NAWAIWAQT GROUP
Columns
Sunday, 20 April, 2014

Amidst the din of Pakistani news channels and their proclivity for making mountains out of molehills, important issues are often neglected. One such issue pertains to the ongoing election processes across our eastern and western borders. The voting process for Presidential elections has ended in Afghanistan and preliminary results will be announced on 24th April, 2014. India has a lengthy voting phase, which started on 7th April. Voting will continue in different states till 12th May and results are expected to be announced on16th May. Another election took place in one of our current ...

It is unfortunate that the media lens has reduced the Internet Freedom and fundamental rights petition in the Lahore High Court (LHC) to just the case for reopening Youtube. Therefore, it is important for the public to know that the petition has challenged not just the blocking of Youtube, but also other websites and URLs in their tens of thousands which are currently being blocked by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA), with the list of blocked sites increasing every day. Even more important is the fact that there is no published list of sites or URLs that have been blocked, with ...

Respected Minister Sb. –In 2013, when your pensive charisma, purposeful voice and determined stare replaced Rehman Malik behind the seal of the Ministry of Interior, the entire nation breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, we all believed, some measure of sanity would be infused into our internal security policy, and in the manner that our law enforcement agencies are governed. The Police, as an institution, would be made independent and effective. Its capacity to counter terrorism, as well as to maintain law and order, shall be strengthened. Its officers shall be given security of tenure ...

In my professional capacity, I have often been asked to lecture in different institutions on a subject very close to my heart – history. I feel particularly honored, when I speak to audiences on the life and achievements of our Founding Father Muhammad Ali Jinnah. This lecturing experience has on many occasions humbled me and reversed my role from speaker to student.It was a lovely spring evening as I found myself being driven by a friend on the (then) under construction Murree Expressway, many years ago. The overcast sky and lush surroundings overwhelmed me, making me forget completely ...

Saturday, 19 April, 2014

Dawn, 6:30 am. Mr. R is getting ready for breakfast. His office phone begins to ring.“Good morning!”“Hello, is this Mr. R, the research guy?”“Yes, this is R. Thanks for calling! You sound distressed buddy, what’s the matter?”“Well, I am. I haven’t been sleeping well, and my self-esteem these days is approaching zero. I was wondering if you could help my cause.”“I’ll put the food on the table and call you back within five minutes.”*A few minutes later*“Alright, I’m listening.”“Okay, R. You ...

Potable waterborne diseases in Pakistan have assumed endemic proportions without raising alarm bells. Children in infancy and mothers in childcare are most susceptible to these silent and unseen killers. Cattle that feed on fodder fed by contaminated water pass them to the food chain. Unhygienic water accounts for a wide range of stomach diseases, blood disorders and liver ailments that ultimately become cancerous. Waterborne micro-organisms and toxic heavy metals also cause deformity of bones, skin lesions and mental disorders. Health issues from Central Punjab to lower Sindh reflect ...

One of the most enduring paradoxes in Pakistani politics is the existence of a narrative about the state that is inherently contradictory. When looking at Pakistan’s abysmal record of social provision, its poor economic performance, its seemingly endemic violence and lawlessness, and its persistently high levels of corruption and institutional dysfunction, it is tempting to label it as a failed state faced with the prospect of a slow but inevitable collapse. This is a depiction of the state that is reproduced and reinforced every day in the local and international media, as well as in ...

The surprise Nawaz- Zardari meeting on Wednesday yielded a valuable consensus of the two leading political parties of the country to protect and strengthen democracy. It reinforced determination to commit to “undiluted democracy” as spelt out in the Charter of Democracy signed by Nawaz Sharif and late Benazir Bhutto in May 2006. According to a press statement released after the 15th April 2014 meeting at the Prime Minister’s House, “both the political leaders agreed in principle that both the parties would unite all political forces to block any adventurism in the ...

Friday, 18 April, 2014

Recently, a well-written column appeared in a local newspaper advocating the teaching of Punjabi in schools across the province. This was followed by a news item stating that the provincial higher education department has sought comments from Principals of all colleges in the province regarding the promotion of Punjabi amongst students. ‘Mother-tongue’ advocates have been trying to restore some dignity to the language that in urban Punjab is widely regarded as the communication tool of and for the uneducated. These are all admirable goals but they beggar the question: why does ...

The furore occasioned by the exchange of statements between COAS Gen Raheel Sharif and federal ministers Khwaja Asif and Khwaja Saad Rafiq is not so much over the fate of Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf, or of his trial for high treason, as over the crux of the trial, which is the army’s right to rule.One of the most vocal objections by Musharraf’s supporters to the trial is the charge of high treason (which he went to great lengths to avoid having read to him). The objection may seem a quibble, but for military men it is important. Killing another human being is universally ...

A few days ago, a national daily carried this story: a businessman from Karachi hasn’t visited his production facility for the last six months, because he was too afraid of getting kidnapped. According to the man, criminals are harassing factory owners, extorting money and hurling threats. As a result, many businessmen now prefer staying at home rather than visiting their factories.There are many such stories of criminal intimidation and violence against the members of the business community in Pakistan. What was once peculiar to Karachi and KPK is now spreading elsewhere. This is ...

Call Me: We go around saying things we don’t mean. That’s the powerful thing about being a child, of being somebody’s child. It gives you the license to say things with impunity. As we grow older, we tend to grow angrier. We lash out, we draw unbelievably large conclusions. Our parents, those two usual suspects stand conveniently before us and we blame them, usually throughout the course of our lives. As we enter the fascinating (read: terrifying) realms of puberty, there are hormones and epic one sided love stories to deal with; there is peer pressure, permission forms, ...

Thursday, 17 April, 2014

Mosques that were supposed to knit Muslim society together have in fact become responsible for its very deterioration. Women used to go to the mosque freely during the time of the Prophet, but are now barred from wandering near its precincts. The very sight of a woman it seems, nullifies the ablution of a pious man, who feels he has a monopoly over religion. While he is being commanded to fast, pray and give charity, the religious duties of a woman include being respectful to her husband, never neglecting his desires, and protecting his honor. For that purpose, going to the mosque is the ...

Today is Holy Thursday in the Christian Calendar. It is celebrated in remembrance of Jesus’ agony in the garden, followed by the last supper with the twelve disciples, and as a symbol of service because he washed their feet. But then the evening turned dramatic as Jesus was betrayed by one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, allowing identification and arrest by the Romans, at a time when they occupied the Land of the Jews, some 2000 years ago. The Roman soldiers had been searching for Jesus since he was seen as a risk to existing foreign rule. By the Mosaic leaders, Jesus was also a ...

The power matrix in Pakistan has been in a perpetual state of flux. Numerous military takeovers and some outrageously vagrant policies of our political leadership have prevented a rational, well-balanced, political and democratic system from evolving and flourishing. Our civilian governments have always felt overawed by the military and its proclivity to influence events or to simply take over. They have resented this and have felt compelled to repeatedly try to establish and assert their ascendancy over the military.This has almost always resulted in an internecine struggle for primacy. It ...

Visiting an acquaintance in Islamabad’s F10 Sector, I noticed that the street entrance had a barrier manned by a private security guard. I mentioned the fact to my host and was told that the residents of the sector had installed the barrier and hired a security company to man it on the advice of the police, who had expressed their inability to protect the residents against crime. I could not believe my ears as this particular street is situated in close proximity of the police station and even if it wasn’t, it was the sworn duty of the Government and its law enforcement agencies ...

Wednesday, 16 April, 2014

Pakistan’s economic policy makers need to formulate and implement economic policies that will bring about an integrated and autonomous productive structure in the country. In this, the role of the machine building or capital goods industries in general and that of the machine tools sector (machines that make machines) is absolutely crucial. These sectors of the economy can connect industry and agriculture as well as other vital parts of a nation’s economy as a whole. These can increase the production capacity of a nation’s economy and deepen it as well.The critical machinery ...

Last Thursday, mouth-frothing analysts dominated 24/7 news media after a clip of Khawaja Asif’s speech was aired on a TV channel. His strong tone, they said, was rebellious against the armed forces of Pakistan. Hell broke loose, the skies began to fall and media corps commanders got brutally active, declaring the Defence Minister’s speech uncalled for and ‘anti-army.’ The problem with that clip, which we missed in our frenzy, was its resurrection by a usual suspect from the media corps with the audacity of deliberately presenting it as a ‘few days’ old. The ...

Earlier this month, a People’s Tribunal on Land Rights was held in Hyderabad, presided over by Justice (retd) Wajiuddin Ahmed, and heavily attended by peasants and activists. Continued failure of governments to restore land to the landless, and trickery in token farmland distribution, was exposed and decried. All citizens may have realized by now there’s one thing neither the present government nor the PPP have any intention of carrying out — meaningful land reform. Both parties seemingly have an unwritten understanding for taking turns in power, no matter what bad-mouthing ...

Call Me: If heard out of context, the sympathy I get for not having a brother would make you think that it is a deep sin or a grave disease. I, a woman, without a male sibling? How unnatural. My mother, a woman, without a male offspring? How wrong. It is as if we must validate our family unit with the presence of a brother, a son. The lack of a brother here takes on the shape of a metaphor for hopelessness, vulnerability and social constriction. It is assumed that if I had a brother, I would be more secure and the household, more stable. When my mother, now in her 50’s, is asked if she ...

Tuesday, 15 April, 2014

An anonymous government official has leaked a list of seven Taliban demands that were rejected by the government, resulting in a deadlock in the ongoing peace talks.Local elders say the Pakistani Taliban are moving hundreds of fighters from Khyber tribal agency into the settled areas of Peshawar. The measure is being seen as a response to a plea by the interior minister that the next round of peace talks should be held in Peshawar to indicate increased trust. The government believes it is a positive sign.Some of the key demands that the government negotiators said they could not accept are ...

A lot has been said in the last few days by some retired persons and some media persons about remarks I allegedly made about the former dictator, General Pervez Musharraf. The dust has now settled but to put the record straight I would like to submit some facts. This is important because whatever I said will be a part of history and it should be based on facts and not fabricated assumptions.It was March 31, 2014, when I entered the National Assembly Hall and Mr. Asif Hasnain of MQM had taken the floor of the house. He was delivering a passionate speech in favour of the former dictator and was ...

The use of intemperate language regarding Pervez Musharraf by a federal minister and a statement by Chief of the Army Staff General Raheel Sharif have generated an unnecessary controversy in the country about the role of the army and the civil-military relationship. For the strengthening of the democratic process and the rule of law in Pakistan, for safeguarding national security, for the promotion of political stability and the economic development of the country, and for the preservation of the army’s “dignity and institutional pride,” it is essential that all stakeholders ...

Call Me: On New Year’s day, in a frosty hospital in Western Massachusetts, I was told at my insistence, that I had at most 6 months to live. Four days later, I took a flight to Karachi to be with my parents after fourteen years. I’m 44 years old, and because of my age most people refer to my condition as a “tragedy.” If my father who is now 87 was dying of cancer, we would have reserved other words for him, praying he went painlessly and quickly. At 87, death is no tragedy.At 44 however, people cannot fathom a departure from the world. I’m too young. I have no ...

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