Tag Archives: development

Addressing the challenges – a short term agenda

Raza Rumi

Strange things are happening. Two months after a natural disaster hit millions of people and created essential prerequisites for an economic meltdown, the focus of Pakistan’s ruling elite — elected and unelected — remains on power politics. As if the utter lack of preparedness to cope with a disaster was not enough, the response to the disaster and its monitoring by a holier than thou media is baffling.

The primal cause of the post floods mismanagement, if were to believe the analysts on prime time TV and opinion piece writers from the press, is the corrupt clique headed by Mr. Zardari. Those with the most religious bent of minds have cited a divine wrath as a cause of this calamity. A few right wing newspapers have even blamed the United States and India to have caused this natural disaster to punish Pakistan for its nuclear weapons. The genesis of such intellectual confusion and distortion of public debate lies in the way the Pakistani mind has evolved into a hydra-headed, paranoid and militarised being. This has been the greatest contribution of the Pakistani state to shape and craft a society that places a premium on nuclear weapons over citizen welfare and which demonises the political process and celebrates religious militancy as a just cause. This is why militarism of a softer variety is back in full force.

Undoubtedly, Pakistan army has done a tremendous job in rescuing people and ensuring that relief efforts are well-executed. However, this is neither unusual nor a matter of surprise as it happens to be an organised institution. But to apply this success in an emergency situation by a force trained to deal with urgent situations onto the domain of national governance brings back the central issue of Pakistan’s statehood: the unresolved and now perhaps a permanent civil-military imbalance. It started with the TV channels eulogising army efforts and creating a binary between the army and the civvies — a half truth and a rhetorical polemic with little substance. This was followed by calls for army intervention by the MQM and its nemesis, Mr Imran Khan. Luckily, for Pakistan the Generals appear to be in no mood to intervene and rock the applecart. Well, at least for now. Continue reading

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Whatever happened to Kerry-Lugar?

Raza Rumi

Pakistan’s dire fiscal situation has resulted in the reduction of development spending by 40 per cent. This does not bode well for the citizens who have been tormented by an energy crisis, persistent food inflation and rampant unemployment. In these circumstances, the development assistance under the Kerry-Lugar Bill (KLB) is much needed. Pakistan’s civilian government braved a media onslaught and the ire of the security establishment for tacitly supporting the US legislation. Other than the rhetoric around the ‘conditions’ drafted in Washington, there was an unstated agreement that the development assistance was welcome.

Months have elapsed and Pakistanis have yet to witness the roll out of the KLB. Global recession and political uncertainty at home underlie the tough days for Pakistanis especially the poor. It was expected that given the urgency of the situation, USAID was going to kickstart the delivery of its interventions. Well, the progress so far has been disappointing.

First, there seems to be no public sign of a consensus within the US bureaucratic machine how the aid under KLB will be delivered. Unconfirmed media reports suggest that the political versus the bureaucratic channels are not on the same page. The ‘political’ administration is ostensibly managing USAID systems and processes. There may be strategic reasons for that but the net result is that things are delayed. Not long ago, Pakistani government’s procedures were thought to be a problem but the trajectory of US bureaucracy only proves that public sector ailments are common. Continue reading

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Filed under Kerry Lugar Bill, Pakistan, Terrorism, USA, War On Terror

ASR Institute must be saved at all costs

Raza Rumi

ASR Institute of Women’s Studies, Lahore is not a run of the mill NGO or a donor-sponsored institution. Pakistan, not unlike other developing countries has enough of such makeshift, quick-fix research institutions that advance the Eurocentric and inappropriate agendas of those who want to liberate and enable the natives to come at par with the ‘civilized’ world. Since 1983, ASR has held its own – under dictatorships, quasi-democratic charades and amid the rise of Islamism. Not content with radical research and speaking the truth, in 1997 ASR went ahead and set up the first women’s studies institute in the non-state domain. This institute is open for South Asians and boasts a curriculum and faculty that would compete with any similar outfit in the international arena.

In February 2010, ASR organized a national seminar entitled A Celebration Of The Women’s Movement 1947-2010. The seminar honoured women who have struggled for women rights, and especially to pay tribute to the valiant struggle of the women of Pakistan who have consistently challenged all forms of oppression since 1947. This occasion also paid tribute to the women of Lahore and the Women’s Action Forum (WAF) who resisted the dictatorship of General Zia ul Haq on the 12th of February 1983. This historic day will always be remembered as a shining moment in our troubled history, when a few women faced large contingents of brutal police and marched their way through lathi charges and tear gas to protest against the anti-women, dubious ‘Islamization’ under Martial Law.

The sad part is that the process that was unleashed by the Ziaist mock-theocracy has turned into a national disaster. The rise of the Taliban and other Wahabi-Salafist groups are a danger not only to women and minorities, but also spell doom for the future of a plural Pakistani society. In this milieu, ASR’s bold stance and unwavering commitment to an equitable, progressive Pakistan is therefore heartwarming. At the same time, ASR is also facing existential crises that concern its basic survival. Continue reading

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Filed under Activism, Education, Pakistan, Politics, public policy, Women

“Lahore Bachao Tehreek” Press Conference

Lahore Bachao Press Conference tomorrow 17 July 2009 at 5pm at the Lahore Press Club

The Lahore Bachao Tehreek will be holding a press conference at the Lahore Press Club at 5pm tomorrow Friday 17 July 2009.  LBT will be issuing a press statement against the LDA’s proposed commercialization of 58 roads in Lahore.  It will also address the recent news that the Chief Minister of Punjab has directed that the Canal Bank Road widening project be re-examined. Continue reading

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Western Democracy! Right Pill at Wrong Time?

PTH does not necessarily agree with all the views of Shahid Ali, who has sent this piece for circulation

If we look upon countries trying to advance which are generally called as ‘developing countries’, specially South Asian developing countries, we will find that since inception of these countries nothing at large has been improved. Big percentage of their population lives below poverty line. Food, drinking water, health, education, housing, nothing is adequately available to common people. Continue reading

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Pakistan’s Fatal Shore

From “ATLANTIC MONTHLY May 2009”
THE WORD PAKISTAN summons up the Indian subcontinent, but the subcontinent actually begins with the Hub River, a few miles west of Karachi, near the Indus River Delta. Thus, Pakistan’s 400-mile-long Makran coast, which runs from the Iranian frontier eastward along the Arabian Sea, constitutes a vast transition zone that bears a heavy imprint of the Middle East and particularly of Arabia: directly across the Gulf of Oman is Muscat, the capital of Oman. This transition zone, which also includes the interior land adjacent to the coast, is known as Baluchistan. Through this alkaline wasteland, the 80,000-man army of Alexander the Great marched westward in its disastrous retreat from India in 325 B.C. Continue reading

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Postmodern Pakistan

Posted  by Raza Rumi

Tech Lahore alerted us to this post  on Lahore Nama. In these days of doom and gloom weaved by international and national media, this was a refreshing piece of writing. One that also makes a lot of valid points. We hope that the readers here would appreciate that not all Pakistanis are viewing their country as an imploding disaster. In fact, a complex country such as Pakistan cannot be reduced to the trite stories generated by international media and pseudo think tanks in the West.

Pakistan is such an absolutely amazing place. If you put that copy of Newsweek down for a moment and think what we’ve built in the last 60 years, I think rationality would require you to be close to awe-struck. Today we are a country on the verge of ascent into globally acknowledged greatness. We were born under circumstances that were supposed to lead to our demise inside of 12 months, according to the Nehru/Mountbatten calculus. Not only are we still around, we are 170 million strong, with consistently increasing GDP, a resilient economy, amazingly intelligent people, brilliant businesspeople and an ever-increasing global role.

Yes, we have our problems, but these are absolutely nothing compared to what we have already surmounted and what we are about to achieve. Let me break it down like so: what are our problems today? Or let me ask this another way, what if we achieved the following: Continue reading

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