Three weeks after the floods have broken Pakistan’s back, the international community is yet to show its resolve in helping a drowning country. The reasons for such a slow response are erroneously being understood in the context of the Pakistani government or the current crop of civilians in power. However, this is a narrow twist to the reality. The real angst and distrust being displayed by the world is at the Pakistani ‘state’. The situation is also reflective of the duplicity of international opinion makers and power-centres in labelling Pakistan as a country with an ‘image problem’.
One is sick of reading nauseating reports on how the post-earthquake assistance was ‘diverted’ or squandered. The truth is that in 2005 a military dictator was ruling Pakistan and the entire world was doing business with him. At that moment, the issues of democracy, transparency and human rights all took a backseat and strategic imperatives prevailed.
Pakistani, and by extension the global media, are regurgitating tiresome cliches about corruption without talking about reforming state institutions. For instance, not a single commentator has said that we have a new accounting system in the form of the Project to Improve Financial Reporting and Auditing (Pifra) in place. But it has not been put into place effectively at the provincial and district levels. This is the way we will ensure transparency and good tracking of money received and spent. Continue reading
Posted by Raza Rumi
I received this letter from Lila Thadani that was an impassioned statement in response to Nadeem ul Haque’s article on building a security wall around Lahore’s privileged locality – GOR-I . Nadeem ul Haq’s piece is also posted below which by itself makes a poignant point. However, these exchanges are not conflictual – they are complementary and supportive in the sense that they bring out the key imbalances of the federation called Pakistan.
Dear Mr Nadeem ul Haq et al:
I support your plea to pull down the pointless walls meant to provide a safe enclosures for Punjab’s Babus. But aren’t you being a tad bit parochial; there are so many more important walls to be pulled down, particularly the invisible ones that lie in the minds of people, stopping them from seeing good sense, and encouraging their selfish instincts.
Your historic megacity city lacks a public tranport system, nor does the capital or for that matter any city in Pakistan. The traffic you have going through the GOR is because you have too many rich cats in cars. Your beloved Lahori, Kamran Lashari, whom you exported to Islamabad helped ruin it and wasted money on roads, which would have been better spent on starting a half-decent public transport enterprise. It is time you had basic environmental science taught in your Services Academy and at least your elite private schools. Continue reading
We are posting two reviews of the new book on Benazir Bhutto authored by Shyam Bhatia. The first is a critical, crisp impression of M.A. Soofi; and the other is by the legendary Khushwant Singh who discusses wider issues such as corruption comparisons between India and Pakistan and apparently believes whatever Bhatia has written despite the condemnation from late Bhutto’s spokesperson.
Mayank Austen Soofi: An Indian journalist’s sleazy biography of Benazir Bhutto.
Petty games people play. Indian journalist Mr. Shyam Bhatia who had known Ms. Benazir Bhutto since her student days in Oxford, during the 70s, have penned a quickie biography of Pakistan’s late prime minister. He has accused her of smuggling nuclear secrets to North Korea during a state visit to Pyongang by carrying CDs containing data about uranium enrichment in an overcoat “with deepest possible pockets”.
That’s just the most serious charge in this thin, seemingly hurriedly written book that has little flair for fine writing and hardly any consideration for credible sources to back up its wild claims.
Mr. Bhatia calls the young Ms. Bhutto a ‘self-obsessed’ girl with legendary tantrums who would throw “ashtrays like flying saucers at the servants” in ancestral home at Larkana.
Indeed, his Benazir-at-Oxford emerges as quite a flamboyant woman who drove a yellow MG sports car, dunked down white wine, and had a “myriad of mostly white boyfriends.” However, Mr. Bhatia soon contradicts himself by claiming that Ms. Bhutto was madly in love with “two extremely handsome Pakistani students” who (here’s the cake) “firmly rebuffed marital enquiries on her part”.
In this breezy breathless portrayal of Benazir’s young days, Mr. Bhatia hasn’t inserted any footnotes to add to the credibility of his ‘accusations’.
There’s more. Continue reading
Contribution by Isa Daudpota
The past 5 years have seen massive unsustainable ‘development’ in Islamabad. This has been spearheaded by its municipality, with the backing of the bureaucracy and military high-ups. No public input is sought or accepted. The character of the city has changed through ill-thought-out projects that have ruined the environment of the city and made it unmanageable.
Pakistan generally lacks the organizational and management skills to handle large cities and projects effectively, but one continues to see the proliferation of mega-projects up and down the country. From such adventures, various interest groups siphon off funds leaving the cities poorer for everyone, and more so for the majority who are financially poor.
The idea that “small is beautiful” is alien to city planners, top government functionaries and the military.
The video, from the Dawn News channel’s program “The Big Digit”, highlights some of the disasters specific to Islamabad but with relevance to most projects, old and new, in Pakistan and developing countries.
Watch the interview at: