Tag Archives: poverty

Collapsing local governance

By Raza Rumi

Recent floods have exposed the capacity of the state to govern, especially at the local level. The disintegration of local state is not a recent phenomenon. The continued experimentation with and frequent strangulation of local governance arrangements have led to a situation that Pakistan’s burgeoning population is now without a representative, accountable local state.

Erosion of state writ: Three historical trends are noticeable for their impact on the overall governance and the writ of the state. First, centralisation is a tendency that is most attractive to those who govern Pakistan at the federal and provincial levels. The post-colonial Pakistani state has retained the official obsession of controlling power and patronage at the top and denuding the local space for democratic development and sound mechanisms of accountability. Secondly, granting local autonomy has, by and large, been a smokescreen for powerful military governments to bypass provincial politics and control the levers of state and society from above. Thus, we have an established pattern: local government experiments flourish under authoritarian regimes and get undermined whenever democracy, a la Pakistani variety, returns. Finally, the constant denial of a responsive state at the local level has led to erosion of state legitimacy and the void has been filled in by mafias, politico-criminal gangs and militant non-state actors.
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Pakistan’s South Punjab: politics of marginalisation

Raza Rumi

The discourse on South Punjab conceals the grassroots social movements and the clamouring for a linguistic identity in the region

The conundrum of South Punjab remains a major challenge for analysts, policy makers and above all the people of this marginalized region. Socio-economic data testifies to the impoverishment and the deprivation that exists in the region. Add to this the iniquitous land distribution and utter lack of economic opportunities for the local population. Despite the rhetoric of the establishment, the region has been neglected through decades of “modern” development in northern and central Punjab. The bulk of public resources were invested in Lahore, Rawalpindi and other urban centers of the North. Industrialisation, growth of private education facilities and the rise of the middle class are phenomena that have eluded the dusty environs of South Punjab.

The result is clear: the electoral patterns show support for redistributive agendas and which are deemed as pro-peasantry. In recent years, southern Punjab has also witnessed two conflictual yet interrelated trends. First, the rise of Islamism through a network of sectarian madrassas which train militants and mercenaries alike; and scattered yet influential social movements around the issues of linguistic identity and livelihoods. How does one make sense of these contradictions?
It is well known that the Wahhabi-Salafi ideologies backed by potent financing networks have played a major role in turning this impoverished region into a nursery for militant Islamism that targets the plural Sufi culture embedded in the cultural mores of the local inhabitants; and act as a bastion for the Taliban network across the country. There is insurmountable evidence to this effect and those who are not willing to confront this brutal reality are living in a state of denial. Since the Zia years, the state is no longer a neutral arbiter and it promotes a particular brand of Islamic ideology. It is also clear that a sophisticated regime of economic incentives addresses lack of public entitlements and a non-responsive state apparatus.

However, we have also witnessed that the peasants in Okara and Khanewal have valiantly resisted appropriation of land by security agencies and have set a momentum of challenging the state’s land policy. Similarly, issues related to water distribution and resettlement due to mega projects sponsored by International Financial Institutions (IFIs), have also come into public light due to the political mobilization that has been taking place in D G Khan, Muzaffargarh, Layyah and elsewhere. It is a separate matter that such stories do not receive adequate attention in the media which is owned by rich, powerful barons whose interests are integrally linked to an extractive state. As pointed by a leading activist, Mushtaq Gadi, the discourse on South Punjab willfully ignores the authentic voices from the grassroots that revolve around livelihood struggles and the quest for a regional identity.

Another dimension of the regional turmoil pertains to the growing movement for linguistic identity. The Saraiki language and its submerged identity is now a rallying point for most living in the southern most districts of the region. This movement for cultural expression has gained momentum with increased calls for a separate province and the fact that the disputed status of Bahawalpur State has been raised by politicians from the region is a case in point. The state of affairs, reported rather cautiously in the mainstream media, points to the fact that political elites are now forced willy-nilly to subscribe to the idea of a separate province. Else, they are likely to be rejected at the next general elections.

In fact, the decades’ long denial of rights and entitlements and a politico-cultural identity act as great catalysts for breeding militancy. If one were to add the economic deprivation and endemic poverty to the list then the situation is quite alarming. No wonder we are seeing history unfold in front of our eyes. The nexus between poverty and militancy is problematic but certainly undeniable. FATA and other parts of Pakistan have shown us how a poor majority finds ‘opportunity’ in the game of terrorist networks and their well oiled financing machines. South Punjab is no exception.

Pakistani state will have to think beyond its mantras of national security and ‘foreign hand’ and accept that its policies have led to the explosive situation in South Punjab. At the same time, this region is not Swat or a FATA agency that can be bombarded with troops and drones. Also, it is important to note that at the people’s level, Talibanisation has yet to take root. There is hardly any evidence to suggest that there is popular support for the Taliban agenda. A relevant book entitled, Probing the Jihadi Mindset , Sohail Abbas (2007) that looks at the profiles of over 500 jihadis shows that participation of South Punjabis in the ‘Jihad project’ is minimal.

What next? First, major investments in public works and programmes that enhance employment and livelihoods in the region must be the focus of the state. Second, a comprehensive madrassa reform should take place concurrently that should quite logically start with the registration, documentation and curricula standardization. Third, networks that finance militancy should also be traced and tackled. The issue of a separate province or an autonomous region within the monolith Punjab province will need to be confronted sooner than later. Brushing it under the carpet will not help.

If the political elites have settled issues such as renaming NWFP, provincial autonomy and NFC then why can’t this issue be resolved within the democratic framework?
FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE FRIDAY TIMES
Raza Rumi is a development professional and a writer based in Lahore. He blogs at http://www.razarumi.com

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Filed under Al Qaeda, Justice, movements, Pakistan, Politics, public policy, Punjab, Punjabi, Rights, Society, south asia, Taliban, Terrorism

Descent into Irrationality

By Mansur Ejaz of Daily Times

Besides eliminating the Taliban and other jihadis, the basic irrationalities of the system have to be addressed. Otherwise Pakistan will continue to languish in poverty and chaos

Following the legalisation of medical marijuana in California, the ‘pot’ business is booming, and is bringing in large tax revenues for the state. California is generally the leader among the United States in innovation and progressive trends, from healthcare to environmental policy. Usually, the rest of the United States eventually ends up following California.

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Nuclear Pakistan

It’s Yet Another Pakistani Nuclear Anniversary Today

Pervez Hoodbhoy 

Eleven years ago a million Pakistanis danced in the streets after six nuclear weapons had been successfully tested. They had been told that making nuclear bombs was the biggest thing a country could do; Pakistan was now a great country. But this week’s North Korean nuclear test gave rock-solid proof that it was a lie.

North Korea is a country that no one admires. It is unknown for scientific achievement, has little electricity or fuel, food and medicine are scarce, corruption is ubiquitous, and its people live in terribly humiliating conditions under a vicious, dynastic dictatorship. In a famine some years ago, North Korea lost nearly 800,000 people. And it has an enormous prison population of 200,000 that is subjected to systematic torture and abuse. 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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Malnutrition in India

Incredible India’s remarkable growth over the last decade as modern economy has helped mask the gruesome reality of that country, that of massive poverty.  In some ways,  Slumdog Millionaire managed to bring some of these issues to the forefront but its impact – being a fancy Hollywood production at the end of the day- was minimal.  India remains – despite its 40+ US Dollar Billionaires-  a desperately poor country.    For other developing countries,  including Pakistan,  there is a poignant lesson to ensure simultaneous human and economic development along with economic growth.   This is why the New York Times article posted below is of significance not just for our Indian readers but Pakistanis as well. -PTH Admin

From the New York Times

 

NEW DELHI — Small, sick, listless children have long been India’s scourge — “a national shame,” in the words of its prime minister, Manmohan Singh. But even after a decade of galloping economic growth, child malnutrition rates are worse here than in many sub-Saharan African countries, and they stand out as a paradox in a proud democracy. Continue reading

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My Mission Statement

by Imaduddin Ahmed


I always wanted to help Pakistan develop.


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