Pakistan’s devastating floods have opened up a Pandora’s Box of governance dysfunctions and historical distortions that have plagued the polity since independence. It remains to be seen what will be the outcome of the greatest calamity in our recent history. Various estimates show that the floods have affected 18-20 million people. The death toll has crossed the figure of 2000 while 2 million houses have been damaged or destroyed. Floodwaters are receding in many areas, and though there are concerns about standing water that remains in Punjab and other areas, the worst of the current flooding is taking place in Sindh.
The disaster is still not over but the fissures within Pakistan have started to erupt and once again proving how vulnerable the state is and how fractured the Pakistani society has become. Five key crises have emerged, some old and some new. However, they point to the fact that our continuous refusal to address structural problems remains a key challenge.
Martial state syndrome: Pakistan’s history is an uninterrupted tale of direct and indirect military rule and centralisation. Each time there is a crisis there is a need to resort to the de facto, real governance paradigm: the military rule. Therefore, Altaf Hussain of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Imran Khan of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) are not saying anything new. The perennial search for a Messiah, rooted in the religious ideology that the state and education system have cultivated, is back in full force. This time the media and other discordant voices are calling for another phase of direct military rule. Continue reading
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
… yet continues to help many live
[Dawn Online] HYDERABAD, June 11: Man is mortal but legend stays. It can truly be said for late Kumar of Hyderabad’s Bombay Bakery, as its cuisine left an everlasting flavour on the taste buds of those lucky, who had the opportunity to relish these.
Kumar Thandani enjoyed seventy and two winters and met his creator on Friday in a Karachi hospital. A bachelor throughout, he left behind a sister and two adopted children. He was cremated in the evening at the crematorium at Hali Road. Continue reading
MQM needs to change perceptions about it before it finds any ground in the Punjab
Crosspost by Yasmeen Ali
MQM’s effort to enter Punjab can be deemed as a historic political development. Altaf Hussain in an address many months earlier, promised Punjab an end to feudalism, while announcing MQM’s entrance in the Punjab political kaleidoscope .This is an interesting promise, considering MQM was unable to dent the feudalism in rural Sindh where it exists, much more than in Punjab. According to the MQM’s 2008 election manifesto “the prevalent feudal system of Pakistan is the main obstacle in the progress of the country and the prosperity of the people”.
Before going any further, let us identify what feudalism is. In one view, that of Marc Bloch, views feudalism as the complete system, political, military, social, and economic. He saw all of these issues centering around lordship. Karl Marx also took this perspective with one major difference; he centered on peasants. Marxism’s main emphasis is that of the plight of the worker thus in his view of feudalism only the peasants contributed to society. In another major view, feudalism is largely a political term. The political power in feudalism, these individuals claim, was treated as an individual possession and held by those who owned the land. Thus the government was ruled by the lords and royal officials who ruled over their land. Continue reading
By Naeem Sadiq
In September 2009 I wrote to two Sindh government departments seeking harmless information on matters of education and pollution that should anyway be available to all citizens. I was confident that a formal request under the much trumpeted and much ‘seminar’ed Freedom of Information Act will do the trick. The law requires a response within 21 days. When nothing happened for 4 months, in Jan 2010, I approached the Sindh Ombudsman (as suggested in the law) to ask the concerned departments to do the needful.
After digesting my request for 3 months, the Sindh Ombudsman finally asked the concerned departments (Education and Environmental Protection Agency) to appear and explain why they did not provide the information that had been asked for. I too was asked to appear.
So I spent the 1st of April (like a fool) in the Ombudsman’s office, hoping that the real culprits would make an appearance. Nobody turned up and the helpless Ombudsman gave a new date of April 6, for all parties to appear again.
On 6th April I wasted another day waiting in the Ombudsman’s office, but again neither department put in an appearance.
Clearly I was now being given a taste of my own medicine. The Ombudsman could keep calling. I could keep appearing. The departments violating the freedom of information Act could keep not turning up. Life could keep going on as normal. Continue reading
Filed under Citizens, civil service, Conservation, Democracy, Education, Environment, executive, Law, Pakistan, Rights, Sindh
by Raza Rumi
Much has been elaborated on the binding constraints faced by Pakistani democracy. Conventional wisdom suggests that the civil-military imbalance has left little space for democratic institutions to grow and flourish. There can hardly be any disagreement with this point of view. In fact, decades of centralised martial rule have resulted in the militarisation of the society to such an extent that one can hardly discuss anything pertaining to Pakistan without a mention of the Pakistan Army and its role in the country.
There is also a predominant counter narrative in the mainstream discourse. This view holds the impatient and elitist Pakistani politicians responsible for the systemic crash each decade. It stresses that the politicians are adept at undermining the democratic order and it is because of their petty differences and thirst for power that they enter into alliances with the powerful establishment. Continue reading