorly paid agricultural workers and sharecroppers.

And it sends a wrong signal and a depressing one spreading despondency and estrangement.Bulk of Pakistan's ruling elite comes from the agricultural land lords.It is extremely disappointing that they exempt themselves and shirk in sharing the load.Initially,lower landholdings could be left exempted and taxation may start from 50 acres and onwards.Agriculture accounts for 25% of Pakistan,s economy , and should be able to add significantly to the government revenues.

Although I am personally not a taxation enthusiast and I have made my views for lower taxation in Pakistan elsewhere,arguing that economic growth could also be laid by private consumption. it is also a sad fact that in Pakistan tax collection is at a dangerously low level of under 10%.Exemptions ,especially in agricultural sectors not only reduce revenue but are a major source of tax dodging and concealment of income. all kind of incomes are grouped and hidden under exempt agricultural income.If you are a landlord , no question asked.This must go.

Flood tax may only be tolerable by the public in general and taxpayers in particular,,if income tax on agriculture is imposed simultaneously.Finally rulers should declass themselves.Their job is to act in the common national interest .It is another story that democratic governments are so much pressurized by the vested interest from the beginning demoralizing them so much , that any intention or incentive to bring in critical reforms is severely discouraged.despite such difficulties,government of the day must act in national interest and show courage and determination.

Improving Governance; the easy targets in Education and Health sectors

There are two areas where governance has been quite lacking in Pakistan during all regimes,military or dictatorial.These are Education and Health.As for Musharraf regime , it had a lopsided attention in education,as indicated by an abrupt increase of Higher Education budget by a factor of 10.This was done to the detriment of primary and secondary education , which is directly related to the poor.This confirmed his penchant for elitist model of development.

Generally education and health has received scant attention as measured by a persistent historical trend of under-investment in education and health.After floods,any scope for improvement in this respect may not be possible.However,what would be definitely feasible and required would be to utilize the money that is already being spent more efficiently.Reportedly there are many ghost schools,teachers,doctors,heath clinics and facilities.These people and facilities draw salaries and budgets ,but remain at home or keep themselves busy elsewhere.These people are often powerful or pay their way out by sharing their income and budgets with those whose job it is to control such criminal delinquencies.

This is at once easy and also difficult.It is certainly easy for those who are eager to show performance and improve governance.It should be the easiest task to do.And if one does that its impact on social and political environment would be tremendous.When children would be going to schools and patients would start getting treatment from doctors and the health facilities.It is so easy and fruitful to improve performance when the existing status is too bad.It does not require programs and projects.It only requires attention and strictness.

If the relevant ministers simply make up their minds that ghost-ism has to go,it will go.Rigorous monitoring and punishment to the guilty if practiced persistently for a few years would definitely improve the situation.In this respect,the situation in Sindh is particularly alarming and much worse than it is in other provinces.Ironically,it is a common knowledge that the delinquents usually have political patronage.In that case,this would require personal attention and involvement at the highest level of the provincial and federal leadership.IF and when people see and hear involvement of top leadership in such campaigns , all impression and blame of mis-governance and non-governance would evaporate. I have mentioned elsewhere the relatively much higher success of ministers in India than has been the case here.The case of Lalloo Parasad is particularly revealing and encouraging.

And combined with this,if even modest efforts are made towards improving service quality, a lot of improvement can result.I do not mean elitist type of high quality.I mean only functional improvements.There is quite some oversight structure that already exists in case of education such as Community School Committees. These have to be revived and strengthened.In Health sector,such oversight committees may have to be introduced.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Parvez Musharraf's inaugural speech on APML

Parvez Musharraf delivered his inaugural speech, announcing foundation of APML and joining the same, in his typical authoritarian tone and style. Perhaps on the issue of style, he could not help it even after living in London for more than two years observing how politicians speak. However we will deal with more substantial issues.

Having ruled this country for so long, it was disappointing to find his level of ignorance on some of the fundamental problems and issues. For example, he repeatedly said that we had abundant water. However, the data and facts on which there is unanimity and consensus among experts and other knowledgeable people within and outside Pakistan, that Pakistan is short of water. By no measure ,it can be said that Pakistan is abundant in water.Water is one of the most serious and critical issues of the country.Pakistan is mostly arid,with very limited rain fall . We rely on just one river ,most water of which originates from outside Pakistan under the control of others.Whatever water is there either comes in the form of floods and drought conditions.Increasing population pressure is worsening the situation by the day.So where is this guy, his military training and subsequent rule-nothing could have educated him about the countries vital issues.

Similarly ,he spoke of the abundant energy resources which I agree there are and remain unutilised.However,it was his government which caused major problems in this sector.It was in his period that Chinese offer , and a very reasonable and competitive and cost effective offer,was rejected on Thar coal.A big Chinese company had spent more than two years in Thar desert ,prepared its feasibility study and made the offer,which if allowed to be implemented , would have produced enough cheap electricity from domestic Thar coal , to obviate load-shedding and tariff increases.WAPDA files and media coverage are there to verify what I have just mentioned.Where was he busy with to let this happen.Chinese were so incensed that they did not come back on this issue and refuse to do so till today.It is highly unlikely that western companies would enter Thar desert due to a variety of problems ,including the anti-coal environmental policies in the West. Reportedly even World Bank has withdrawn from a technical assistance project on Thar coal among criticism for funding coal projects.

Dependence on oil started from his period and gas supplies started dwindling in his period. It was due to his vendetta and egotistic and knee-jerk policies and campaign in Balochistan ,that further Oil and Gas exploration activity remains suspended and may remain so for quite a long period.He is not repentant. He still uses the same vocabulary of using power to solve political problems and vowed again to ' crush' political forces in Balochistan.

No single MW was added to the electrical grid in his period.And no investment in energy either.He denies that charge ,saying: Were we stupid to not have invested in Electricity? Politeness prevents us from responding to this kind of question.He made false promises of opening Langar in every Union Council . Some kind of a Manna Salwa , as the government of Punjab had to close down its subsidised Tannoor programme due to lack of resources , not to talk of Langars.

He spoke of Local Governments and the media and perhaps rightly claimed credit for innovation and development in these areas.Our provincial politicians have not yet been able to shun their skepticism and antagonism towards local governments which remain dysfunctional in all the provinces , some due to pure egotistic reasons and penchant for direct and personal rule and some due to ethnic issues.

Parvez Musharraf lamented about many problems and issues and criticized but hardly offered any solution or his approach to solve such problems.In an inaugural speech,one expected some new thinking. Only a few days ago,he may have heard the speech of the younger brother of David Miliband propounding a new vision for the Labor Party his country and its people.We have much more severe problems and our leaders so moribund. Musharraf talked about the poor and poverty ,but had hardly any proposal in this respect.He complained that the rich benefit from the laws and only the poor get punishment under it.On most issues he said or implied that he was right when he was in power and would like to do more in that direction.One wonders if he would imprison more CJs this time?He would trample upon the constitution again and disfigure it?He would commit the like of excessive violence on Lal Masjid type operations again ?He would indulge in arbitrary killing of more Baloch leaders again to compound the problems in that province once again? He did not talk about any reforms including land reforms or taxing the landlords or increasing the government revenue by bringing in untaxed incomes in the net. any thing new,he opened the Pandora box of 1939 vs 1940 resolution and spoke about new provinces,which would bring the dormant issue in the limelight and further controversy in this respect.

However there is a lesson for all democratic political parties in Pakistan especially the big ones.Parvez Musharraf is attracting the educated middle class , which has almost been disenfranchised by the political system and the parties.PML and PPP should create more space for educated middle classes in their leadership ranks and as well as down the line.Had they done so , Musharraf would have been buried in political debris.

If Musharraf poses any threat to some one,it is for Nawaz Sharif.It is Musharraf who can unite all factions of Muslim League except PML(N) or it is Nawaz Sharif,if he shows leadership,can unite all factions except APML.The ball is in Nawaz Sharif's court?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Opposition should learn its ropes ?

This time the opposition in Pakistan has conducted itself much better than ever before.I has not colluded with the establishment in trying to oust the government in power prematurely,despite temptations and difficult circumstances.It is not an easy job to be a good democratic opposition.One has to criticize the government to keep it on track and yet refrain from derailing the system by causing despondency with the system among the people.It is a tight rope walking.Imbalance and error is quite likely ,but if it is even-handed it can be useful and constructive.

PML(N) and its top leader Nawaz Sharif have suffered enough under military dictatorship to call for it again.However they have to contest elections after three years and would like to defeat PPP.It appears that they have adopted a policy of supporting PPP government to a bear minimum so as to be able to save the system and yet continue to oppose and blacken the face of their opponents enough so as to defeat them in elections.No body can perhaps condemn this as an election tactic . But elections are far off. One need not be in election campaign all the time.

Serious debate should take place on policies and issues and counter proposals offered .There should be a constructive dialogue through media and assembly processes.Unfortunately PML or any other opposition parties have not fared well on this count.They are only making general statements that they are not happy with the state of governance and that it should be improved.How? there isn't much meat or substance on it.As a face book friend lamented that no political party has a formal policy and proposal process and structure to cape with this kind of responsibility.As a result when they come to power, they do not have pre-thought of policy and programme and become dependent on bureaucracy.The concept of shadow cabinet or think tanks has not found roots.It is high time that something meaningful is done in this respect by the political party.

Their real opponents in politics-the military-men- do it all the time through their training programs and institutions.Under the cover of learning about the country's problems,many trainee senior officers nurse ambitions of assuming civilian responsibilities of heading some big corporations. Look how quickly General Naqvi came up with his vision of local government and succeeded in building a formidable system. Our political parties having rejected the concept of their predecessors , could not make up their mind on the changes and adjustments required.There are similarly other issues.Normally no party has on its roll sufficient number of experts and specialists to assume ministerial responsibilities in core areas.

The common trend is to keep a core group of supporters and loyalists and even discourage general membership drive,lest the party is taken over by the outsiders ?We have emphasized elsewhere, the need of broadening the political base and strengthening political parties in terms of membership,organisation and processes.We would counsel here that serious parliamentary process be put to practice both by government as well as the opposition , especially in the wake of the terribly destructive floods , terrorism and other serious problems with which the country is beset.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Role of Intelligence Agencies in Democracies

Intelligence activity within and abroad is a legitimate and essential state function.It is shear information and data collection ,studying of trends and analysis.Information is to be acquired perse .One doesn't know what information would be useful,although broad direction and areas are prioritized.

Excesses and over-stepping and machinations have been widely reported.These are short-lived deviations in stable democratic societies.FBI and CIA's role in cold war,Vietnam and McCarthyism periods have been well reported.It has been alleged that in those periods MI5 and CIA had made major inroads into such veritable media institutions as BBC,The Economist of London,Times and Newsweek.Such interventions are often and almost always subtle and discrete.

When there is polarization and transition in a society , various state instruments and institutions get involved in this.Information is power and unbridled power is corrupting.The function has a great potential of misuse and abuse,both institutionally and otherwise.Such agencies themselves can become an underground political party of sorts.In Pakistan,due to the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan and the subsequent proxy war,intelligence agencies became ideologised if not politicized altogether due to the heavy religious and ideological content of the training system of the" Afghan Jihad".General ZiaulHaq used it abundantly for personal political power.

In Pakistan, Army Generals have been frequently finding justification for abruptly undoing constitutional governments and prolonging their personal rule.They have actively used intelligence agencies for this purpose ,covertly and overtly and unashamedly.State and government and national and personal political interests became all too mixed up.Even otherwise,it often requires quite a sophistication to differentiate the two during the heat of activity.It is a tight rope walk and not to talk of intentional misuse and abuse.

In a country where internal and external security has acquired close interface to the extent of almost eliminating the difference , the task of separating national interest from the vested interest becomes very difficult,when military leaders intentions and ambitions are ambivalent.
In a highly polarized society suffering from such instability and threat, objective intentions and personal ambition gets mixed up and overlap.It becomes difficult to abstain.Intelligence agencies therefore have to prepare themselves for any eventuality and thus a rationale for what they allegedly do.

However,the agency mission can get crowded due to such widespread roles and responsibilities.Lack of focus may reduce operational efficiency and effectiveness.Failure to contain terrorism may be a related phenomenon.In the Us no major terrorist incident has taken place after 9/11.In Germany and Japan,in the post war period,many such terrorist groups had been neutralized by their national agencies.A joint campaign and dialogue ended Northern Ireland issue.In our case,no amelioration seems to be insight which is highly perturbing and demoralizing for the nation.

In this background,the responsibilities of the leadership of these agencies become very onerous and critical.Personal promotion and welfare often requires unbridled and manifest loyalty and support.There are unwritten rules and traditions.Nothing can possibly done without the commitment of the top brass of Pakistan Army.Apparently present leadership does not seem to have political ambitions.This may be the time to bring about some balance and adjustments in the working of the agencies.Training and motivation system must emphasize respect for the law and human rights.

In all democratic societies , major intelligence agencies(Mi5,MI6,CIA,FBI etc) report to the civilian set up and governments and are generally not a part of military.It does not mean that liaison and coordination and cooperation does not exist with the military.I the Us there is a class of civilians who almost act as discretely as their military counterparts.They are issued security clearance of varying scales allowing them access to secrets,installations and interactions.In Pakistan ,reportedly even retired generals are considered security risk. What I mean to say is that , talking of America,those civilians are different. We may also benefit from such traditions and practices.

In Pakistan , attempts to bring ISI under Ministry of interior were nipped in the bud. All political interference in the past has always come from this agency.On the other hand in our chaotic political scene, it may be too risky to entrust such sensitive functions of strategic intelligence to civilian domain where the systems have yet to acquire maturity and stability.A mid way out could be to take away some sections from ISI and transfer these to IB and make the latter more effective and assertive.And let ISI perform strategic intelligence under army.Some genuine thinking has to be done in this respect which has to come out internally from these agencies themselves than being an external imposition which would would be resisted.

Reform is due.It can be done without sacrificed operational aims and activities.In fact reforms would strengthen national security which is the objective. against misuse of power for pursuing personal aims of friends,relatives and clients should be built in.It has often been found that agency personnel misuse their official capacity in sorting civilian petty issues.Internal pre and post audit of activities,parliamentary oversight and some sort of internal judicial type clearance procedure should be instituted.

Outside criticism should be objective and careful.Irresponsible comments unnecessarily generate antagonism,fear and nervousness.Reform can be induced and encouraged through dialogue among the parties..Leadership should create opportunities for such dialogue with political parties,civil society and the media in an open and structured manner. We have by now quite a number of retired generals in politics,media and civil society who know the story of both the sides.Let them know that it is not always so dirty and there is a national purpose.

However,tinkering with the system can wait till some normalcy and stability returns.But minds can always remain open and working.Discussion and debate in this respect should create consensus which is vital for a sustainable reform effort.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Corporate governance of large public sector companies-the double board system

In Germany and other European countries,there is a 2-boards system for corporate management of companies exceeding a certain size.Rationale being,broader risk management,transparency and accountability and catering to the stake-holders and not just share-holders.There are two boards;one board of directors as we find in Pakistan and elsewhere where Anglo-Saxon model is practiced ; the other called Board of Supervisors or Supervisory Board.Board of directors is subordinate to the Board of Supervisors.Supervisory Board(BoS) has a chairman of the Board and several members.At least two of the BOS members are to be independent,not belonging to or associated with the company or share-holders.Normally consumer associations,civil society or university professors are inducted/elected in the general meeting as independent members.BOS and BOD are supposed to act together.BoS is concerned with broad policy guidelines,risk management,major contracts and audit.BoD is responsible for day to day operational management of the company under a chief executive(CEO).Lately both models have been converging;single boards powers being more circumscribed and receiving varying levels of external oversight;and BoS's diffused power system and consultative process shortened in the interest of efficiency and quick management.

My proposal is to try this system of two-boards in Pakistan in large public sector companies .We have seen the results of single board managed companies:mounting losses ,corruption ,falling level and quality of service etc.Take PIA,Railways,Pakistan Steel, WAPDA,PEPCO,National Bank of Pakistan ,OGDC etc.Under the current style of management, the CEO has unbridled powers of Black and White,who is manipulated from behind by controlling ministries.If CEO manages to keep the ministry happy,he is not asked many questions and is free to do all kind of nepotism,and corruption etc.Some powerful CEOs have direct line with the chief executive,Pm or President of the country and are immune from ministry's control either.Board members are only part-time and either have full tome jobs elsewhere or are board members of numerous organisations earning fee and other formal and informal advantages such as misuse of official vehicles,travel and leverage in appointments of personnel.

BoS ,in case of large public sector corporations can bring external and independent oversight,transparency and control over powerful individuals of the board and the CEO.The stakes involved in organisations like PIA and Railways are too much and too many.It is worth examining the viability of such a system in our circumstances.We need not copy the whole system in Toto and can and should make suitable adjustments to the German model.We have seen that in the US and other Anglo-Saxon countries,the supremacy of the CEOs has brought in many problems of recklessness and lack of transparency giving rise to financial crashes.Public sector is going to remain in Pakistan for a long time despite efforts of privatization.Hence the need of some innovation in respect of corporate governance.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Corruption requires a long term sustained effort and solution

Today there is a hue and cry over corruption.There are those who have other aims, and corruption is just a scapegoat for them.They want to weaken democracy and would noy let democratic traditions take root in the country.There are others well-meaning but naive citizen who are fed up of bad governance ,but their patience seems to have run out at a wrong time;too late or too early.Too late,because it should have been demanded during the long reign of Musharraf regime who had all the time in the world to improve governance; too early because democratic dispensation is too young of 2 years only.

People should understand that only a democratic system has been revived which has a potential to bring change and improvement over time.It is not a social revolution which has undone the forces of status quo and vested interest.It is only through the power of vote and successive cleansing through elections that one can hope cleaning the body politic of the country.

Pakistan today has many challenges, the biggest being of law and order, terrorism,dislocation of people and the economy caused by the floods etc. All fronts cannot and should not be opened at the same time.Those who want treatment,change,healing and improvement, should also look at the capacity of the patient to undergo multi operations.Hence some patience must be shown both by the people as well as the leaders.

There was corruption long before Mr.Zardari, and there will be long after him , from Molvi ZiaulHaq to Mr.Clean Musharraf.For years ,Pakistan is on the list of one of the most corrupt countries of the world.Poverty,inappropriate legal system , colonial style governance and a host of many other factors are responsible for it.It has quite deep roots in Pakistan.It is systemic and systematic.The corrupt are used to to living beyond means.As against 8000 NRO cases, more than a million corrupt officials should be there having well-entrenched and comfortable and stable operations.It would be wrong to assume that if one person at the very top is removed ,corruption would go away. It has been personally observed by many insiders and outsiders ,that having an honest boss at the top is not enough.I have seen many police chiefs who were extremely honest personally ,but could make no dent on police corruption.There were many very honest chairmen of CBR ,none of them could reduce corruption.There are so many retired justices and chief justices of the high court and the supreme court who were impeccably honest.Did they or could they including the existing ones, manage to reduce corruption in judiciary.The answer is no.It is the bottom of Pakistan which is corrupt and may be the top.

President Asif Zardaris ' cases admittedly are not being helpful for democratic stability these days.There are other complications that may develop with premature toppling of Sindh leadership.So many Sindh leaders have been killed and dethroned.There are nationalists and separatists who are waiting for their turn.There is trouble in the two other provinces.Let us be patient,objective and practical about things politic.Rome was not built in a day.

What has happened as a result of activism and bickering and calls for improvements in governance and performance. has happened today is that the Troika's standing has been revived and strengthened and not of democracy , where their is no Troika.There is P.M. and the parliament.ZiaulHaq kept assuring Bhutto , although he was only letting the opportunity mature and acted when he felt comfortable.If civilians do not act responsibly and do not put their act together,democracy would suffer again.It was during dictatorship that CJ was manhandled and locked in his house.It is democracy which brought him back.

Pakistan Meteorological Department being a Ministry of Defence entity ?

It may surprise many,but it is true that Pakistan Meterological Department(PMD) is part of the Ministry of Defence.What direct relevance is there of weather with matters of war and peace should be known to those who put that department where it is now.Perhaps nowhere in the World is this department associated with the military or Defence except for antiquated regimes like North Korea and Mayanmar.In 19th century century days of Clausewitz ,weather data may have a had strategic value requiring security and secrecy.Today in the age of satellites and international weather modelling ,there is hardly any notion of sensitivity about this data.

But why should one bother about where a department is located hierarchically, so long such an association does not cause any problem in its functioning ,output and liaison with the users.There is an implication and a serious one.Due to being a MoD installation,there has always been an aura of secrecy about it. PMD has been found wanting in disseminating the data with the required facility and readiness.There is always some hesitation and number of questions asked and forms to be filled to get simple meteorological data which everywhere is available abundantly on the net without charge.Now bureaucracy has discovered another convenient device of hiding behind user charges and have started charging discouragingly high commercial charges for the data.It may be awkward to call the data to be sensitive and easy to deny and discourage access through demanding payments.And then making payments is not easy.You have to get an account number from the department,go to the State Bank of Pakistan ,make the payment,repeat the process if there is some discrepancy and the cycle goes on.Similarly FBS does with its data.They hardly earn any money and contribute towards financial sustainability,but manage to discourage data use and development.And in case of PMD,save the so called," sensitive' data.The consequence is that many scientific,economic and environmental applications that could have been developed and published could not be done. A number of which I can readily cite.Most EIA applications involving air pollution such as of power plants cannot be done because of the data restrictions.Expensive software like AERMOD has been made free by other countries,but for the ready availability of data.Flood modelling and water inundation cannot be made online because of restrictions on GIS.A lot of economic analysis is not undertaken on various regions of the country because CENSUS data is not made available in the required format or even made available online.A lot of flood information and analysis and forecast of flood flows could have been made available to the public in the form of flood maps,but for such restrictions esp on GIS.

In the case of PMD and its role in flood forecasting and organisational interfacing with the user departments,the jury is still to be out.The net result has been , a lack of coordination among the relevant organisations.Did PMD's special status a MoD entity prevent or discourage readily interacting directly with other departments or it had to go via?these questions would be and should be reviewed at the earliest opportunity.In any case PMDs association with the MoD and its secretive behavior is an anachronism which must change.It should be reorganized along open lines and appended to Ministry of Science and Technology or MINFAL .PMD itself should not have too much of a say in it, as they may not be objective about it due to the real estate advantages that come with MoD affiliation.

And lastly appending civilian institution to defence sector has many disadvantages,the most important being the budgetary issues.Defence expenditure unnecessarily becomes high and bulky reflecting poorly in political terms inviting undeserved criticism and hostility.Genuine requirements of Defence sector are too many and do not justify further agglomeration.

Pakistan Meteorological Department being a Ministry of Defence entity ?

w.It is too catastrophic to ponder over.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Introducing reforms in the banking sector

Banking sector unduly prospered in the reign of Musharraf-Aziz Qureshi.In order to get acclaim and recommendations from powerful financial lobby,national and international(it is well integrated),it is found essential by illegitimate regimes pursuing temporary bonanza and ratings,to patronize and unduly benefit this sector.Result being buoyancy in banking and purely speculative stock exchange.International press and media starts publishing photos and shower praise.Often ratings improve mostly because of the psychological factors.Boom is brought to be followed by a subsequent bust as has happened in the past and also most recently.Although the recent bust has been related with international factors, while it is also true that slowdown had already set in by 2005.You can only go so far by superficial laissez-fair and by utilizing earlier installed capacities and investments.Why is the boom not sustainable? Perhaps the bust is implicit in the boom?

Hot capital attracted by a purely speculative market goes away at the slightest indication ,robbing the small investors of their investments by causing planned and unplanned crashes.Stock markets based on long term investments and yields may be of some benefit to the economy,contributing to the welfare of investing public and creating jobs and economic activity.
If there is an improvement in the performance of the financial sector,the interest rates should have come down along with the cost of intermediation. Lending rates hover around 18-20%,while the deposit rates seldom exceed 10 %.This is among one of the highest bank margin ,indicative of underdeveloped and inefficient financial and banking sector.It discourages both borrowing and deposits and only encourages bankers.No wonder banks in this country have earned huge profits. The artificial boom, call it free-for- all , caused distortions in banks factor market.Ordinary run of the mill managers started demanding and managed to get impossible salaries.After all the loot had to be shared.It was shared by their patrons,banks and the employees.Net losers being the depositors and the economy.

This is the time to correct the excesses of Musharraf regime and bring in some real competition in the sector so that the lending rates come down ,removing one of the major stumbling blocks in the competitiveness of Pakistani exports ,causing trade gap ,foreign borrowing and more inflation.However Pakistan interest rates are not high due to inflation,as the deposit rates are comparatively low.It is the bank margin that makes interest rates high ,I must say,at the risk of being nauseatingly repetitive.There is no need to be disruptive and rash.Some adjustments and reforms can definitely cause improvements without rocking the boat.A high level committee of the stake holders incorporating some genuine reform and socially oriented intellectuals and professionals should be formed to address the required changes.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Ten Commandments for the government in the aftermath of Floods

There are widespread demands of improving governance performance. It appears that some major policy steps and reforms package may have to be launched courageously to assuage concerns in this respect.All policy reforms of any significance carry risks of annoying and even antagonizing some sector or group.Those risks have to be taken.The risks in not taking the measures and appear to be doing something meaningful are probably more .

These are my humble submissions to the Government of Pakistan , especially in the aftermath of the floods,which would have been required to be implemented even before the floods.The list could have been longer,but has been kept brief.More will follow in this series:

0)The most sacrosanct principle and objective should be to survive and let the democratic government to complete its term for the first time in the history of Pakistan..Fighting for it in itself is a respectable motto.Any conspiracy against a Sindh leadership party would be injurious to national fabric and unity.

00)Encourage Americans to depart from Afghanistan as an only peaceful ending to terrorism in due course,despite possible prodding for the opposite from certain quarters, to keep the US in.These are the people who want to have cake and eat it too.Do not listen to them.Keep trying for a Marshal Plan for Afghanistan and Pakistan.Involve Afghans in the process.There should be no hurry for a break-through with India.Let them wait for Nawaz Sharif.

1)Maintain and pursue the politics of inclusion,reconciliation and consensus ,taking the partners along. Pursue the same within as well.

2)Do not borrow unnecessary confrontation from the powerful institutions.

3)Revive local governments( setting an example in Sindh),even if with lesser powers and adjustments for LGs , preferably with the consensus of stake-holders , and encourage provincial governments elsewhere to do the same.

4)Tax(on Income) the agricultural landlords holding 100 acres or more.

5)Launch some significant initiative on Land Reforms and Land Distribution.Introduce land co-operative schemes.

6)Introduce and pursue jobs creating economic policies supporting SMEs and micro enterprises.Large Industrial sector has very little room for growth in the current national and international trade and competition regime,as has also been indicated by recent data.

7)Do not fall into the trap of extractive taxation policies and so called documentation.However do barely enough to barely satisfy IMF boys.These policies would scuttle growth and job creation especially among the poor.

8)Revive Ration Card scheme of the 1960s(free or cheap ration) for flood victims and for the others for cheap rates from the utility stores.

9)Introduce Aqua fishery(cage) for flood areas and coastal areas of Sindh and Balochistan.

10)Pay attention to Energy Sector:fast track Thar Coal with Chinese with a deal of 5000 MW;solve hydro royalty issue of KP ala Indian model of 12% free electricity.

11)Bring meaningful reforms in the exploitative Banking sector,bringing lending interest rates and banks margins down , and balance the lopsided free for all brought in by Musharraf and his minions.No wonder all kinds of banks have been coming in for a small economy seeing huge profits.

Energy sector has a potential to drown Pakistan

Last oil price hike was among one of the major factors of devastating Pakistan's economy.What will another hike do is any body's guess.Great risk lies in there.Our dependence on oil is increasing despite such impending and known risk.Almost all power plants that have come on stream recently run on oil;more are to come.Domestic oil production is not increasing,despite some potential.Gas production is going down and in the process of being used up.New exploration and discoveries are hampered due to political and law and order problems in Balochistan and elsewhere.Despite Balochistan package and other palliatives and offers.political situation in Balochistan has only worsened.And do not think that only military can solve this problem.It can only make it worse.

There is no serious break through on Thar Coal despite great potential.It is difficult to imagine for outsiders like us as to what stalls progress on Thar coal.Probably Sindh has overplayed its card of provincial autonomy assuming exclusive control over an issue that has many interfaces.And now it is appearing to come close to a failure.Some new initiative is required to cause a breakthrough.Now floods would be a good excuse for every inefficient entity to hide under its cover.On the other hand federal bureaucracy,barring some settlement on "joint development", seems to be searching for options except Thar coal.Chinese have been prevailed to supply more nuclear reactors,which are three times more expensive in capital costs and associated with many other hurdles and political difficulties.We must be clear in our minds that only Chinese can possibly develop Thar coal in the remote and scorching heat of Thar desert.No other country or company can handle the risks involved in this size of the project.You can sign nth MOUs ,nothing would happen.As a token World Bank has withdrawn support among criticism of financing dirty coal.I hope we manage to put our act together before it is too late and financing coal is stopped altogether in the nearing prospects of solar power.The solution may lie in awarding a 5000 MW project to Chinese to include all the infrastructure development costs.Chinese may agree to it on suitable terms.

I heard a Sindhi nationalist leader spitting venom on hydel power and Kalabagh dam,despite being drowned in flood water.What more rationale and justification can be given of excess water to be stored in dams than these horrific floods in which 45 MAF(million acre feet) of water has overflown in a few days as opposed to a normal flow of 100 MAF over the entire year.The combined storage of all the dams proposed to be built is smaller than this flow.It is hoped that barring these Abujehls people in Sindh in general are not going to block dams any further.If they do they would be drowned again and again and resultantly the whole of Pakistan.Dams have long been used throughout to store water and prevent floods.Americans,Chinese,Brazilians ,Indians and others have done it successfully.There is no colonialism about it.Let us hope that sense prevails ultimately.

And now the pricing.GOP has been subsidising electricity amounting to Rs !50 billion per year.It has not been able to pay it however ,along with the non-payment of electricity bills by the provincial governments.This has given rise to circular debt of Rs 200 billion.It does not get paid off ,as more amount is added to it successively.And IMF is also requiring to do away with these subsidies.If these subsidies are withdrawn,along with the uniform subsidized tarriff,electricity rates in Sindh,KP and Balochistan would increase.In Punjab electricity rates are expected to go down? Why? Is it another so called" machination from Punjab" as many nationalists would be akin to term it? Not really.the story is as follows.About 25 % of electricity is lost in T&D losses, a large part of it is theft.This T&D loss(theft mostly) is not uniform through out Pakistan.In Punjab,it is the lowest around12% in northern and central Punjab and 15% in southern Punjab.Everywhere else,these losses are in the range of 35-45%.Currently these excessive losses are hidden and averaged out in uniform tariff.Without electricity subsidy borne out by the GOP,every province and user would pay for its losses.Thus Punjab having lesser losses would end up in lower tariff and the opposite will happen to the users elsewhere.

As it is electricity is expensive and kind of unaffordable for most of the people and even businesses,a pandora box will open up.The issue may not end up in terms of the aforementioned cool and cold logic.The issue is far more complicated.KP will argue that you take away our(it is not theirs' solely) cheap hydro electricity at one Rupee a unit and sell it back to us at 6-7 Rupees.In Balochistan cost of gas fired electricity is Rupees 4 per unit and similarly Sindh produces a lot of gas for electricity production.What is the way out?Balochistan's consumption is quite low and could be jangled in a variety of ways.In Sindh ,problems would be further compounded due to KESC vs rest of Sindh.More thinking is required on this.

However KP issue can be at least partly resolved by resolving the Hydel Profit/Royalty of Tarbela Dam produced electricity.No permanent solution has been implemented.Despite practical suggestions proposed by this scribe some 18 months back.My suggestion is simple.Give 12% of Tarbela generated electricity to KP free as royalty or alternatively pay 12% royalty at CPPA whole sale price.Both are more or less equivalent,transparent and simple to understand and not mired by the complicated calculations of AGN Kazi.It is being done in India, a country not disliked by Sarhadi Gandhi to say the least?Elsewhere the royalties are lesser.This maximum should be acceptable to the government of KP and even the other distractors.A n early decision should be made in this respect in consultation with the stakeholders.These royalties should go towards adjustments of tariff increases.I would tend to support 12% free electricity which has a larger public appeal and would be politically attractive.

Finally energy conservation and efficiency issues should receive government support and attention.A unit saved is a unit produced and even worth more due to environmental reasons.In order to remain out of technical complexity,let me propose here to reduce the demand of air-conditioning to a more acceptable level. Two or even three piece suits have become unduly popular in Pakistan government and business circles, requiring chilling while the outside temperature may be 45 degree C or more.This is awfully expensive.Instead Bu-shirts should be promoted,as one Japanese P.M.reportedly proposed for his country in the context of rising cost of energy.GOP has already taken steps towards reducing Ac loads.More should be done.How about reverting back to Kurta Shalwar ala-Zia period.I am not a Zia supporter as is widely known,but would not mind adopting and proposing better policies.

Improving governance performance:the case of Lalloo Prasad

Often it is argued that in Parliamentary democracy,ministers come from their districts through popular votes.They are often not well versed with the ministerial tasks they are entrusted with.Consequently a case is made either for the Presidential system in which ministers are not elected but are selected by the president usually on the basis of expertise cum political association.
Or military dictators emerge offering expert ministers as a better alternative.Can ministers deliver in the parliamentary system while lacking in expertise?The case of Lalloo prasad,the former flamboyant Chief Minister of Bihar province in India, proves that ministers can deliver.Lalloo turned around Indian Railways recently,turning a loss giving entity into a profitable organisation and that without increasing the fares.In India ministers have been delivering well over the years despite the so-called cacophony and rambling of democracy.It has been marching ahead on fast track over the last decade with a growth rate of 10% plus as opposed to our boom-bust economy artificially primed by military dictators which often runs into snags thereafter.

There is a strong case for our ministers to improve performance.After all they are a motley crowd of a century plus permitting build up of expertise and specialization.Having large cabinets is often a need of fledgling democracies garnering and building a strong base of support for the government.Only a minister is added.Often the administrative departments are already there
irrespective of a separate minister.If ministers behave frugally,and the whole system is reorganized on frugality and cost consciousness,it can be affordable.So the problem is not with having a large cabinet,it is with the general culture of profligacy.The most frugal government expenditure system is of the U.S.High ranking US officials are found travelling in "tubes" in Geneva .Their Pakistani counterparts often are provided with rented Mercedes.

Similarly much criticized foreign trips and travel could be made more cost effective ,if no extra payments are made other than a frugal daily allowance, and embassies are forbidden to afford extra cost.All legitimate costs can be affordable and justified,if there is efficiency and output.Without output and performance,even a zero cost would be a liability.So buck up Pakistani parliamentary ministers.Introduce frugality,innovation and efficiency.As Iqbal said rightly and slightly too optimistically: sabaq parh phir adalat ka shujaat ka,Liya jaega tujh se kam dunya ki imamat ka.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

List of Blogs

A. Introduction


  • Flood relief:Solar Disinfection of Water
  • Flood Relief:clean drinking water and PCSIR products
  • Flood mitigation: Planning and community participation
  • Floods;lack of a communication protocol
  • Review of FFC and Flood Management System
  • Flood dividends
  • Floods and the mighty Indus
  • Flood Compensation
  • Risk Management: floods and businesses
  • Flood Forecasting and Management System in Pakistan
  • Flood Management & Map Phobia in Pakistan
  • Floods forecasts and Emergency preparedness
  • Flood victims: Emergency support vs sustainability
  • Floods: Emergency Shelter and Toilets (continued)
  • Floods: Emergency Shelters and toilets concept and costs
  • Floods and Dams: the right time for discourse and debate
  • Floods: water accord and discord in Pakistan
  • Floods: irrigation system, abiana and income tax on agricultural incomes?
  • Inadequate and delayed relief assistance and the potential for anarchy and destabilisation


  • Land and Housing Reforms: Innovations and opportunities due to the floods.
  • Land (zar, zameen and zan) is one of the THREE.
  • Is Land Reform off the Menu?
  • Afghan Mineral Resources for Regional Development.
  • Land Ownership and Utilization in Pakistan
  • Land Reforms: Restructuring Agriculture and Political Power
  • Balochistan; Insurgency and Land Reform


  • University Research: Water & Environment
  • University Research: the Floods
  • University Research IX :Conclusion
  • University Research X: the way forward
  • University Research VIII: the case of HEJ and PCSIR
  • University Research VII: the antithesis
  • University Reseach VI; Agriculture
  • University Research V: the incubators
  • University Research IV:Bio-sciences
  • What an engineering university should be doing at a minimum
  • University Research III: Ultimately Public Sector Universities would have to earn some money
  • University Research:relevance ,cost-effectiveness and not elitism
  • University Research II: Merger of Ministries of Edu and Science


  • The need and rationale for a Water Policy
  • Pakistan Drinking Water Policy
  • Mr. President (Musharraf) : What you should be doing?
  • Book Review/Comment:Memories of a soldier; 1947, before, during , after
  • Dichotomy of Political Power: Persecution or Performance and Capability?
  • Why Pakistan Railways is collapsing?
  • Floods and the Local Governments


  • Is beggary a menace to be curtailed?
  • Insuring the poor.


  • Fishery cage aquaculture for sustainable Livelihood for the poor,landless and flood victims

H. Appendix

· Pakistan's Development and Energy Challenges: Two new books by Akhtar Ali.

  • New Book: Pakistan's Development Challenges: federalism, security and governance.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Managing Pakistan in the aftermath of the floods

Floods have devastated Pakistan directly and indirectly.Nealy one-fifth of people and area have been affected.Human, cattle,crops,homes,schools and infrastructure and what not have been destroyed.Damage and loss assessment is yet to be completed,however,there are varying estimates ranging from 11 to 45 billion US dollars.As it is Pakistan was reeling from the affects of two or more successively bad years due to international recession,oil price hike and political transition.Floods have worsened the situation further.The initial psychological and physical shock was so much that some people even doubted that Pakistan would be able to survive at all.These doubts are not new and the flood shocks have even exacerbated those.

Floods visit every community where there is a river.For centuries of human experience and history,floods have been considered a blessing which brought a new round of fertility.There used to be no fertilizers ,floods brought fertile soil along and spread it on the shore.The problem is due to the burgeoning population.In the last sixty years alone,Pakistan's population has increased manifold,mounting pressure on both rural and urban land and areas.

The intensity of floods was colossal.According to initial estimates,45 MAF(million acre feet) of water gushed out in a few days,as opposed to normal average flow of 100 MAF in one full year.This was certainly the most severe flood in the history of the land of this country.

Admittedly,floods devastation could have been much lesser,had we been a little more organised and a little less corrupt and inefficient.What a forlorn hope.Most technology to forecast floods and deal with it exists in the country but utilized with wanting efficiency.Investments in Dykes and Levees have been made over the years,but got weakened and dilapidated due to poor maintenance as a result of corruption of the irrigation department.On e of the most corrupt in a country which has the "honour" of being listed as one of the most corrupt countries of the world.Sindh has suffered much more due to this corrupt officialdom.In Sindh,doctors and teachers donot go to their workplaces and draw salaries.It is ghost schools and health facilities all over. Nationalists in Sindh would have pushed all the fault to Pakistan and its federal (punjab) government ,had Sindh not been ruling in the center and elsewhere.A separatist movement would have been launched.Thanks to the present democratic set-up.This is another reason,that many patriotic and sincere Pakistanis argue and wish that the current political dispensation should be allowed to continue and complete its full term,which it has legitimately earned,despited the purported faults and issues.Sky is not falling,it would have fallen in their absence of those who pronounced "Pakistan Khape" in a situation when they had all the power and potential to play foul.

It is not easy to run this country in these circumstances.Perhaps those who are destablising the system in the hope of coming to power through back doors donot quote appreciate it.So is the power of power.It is a mix motley crowd consisting of naive and innocent middle class professionals clamoring for reform and revolution and a less mature media led by inadequately informed anchors,some of whom clearly running their personal vendetta.In the background there always are undemocratic forces,both within and outside the establishment.The establishment established long ago by the so called," gang of four', led and left by the Governor Ghulam Mohammad.Younger people would'nt know and appreciate what I mean.

Government of the day has great responsibility to discharge despite onerous and mounting problems.For its part,it should maintain its politics of consensus despite problems and difficulties. Opposition has a difficult role and task to perform to which it has not been quite used to and for which there has not been a tradition.To maintain and support the present set up without letting them winning the next election.It is indeed a tight rope, and the chances and incentives and detractor too many to cause imbalance and a fall.Mr.Nawaz Sharif has an opportunity to live for history and not for power.He has done well uptill now and should continue doing so.He would earn more honour and respect without power than with it.He has already done so.