Category Archives: south asia

WikiLeaks and Pakistan’s dysfunctional state

Raza Rumi

The WikiLeaks saga has reconfirmed the status of Pakistan as a client state. Its leadership — civilian and military — as a matter of routine, involves external actors in matters of domestic policy and power plays. We knew this all along but the semblance of documentary evidence confirms the unfortunate trends embedded in Pakistan governance systems. However, the orthodoxy that it is the West which interferes is not the full story. The inordinate influence exercised by ‘friendly’ Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia, is also a sad reminder of how warped Pakistan’s way of living is.

India is the principal enemy; and our Saudi and Gulf friends wish the other neighbour, Iran, to be bombed. We are obsessed with “legitimate” security interests in Afghanistan. This is a dysfunctional state of being and has made us addicted to western aid, leveraging global great games and denying that regional cooperation is in our ultimate self-interest. Such delusional ways of looking at the world has made the state splinter and devolve authority to non-state actors, which can advance its security policies.

What is the picture that emerges from the cable-mess: A president lives in fear of being assassinated; the army chief ‘considers’ options to dismiss the elected president and then changes his mind because he “distrusts” the alternative — Nawaz Sharif — even more! The state benefits from American largesse and hates it at the same time. Civilian leaders regularly reiterate their support to the US — the second A in the power trinity of ‘Allah, America and the Army’. Sadly, nothing new. Yet, deeply disturbing. Continue reading

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Filed under lawyers movement, Left, Liberal Democratic Pakistan, movements, Pakistan, Pakistan-India Peace Process, public policy, secularism, south asia, Zardari

The Giant in the East – II

By Adnan Syed

This three part series examines the rise of India as an economic giant, the threats that India faces in this remarkable rise, and implications for Pakistan.

(AZW)

The Rise of India

Indian economic growth is expected to be 8.50% this year. This is a remarkable rate of growth for any economy. But this rate is dwarfed by the double digit growth rates that China has been producing for the last 10 years. India’s growth rate is expected to accelerate in the coming years, and Morgan Stanley expects that within next three to five years, this growth rate will outpace the Chinese rate of growth. Many economists are now forecasting that India would have the best economic performance among all nations of the world for the next 25 years.

The biggest reason for this higher expected growth rate is the demography. Economic growth of any nation relies on increase in workers (or the working age population) and increase in productivity. In 2040, India would have 58% of population as workers. The same number for China is only around 40%. India’s working age population will increase by 136 million over the next 10 years. China’s will grow by mere 23 million. To give some idea, during the similar time frame, the European working population will decline by 15 million over the next 10 years.[i]

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Filed under Democracy, Economy, India, Islamabad, Pak Tea House, Pakistan, south asia, USA

The Giant in the East – I

By Adnan Syed

This three part series examines the rise of India as an economic giant, the threats that India faces in this remarkable rise, and implications for Pakistan.

(AZW)

Before the Twenty First Century

As the twentieth century dawned, the world had continued to consolidate the technological boom during prior two centuries. This technological progress started with the invention of the printing press in fifteenth century. This invention quickly enabled mass availability of knowledge. Man began exploring the world around him more intently, by compounding the knowledge already gained by the earlier pioneers. As the scientific renaissance kicked in, man began accumulating more wealth by producing, discovering and innovating further. With the arrival of the scientific renaissance, the human output growth rate that had remained close to zero for thousands of years before, started rising  at a good multiple of its population growth rate.

The arrival of scientific renaissance coincided with incremental social awareness that began permeating the human consciousness. The United States came into being right in the midst of the great human renaissance that was exploding across the western world. The renaissance had begun moving forward in fits and starts towards institutionalizing the ideals of human liberty and freedom. The United States, with its rich natural resources and eager migrant entrepreneurs, began taking a lead in the social and scientific revolution that had begun sweeping the western civilization.

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Filed under China, Democracy, Economy, Europe, India, Islamabad, Pak Tea House, Pakistan, poverty, south asia, state, USA

South Asian Literature Festival (15-25 October)

PTH announces the forthcoming festival – Raza Rumi
The inaugural South Asian Literature Festival takes place in London from 15th – 25th October, followed by outreach events in Brighton, Edinburgh, Birmingham and Manchester at the end of October.
SALF joins an emerging landscape of literature festivals located in South Asia including Jaipur, Hay Festival Kerala, Galle and Karachi Literature Festivals but is UK based and the only one to have the remit of focusing on South Asian writing exclusively.

Reflecting the diverse nature of South Asian culture, SALF is a multi-dimensional festival and will explore the politics, languages and literature of the region through music, spoken word, visual arts and literary performance.

Playing host to a stellar cast of authors, actors, poets, musicians – home-grown, international and from the sub-continent – and leading lights from the worlds of politics, academia and broadcasting, SALF looks forward to hosting top names such as prize-winning novelist Romesh Gunesekera; from two great political dynasties, Fatima Bhutto and Nayantara Sahgal; historian Michael Wood, acclaimed writer and musicianAmit Chaudhuri, Pakistan’s rising-star author Moniza Alvi, jazz musician Cleveland Watkiss and well-known broadcasters Mihir Bose and Hardeep Singh Kohli. Continue reading

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Filed under Literature, south asia

Friends of flood devastated Pakistan should wake up

Far from perfect and with all its weaknesses, the democratic process is delivering. Pakistan cannot afford to give space to extremists and lose the war against extremism, … This is time for international community and liberal democratic Pakistanis to wake up

Ahmad Nadeem Gehla

Political leadership in Pakistan,  is generally considered to be corrupt and inefficient. Although, perception is not entirely baseless, same is widely fed to public by establishment friendly intellectuals in electronic and print media. With democratic collation government in Islamabad, we have witnessed a new trend in political culture. Since, terrorism has become an unwanted curse, we have to live with, Minister for Interior Rehman Malik and brave leader of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa Mian Iftikhar made their presence felt, at incidents of terrorism and while facing media to gather popular support against extremists. Former Mayor of Karachi Mustafa Kamal and Chief Minister Punjab, Mian Shahbaz Sharif have actively been approaching the effected families in terrorism incident and cases of natural calamities.

The critics of culture of  political activism, claim it to be an ‘eye wash’ and cover-up for government  inefficacy and lack of planning and same  can not be entirely brushed away. At the same time one must remember that government can not function effectively in absence of functional and efficient institutions. Thanks to dictatorships, institutions of state are broken, inefficient or even altogether absent . Political activism is becoming intense in presence of hostile media. For sake of adding ‘spice’, anchorpersons of TV talk show  would gather political opponents and make them accuse each other of being responsible for everything ranging from climate change to natural disasters. Although some groups sympathetic to extremists have been using same medium and approach to confuse public but has not been able to create a space for their violent ideology in masses.

War of words turned in to a competition between Minister for Law, Babar Awan and Present Chief Justice of Punjab Khawja Muhammad Sharif making visits of Bar Associations. Although some sections of media accused this activity as ‘trading’ of lawyers sympathies’, fact remains that many Bar Associations were first time able to get basic amenities like public wash-rooms. Even Mian Nawaz Sharif had to call the terrorism victims of Ahmadi community as ‘brother Pakistani’s’ inviting criticism of extremist groups in order to to counter the visits of Governor Taseer and Rehman Maliks. The current floods has turned this ‘political activism’  in to a positive competition. Mr Nawaz Sharif accused President of leaving the country at time of natural disaster while touring flood victims which fuelled the presence of  Prime Minister and his party leaders in effected areas.

On direction of their leadership, the members of Parliament, never accessible to their voters in past, are participating in rescue and relief efforts. President faced sharp criticism for his overseas visit while his daughter Bakhtawar Bhutto, was quick to launched a donation campaign, attracting a huge response from youth, collecting rupees five million in first hour of its launch. The major political parties are trying to reach more areas in order to earn a favourable public image.  It would be premature to judge their sincerity and effectiveness but at the same, this is a beginning of new culture which can only grow in democratic environment. Those doing photo sessions, would ultimately be eliminated in next polls and those making a sincere effort would be rewarded duly by people. Continue reading

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Filed under disaster, Pakistan, Politics, public policy, south asia, Taliban, Terrorism

Pakistan needs immediate assistance

PTH is starting a series of posts devoted to the Pakistan’s current crisis effects of which will be long term in nature. While millions of Pakistanis are in dire need of emergency help, our country’s political and economic instability will have ramifications for the region and the world. This is why it is extremely important to understand how several parts of Pakistan have lost decades of development and a state with weak capacities needs billions of dollars in the short term to start a major programme of rehabilitation. If Pakistani state is unable to intervene, the Taliban and other Al-Qaeda militants (and their allies in South Punjab) will find a golden opportunity to annihilate the Pakistani state, discredit constitutional governance and capture political space. Pakistanis cannot be silent victims and therefore we will speak. Pakistan has to be rescued and the international community cannot absolve itself of the responsibility towards its frontline state. Raza Rumi

AA Khalid, a regular at PTH, has written the first article for this series.

Pakistan Floods – Issues and Lessons

The weakness of the State in Pakistani politics has always been a concern but with the advent of the tragic floods it has been exemplified and magnified. In a recent Guardian article it has been observed that:

‘’Ever since Pakistan was created, the army has been the only institution capable of responding to natural disasters. One of the reasons that the military has been so politically dominant is that successive civilian governments have relied on the generals to help them deal with national crises.’’

This is not a problem contingent on which political party is in office, but rather is a comment on the inability of the State to take control and have a discernable sphere of influence and power.

Elsewhere it has been noted that the problem of the international response has been marred by perceptions of Pakistan that have been focused and limited to violence. In another Guardian article:

‘’ Compare and contrast: within days of the 2004 tsunami, £100m had poured into Oxfam, the Red Cross and other charities, and by February 2005 when the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) closed its appeal, the total stood at £300m. The Haiti earthquake appeal closed with donations of £101m. The DEC total for the Pakistan floods appeal has just reached £10m. .’’ Continue reading

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Filed under Al Qaeda, Economy, Environment, Pakistan, south asia, Taliban, Terrorism

Fatal obsession

Raza Rumi

It is a matter of public record that the founder of Pakistan had stated that Indo-Pakistan relationship will resemble that of the USA and Canada. Even before the Partition, Jinnah in a 1946 press conference stated, “the two states (Pakistan and India)… will be friends and will go to each other’s rescue in case of danger and will be able to say ‘hands off’ to other nations. We shall then have a Munroe doctrine more solid than America…” This vision along with other pronouncements by Jinnah is buried in the debris of Pakistan’s national security paranoia. The spectre of India and its ‘hegemonic designs’ to use an oft-quoted phrase remain central to Pakistan’s security paradigm.

The unwavering view on India is what explains the context for the discussion paper entitled, The Sun in the Sky: The Relationship between Pakistan’s ISI and Afghan Insurgents -authored by Matt Waldman from the prestigious platform of the London School of Economics. Pakistan’s real power-centre, its security and intelligence apparatus are a self-sustaining reality. Other than the financing, of which plenty comes from the Western Capitals, there is a solid national opinion behind the xenophobic worldview carefully cultivated by a decades’ long well coordinated state policy. The centre of this argument is the ‘Indian threat’ and any conception of Pakistan’s security is linked to the evil designs of the powerful ‘enemy’ across the border. Continue reading

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Filed under India, Liberal Democratic Pakistan, Pakistan, Politics, public policy, south asia, violence, war, Zardari