Title May 2018

title May edition 2018 for print


Evolution of Democracy in Pakistan; unchanged fate of citizens

By Ahmed Khan

In 2013 general elections were held in Pakistan.  The Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) Pakistans-democracy-Jithay-dee-Khothee-Uthaay-Aan-Khalothee-640x320PML-N won a landslide victory. Subsequently, this party, which is mostly based in Punjab, formed its government.

This was only the second time that the assemblies completed their five year tenures. Before this the Pakistan People’s Party PPP also accomplished a full term. Though in time of both ruling parities the Prime Minister were impeached and dismissed due to court verdicts.  Despite this the assemblies were not dissolved and democracy remained on track in country. With the exception of these administrations, never did another assembly complete a full term; all other democratically elected civil governments were ended prematurely by court or military coup.

Throughout history democracy seems to have had huge positive impacts in development of human societies.  Governments are forced to perform their duties and fulfill their obligations or they will be replaced during elections. Unfortunately, due to the political circumstances in Pakistan, we have yet to see the fruits of democracy truly bloom. In other democratic nations, the electoral systems ensure the rights of the people are respected. Suppose, in New Zealand, recently a low class woman reached highest post of country and representing common people without class and gender differences. Certainly, it is an outstanding achievement for human civilization.

In India fine democracy is being practiced but many people are still sunk in poverty while injustices are often prevailing in society. The same can be true of the US, Canada, UK and many other model democracies. But despite the shortcomings, all these democratic countries continue to grow economically and there is steady social progress.

Alternatively, there are countries, like Arab Emirates, where no democratic system exists, and the state is run by hierarchic rulers. These countries are also developed and some citizens are prosperous with modern life style and amenities.  Yet even in these countries there is huge income gap and widespread poverty.

The examples prove that in present age of states in globe the democracy without honesty is failed. Honesty, sincerity, humanism and accountability are the main characteristics which lead a society to development and civil progress, but simply the democratic process alone can never change the fate of people and same case is with Pakistanis.

In Pakistan, the democracy has not thrived yet. Most of the time dictatorships have ruled the country directly and the rest of the time, the so-called democratically elected governments remain subordinate to the military establishment. Subsequently these democratically elected political parties lack any real authority. Merely they hold assemblies and call legislatures without any true power.

Pakistan’s Main parties are the Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), and now Tehrik-e-Insaf also has emerged as third power in country. History and circumstances divulge these parties are and were greatly influenced by military. The politicians only ever followed personal interests and discounted main essence of democracy.

Mr Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto found PPP was very close and supported by the dictator Mr Ayub Khan, and after a time he parted his ways with him. Mr Bhutto then appointed General Zia-Ul-Haq who ironically deposed Mr Bhutto and it was by his hand that Mr Bhutto was executed.

These parties never respected the masses mandate. For example, when Sheikh Mujeeb Rehman won the 1971 elections in a landslide victory, but Mr Bhutto rejected Mujeeb Rehman’s victory and took side with the military establishment. As it was in Bangladesh, also in Balochistan both a democratic and dictatorship were imposed at the same time. Mr Bhutto used power of military to crush the people without caring about the demand and desires of the citizens.

Ever since the time of Mr Bhutto, his PPP party is little more than the official title to represent the dynasty of Bhutto family and out of this family no suitable candidate can found to lead the party to success. Ms Benazir Bhutto and her successors never showed courage to take side of oppressed people and always worked in partnership with the military establishment. The leaders of PPP looted the country’s public finances and bought properties and other assets abroad. They are using party as a means to access public funds for their personal international business corporations in partnership with the military establishment. Even in previous governments when Nawaz Sharif got contentious on some matters with a section of establishment, so PPP was not beside them.

After Bhutto, an attempt was made to fill the political void with Muhammad Khan Junejo, but he was not up to the task of managing Pakistan’s role in the Soviet-Afghan war. Mr Junejo signed the Geneva Accord which did not recognize the non-state elements that were ironically supported by Pakistan’s military establishment. In this document, it was agreed Pakistan would not intervene in Afghanistan, would not become a party in the internal affairs of Afghanistan, nor would it support militant wings. As consequence, the dictator Zia-ul-Haq dismissed Junejo’s government.

The person recruited by the establishment after Junejo was Nawaz Sharif. He was as close to Zia-ul-Haq as Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was to Ayub Khan. History once more repeated itself. The military establishment provided their full support to Nawaz Sharif. State resources were used against opposition parties to empower the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

With Passage of time, Nawaz Sharif began to gain political strength, and, just as it was with the previous administrations, he was ousted from office due to his lucrative personal offshore investments. And now Nawaz Sharif is saying that “aliens” have ousted him, but remember the hands that make you, can break you. Nawaz Sharif accuses those “aliens” of employing the same tactics that were used against the PPP in the 1990s. At that time, however, it is interesting to note that he was on the side of those so-called “aliens”.

Nawaz Sharif’s dilemma is indeed a question of karma. His allegation does carry considerable resemblance to the allegations faced by PPP leadership in the past: corruption and, most recently, treason. This brings back recollections of the time when Benazir Bhutto was labeled a “security risk.” Having ignored the lessons of history, Nawaz Sharif did not expect that one day he himself would be portrayed in the same light as the late Benazir Bhutto.

In Nawaz Sharif’s government also no significant social progress was noted. This government every year increased budget of defense, even though the country was NOT in a state of war.  The PML-N could not even keep its promise to meet power shortfalls by establishing additional power resources. Pakistan’s debts also have gone up instead of decreasing. Compared to other developed nation’s Pakistan’s poverty levels are drastically high.  Instead of investing funds in development and infrastructure necessary to promote social progress, elected Politicians have been looting and transferring wealth of nation for their own personal investments abroad. Nothing was changed in five-year government of PML-N, and Pakistan’s civil structure continues to steadily deteriorate.

Overall in the world, democratic governments are held accountable to the people. When a government fails to fulfill their obligations, Citizens have recourse, to vote and replace the ruling party with another. But in Pakistan this case is very different. Here regardless if people vote or not, the crown of rule is adorned upon head of the person favored by the military establishment. In Pakistan the hierarchy of authority is the military establishment ruling through the political parties.  Even the former dictator Pervez Musharraf under this umbrella made a party Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid Azam. Now the PTI, and Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) are being backed by military establishment and groomed to be their next instrument of rule.

Although the bottle may change from time to time, it’s certain the same wine will be served. Even when those assemblies have accomplished their full tenure, no significant social improvements can be observed in Pakistan. Still the country continues its steady decline into debt and poverty.  This type of pseudo-democracy where the civilian government is subordinate to the military establishment will never allow for positive change the fate of Pakistani civilians. Only through true civilian rule where governments & politicians are accountable to the people can positive social progress be achieved.

Pakistan’s democracy: Jithay dee Khothee Uthaay Aan Khalothee!

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

There’s a saying in Punjabi. “Jithay dee Khothee uthay aan khalothee”.

Loosely translated: The she donkey (or whatever one calls a female donkey) always AN-1-10comes back to where she started from. In more sophisticated terms it’s “back to square one”. Basically. No change!

Pakistan’s version of democracy is no different from this Khothee, aimlessly going round and round finally arriving back from where it started.

To move forward, Pakistan needs change as many of us know and want.

Deep systemic change which uproots the old order and brings in the new. Not just a cosmetic one with one bunch of looters and plunderers replacing the other. Some misguidedly call for military dispensation or a temporary government of technocrats.

But the answer lies in neither, but in institutional reform under the due process of law and that willing handmaiden, the constitution, ever so often used and abused and or locked up, as the case may be.

But because our institutions are so weak, having been systematically debased, degraded, destroyed and debilitated by successive governments, both civilian and military, this reform cannot happen without getting rid of those responsible for this willful destruction, and making it easy for them to continue their loot and plunder

Our electoral process recycles and elects the same trash and garbage, over and over again. Bhutto, Benazir, Nawaz, Benazir, Nawaz, Zardari, Nawaz. And interspersed by long periods of men on horseback, equally destructive. Clear?

So what now?

A military intervention?

A short-term non-elected technocratic administration?

A combination of the two?

Or leveraging some of our strong institutions like the Supreme Court and the NAB, to start to drain the swamp, getting rid of and punishing the most powerful and most corrupt and strengthening key institutions like ECP, FBR, FIA, SECP, Police, PEMRA, Railways etc. to give us a fighting chance. All within the law and constitution.

And that is why I fully support the efforts of the Supreme Court in bringing some order, some accountability to our mess.

Many have criticized the “Good Governance and Anti-corruption” jihad launched by the Chief Justice. This would have been justified if we were operating in an environment where our public sector institutions of governance, administration and especially of accountability were operating honestly and as per their mandate.

But they’ve failed. No institution could punish Benazir, Zardari, Nawaz Sharif for their institutional destruction and whole scale corruption, loot and plunder.

Nor could they haul up people under military government and many made fortunes. Take the example of the Akhter brothers, Humayun and Haroon, sons of Lt. Gen Akhter Abdur Rahman, or Ejaz ul Haque, Gen. Zia’s son, or Ch. Qamaruzaman the former NAB boss, one-time ADC to Gen. Zia. Or those who got a free pass out of jail under Gen. Musharraf.

And the many Generals, Brigadiers and other officers who’ve been graciously helping themselves. And then who can ever forget the terrible and infamous Gen. Musharraf, NRO. So clearly the military is not the answer.

While I have great respect for our Armed forces being an ex-Khaki myself and their tremendous efforts in winning the battle against terror and militancy, military interventions are not and will never be the solution, despite the organization’s professional brilliance, discipline and relatively corruption free environment, compared to other Government institutions.

Any hopes from another Military government are, to say the least, seriously misplaced. This is because all military governments or administrations, overt or covert, eventually truck with the same kind of people they came to replace. Zia, Musharraf. No change. In fact, they leave behind a system and institutions, even weaker.

This happens because of two reasons.

One the military mind while operationally outstanding operates in a binary of “us” and “them” or “friend” vs. “foe”. You’re either “with them” or “against them”.

That’s the nature of military training since time immemorial and rightly so, because they are not trained to operate in shades of grey or ambiguity or uncertainty or compromise. So any person, group, institution who offers a contrarian view, automatically gets pushed into the “other” “enemy” “foe” or “they” camp. Not their fault. In their world you’re either with them or against them.

And people, who do not like authoritarianism, will disagree with them, irrespective of their good intentions or good work.

And this to me explains why many intelligent, educated and aware people will support a known crook and criminal like Nawaz as he cunningly crafted his anti-establishment rhetoric, muddying the waters and trying to move the focus away from his own criminal acts, and pretending to stand up to militarism. This despite the fact that he sent over six emissaries to the army desperately seeking a bail out!

Secondly and more critically because they are operationally successful in implementing programs within their own areas of expertise, and observing the abject misgovernance in the civilian sphere, they mistakenly believe that they will achieve similar success when implementing programs in the non-military sphere, operating outside their organizational structures, policies, procedures and systems.

This is where they fumble and flounder and finally have to seek support from the “civilians” and the “politicians” to help implement any change agenda.

There they find the same leeches who have stuck to them. Not the bright intelligent ones, who will challenge them and who’ve been thrust away. Honorable exceptions apart. And many honorable exceptions did one find during Gen. Musharrafs regime, especially his first 3 or 4 years. Otherwise tragically once more it’s back to square one.

The Army is a reality in Pakistan. Its latent power and influence in Pakistan is huge, especially coming out of its highly successful war against militancy and terrorism. While technically the Army Chief is a grade 22 officer, subservient to the Minister of Defense, his office is by far the most powerful in the country.

What can and should the Army do to get us out of this hell hole for which it shares equal responsibility with the corrupt politicians?

In my opinion, two things.

  1. Stand behind the constitution and law, and support any institution like the Supreme Court and NAB and others who are endeavoring to create space and opportunity for institutional reform, holding the corrupt accountable and ensuring that honest and competent people are appointed to positions of power and authority in key public sector institutions.
  2. Ensure that they support the Election Commission to ensure elections are free and fair, as much can be, given the total hijacking and destruction of our electoral process.

And they MUST NOT tinker with the political process and try to influence the outcome!

Nor should there be any ham handed and stupid attempts at muzzling the press, as one hears nowadays! A free press even if it runs wild is the greatest shield against unbridled fascism and authoritarianism.

So back to democracy! Many people are of the opinion that in Pakistan, “Democracy” will eventually evolve into a better form than before. I have a very strong opinion to the contrary.

Technically we’ve had “Democracy” in its current form since Gen. Musharraf’s 2004 elections. Since 2008, Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif have enjoyed and enjoy nearly as much absolute power as did Gen. Musharraf. Not a twig moves in the Federal and Punjab governments without the Sharif nod or the Zardari nod in Sindh.

Yes, we have the trappings of federal and provincial legislatures. These have hosted the august bottoms of the same people and families and mindsets since 1940 pre partition days. The only exception being the urban MQM, a party sadly tainted with horrible fascist crimes.

Has anything changed in Pakistan as a consequence of this more than a decade long “Democratic” period?

Are our national leaders less corrupt than before?

Has our law enforcement become better?

Terrorism apart, is our life, property more safe today?

Are our courts, both lower and superior judiciary, delivering better and quicker justice?

Are our government departments less corrupt?

Are public sector appointments made on merit on two fundamental criterions of competence and honesty?

Do we have better and more job opportunities for our youth?

Has our public health care system become better?

Has our public education system become better?

Has our economy grown?

Have our exports grown?

Have our foreign exchange reserves grown?

Do people pay more taxes?

We live in a dream world of rose tinted glasses and a simplistic construct of “let Democracy continue and evolve.

Yes, it must.

But then it must be democracy, a trust of the people, transparent, accountable and delivering good governance. Not a near total dictatorship disguised as a democracy as we see today.  It must deliver growth and betterment to the questions asked above

Look at the election statistics.  PPP got 13% of the registered vote to come into power in 2008 and PML-N 18% in 2012. And they governed and govern as if Pakistan was and is their personal fiefdom.

Both parties have mastered the art of hijacking the electoral process through money, patronage and outright criminality called rigging. And then the audacity of foisting their children on this country as one does in a dynasty. Who is Bilawal? Who is Maryam? Who is Hamza?  Little twits and nothings with absolute no right but their incident of birth.

Is this democracy?

Will we continue to pay homage to a twenty something twit Bilawal as our next “democratically” selected PM? Or that trashy ‘botoxed’ dumb blonde, Maryam in the same slot? And their “courtiers” who’s only relevance is that they support such a dysfunctional order. This is no better than North Korea, or Saddam’s Iraq or our “brotherly” Muslim dynastic countries. But this is not democracy!

Gen. Musharraf was a military ruler and one in uniform, but compared to these two so called “democrats” he was far better, in both letter and spirit.

Did he ever try and push his children on us?

Did we not have one of the most effective local government systems under his watch?

Did we not have one of the least corrupt Government’s in his time?

I’m not here to sing in his praise or defend him. He also has much to answer in areas of foreign policy, partnering with corrupt politicians, the whole post 9/11 scenario and perhaps the most unforgivable sin of not implementing deep institutional reform.

The last, more tragic, because he had the opportunity, the power and initially the whole hearted support of the Nation.

But in areas of governance, democratic practices, transparency, devolution of power to local bodies, and relatively less corruption, he comes out, smelling like a rose compared to Nawaz Sharif and Zardari!

So this is not “Democracy”.

Nawaz Sharif did not even pay token homage to the trappings of a parliamentary democracy. His record of attending the Parliament and the Senate is shameful. Shouldn’t he have gone to the National Assembly to make his position clear on the Panama Leaks and answer questions?

No. He did what a “dictator” does, hide behind a gentle camera and deliver a pathetic, embarrassing monologue of such juvenile logic that some senior members of his own party were reported to have thrown up! And now is out in the cold!

And trying to stir a near civil war!

So if we have elections again tomorrow and the silent majority does not vote, these criminals, looters and plunderers will come back in power. Not because they’re popular or they got the vote, but because they’ve captured the system.

Therefore, cast your vote. Every vote counts and be very careful when you cast your vote. Each and every one of us. Look at your choices, Nawaz, Zardari and Imran. One would be daft not to see the obvious choice.

Yes, we need an administration of honest and capable technocrats to get into positions of power and authority. Based on his track record, the only person who will appoint such people is Imran.

Get him in. The other’s we’ve tried and seen the outcome. Worst case scenario. Imran cannot be worse than the loot and plunder and the stench and vomit of the Sharifs and the Zardaris.

Chief Justice Saqib Nisar is a God send! More power to him and his judicial activism. Either we let him drain the swamp, or wait for the men on horseback or slide further down into anarchy!

He has filled the vacuum created by the abject surrender of governance by the political order. Any vacuum will attract something to fill the emptiness.

And because of his activism, many others are showing spine.

Pakistan’s vector is heading north.

Published Global Village space

Syed Haider Raza Mehdi is the current Convenor of The Strategy Study Group, founded by the late Col. S. G. Mehdi M. C, former Group Commander of Pakistan Army’s Special Services Group (SSG). Haider is a former Pakistan Army officer, corporate leader, management consultant, business trainer, and serial entrepreneur.The views expressed here are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect GVS editorial policy.

A night of trouble in Sialkot

By Waqar Gillani

The act of preserving historic buildings owned by Ahmadis was checked by the local clerics Skt-71of Sialkot, who oddly absolve themselves from the incident by stating, “All is well that ends well”

One of the oldest localities of Sialkot, Kashmiri Mohalla, was a sorry sight on the eve of May 24. A mob of about 300 charged men, allegedly supported by the local administration, while chanting religious slogans like Allah O Akbar, started to destruct the 144-year-old Ahmadi worship place, Baitul Mubarak.

As the night progressed, the mob demolished the minarets and façade of this historic building spread over three marlas. They also managed to raze two small houses owned by the Ahmadi community located next to the worship place.

“We bought these two small and dilapidated houses, spread over a total of six marlas, from the family of Hakeem Hissamuddin in recent years. Since our spiritual leader, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, spent some time in these houses, we decided to preserve these buildings in his memory,” Abdul Sattar, a leader of Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya tells The News.

As work started on the project, some local Muslim clerics raised objections to the repair work. “Some clerics thought we were building a museum in memory of Mirza Sahib. Some of them also thought we were extending the place of worship,” says Sattar.

The local Muslim community had no objection to the renovation. “We submitted an affidavit as well, stating that we are not building a museum or extending the worship place. But some mullahs, not belonging to our locality, continued to propagate against us,” he says.

“It is our right to preserve our historical places,” he adds. “We tried to buy another property in the vicinity where Mirza Sahib lived. But the owner refused to sell it to us.”

The renovation work started about two years ago. In May last year, “Sahibzada Hamid Raza started to propagate that we are building a museum, and complained to the municipal authorities. The work remained halted for more than two months, till we submitted affidavits, assuring the authorities that no museum was being constructed. The administration then allowed us to resume the work,” says Mudassir Ahmad, who supervised the renovation.

But this May the community was asked by the local authorities to stop the work again. The two adjoining houses were sealed and they were directed to show the records, approved maps and copy of permission letters that were already with the administration. Some days later, the district administration lodged a case of non-compliance against ameer of the Jamaat for failing to bring legal documents of the community and sent them a notice to demolish the two houses. Ahmad recalls that the local authorities told his community elders that they are under “immense pressure”, not describing by whom, “to demolish the structures”.

“We called the police just when the mob started to demolish the structure. But no one came. Later, when the building was severely damaged, the police came and took over control,” says Ahmad.

The local police have sealed the narrow streets of Kashmiri Mohalla where the worship place and the two houses are situated. A week after the tragic incident, the area around the properties is occupied by police in uniform and plainclothes. The interior of one of the two houses is severely damaged and the compound has a heap of rubble. Ahmadis are allowed to enter the worship place during prayer times only. The visiting journalists are not allowed to take pictures. The locals hesitate to talk about the incident.

An inquiry committee has been set up, comprising representatives of police and district administration, to identify the attackers. “For the house demolishing case, only district administration can do something,” says Asad Sarfaraz, district police officer.

“No case has been lodged against the attackers yet. We are waiting for the findings of the inquiry report headed by a senior police official.”

District administration denied to comment on the case despite several efforts made by TNS.

Kashmiri Mohalla is of special national significance as it is the birthplace of Allama Muhammad Iqbal. Historically, Muslims and Ahmadis lived together peacefully for years after Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of Ahmadi faith, claimed prophethood in 1879. He lived in this locality for some years in late 1860s while working as an assistant reader/clerk in Sialkot courts. During his stay in Sialkot, he developed acquaintance with Hakeem Hissamuddin, a cousin of Meer Hassan who taught Quranic teachings to Iqbal. When Mirza claimed prophethood, Hissamuddin’s family became Ahmadis. The two houses that were damaged by the angry men on May 23 belonged to the Hissamuddin family and were recently bought by Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya. This worship place was also built by Hissamuddin in 1874, and was later donated to the Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya. According to some claims, Meer Hassan taught Iqbal in the same building.

It is claimed that one of Iqbal’s wives and his son Aftab Iqbal were also Ahmadi by faith. According to some locals, his picture and name was prominently mentioned in the ancestral house of Iqbal, located close to the demolished structures, but some years ago his picture was quietly removed.

“According to law, Ahmadis are not allowed to build minarets or give Islamic references to their worship places. The state’s failure to check this development compelled us to take action,” says Hamid Raza, the imam who led the charged mob, while talking to TNS.

Raza can be seen in video clips shared on social media, where he thanks the police and municipal authorities for their cooperation in demolishing minarets and two houses. He also warns of further “consequences” if police cases are lodged against him and other attackers.

“Ahmadis recently bought these houses and were spending lavishly on them, to convert them into a museum to honor Mirza Ghulam Ahmad,” says the imam.

To the question why the minarets were not demolished earlier, he says, “All is well that ends well”.

Zaheer Shah, who lives near the destroyed structures, thinks this act to be a “mischief” and “design” to spread anarchy in the area ahead of the general elections. “It is very strange that they realize after more than 40 years that the minarets of this place are illegal,” he says. “Strangely, people who were Muslims became non-Muslim after 1974. Similarly, what were called mosques became worship places,” he says while referring to the Second Amendment proposed by Zulfikar Bhutto.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) condemning this action against the beleaguered Ahmadiyya community has urged the state to ensure the community’s places of worship and sites of religious significance are protected as far as possible.

Published in TheNews

If it weren’t for education …

By Syed Ali Shah

All my life, I have tried to make my voice heard and striven to ensure the voiceless of 24774716_830026580499642_2214387006262666700_n-2society get a hearing too. The latter cause, I see as a major rationale for my existence as growing up I myself was very poor. I was born in one of the poorest families in Killi Jangle Toorkhail Syedan near the Afghan border in 1978. My father Syed Abdul Baqi, a daily wage earner, spent his whole life doing manual labor to provide for his family. Despite his circumstances, he remained determined that my brother and I got an education.

I was enrolled in the government masjid primary school Toorkhail  in 1983 in Class One. Interestingly, it was the same year the school was established in a mud-walled room owned by one of the villagers. This was when thousands of Afghan refugees were being settled in the Jangle Pir Alizai refugee camp near my village. The Afghan war had far-reaching impact on my village and surrounding areas: heroin and kalashnikov culture, coupled with religious extremism, were being introduced to our society.

Our school comprised a mud-plastered room donated by a villager. Master Noorullah Kakar from Khanozai area of Pishin district, where the literacy is still roughly more than 90 percent, was our first teacher. The teacher used to beat us a lot and we used to cry. I thought this torture system would continue forever. However, we heaved a sigh of relief when Master Noorullah was replaced by another teacher Gul Muhammad who had done his Masters in Arts. Mr Gul Muhammad was a polite person and used to teach us without beating us. I remained a position holder in my class till primary level.

After passing primary level, I got admission in the Government Middle School, in Killi Chur Badizai, located almost two kilometres north of my village. Mr Khalil, who is currently professor of English in the Science College, Quetta, deserves to be congratulated for teaching me the basics, the ABC, of English.

For three years, I studied in Killi Chur Badizai middle school and then I came to study in Class IX in Quetta’s Sandeman High school. I was given G section of Cass IX and Mr Shams was my teacher. The class was over-crowded with almost 80 students at one time. I barely managed to pass Class IX since the Urdu language, coupled with English, was quite challenging for me. So, I went to Pir Alizai high school for Class X.  I somehow managed to matriculate from there. I used to bicycle for one and half hour every day to reach Killi Pir Alizai high school. It was a tougher journey than it sounds as the bicycle was in an extremely poor condition.

After matriculation, I followed in my father´s footsteps and started working as a laborer but continued my education, passing my FA exams from the Balochistan Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education, Quetta. Next, I passed my BA exams from the University of Balochistan in 1998.

In 1999, I was appointed as a junior English teacher in the District Pishin of Balochistan. I taught students in middle school killi Manzaki in the district Pishin for more than two months and then I got myself transferred to Chur Badizai middle school where I used to be a student once. I taught there for few months and then suddenly 3,000 teachers were terminated on the order of Balochistan High Court. I was one of them. My heart sank since my whole family was financially dependent on me.

I made my way to Quetta to protest and mount pressure on the authorities to reinstate me. I was elected as the vice chairman of the sacked teachers’ action committee. I was part of this struggle, when one day Azhar Sahab, the general manager of Jang, saw me outside his newspaper’s office. He called me in and asked the reason for my protest. I narrated the ordeal before him. He promised to find me employment in a newspaper.

His efforts bore fruit. I was appointed as circulation assistant in the daily Balochistan Times. In BT, I continued my studies I completed my MA in literature. I got 3rd position in the Balochistan University exams during the year 2,000. I used to look after the distribution of newspaper throughout Balochistan. But one day, I drew the attention of Muhammad Kazim Mengal, a veteran and respected journalist of Quetta when I translated an Urdu item into English. That was my day. Mr Mengal encouraged me to continue my path and try my hand at journalism. Despite all odds, I became a reporter for the first and oldest daily English newspaper of Balochistan, the BT, at the end of 2002. For two years, I made my name in the journalists´ community and was offered a job as a stringer in Al Jazeera TV. I accepted the offer. I worked in AJ for four years and resigned on March 12, 2007 when I was appointed as reporter in DawnNews, the first English Satellite TV channel of Pakistan. Since then, I have been given more responsibility and currently serve as DawnNews Bureau Chief in Quetta. I also contribute to various international media organizations including CNN, TRT and Al-Jazeera English on major news stories from Balochistan.

As Bureau Chief of DawnNews, promoting the cause of education and highlighting related issues has been my first priority. I have filed critical, investigative and human interest stories focusing on the state of education in Balochistan. From extreme poverty to now being in a position to earn not just a decent living but also being respected for my work, has only been made possible by education. That is why I strive no matter how humbly to serve the cause of education and return my debt.

Published in Alifailaan.com

Syed Ali Shah is a journalist, analyst and researcher.

The State of Pakistani Democracy


Democracies are built on the backs of ideals. As democracies get stronger, so do the Civil-militaryinstitutions and ideals they are built upon. However, the international community has recently seen even the most resilient democracies fracture under the weight of anti-democratic forces. Take India and Turkey as examples, where strong-arm leaders have gained control, and have made their countries increasingly authoritarian. Even the United States, a self-proclaimed beacon of democracy, has borne the effects of a self-aggrandizing leader constantly engaged in spats with federal and state institutions. This development shows how quickly hard-earned progress can be lost, and what happens when democracy is taken for granted.

Pakistan, a relatively young democratic country with merely seventy years of existence, has seen nothing but instability in its political climate. The military sector has constantly meddled in its national politics, justices have been accused of political bias and extremist religious factions have influenced public opinion and policy-making for way too long. In light of this, is it fair to say that the upcoming general elections are going to be representative of the will of the people, i.e. truly democratic? In appearance yes, because majority votes will elect representatives to Parliament. But in reality, not really. Major political parties are embroiled in their own existential struggles while the judicial and military sectors are under constant fire from people unhappy about their outsized role in politics. With a void of ideas and an assault on institutions, democracy in Pakistan is under threat, which will bring in question the legitimacy of the upcoming general elections of 2018.

Usually, it is a sign of a healthy democracy to have multiple parties in the political mainstream. With an abundance of parties, tackling issues from various angles and presenting the public with options, comes an abundance of ideas. This is what the New York Times columnist David Brooks refers to as the “abundance mindset.”

“Democratic capitalism provides the bounty. Prejudice gradually fades away. Growth and dynamism are our friends…the abundance mindset is confident in the future, welcoming toward others. It sees win-win situations everywhere.”

In Pakistan however, there is a clash of personalities instead of a clash of ideas. When there is no meaningful policy to win support, politicians play with people’s emotions and rally them to their grandiose causes by evoking fear and hatred against the ‘other’. Consequently, leaders create a divisive atmosphere leading to mistrust among fellow citizens. No one in Pakistan plays this game better than the religious factions.

Just recently, the religious group Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYRA) gained national prominence by staging a major sit-in in Faizabad, where they protested the softening of anti-blasphemy laws and demanded the resignation of Pakistan’s Law Minister Zahid Hamid. The protest turned violent and resulted in the killing of one police officer. TLYRA’s leader, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, rose to prominence back in 2011 after he threw his support behind Mumtaz Qadri, a security guard who killed Salmaan Taseer, the Governor of the Punjab province. The stance cost Rizvi his job in the Punjab government. There was a great outcry from the public, but Rizvi justified his support for Qadri saying Taseer had labeled the blasphemy laws “black law”. His vehement support for this cause has earned him the nickname “blasphemy activist” in religious circles.

On October 26, 2017, TLYRA contested local elections in the city of Peshawar and managed to come within a 2.5 percent vote margin of the Pakistan Peoples Party. PPP was once considered the harbinger of strong democratic values in Pakistan and even though it does not stand at the same pedestal in public conscience as it once did, it still represents a progressive brand of politics. The very same dynastic PPP is now standing neck and neck with religious parties like TLYRA in certain parts of the country. Whether this result becomes a nationwide phenomenon is yet to be seen, but TLYRA has etched itself in public political discourse by religious exploitation.

In his article, Brooks mentions a scarcity-mindset where religious factions turn from faith to “siege-mentality interest groups.” This is increasingly true in Pakistan, where religious leaders have opted out of their role as scholars and interpreters to become leaders who bank on people’s religious views to garner votes. Apart from undermining democracy by suppressing diverse views that might fall outside the confines of religion — as these parties interpret it — this can create dangerous situations, a snapshot of which was already seen in the Faizabad sit-in.

The last ruling party (the Pakistan Muslim League-N), which was poised to win this year’s general elections, has spent the last year undermining the integrity of the Supreme Court after it disqualified the party’s leader — Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif — from his post as Prime Minister based on allegations of money laundering. Party representatives, including Sharif himself, have come out in staunch opposition to the Supreme Court, alleging the military influenced the court, which shaped the disqualification decision. Sharif characterizes the court as having “dual standards”, and being determined to punish him at all costs, thereby predetermining the decision against him. In one particularly shocking case, a PML-N senator even threatened the court outright.

“You are on duty today. Remember, you will be retiring tomorrow. We will make your life and [those of] your family members miserable in Pakistan,” senator Nehal Hashmi says targeting judiciary members probing Sharif families’ ties to offshore companies.

It is one thing to question the reasoning of a case (which by all means the reasoning behind the Panama case decision was very questionable), it is an entirely different thing to rile up an entire nation against the premier justice provider based on unsubstantiated claims. Sowing mistrust in institutions only serves to undermine civil discourse by creating a divisive atmosphere.

The military has also played a central role in undermining democracy in Pakistan over the years. Election manipulations have been periodically exposed, as demonstrated by the Mehrangate scandal that took place during the 1990 elections. The scandal revealed vast sums of money being disbursed to political parties at the behest of then Army Chief Mirza Aslam Beg. Nawaz Sharif, who won those elections and became Prime Minister. He is alleged to have accepted 3.5 million rupees ($35,000) from the sum amount. The military has also staged multiple coups, ousting democratically elected leaders and setting the country back each time. To date, Pakistan has spent nearly half of its existence under military rule, with the first takeover happening a mere eleven years after the country came into being. Military antics have been a disaster for Pakistan, where democracy has not even been given a chance to flourish. Although the military has accepted a more subdued role in the current administration, their relationship with the civilian government is still choppy at best. This time, however, the trouble is coming from the civilian end more than the military, as Nawaz Sharif has taken it upon himself to blame the military — which has helped him get elected in the past — for having an overreaching influence on the judiciary. The hypocrisy is pretty obvious.

To establish faith in democracy, it is absolutely essential for the public to know that their civil rights and liberties will be protected by judicial institutions, against societal harm. In Pakistan, however, the image of the Supreme Court has been adversely affected because of its highly dominant role in some of the most politically charged periods in the nation’s history. The court legitimized all three military coups in 1958, 1977 and 1999 under the ”doctrine of necessity.” Such actions give political parties an excuse to attack the court’s integrity by highlighting double standards where civilians are given harsher punishments than the military. More recently, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Saqib Nisar visited Mayo Hospital in Lahore to review the quality of healthcare provided to patients. After discovering a lack of clean drinking water provided to patients, he ordered relevant authorities to install a filtration plant. His actions drew immense criticism from media which attacked him for confusing his role with that of an elected representative of Parliament.

Salman Masood, Pakistan Correspondent at New York Times wrote on Twitter: “Curious to know under which constitutional provision Chief Justice is required to visit hospitals or any other public buildings, and issue orders.”

Obviously, it does not help when hardly any elected representatives visit hospitals to perform the job Justice Nisar took upon himself. Moreover, there is a huge backlog of cases within the judiciary. Justice Nisar blames the Parliament for not enacting proper legislation, causing judges to perform their job ineffectively. Being critical of other branches of government and overstepping its bounds has left the Supreme Court in a precarious situation where the public is stuck between having to rely on the courts, but unable to fully trust them to provide justice. An article in Pakistan’s daily newspaper reported: “In most civil and revenue matters, the litigants have to wait decades —sometimes the third generation of the petitioners get the final verdict in their cases.”

Fareed Zakaria, a columnist for the Washington Post, describes the problem facing the world today as “illiberal democracy” — elected governments that systematically abuse their power and restrict freedoms. In his recent column in the Post, Zakaria said institutions are collections of rules and norms agreed upon by human beings. The character of democracy will weaken if these leaders attack and denigrate these rules. An established democracy like the US was rated a “flawed democracy” for the second consecutive year on the Economic Intelligence Unit Index. So it should not come as a surprise if Pakistan, where anti-democratic forces are constantly tugging and pulling at the state of affairs, is rated a “hybrid regime” on the same index, falling between a democracy and an authoritarian regime.

Published in Berkeley Political Review

Why are Pakistanis so successful at finding jobs in Germany?


A recent study by Germany’s Federal Employment Agency concluded that 19260145_303Pakistanis have been the most successful at finding work in the EU country over the past couple of years. DW examines the reasons behind their success.

He speaks and understands very little German. On the face of it, 37-year-old Akbar Ali may be considered one of the least integrated migrants in Germany. However, he has learned very quickly how to adapt spicy Indian-Pakistani cuisine to suit German and European taste buds.

For the past ten months, Ali has been working part-time as an assistant in the kitchen of an Indian/Pakistani restaurant in the western German city of Bonn. Securing the job was not an easy task. “Not understanding the language was the main problem in finding a job. There was hardly anyone I knew who could understand my language and help me out. Having no work and no social life was one of the hardest times for me,” Ali told DW.

Work as a coping mechanism

Ali is one of the nearly 30,000 Pakistani migrants who have arrived in Germany since 2015. He is also among the 40 percent of migrants from Pakistan who have managed to find a job in Europe’s largest economy.

According to a recent study published by the Institute for Employment Research (IAB), a special office of Germany’s Federal Employment Agency, Pakistanis have been the most successful among all migrants in finding employment in Germany.

For Ali, being employed means more than just earning extra money. His brother in Pakistan passed away last month, and keeping busy at work here helped him cope with the loss.

He spent almost two years, looking for any possible way to keep himself occupied and earn some extra money before he finally met Aleem Latif, who owns a successful restaurant in Bonn’s old town, and who opened another in nearby Siegburg last year.

“Because of the language barrier and the lack of recognized skills, it is hard for Pakistani migrants to find jobs in other sectors. I hired Ali as I knew that he can be trained,” Latif told DW. “We have Pakistani students working with us and many students looking for part-time jobs. So there was obviously an element of empathy in hiring a migrant, which requires a lot of paper work.”

German — EU citizens still get priority

According to federal legislation, German and European Union citizens are given priority in the job market. Non-EU citizens, on the other hand, are only granted permission to work certain jobs for which German or EU citizens are not available. This requirement was partially suspended in 2016 to enhance the employment chances for refugees whose asylum applications had been accepted in Germany.

Coupled with other factors, these regulations are one of the reasons why migrants from Pakistan primarily get permission to work in Indian or Pakistani restaurants.

Danyal Ali Rizwan is another Pakistani migrant who is currently living in an asylum center in the town of Neumarkt in the southern German state of Bavaria. Rizwan comes from the volatile Parachinar region located on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Rizwan told DW that he worked for a year at an Indian restaurant. “Later I found a job in another local company. However, the Federal Employment Agency did not give me permission to work there and since then, I do not have a job,” he said.

Acceptance quota declining

According to the EU statistics office, Eurostat, 28,395 Pakistani migrants applied for asylum in Germany between 2015 and 2017. Over 15,000 of those asylum applications were submitted to German authorities in 2016 alone.

Over 90 percent of Pakistani asylum seekers are men, with women roughly making up the remaining 10 percent. Most Pakistani asylum seekers are young males, with almost 74 percent of them being between 18 and 34-years old.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Pakistani interpreter working with Germany’s Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) claimed that the majority of Pakistanis seeking refuge in Germany are economic migrants, primarily from the South Asian nation’s Punjab province.

Of the asylum applications filed by Pakistanis between 2015 and 2017, only 5.4 percent were approved in the first instance.

The acceptance ratio among male applicants between the ages of 18 and 34 was even lower at 2.7 percent. In 2014, just before the start of the refugee crisis in Europe, over 27 percent of Pakistani migrants successfully obtained asylum in Germany.

It should also be noted that Pakistani migrants are unable to attend German language and integration courses unless their asylum applications are accepted. These courses are normally offered to those with refugee status from countries like Syria and Iraq.

Yet, despite these hurdles, Pakistani migrants have still managed to find employment at a higher rate than asylum seekers from other countries.

Respect more important than money

Out of the ten Pakistani migrants that DW spoke with in Bonn, five of them successfully obtained jobs since arriving in 2015. Most of them come from rural areas and small cities between Islamabad and Lahore — where prospects are slim for improving one’s economic situation.

20-year-old Usman was the youngest among them and most fluent in the German language.

“I am working not just to earn money. More important than that is the fact that being employed earns me social respect,” he said.

Similarly, Ali emphasized that he wants to work because he does not want to rely on social assistance from the German government. “I want to earn my living with my own hands,” he said.

For Latif, gaining social respect is one of the main motivating factors behind the high employment rate among migrants from Pakistan. “Most of them have the burden of earning money for their families back in Pakistan, but social respect within the Pakistani community here is equally important for them.”

US Secretary of State calls Pakistani Genenal for reconciliation in Afghanistan

Bolan Voice Report

Reports in international media appeared about US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa discussed the need for political reconciliation in Afghanistan as President Ashraf Ghani announced a ceasefire with the Taliban, officials said.

Pompeo, who was the head of CIA before his appointment as secretary of state, telephoned the army chief on Thursday and according to the State Department discussed “advancing US-Pakistani relations, the need for political reconciliation in Afghanistan and the importance of targeting all militant and terrorist groups in South Asia without any distinction.”

This was the first interaction between the new secretary of state and the army chief which came amid deterioration in ties between the two estranged allies.

Only last month, the two countries had imposed tit-for-tat travel restrictions on each other’s diplomats suggesting a new low in their troubled ties.

At the heart of the controversy are the differences between the two sides on how to put an end to the lingering conflict in Afghanistan.

Despite Pakistan’s multiple operations in the tribal areas against militant groups, the US is still not convinced that Islamabad has taken out all outfits, particularly the Haqqani Network which is responsible for most deadly attacks on US-led forces in Afghanistan.

Nevertheless, the two countries are looking for a common ground on Afghanistan. A senior US general in Afghanistan recently revealed that talks were held between Kabul and the Afghan Taliban.

Observers believe such talks were not possible without Pakistan’s facilitation because it has critical role in the Afghan peace talks.

The understanding between Pompeo and Gen Bajwa on the need for political reconciliation in Afghanistan coincided with by President Ghani’s announcement of a ceasefire with the Taliban till June 20.

The Afghan president, however, made it clear that fighting against other militant groups such Islamic State would continue.

Meanwhile, Pakistan strongly condemned the recent suicide attack that targeted a congregation of religious scholars in Kabul.

“We are grieved at the loss of precious innocent lives in this barbaric act of terrorism. We express our heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the bereaved families and pray for the early recovery of the injured,” said Dr Muhammad while speaking at a weekly news briefing.

Aliens in Pakistani politics

Past, present, and future

By Syed Zeeshan Haider

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif stated that his competition is now khalai ayaz-2makhlooq, or aliens in English. Is Mian Sahib the first politician who has had to face these khalai makhlooq? No, a number of other politicians have also previously faced such situations. Sadly, today’s youth, especially those who are associated with political parties that advocate change and breaking out of the status quo, are generally unaware of the historical facts. In this respect, the media and previous generations are also to be blamed for not creating awareness among the youth. The media can, however, still play a vital role in the future direction of the country. To understand the struggle of politicians against these “aliens,” we must look back at the political history of Pakistan.

Mother of the nation, ‘Madar-e-Millat’ Fatima Jinnah, is the second least controversial personality in the country after Quaid-e-Azam. Fatima Jinnah played an instrumental role in bringing into existence the country in which we now live freely. Due to her struggle and her unabated care for the ailing founder of Pakistan, she never married. Sadly, many are not aware of the fact that Fatima Jinnah was also defeated in an election. A military dictator defeated her by rigging the election. On one side was a dictatorship, on the other was democracy. It was not Fatima Jinnah herself, but democracy in Pakistan, that lost. The nation did not revolt in the face of the mother of their nation’s humiliation. The heartbroken Fatima Jinnah quietly spent last days of her life out of politics. A person who gave everything to support Quaid-e-Azam and form a democratic country saw her nation being turned over into the hands of dictators and democracy murdered. What would have she felt after witnessing all of this? It is hard to imagine her agony.

During that era, there was another young politician who supported the dictator in this act of injustice against Fatima Jinnah. He is remembered as Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. After Quaid-e-Azam, if any person was truly popular among the masses, it was him. Zulifqar Ali Bhuto, an immensely charismatic politician, sadly, also had a dictator as his political mentor. As time passed, Bhutto became a person of commanding stature. His political struggle separated him from Ayub Khan and Bhutto found popularity among the people. The time came when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who had once been close to the dictator, became unbearable to the predominant forces of Pakistan. In the end, the voice of Bhutto was silenced forever.

After Bhutto, an attempt was made to fill the political void with Muhammad Khan Junejo. But Junejo, once again, was no puppet and soon those pulling the strings discovered he had a spine of his own. After the Soviet-Afghan War, he signed the Geneva Accord which did not recognize the non-state elements that were supported by the Pakistani establishment. In this document it was agreed that Pakistan would not intervene in Afghanistan, would not become a party in the internal affairs of Afghanistan, nor would it support militant wings. As a consequence, the dictator Zia-ul-Haq dismissed Junejo’s government.

The person recruited by the establishment after Junejo was Nawaz Sharif. Mian Sahib was as close to Zia-ul-Haq as Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was close to Ayub Khan. The same story repeated itself. The invisible forces extended their full support to Mian Sahib. The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) was marginalized. State resources were used against the PPP in favor of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). As time passed, Mian Sahib gained political strength, and, as his predecessors had done before, started to develop a conscious. Perhaps it was then that he realized that until the political role of the “aliens” was eliminated, Pakistan’s future could not be secured. But he forgot that the hands that make you can also break you. Mian Sahib today accuses those aliens of employing the same tactics that were used against the PPP in the 1990s. At that time, however, it is interesting to note that he was on the side of with the aliens. Mian Sahib now claims that he and his party is on the receiving end of these tactics.

Mian Sahib’s dilemma is indeed a question of karma. His allegation does carry considerable resemblance to the allegations faced by PPP leadership in the past: corruption and, most recently, treason. This brings back recollections of the time when Benazir Bhutto was labeled a “security risk.” Mian Sahib would never have predicted that one day he would be portrayed in the same light as the late Benazir Bhutto.

The media has turned its back and law enforcement tightening its grip. The facts show that similar things are happening with Mian Sahib as have happened to most of the popular democratic leaders in the country over the past seventy years: the allegations of corruption, the national accountability cases, and the media trials, all followed by allegations of treason. Mian Sahib could, in theory, suffer the same ultimate fate as the late Zulifqar Ali Bhutto and his daughter. As the story repeats itself, the plot is dangerously moving in the same direction.

The saddest aspect of this entire episode is that, as was the case with the youth of 1990s, a large section today’s youth is unaware of the historical facts and are blinded in their pursuit of a false hope. They are under the illusion that the party they support will bring about change. Apparently the “khalai makhlooq” has yet again successfully managed — through media and educational institutes — to get the new generation to believe in the same old slogans of accountability and change: a savior politician that will save the nation from both corrupt and security risks. In reality, however, they are serving the same old wine in a new bottle. It will not be surprising in the future to see today’s politicians who are enjoying “alien” support asking the same question as Mian Sahib in the near future: mujhe kyun nikala?

Published in Pakistantoday. com

The writer is CEO and Chairman of Haider Group of Companies and hosts a current affairs talk show on PTV News. Follow him on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/syedzishanhyder/

Doctor warns world about “chemtrail lung,”

 a new health epidemic causing brain and lung problems across society

The existence of chemtrails used to be a topic of debate, but they are now being more widely acknowledged by experts like meteorologists to scientists. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to deny that they exist as more and more people are coming down with illnesses related to chemtrails.

When TV host Rachel Reenstra had trouble overcoming a persistent cough, accompanied by aches, pains, and fever, she visited a doctor. After chest x-rays revealed a type of bronchitis, she was given antibiotics, which only seemed to make her feel worse.

Her doctor told her that lots of bacterial infections are going around, and when she asked him where they are coming from, he told her the truth that many doctors wouldn’t dare reveal to their patients: Chemtrails are at the heart of widespread lung problems right now. Surprised by his candor, she asked if she could videotape him talking about the phenomenon. You can see the video below; the unnamed doctor appears just before the 8-minute mark.

The doctor says he has witnessed hundreds of Californians suffering from this problem, which he calls “chemtrail lung.” He says it is an “emerging problem” that is being faced all around the world, with the toxic gases, chemicals, virus particles, heavy metals and other gases that are being sprayed into the atmosphere leading to problematic levels of respiratory infections.

He added that it’s particularly bad where Reenstra lives in California thanks to the area’s proximity to Palmdale Airport. He said that the area’s topography and the Santa Ana Winds make this problem worse, and the fact that many of the nation’s most polluted cities are found in California doesn’t help. In addition, he cited gases from fracking as contributing to the problem, along with antibiotic overuse and inhaling mold and mildew.

Interestingly, Reenstra’s symptoms initially pointed to the flu. When she told her doctor she hadn’t gotten a flu shot, he was relieved. In the video, you can also see the courageous doctor admitting that he does not recommend the flu shot except for a select few and even then, he advises against getting it every year. He points out that scientists basically guess what to include in each year’s vaccine, and some years it’s less than 20 percent effective. He feels it doesn’t benefit patients, and they are better off being proactive about health and prevention than relying on shots.

Both the doctor and Reenstra are risking their careers by talking publicly about this controversial issue, and one can only hope that their courage will inspire others to speak out.

Nearly everyone on Earth breathes in unsafe air

It’s not just chemtrails you need to worry about, by the way; there’s also the matter of particulate matter. The type of fine particulate matter that comes from car exhausts, for example, can cause inflammation in the lungs and beyond, contributing to heart disease and insulin resistance.

A recent report from the Health Effects Institute found that 95 percent of our planet’s population breathes in unsafe air, which comes from everything from burning solid fuels like coal or biomass to transportation emissions. Last year, more than six million people’s deaths were related to air pollution, with causes like chronic lung disease, lung cancer, stroke or heart attack.

With so many toxins already floating around in the air we breathe, the last thing we need is chemtrails putting even more toxic substances into our air. Discover more news about geoengineering and chemtrails at Geoengineering. news.




“Seasonal birds” in Pakistan’s political arena

By Farid A. Malik

‘Khooti Rahi Bur Thalay’ means “the donkey remained under the tree.” the first time I Capture-41-640x331heard this Punjabi proverb was in a meeting of Karkunan Tehreek-e-Pakistan, this was a group of old boys of the Pakistan Movement led by Nawab Zulfiqar Mamdot, my father Nazir A. Malik was elected as the Secretary-General of the group. In one of the meetings, a disgruntled, outspoken worker called ‘Muhammad Hussain Bombas’ of Ichara narrated his experience on the eve of independence on August 14, 1947.

The title of ‘Bombas’ was bestowed upon him as he was given the task of disrupting anti-Pakistan rallies of Jamaat-e-Islami whose headquarter was in Ichra, Lahore. Most freedom workers are always tainted as disruptions and traitors. Hero of one cause is usually the terrorist of the other. The thana in Ichra kept a close watch on his activities and was often summoned there. On the day of independence, he broke loose and surrounded the ‘Den of colonial control’. The SHO was in shock and scared so he apologized for his brutal behavior in the past and promised to serve in the future.

On that day ‘Bombas’ slept a happy, free man. The freedom proved to be short-lived. Early morning on August 15, 1947, there was a knock on his door. On opening, he found the same Thanedar in uniform who had come to get ‘Bombas’ by repeating the words that nothing had changed “Khooti Rahi Bur Thalay”. Within twenty-four hours it was all over. Till today our heroes are projected as zeros while zeros are propagated as heroes.

Only four countries (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka) have continued with the colonial system of governance that they inherited. In the USA all files were burnt, a new constitution to preserve freedom was enacted. Singapore followed the same course. Recently in 1989 when China took control of Hong Kong, while Chris Patton the last governor was driven to the airport his mansion was converted into a Colonial Museum. No Chinese every got to rule from there. China won its freedom two years after the partition of the sub-continent yet it progressed by leap and bounds and is the second largest economy of the world today.

In seventy years some lessons should have been learned. While we claim to be a constitutional democracy, there has been only one free and fair election. Political leadership has been imposed on us with disastrous consequences. After ten manipulated ballots since 1977, another electoral contest is being planned for 2018.

More than anything else, Pakistan needs another credible election to move the status-quo from under the tree where it has been stuck for over seven decades. On his own merit Imran Khan can emerge victoriously he does not need the support of the establishment. On the other hand, PML(N) will have to face the ballot without the support of the ‘Patwaris’ and ‘Thana’ the very bane of its strength. It is in the interest of democracy that political battles are fought on political battlegrounds with no outside interference as he been the case in the past.

As long as the “seasonal birds” remain in the political arena, free and fair election will remain a big challenge. A split mandate is being projected. Political parties can change the outcome by organizing their efforts instead of relying on external crutches. The ballot has to be made credible to be acceptable to all the contestants. After a free and fair election, the mandate must be respected and the winning party allowed to govern in the best interests of the masses. Yes indeed there should be respect for the vote but more importantly for the voter for whom the show is organized.

Democracy is strengthened through participation, not exclusion. People stand by their leaders if they truly represent them and fight for their cause, individual interests are short-lived both for the voter and the voted. In the end it is ideology which keeps the donkey moving. In USA the two mainstream political parties use animal symbols. Democrats use the symbol of donkey while the Republicans use the elephant. While the donkey is a beast of burden which serves the common man, the Republicans, on the other hand, believe in growth/wealth accumulation which is then expected to result in a trickle-down effect.

Unfortunately, our donkey refuses to move, first the elections are manipulated then the contestants fight it out while governance suffers. Minar-e-Pakistan represents the history of Pakistan. Jinnah stood here in 1940 to demand a separate homeland for the Muslims of India. In 1946, his party won the elections and earned the right to lead. In 1971, ZAB stood here as an elected leader. On April 29, 2018, Kaptaan used the same venue to announce his ‘Naya Pakistan’.

Published in Global Village Space

Dr. Farid A. Malik is Ex-Chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation. The article was first published in The Nation and has been republished here with author’s permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.

Cigarette giants’ lobbying led to dilution of tobacco health warnings in Pakistan: report

Philip Morris International Inc and British American Tobacco Plc lobbied Pakistan’sCigrette government to not implement bigger health warnings on cigarette packs, in what officials say was part of an industry-wide campaign that successfully persuaded Islamabad to water down a proposal designed to save lives.

In Pakistan, where the government estimates tobacco kills more than 100,000 people a year, Philip Morris launched a lobbying campaign that included letters to and a meeting with the country’s prime minister on blocking larger health warnings and controlling illicit trade of cigarettes.

Reuters reviewed two such letters written by Philip Morris executives to the Prime Minister’s Office in 2017, and internal company documentsdescribing a meeting in 2015 at which executives discussed “protecting the pack” in Pakistan.

British American Tobacco, through its local subsidiary, also lobbied Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi with a letter and met Pakistani officials, according to government documents and a review of the October 2017 correspondence.

Two current and one former health officials said their ministry watered down a requirement to increase the size of health warnings to 85 percent of the surface area due to industry lobbying.

One of the current officials also cited pressure from Abbasi’s office.

An official at the Federal Board of Revenue said the government took a sympathetic view towards tobacco industry lobbying because of the sector’s hefty contributions to the nation’s finances — more than $550 million in excise taxes during the 2016-17 fiscal year alone.

Instead of 85 percent, the new rule, which comes into effect on June 1, requires warnings that cover 50 percent of the pack — up from 40 percent now — rising to 60 percent in a year’s time.

In a response to Reuters’ questions, Philip Morris sent a statement from Moira Gilchrist, its vice president of scientific and public communications.

“Like any global company, PMI regularly speaks with governments all over the world on a wide range of subjects, including our efforts to replace cigarettes with smoke-free products,”

Gilchrist said, referring to next-generation smoking devices that the company says significantly reduce the risk of disease by heating instead of burning tobacco.

A spokesperson for British American Tobacco (BAT) said in a statement: “like many companies, as part of our open and transparent engagement with governments, we regularly consult a wide range of representatives in health, trade, revenue, customs, agriculture and other relevant areas on a range of issues that affect our business.

“It’s important that any legitimate business should be able to engage with regulators, and contribute to the development of policy that impacts it.”


A Pakistan government survey in 2014 found some 24 million adults, or 19 percent of the population 15 years and older, used tobacco. Of those, 15.6 million were smokers.

In February 2015, Pakistan’s health ministry announced it was changing an ordinance to increase health warnings on the front and back of cigarette packs to 85 percent.

The graphic photographs currently on packs depict the effects of smoking, such as a close-up image of a person’s mouth ravaged by tobacco use.

The initiative by Health Minister Saira Afzal Tarar was aimed at deterring tobacco use and would have put Pakistan, alongside India, near the top of global rankings for the size of such warnings, according to the Canadian Cancer Society.

The health ministry notification said the new warnings needed to be applied by March 30 that year.

On March 13, a delegation from a subsidiary of British American Tobacco, Pakistan Tobacco Company Ltd, called on the country’s then-finance minister and “expressed its reservations about the notification issued” by the health ministry, according to government minutes of the meeting.

The tobacco representatives argued that the bigger health warning would lead to more smuggling of black market cigarettes and a “decrease in revenue”, according to the minutes, which were reviewed by Reuters.

The industry argues that cigarette packs become indistinguishable by brand or promised quality when the packaging is covered by disturbing images.

As a result, it says, consumers are incentivised to turn to alternatives without the graphic pictures. Health advocates say warnings on packs reduce tobacco consumption.

The BAT statement to Reuters said: “We agree that all tobacco product packaging should feature appropriate health warnings which are bold, easily legible and ensure clarity of message.”

However, the statement said: “Evidence suggests that drastic and large increases in the size” of health warnings “can result in a number of unintended consequences, including a rise in illegal cigarettes with a corresponding decline in government revenues and a rise in criminality.

Additionally, there is still no credible evidence that graphic health warnings reduce smoking levels.”


Within a day of hearing from BAT, Pakistan’s then-finance minister, Ishaq Dar, formed a review committee that was to examine the issue and present a report within seven days, according to the government document.

Dar told Reuters that the government’s decisions were not influenced by Philip Morris or BAT.

Asked about the convening of the review committee, he said it was formed to ensure consultation between ministries on the issue, a move he described as “a fundamental requirement of good policy-making”.

When provided with a copy of the government minutes showing the committee was put together just after his meeting with BAT, Dar responded that Reuters should contact the finance ministry for further comment, as he no longer held the portfolio.

Requests for comment to the finance ministry were unanswered.

On March 27, as the review committee began deliberating, the health ministry issued a notification postponing the implementation date for the new 85 percent health warnings by two months.

During an interview with Reuters at her office, Health Minister Tarar said the tobacco industry was one of the biggest taxpayers in the country and so the finance ministry and the federal revenue board “definitely” have “some soft corners for them”.

When Reuters relayed that characterization to Dar, the former finance minister replied: “This is not true.”

Health Minister Tarar said that in some of the meetings she had attended during that time, it was not easy to convince finance and revenue officials that people were dying because of smoking. She did not identify specific individuals.

Dar, the former finance minister, denied that his ministry’s officials had challenged the link between smoking and mortality.

Muhammad Iqbal, a senior official at the country’s Federal Board of Revenue, told Reuters that his agency “has no role in the matter of health warnings to be printed on cigarette packs. It is up to Ministry of Health to make regulations on this issue.”

Still, Tarar defended the eventual outcome, telling Reuters the ministry had “stood firm” and that the increase in the size of health warnings to 50, and ultimately 60 percent, was significant. “We have undone the status quo,” she said.

As BAT’s Pakistan Tobacco Company launched its lobbying effort, Philip Morris also sprang into action: two internal documents related to an Asia corporate affairs meeting in Indonesia in 2015 said the company had devised a “campaign to roll-back” the stringent tobacco pack rules in Pakistan.

It did not go into details.

When the government’s inter-ministerial committee started to deliberate the health warning rules in 2015, Philip Morris and BAT representatives attended at least two of its meetings as industry stakeholders, according to records reviewed by Reuters.

During one meeting, a Philip Morris executive said the warning size was “too high”, according to a record of the meeting held in May 2015, which was chaired by Health Minister Tarar.

In addition to Philip Morris and BAT, a constellation of smaller tobacco companies, growers and industry associations joined the lobbying effort, according to government records.

The panel’s subsequent recommendation to roll back the increase in the size of health warnings, to 50 percent and then 60 percent instead of 85 percent, was sent to the finance ministry for approval in August 2015.


The health ministry continued issuing successive notices pushing back the start date of the 85 percent requirement, which had been published in the nation’s official gazette but never implemented.

Then, last October, Philip Morris International’s global vice president for corporate affairs, Jon Huenemann, wrote to Prime Minister Abbasi asking him to nudge the health ministry to formally change its rules.

“We would kindly request your near term intervention to direct the concerned officials to enforce the steps mentioned in the IMC recommendation,” Huenemann wrote in the letter dated Oct. 2, referring to the inter-ministerial committee set up by the finance ministry.

BAT’s unit, Pakistan Tobacco Company, whose brands include John Player Gold Leaf and Benson & Hedges, made the same specific request to the prime minister on Oct. 18, according to a copy of the company letter.

In his letter, Philip Morris’ Huenemann reminded Abbasi that the prime minister had spoken with his colleague the previous month at a meeting of the U.S.-Pakistan Business Council in New York.

Prime Minister Abbasi’s office did not reply to questions sent by Reuters.

Huenemann mentioned, also, that he had personally met twice with the previous Pakistani prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, to discuss the issue of illegal cigarette manufacturing.

A request for comment to a representative of Sharif, along with officials from his political party, was not answered.

Huenemann did not respond to an e-mail sent to his company account. Philip Morris, maker of Marlboro cigarettes and local brands such as Morven Gold, said the existence of the letter had previously been reported in Pakistani media, but made no other comment.

BAT said in a statement about the letter that, “regarding the use of the words ‘advise’ and ‘instruct’ in this letter, it is customary for the Prime Minister to use such language when addressing government departments, and as such, it is equally customary for businesses and other external stakeholders to use similar language when they are writing to the Prime Minister.”

According to a government office memo, the prime minister’s office forwarded letters from Philip Morris and BAT to the health ministry two days later. Within two months, the health ministry issued a notification for smaller warnings.

Who is afraid of Nia Zamana?

By Khan Zaman Kakar

To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize – Voltaire

At the turn of this century, a progressive journalist Mohammad Shoaib Adil launched anadil-naya-zamana exceptionally unflinching Urdu monthly Nia Zamana in Lahore and unbelievably sustained it for 14 years, with distinct quality contents daringly challenging the murder of truth in the popular mediated spaces, and the tyrannies of militancy and majoritarian reason in Pakistan.

In the face of an extremely tough time given by the over-increasing state repression, the decline of left, the rapidly-growing militarization and Islamization of society, and the coming of the age of corporate media, Nia Zamana continued to meet the characteristics of a radical publication — unbeknownst to many, it was the Ayub’s regime that coercively started the policy of diminishing the tradition of alternative press in Pakistan and then the Zia’s regime completely destroyed even the remnants of it.

As any radical publication is supposed to be, Nia Zamana stood in need of introducing different analytical frameworks on political questions, attempting at deconstructing the official history, taking in a non-conformist way some taboo subjects like sex education and reflecting upon the importance of fine arts in the development of the society, prioritizing as how could it broaden the visions of its readers on issues of society, politics, state, religion and history through its daring and conscientious editorials, reports and opinions. It tried to help people find better alternatives or bring changes in established political, social and intellectual systems.

By regularly carrying the voices of the subordinate classes as the most genuine ones of the country and by remaining open to views from multiple quarters of the society, Nia Zamana provided a sort of space of contestation for creative and critical debates on ideas and possibilities of emancipation, peace and prosperity in Pakistan and the South Asian region.

Throughout its journey, the magazine, however, seemed as principally interested in bringing out the write-ups of the subordinates instead of the intellectual elites. In other words, it was interested in finding and narrating the untold, unheard and unpopular stories of the masses rather than requesting the popular names to join the list of contributors.

More importantly, Nia Zamana was distinctively the only publication in the heart of Punjab, Lahore, that raised an intellectually strong voice in favor of the marginalized. It remained radically critical of the anti-federation policies of Punjabi political and military elites and by doing so it earned an overwhelming popularity and a wider circulation in smaller provinces.

I remember how Baloch, Pashtun and Hazara political workers, especially young activists and students, were eagerly waiting for the arrival of the new issue of Nia Zamana in Quetta.

One of the most striking distinctions of the magazine was, however, its thorough investigative reporting on the development of Jihadi politics, free mobility of the banned militant organizations, emergence of Punjabi Taliban and the systematic cleansing of vulnerable religious minority groups in Punjab.

Nia Zamana regularly raised the issue of organized violence acting on specific political groups in peripheral areas and fearlessly disclosed the identity of the ‘unknown’ involved in incidents of target killing, enforced disappearances and abductions for ransom.

It brought out, for instance, a special edition on the assassination of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, and warned the state of dire consequences for this unprecedented cruelty in the history of its coercive relationship with the Baloch nation.

Similarly, its special reporting on the murder of Benazir Bhutto, its consideration of the murder of Salman Taseer as a murder of sanity, and its stand on the murder of Rashid Rehman, a human rights lawyer who was killed for defending a professor accused of blasphemy charges, were evidences of its progressive and radical credentials. The only way out it principally suggested was that politics belongs to people and only they have the right to do it. Not only a secular, but a truly democratic state could be the representative of people.

Through its straightforward editorials and bold opinion pieces, it continuously opposed the state’s flawed policies towards Afghanistan and India and its bloody games played out in the Pashtun homeland.

Nevertheless, Nia Zamana was extremely skeptical of the high expectations attached with the Lawyer Movement, the struggle that emerged for the restoration of judiciary in 2007 and continued till 2009. The way judicial activism started rapidly dominating the political scene and interfering in the business of the elected institution, it was easy to realize that the judiciary would soon acquire a higher position in the ruling historic bloc in Pakistan and would squeeze the democratic transition in the favor of the powers that be.

Then, the judiciary got ‘independence’ and an elected government completed its term and transferred the power to another elected government for the first time in the history.

Nia Zamana had to stop its printing after its June 2014 issue. On June 11, 2014, the 14-year regular publication of the only representative magazine of the subordinate classes of Pakistan came to an end when a group of religious fanatics accompanied by police attacked the magazine office in Lahore and accused the editor, Mohammad Shoaib Adil, of blasphemy charges for publishing the autobiography of a Lahore High Court Judge who was an Ahmadi by faith.

Shoaib was sure that the main target of making a controversy out of a book, which was published in 2007, was to shut down Nia Zamana. Finally, he concluded from all his reading of the situation that he could no more live in Pakistan. So, he left.

Despite living a very miserable life in America, Shoaib Adil launched an online version of Nia Zamana in 2015 that is updated on daily basis and underscores, to some extent, the continuity of the tradition of the magazine’s hard copy. But, that web version too is inaccessible in Pakistan for the last couple of weeks.

Nia Zamana has long ago deconstructed the myth of free media and has fearlessly named the institution that controlled it, that we have seen repeatedly proven. So is the fate of similar materials in other publications, even the leading English dailies, in Pakistan. We all know who is afraid of Nia Zamana (New Age) and the power of dissent in this land of the pure.

Published in TheNews

No, Israel Is Not a Democracy


Israel is not the only democracy in the Middle East. In fact, it’s not a democracy at all.12Odeh-jumbo

In the eyes of many Israelis and their supporters worldwide — even those who might criticize some of its policies — Israel is, at the end of the day, a benign democratic state, seeking peace with its neighbors, and guaranteeing equality to all its citizens.

Those who do criticize Israel assume that if anything went wrong in this democracy then it was due to the 1967 war. In this view, the war corrupted an honest and hardworking society by offering easy money in the occupied territories, allowing messianic groups to enter Israeli politics, and above all else turning Israel into an occupying and oppressive entity in the new territories.

The myth that a democratic Israel ran into trouble in 1967 but still remained a democracy is propagated even by some notable Palestinian and pro-Palestinian scholars — but it has no historical foundation.

Israel Before 1967 Was Not a Democracy

Before 1967, Israel definitely could not have been depicted as a democracy. As we have seen in previous chapters, the state subjected one-fifth of its citizenship to military rule based on draconian British Mandatory emergency regulations that denied the Palestinians any basic human or civil rights.

Local military governors were the absolute rulers of the lives of these citizens: they could devise special laws for them, destroy their houses and livelihoods, and send them to jail whenever they felt like it. Only in the late 1950s did a strong Jewish opposition to these abuses emerge, which eventually eased the pressure on the Palestinian citizens.

For the Palestinians who lived in prewar Israel and those who lived in the post-1967 West Bank and the Gaza Strip, this regime allowed even the lowest-ranking soldier in the IDF to rule, and ruin, their lives. They were helpless if such a solider, or his unit or commander, decided to demolish their homes, or hold them for hours at a checkpoint, or incarcerate them without trial. There was nothing they could do.

At every moment from 1948 until today, there had been some group of Palestinians undergoing such an experience.

The first group to suffer under such a yoke was the Palestinian minority inside Israel. It began in the first two years of statehood when they were pushed into ghettos, such as the Haifa Palestinian community living on the Carmel mountain, or expelled from the towns they had inhabited for decades, such as Safad. In the case of Isdud, the whole population was expelled to the Gaza Strip.

In the countryside, the situation was even worse. The various Kibbutz movements coveted Palestinian villages on fertile land. This included the socialist Kibbutzim, Hashomer Ha-Zair, which was allegedly committed to binational solidarity.

Long after the fighting of 1948 had subsided, villagers in Ghabsiyyeh, Iqrit, Birim, Qaidta, Zaytun, and many others, were tricked into leaving their homes for a period of two weeks, the army claiming it needed their lands for training, only to find out on their return that their villages had been wiped out or handed to someone else.

This state of military terror is exemplified by the Kafr Qasim massacre of October 1956, when, on the eve of the Sinai operation, forty-nine Palestinian citizens were killed by the Israeli army. The authorities alleged that they were late returning home from work in the fields when a curfew had been imposed on the village. This was not the real reason, however.

Later proofs show that Israel had seriously considered the expulsion of Palestinians from the whole area called the Wadi Ara and the Triangle in which the village sat. These two areas — the first a valley connecting Afula in the east and Hadera on the Mediterranean coast; the second expanding the eastern hinterland of Jerusalem — were annexed to Israel under the terms of the 1949 armistice agreement with Jordan.

As we have seen, additional territory was always welcomed by Israel, but an increase in the Palestinian population was not. Thus, at every juncture, when the state of Israel expanded, it looked for ways to restrict the Palestinian population in the recently annexed areas.

Operation “Hafarfert” (“mole”) was the code name of a set of proposals for the expulsion of Palestinians when a new war broke out with the Arab world. Many scholars today now think that the 1956 massacre was a practice run to see if the people in the area could be intimidated to leave.

The perpetrators of the massacre were brought to trial thanks to the diligence and tenacity of two members of the Knesset: Tawaq Tubi from the Communist Party and Latif Dori of the Left Zionist party Mapam. However, the commanders responsible for the area, and the unit itself that committed the crime, were let off very lightly, receiving merely small fines. This was further proof that the army was allowed to get away with murder in the occupied territories.

Systematic cruelty does not only show its face in a major event like a massacre. The worst atrocities can also be found in the regime’s daily, mundane presence.

Palestinians in Israel still do not talk much about that pre-1967 period, and the documents of that time do not reveal the full picture. Surprisingly, it is in poetry that we find an indication of what it was like to live under military rule.

Natan Alterman was one of the most famous and important poets of his generation. He had a weekly column, called “The Seventh Column,” in which he commented on events he had read or heard about. Sometimes he would omit details about the date or even the location of the event, but would give the reader just enough information to understand what he was referring to. He often expressed his attacks in poetic form:

The news appeared briefly for two days, and disappeared. And no one seems to care, and no one seems to know. In the far away village of Um al-Fahem,

Children — should I say citizens of the state — played in the mud And one of them seemed suspicious to one of our brave soldiers who

shouted at him: Stop!

An order is an order

An order is an order, but the foolish boy did not stand, He ran away

So our brave soldier shot, no wonder And hit and killed the boy.

And no one talked about it.

On one occasion he wrote a poem about two Palestinian citizens who were shot in Wadi Ara. In another instance, he told the story of a very ill Palestinian woman who was expelled with her two children, aged three and six, with no explanation, and sent across the River Jordan. When she tried to return, she and her children were arrested and put into a Nazareth jail.

Alterman hoped that his poem about the mother would move hearts and minds, or at least elicit some official response. However, he wrote a week later:

And this writer assumed wrongly

That either the story would be denied or explained But nothing, not a word.

There is further evidence that Israel was not a democracy prior to 1967. The state pursued a shoot-to-kill policy towards refugees trying to retrieve their land, crops, and husbandry, and staged a colonial war to topple Nasser’s regime in Egypt. Its security forces were also trigger happy, killing more than fifty Palestinian citizens during the period from 1948–1967.

Subjugation of Minorities in Israel Is Not Democratic

The litmus test of any democracy is the level of tolerance it is willing to extend towards the minorities living in it. In this respect, Israel falls far short of being a true democracy.

For example, after the new territorial gains several laws were passed ensuring a superior position for the majority: the laws governing citizenship, the laws concerning land ownership, and most important of all, the law of return.

The latter grants automatic citizenship to every Jew in the world, wherever he or she was born. This law in particular is a flagrantly undemocratic one, for it was accompanied by a total rejection of the Palestinian right of return — recognized internationally by the UN General Assembly Resolution 194 of 1948. This rejection refuses to allow the Palestinian citizens of Israel to unite with their immediate families or with those who were expelled in 1948.

Denying people, the right of return to their homeland, and at the same time offering this right to others who have no connection to the land, is a model of undemocratic practice.

Added to this was a further layering of denial of the rights of the Palestinian people. Almost every discrimination against the Palestinian citizens of Israel is justified by the fact that they do not serve in the army. The association between democratic rights and military duties is better understood if we revisit the formative years in which Israeli policy makers were trying to make up their minds about how to treat one-fifth of the population.

Their assumption was that Palestinian citizens did not want to join the army anyway, and that assumed refusal, in turn, justified the discriminatory policy against them. This was put to the test in 1954 when the Israeli ministry of defense decided to call up those Palestinian citizens eligible for conscription to serve in the army. The secret service assured the government that there would be a widespread rejection of the call-up.

To their great surprise, all those summoned went to the recruiting office, with the blessing of the Communist Party, the biggest and most important political force in the community at the time. The secret service later explained that the main reason was the teenagers’ boredom with life in the countryside and their desire for some action and adventure.

Notwithstanding this episode, the ministry of defense continued to peddle a narrative that depicted the Palestinian community as unwilling to serve in the military.

Inevitably, in time, the Palestinians did indeed turn against the Israeli army, who had become their perpetual oppressors, but the government’s exploitation of this as a pretext for discrimination casts huge doubt on the state’s pretense to being a democracy.

If you are a Palestinian citizen and you did not serve in the army, your rights to government assistance as a worker, student, parent, or as part of a couple, are severely restricted. This affects housing in particular, as well as employment — where 70 percent of all Israeli industry is considered to be security-sensitive and therefore closed to these citizens as a place to find work.

The underlying assumption of the ministry of defense was not only that Palestinians do not wish to serve but that they are potentially an enemy within who cannot be trusted. The problem with this argument is that in all the major wars between Israel and the Arab world the Palestinian minority did not behave as expected. They did not form a fifth column or rise up against the regime.

This, however, did not help them: to this day they are seen as a “demographic” problem that has to be solved. The only consolation is that still today most Israeli politicians do not believe that the way to solve “the problem” is by the transfer or expulsion of the Palestinians (at least not in peacetime).

Israeli Land Policy Is Not Democratic

The claim to being a democracy is also questionable when one examines the budgetary policy surrounding the land question. Since 1948, Palestinian local councils and municipalities have received far less funding than their Jewish counterparts. The shortage of land, coupled with the scarcity of employment opportunities, creates an abnormal socioeconomic reality.

For example, the most affluent Palestinian community, the village of Me’ilya in the upper Galilee, is still worse off than the poorest Jewish development town in the Negev. In 2011, the Jerusalem Post reported that “average Jewish income was 40 percent to 60 percent higher than average Arab income between the years 1997 to 2009.”

Today more than 90 percent of the land is owned by the Jewish National Fund (JNF). Landowners are not allowed to engage in transactions with non-Jewish citizens, and public land is prioritized for the use of national projects, which means that new Jewish settlements are being built while there are hardly any new Palestinian settlements. Thus, the biggest Palestinian city, Nazareth, despite the tripling of its population since 1948, has not expanded one square kilometer, whereas the development town built above it, Upper Nazareth, has tripled in size, on land expropriated from Palestinian landowners.

Further examples of this policy can be found in Palestinian villages throughout Galilee, revealing the same story: how they have been downsized by 40 percent, sometimes even 60 percent, since 1948, and how new Jewish settlements have been built on expropriated land.

Elsewhere this has initiated full-blown attempts at “Judaization.” After 1967, the Israeli government became concerned about the lack of Jews living in the north and south of the state and so planned to increase the population in those areas. Such a demographic change necessitated the confiscation of Palestinian land for the building of Jewish settlements.

Worse was the exclusion of Palestinian citizens from these settlements. This blunt violation of a citizen’s right to live wherever he or she wishes continues today, and all efforts by human rights NGOs in Israel to challenge this apartheid have so far ended in total failure.

The Supreme Court in Israel has only been able to question the legality of this policy in a few individual cases, but not in principle. Imagine if in the United Kingdom or the United States, Jewish citizens, or Catholics for that matter, were barred by law from living in certain villages, neighborhoods, or maybe whole towns? How can such a situation be reconciled with the notion of democracy?

The Occupation Is Not Democratic

Thus, given its attitude towards two Palestinian groups — the refugees and the community in Israel — the Jewish state cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be assumed to be a democracy.

But the most obvious challenge to that assumption is the ruthless Israeli attitude towards a third Palestinian group: those who have lived under its direct and indirect rule since 1967, in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. From the legal infrastructure put in place at the outset of the war, through the unquestioned absolute power of the military inside the West Bank and outside the Gaza Strip, to the humiliation of millions of Palestinians as a daily routine, the “only democracy” in the Middle East behaves as a dictatorship of the worst kind.

The main Israeli response, diplomatic and academic, to the latter accusation is that all these measures are temporary — they will change if the Palestinians, wherever they are, behave “better.” But if one researches, not to mention lives in, the occupied territories, one will understand how ridiculous these arguments are.

Israeli policy makers, as we have seen, are determined to keep the occupation alive for as long as the Jewish state remains intact. It is part of what the Israeli political system regards as the status quo, which is always better than any change. Israel will control most of Palestine and, since it will always include a substantial Palestinian population, this can only be done by nondemocratic means.

In addition, despite all the evidence to the contrary, the Israeli state claims that the occupation is an enlightened one. The myth here is that Israel came with good intentions to conduct a benevolent occupation but was forced to take a tougher attitude because of the Palestinian violence.

In 1967, the government treated the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a natural part of “Eretz Israel,” the land of Israel, and this attitude has continued ever since. When you look at the debate between the right- and left-wing parties in Israel on this issue, their disagreements have been about how to achieve this goal, not about its validity.

Among the wider public, however, there was a genuine debate between what one might call the “redeemers” and the “custodians.” The “redeemers” believed Israel had recovered the ancient heart of its homeland and could not survive in the future without it. In contrast, the “custodians” argued that the territories should be exchanged for peace with Jordan, in the case of the West Bank, and Egypt in the case of the Gaza Strip. However, this public debate had little impact on the way the principal policy makers were figuring out how to rule the occupied territories.

The worst part of this supposed “enlightened occupation” has been the government’s methods for managing the territories. At first the area was divided into “Arab” and potential “Jewish” spaces. Those areas densely populated with Palestinians became autonomous, run by local collaborators under a military rule. This regime was only replaced with a civil administration in 1981.

The other areas, the “Jewish” spaces, were colonized with Jewish settlements and military bases. This policy was intended to leave the population both in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in disconnected enclaves with neither green spaces nor any possibility for urban expansion.

Things only got worse when, very soon after the occupation, Gush Emunim started settling in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, claiming to be following a biblical map of colonization rather than the governmental one. As they penetrated the densely populated Palestinian areas, the space left for the locals was shrunk even further.

What every colonization project primarily needs is land — in the occupied territories this was achieved only through the massive expropriation of land, deporting people from where they had lived for generations, and confining them in enclaves with difficult habitats.

When you fly over the West Bank, you can see clearly the cartographic results of this policy: belts of settlements that divide the land and carve the Palestinian communities into small, isolated, and disconnected communities. The Judaization belts separate villages from villages, villages from towns, and sometime bisect a single village.

This is what scholars call a geography of disaster, not least since these policies turned out to be an ecological disaster as well: drying up water sources and ruining some of the most beautiful parts of the Palestinian landscape.

Moreover, the settlements became hotbeds in which Jewish extremism grew uncontrollably — the principal victims of which were the Palestinians. Thus, the settlement at Efrat has ruined the world heritage site of the Wallajah Valley near Bethlehem, and the village of Jafneh near Ramallah, which was famous for its freshwater canals, lost its identity as a tourist attraction. These are just two small examples out of hundreds of similar cases.

Destroying Palestinians’ Houses Is Not Democratic

House demolition is not a new phenomenon in Palestine. As with many of the more barbaric methods of collective punishment used by Israel since 1948, it was first conceived and exercised by the British Mandatory government during the Great Arab Revolt of 1936–39.

This was the first Palestinian uprising against the pro-Zionist policy of the British Mandate, and it took the British army three years to quell it. In the process, they demolished around two thousand houses during the various collective punishments meted out to the local population.

Israel demolished houses from almost the first day of its military occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The army blew up hundreds of homes every year in response to various acts undertaken by individual family members.

From minor violations of military rule to participation in violent acts against the occupation, the Israelis were quick to send in their bulldozers to wipe out not only a physical building but also a focus of life and existence. In the greater Jerusalem area (as inside Israel) demolition was also a punishment for the unlicensed extension of an existing house or the failure to pay bills.

Another form of collective punishment that has recently returned to the Israeli repertoire is that of blocking up houses. Imagine that all the doors and windows in your house are blocked by cement, mortar, and stones, so you can’t get back in or retrieve anything you failed to take out in time. I have looked hard in my history books to find another example, but found no evidence of such a callous measure being practiced elsewhere.

Crushing Palestinian Resistance Is Not Democratic

Finally, under the “enlightened occupation,” settlers have been allowed to form vigilante gangs to harass people and destroy their property. These gangs have changed their approach over the years.

During the 1980s, they used actual terror — from wounding Palestinian leaders (one of them lost his legs in such an attack), to contemplating blowing up the mosques on Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem.

In this century, they have engaged in the daily harassment of Palestinians: uprooting their trees, destroying their yields, and shooting randomly at their homes and vehicles. Since 2000, there have been at least one hundred such attacks reported per month in some areas such as Hebron, where the five hundred settlers, with the silent collaboration of the Israeli army, harassed the locals living nearby in an even more brutal way.

From the very beginning of the occupation then, the Palestinians were given two options: accept the reality of permanent incarceration in a mega-prison for a very long time, or risk the might of the strongest army in the Middle East. When the Palestinians did resist — as they did in 1987, 2000, 2006, 2012, 2014, and 2016 — they were targeted as soldiers and units of a conventional army. Thus, villages and towns were bombed as if they were military bases and the unarmed civilian population was shot at as if it was an army on the battlefield.

Today we know too much about life under occupation, before and after Oslo, to take seriously the claim that nonresistance will ensure less oppression. The arrests without trial, as experienced by so many over the years; the demolition of thousands of houses; the killing and wounding of the innocent; the drainage of water wells — these are all testimony to one of the harshest contemporary regimes of our times.

Amnesty International annually documents in a very comprehensive way the nature of the occupation. The following is from their 2015 report:

In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Israeli forces committed unlawful killings of Palestinian civilians, including children, and detained thousands of Palestinians who protested against or otherwise opposed Israel’s continuing military occupation, holding hundreds in administrative detention. Torture and other ill-treatment remained rife and were committed with impunity.

The authorities continued to promote illegal settlements in the West Bank, and severely restricted Palestinians’ freedom of movement, further tightening restrictions amid an escalation of violence from October, which included attacks on Israeli civilians by Palestinians and apparent extrajudicial executions by Israeli forces. Israeli settlers in the West Bank attacked Palestinians and their property with virtual impunity. The Gaza Strip remained under an Israeli military blockade that imposed collective punishment on its inhabitants. The authorities continued to demolish Palestinian homes in the West Bank and inside Israel, particularly in Bedouin villages in the Negev/Naqab region, forcibly evicting their residents.

Let’s take this in stages. Firstly, assassinations — what Amnesty’s report calls “unlawful killings”: about fifteen thousand Palestinians have been killed “unlawfully” by Israel since 1967. Among them were two thousand children.

Imprisoning Palestinians Without Trial Is Not Democratic

Another feature of the “enlightened occupation” is imprisonment without trial. Every fifth Palestinian in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip has undergone such an experience.

It is interesting to compare this Israeli practice with similar American policies in the past and the present, as critics of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement claim that US practices are far worse. In fact, the worst American example was the imprisonment without trial of one hundred thousand Japanese citizens during World War II, with thirty thousand later detained under the so-called “war on terror.”

Neither of these numbers comes even close to the number of Palestinians who have experienced such a process: including the very young, the old, as well as the long-term incarcerated.

Arrest without trial is a traumatic experience. Not knowing the charges against you, having no contact with a lawyer and hardly any contact with your family are only some of the concerns that will affect you as a prisoner. More brutally, many of these arrests are used as means to pressure people into collaboration. Spreading rumors or shaming people for their alleged or real sexual orientation are also frequently used as methods for leveraging complicity.

As for torture, the reliable website Middle East Monitor published a harrowing article describing the two hundred methods used by the Israelis to torture Palestinians. The list is based on a UN report and a report from the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. Among other methods it includes beatings, chaining prisoners to doors or chairs for hours, pouring cold and hot water on them, pulling fingers apart, and twisting testicles.

Israel Is Not a Democracy

What we must challenge here, therefore, is not only Israel’s claim to be maintaining an enlightened occupation but also its pretense to being a democracy. Such behavior towards millions of people under its rule gives the lie to such political chicanery.

However, although large sections of civil societies throughout the world deny Israel its pretense to democracy, their political elites, for a variety of reasons, still treat it as a member of the exclusive club of democratic states. In many ways, the popularity of the BDS movement reflects the frustrations of those societies with their governments’ policies towards Israel.

For most Israelis these counterarguments are irrelevant at best and malicious at worst. The Israeli state clings to the view that it is a benevolent occupier. The argument for “enlightened occupation” proposes that, according to the average Jewish citizen in Israel, the Palestinians are much better off under occupation and they have no reason in the world to resist it, let alone by force. If you are a noncritical supporter of Israel abroad, you accept these assumptions as well.

There are, however, sections of Israeli society that do recognize the validity of some of the claims made here. In the 1990s, with various degrees of conviction, a significant number of Jewish academics, journalists, and artists voiced their doubts about the definition of Israel as a democracy.

It takes some courage to challenge the foundational myths of one’s own society and state. This is why quite a few of them later retreated from this brave position and returned to toeing the general line.

Nevertheless, for a while during the last decade of the last century, they produced works that challenged the assumption of a democratic Israel. They portrayed Israel as belonging to a different community: that of the nondemocratic nations. One of them, the geographer Oren Yiftachel from Ben-Gurion University, depicted Israel as an ethnocracy, a regime governing a mixed ethnic state with a legal and formal preference for one ethnic group over all the others. Others went further, labeling Israel an apartheid state or a settler-colonial state.

In short, whatever description these critical scholars offered, “democracy” was not among them.

Published in Jacobin Magazine

The true story of slaughtering a mid-aged hen

By Murid Baloch

“But why are you so scared of birds, cousin? They’re cute. And delicious. I slaughtered downloadthis one before you guys arrive,” she said in a shyly proud tone while splitting the boiled hen in portions to serve her polio-ridden brother.

“That’s really brave of you,” I replied.

For some odd reason in life, birds have always been my vilest nightmares. The chirpy careless creatures scared me to death. The problem was, it was not a problem for anyone else. Nobody feared cute birds. As a child, all my friends in the hood wanted to catch, pet or kill one at some point. It was the only fear that inculcated a sense of complexity in my confidence among peers.

If I came across a dead bird on the street, it meant skipping several meals to beat the anxiety caused by the memory of its hanging head, loosened beak and squeezed claws. Too gruesome, too grisly an image to ignore. The longer it be dead, the dryer its eyes be.

When I reached early teens, I somehow gathered courage and decided to face the dreadful fear. It would mean me rehearsing by copying certain behavior patterns I thought I witnessed when others engaged with birds. I did that for over a period of few months and was finally convinced it will not work because there was nothing to copy. Everyone would just do it.

The only way I could kill my fear was to kill a bird.

But I was not ready to disclose the dare yet because it involved high risk of, I mean what if someone actually tested my courage on the spot? I had to come up with something to make it look normal after all.

One ordinary evening my gut feeling informed me that I was a grown-up and was ready to take down some harsh realities of life. It was a life-changing realization and harbinger of a fearless tomorrow.

I woke up earliest in the morning and grabbed a kettle full of tea before making myself comfortable on the charpoy. The view captured the entire veranda, overlooking all the cattle and chicken making themselves at home. My mission was to choose the prey and cook the plot before everyone else woke up to avoid embarrassment in case anything went wrong.

The confidence felt real.

At first, I looked for the cockiest rooster in the crowd. That was to satisfy the inner conscious for a reason to warrant its killing. It was not long until I settled for a mid-aged white hen, the color of peace and, well, just peace for now.

Before I could change my mind, the overexcited boy who was helping me in the task jumped, crawled, caught and rolled the hen in his arms just in a matter of split second. Then as soon as he started walking towards me, the cackling hen became louder and louder: “BUCK. BUCKK. BUCKUUUUKKK”. My feet went numb.

My stomach developed a motion which turned into an empty hole sort of feeling that grew bigger and bigger as the boy came closer. The air felt heavy and every living thing stood still except the hen. At this point, I still had time to chicken out and back off had I wanted.

I turned back and walked straight towards the sharpened knife.

As if time slowed down and every footstep prolonged the distance to the knife. I rolled up the sleeves, scratched and rubbed the knife edge against the first oval-shaped stone I saw, and then pretended there was no time for this.

I now had the hen grounded, legs beneath a foot and wings beneath another. My toe could feel the fluffy feathers, I knew it was game over for me the moment I focused on its moving claws.

“In the name of All… ah!” the knife peeled the skin cut, making its way between the knuckles of the throat and passing through the vibration of dying cackles. There was no blood and then there was blood everywhere.

It felt like somebody slapped both my ears at the same time.

The claws withered slowly and it took three shock waves before the headless hen stopped moving.

“It’s dead” I exhaled, hiding the uncertainty behind my fake terror expression.

“OH GOD!” screamed the boy, “You ruined it! You can’t talk before you swish water in your mouth!” he announced it to the neighbours.

It was a sign nobody would eat it now.

My numbness continued while I stared at my left hand fingers covered in light blood. My right hand, I didn’t wanted to see my right hand. I never owned one.

“Shoma che goshta Mureed a kokkore kra torsi?” (Y’all thought I’m scared of birds, didn’t you?) I murmured the chewy words before walking off the scene.

I found myself sandwiched in between an old sponge mattress stored underneath a bed in a dark room. It was a common practice I would do to escape acute guilt or fear. Every time I pictured the scene, I would stuff the mattress in my mouth and chew harder.

The last time this happened was when I accidentally pulled a trigger of a pellet gun that hit the boy next door.

Mana morgan cha sak torsi. (I fear birds).

Published in Balochistantimes

Who Says Labor Laws Are “Luxuries”?

By Servaas Storm and  Jeronim Capaldo

The World Bank and IMF say developing economies can’t afford to have strong labor laws. Actually, they can’t afford not to.

A standard recommendation given to late-industrializing economies by the economic <> on February 1, 2016 in New York City.advisors of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund has been to refrain from imposing regulations on the labor market, or if such regulations are already in place, to abolish them.

If you are a policymaker in a late-industrializing country, chances are you’ve been told that your problem, what is really holding your economy back, is excessive labor regulation – it is making your exports uncompetitive and chasing away capital. Laws “created to help workers often hurt them,” stated the 2008 World Bank’s Doing Business Report. To avoid any misunderstandings about the Bank’s reckoning with ten years of crises, the working draft of the 2019 edition advocates for cutting minimum wages, facilitating dismissals and removing other labor regulations in order to favor employment and economic development. The Washington-hired advisors, themselves enjoying many employment-related benefits, may have developing nations’ best interest on their mind. After all, the (enduring) Washington Consensus is clear: in developing countries as in all countries, minimum wages, employment protection, regulated working conditions and collective bargaining will prematurely raise labor costs harming businesses’ ability to compete on international markets. Exports will suffer, profits and investment will fall, and the very jobs these laws are designed to protect, formal-sector jobs, will be destroyed.

In this view, labor rights and labor protection are more likely to create additional unemployment and informal-sector under-employment, particularly of unskilled workers or labor force entrants, than lead to higher wages and better working conditions. Right? So, esteemed policymaker, what you should do is simple: reduce already existing employment protection, resist those siren’s calls to higher minimum wages, and curb regulation. Later, once your economy has developed, you can bring back some of those “European-style” luxuries. After all, they are good for social peace.

Well, this story is as wrong as it is ubiquitous. As it happens, it is mainly based on abstractions while more realistic reasoning and plenty of empirical analyses deny it support. And there’s more. As we discuss in our new INET working paper, there are many channels through which labor regulation supports capital accumulation, economic growth, employment creation and fairer income distribution.

To see why labor regulation does not hinder growth, even though it likely leads to higher labor costs, we can start from Thirlwall’s (1979) analysis in which a “small” developing country must export or attract capital in order to keep up purchases of critical imports. Appropriately extended, this analysis shows us that an increase of average wages (achieved, for example, by raising minimum wages or empowering wage claims through stronger protection) has three effects: a loss of competitiveness on world markets, an acceleration of productivity growth and an upgrading of the composition of exports. Overall, these effects are small and statistical findings suggest that their net impact on growth is either negligible or positive. But it’s useful to briefly consider them one by one.

A loss of (cost) competitiveness affects both exports and imports, with the net effect depending on how sensitive each of these flows are to cost increases. If the so-called Marshall-Lerner condition is satisfied, the net effect of higher wages and higher unit labor cost will be to drive down the economy’s external balance, thus depressing growth. In practice, however, this need not be a serious concern. On the one hand, by all indications, this effect will be small. On the other, empirical findings seem to indicate that the net effect of a cost increase on the external balance will be zero. In this case, the first of the three effects mentioned disappears – an utterly realistic outcome.

The effect on productivity growth occurs because a higher labor cost pushes firms to invest in labor-saving technologies. Research shows that higher costs force more efficient technologies on existing firms and drive those that do not meet the challenge out of business. This helps the economy gain competitiveness. If a wage increase drives up unit labor costs, a productivity increase will drive them down. Not even the Washington-hired advisors can deny that their high wages are good for their productivity.

Finally, a higher average wage pushes firms not only to adopt more efficient technology, but also to upgrade to productive sectors that enjoy more stable demand (i.e. more income-elastic and less price-sensitive) on world markets. This loosens the balance-of-payments constraint, allowing for higher growth and faster employment creation.

When put all together, these effects indicate that, in a late industrializing economy facing a balance-of-payments constraint, regulation resulting in higher wages either does not hinder growth or favors it.

The story doesn’t end here either. If we enter the realm of political economy, where income distribution is considered in its interplay with economic efficiency and political processes, we find three more channels through which stronger labor regulation supports development. First, strong labor regulation increases the legitimacy of industrial relations – an effect emphasized by mainstream scholars and policymakers – with positive impacts on productivity, competitiveness, growth and employment. Secondly, it is an opportunity for policymakers and other social groups to harness firms’ profit-making activities toward innovation. Last but not least, stronger regulation supports domestic demand by enhancing the labor income share (the flipside of real unit labor costs). Since dynamic domestic demand is a key driver of the division of labor, structural change, and industrial upgrading, this effect is critical in triggering the process of “cumulative causation” (to use Gunnar Myrdal’s classic expression) that fosters sustainable development.

Labor regulation certainly has many important social functions that transcend economics. Most importantly, it supports human rights and basic social processes. But there is also more to it in the economic sphere than is acknowledged in the standard narrative that sees it as a luxury developing countries cannot afford.

In light of our analysis, the options open to policymakers in late-industrializing countries look quite different than in the standard advice. Labor regulation is a powerful developmental tool to be deployed in sync with industrial policy and capital account regulation (the latter is needed to avoid capital flight or threats of capital flight neutralizing the labor regulation). Dispensing of strong labor regulation is the real luxury developing countries cannot afford.

Published in New Economic Thinking 

Expat Pakistani talent

By Ishrat Husain

THERE is little doubt the main driver of growth and shared prosperity in the 21st century is the knowledge economy. The evidence of this has already been demonstrated by Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, etc. China is embarking upon the same path. Most of these countries have invested heavily in their higher educational institutions and research establishments, sent hordes of young men and women for advanced studies particularly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.

These young scientists have studied at top universities, worked in cutting-edge laboratories, collaborated with experts in their field and published in prestigious journals. Korea sent missions to the US and Europe in the 1980s to attract Korean scientists back home and join the academia and research organisations with hefty packages of pecuniary and non-pecuniary benefits. Recently, China established the Thousand Talents programme which targets Chinese citizens who have studied at US elite universities and elsewhere. Upon their return, they get lucrative signing bonuses, guaranteed research funding, ample technical staff and the opportunity to train younger students in their fields of expertise. Subsidies are given for housing, meals and relocation, and they are guaranteed jobs for spouses and regular trips to their home provinces.

It is no wonder that Alibaba and Tencent have become the world’s largest pool of scientific talent. China’s expenditure on R&D has jumped from $9 billion in 1991 to $409bn — closer to the US expenditure of $485bn. It now allocates 2.4pc of GDP on R&D. According to the National Science Board, China is on track to surpass the US by the end of this year. In 2016, annual scientific publications from China outnumbered those from the US for the first time. China has also lured foreign scientists who have won prestigious prizes or made internationally recognised scientific contributions. They train and collaborate with their local counterparts in knowledge creation and sharing.

Against this background, what is the situation in Pakistan? There has been a serious diminution in the reservoir of our highly educated talent. In 1989/90, as many as 7,010 Pakistani students were enrolled in US universities and those from India were 26,240 ie a ratio of 1:4. By 2014-15 the disparity is simply astounding — 132,888 Indians vs only 5,354 Pakistanis, a ratio of 1:25. Most of the Indians were enrolled for advanced degrees in STEM subjects in leading universities. Faculty members and research scientists of Indian origin run into the thousands while we have only a handful of Pakistanis. In an earlier search for recruiting faculty for IBA, I found there were 250 faculty members of Indian origin teaching in the top 10 business schools in the US while we were represented by only four young women.

The Higher Education Commission started sending young Pakistanis to foreign universities for their doctorates. Due to funding limitations and the difficulties faced by our poorly prepared applicants in clearing GRE examinations, they ended up mostly in European and Chinese universities. Nothing wrong with that, but the absence of coursework and comprehensive exams do not provide the same rigour and competence as the US universities which continue to be among the world’s best.

Upon their return, these students get sucked into the bureaucratic culture at Pakistani universities but the serious-minded among them still carry out their work diligently and get published in international journals. This is reflected in a large increase in the number of publications contributed by Pakistani scholars in the last decade or so. My salute to them that they do it despite facing a lot of resistance by the teacher politicians who fear they would be left behind. However, the rigid system of promotion and tenure offers no incentive for them to apply their knowledge and expertise to address some of the problems faced by the country in boosting its competitiveness. The system recognises only teaching and academic research — not application of research.

The second way to attract talent from abroad is to follow the example of China and Korea and give them flexibility in terms of time, remuneration, perks, ample resources and a conducive working environment. Our uniform basic pay scales where every university teacher is boxed in is a major hindrance in attracting expatriate talent. These scales promote mediocrity rather than creativity and innovative impulses. Even those bold enough to come back are faced with a hostile environment, in which intrigues by incumbents occupying entrenched positions in universities make their lives miserable to the extent they either fall in line or are driven back. The antiquated recruitment and promotion rules based on length of service, seniority and number rather than quality of publications, do not allow any deviations for exceptional performance and output, international recognition, etc. These rules act as a powerful deterrent to those aspiring to come back.

My experience as a member of various search committees for selecting vice chancellors shows how narrow-minded, myopic, parochial and inward-looking we have become. Let alone those working abroad, candidates from other provinces, however capable or competent, are shunned on account of political preferences. If we are able to select individuals on merit for top leadership positions, the effect would permeate through the organisation.

Finally, there is little understanding of pay differentials between specialists and generalists within the public sector. Specialists who have gone through a rigorous and long training process and acquired expertise in their respective fields deserve to be paid many times more than generalists. As chairman, Pay and Pension Commission, I was appalled to see highly qualified scientists completely demoralised and demotivated upon comparing themselves against general cadre officers in terms of career progression, equivalence of grades and salary structure. There is a feeling that a transplant surgeon despite having trained and worked abroad should not be given a salary higher than the chief secretary.

It is time to modify our worldview and adopt a more forward-looking stance in order to compete with 200 other nations in the global marketplace. We have to therefore enable and facilitate our talented young men and women to employ their best efforts to contribute to our people’s welfare. If our courts get bogged down in determining our specialists’ individual salaries, who is going to dispose of 1.8 million pending cases?

The writer is author of Governing the Ungovernable and CPEC and Pakistani Economy.

Published in Dawn

Title April 2018

title April edition 2018 title for blog

Afghanistan: Journalists are not spared from deadly attacks

News seekers became news headline

By Ahmd Khan

Noor Mohammad Turkay a socialist approached person led Sor-Inqelab (Red Revolution) 21650340_0in Afghanistan in 1979. He also invited the United Soviet States of Russia – USSR to overtake in Afghanistan that was heading the socialist bloc of bi-polar world. At that time, the Red Army overtook in Afghanistan physically. From that point, the sparrow of peace in Afghanistan flew-away and till today it has not returned.

After the entering of Red Army in Afghanistan, the capitalist bloc led by America also started fostering the Mujahidn by regional ally Pakistan during the Zia regime. British Prime Minister Ms Margit Thatcher paid visit to Pakistan and met with Mujahidin and filmed scenes shows she also received gift of a pair of sheep by them.

The tribal areas of Pakistan were main training base for Mujahidin. The Arab and locals were provoked religiously against Soviet to fight holy war the Jihaad. In fact, the discussed war was fought on base economy and political influence but was not a religious. Fighters, commonly Mujahidin were trained to get them fight in Afghanistan, but now they renamed as terrorist.

A proxy war was fought, eventually Red Army retreated from Afghanistan in 1989. Infighting between Mujahidin factions erupted for rule on state ensuing, this paved onward way for regional agents to penetrate their fingers in this war-torn country.

The Northern Alliance once formed the government in Kabul but Taliban backed by Pakistan occupied entire country and established their Sharia or theologized rule. At that time, Al-Qaeda and Taliban thrived well to be used against antagonist states in region, even globally.

In 2000, the US caved-out the spectacle of 9/11 and in same year it invaded in Afghanistan by pretext of this incident. It overthrew the regime of Taliban and setup an obedient government in country, and then established Afghan National Army intentionally through this rule in country and keep its hegemony on entire region.

In 2014, the US pullout its thousands army deployed in Afghanistan but a number of 14000 coalition forces still are stationed there. Trump administration announced for sending more troops in Afghanistan for assisting previous engaged US forces. The US officials said that American war in Afghanistan is the longest and one of the costliest military operations in United States history. Yet, the Taliban are back in many parts of the country from which they had been purged, and militants associated with both the Taliban and the Islamic State frequently attack civilians, Afghan and foreigner forces.

Afghan forces still lack the manpower, equipment and training needed to take back large areas of territory from Taliban control, said Caitlin Forrest, an Afghanistan expert at the Institute for the Study of War.

The report says the area under Afghan government “control or influence” decreased to 65.6 percent in last year from 70.5 percent, based on data provided by US forces in Afghanistan.

That amounts to a loss of 19 of the country’s approximately 400 governing districts.

A BBC report tells, Taliban fighters, whom US-led forces spent billions of dollars trying to defeat, are now openly active in 70% of Afghanistan.

Months of research across the country shows that the Taliban now control or threaten much more territory than when foreign combat troops left in 2014.

The BBC study shows the Taliban are now in full control of 14 districts (that’s 4% of the country) and have an active and open physical presence in a further 263 (66%), significantly higher than previous estimates of Taliban strength.

About 15 million people – half the population – are living in areas that are either controlled by the Taliban or where the Taliban are openly present and regularly mount attacks.

Another report appeared in media tells that a large number of soldiers withdrew from Afghan National Army in fear but government official denied this strongly and said that they have adequate number of fighters in army to combat militancy in country.

During the research period, it was found 122 districts (just over 30% of the country) did not have an open Taliban presence. These areas are ranked as under government control, but that does not mean they were free of violence.

Kabul and other major cities, for example, suffered major attacks – launched from adjacent areas, or by sleeper cells – during the research period, as well as before and after.

MediaThe vulnerability level in country can be gauged that its capital is under constant attacks. In last month in an incident the media-men were hit by a suicide bomber disguised as journalist. When journalists and rescue workers reached on a spot of attack to cover incident another blast within 15 minutes killed 10 journalists, policemen, children and other citizens. Certainly, this incident is a great loss in Afghan journalism after 15 years, where news seekers got headline in news channels and papers.

A BBC reporter was among 10 journalists killed on a bloody day in Afghanistan. Also among the dead was Agence France Presse’s chief photographer in the country.

Ahmad Shah, of the BBC’s Afghan service, was shot dead in Khost province just hours before twin suicide blasts “clearly targeted” reporters in the capital Kabul.

The suicide bombings took place in the central Shash Darak area of Kabul, home to Nato’s Afghanistan headquarters and several embassies.

Police spokesman Hashmat Stanekzai said the first suicide bomber was on a motorbike, while the second was among the crowd of reporters who were trying to cover the first explosion, pretending to be one of them.

The second attacker then detonated his explosives while still among the reporters, also intending to hit those trying to help victims of the initial blast, he added.

Tolo News, an Afghan broadcaster, named the eight local media reporters as: Mahram Durani, Ebadullah Hananzai and Sabawoon Kakar, of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; Ghazi Rasooli and Nowroz Ali Rajabi, of 1TV; Saleem Talash and Ali Saleemi, of Mashal TV; and Yar Mohammad Tokhi, of Tolo News.

In Afghanistan, like other departments the journalism is also jeopardized and could not thrive due to warfare, but as compare to other fields it is working suitably and guiding people toward patriotism and peace. This role of media is not bearable the dissented in Afghanistan, resultantly this profession worker also not safe.

Definitely, slaying journalists in Kabul is painful and contenders of ruling government aims behind this are obvious that they want to make voiceless Afghan people and impose on them their desired agenda but in intruded way.

The pathetic act of murdering Afghan journalists surely impact on fellow professionals in world, specifically in region. This will add in worries of journalists in all aspects.

The journalists never worked with arms but they have rational power which they deliver through their pen and now in modern age visually telecast information and reports. The dissented elements also adopt the same way of logic and knowledge to counter them but never weapons are to be used against armless and noncombatants.

In Kabul, news seekers became themselves new headline on TV channels and newspapers. This will catalyst violence and will widen drift between belligerents. And may escalate bloodshed and sabotage the efforts for peace and reconciliation.

The decades extending turbulence proved that fight cannot befit any party but honest and sincere political accords pullout Afghanistan from ongoing bloodshed.

The recent differences between Afghan government, US and Pakistan have turned deadliest war in Afghanistan. These have worsened the situations in Pakistan but turned Afghanistan as hell for this country’s citizens. The authorities realize sensitivity and workout about a political solution in country of Afghanistan where knowledgeable people are being slain mercilessly.

Pakistan looks to China for bail out from financial crisis: FT

By Shehzad Baloch

Pakistan has once again turned to China for help in avoiding a foreign currency crisis by borrowing $1 billion from Chinese banks in April on “good, competitive rates”, the Financial Times (FT) reported.

In an interview with the publication, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Governor Tariq Bajwaimages confirmed the loans were made by Beijing-backed banks on good rates.

“The money strengthens the financial, political and military ties between the two countries,” read the FT article.

“Chinese commercial banks are awash with liquidity,” Bajwa was quoted as saying.

Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves have dropped from $18.1bn in April last year to $10.8bn in May this year.

According to the article, Pakistani officials also hope that borrowing from Chinese banks will also save Pakistan a trip to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Since December 1988, Pakistan has had nine separate engagements with the IMF — three of them were double programs. That means there have been 12 IMF programs in Pakistan in the last 28 years. Only four of them – all initiated in the 2000s and 2010s – were completed successfully; all the rest were abandoned halfway in the 1990s.

Lending money to Pakistan also favors China, said FT quoting Pakistani officials, as it does not wish to disclose details of the loans that are part of the CPEC project. China is investing almost $60bn on building infrastructure in Pakistan, however, it is reluctant to reveal the sum it is lending to Islamabad as part of the CPEC project.

“The Chinese are not keen on western institutions learning the minute details of [financing of] CPEC projects,” an unnamed official in Islamabad was quoted as saying. “An IMF program will require Pakistan to disclose the financial terms to its officials.”

According to the FT report, prior to last month’s loan of $1bn, Pakistan had borrowed almost $1.2bn from Chinese banks since April, 2017 and more loans might follow. Another anonymous official quoted by the publication claimed that Pakistan’s finance ministry has held “informal discussions” with the Chinese to lend at least an additional $500mn before the end of the financial year April, 2019.

“Borrowing from China has become an increasing feature of our external side,” the official said.

The article also touches upon the skepticism around the Chinese loans. Mushtaq Khan, a former SBP economist, while speaking to FT said: “Pakistan’s policymakers are not doing enough to narrow the external deficit — instead, they’re just financing the gap.”

“China factors importantly into this financing, but that doesn’t really solve our problem — it only postpones and exacerbates the issue,” he added.

Pakistan secured a $1 billion commercial loan from a Chinese bank a day after the announcement of the federal budget 2018-19 on April 27 which is repayable in three years. This improved the country’s total foreign exchange reserves to $17.7bn, jacking up official reserves held by the State Bank of Pakistan by 5.5 per cent to $11.5bn.

What Are the Origins of May Day?


The happy idea of using a proletarian holiday celebration as a means to attain the eight-hqdefaulthour day was first born in Australia. The workers there decided in 1856 to organize a day of complete stoppage together with meetings and entertainment as a demonstration in favor of the eight-hour day.

The day of this celebration was to be April 21. At first, the Australian workers intended this only for the year 1856. But this first celebration had such a strong effect on the proletarian masses of Australia, enlivening them and leading to new agitation, that it was decided to repeat the celebration every year.

In fact, what could give the workers greater courage and faith in their own strength than a mass work stoppage which they had decided themselves? What could give more courage to the eternal slaves of the factories and the workshops than the mustering of their own troops? Thus, the idea of a proletarian celebration was quickly accepted and, from Australia, began to spread to other countries until finally it had conquered the whole proletarian world.

The first to follow the example of the Australian workers were the Americans. In 1886 they decided that May 1 should be the day of universal work stoppage. On this day two hundred thousand of them left their work and demanded the eight-hour day. Later, police and legal harassment prevented the workers for many years from repeating this [size of] demonstration. However in 1888 they renewed their decision and decided that the next celebration would be May 1, 1890..

In the meanwhile, the workers’ movement in Europe had grown strong and animated. The most powerful expression of this movement occurred at the International Workers’ Congress in 1889. At this congress, attended by four hundred delegates, it was decided that the eight-hour day must be the first demand. Whereupon the delegate of the French unions, the worker Lavigne from Bordeaux, moved that this demand be expressed in all countries through a universal work stoppage. The delegate of the American workers called attention to the decision of his comrades to strike on May 1, 1890, and the congress decided on this date for the universal proletarian celebration.

In this case, as thirty years before in Australia, the workers really thought only of a one-time demonstration. The congress decided that the workers of all lands would demonstrate together for the eight-hour day on May 1, 1890. No one spoke of a repetition of the holiday for the next years.

Naturally no one could predict the lightning-like way in which this idea would succeed and how quickly it would be adopted by the working classes. However, it was enough to celebrate the May Day simply one time in order that everyone understand and feel that May Day must be a yearly and continuing institution.

The first of May demanded the introduction of the eight-hour day. But even after this goal was reached, May Day was not given up. As long as the struggle of the workers against the bourgeoisie and the ruling class continues, as long as all demands are not met, May Day will be the yearly expression of these demands.

And, when better days dawn, when the working class of the world has won its deliverance then too humanity will probably celebrate May Day in honor of the bitter struggles and the many sufferings of the past.

Pashtun people power is jolting the military establishment in Pakistan

By Abubakar Siddique

Abubakar Siddique, editor of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Gandhara website, is FFYH542RRI72XCXFKGKREVHLZMauthor of “The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key to the Future of Pakistan and Afghanistan.” The views expressed here are those of the author alone and not of his employer.

A new movement demanding security for Pakistan’s ethnic Pashtun minority is calling for the country’s leaders to roll back destructive policies that have fomented domestic volatility, ruined neighboring Afghanistan and fueled the longest war in U.S. history.

Since February, tens of thousands of young grass-roots activists of the PTM — the Urdu initials for the Pashtun Protection Movement — have been campaigning to compel Pakistan’s powerful generals to undo the destructive policies of the past four decades.

The PTM essentially wants Islamabad to recognize the fundamental human rights of more than 30 million Pashtuns, who are the second-largest group among Pakistan’s population of more than 207 million. The movement is pushing Islamabad to provide justice for thousands of alleged victims of forced disappearances through the court system and probe tens of thousands of extrajudicial killings in the Pashtuns’ insurgency-plagued northwestern homeland and across the country.

Military leaders have accommodated the PTM’s lesser demands for relaxation of curfews, for demining programs in remote mountainous regions and for an end to aggressive searches at checkpoints. But the generals are unwilling to make a paradigm shift by relaxing their grip on power and honoring the country’s laws and constitution by addressing disappearances and illegal killings. Crucially, they are especially reluctant to end their country’s participation in the war in Afghanistan.

They are trying to discredit the PTM’s rise by calling it a “hybrid war.” They have questioned the patriotism of the movement’s young leaders, arrested and harassed its activists, and attempted to sabotage its protests. Their fingerprints are all over the unspoken ban on media coverage of the movement, and they have unleashed an army of trolls on social media to malign it as an anti-state conspiracy sponsored by hostile foreign powers.

The Pakistani military’s mighty machine has worked overtime to link the movement to Afghanistan, where Pashtuns are a majority and elites have historically harbored irredentist claims. To their annoyance, Kabul has welcomed the Pashtun awakening in Pakistan, hoping the long-suffering masses will ultimately arm-twist Rawalpindi, a garrison city next to Islamabad where the army is headquartered, into abandoning hopes for dominating Afghanistan through hardline Islamist proxies such as the Taliban.

In Pakistan’s 70-year history, the PTM is perhaps the most vocal grass-roots movement that has directly challenged the men in uniform. Given that four army generals have ruled for nearly 35 years, or half of Pakistan’s history, their power — even under anemic civilian administrations — has remained unchallenged as they have defined the nuclear-armed nation’s foreign and defense policies. To the detriment of democracy and against the wishes of most Pakistanis, they have led their country into deepening domestic radicalization, international isolation, authoritarianism and poverty.

Their power is buttressed by monetary incentives after generations of generals turned the military into the country’s largest financial and industrial conglomerate. Their latest venture is a meatpacking plant, while real estate also remains a favorite.

Given these vested interests, it is not hard to see why the PTM’s sudden rise has rattled Pakistan’s generals. Most of its criticism targets the military, epitomized by the slogan ”The uniform is behind this terrorism.”

Yet the generals’ tactical and strategic maneuvers have run their course. Since the 1970s, Islamabad has invested heavily in hardline Islamist factions to compete against and even fight secular Pashtun movements and regimes in Pakistan and Afghanistan. After the creation of Bangladesh in 1971, military planners in Rawalpindi became obsessed with Pashtun dissent out of the fear that such movements could break up Pakistan with Kabul’s help. More than 40 million Pashtuns in the two countries are tied by language, lineage, historic memories and a shared interest in peace.

Beginning in the 1970s, Pakistani leaders chose the wrong path to counter this imagined threat by bankrolling Islamists and discriminating against Pashtun citizens by stereotyping them as warlike while denying them rights, modernity and prosperity.

After four decades and the deaths and displacement of millions of Pashtuns, Pakistan has gained little. The PTM, a manifestation of Pashtun social awareness, is likely to remain a major political player. Pakistan has lost its friends in Afghanistan as most Afghans see Islamabad as the primary source of their misery.

The generals in Rawalpindi still have an opportunity to address historic wrongs and choose the right course. Honest answers to the PTM’s demands — through the formation of a truth and reconciliation commission that the movement has called for — would be a good beginning.

A strategic shift, leading to a focus on Pakistanis’ welfare rather than endless war, is needed. Trying to suppress dissent through threats is likely to result only in instability and greater alienation of the Pashtuns and other minorities.

It’s time for the Pakistani generals to embrace the best course for their country rather than their interests. They must accept the supremacy of the Pakistani Constitution and heed the rule of law.

Published in Washington Post

History doesn’t go in a Straight Line


Noam Chomsky on Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn, and the potential for ordinary Chomsky-1people to make radical change.

INTERVIEW BY Tommaso Segantini

Throughout his illustrious career, one of Noam Chomsky’s chief preoccupations has been questioning — and urging us to question — the assumptions and norms that govern our society.

Following a talk on power, ideology, and US foreign policy last weekend at the New School in New York City, freelance Italian journalist Tommaso Segantini sat down with the eighty-six-year-old to discuss some of the same themes, including how they relate to processes of social change.

For radicals, progress requires puncturing the bubble of inevitability: austerity, for instance, “is a policy decision undertaken by the designers for their own purposes.” It is not implemented, Chomsky says, “because of any economic laws.” American capitalism also benefits from ideological obfuscation: despite its association with free markets, capitalism is shot through with subsidies for some of the most powerful private actors. This bubble needs popping too.

In addition to discussing the prospects for radical change, Chomsky comments on the Eurozone crisis, whether Syriza could’ve avoided submitting to Greece’s creditors, and the significance of Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders.

And he remains soberly optimistic. “Over time there’s a kind of a general trajectory towards a more just society, with regressions and reversals of course.”

In an interview a couple of years ago, you said that the Occupy Wall Street movement had created a rare sentiment of solidarity in the US. September 17 was the fourth anniversary of the OWS movement. What is your evaluation of social movements such as OWS over the last twenty years? Have they been effective in bringing about change? How could they improve?

NC: They’ve had an impact; they have not coalesced into persistent and ongoing movements. It’s a very atomized society. There are very few continuing organizations which have institutional memory, that know how to move to the next step and so on.

This is partly due to the destruction of the labor movement, which used to offer a kind of fixed basis for many activities; by now, practically the only persistent institutions are the churches. So many things are church-based.

It’s hard for a movement to take hold. There are often movements of young people, which tend to be transitory; on the other hand there’s a cumulative effect, and you never know when something will spark into a major movement. It’s happened time and again: civil rights movement, women’s movement. So keep trying until something takes off.

TS: The 2008 crisis clearly demonstrated the flaws of the neoliberal economic doctrine. Nevertheless, neoliberalism still seems to persist and its principles are still applied in many countries. Why, even with the tragic effects of the 2008 crisis, does the neoliberal doctrine appear to be so resilient? Why hasn’t there yet been a strong response like after the Great Depression?

NC: First of all, the European responses have been much worse than the US responses, which is quite surprising. In the US there were mild efforts at stimulus, quantitative easing and so on, which slowly allowed the economy to recover.

In fact, recovery from the Great Depression was actually faster in many countries than it is today, for a lot of reasons. In the case of Europe, one of the main reasons is that the establishment of a single currency was a built-in disaster, like many people pointed out. Mechanisms to respond to the crisis are not available in the EU: Greece, for example, can’t devalue its currency.

The integration of Europe had very positive developments in some respects and was harmful in others, especially when it is under the control of extremely reactionary economic powers, imposing policies which are economically destructive and that are basically a form of class war.

Why is there no reaction? Well, the weak countries are not getting support from others. If Greece had had support from Spain, Portugal, Italy, and other countries they might have been able to resist the eurocrat forces. These are kind of special cases having to do with contemporary developments. In the 1930s, remember the responses were not particularly attractive: one of them was Nazism.

TS: Several months ago Alexis Tsipras, leader of Syriza, was elected as Greece’s prime minister. In the end, however, he had to make many compromises due to the pressure imposed on him by financial powers, and was forced to implement harsh austerity measures.

Do you think that, in general, genuine change can come when a radical leftist leader like Tsipras comes to power, or have nation states lost too much sovereignty and are they too dependent on financial institutions that can discipline them if they don’t follow the rules of the free market?

NC: As I said, in the case of Greece, if there had been popular support for Greece from other parts of Europe, Greece might have been able to withstand the assault of the eurocrat bank alliance. But Greece was alone — it did not have many options.

There are very good economists such as Joseph Stiglitz who think Greece should have just pulled out of the eurozone. It’s a very risky step. Greece is a very small economy, it’s not much of an export economy, and it would be too weak to withstand external pressures.

There are people who criticize the Syriza tactics and the stand that they took, but I think it’s hard to see what options they had with the lack of external support.

TS: Let’s imagine for example that Bernie Sanders won the 2016 presidential elections. What do you think would happen? Could he bring radical change in the structures of power of the capitalist system?

NC: Suppose that Sanders won, which is pretty unlikely in a system of bought elections. He would be alone: he doesn’t have congressional representatives, he doesn’t have governors, he doesn’t have support in the bureaucracy, he doesn’t have state legislators; and standing alone in this system, he couldn’t do very much. A real political alternative would be across the board, not just a figure in the White House.

It would have to be a broad political movement. In fact, the Sanders campaign I think is valuable — it’s opening up issues, it’s maybe pressing the mainstream Democrats a little bit in a progressive direction, and it is mobilizing a lot of popular forces, and the most positive outcome would be if they remain after the election.

It’s a serious mistake to just to be geared to the quadrennial electoral extravaganza and then go home. That’s not the way changes take place. The mobilization could lead to a continuing popular organization which could maybe have an effect in the long run.

TS: What is your opinion on the emergence of figures such as Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, Pablo Iglesias in Spain, or Bernie Sanders in the US? Is a new left movement on the rise, or are these just sporadic responses to the economic crisis?

NC: It depends what the popular reaction is. Take Corbyn in England: he’s under fierce attack, and not only from the Conservative establishment, but even from the Labour establishment. Hopefully Corbyn will be able to withstand that kind of attack; that depends on popular support. If the public is willing to back him in the face of the defamation and destructive tactics, then it can have an impact. Same with Podemos in Spain.

TS: How can one mobilize a large number of people on such complex issues?

NC: It’s not that complex. The task of organizers and activists is to help people understand and to make them recognize that they have power, that they’re not powerless. People feel impotent, but that has to be overcome. That’s what organizing and activism is all about.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it fails, but there aren’t any secrets. It’s a long-term process — it has always been the case. And it’s had successes. Over time there’s a kind of a general trajectory towards a more just society, with regressions and reversals of course.

TS: So would you say that, during your lifetime, humanity has progressed in the construction of a somewhat more just society?

NC: There have been enormous changes. Just look here at MIT. Take a walk down the hall and take a look at the nature of the student body: it’s about half women, a third minorities, informally dressed, casual relations among people and so on. When I got here in 1955, if you’d walk down the same hall it would have been white males, jackets and ties, very polite, obedient, not posing many questions. That’s a huge change.

And it’s not just here — it’s all over the place. You and I wouldn’t have looked like this, and in fact you probably wouldn’t be here. Those are some of the cultural and social changes that have taken place thanks to committed and dedicated activism.

Other things have not, like the labor movement, which has been under severe attack all throughout American history and particularly since the early 1950s. It has been seriously weakened: in the private sector it’s marginal, and it’s now being attacked in the public sector. That’s a regression.

The neoliberal policies are certainly a regression. For the majority of the population in the US, there’s been pretty much stagnation and decline in the last generation. And not because of any economic laws. These are policies. Just as austerity in Europe is not an economic necessity — in fact, it’s economic nonsense. But it’s a policy decision undertaken by the designers for their own purposes. I think basically it’s a kind of class war, and it can be resisted, but it’s not easy. History doesn’t go in a straight line.

TS: How do you think that the capitalist system will survive, considering its dependence on fossil fuels and its impact on the environment?

NC: What’s called the capitalist system is very far from any model of capitalism or market. Take the fossil fuels industries: there was a recent study by the IMF which tried to estimate the subsidy that energy corporations get from governments. The total was colossal. I think it was around $5 trillion annually. That’s got nothing to do with markets and capitalism.

And the same is true of other components of the so-called capitalist system. By now, in the US and other Western countries, there’s been, during the neoliberal period, a sharp increase in the financialization of the economy. Financial institutions in the US had about 40 percent of corporate profits on the eve of the 2008 collapse, for which they had a large share of responsibility.

There’s another IMF study that investigated the profits of American banks, and it found that they were almost entirely dependent on implicit public subsidies. There’s a kind of a guarantee — it’s not on paper, but it’s an implicit guarantee — that if they get into trouble they will be bailed out. That’s called too-big-to-fail.

And the credit rating agencies of course know that, they take that into account, and with high credit ratings financial institutions get privileged access to cheaper credit, they get subsidies if things go wrong and many other incentives, which effectively amounts to perhaps their total profit. The business press tried to make an estimate of this number and guessed about $80 billion a year. That’s got nothing to do with capitalism.

It’s the same in many other sectors of the economy. So the real question is, will this system of state capitalism, which is what it is, survive the continued use of fossil fuels? And the answer to that is, of course, no.

By now, there’s a pretty strong consensus among scientists who say that a large majority of the remaining fossil fuels, maybe 80 percent, have to be left in the ground if we hope to avoid a temperature rise which would be pretty lethal. And it is not happening. Humans may be destroying their chances for decent survival. It won’t kill everybody, but it would change the world dramatically.

Earth’s carbon dioxide levels reach highest point in 800,000 years


Carbon dioxide — the gas scientists say is most responsible for global warming —fossil_fuel2_2 reached its highest level in recorded history last month, at 410 parts per million.

This amount is highest in at least the past 800,000 years, according to the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. Prior to the onset of the Industrial Revolution, carbon dioxide levels had fluctuated over the millennia but had never exceeded 300 parts per million.

“We keep burning fossil fuels. Carbon dioxide keeps building up in the air,” said Scripps scientist Ralph Keeling, who maintains the longest continuous record of atmospheric carbon dioxide on Earth. “It’s essentially as simple as that.”

Ralph Keeling and his late father Charles David Keeling have kept carbon dioxide (CO2) measurements at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii since 1958

The average concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 410.31 parts per million (ppm) for the month of April, according to the Keeling Curve measurement series.

This marks the first time in the history of the Mauna Loa record that a monthly average has exceeded 410 parts per million. It’s also a 30 per cent increase in carbon dioxide concentration in the global atmosphere since the Keeling Curve began in 1958.

“As a scientist, what concerns me the most is not that we have passed yet another round-number threshold but what this continued rise actually means: that we are continuing full speed ahead with an unprecedented experiment with our planet, the only home we have,” Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University, tweeted.

Carbon dioxide is called a greenhouse gas for its ability to trap solar radiation and keep it confined to the atmosphere. It is the most prevalent among all greenhouse gases produced by human activities, attributed to the burning of fossil fuels.

The increase in gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide is fuelling climate change and making “the planet more dangerous and inhospitable for future generations,” the World Meteorological Organization has said.

Increasing amounts of carbon dioxide and other gases are enhancing the planet’s natural “greenhouse effect.”

CO2 levels were around 280 parts per million prior to the Industrial Revolution in the late 1800s, when large amounts of greenhouse gases began to be released by burning fossil fuels.

The burning of the oil, gas and coal for energy releases greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. These gases have caused the Earth’s temperature to rise over the past century to levels that cannot be explained by natural variability.

Carbon dioxide is invisible, odourless and colourless, yet it’s responsible for 63 per cent of the warming attributable to all greenhouse gases, according to NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo.

Levels of carbon dioxide go up and down each year, reaching their highest levels in May and then going back down in the fall as plants absorb the gas.

Published in The Star

Students leading scientific innovations at Gwadar’s First Science Festival

Press Release

Gwadar: Gwadar’s largest one-day science festival for schoolchildren kicked off on at WhatsApp Image 2018-04-28 at 2.18.59 PMGovernment Model High School, to ignite a spark for science and discovery among students in the region, and to promote better quality of learning available in government schools. The festival was organized by Deputy Commissioner Gwadar Dawood Ahmad Khilji, Education Department Gwadar, District Government, Bamsaar, Gwadar Association of Professionals, Hameed Honda, and Pakistan Alliance for Maths and Science.

The festival was inaugurated by Chief Justice Balochistan High Court Muhammad Noor Miskanzai, Chairman Gwadar Port Mir Dostain Khan Jamaldini, Commissioner Mekuran Muhammad Ayaz Mandokhail, National Party’s Ashraf Hussain and Deputy Commander 440 Brigade Col. Abdul Rasheed.

The festival attracted a massive attendance of over 3500 students from more than 28 government and private schools of Gwadar district. Teachers, entrepreneurs, science specialists, government officials and politicians attended the festival where students exhibited more than 100 science models displaying their passion for science and technology, and introduced innovative concepts to the visitors.

Interactive displays and live experiments, some of which involved robotics, hydraulics, earthquake detectors, web and app development and environment-based projects were conducted by the students and four science organizations from across Pakistan including Ejaad Tech, Stemmers, Pakistan Science Club and Sabaq. Two students had made a hydraulic bridge for a currently-proposed expressway in Gwadar to allow fishing boats to pass underneath it. Similarly, many students had chosen local issues and problems facing their communities in Gwadar to create their science models – some of them had done so on their own without having science teachers available in their schools. Chief Justice of Balochistan High Court Muhammad Noor Miskanzai also participated in the hands-on activity by Pakistan Science Club with children as a source of encouragement.

Nations have used math and science to empower their citizens with higher incomes, and to help grow their economies. Math and science education is not only integral to Pakistan’s prospects for economic growth and national security.

Today, Pakistan’s only deep-sea port city Gwadar is positioned to be an international trade hub and lead Pakistan’s ambitions to become an innovator in industrial, technical and strategic domains. Against this backdrop, the city offers an ideal opportunity to provide its students and youth with world-class quality math and science education to allow them to support and spearhead the economic and technological transformation of the region in the near future.

Currently, public schools in Gwadar face a learning crisis. 26% students in grade 5 cannot read a story in Urdu, 23% students in grade 5 cannot read a sentence in English, and 29% students in grade 5 cannot perform a 2-digit division.

Such quality-oriented interventions can help provide these children with an enabling environment to pursue and absorb high-quality learning, and push for an increased focus on improvements in math and science learning inside classrooms, which could prove to be instrumental in Gwadar’s response to the opportunities available to the city, as well as to the province of Balochistan at-large.

Stephen Hawking’s final paper on the universe says things are much simpler than we think

By Maham Abedi 5aae6b97873dc625008b48e9-960-720

National Online Journalist, Breaking News  Global News

Stephen Hawking’s final thoughts on the universe — or rather multiverse — have been published.

The renowned physicist, who died in March, explains in his final piece of writing that the multiverse is much simpler than previously thought.

His paper, called A smooth exit from eternal inflation?, was published Wednesday in the Journal of High Energy Physics. It is co-authored by Belgian physicist Thomas Hertog.

The work puts a slight question mark on the widely accepted idea that the big bang was followed by repeated bursts called “cosmic inflation,” which created several universes throughout space that are infinite and impossible to measure.

The many universes were said to be radically different from one another.

But the latest paper says that isn’t the case — they’re actually “finite and reasonably smooth.”

“In the old theory there were all sorts of universes: some were empty, others were full of matter, some expanded too fast, others were too short-lived. There was huge variation,” Hertog explained, according to The Guardian.

Hertog explained that the new paper “reduces the multiverse down to a more manageable set of universes which look alike.”

That solves a few problems for scientists, who were unable to test the original theory that the multiverse is infinite.

The theory that the multiverse is finite is easier to test, and the universes more comprehensible. Hertog told Live Science that this was precisely Hawking’s goal with this paper.

“Hawking was not satisfied with this state of affairs,” Hertog said. “‘Let’s try to tame the multiverse,’ he told me a year ago.”

Power to protect

By Noor Baloch, Malir Karachi

When a debate builds on State and its origins, understating of some theories is requiredl_311815_065736_updates because state is a complex institution, social contract theory theorizes that State uses power for protection of its citizens. And individuals submit some freedom to state or magistrate in exchange of protection of their lives and ETC.

As public pays tax which is arranged and utilized on public in term of health, education and other means. But unfortunately here authoritarians increase their bank balances by public tax and also play with the lives of citizen.

If we talk about misuses of taxes, then PANAMA case comes in mind or talk about misuses of power by State. Then Naqeeb Ullah Mehsood comes in mind.

Instead of protection of children, like Zainab and other, Naqeeb Ullah Mehsood is killed from that authority where he had submitted his freedom for his protection.

A young man, who migrated from wazeeristan to Karachi and killed by a notorious police officer Rao Anwar in the name of eradicating terrorism. Officers like Rao Anwar have been crashing the lives of citizen in such fake encounter.

When citizens, like Naqeeb Ullah Mehsood are killed one roads, let’s imagine, then what is the mean of existence of courts.

If there was no political support behind murder of Mehsood, then how Rao Anwar disappeared? If our justice system has/had been functioning, would such incidents have happened?

On the other hand, if we talk about Zainab raped-murder case which brought a serious unrest among nation. But at last her killer has been arrested and there is demand of public execution.

Here a question raises public execution of murderer Imran would prevent such crime child sex abuse? This is not any mechanism which prevents such dimensional cases rather is reflection of Archaic mind set.

There is infinite negative guidance about religion a brilliant student like Mashal Khan who was killed in pretense of religion. Here let’s see how much we are in confinement of ignorance we just discus such heart touching events and media just spreads sensationalizing for its marketing.

Although media is required to create awareness of consequential aspects of such cases and should reach and highlight the rout-causes and elements of such horrible issues.

The country is burning in the flames of extremism; does media carry any research how religious radicalization got birth? Does media impart awareness that religious radicalization and gun-culture was shaped during Zia-ul-haq regime? And how desire of dollar put Pakistan in terrorism and extremism?

Media highlights those cases which are happening. Media never imparts awareness which brings conscious in nation, because media wears the glasses of politician. Then in the eyes of politicians Rao Anwar is a brave police officer because he ever protected interests of them. Our country’s operator claims for being nuclear power but its political system totally dead or failed.

‘Are you with the tyrants?’ Pakistani Che risks all to take on the army

Manzoor Pashteen’s Pashtun Protection Movement gathers support in country where criticism of army is rare

Every morning Ahmed Shah puts on his circular, red-and-black cap, decorated with 4360spades, and feels ready to take on the world. “For me this cap is a symbol of resistance,” he says. “That’s why I like it.”

Shah (not his real name) is one of thousands of Pakistanis who have taken to wearing the distinctive tribal hat to show their support for Manzoor Pashteen.

The charismatic 26-year-old, rarely seen without his “Pashteen hat”, leads the Pashtun Protection Movement (PTM), which has convulsed the country with unprecedentedly virulent criticism of the powerful armed forces.

It accuses the military of being behind a litany of abuses in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), an inhospitable, mountainous region on the border with Afghanistan dominated by Pakistan’s 15-million-strong Pashtun minority and which has played host to a variety of terrorist groups.

Although Pashteen is committed to non-violent protest, his youthfulness, firebrand speeches and distinctive headgear have drawn comparisons with Che Guevara.

What marks the PTM out as a particular threat to Pakistan’s army, which has ruled the country for more than half its 70-year history, is that its allegations mirror those made by western officials, namely that the army plays a “double game” with regard to terrorism, silently supporting groups that target India and Afghanistan.

The government has responded with a crackdown, banning rallies and harassing PTM supporters. Nine PTM activists have gone missing in Karachi, Pakistan’s southern business capital. At a rally last weekend in Swat, pro-military protesters tried to block entry to some of a 25,000-strong crowd.

Even the “Pashteen hat” has been subjected to local, unofficial bans. Replicas can no longer be found in the Swat valley city of Mingora, where at least five shopkeepers selling the hat were recently detained and beaten by thugs associated with the military, locals say.

At a rally in Lahore on 21 April, held in defiance of the government ban, Pashteen bowed his head like a boxer as minders escorted him through an exultant, selfie-taking crowd to a stage adorned with pictures of missing people.

Earlier that day, sewage had mysteriously flooded the ground. About 8,000 people – many in the Pashteen cap – chanted “the uniforms are behind the terrorists”, a slogan that fosters particular apoplexy in the military’s headquarters in Rawalpindi.

Pashteen tells his audience that he has come to Lahore, a city populated by relatively few Pashtuns, to “expose what the army are doing against us”. To his right, a gigantic poster shows a devastated, rubble-strewn street in a town in North Waziristan partly flattened during a 2014 military campaign against Pakistan’s Taliban.

That campaign is credited with helping reduce deaths from terrorism by more than two-thirds. Yet, according to the PTM, ordinary Pashtuns were caught in the crossfire, and have ever since been subject to humiliating curfews, checkpoints and collective punishment by troops stationed to maintain order.

So-called enforced disappearances generate particular grief. A government commission has dealt with almost 5,000 cases since 2011, but rights groups say this number vastly underestimates the scale of the problem. “According to the constitution, anybody who commits a crime must be produced in a court of law within 24 hours,” says Pashteen. “But so many people have been taken and are still missing.”

His voice rising, almost to a scream, Pashteen yells at the crowd “are you with the tyrants?” He calls on ordinary soldiers to defy the orders of high command; a statement some have interpreted as treasonous. One rally-goer from Pakistan’s Punjab majority bites his lip and glances anxiously over his shoulder. “It’s quite remarkable hearing this,” he says, on condition of anonymity. “What it portends for Pakistan I don’t know.”

Shutdown of Pakistani TV network hints at army’s bid for control

By tradition the military is largely referred to in code, as “the establishment” or, in the case of agents of the feared Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), “angels”. Among PTM-supporters, however, that is changing.

“Before the PTM we didn’t say anything, even in our bedrooms, about the ISI and military intelligence,” says Shehrullah Khan, whose brother was “disappeared” from his luggage shop in 2016. With some safety in numbers, “we can now say everything in our mind and hearts”.

PTM leaders admit that some of the disappeared may have links to the Taliban, but argue that all should be produced in court to face charges.

A white flag, representing the movement’s commitment to non-violent protest, flutters above the stage. Among the stereotypes Pashteen is helping to break down, says analyst Fasi Zaka, is that of “Pashtuns being a martial ethnic group given to conflict”. Its leaders argue that Pashtuns are more victims of the Taliban than the willing hosts often portrayed in the media. One, Ali Wazir, has had 17 members of his family or killed.

The military response betrays choking discomfort. General Bajwa, the chief of army staff, has referred indirectly to the PTM as being “engineered” by Pakistan’s enemies. Reporting on the movement has been censored in the media.

Yet, unable to stop its growth, corps commander Lt General Nazir Ahmad Butt held a meeting last week with the PTM to discuss its “legitimate grievances”, referring to a five-point list of demands that includes de-mining, the punishment of a Karachi police chief accused of carrying out extrajudicial killings, and a “truth and reconciliation commission” on enforced disappearances.

“The PTM’s success,” says civil rights activist Jibran Nasir, is that after years of denial, some in the military “admit there have been some transgressions”.

From the back seat of a car whisking him away from a horde of supporters, Pashteen tells the Guardian that he is unconcerned by a possible threat to his life.

“At first my family said they would throw me out of the house,” he says, “but now they say if you are killed, then at least you will have done something for the people.”

Published in The Guardian

Afghanistan: Where home is a battlefield

Aid agencies in Afghanistan are bracing for another refugee influx, but long-term reintegration plans are absent

SPIN BOLDAK/Afghanistan, After two decades in Pakistan, 35-year-old Durkhane is finally back in her native Afghanistan – but she has nowhere to go.

Sitting on a plastic chair here at a UN-run reception center in the dusty border town of


Enter aDurkhane, 35, sits with her daughters in a border reception centre for Afghan returnees who have just arrived from Pakistan. Returning Afghans are screened and offered short-term aid, but are largely left on their own when they leave. caption

Spin Boldak in Kandahar Province, Durkhane is among almost one million Afghans who have returned from Pakistan over the last three years. They’re coming home to a country mired in conflict, where aid for basic needs, jobs, and support for reintegration are in short supply.


Long a safe haven for Afghans fleeing instability, Pakistan has made it increasingly clear that the nearly 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees on its soil, as well as an estimated one million undocumented Afghans like Durkhane, are not welcome. Pakistan has set a 30 June deadline before identity cards allowing registered refugees to legally stay in the country will expire – the latest in a series of short-term extensions that has put Afghans and aid groups on edge.

Returnees like Durkhane face an uncertain future. Durkhane’s family is from Kajaki District in neighboring Helmand Province, an area contested by the Taliban and frequently hit by airstrikes. She said she doesn’t know if it’s safe to go back to Kajaki.

“We are worried about it, but what to do? We know that in Afghanistan, no place is secure,” she said.

Each week, new violence makes headlines, as the Taliban and forces aligned to so-called Islamic State battle each other and the besieged government for control. This week, IS-claimed bombings in Kabul killed at least 25 people, while an attack on a military convoy here in Kandahar killed 11 children studying at a nearby school. Last year, more than 10,000 civilians were killed or injured in conflict, while half a million were displaced throughout the country, according to UN figures.

Yet Afghan refugees continue to cross the border from Pakistan. UN agencies are


Afghans return from Pakistan and Iran through four main border crossings. More than 600,000 Afghans returned home from either country in 2017. Authorities and aid groups in Afghanistan are bracing for higher numbers this year.

preparing a contingency aid plan for 700,000 returnees this year, on top of some 400,000 people predicted to return from Iran, which is also deporting Afghans in large numbers.

The Afghan government says it’s trying to help the returnees, but so far it has resettled only a few thousand people over three years. Both local and international humanitarian agencies say they’re overstretched as it is, and they fear a mass influx will add to the instability. And rights groups say neither the government nor donors have tackled the returnees’ most pressing long-term needs: jobs, schools, and a secure place to live.

Moving deadlines, growing uncertainty

A spike in expulsions from Pakistan in 2016 offers a blueprint for what could come this year. Pakistani authorities drove out more than 600,000 Afghans in what Human Rights Watch called ”a toxic combination of deportation threats and police abuses”. Afghanistan struggled to absorb the sudden influx, and the UN launched a $152-million emergency appeal to cope.

Last year, total returns from Pakistan fell to about 157,000. But Pakistan has cranked up


Men cross the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan at the busy Spin Boldak border post in Kandahar Province. The crossing is one of two major border checkpoints Afghan returnees from Pakistan use to re-enter the country.

its rhetoric around sending refugees back to US-supported Afghanistan – a reaction, some analysts suggest, to US President Donald Trump’s January threat to cut aid after he accused Pakistan of harboring militants.

So far, Pakistan has pushed back its deadline for Afghan refugees three times since January; past extensions have been for at least six months and often longer. Ahead of the current 30 June cut-off, about 11,000 people have returned – mostly undocumented Afghans who say they fear deportation, harassment, or worsening job prospects in Pakistan.

Aid groups say the situation for Afghans in Pakistan is volatile. “The situation of Afghans in Pakistan remains precarious and subject to political dynamics and the continued acceptance of host communities,” a recent UN update of aid programs in Afghanistan stated.

Returnees enter Afghanistan mainly through border crossings like Spin Boldak, where


Young men wait for work on the Afghan side of the Spin Boldak border crossing. Day labourers eke out a living packing trucks and helping families move their belongings into vehicles after crossing the border.

the government and the International Organization for Migration run a reception center. Here, undocumented returnees are screened, and the most vulnerable are offered short-term help: medical services, food, money for transport, and a night’s accommodation. But after that, returnees are largely left on their own.

Anwar Jan, 45, sat with his family at the reception center. He has lived most of his adult life across the border in Quetta, working as a day laborer. But escalating harassment by Pakistani authorities convinced him it was finally time to leave.

“We were refugees without identification cards,” he said. “The police would arrest us, and it was too difficult for us. The situation in Afghanistan is better than in Pakistan for us. No one will arrest us without a reason here.”

But Jan and his family face obstacles as they try to rebuild their lives. Jobs are scarce, and many Afghans return to find their ancestral homes caught behind a shifting frontline.

“Most [returnees] are from districts where security is a big challenge,” said Fahim Safi,


Mullah Nek Muhammad, left, sits with Patte Mohammad Khan, centre, and Abdullah Hakim, right, at a home on the outskirts of Kandahar City. Khan says he struggles to earn enough money: “We will die of hunger in our home country,” he says.

the IOM representative in Kandahar and Nangarhar provinces, home to the two main border crossings between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

A January survey of returned Afghans by the Norwegian Refugee Council found that violence forced seven out of 10 people interviewed to flee again after they returned home.

A growing number move to crowded informal settlements that have multiplied across the country over the last five years, bolstered by displacement and the ongoing injection of new returnees.

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations is responsible for helping returning Afghans reintegrate. Some, like Jan and Durkhane, have spent more time abroad than in the country of their birth. But a plan to provide land for vulnerable returnees in Jan’s home district of Panjwai, near Kandahar City, has floundered.

Nationwide, only 7,000 returned families have received land from the government agency in the past three years, according to Hafiz Ahmad Miakhel, a ministry spokesman. “The procedure of providing land has taken time,” he said.

Rights groups say the absence of any large-scale government land program for returnees stands in the way of reintegration.

“It remains possibly the most serious concern for returnees – both land and housing in general,” said Patricia Gossman, Human Rights Watch’s senior researcher on Afghanistan.

Going back

With little long-term support from the government or aid agencies, many returnees here head to urban centers like Kandahar City, about 100 kilometers from the Pakistan border over barren desert land.

Families of Afghan returnees cluster together on the outskirts of the city, living in rented mud-brick homes lodged between large warehouses and petrol pumps. Most of the families had lived in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, and arrived one after the other in recent years as the pressure to leave intensified.

“There is so much land in Afghanistan that hundreds of thousands of returnees could live there,” said Mullah Nek Muhammad, a malik, or leader of the group. “But [authorities] haven’t given us even a square meter so far.”

Already, he said, many newly returned Afghans from his area are thinking of packing up and heading back across the border to Pakistan – despite the threat of harassment and deportation. A close relative recently made the reverse journey, he said: “He spent two, three months here. There was no work; he sold all his possessions and moved back to Karachi.”

Patte Mohammad Khan makes less than a dollar a day driving a three-wheeler, he said – barely enough to cover his monthly rent. He says he left Pakistan because of constant harassment; he doesn’t plan to return.

But with five hungry children he often can’t afford to feed, it’s hard not to think about the life he left behind.

“If I tell the truth, our life was better in Pakistan,” he said.

(TOP PHOTO: The residents of this small community on the southern outskirts of Kandahar City are almost all recent returnees from Pakistan. The returnees say many in the area are considering going back to Pakistan, despite the risks. CREDIT: Kern Hendricks/IRIN)

Marx the Journalist


Marx is often remembered as a political economist or philosopher. But he made his mark as a journalist.

INTERVIEW BY Steven Sherman

Political economist. Philosopher. Journalist? Two hundred years after his birth, Marx isoptimized-maxW950-marx remembered as many things — but not often as a member of the Fourth Estate.

James Ledbetter sees that as a mistake. The editor of a 2008 volume of Marx’s journalism called Dispatches for the New York Tribune, Ledbetter makes the provocative case that we should see Marx as a journalist first and foremost. In the following interview, conducted by Steven Sherman shortly after the book’s release, Ledbetter discusses the content and significance of Marx’s long journalism career.

Steven Sherman: Perhaps the most surprising thing about these writings is that Marx was published in a US newspaper. How did Marx come into his journalism phase?

James Ledbetter: Marx was a journalist more or less all of his adult life. He started writing for the Rheinische Zeitung in 1842, and founded his own paper in 1848. His work for the Tribune came about because he’d met an American newspaper editor, Charles Dana (who would later go on to edit the New York Sun) in Cologne in 1848, and a few years later Dana asked Marx to contribute some articles to the New York Tribune on the situation in Germany.

I think that Marx and Engels viewed the Tribune as a way to publicize their views and to influence debate with a large number of readers; it must also be said that Marx needed the money. The payments from the Tribune articles were the steadiest form of income Marx ever earned (if you don’t count the constant “loans” from Engels).

SS: Can you describe the paper he was published in, the New York Tribune?

JL: The New York Tribune was founded in 1841 by Horace Greeley, and it quickly became both the largest newspaper in the world (a circulation of over two hundred thousand during the time that Marx was contributing) as well as the foremost anti-slavery organ in the United States. It featured a number of innovations, including the first regular section of literary reviews, as well as numerous foreign correspondents, including Marx.

The paper hit some difficult financial times in the late 1850s, and when the Civil War broke out there was great dissent among its principals about supporting the war and supporting Lincoln (Marx’s editor Dana left during this time).

SS: Since Marx was based in London, why didn’t he write for a British paper?

JL: He did write somewhat regularly for the British newspaper affiliated with the Chartist movement, the People’s Paper, although as often as not those pieces were adapted versions of material he’d published elsewhere, such as the Tribune. As for the establishment British papers, I don’t think they had much interest in him as a contributor.

SS: Was Marx’s status as the author of the Communist Manifesto well known at the time? Do you have any sense of how his writings were received in the US?

JL: This is a crucial point. For all intents and purposes, there was no English translation of the Manifesto published before 1888, five years after Marx died. (An obscure British journal published a translation prior to that, but I can’t imagine that more than a handful of Americans ever saw it.)

This translation lag also existed for the vast majority of Marx’s book-length writing. A few American readers who read German would conceivably have known of the Manifesto and Marx’s earlier writing on philosophy, but again, their number would have been very small. Hence, the Karl Marx that most Tribune readers saw had no other reputation to precede him.

SS: Can you talk a little about Marx’s approach to journalism?

JL: The dispatches that Marx published don’t greatly resemble most of what gets published as journalism today, and in many respects they don’t greatly resemble what was published as Anglo-American journalism in the nineteenth century, either.

That is to say: they contain essentially nothing that would today be called “reporting”: no firsthand accounts of events, large or small; no interviews with sources, official or otherwise. They are critical essays constructed, as so much of Marx’s work was, out of the research materials available to him in the British Library.

This isn’t to say that Marx’s dispatches were not timely. Indeed, he was quite fastidious about making his pieces as up-to-date as possible, including last-minute tidbits he got from personal correspondence or that day’s newspaper (which seems quaintly ironic today, given that the articles traveled by steamship to New York, and thus would typically be published some ten to fifteen days after they were written).

But the basic Marx approach to his New York Tribune column was to take an event that was in the news — an election, an uprising, the second Opium War, the outbreak of the American Civil War — and sift through it until he could boil it down to some fundamental questions of politics or economics. And then on those questions he would make his judgment. In this sense, Marx’s journalism does resemble some of the writing that is published today in journals of opinion, and it’s not hard to see a direct line between Marx’s journalistic writing and the kind of tendentious writing on public affairs that characterized much political journalism (especially in Europe) in the twentieth century.

SS: A number of the issues covered in the writings collected in the book resonate with those of the contemporary world — questions of free trade, justifications for war, the impact of colonialism. Some of the media outlets mentioned, such as the Economist, are even the same. Furthermore, since Marx of Marxist political movements, one might also say that the political landscape in some ways resembles that of the present, i.e., many spots of unrest and conflict, rather than a disciplined, readily identifiable movement marching forward or retreating. Can you talk a little about how he saw the free trade question? Britain’s wars with China? Unrest in Europe? The impact of colonialism and resistance in India?

JL: “Free trade” was arguably the most dominant economic ideology in Europe in the first half of the nineteenth century, as Adam Smith’s writing was translated into various languages; as governments began experimenting with tariff reductions; and as a rising bourgeois class asserted its influence economically and politically. Much of Marx’s economic writing during this time was devoted to exposing what he saw as the fallacies of free trade thinking, some of them obvious and some of them hidden. In Marx’s view, capitalism as a whole was destined to fail, and thus the redistribution of wealth created by the adoption of free trade policies was at best a temporary phenomenon, and at worst widened and deepened the effects of poverty in countries and population segments on the losing end of the free trade equation.

This perspective greatly influenced his view on Britain’s actions in China and India. In Marx’s view, the opium trade — which greatly ballooned at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteen century — was necessary to prop up the otherwise shaky British economy. Literally, Marx believed that the British crown (acting with the British East India Company) was forcing the Indians to grow opium and forcing addiction onto the Chinese — all in the name of free trade.

As for uprisings, you’ve identified what might charitably be called a ”tension” and less charitably be called a “contradiction” in Marx’s writing. The crushing of the 1848 revolution in France and elsewhere was, I would argue, the most politically significant event for Marx in his lifetime, certainly prior to the launch of the First International and the establishment of the Paris Commune in 1871. After 1848, Marx learned the power of counterrevolution, and began to believe that existing systems of government and economy could not be overthrown until a relatively informed and organized proletariat could be mobilized to do so. As became clear with every passing year, in many nations such organization was decades away, if it existed at all.

And yet, reading through Marx’s Tribune dispatches, you can’t help but see an urgency, an excitement — almost an impatience — in his portrayals of some insurrections and crises in Europe and India. At times he wrote as if this particular rise in corn prices, or this little dust-up with authorities in Greece, was going to be the spark that would ignite revolution. And it’s not as if one can fault Marx for feeling that way; after all, during this period crowned heads of Europe were toppling and certainly at least liberal revolutions seemed likely in a number of settings. But there are times when his discipline of thought appears to leave him, and he is also prone to the tautology that revolution can only occur when the masses are ready, but we can’t know for certain if the masses are ready until they create a revolution.

SS: You note that Marx’s view of the US is somewhat surprising, given the trajectory of Marxism in the twentieth century. Can you elaborate? What was his view of the American civil war and the way it was being covered in the British press?

JL: I’m not aware that Marx ever wrote a single essay in which he laid out his complete views of the United States, and so one must infer a bit from the essays he wrote during the Civil War, as well as from certain facts, such as the fact that he signed a letter from the International Workingmen’s Association to Abraham Lincoln, congratulating him on his reelection in 1864. It should also be said that Marx never visited the United States.

Nonetheless, it is clear that Marx was attracted to at least two aspects of American life: its lack of a monarchy, and its lack of an established aristocracy. Marx keenly followed politics in America, and believed the founding of the Republican Party and the election of Lincoln to be major, ground-shifting events in American history. His pronounced attacks on the British press coverage of the Civil War stemmed from what he saw as rife hypocrisy on their part. The textile industry was a huge engine of the British economy (it employed Engels, after all), and it depended on cheap cotton from the slave-holding American south. And when the British press criticized Lincoln for either being too radical or not radical enough (a common observation was that the North was not really seeking to abolish slavery, but merely to protect the union, which meant protecting slave-holding rights in those states where they still existed), Marx pounced on the hypocrisy as a mere cover to keep cheap cotton flowing.

SS: How do you think exposure to these writings might reshape our understanding of Marx?

JL: In a few ways. One is that readers of Marx’s economic and philosophical writings might conclude that Marx was an abstract thinker, concerned primarily with theory and detached from the immediate issues around him. Of course, Marx was more abstract than many, but I think these writings demonstrate that Marx was keenly, passionately engaged in the details — even the minutiae — of public life in the nineteenth century. Indeed, some contemporary observers now argue that Marx’s engagement in journalistic writing significantly affected his broader, book-length work, a line of inquiry I think is worth pursuing.

Second: it is common for contemporary Marxists to portray their own line of thought as objective and scientific, and separate from the sentimental, moralizing thinking that motivates liberals and others. There’s something to that, and certainly Marx in other contexts portrayed his own work as akin to scientific method. And yet, if you look through this volume for the most passionate and persuasive writing, you’ll find that it is usually deployed on behalf of a cause that at least outwardly resembles moral imperatives: ending slavery; ending the opium trade and its attendant addiction; giving common people a voice in their governance; and ending poverty. It is not an original observation regarding Marx to say that there is an apparent contradiction between portraying history as the inevitable result of conflicting international forces, and attempting to galvanize people to take history in their own hands — what might be called the determinism fallacy. At a minimum, these writings show Marx was never content to sit back and let history take its course; he felt compelled to persuade, to use the workings of the news cycle as bits of evidence that his world view is the most sound.

Which leads to the final point: Marx today is taught as an economic theorist; as a political thinker; and to some degree as a historian and philosopher. Each category is valid; each is also incomplete. The historical record, however, at least suggests another category: that Marx should be thought of as a professional writer, as a journalist. The Penguin Classics volume I’ve edited is but a sample; overall Marx produced, with help from Engels, nearly five hundred articles for the Tribune, which together amass nearly seven volumes of the two men’s fifty-volume collected works. I think we come closer to understanding the importance of rhetoric in Marx’s work if we think of him as a journalist.

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