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The quality of life has gone down in our country too. You see it on our roads, you see it on television; you see it all around you - around your neighborhoods, your towns and cities, even when you meet your peers, friends and relatives. It’s the same story at your workplace, your neighborhood store, your Masjid (most people – read men - now prefer to say their prayers in seclusion instead of doing it the old fashioned way; that is, going off to the Masjid); you never know when it’s your time. Gathering for religion, fun, shopping and nightlife is taboo in our country now. No, I am not exaggerating By Fareeha Qayoom

By Fareeha Qayoom

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ife is hard in Pakistan. There is no job security. Your company can go bankrupt any time. Businesses can’t make ends meet. Households can’t make ends meet. Even your government can’t make ends meet. Everywhere you look, bills are mounting up. There are no savings to fall back on. Producers are not producing. Consumers are consuming as if there is no tomorrow. Our population is exploding – we are a nation of 180 million strong according to some folk on television and sixty percent of that population is under age 25-30!

Photo AP

Photo AP

Citizens might have aspirations, they might have ambitions, they might even want to compete with the Joneses but they don’t have the cash. (I am talking about ordinary regular folk here; the rich can survive rain or shine). When it’s a game of survival – all bets are off. You can’t expect people trapped in such circumstances to maintain a modicum of decency too. You are expecting too much. This is what is happening in Pakistan right now. People are keeping their heads down and just managing to survive from day to day. Money is so short, you don’t think twice about cheating someone out of their hard earned cash. There’s no pride in a job well done any more, more is the pity. People do as much as they can get away with and no more.

The quality of life has gone down in our country too. You see it on our roads, you see it on television; you see it all around you – around your neighborhoods, your towns and cities, even when you meet your peers, friends and relatives. It’s the same story at your workplace, your neighborhood store, your Masjid (most people – read men – now prefer to say their prayers in seclusion instead of doing it the old fashioned way; that is, going off to the Masjid); you never know when it’s your time. Gathering for religion, fun, shopping and nightlife is taboo in our country now. No, I am not exaggerating.

Even going to your workplace might be fraught with danger. You never know when and where the terrorists will strike next. There are couple of incidents every day somewhere in Pakistan and a full action thriller on a weekly basis, for example, take yesterday, if floods and target killings in Karachi were not enough, we even had an incident in Peshawar. They killed a few cops and  burnt some cars. No one feels safe in this country.

The other day, my brother had to go to Hall Road, I found myself praying that everything should go all right over there. It was only later that I realized this was pretty strange thing to do on my part. Going to shop is such an ordinary thing normally but not in Pakistan. Even going to work could prove dangerous. A couple of weeks ago, they asked us to evacuate our office building because there was a bomb threat. Unfortunately for us, the message didn’t reach us in time – we were sitting pretty when a friend of mine called me and asked me, “Where are you?” I go, “at work, where would I be at 11:00 am on Monday morning?” She told me to come down immediately and bring all my colleagues down because there was loads of police and they had made everyone leave. We verified this information and we left too…there was no explosion, thank God, but they have tightened the security since then and now they scan our vehicles and our bags too. This is a fact of life and now considered normal. The Chinese and Scots have a couple of interesting philosophical thoughts that describe life in Pakistan exactly…they go something like this, “May you be born in an important time,” says Confucius (c. 551-478 BC) while the Scots have an old Scottish curse that goes like this, “May you live in interesting times.”

At work, I am in the process of putting together a news website – as content development manager, in phase one, since we are still looking for resources and the current staff is only two people (apart from me, I have put them to work on another writing project), the only original writing is coming from my desk for the website right now…I am supposed to come up with one original editorial a day until I can hire more writers.

Yesterday, I met a news consultant sent by my boss who asked me to forward him my work so he could give me feedback and offer some suggestions for improvement. I sent him my editorials penned from July 27th to August 6th, 2010 – when read in a sequence; they make a compelling history of the past few days.

From the editor’s desk

Tuesday, July 27th 2010: WikiLeaks US war logs

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eaked US war logs, some 91,000 classified documents, by the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, has been creating media frenzy since yesterday all over the world including Pakistan.  The western and Indian media has been especially active and vocal in alleging Pakistan has been playing a secret double game in Bush’s regime, clandestinely supporting ‘Afghan’ Taliban while playing at a front line state against “War against Terror” taking millions of dollars of US Taxpayers money in support. This is actually nothing new and has been printed daily in the western media since 2001 onwards. In fact, US government has said it officially numerous times too, sometimes, bluntly, sometimes, sugar coating it in the familiar refrain, “do more.’’ I fail to understand this new hysteria?

What about Pakistanis losing their lives (civilian and military) daily all over Pakistan (and Afghanistan?) in this “war against terror’’? Does money now equal loss of precious human lives in the resultant Afghan fall-out on Pakistan?  Especially when the money is not enough to even offer band aid to cover the gaping wound of shrinking economy, rising joblessness, brain-drain, sense of hopelessness and rising suicide numbers by the rising poor of the country, daily suffering and loss of lives because of frequent bombings, target killings and imminent terrorists threats? The terrorists won’t even allow Pakistanis to pray in congregation before bombing them to stone-age – how can citizens have a sense of security in such an environment? This is not enough suffering?

Karachi

Karachi: Target Killings continue...

The price we are paying for this war on terror is not enough apparently? They want more? On top of it, I fail to understand when majority of Afghanistan is not under NATO/Karzai government control, why can’t Bin Laden hide there? Won’t it be easier for him? They are not even looking for him there anymore so how do they know, he’s left the building? They keep alleging about ‘’terrorist sanctuaries’’ in Pakistan. Isn’t Pak army already cleaning up terrorists sanctuaries in KP anyway? Are they some other terrorists? Aren’t they called Taliban too? I thought all terrorists were the factions of the same group. Isn’t that what western media keeps alleging, Talibans, TTP and LeT are all the same guys? Who is playing the double game then?

Pakistan has come out strongly against these allegations; unfortunately, Pakistan’s rebuttal has not been given much space in the world headlines. The alleged documents were apparently classified (read internal) memo’s from Afghanistan to USA between US army personnel and do not constitute evidence – now declassified by WikiLeaks just mention a lot of “fears’’ against Pak army or rather Pakistan’s “spy” agency ISI – first of all, if you are reporting objective news, you wouldn’t use the word ‘’spy’’ – you would use the word ‘’intelligence’’ agency. The word ‘’spy’’ has negative connotations in the English language. On top of it, Pakistan’s rebuttal has been stuck somewhere at the bottom as a one liner or not mentioned at all in an effort to sensationalize the news. If this doesn’t beat all, all of them have taken the popular Indian and USA party line that they keep singing – “DO MORE” or words to that effect.

Personally, I think the timing of this leak is suspect too, not to mention the fact that such vast quantity of documents were leaked, some reports even place it at 92,000 documents; especially when Clinton has bluntly come out during her recent trip (July 2010) to allege that Pak establishment knows where Osama Bin Laden is hiding and are not doing anything to catch him. So why isn’t US doing anything to catch the goon? If they have credible information, why can’t they send in their drones? They have been sending their drones all over KP to kill lesser figure heads of Talibans and Al-Qaeda?

Peshawar target killing

Peshawar: Target killing of cops

Pakistan should stop playing the victim of circumstances and step up its communication – public support is very strong component of any war of words, unfortunately, in spite of strong media, Pakistan is losing to western and Indian propaganda machine. A pity really because even the official Afghan government has not been able to control the situation in their home ground and USA, NATO and Afghanistan still need Pak army to clean up their mess, so the least they should do is acknowledge this fact instead of blaming Pakistan for not doing enough and playing “double games’’ or “long-held view that the war won’t end until terrorist sanctuaries in neighboring nations are shut down,” as reportedly said by Afghan government yesterday.

As Gilani said in rebuttal to Clinton, bring ‘’credible evidence’’ that Laden is hiding in Pakistan and then see if Pakistan doesn’t act on it. It’s all very well, blaming Pakistan for all ills in the region, however, when you start blame game and witch hunts, do remember that you don’t come out of the fiasco squeaky clean either.

From the editor’s desk

Wednesday, July 28th 2010: Price hikes and the coming Ramadan

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hings are tough for an average Pakistani right now.  With shrinking economy and equally shrinking middle class, rising unemployment rates, corporate down- sizing, right-sizing and frequent bankruptcies, bombings, target killings and  terrorist threats, there is a sense of insecurity in the country  which is further exacerbated by the fact that Pakistan has become the battle ground for  Jihadi terrorist groups.  If this was not enough to contend with, prices hike for essential commodities without notice or real justification almost on monthly basis.

It is becoming tougher to juggle bills with shrinking incomes per household.  If no action is taken, this will only raise more lawlessness and general hopelessness as people become more desperate to survive. As is, the rising suicide rates of general population are disquieting and should raise alarm bells in the minds of the ruling elite.

With the advent of Ramadan, prices are on the rise again. Sugar and electricity are two such items for example that have hiked yet again within this week.  Sugar prices have gone up by PKR 10 per kg, while electricity rates have increased by PKR 0.64 per unit which translates into even more costlier electricity per unit.

It is refreshing to note that Pakistan Muslim League- N (PML-N) is at least willing to rise to the occasion and debate this issue in the National Assembly Secretariat.  Ahsan Iqbal, the chief spokesman for the party warned the government on Tuesday that such decisions could ultimately lead to toppling of the coalition government if not checked.

From the editor’s desk

Thursday, July 29th 2010: Day of Mourning declared by the government of Pakistan

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he Government of Pakistan declared a ‘Day of Mourning’ on Thursday for the loss of lives in Islamabad plane crash.

The cabinet reportedly also offered prayers for the son of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s (KP) Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain who was recently killed by terrorists and also sent out a condolence message to the families affected by rains and floods in Balochistan, KP and FATA and offered prayers for those who lost their lives in this latest natural disaster in their Wednesday meeting.

Commendable but hardly sensitive to people’s plight – why doesn’t the government declare year of mourning for the loss of lives all over Pakistan due to bombings, target killings and terrorist threats? Why doesn’t the government declare a month of mourning for loss of lives due to monsoon rains and the incompetence of its staff to manage this particular disaster effectively?  – 50 people died since yesterday in KP and FATA due to flashfloods alone.  Does even declaring a period of mourning help? This is after all just words.

Margalla Hills Plane Crash, Photo AFP

The government needs to take effective action now, put measures in place to combat natural disasters caused by a. climate change (rains, droughts, floods, landslides, storms – blizzards, typhoons, hurricanes and cyclones), and b. man- made disasters (target killings, bombings, and terrorist threats, conflicts and wars.). Resolve issues. Talk is cheap. It doesn’t do anything for anybody. The anatomy of problems is only growing- talk won’t stem its tide. More needs to be done– like US government’s favorite refrain – the citizens of Pakistan want the Pak government to “DO MORE” too!

From the editor’s desk

Friday, July 30th 2010: A full action thriller with bits of drama thrown in too!

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t’s been an eventful week for Pakistani citizens. God must be real angry with us or maybe we deserve the series of bizarre misfortunes because of our apathy for putting up with so much and still keeping our heads down? I don’t know. We all seem comfortably numb.

Only this week, Pakistan has gone through the following list of events for example:

  • WikiLeaks releases classified US documents that allegedly implicate Pakistan in supporting Afghan Taliban, the world and its media turns against Pakistan
  • HEC, fake degrees saga continues! (No wonder we are having so many problems with our leaders not even literate enough to read the fine print. Just fire them already and move on!)
  • Judges still hung over system of appointments
  • AJK elects new leadership
  • Kayani’s term is extended and this is apparently a cause of concern for all concerned citizens and media
  • Prices hike before advent of Ramadan – Sugar, Electricity and CNG; all within this week
  • Plane crashes in Margalla Hills – 152 people die
  • Rains, floods, loss of lives and property in KP and Balochistan continues – 400,000 people affected, death toll rising daily
  • Target Killings escalate

Every second news about Pakistan reports death, destruction, death, destruction and ineffectual behavior of our government in coping with the new crisis. Only God help us but even God seems to have stopped caring for the land of the pure.

I heard on the eight o’clock news day before yesterday that the religious scholars (Ulema) have asked the citizens to step up their prayers because only God can help in these circumstances. Since we can’t do much about unfolding events – Let us pray!

Zardari and Gilani – Are you game? Will you be holding a prayer meeting?

From the editor’s desk

Saturday, July 31st 2010: KP: the ravaged province and 30 years of calamities

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hyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) has been in jeopardy since forever. A few generations of Pakistanis have grown up in the last thirty years in the meantime.

What with the Afghan conflict on its borders since 1979 and the Afghan refugee situation, the new fall-out of the conflict resulting from US-NATO invasion since 2001, target killings, bombings and terrorist activities in our home ground, earthquake 2005, Pak Army’s action to push right back the Afghan natives to their point of origin who were taking refuge in KP and planning their so-called resistance to NATO forces, which resulted in loads of IDPs only last year, and now the latest calamity – floods, the citizens are probably wondering whatever did they ever do to deserve all this. When calamity happens, we always ask God, “Why me?”

Over 400, 000 citizens have been affected. Death Toll seems to be rising hourly as many people are unaccounted for and might turn up dead when the dust settles. Tourists are stuck in the north. Things seem pretty bad and are getting worse rapidly. As usual, the government was caught off-guard.

KP the ravaged province - Photo AP

Funnily enough, with climate change debate heating up in the world, they should have known they would be one of the worst hit countries of the world from now on, especially now, when the developed world refuses to take action to cap its carbon emissions or take effective measures to halt its relentless tide – innocent lives will be lost every year now because governments of the world refuse to do the right thing.

Extremes of weather, rain, floods and droughts, storms (cyclones, hurricanes and typhoons) will be the norm going forward in Pakistan. Monsoon is a yearly phenomenon in Pakistan and this year our Met office warned all stakeholders back in April (or was it May?) that it would hit Pakistan early and in force which it did.

KPs economy is in shambles – tourism, industry, manufacturing and agriculture. This latest calamity is probably the last straw. I was watching images (on my TV screen) of protestors angrily shouting for the government to do something last night! ‘Rescue operations are fairly inadequate and disaster relief management is not in place.

The latest series of troubles are not over – after Balochistan and KP, now, it’s apparently Sindh’s turn – the flood waters are heading in that direction to wreck some more havoc. The government will need to heavily invest in disaster relief management going forward because our climate is indeed changing and each year, it will bring a new installment of disaster one way or another. It’s a fact that the whole world is suffering its impact but we unfortunately are again the front line state in our fight against nature. We better get prepared.

From the editor’s desk

Monday, August 2nd, 2010: Where does all the money go? Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?

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hings are tough for Pak citizens – is there any doubt? Would any other nation want to walk in our shoes right now? Probably not.

We are surrounded by incompetent leaders who were not even smart enough to pass their Bachelor’s exam without cheating so they went a step further and committed fraud to circumvent a law of the land. What a great role model for future generations!

We are surrounded by leaders who don’t pay taxes and have no plans of ever paying taxes in this country. They make laws that shift burden of taxes on the poor and the middle classes. Yes, I am talking about GST and other indirect taxes that hit us in wallet every year but not them. The elected elite that run this country are all hi-tech farmers, (read: feudal lords that own big agricultural estates), real estate tycoons (they own mansions, palaces, shops and big country estates here and abroad), and industrialists and financiers (they own industries and banks). Why would they make laws to tax themselves? So VAT or GST or whatever new fancy name they come up with will remain a joke in this country. Poor IMF – they don’t understand that in a corrupt country like ours, it’s quite easy to cook the books – so where does that leave GST? The consumers might end up paying GST but producers, retailers, service providers and business owners don’t have to declare their income or numbers if they don’t want to…

Britain: in honor of President Zardari

We are surrounded by leaders who are insensitive enough to go on foreign tours so they can meet visit family and party workers on government expense while Pak citizens are drowning and crying for help, not to mention, when one of the hosts they plan to visit have insulted them sufficiently by calling them ‘exporters of terror’ – strangely enough, not a single citizen of Pakistan has been caught ‘master-minding’ any terrorist activity anywhere. (Ajmal Kasab or Faisal Shahzad don’t count – they were just foot soldiers). May be I shouldn’t have said this? Now, some local master-minders (other than so-called ISI) will be manufactured and will start crawling out from the woodwork?!

Asif Ali Zardari

President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari arrives at Heathrow

We are surrounded by leaders who are so busy looting the country that they don’t even realize the realities on ground – Pakistan is surrounded by hostile neighbors, economy is in shambles and people are committing suicide daily. The only organized government institution in this country is unfortunately the Army which is being pulled in all directions – to defend the borders, to contain the terrorists, and even fly to the rescue of the drowning folk while the world vilifies our only ‘working’ government institution to death. The rest of the institutions are too busy playing the proverbial fiddle while Rome (read Pakistan) burns.

From the editor’s desk

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010: Why don’t we let USA colonize Pakistan once and for all?

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uring an interview with the ABC channel on Monday, US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates hinted at carrying out an operation in Pakistan along with Afghanistan in order to root out the Haqqani network, reports said

Am I out of my mind? Naw. I just read the following news item last night on Dawn News.

Quote:

Gates said the United States was strengthening its military capabilities in eastern Afghanistan, which, he said was the centre of the Haqqani network.

“Cooperation with Pakistan is being promoted in order to ensure safety on the Pak-Afghan border,” Gates said.

While discussion the possibility of taking action against the Haqqani network, Gates hinted that the United States might carry out an operation for that reason in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

Unquote

Well…Who the heck is the Haqqani Network? What has that got to do with Pakistan?

Nothing except they are supposed to be hiding in Balochistan – they picked a very strategic hideaway by the way. (Border area of Iran and Afghanistan, it also gives you access to land and sea-routes, not to mention, to loads of minerals hidden over there, I remember Pak government had big plans of selling real estate from Balochistan, (KP and bits of Punjab and Sindh too) for corporate farming to Saudi’s and other rich nations to grow their food – around 3 million to 6 million acres back in 2008-09 were bandied around– the news reports fizzled out after a while – trust Haqqani to choose Balochistan!)

floods

Pak floods - Photo AP

Haqqani was USA’s so-called ally in war against Russia in Afghanistan once upon a time (1979-89). Unfortunately, USA switched allies when it decided to “bomb Afghanistan to stone age,” back in 2001, choosing to back the northern alliance instead, because the Taliban government in majority in Afghanistan had refused to cooperate with USA over a number of issues- bribery and corruption had not worked either – I remember USA had given them loads of aid, there is one reference around in the net archives still – around $ 43 million in aid to “purportedly to assist hungry farmers who are starving since the destruction of their opium crop,” back in January 2001!  (not sure if Haqqani Network was part of the government because there was a civil war going on and apparently this indigenous student movement started in Afghanistan and slowly restored peace over there), unfortunately, nobody liked this particular government in the western/developed world because they were apparently very tribal, rigid and intolerant and even reportedly burnt Buddha’s statues and were pretty mean to women all over the place (so it was only recognized by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia officially, some say because USA told them to), unfortunately, the world media at the time started a rumor that Pakistan was behind this government and  was supporting and funding it.

The new rumor is, ISI is still funding and supporting it against USA in Afghanistan (WikiLeaks) but I digress. So, when Talibans refused to hand over Al-Qaeda leader (USA’s covert out-fit during the war against Russia) without evidence for it being behind the 9/11 incident, President Bush apparently placed a call to our President Mush and said, “Are you with us or against us?”

Who wants a war with a super power so President Mush apparently decided to become a convenient doormat for USA; since we have a long history of doormat behavior…and we still don’t want to fight the superpower – (that would be insanity I agree!) I suggest we continue this policy and let USA colonize us peacefully.

There is no point in getting loads of Pakistanis killed in drone attacks, revenge killings, bombings and terrorist activities and God knows what else…if they want KP and Balochistan, let’s rent it out to them…what’s the difference between leasing it to Saudi Arabia so they can grow food or leasing it to USA so they can protect their interests? No, I am not being sarcastic. It’s a serious suggestion.

As a nation, we should think about it. We are supposed to be ‘enlightened, moderate Muslims’ and we should be able to negotiate peaceful agreements with our allies (USA/NATO) and enemies (India and Afghanistan – strategic depth doctrine – blah, blah, blah).

I am for peace, not war to resolve all differences between nations. Are you?

There is a saying in Punjabi – “When it’s a fight between two buffalos, it’s the grass that gets trampled.”Pakistan unfortunately is the proverbial grass…we can’t even get out of the way. We are the collateral damage.

My question is; how long is this state of affairs going to continue? It’s been nine years already. It’s about time the world should forgive us for our geography! n

From the editor’s desk

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010: Speechless! When mere words don’t do the job…

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hat do you say when you are confronted with so much carnage? Destruction? Human misery? Are any words capable of filling this void?

I don’t know. All I see is misery, more misery and yet more misery.

God help us all. This is a prayer for the dying and the living of Pakistan…I don’t have the words.

Photo AP

“Prayer For The Dying” by Seal

Fearless people,
Careless needle.
Harsh words spoken,
And lives are broken.
Forceful ageing,
Help me I’m fading.
Heaven’s waiting,
It’s time to move on.
Crossing that bridge,
With lessons I’ve learned.
Playing with fire,
And not getting burned.
I may not know what you’re going through.
But time is the space,
Between me and you.
Life carries on… it goes on.
Just say die,
And that would be pessimistic.
In your mind,
We can walk across water.
Please don’t cry,
It’s just a prayer for the dying.
I just don’t know what’s got into me.
Been crossin’ that bridge,
With lessons I’ve learned.
Playing with fire,
And not getting burned.
I may not know what you’re going through,
But time is the space,
Between me and you.
There is a light through that window
Hold on say yes, while people say no
Life carries on
Ohh!
It goes on….oh-ee-oh, whoa-ee-oh ho oh…
I’m crossing that bridge,
With lessons I’ve learned….
I’m playing with fire,
And not getting burned….
I may not know what you’re going through.
But time is the space,
Between me and you.
There is a light through that window.
Hold on say yes, while people say no
Cause life carries on….oh-ee-oh, whoa-ee-oh ho on…
It goes on….oh-ee-on,
It goes on.
Whoa.
Whoa.
Life carries on.
When nothing else matters.
When nothing else matters.
I just don’t know what’s got into me.
It’s just a prayer for the dying.
For the dying

From the editor’s desk

Friday, August 6th, 2010: Floods: Fury of God or man-made disaster? Are you connecting the dots?

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anuary 2010– a lake is created up in the north because of land­slide.

According to Wikipedia, “The lake was formed due to a mas­sive land­slide at Attabad vil­lage in Gilgit-Baltistan, 9 miles (14 km) upstream (east) of Karimabad that occurred on January 4, 2010. The land­slide killed twenty people, buried and inundated the Karakoram High­way and blocked the flow of the Hunza River for five months. The lake flooding has displaced 6,000 people from upstream villages, stranded (from land transportation routes) a further 25,000, and inundated over 12 miles (19 km) of the Karakoram Highway. The lake reached 13 miles (21 km) long and over 100 meters in depth by the first week of June 2010 when it began flowing over the land­slide dam, completely submerging lower Shishkat and partly flooding Gulmit. The sub­division of Gojal has the greatest number of flooded buildings, over 170 houses and 120 shops. The residents also had shortages of food and other items due to the blockage of the Karakoram Highway. By June 4 water out­flow from the lake had increased to 3700 cusecs.”

floods in KP

Floods in KP - Photo AP

June 2010 – Cyclone Phet hits our coast. It batters Gwadar and surrounding towns and villages. “Hundreds of mud houses collapse and several people are displaced in most parts of coastal Pakistan follow­ing torrential rains,” according to Gulf News, June 6 news.

July 2010 – Pakistan gets flooded in monsoon rains – all provinces feel the brunt of seasonal rains. This is a developing story and our troubles have only just started. Rehabilitation might take all our resources and even then, we might not recover from this calamity.

Why do you think its happening? Two words – Climate Change. Last year the govern­ment spent hundreds campaigning to raise awareness about the importance of trees, protecting our environment, taking measures to stop logging heed­lessly, protecting our natural habitats, preserving our eco-systems, but may be more needs to be done?

The year hasn’t ended yet. How many more disasters are coming our way I wonder?

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Fareeha Qayoom
Fareeha Qayoom
Publisher and editor-in-chief of Tkfr.com and former print editions of The Knit-Xtyle Fashion Review (tkfr), a trade newsletter for the textile and apparel industry of Pakistan. In short, Publisher, editor, and a blogger. In addition, she has served as Managing Editor of MIT Technology Review Pakistan, print and web editions (2015-16). Total of 7 editions were published under her leadership by ITU, Punjab's first public technology university under the license of MIT Technology Review (USA). She has also managed Value Mag in the same capacity, a real estate and lifestyle magazine for Value TV - 2008-9. Published freelancer for The News on Sunday 1994-96. Fareeha has over 21 years of solid management experience – of managing brands (like Harley Davidson, Munsingwear, Chaps, Chaps Ralph Lauren etc.,), Retailers (like Target, Mervyns, Kohl's, Marks and Spencer etc.,), customers (VPs, Product Managers, Unit Managers, and Buyers), and products (apparel - woven, knits, men's, women's, children's, Print and online publishing units), projects, teams, and processes, information, content, and data, staff, vendors, and time. Versatile and adaptable with international exposure, communication and language skills (oral and written), and a consistent track record of achieving company targets and objectives, plus a MA in Political Science from Punjab University, a MSc in Economics from La Salle University, Louisiana, USA, and a BA in Economics from Kinnaird College for Women.

28 Comments

  1. More reading?

    July 2010– Monsoon Rains hit Lahore early
    http://www.tkfr.com/?p=3206

    Classic Whodunit murder mystery Pakistani-style
    http://www.tkfr.com/?p=2373

    Who’s really in charge here?
    http://www.tkfr.com/?p=2228

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  2. Assassination of key U.S. ally adds to Pakistan’s crises
    By Griff Witte
    Washington Post Foreign Service
    Thursday, August 5, 2010

    A Taliban suicide bomber assassinated a top-ranking Pakistani security official and key U.S. ally Wednesday, adding to a string of crises here that have raised alarm in recent days over whether the government can cope.

    Severe flooding across the northwest, in particular, threatens to take Pakistani leaders’ attention away from efforts to eliminate key al-Qaeda and Taliban sanctuaries.

    Pakistani officials insist that they are doing their best with limited resources to assist flood victims and that their efforts will not detract from the fight against extremist groups. But U.S. officials say they are concerned that the flood could become a major internal catastrophe if more is not done to help the victims.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/04/AR2010080401085.html

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  3. another entry in the diary of a concerned citizen…

    Pak Floods: Reality check!
    RTI Editorial–Monday, August 9, 2010

    Let’s not kid ourselves – The current climate crisis the world over including the monsoon rains in Pakistan are a man-made disaster. There should be no two opinions about it. This is no fury of God. We are doing this to the world; it has nothing to do with Him.

    The rich nations of the world have no need and no plans of capping their carbon emissions. The past thirty years have been the hottest years since the climate scientists started recording these things.

    People carry their belongings in Muzaffargarh.—AP

    The fires in Russia due to drought, the floods in Asia and now in Europe too are not isolated incidents. They are all series of clues that form an alarming picture and are proving the climate scientists’ right in spite of the scandal that dogged the last climate conference in Denmark popularly dubbed Climategate. China and India wants the west to ‘do more’ before they will agree to do more, so the rate of industrialization will only increase over the coming years.

    Taking preventive action costs money; therefore, we might hear a lot of creative rhetoric about the climate science and the need to do more, but we won’t see any concrete action going forward on the western nations’ part or indeed by the developing world including Pakistan. No nation is willing to invest in the future. They have enough problems in the present. Short term thinking will come back to haunt us and the coming generations like it did just now.

    Climate talks are already losing ground. Last year, the government only campaigned to raise awareness about protecting our environment. The extent of action taken was: arranging a few seminars, inserting some articles in the print media, talking to the press a few times and putting up a few banners about a need to save trees and plant trees. This is not enough and will not be enough to stem the tide of disasters coming our way.

    This is not a happy picture: We will continue to see more such disasters and huge loss of lives all over the world. Food and water shortages and shrinking arable lands will be a reality because of erratic climate patterns. More forests will be logged off to make way for cash and food crops which will only mean more carbon emissions, not less. Rate of industrialization will not abate because people have to earn to survive and the new jobs are all in new technologies and industries including agriculture which is highly mechanized and not very organic so more rural areas will become urbanized and citizens of the world will go where the money is by moving to cities.

    This also means frequent price hikes of essential commodities like food and grains since less people will be engaged in low paying industries including agriculture so supply and demand laws will play out on the world stage. Pollution, disease, soil erosion, landslides, soil salinity, deforestation numbers will only hike with passage of each year.

    Citizens of the world will have to pay large amounts of money to get safe drinking water (bottled), breathe fresh air and live in environmentally friendly and organic environment (gated and calibrated communities and resorts) so only the rich will be able to afford this lifestyle. More wars will be fought over dwindling world resources. More eco-systems will die, more flora and fauna will become extinct and the planet will eventually self-destruct since unfortunately, it’s the humans who are sitting on top of the food chain and we don’t want to change the way we do business of earning a living. Organized Religions call it Doomsday; I don’t know what the scientists call it? Suicide?

    Pakistan is not prepared for the coming destruction as has already been demonstrated by the current unfolding events. We are not organized to deal with the current disaster, how are we going to deal with future ones?

    Our economy, our infra-structure, our villages, towns and cities, our food and cash crops and the livelihood of our citizens have all been destroyed in the unfolding floods. The world is not in a position to help as they are also dealing with same issues, recession, climate disasters and political wrangling and wars, so there is no point looking towards them for long-term help. They can only supply us with emergency relief goods, the long-term help will be in the shape of more loans, not grants. There is no such thing as free lunch. You will have to lose a lot to gain a little. As it’s happening now with our economy.

    There are two things we can do at this point. We can learn from our mistakes and fix this (pro-active approach) or we can roll with the coming punches and keep taking the punishment we are dishing out to ourselves (reactive approach). The world has already chosen the reactive method as a collective approach to dealing with the problem of climate change – Is Pakistan going to join the bandwagon or will it lobby to make things better for world citizens and themselves at the same time? What’s it going to be?

    Don’t forget even though Pakistan is not directly responsible for global warming, (it might only contribute one fifth of the world’s average carbon emissions according to RK Pachuri); it’s a front-line state when it comes to the impact of climate change. Drought and flood management are just two aspects, the problems are only growing…

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  4. Another entry…

    Floods – what can we do as citizens of Pakistan?
    RTI Editorial–Tuesday, August 10, 2010

    Yesterday a friend of mine came up to me – her friend is taking a truck with provisions and water to the flood victims apparently. She wanted me to offer the guy a check as my contribution.

    I told her I am only donating to Edhi’s charity for the flood victims. He’s the only one I trust in this country to do the job honestly. He is the first one there in every emergency in Pakistan and he has built-in the necessary infrastructure over the years to deliver help – an army of staff and transport services. Even this time. (The foreign press is very worried about Falah-e-insaniat, an organization with “ties to Jamat-ud-Dawa, an Islamic charity led by the founder of the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba” in other words, a front for LeT. They were supposed to be the first ones to mobilize their humanitarian relief effort in an obscure and hard to reach places- they set up 13 relief camps in KP according to the press, they all seemed very concerned that these guys might be able to win the hearts and the minds of people) – However, this is factually not correct – Edhi was the first NGO to respond in KP apart from the army and the government.

    Besides, who cares where the help is coming from? Everyone should help if they are in a position to help – even the militants. They have no quarrel with the flood victims or do they? We should all put aside our differences and get on with the job of helping the unfortunate. Even MQM. The politicians should all mobilize and stand behind the Pak Army/Government and the UN. This is not the time to start new quarrels!

    Families marooned by flood waters receive food from an Army helicopter in the Rajanpur district
    of Pakistan’s Punjab province on August 9, 2010. – Reuters

    Although, it’s commendable that Pak citizens are getting together to donate edible items, bottled water and various other items to the flood victims and are even planning to deliver the goods themselves. I am not sure if this is a good idea though…how are they going to deliver the goods? The roads are blocked by flood waters. There is no infrastructure – no road network or bridges.

    The only way is if you fly to the rescue or go by boats. The government should create points in various cities where citizens can drop their contribution in goods. Some citizens might not have cash but they might have spare goods that they can deliver.

    In fact, the government should actually appoint an independent third party to administrate the funds and cash donations that are coming in– maybe the UN – they are after all trained and know how to organize and administrate. A special account should be set up for flood victims and administered by the UN. Most Pakistanis do not trust obscure charities, or even government officials to do the job properly. Corruption is rampant. I know, even in the past, (2005 earthquake) I didn’t donate to President or Prime Minister’s relief funds – instead I donated my contribution in cash and goods to Edhi.

    Food and Beverages’ corporations should also come forward. There are at least 50 bottled water companies in Pakistan for example. They should all donate a couple of days’ stock to the government/UN. Other companies that manufacture items like tents, edible long shelf food stuffs etc. should also contribute their leftover, spare stocks.

    The government needs to mobilize its resources including its citizens. Letting them run half cocked with their own trucks will only hamper the rescue effort and cause more disruption. Besides, the food and water might not get to the real needy folk anyway. Think of the waste!

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  5. Today’s entry….

    Clean up and damage assessment
    RTI Editorial–Wednesday, August 11, 2010

    The rains appear to be easing according to a Dawn News report dated August 11, 2010, “The Flood Forecasting Division (FFD) has announced cessation of torrential rains which triggered a second wave of flood in the Indus.”

    Phase one (already in progress) of disaster relief management involves saving lives and rescuing the flood victims, arranging food, shelter, healthcare and support of communities in resettlement. Several countries have sent cash and material assistance. Pak citizens and local NGOs need to do their bit. Phase two of the operations involve damage assessment and plans for rebuilding. Initial reports have already come in.

    A villager collects household items in the flooded area, in the outskirt of Dera Ismail Khan,
    on August 10, 2010. – Photo by AFP

    According to UN, as reported by Business Recorder, The flood has wiped out thousands of villages affecting 13.8 million with death and destruction. The flood has damaged 300,000 houses, rendering 8 million people homeless in Punjab, 4.7 million in Khyber Paktunkhwa (KP) and 1.1 million in Sindh. After initial ‘need assessment’ survey to help plan early recovery in co-ordination with the government of Pakistan, Jean-Maurice Ripert, special Envoy of the UN Secretary General said that ‘medium’ and ‘long-term’ plans will be evolved to put damaged infrastructure in place.

    As I was reading today, I noticed the following suggestion from Zain Daudpoto, Qasimabad, Hyderabad who had written a letter to the editor, Dawn News as follows:

    Quote:
    “Flood in the Indus River actually means inundation of the riverine area resulting in rehabilitation of the deforested area and improvement of the damaged forest cover. The riverine area of the Indus means natural forests. The Indus through the floods inundates the forests by virtue of a natural system. So the forests provide resistance for protecting the non-riverine areas from the destruction of floodwater.

    We have changed the flood in the Indus into a disaster by cutting 617,545 acres of riverine forests of Sindh. In the past after experiencing shortage of water in the Indus, the natural system of rehabilitating the riverine forests was suspended and deforestation in the name of an operation against dacoits damaged forest covers. The agro-forestry policy 2004 introduced for the rehabilitation of the forests proved a deforestation policy because of political maneuverings and corruption in the forest department. The government spent billions of rupees on plantation funded by various international institutions but failed to achieve any results. No forestry cover has been raised to date.

    This year after a lapse of 25 years nature has provided an opportunity to rehabilitate the riverine forests through a natural system of flood. This high line flood would inundate the entire riverine area and the government along with the forest department may rehabilitate over 6 lac acres of forest cover at a minimum cost which would in turn provide security to the non-riverine areas. We demand the following of the government:

    All the riverine forest area must be declared a protected region for agricultural purposes.

    All the riverine area should be rehabilitated by reseeding before the influential people cultivate the forest land.

    All the leases should be cancelled immediately.”

    Unquote

    Are you connecting the dots here? Daudpoto has a point.

    When we rebuild, maybe, we can rebuild smarter? It would be great if we don’t repeat the same mistakes we made before the floods? As God says in the Quran, “So, verily, with every difficulty, there is relief, verily, with every difficulty, there is relief,” 30, 94:05-06 Yusuf Ali Translation.

    As a nation maybe we should not worry about the enormity of the task ahead, or get bogged down by self-pity, or see difficulty in every opportunity, we should worry about doing it right this time. What do you think?

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  6. My editorial for RTI Pakistan…August 12, 2010

    A memo to the senior politicians – DO MORE!
    Deplorable lack of leadership – the country needs some action now!

    We all understand the floods are an unprecedented catastrophe for Pakistan. We also understand that the government was not expecting such a huge deluge of water from the heavens. We also understand that we do not have systems in place to cope with so many fires all at once (read- floods in all five provinces – KP, Balochistan, Punjab, Sindh and GB). We also understand the government doesn’t have any firefighters (read: leaders) around to put out the fires quickly (read: organize the rescue, food, shelter and medical assistance for the people) except the army, local NGOs and the UN. We also understand they are hampered by lack of resources to cope with this crisis (read: helicopters and boats, food, shelter and medical assistance). What we don’t understand is the current attitude of our senior politicians.

    We are frankly appalled at the lack of leadership displayed by all our senior politicians of Pakistan – all of them including the ones who are quite vocal in their criticism. They should all be part of the solution, not part of the problem right now. If they don’t have the necessary active listening skills – they should quickly acquire them. It shouldn’t matter where the help is coming from – opposition, government or some obscure NGO. They should all be organized under one central command and given tasks to handle and achieve.

    We as citizens of Pakistan do not appreciate our so called leadership sitting around in talk shows, starting new quarrels instead of rallying around and mobilizing the nation to respond to this current crisis. http://www.awaztoday.com/playvideo.asp?pageId=10090

    It’s time to get organized. We have bigger problems! Post floods – what are they going to do when the dust settles and the damage becomes more apparent? Ask for more loans and just hock the nation up to their eyeballs for the whole coming century, while they secretly siphon off the coming funds into their own pet projects and spending sprees? Lack of money is not the problem here. It’s lack of leadership.

    This can’t go on. If each successive civilian government has to rely on the army for leadership in times of crisis every time – they have no leg to stand on when army comes in and takes over! There is no such thing as a vacuum, it gets filled each time. If the politicians don’t fill this vacuum someone else will. The foreign media is worried, it might be the militants. I am worried it might be the Pakistani citizens in a fit of rage. We don’t need more anarchy and chaos. We need leadership!

    Wake up and smell the coffee please!

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  7. today’s entry in the concerned citizen’s diary…RTI Editorial August 13, 2010

    Are we lacking in our humanity?
    Don’t we want to help the less fortunate than us?

    Most anchors on talk shows are lamenting the fact that the citizens of Pakistan have not responded to the current crisis (floods) with the same zeal as they did in the past for the earthquake (2005).

    Are we lacking in our basic humanity this time? Do you think the images flashing on our television screens, or the photographs and raw footage videos on Youtube are not impacting our conscience or our wallets? Is there something wrong with Pakistanis now? Have we become totally insensitive to the plight of our fellow human beings who were less fortunate than us? I don’t think it’s as simple as that.

    There are number of factors contributing to this present impasse.

    This is an evolving crisis. Citizens are still shell shocked. Too many fires all over the place. Citizens (and even our government!) were slow to respond because it took a while to process the rapidly evolving situation and act on it. Besides, for a while all of us were like headless chickens running in all directions not even knowing how to respond, or where to respond – it was too much too quickly – most of us were left just wringing our hands with despair. We were all caught off-guard. So let’s forgive ourselves for not acting quickly enough.

    Two, citizens are not insensitive. They are cash strapped. Back in 2005, citizens had more disposable income. The economy was not shrinking at 2 percent GDP growth rate, (it was actually expanding at 7-8 percent). Right now, most families are dealing with price hikes, Ramadan, food shortages, high energy bills, including fuel, gas and electricity, unemployment and what not. It’s a big deal taking out cash from already tight wallets. The citizens will respond but the pace (of donations) will be slower as they have to juggle their bills and take out some cash for this particular item at the same time. Do not write off the citizens of Pakistan too quickly.

    Three, we are dealing with lack of credibility here too. What did the government do with our contributions the last time? Did you see the 6 billion dollars worth of real estate and new model cities to replace the destruction of the earthquake – no, you did not. It’s been five years already. So, citizens have become more discerning. They are selecting the charities and NGOs with good track record for relief work this time. After all money is tight and most of us don’t want our hard earned cash to be wasted or siphoned off by the corrupt elements in our society. Furthermore, this is going to be an on-going project. One time donation is not going to do it. The citizens will have to pitch in for years to come in the form of new taxes, Zakat, and God knows what else. You just wait – the government is going to come up with creative ways to get you to contribute! 🙂

    Four, citizens of Pakistan have been dealing with loads already – what with bombings, target killings, Afghan fall-out, economic crunch, death, destruction and carnage, this is only just another crisis – back in 2005, earthquake was a big deal. Not anymore, like I said, this (floods) is just another crisis. Citizens have just got used to dealing with full action thrillers every week of their lives. So don’t ask them to act as if it’s the big cheese even if it is. It’s all in a days work.

    Five, the media needs to highlight the positive. Do not sensationalize people’s misery. The key word here is “inspire’’ instead of depressing everyone into inaction. Depression leads to hopelessness and eventually suicide! So my advice to TV anchors – back off. Instead of spouting on lack of zeal – find stories of human courage and generosity to highlight on talk shows and move people to achieve similar spurts of courage and generosity.

    We all need to pitch in and do our jobs to the best of our ability. Even the media.

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  8. Today’s entry…my RTI editorial – August 17, 2010

    Here we go again!
    “We didn’t start the fire, it was always burning since the world was turning,” a song by Billy Joel

    The paper is full of horror stories as usual – a full action thriller with bits of drama and pathos thrown in for good measure.

    Five children died in Kohistan due to starvation a couple of days ago. They had survived the flood. Did you also hear the news about a child’s death due to food poisoning at a relief camp in Punjab? His whole family was hospitalized. Imagine surviving the floods and trauma of seeing your loved ones in peril and then dying while you had reached relative safety of a relief camp. Sigh.

    Rumor has it; the rich feudal Lords in an effort to save their crops and lands broke dykes all over the place (Sindh) illegally to divert waters to poorer folk and apparently succeeded. The residents of Qubo Saeed Khan town and over 100 villages in Qambar-Shahdadkot district were asked to leave their homes on Monday after a powerful current of flood waters gushing from Garhi Khairo and over topping the Khirthar canal smashed five gates of the Garang regulator and washed away the entire structure. District Coordination Officer Ghulam Yaseen Shar said the situation was extraordinary and flood waters were gushing towards Qubo Saeed Khan. “We have warned the residents of Qubo Saeed Khan to leave immediately and provided them transport.

    Evidently, in order to save Jacobabad, the flood waters were diverted to Balochistan yesterday. Three villages were completely submerged over there. More are in danger. The towns of Usta Mohammad and Gandakha are being evacuated after the administration issued a flood warning.

    Sukker Barrage is still under threat. The Sindh CM admitted failure in coping with flood as if that’s going to help. Angry flood survivors in Pakistan blocked a highway to protest slow delivery of aid and heavy rain lashed makeshift housing Monday as a forecast of more flooding increased the urgency of the massive international relief effort.

    Last night, I caught a brief glimpse of Kashif Abbassi and Talat Hussain on ARY Digital lamenting lack of central command and poor planning on the part of the government. They have decided to set up their own relief funds to help citizens in need. So are the citizens expected to set up a parallel government to support the disaster relief effort I wonder? Today, I read FM Qureshi’s reprimand to the media – stop pointing out government’s incompetence and lack of credibility for all, “If you yourself raise doubts about your govt, you would weaken the world confidence,” says Qureshi. UN is lamenting Pak government’s trust deficit which is hindering their fund raising efforts, “We note often an image deficit with regards to Pakistan among Western public opinion,” said Elizabeth Byrs, spokeswoman of the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

    According to CNN, the death toll from flooding that has ravaged Pakistan for more than two weeks is up to 1,463, the country’s Disaster Authority said Monday. More than 895,200 houses have been damaged, and more than 2,000 people have been injured, the agency said. One-fifth of the country is under water. Roughly 900,000 are homeless as a result of the catastrophe. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Sunday that while he has visited sites of natural disasters around the world, he has never seen anything like the devastation created by flooding in Pakistan. He said the disaster is worse than the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the 2005 Pakistani earth quake combined.

    While Daily Telegraph headline screamed at me yesterday, “Pakistan’s opposition leader has claimed that his country does not need Western aid and should “stand on its own two feet” as the UN chief called for the world to send money to the flood-hit region. Nawaz Sharif said his country had sufficient resources to rebuild millions of homes, buildings and bridges destroyed in the worst floods in 80 years. He was speaking amid growing concern that the international community was not responding quickly enough with aid for more than 20 million people displaced by the floods.

    Punjab decided to impose a flood tax. “Recommendations are being given a final shape in this regard and this tax will be levied only on such persons who have the capacity to pay,” Shahbaz said while briefing media about flood damages in Punjab, relief activities and rehabilitation of the floods survivors. The World Bank said Monday it has agreed to provide a 900 million dollar loan to flood-hit Pakistan, saying the economic impact of the disaster on the economy was expected to be ‘huge.’ IMF will review the economic situation on August 23rd, 2010 with the Pak Government. The government is coming up with a plan to impose reformed GST to appease IMF which in turn will only push Pak citizens to the wall.

    Two and half weeks after the floods, the government has given up even a pretense of coping with the deluge, while the UN and various international disaster relief agencies, army and the NGOs battle the growing horror of floods. We just passed our sixty third independence day a couple of days ago.

    Yesterday, I also read a war of words on Facebook about Jinnah’s Pakistan between a few friends. To be or not to be secular was the question. The very basis of Pakistan is in question in our youth’s mind. Ayesha Siddiqa also added her two cents worth in her article – Jinnah’s Pakistan.

    Punjab CM on the other hand, stressed that there is a need for seeking forgiveness from Allah Almighty at individual as well as collective level and praying for granting courage and steadfastness to tackling the challenge. He observed that help and assistance to the flood affectees is a religious and national obligation, therefore, philanthropists and well-to-do segments of the society should come forward and take an active part in this noble cause.

    All my peers and friends keep reiterating that it’s God’s judgment on us. I on the other hand feel that this is not actually the wrath of God. If He wanted to punish us, we would be gone in a blink of an eye, just like that. It’s a second chance, a wake-up call. It is only our mistakes coming back to haunt us. This is an opportunity to fix our mistakes.

    The leadership needs to stop the corruption, halt the bad governance, indiscriminate looting and denuding of our natural resources. It’s time to take stock and rely on ourselves and our people – for once, I agree with Nawaz Sharif. Stop misusing public funds, instead of relying on punitive loans to fund personal lives and spending sprees, the politicians should invest in education, healthcare, and infra-structure for all, build dams, better road networks, bridges, protect our environment and concentrate on winning the hearts and minds of our people.

    But as usual the leadership is too busy spouting age-old rhetoric and pulling a fast one to pump up the aid and loans. The way things are going they will again miss the boat…

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  9. Today’s RTI editorial…August 18, 2010

    The story of Pakistan and the floods
    Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, And Nobody

    Pakistan’s current problem in a nutshell? It reminds me of the following story…

    This is a little story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.

    There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.

    Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did.

    Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job.

    Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.

    It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done!

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  10. today’s entry…Thursday, august 19, 2010

    It’s all connected
    Pakistan’s economic managers are in the process of arranging loans to plug a giant hole made by recent floods in its economy – 900 Million dollars from World Bank and 2 billion from Asian Development Bank. They are also planning to talk to IMF on August 23 to buy some time on ‘reformed GST’ hole that they have willingly walked into because they couldn’t manage an expanding economy with GDP growth rate of 7-8 percent and needed to shrink it down to a more manageable size of 2 percent with IMF’s help. They are also lamenting the fact that grants and foreign aid is only trickling in at snail’s pace, though, it’s slowly trickling in and it’s all our media’s fault.

    Meanwhile the congressional research service has filed a report (for the US lawmakers) that’s actually no surprise for Pak citizens. It predicts “critical risks to food security in the coming decades due to a number of reasons including water scarcity, population growth and mismanagement.”

    Some of it is speculation based on limited knowledge of Pak history (or is it?) for example, “The combination of these factors could contribute to Pakistan’s decline as a fully functioning state, creating new, or expanding existing, largely ungoverned areas.”

    The so-called existing lawless areas in Pakistan were supposed to be self-autonomous territories that were never fully integrated with the federation or provinces and were a condition of the partition agreement and are referred to as FATA. In recent years, a portion of this area has been invaded by Afghan natives apparently who were intent on setting up their form of government on Pakistan’s land since they were slowly being pushed out of Afghanistan. Strangely enough, the current or (potential future) lawlessness is not because of climate change or floods or food security concerns or water shortages, it’s because of war on terror that’s being fought on Pakistan’s border territories – KP (now) and Balochistan (very soon). Although the war on terror is also being fought over dwindling natural resources between haves and have not’s.

    According to some experts, Climate change may be playing a part in the current flood situation in Pakistan but destroying our fragile eco-systems is to blame for this fiasco. Somebody should tell those guys, climate is changing precisely because humanity is tampering with the planet’s eco-systems in their rampant greed! Duh. Majority of the world nations have no plans of stopping anytime soon either. Putting it right costs money with little short-term rewards while tampering with nature translates into more money now. Who cares about the future or the poor?

    It’s all connected. The gap between haves and have-nots is growing in our economy (and indeed all over the world) because the have’s refuse to stop exploiting the resources. In the meantime, the have-nots have already reached a point where they might not be able to produce for the haves without resorting to a lot of dubious means. Something will have to give and it’s the planet’s ecosystems since human greed has no limits.

    You cannot tackle poverty, food shortages, human misery or indeed climate change if you plan to continue practicing greed – for that we need to change the way we do business in this world. Unfortunately, the current formula for success, ‘might is right’ continues to play out on the world stage and in Pakistan. So things will not change anytime soon.

    Pakistani citizens should indeed gear up for tough times ahead as it’s called a game of survival where a minority of so called ruling elite have the majority in hostage and will continue to take on more punitive loans to pay off old loans while the whole country is turned into a battle between haves and have not’s. While we are fighting it out, the country we are fighting over is getting weaker and weaker and might not even exist a hundred years from now…according to congressional research guys, it might be a large tracts of lawlessness! Somebody should tell them – what they are predicting has already happened to Pakistan almost sixty years ago!

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  11. Today’s entry…August 20th 2010 – RTI editorial

    Sold out?
    Everything is for sale – we are all mercenaries!

    Everything is for sale and we are all mercenaries. All of us have sold out long time ago…it’s all about self-interest. We actually don’t care about our fellow human beings. We just care about ourselves.

    Why do I say that? Take EP – they just released a single called Shor Machao. Senseless activism that promotes a cell phone connection. What are they trying to say here? Buy Telenor connection since they paid us for the video!

    Yesterday, I went looking for a book at Readings. The only book that caught my eye was, “The trouble with Islam today,” by Irshad Manji. I haven’t read it yet though.

    What made me buy the book was the title. She claims to be a Muslim and is apparently writing about Islam from an insider’s perspective. However, she has trouble with the religion, (not its practitioners!) as the title suggests. This made me more curious. I wanted to find out what she has to say.

    Apparently, her book is a best seller. Oprah, New York Times and God knows who else endorsed it according to the cover. The only problem – they are not Muslims. Apparently, no mainstream Muslim celebrity, newspaper (except Friday Times!) or scholar has endorsed it as far as I could see from the same blurbs on the cover. In fact, they have all ignored it entirely. I had not even heard of the book before I picked it up at Readings. This made me curious too. Is she another mercenary trying to sell her book? Probably. I have yet to read what controversial stuff she came up with in the book but I digress…my point, everyone has their own personal axe to grind. Did you know Islam bashing is in fashion in USA right now? Apparently, President Obama also landed in hot water for siding with American Muslims over the New York Mosque controversy. He was just doing his job as president of USA. Citizens have rights, even Muslim citizens in USA. Now, more Americans believe he is a Muslim! Republicans and regular folk are all over Obama like a rash too.

    Self interest sells in Pakistan too..Take our president, he reportedly said, Militants can take advantage of the crisis. US Senator John Kerry is also extremely worried about the fact that extremists will win over the hearts and minds of the flood survivors. He apparently announced according to Express Tribune that the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will announce additional assistance to Pakistan at the UN. Kerry said that the “vacuum created by the destruction of floods would have to be filled so that militants did not exploit the situation.”

    Have they sold out too? We should help the flood survivors because if we don’t, the militants will is the argument. The same militants who are killing the same innocent people in the bazaars, homes, workplaces all over Pakistan?

    Does this make sense? Let’s first decide the militants’ motivation here? Are they in the business of saving lives or killing people? These are two fundamentally opposing actions. I know why our president endorsed the western paranoia with the militants’ argument. Tribune reports “Agreeing with him, President Asif Ali Zardari said that militant groups might recruit children affected by the floods if proper aid is not provided to these families.”His motivation – more aid and grants by hook or by crook, even if it furthers the western media’s propaganda and paranoia. (Hmmm. I didn’t know the militants were so organized that they can provide parallel government and better governance than Zardari regime! Someone should tell them they should try the political route to win the hearts and minds of people- they could form their own government more easily – it would be definitely easier than killing dozens of innocent people every week. Apparently the dumb citizens will vote them in because they saved a few lives in their time of crisis. So Pakistani citizens are that naïve.

    Check out Ayesha Ijaz Khan’s post on Express Tribune. She says, “Our opposition parties, in particular, and sections of our press, more generally, have tried to give the impression that international donors are stingy with Pakistan because of the government’s lack of credibility. I disagree and suggest that those arguing this position should read some of the comments to articles in the foreign press urging donors to aid Pakistan in its time of need. Even progressive publications like The Guardian and MSNBC’s site have plenty of comments suggesting that Pakistanis are terrorists so who cares if they drown.”

    My point, everyone is cashing in on a trend. Everything is for sale and we are all mercenaries.

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  12. Today’s entry…RTI editorial – august 21, 2010

    Something is rotten in the state of Pakistan
    Speechless…

    Am totally speechless. Something is definitely rotten in the state of Pakistan.

    Last night I caught a glimpse of the following news story on television – I couldn’t bear to watch even though, they had scrambled the more horrifying images. Two brothers (children, 16 and 19 apparently) are used like punching bags and beaten to death while a huge crowd encircles and calmly watches the proceedings and no one lifts a finger to stop this barbarity. In fact, someone calmly films the whole show and releases it to the media.

    The media calmly shows it. Brutal display of frustration taken out on children and captioned on TV apparently as “two robbers getting a justified public beating.” Indeed. The alleged crime doesn’t fit the punishment, besides, is the government dead in the city? Is there no due process anymore? Why would the television channels even show such footage and try to justify it with that caption?

    CJ slams DPO over torture, killing of brothers and SC orders probe into Sialkot lynching of two brothers.

    Dr Shahid Masood has the gall to ask his panel to say a few words on the footage. He sounds insensitive too, only interested in getting some poetic reaction from his panel to mark the event. Imagine.

    Like I said yesterday, all of us have become a bunch of mercenaries. We’re all cashing in on trends, even those trends that shouldn’t be allowed to develop. We’d rather show the gruesome details in an effort to get some reaction, any reaction from our audience and win the ratings wars. Meanwhile, the audience stays apathetic, stoic and defeated. In fact, the audience is gradually becoming totally de-sensitized to the scenes of violence, target killings, brutality, death, destruction, floods and bombings. Nothing seems to move us anymore. Not even the sight of this footage. Witness the crowd watching the beatings. No one lifted a finger to stop these animals.

    Pakistan government is indeed sitting on a ticking time bomb. Anarchy is on the rise. Some people are expressing their psychosis by picking on someone weaker in such public displays while others are choosing to hide behind piety and hypocrisy but doing the same in much smaller scale. Might is right all across the board. As they say in Urdu – who ever owns the stick gets possession of the buffalo. This is total ‘’Lord of the flies’’ society and will rapidly self destruct very soon because ethics has no place in it. Only the fit survive to fight another day in such a narrow frame work. God help us all. This is beyond scary.

    Today, more news that includes death, loss of property, people in jeopardy, carnage and destruction. Blast kills six anti-Taliban fighters in Mohmand and Flooding submerges new towns in Pakistan’s south and Planet Karachi.

    As a friend of mine told me the other day, Morality is the defense of the weak and I sound like an evangelist preaching ethics to the hordes! Yeah. I might as well shut up because no one is listening anyway…

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  13. Today’s entry – Monday, august 23, 2010…

    What is the government doing anyway?

    This is a country where the government is too busy to provide protection to its citizens against target killings, bombings, extra-judicial killings, lynching, mobs, man-made disasters (negligence of various departments including Wapda, irrigation etc., that aggravated the death toll and loss of property in Sindh, KP, GB, AJK, Balochistan and Punjab; apparently, 50 percent of the loss of life, livestock, crops, infra-structure and property could have been avoided if the government departments had been doing their jobs!), police torture, vigilantism, drone attacks, war against terror, and what not – what is the government doing anyway?

    All I see them doing (based on news reports and television coverage) is taking a few flying visits over the flooded area twice a week while sub-contracting the real work (disaster relief and rehabilitation) to the army, UN, NGOs and private citizens, making a few calls a day, releasing a couple of statements to the press, visiting fake relief camps twice a month, getting shoes thrown at them on foreign trips, sending their ministers to fight over hot issues on various talk shows on TV with the opposition parties, arranging a few photo ops with visiting US dignitaries, shooting down ideas, advising the world that militants will take over Pakistan if the world doesn’t send relief money since the government is too busy doing nothing to put a stop to banned outfits doing relief work in flood affected areas or even to bother releasing the new fronts’ names (of banned outfits) in the press so the citizens are not taken in, and sending their economic managers to arrange a few more punitive loans from the IMF (600 Million as immediate relief package according to The News), World Bank (one billion) and Asian Development Bank (2 billion). The economy is apparently in shambles with zero percent GDP growth rate and inflation hitting 25 percent in its future. What fun for the average Joe (read Aslam) in Pakistan! No wonder the citizens have governance issues with the government. This is how you run a country?

    Apparently, the government is also too busy to monitor news or bother with reading citizens’ petitions. For example, today, The RTI monitoring desk forwarded me the following news report from Express Urdu in deep indignation.

    Translation:
    According to Express News monitoring desk (Urdu), Firdos Akhtar of Lala Musa had petitioned the government in writing (various high officials of Punjab Government, including the chief minister of Punjab and Chief Justice of Pakistan) and had appealed in person over a private TV channel to intervene and offer her protection since she was in fear of her life.

    She had told the TV channel that she was a widow with four children and had decided to marry again of her own free will to a man called Chaudhry Farzand of Meerpur. She had moved in with him after getting married to him. (This was apparently not acceptable to her family).

    Her family had paid a large amount to the police for her assassination. Her brother apparently finally caught up with her and killed her two months ago.

    Unquote.

    A grown woman, a widow with four kids can’t marry again of her own free will in Pakistan? They say this is a deeply religious country. I don’t see any sign of it. Why is that the rights provided by her religion are not guaranteed by the society at large or by her state? Only the law of jungle seems to prevail in Pakistan. People with clout can ride roughshod over the weak regardless of morality of the issue in question. She had to be killed because she had asserted her rights?

    Why is the government doing nothing?

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  14. today’s entry…Tuesday, August 24, 2010 my RTI editorial…

    Horror stories in the news

    Today’s news reads like full action thriller too – loads of goodies in store for you if thrills is your game.

    Unfortunately, reading Pakistani news everyday is detrimental to your mental health. I have started suffering from chronic insomnia for example. So yesterday evening, I made a pact with myself. I will not read the evening fix no matter what. I picked up a boring book instead. I had a good night’s sleep for a change. Thank you very much. (I wonder how mainstream journalists/editors on news beat cope with their perpetual stress and anxiety. It sure is an occupational hazard.)

    While India is going places, Pakistan is stuck on the downward spiral like a runaway train…Terrorists strike all over the place, Wana Seminary, Peshawar and Karachi. Americans add their two cents worth to the proceedings too.

    President Zardari tells the world press that Pakistan will move on but might never recover from the flood. Hmmm. In the meantime, people of Larkana are wondering if they’re next on the flood hit-list. More than 200 internally displaced people are reported dead in Sindh after reaching help while sixty new babies are born in camps. Something goes right for a change in the land of the pure. The Kotri Barrage holds up to the pressure. The drying effect of the devastating floods is expected to begin in 2 to 3 days, amid hopes for higher than estimated wheat output in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but worries about lower yield in Sindh, a senior government official says on Monday.

    President Zardari defends the government’s much maligned role in its dealings with the current spate of disasters all over Pakistan (floods) and FM Qureshi expects the world to raise some more funds for Pakistan. Dr Maleeha Lodhi blasts the government for its insensitivity. The local politicians start new quarrels. MQM leader calls for the army to step in and clean up the current mess (yesterday’s news) which is not well received by the other senior politicians and media. If this is not enough, Farooq Sattar accuses PPP of breaching embankments.

    The Pak economy in the meantime has only one decision to make under Dr Sheikh’s leadership – declare financial suicide now or defer it for later. According to Masood Ahmed, director of the IMF’s Middle East and Central Asia Department, Pakistan has two choices in regards to IMF loan program– a. Adjust the current Pakistan IMF program to factor in fiscal pressures arising from the floods, or b. Opt for emergency funding provided by the IMF to countries hit by natural disaster. What great choices – huh? Between the devil and deep sea. WB, ADB in the meantime, plans to conduct damage, need assessment in Pakistan. On the state of our economy, a former finance minister, Sartaj Aziz, states that he does not see GDP shrinking to zero percent, and inflation going up to 25 percent. “It is too early to predict about the GDP when only two months of the current fiscal year have gone”. He says that the effect of the cut of development expenditure and damaged assets would be on long-term growth.

    Had enough or you want more? No, I don’t have a particular comment to make on today’s news. What can you say anyway? The situation in Pakistan reminds me of a song…it goes something like this

    We didn’t start the fire
    It was always burning
    Since the world’s been turning
    We didn’t start the fire
    No we didn’t light it
    But we tried to fight it
    I can’t take it anymore
    We didn’t start the fire
    But when we are gone
    Will it still burn on, and on, and on, and on…

    Song by Billy Joel

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  15. Today’s entry – Wednesday, August 25, 2010

    Karachi target killings: Territorial War in disguise

    You could be forgiven for thinking there is a re-enactment of “Gangs of New York” going on in Karachi. Gangs of New York (2002) a historical movie directed by Martin Scorsese, was based on a book/real life stories of mid-nineteenth century gang wars between New York ‘natives’ (citizens born in the United States) and recently arrived Irish Catholic immigrants.

    Karachi’s situation might not be exactly similar but the fact remains that there is a turf war going on between MQM (sole rep of Urdu speaking folk, so called natives of Karachi) and ANP (recently arrived Pashtoon immigrants) over Karachi. While denial is the official stance of both parties, the government is also aware of this reality.

    President Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani and even Interior Minister Rehman Malik have visited Karachi on numerous occasions brokering a peace deal between the two battling “Gangs.” There is a brief lull between spates of target killings after each senior government official’s visit and then it starts all over again.

    Check out the following stories for background: Karachi’s Killing Fields (Express Tribune). Target killings continue as six more dead (Nation). Bloodshed in Karachi after MQM MPA Raza Haider killed (Dawn) Eight more gunned down in Karachi (Dawn). Pakistan’s Karachi shut after 45 killed in clashes (Reuters). Time to act (Dawn editorial). Mosque in Karachi attacked; toll rises to 76 (Dawn). Shoot-on-sight orders fail to stem violence (Dawn). Peace will return to Karachi: Rehman Malik (Dawn). Should the army be called into Karachi? (Express Tribune). More than 1,000 killed in seven months in Karachi (Dawn).
    ANP leader shot dead; violence grips Karachi (Dawn). 12 killed in Karachi violence after assassination of ANP leader (Business Recorder). Planet Karachi (Dawn editorial). Brother of ANP leader shot dead in Karachi (Dawn). MQM chief’s remarks (Dawn editorial) and Coming full circle: violence in Karachi by Cyril Almeida (Dawn).

    Are you connecting the dots here?

    The current waves of target killings in Karachi are not random terrorist activity. This is pure Altaf Bhai and totally politically motivated. MQM is not happy with the current peace arrangements brokered by the government and it’s letting the powers know in no uncertain terms. Hence, Altaf Hussain’s words – inviting the “good generals” to step in and clean up the mess created by ‘corrupt’ elements in the government. MQM wants ANP to be neutralized in Karachi.

    The government should come clean and shun political expediency at this point if they want to stop further bloodshed anytime soon because MQM will never compromise on its core political agenda – “total domination of Karachi” – MQM characterizes itself as the sole representative of Urdu speaking citizens and a significant regional power with clout in Karachi and Hyderabad. They will never accept ANP, a relative new kid on the block in Karachi with potential and wherewithal to take on MQM on its own home ground. They have to be eliminated no matter what.

    The government needs to take the bull by the horns and resolve this conflict now. The army should also be told not to become party to the current “turf war’’ in Karachi by the government in no uncertain terms.

    Don’t forget MQM eliminated Jamaat-i-Islami and Haqiqi back in the good old days in Karachi. It also created alliances with PPP and PML (N) (with pockets of influence) in Karachi and now it wants ANP out of its face. If the government doesn’t do something concrete, this civil war will continue till one of the parties of the conflict admits defeat, which has to be ANP, otherwise, the duel will continue till death.

    It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee. Silence is not acceptable solution to Karachi turf wars on government’s part. The whole country is losing out while the two regional parties fight it out. They should both be neutralized and asked to concentrate on flood relief and disaster management instead. I believe it’s a bigger issue then who gets to inherit Karachi? Or isn’t it?

    Ps The credit for news analysis/story lead goes to RTI management, writing and research all mine! 🙂

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  16. From the editors desk, Thursday, August 26, 2010 – today’s editorial for RTI Pakistan…

    Pakistan: Who’s really in charge of flood management anyway?
    Taking stock: Too many cooks spoil the broth

    It’s been over a month since it all started. Rains wipe out 70 houses in Bannu, August 21, 2010 GEO TV news. First, it was a trickle of bad news. Now, it’s a virtual deluge. Authorities order evacuation in three Sindh towns, August 26, 2010 Dawn News. According to some figures, one in every five Pakistani is affected by the floods directly.

    While Pakistan battles to contain raging floods, all its efforts seem ineffectual. Nothing stands in its way. All wash away -citizens’ lives, livelihoods, homes, family, children, livestock, farms, crops, villages, towns, cities, roads, rail tracks, bridges, power stations, schools, health centers and what not – in fact the works. In an interview with a group of foreign correspondents in Islamabad on August 24, 2010, President Zardari says at least three years are required to rebuild its infrastructure but also adds: “I don’t think Pakistan will ever fully recover.”

    The whole of Pakistan is impacted directly or indirectly. Direct impact – 17 million citizens impacted with their numbers rising daily-(since it’s an evolving situation, it’s difficult to keep track of numbers). Indirect impact: economy immediately shot down across the board – prices hike for food commodities and essentials, electricity, fuel etc., the government in the meantime, evolves a strategy based on acquiring loans, more loans and yet more loans to combat the fall-out from the floods. It also considers levying all kinds of one time taxes to raise funds for disaster relief. GDP growth plunges from 4.1 percent (achieved in FY 2009/10 after a dismal performance in FY 2008/09 of 2 percent) back to 2-2.5 percent. Some even express the fear that it might be zero growth in the year 2011.

    Aid starts pouring in; first, it’s like the world is in a state of denial. It doesn’t even take in the magnitude of the disaster in Pakistan at first. From Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s visit to Senator Kerry, many visited the flood ravaged areas to evaluate the destruction and aftermath. A flood worse than the Indian Ocean Tsunami 2004, 2005 Pakistan earthquake and Haiti earthquake 2010 combined according to Ban Ki-Moon still makes it difficult to raise cash for the effected by the UN and Pak government.

    After nearly a month do we see aid and grants start trickling in at somewhat quicker pace – World has pledged more than $800m: Qureshi, August 23, 2010, Dawn News and Nearly $500 Million For Flood-Hit Pakistan, August 21, 2010, Radio Free Europe. The United States decides on diverting some of its five-year, multibillion-dollar aid package for Pakistan to flood recovery. For now, $50 million of the package will be redirected to flood recovery.

    Various reasons are cited for this delay – donor fatigue, presence of militant elements in Pakistan and Islamic charities working in the flood ravaged areas who have alleged links with terrorists, world recession, earthquake at Haiti, lack of transparency and potential corruption on government’s part, “image deficit,” and Pak’s cry wolf tendencies, etc. Why is aid to Pakistan so slow? Because we’re bad at giving, Pakistan floods aid from Islamic extremists, its ‘Critical’ To Understand Instability Risk In Pakistan, Sen. John Kerry Tells NPR, Who cares about Pakistan?, Pakistan flood victims ‘have no concept of terrorism‘, Sold out?, and It’s all connected.

    The United Nations said Tuesday that 800,000 people are still marooned in cut-off areas, and the agency appealed for 40 more helicopters to help reach those hinterlands.

    Looking back at the whole situation – what stands out clearly is the lack of coherence and central command, or coordination and cooperation between Pakistan government, UN agencies, International and local NGOs, Pak army, private charities (whatever their religious affiliation), Trusts, TV fund raising initiatives and Pak citizens – individuals or organizations. All of them are working extremely hard; however, they are working on parallel lines, in isolation and independently. The help has not been spread uniformly over the impacted areas. The fact remains, some flood survivors are still screaming for help. KP has been quite vocal for example. In fact, there are too many cooks already in the kitchen. Someone needs to take charge. It has to be the Pak government because it is her role. Ultimately, she is in charge. There are no two opinions about it. This could make or break her forever. Don’t forget this government is a coalition government, so all parties in government are in jeopardy if they don’t perform.

    First, instead of working in tit bits and in total isolation where the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, she needs to come up with a comprehensive policy to tackle floods that covers the whole flood ravaged area including the hard to reach places.

    Second, she needs to hire an independent third party globally acclaimed appraiser like Price Waterhouse for example (not World Bank or Asian Development Bank) to assess needs and damages (DNA). These banks are hardly disinterested parties. It would be in their interest to offer Pak government loans for flood recovery programs (whatever their terms – soft or punitive). Asking them for help in effect means that the government is already in the process of asking for more loans.

    Third, after the report comes in, Pak government needs to make a list of items and projects that need immediate attention, medium term attention and long-term attention.

    Fourth, after taking stock of inefficient and ineffective government institutions and departments, it needs to make tangible expenditure cuts (no, its potential suicide cutting down on development projects!), instead it should down-size, right-size and cut down needless and unproductive expenses and throw away dead-weight institutions.

    Fifth, only after it has made an announcement regarding the tangible expenditure cuts should it set up a donor conference based on DNA to raise funds, aid, grants, project assistance and only as last resort soft loans! Hocking the nation for the coming century under punitive debt is not the answer.

    Sixth, after all the above measures are taken, if she still needs more help, she should send out special envoys to heads of states to drum up more funds and project assistance.

    Only then will the people get the message that the government is indeed serious and plans to come out on the other side as a winner. Why is the government wasting an opportunity to come out as a hero? Sub-contracting the role to foreign governments, UN, so called militants, or indeed its strongest institution the army is sending out a negative message to the world about its inherent weakness. Besides, it’s hardly possible for the relief agencies or indeed the army or Pak allies to set up a parallel government in Pakistan.

    The government should take charge of the situation instead of letting the situation take charge of her.

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  17. Today’s entry…Friday, August 27, 2010, from the editors desk…RTI Pakistan

    Pak government’s frequent bloopers

    This is beyond Mr Bean moment (I don’t want to sound rude, even though loads of rude words come to mind!). Thatta caught unawares according to a news report today. What the heck is going on with Sindh management anyway? They got the most time to prepare for the coming floods and they are the ones who were the most unprepared? Is there any excuse for getting caught off-guard? Again and again, you hear the news that now so and so village gets submerged in Sindh. It’s beyond stupid. The government can’t even manage a timely evacuation of citizens now? Experts keep reiterating that 50 percent of the loss of life and property could have been avoided if timely measures had been taken in time. Sigh. Flood hits Sibi areas after rain in Ziarat.

    One month after the evolving floods, you get to hear this nugget in the news – NODMC yet to be set up.

    Aid might have started trickling in – Aid commitments top $1 billion: UN. The question is how much of it is actually reaching the needy folk? Is the government doing anything about it? How come, even after one month there are shoddy patches in Pakistan’s relief management – apparently, many flood survivors are still being forced to settle on the highways waiting for help to pass them by. What about the folk that have not left their places in fear of being looted or turned out of their homes if they leave? Also hate watching reports on television of police having to thrash hungry folk to keep them away from the aid trucks at distribution time. What are the hungry folk to do? Scarce resources between long patches of waiting for the next set of rations will cause frenzy every time. Isn’t there a better way of managing things then hitting out at them?

    Organization is the new buzz word. Not lack of funds or resources. Like I said on August 13, 2010, the help will come. The rate might be slower than desired but it will come surely as local (and world) citizens, governments and organizations galvanize by juggling their bills and come up with some spare cash and goods for flood relief and recovery. The whole world (including Pak citizens!) is practically waiting with bated breath for the government of Pakistan to take charge and start managing the flood relief in an organized manner. Remember, USA’s official word that Pakistan government is in charge of relief management in Pakistan back on August 21, 2010? Bottom line, its Pak government’s job. Even Pak army works for Pak government – if the government doesn’t take a lead soon, it might as well kiss the government good bye come next elections.

    The citizens might not turn out to vote and those of them who do might not vote as expected. The next government will also be in shambles because there might not be a clear majority of any one party and the coalition might even be more skewed. If you think the current coalition partners are pain in the neck – wait for the next installment. It will be even more of a spectacular full action thriller with special effects thrown in for good measure! 🙂 And, no I don’t see former President Mush or our cricket star turned philanthropist turned politician Imran Khan leading the hordes! In fact, as one friend said the other day, Imran Khan should leave politics and get back to philanthropy, he might do more good for Pakistan!

    Anyway, enough already!

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  18. today’s entry….

    Saturday, August 28, 2010, RTI editorial, from the editor’s desk…
    Militant threat and floods
    The propaganda is taking a life of its own, snowballing out of all proportion

    As a mere onlooker of the dramatic events unfolding before my eyes – I have to ask as one ‘who doesn’t understand’ the big picture – one of the countless naïve sheep-like citizens of the world who have to believe what they are told since we have no way of finding out any different, do the Talibans operating in Pakistan have direct hotline to US government?

    Why is that they get to hear the latest threats before anyone else in the world? Including Pakistan? Isn’t Pakistan the concerned party here, after all, she’s the ‘front-line state’ in ‘war against terror’? It’s all happening here and she has a front row seat on the match, no scratch that, on the ‘war of the titans,’ she also gets to play the victim of terror more frequently than the perpetrator of terror, (one Mumbai incident with alleged Pak –read ISI sponsored- LeT links which by the way, Pakistan denies a couple of years ago vs. hundreds of such incidents all over Pakistan, some as recently as today). What about the Reuters news report that quoted some official as saying, “the threat from India had if anything increased into both a conventional and unconventional threat, as it used its presence in Afghanistan to support those fighting against the Pakistani state in its western border regions.”

    The floods have been evolving since a month ago. We have been hearing the mounting hysteria from the western media that militants are working to provide aid to the flood effected citizens, blah, blah, blah. Now, Shah apparently visited a relief camp run by the so called militants – no, that’s not correct – it was run by the UN – whatever. We don’t see any news reports detailing that militants have attacked flood relief camps or aid workers in particular in the past month even though they had ample opportunity, however, we do hear occasional news reports about the escalating drone attacks – one as recent as today.

    Who’s intent on killing who anyway? Hey, there is a flood going on over here. People are starving, drowning or worse left, right and center while the western media makes hay and the so called ‘titans’ kill each other. Can’t they declare a cease fire and get back to saving some lives for a change? They can kill each other later, thank you very much.

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  19. today’s entry…Monday, August 30th, 2010, RTI editorial…from the editor’s desk

    Pakistan cricket in doldrums too
    As if the floods and the state of the economy wasn’t enough, our cricket team is in trouble too

    Paranoid eyes
    button your lip don’t let the shield slip
    take a fresh grip on your bullet proof mask
    and if they try to break down your disguise with their questions
    you can hide hide hide
    behind paranoid eyes
    you put on your brave face and slip over the road for a jar
    fixing your grin as you casually lean on the bar
    laughing too loud at the rest of the world
    with the boys in the crowd
    you hide hide hide
    behind petrified eyes
    you believed in their stories of fame fortune and glory
    now you’re lost in a haze of alchohol soft middle age
    the pie in the sky turned out to be miles too high
    and you hide hide hide
    behind brown and mild eyes
    A song by Pink Floyd

    Is the world out to get them? Probably. If you look at the situation on the ground objectively, the Talibans at both ends of the border, the Indians, the militants, the feudal lords, the foreign media, IMF, WB, and ADB, PEPCO, the Pak government, and its secret plans and now even News of the World newspaper has the virtual knives out for the common Joe (read Aslam) of Pakistan.

    Apparently, it’s not enough that Pakistan is besieged from all sides. A sting operation had to be carried out against Pakistan cricket team by News of the world newspaper to break a smasher of a story that Pakistan team is institutionally corrupt.

    Apparently, according to Guardian, “The News of the World alleged that two bowlers, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif, delivered three deliberate no-balls against England on Thursday and Friday – in line with the predictions of an alleged middle man in London who met undercover reporters posing as members of a gambling cartel,” and, “Footage filmed by the newspaper apparently shows a man named as Mazhar Majeed taking £150,000 in cash during the meeting on Wednesday night, and predicting when the no-balls would come. Amir and Asif appear to have delivered no-balls at precisely the time Majeed is alleged to have predicted. Information such as the number of no-balls and the moments when they might take place would be of major value to betting syndicates,” and “After appearing to take a £10,000 deposit – which was said to have gone to players – Majeed was allegedly filmed counting a further £140,000. “I’m going to give you three no-balls to prove to you firstly that this is what’s happening,” he was reported to have said. The video footage then appears to show that Majeed identified Salman Butt, Pakistan’s captain, as the ringleader of the players involved, who included wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal. He apparently said seven cricketers were involved.”

    England went on to beat Pakistan but betting scandal took the gloss off Lord’s win. Why did the newspaper select the Pakistani team for bribery and corruption? Why not the English team? Probably because of the nation’s “trust deficit.” They were sure to hit bull’s eye. As Farooq Nomani, a Dawn bloggers says, “In the interests of fairness, let’s establish what Asif and Amir did not do. As far as I’m aware, they did not under-perform. Money was accepted to perform certain, seemingly trivial, actions on the field of play. No catches were dropped. No wickets were gifted while we batted. In fact, the no-balls in question were bowled while we were in the ascendancy and our grip over the match was absolute. So far, there is no evidence to suggest that we deliberately let England off the hook after having them at 47-5. It’s debatable whether it is fair to punish the accused with life bans for something relatively minor. Would Amir have hesitated to take the cash if it required him to ensure that Pakistan lost the game? Maybe not. Maybe Asif and he just figured: “It’s only a measly no-ball. What does it matter in the broader scheme of things?” It does matter guys.” Hmm. In the meantime, the master mind of the sting operation is out on bail.

    As Kamran Abbasi remarks, “When Justice Malik Qayyum was investigating match fixing a decade ago, he was scrambling around for anything concrete. By contrast, the fresh revelations are dynamite. It will be hard for Pakistan’s players to talk their way out of this one, even if the criminal investigation by the British police eventually flounders.”

    Is this the first instance which involves Pakistan cricket team? Not by a long shot. As Qamar Ahmed in his article “Cricket — caught and bowled by match-fixing yet again,” dated August 23, 2009 (Dawn) says, “The game seemed to have lost its face and the image tarnished when one of the most elegant of batsmen Mohammad Azharuddin, Ajay Sharma and all-rounder Ajay Jadeja were banned. So were the Pakistan Captain Salim Malik, pacer Ataur-Rehman and the charismatic South African captain Hansie Cronje who later died in a plane crash near Port Elizabeth. All this sounds very serious and sinister business but cannot help admit that the game is corrupted, not in the recent times, but from the day it is being played.”

    In spite of all that, Sport plays a key role in building physical fitness, character, discipline, and a liking for playing by the rules in the players and respect for institutions.

    Cricket, (field Hockey and Squash once upon a time), is a popular sport in Pakistan. With time, Squash and Hockey’s popularity has faded away for many reasons – the major being the government’s negligence and failure to provide funds and invest in the new raw talent. It’s the government sport institutions that identify, cultivate and train new talent on national team level. Fortunately, Cricket didn’t need government support or sponsorship as such. Children start playing the sport on open fields, streets and for their schools from an early age. There are many private clubs and organizations that promote the sport on city level as well. Besides, it continues to enjoy immense popularity because of the world cup too. The government didn’t have to do much except fill PCB’s coffers to promote this sport. It was expected that PCB would use these funds to invest in cricket by identifying, cultivating and training new talent.

    Unfortunately, the PCB seems to be failing in its endeavors. Witness the current ‘spot fixing’ scam and numerous other allegations in the past that continue to dog Pakistani cricket team. Do you remember the IPL fiasco this year? IPL shunned Pakistani players this year. Pakistan cricket is at an all time low and now this! This will only give Indian cricket a boost. Bottom line, if Cricket finishes in Pakistan, what will be the future of our youth?

    Going forward, the Pak cricket management (Government/PCB) should:
    • offer reasonable compensation to players so they’re free to pursue the sport, away from monetary temptations or dubious rewards
    • establish a monitoring system that keeps a watch over players’ character, spending and buying habits
    • each player should be expected to declare their assets before and after tour
    • change current (PCB) management
    • offer incentives and rewards to whistle blowers, informers leading to assets not declared by players or info about their gambling
    • and conduct an inquiry by high court judges into this latest betting scam

    PS the suggestions for improvement and a general paragraph on sport of cricket come from RTI management, the rest of the article (writing and research) all mine! 🙂

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  20. today’s entry…Tuesday, August 31st, 2010, RTI editorial,

    from the editor’s desk
    NGOs and Pakistan government

    Some good news today. The floods are finally heading out to the Arabian sea. Yay!!! You need to count your blessings where you find them. At least now, citizens can pick up the pieces of their lives and get back to work.

    On August 30th, 2010, Prime Minister Gilani apparently told the media in Multan that “some 80 percent countries of the world want to send in their assistance through NGOs” and if that happens, then, “50 percent of the assistance would go to NGOs’ pockets as over heads,” or words to that effect. Hmmm.

    Again, the problem is not ‘image deficit’ which is causing this present impasse. Its lack of leadership on our government’s part. She refuses to take the lead in even regulating the NGOs activities in Pakistan! How hard is that anyway?

    I want to know, who the heck is in charge here anyway? The floods or the government? Why is our government so reactive? Sigh. Why can’t she be proactive in solving her problems head on? Does she need a crash course in basic management now?

    What is the real problem here? Some say it’s the absence of city, district and Tehsil governments all over Pakistan. How long does it take to regroup? Can’t she call an emergency meeting and thrash out the rules and hire some people? Is this like brain surgery too? Huh?

    Apparently a journey of thousand miles only starts with the first step – the first step in this case is pretty simple– make some lists! Review resources, delegate tasks and supervise progress – how hard is that anyway? At least the government has finally decided to call a CCI meeting. Some progress at last.

    Let’s pray the government is capable of steering the citizens back on course, otherwise, in the immortal words of Shahzad Roy’s song, Laga Rah, “sub kuch Allah per chor do!” Translation: Leave everything to God!

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  21. Today’s entry…Wednesday, September 1st, 2010, RTI editorial

    From the editor’s desk
    Pakistan’s image deficit

    Pakistan is apparently going through a severe image deficit.

    What with the recent betting scam in UK over cricket, the rampant corruption that makes local headlines daily and the daily struggles by the UN, international NGOs, and the Pak government in response to slow aid for floods due to militancy, Talibans and war on terror. Now you can add detention and harassment of legitimate Pak travelers in the US (and the world airports) to the growing list of national embarrassments as well.

    Apparently, our military delegation decided to cut short their trip to USA because they were subjected to detention at the airport for apparently causing paranoia and concern to their fellow American passengers by just travelling with them! According to Dawn, “by the time the US Department of Defence apologized to the delegation, their leader a two-star naval officer, had already informed Islamabad where officials approved his decision to return home on Tuesday night. The delegation included senior officials from all three services, the army, the navy and the air force.”

    This is in spite of the fact that most of the citizens of the western world including USA do not have any real idea about Pakistan, its problems or its citizens. There is a visible divide between media influenced perceptions vs. the actual reality of Pakistan.

    Pakistani citizens are pretty upset with the continuing vilification by the international media and some governments like UK, some indulging in public self-flagellation like this anonymous blogger on Dawn who says “I delivered the no ball,” or XYZ of Café Pyala who is completely gutted or Fasi Zaka’s piece titled Human Cockroaches II or the quick rebuttal of Mahreen Aziz Khan titled the liberal lynch mob or Beyond Self-Flagellation: We Need Government, Stupid penned by Mosharraf Zaidi in response to the very public soul searching, some going so far as to suggest that we scrap the very reason for being, the objective resolution that forms the very basis of Pakistan’s constitution and was apparently penned by the founding fathers of the nation.

    Are we suffering from persecution complex or is the world really out to get us? I can’t decide. Can you?

    It reminds me of Muneer Niazi’s famous Punjabi poem – Honay day halay

    ”Kujh unj we raawan aukhian sann; kujh gall vicch gham da tauq ve see, kujh shehr dey louk ve zalim sann; kujh manoun mar ran da shouq ve see.”

    Translation: No doubt, the trails were hard; and we were stricken with the noose of grief around our necks too; the citizens (of this town) were cruel too; and yes, we were a little bit suicidal too!”

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  22. Thursday, Sept 2, 2010, my RTI editorial of the day…

    From the editors desk
    Lahore and Karachi incidents of violence
    It’s Ramadan. Most Muslims are trying to turn over a new leaf, at least, in this holy month. They might not follow their faith devotedly eleven months out of a year but most of them at least try to become better human beings in Ramadan. Otherwise they don’t fast. There is no point.

    Terrorists or idealogical militants, on the other hand, do not subscribe to any organized religion. They do not believe in God. They do not believe in judgment day. They don’t believe in accountability. They believe they only get this one life and they have to achieve their ends by hook or by crook before they die. They believe in a particular ‘ism’ and they have a one point ideology only – “my way or the highway” – There is no middle ground, no ‘live and let live’ philosophy. It’s about discovering all opposition and obstacles that stand in their way and eliminating them in the shortest time possible, even if they have to take up arms. No scruples stand in their way.

    Pakistan, unfortunately, is a victim of terrorism since 2001 onwards (some say after 2003-4, when USA invaded Iraq) – only the scale has escalated over the years to take this scary turn now. There are countless loose cannons (read opposing terrorist organizations) operating in this country with masterminds sitting elsewhere. It’s very difficult to pinpoint exactly who is doing what at any given point in time. Identification is a big issue. Identification of their particular ‘ism’ is another big issue.

    There is only one recurring theme – the citizens and the state of Pakistan are their targets. They are bent on eliminating them as quickly as possible. They are at war with Pakistan.

    Their movement might be disguised as religious opposition to a particular way of life or ‘just resistance’ to occupying forces and their allies or it might be mistaken for symptoms of society’s intolerance for their fellow human beings like last night’s terrorist activities – Lahore mourns triple bombing as death toll rises and Militants kill female teacher in Bajaur and Twenty people held after attack in Karachi but the fact remains that these terrorists have a sinister one point agenda – they are at war with Pakistan and its citizens.

    Since they are employing guerilla tactics and suicide jackets, there is no way our security forces can eliminate them through conventional means. So instead of working harder at a losing war, Pakistan should work smarter – the best way is to track them through the money trail, choke their money supply, they will die a quick death.

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  23. Tuesday, Sept 7, 2010, Today’s RTI editorial

    From the editor’s desk
    Wishing for World Peace!

    God did not create the universe, says Hawking. No wonder ‘Secularism’ is taking hold of the world’s collective imagination as the hot new ‘ism’ replacing obsolete old ‘isms,’ that used to govern world societies and world politics.

    Since “God” is not officially recognized by majority of scientists nowadays, He has no place in our world or society today. In other words, expediency popularly known as ‘secularism’ is the name of the game now – ethics and organized religions (as a system to govern individual lives and societies) can take a hike – it remains only as legends for the books or as some call it, ‘Kitabi Batain,’ (translation: fantasy or idealism only fit for books).

    Unfortunately for most practicing Muslims of today, they have to believe in ‘Kitabi Batain’ as their source of faith is the Quran and Hadith which are actually books! (Jews and Christians also suffer a similar fate as well as their religions are based on holy scriptures (books!) Old testament and New Testament as well.) Even Scientists have to publish papers and books to get accepted so their theories and proofs are also stuff of books! Hmmm. So in practice all individuals of today still have to believe in some form of ‘Kitabi Batain!’ Define irony, why don’t you?

    Some scientists and even laymen like Anas Abbas accept Darwin’s theory of Evolution as a scientific fact; not realizing it is still a theory that is still largely unproven by science and is in direct contradiction of world religions including Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Abbas makes fun of Imran Khan in these words in his commentary titled The Denial of the lambs, “Where a popular national hero and philanthropist (Imran Khan) worshipped by millions has been an insult to science by calling Charles Darwin a “half baked” theorist,” and cites Irfan Hussain’s commentary, Imran Khan vs. Charles Darwin for the quote on Khan. My point, Imran Khan is a self-professed Muslim so how can he believe in Darwin? Muslims believe in God. In fact, their belief in God is central to their faith. Remember it goes something like this, “No God but God,” why does he serve as a figure of fun for Abbas?

    Is Abbas a closet bigot too? He is busy taking pot shots at opinions from assorted columnists including Mahreen Aziz Khan and Talat Hussain who were rebutting opinions from Fasi Zaka, George Fulton and many others, all published under Express Tribune in the last couple of weeks, however, does he impress with his balanced approach when he examines both sets of arguments? No, as he himself says, extremists are never attractive, whatever, extreme they might choose to align themselves with.

    Personally, I have no issues with either school of thought. You can believe Darwin or you can believe whatever organized religion you want to believe in – Islam, Judaism, or Christianity, (even Sikhism, Buddhism, Hinduism etc.,) What I have a problem with is the attitude that both sets of systems are mutually exclusive and the proponents for “for” or “against” arguments not completely understanding what they are talking about! If you are a practicing Muslim, you need to understand that there is no room for capitalism, socialism, secularism and other sets of dogma and new fangled modern ‘isms’ and Islam in your belief system. (Islam gives you a complete code to live your life). You can’t believe in two sets of opposing theories and practice both at the same time! You will go mad. Follow one or the other – either is fine. Seek clarity. If you believe in Darwin, you don’t believe in God. It’s as simple as that. Let’s not please confuse the issue here!

    Live and Let live I say. There is no need to start a war of words (or arms!) all over the world proving one theory over the other. It’s just waste of resources and time besides a total academic exercise in futility. We will all find out if there is indeed a God or not after death anyway! So people who want to burn the Quran or ban the veil or minarets or mosques from their world suffer from extremism too. It’s like the pot-calling-the-kettle-black syndrome. Islamophobia is a reality in the west. Muslims are the new Jews now. Face it and move on. Yes, Pakistanis are not getting a similar deal as Haitians or Sri Lankans; they will have to ask to be treated similarly because surprise, surprise, they are not the same – they are the dreaded Muslims and therefore terrorists in disguise. Exposing the west’s bias is not attractive either.

    Instead of concentrating on what divides us, let’s concentrate on what unites us – our humanity. Yes, I am still stuck on ‘might is right’ vs. ‘ethics’ debate, unfortunately, there is no getting away from it because as usual the newspapers are full of it, here are a few examples –

    Nineteen killed in Lakki Marwat terror attack; Petraeus seeks 2,000 more troops for Afghanistan; Only president can sack me: NAB official; Strict curfew after four new deaths in Kashmir; Afridi says players aware of ‘fix’ dangers; US drone kills five in North Wazirstan ; Authorities race to protect Dadu, Johi.

    There are loads more where this is coming from. Only the faces and words keep changing, the theme remains the same – the powerful oppressing the weak.

    Wasn’t it Voltaire who said, “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him?”

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  24. Wednesday, September 8, 2010, Today’s RTI editorial…

    From the editor’s desk
    Pakistan floods – Is the glass half full or half empty?

    The government of Pakistan plans to spend all its resources on flood relief according to President Zardari. Correction, he actually said all ‘available’ resources. Hmm.

    In the meantime, Dr Sheikh apparently warned the government on September 6, 2010 that the “economy was on the edge of precipice,” apparently, “We have to freeze the borrowing from the State Bank now to remain afloat and adding further foreign loans is no more a feasible option,” he said. The finance minister also said the country’s overall debt stood at about Rs 6 trillion at the end of fiscal year 2008 which had increased by a massive 46 percent to Rs 8.75 trillion in just two years, accounting for more than half of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). The debt has increased to such a level that the ‘country is on the edge of insolvency’. “The government will not have the money to pay off salaries in two months” if the situation was allowed to continue, the official quoted the minister as warning the political and military leadership.

    On Tuesday, the Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani dropped by to brief the prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on rescue and relief activities in the flood affected areas. According to Dawn News, “the meeting was seen as a significant one in view of the controversy created by MQM chief Altaf Hussain’s call to ‘patriotic generals’ to play their role in eradication of the ‘feudal system’ in the country.” However, Pakistan’s flood troubles are by no means over…Dadu is still in hot waters (no pun intended). Apparently, a 60-foot breach in an embankment in Johi taluka inundated 25 villages on Tuesday, affecting about 20,000 people. Waters gushing from the breach at Mian-ji-Kundi village submerged the area between the embankment and the Main Nara Valley drain.

    Yesterday, Dawn reported that each IDP is to get 5K shortly. While the minister Qamar Zaman Kaira apparently said according to Express Tribune that it will not be possible to provide the promised 20K to each family before Eid. According to UN, there are around 10 million souls still without shelter, apparently, these stats do not include those who already received emergency shelter supplies and those housed in schools.

    Rehabilitation is the hot new buzz word now. Though, the government still has not yet completed its initial damage and needs assessment (DNA) and has no plans of doing so in the near future; they are apparently relying on ADB and WB to come up with the DNA report. In the meantime, there are reports that citizens have started returning home to clean up the mess left by the floods. They are not very optimistic about government’s help if you go by some citizens of Nowshera interviewed by BBC. However, they are intent on picking up the threads of their lives again – help or no help from the government.

    Not that the government would listen but it would make more sense to provide the flood survivors with steady employment opportunities for a couple of years down the road instead of offering them meager 20k to rebuild their lives. Our best bet would be to create new agricultural estates away from the flood plains on government lands (not brought under cultivation yet) by housing them in make shift mud homes (which they are actually accustomed to anyway) and asking them to grow a few food and cash crops while they are at it – the government to provide seed, fertilizers, tractors and land. The government could grow a few fruit orchards and forests too on the lines of cooperative farming basing it some kind of partnership deal with the farmers but like I said, they are too busy asking for loans and making tall claims that might never materialize to look for easy solutions to complicated problems.

    Oh well, Ce la vie! More later!

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  25. Tuesday, September 28, 2010 – Today’s editorial for RTI Pakistan

    From the Editor’s desk
    Matters Big and small

    Every day is full action thriller with a bit of drama thrown in for good measure in Pakistan.

    Majority of citizens (read men) tune in their favorite television channels during the prime time in search of the usual stand up fight between good and evil (read PPP vs. any other opposition party – PPP is our favorite villain. Most people especially enjoy the public humiliation of Ms. Fauzia Wahab for example, I know because loads of friends like to share tons of footage via You tube on their Facebook pages!), while the women look for good old Indian soaps. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has banned unlicensed channels from Pak air waves and that includes Indian Channels like Star Plus, Colors, Sony TV etc., back in August 2010, (even Indian newspapers were moved to cover this event – for example, Outrage in Pakistan as court blacks out Indian channels) so a few Pakistani women are also now forced to watch the news channels in search of their daily soap fix.

    Couple of days ago, you must have caught sight of this funny press conference which resulted in Abdul Qayyum Jatoi’s resignation. I loved his quote, “there should be equality in corruption!” Yay. Imagine, asking for honesty and equal treatment when you are intent on corruption, this is even better than his previous nugget, “corruption is our right.” Is this the practical application of ‘honor among thieves’ idiom?

    Well, why am I telling you this stuff anyway? Because, such headlines tend to obscure the real news. There are more important news items like the ongoing flood saga or the violation of our borders by NATO, Nato changes stance after protest by Pakistan, NRO beneficiary lists rejected by SC that have to take a back seat when such juicy nuggets hit the air waves.

    Last but not the least; I leave you with one question – what is the difference between violation of air space (Drone Attacks) and violation of our borders (NATO pursuing insurgents within our borders)? There is absolutely no practical difference. Both are attacks on our sovereignty. So why is the one option acceptable and not the other? I simply don’t get it. Do you?

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  26. Wednesday, September 29, 2010, today’s editorial for RTI Pakistan…

    From the editor’s desk
    Pakistan surrounded by friends!
    With friends like these, who needs enemies?

    A few news stories gave me a pause for thought today.

    For example, MQM is the richest party in Pakistan, reported by The Nation and MQM a political group or gang of terrorists, asks intel report reported by Daily Times, US threatens ground operations in Fata; The Nation, this one quoted the New York Times report – C.I.A. Steps Up Drone Attacks on Taliban in Pakistan and General David H. Petraeus’ sinister aims for Pakistan if Pak government and military establishment fail to “do more” and No money left to run government according to ADB, reported by Mehtab Haider for The News.

    As a mere citizen of Pakistan, what am I supposed to think about all this anyway? We, a nation of 180 million strong sitting on one of the most strategic crossroads of the world, seem to be surrounded by challenges – on top of this; the politicians are beating the drums for change at a time when we need strong and sane leadership on all fronts; (changing horses’ mid-stream doesn’t make sense to me at this time!). The gent who started all this accuses the foreign powers of plotting to eliminate him, while he seems to be linked to the murder of Imran Farooq, not to mention, the fact that the intel report also mentions his Indian connection. With friends like these, who needs enemies?

    Speaking of friends and neighbors, our other friend seems intent on carving a piece of our territory (portion of KP and Balochistan – apparent Taliban stronghold according to USA, NATO and western media) for its own personal use…they have already warned us many times that they will invade our territories in pursuit of Haqqani Network, Quetta Shura, Al-Qaeda and Talibans.

    Last news report as recently dated as Sept 27, 2010 by New York Times, “As evidence of the growing frustration of American officials, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Afghanistan, has recently issued veiled warnings to top Pakistani commanders that the United States could launch unilateral ground operations in the tribal areas should Pakistan refuse to dismantle the militant networks in North Waziristan, according to American officials.”

    It goes on to quote some hush, hush administrative official in the know, “Petraeus wants to turn up the heat on the safe havens,” said one senior administration official, explaining the sharp increase in drone strikes. “He has pointed out to the Pakistanis that they could do more.”

    Hmmm.

    Do also read: Pushing partition in Afghanistan; partitioning Afghanistan; Nato urged to allow partition of Afghanistan: report; Former US envoy calls for Afghanistan’s partition and Partition of Afghanistan Is a Quixotic Adventure.

    You might also find this interesting – 75% of Pak citizens feel that the US will not withdraw its troops by July 2014 from Afghanistan as announced according to a recent poll by RTI research center.

    Connecting the dots yet? This is one scary picture.

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  27. Thursday, September 30th, 2010, RTI Pakistan editorial…

    From the editor’s desk
    Where do we go from here?

    Mediocrity breeds mediocrity.

    We need some out-of-the-box creative thinkers, policy planners and visionaries who can steer the country through this critical curve. All of us can see the writing on the wall.

    Some of the more discerning citizens are frantically looking for escape, any escape – in the form of dual nationality – Malaysia seems to be a favorite haven for example – some of the hopeless ones are choosing death (Incidence of suicide) – some are clinging to hope that “things will get better;” but all of us are waiting, waiting, waiting for a miracle (or is it an act of God?)

    It reminds me of Bahadur Shah Zafar’s famous couplet – “Umer-i-Daraz maang kar layay tay char din, Do Aarzoo may cut gay, do intizaar may”

    عمرِ دراز مانگ کے لائے تھے چار دِن
    دو آرزو میں کٹ گئے، دو اِنتظار می

    Translation: Asked for a long life, I received four days, Two passed in desire, two in waiting”

    The million dollar question – Which politician is going to deliver in this leadership vacuum? In a nation of 180 million strong, is there not a single leader who can show us the way forward?

    Today’s recommended reading? Nato helicopters kill three Pakistani soldiers in Kurram; Musharraf warns of new military coup in Pakistan; Zardari calls for flood tax; Inelegant but pragmatic: SBP raises policy rate by 50 basis points to 13.5 percent; Country faced with Rs 500 billion circular debt; Gen Kayani pushed for govt shake-up, says NYT; Reformed GST to cause price hike of 15-17pc; Where is the system? I.A Rehman; What do Pakistani generals want? Furrukh Saleem; PENSIEVE: Government, know thy enemy! Farrukh Khan Pitafi; VIEW: Floods in the time of democracy Saroop Ijaz; COMMENT: Mostly humbug! Mujahid Eshai.

    There is loads more – I am not sure if you have the stamina to take more though, so I guess this will have to do, “Bas Itna hi from the news room till khabarnama at nine” (Translation – that’s all from the news room till mega-news bulletin at nine pm!) to quote a famous PTV anchor. Until tomorrow…

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  28. Friday, October 1, 2010, RTI Pakistan editorial…

    From the editor’s desk
    Snapshot of an average week in Pakistan
    So many issues, so little time!

    Supreme Court’s enquiry into Loans write-off by State Bank of Pakistan, lack of tax reforms and one time flood tax for the rich vs. taxing the middle classes and lower middle classes 10 percent flood tax debate, NATO’s attack on Kurram Agency check post, the role of TTP and its sinister terrorist aims outside of Pakistan for Europe and USA, the good afghans and the bad afghans controversy – correction, ‘the good Talibans’ and ‘the bad Talibans’ controversy and our security agencies and especially our ‘spy’ agency’s double game with the world (trying to keep communications open with both parties of Afghan civil war or in other words hedging our bets since we don’t know which side will win in the end in Afghanistan in spite of USA and NATO!), the current tension between USA and Pakistan, the Babri Mosque verdict in India, The Kashmir cause and India’s hypocritical policy on minorities, especially Muslims of India, India vs. China and are they even on the same page economically (and security-wise in spite of India’s much touted “Chinese threat,”) not to mention, America’s clash of civilizations doctrine and the current oil wars and the new great game, Pakistan’s economic woes, West’s Islamophobia, Pakistan’s floods, NRO beneficiaries and their future in the government, 18th Amendment, Judges appointments, “will-there-be-change-of-government before 2013?” or will the army take-over speculation and news analysis, Pakistan cricket board’s performance, cricket spot-fixing scam, Pakistan’s image abroad and host of other significant issues (that I can’t list here for lack of space) are some of the hot new issues on the table this week.

    It’s tough choosing between them all because there are so many and all of them are equally urgent and important! Probably, the government feels equally overwhelmed and has decided to do nothing in sheer self-defense, hence, the lack of good governance and general feeling of chaos and anarchy you see all around you when you step into Pakistan.

    While the citizens wait for a miracle, or in the golden words of our national poet “Hazaaron saal nargis apni benoori pe roti hai, badi mushkil se hota hai chaman mein deedawar paida”, Tuloo-e-Islam by Allama Iqbal (Translation: it takes thousands of years to produce a worthy leader!) its only business as usual in Pakistan. So what’s the latest today? Any new ‘breaking news’ in the last hour?

    Today’s recommended reading: Water map shows billions at risk of ‘water insecurity’ By Richard Black

    Until tomorrow…

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