Defender of the interests of one class or leader of all?
The newly elected PML-N government, which would hopefully be in office in the first week of June, faces daunting challenges. The party has also certain strengths that can help it defuse the challenges with a fair chance of success.
The most urgent challenge is power shortages. These have brought thousands of distraught people on the roads. The PML-N has also to fix the economy, remove the structural impediments to growth, bring down inflation and create tens of thousands of new jobs if it wants to rule in peace. The party’s economic policy must start showing initial results at least within a year. Opinion surveys would start showing whether people feel the situation is better than under the previous government or worse. Hopefully Nawaz will not yield to the impulse of shooting the messenger as has happened under his predecessors.
Nawaz has also to rein in the terrorists who continue to attack innocent citizens and target security personnel. Half a dozen incidents of the sort have already taken place after the announcement of the election results. In the latest incident of the sort which occurred in Quetta on Thursday at least 12 people, of which eight were policemen, died in a bomb blast. Till the TTP is made to stop the terrorist attacks, whether through talks which seems difficult or through a Swat-like operation, there is little hope of fresh investments coming in or the revival of the economy taking place.
Nawaz has vowed to bring civil-military relations in line with the Basic Law. He has promised that the army will be no more than a department of the government under the prime minister. The last government expanded the scope of democracy, increased provincial autonomy and the share of the federating units in the joint pool, created badly needed institutions like an independent Election Commission and a consensus caretaker set up. People expect Nawaz to further strengthen the system.
A vigilant Supreme Court is not likely to settle at anything short of the rule of law. Appointments to important government officials and autonomous bodies will therefore have to be made on merit – something totally new for the PML-N. There would be no blue eyed boys heading key administrative and police positions. Transparency would have to be observed in signing big contacts.
Mian Nawaz Sharif’s main strength lies in the big mandate he has received. He had all along wished to rule with simple majority in order to put into practice his own policies without any adulterations introduced under the compulsion of alliances.
After several independent NA candidates joining the PML-N, the party is able to form a government at the centre without seeking any other party’s support. Unlike the PPP which could not have remained in power without obliging highly demanding allies, Nawaz Sharif can take decisions with confidence. He can thus practice good governance if he is really inclined to. He can take brave decisions. Nawaz presently has a weak position in the Senate but through a policy of reconciliation that he has vowed to follow, he can enlist the support of other parties also. The Senate could in fact exercise a healthy check on the tendency that Nawaz revealed during his second tenure in the1990s to accumulate all powers in his own hands.
The big mandate from Punjab, the main recruiting centre of the army, will also help Nawaz rationalize the army-civilian relations. This would have been a highly tricky task for any prime minister from a minority province. The voice of the Punjab’s sole spokesman carries an extra weight when it comes to dealing with the army. One hopes that the long awaited change is brought through parliament rather than through an office order by the prime minister. Among other things this will make the change lasting.
The smaller provinces however have numerous justifiable complaints about Punjab and its leaders. Nawaz would do well not to project himself as an advocate of Punjab’s interests alone. He has to look like an even handed big brother, willing to sacrifice for the uplift of smaller provinces and removing the age old grievances.
Nawaz is the representative of the business class which is considered to possess managerial skills and efficiency rarely seen in those coming from the feudal culture. He is thus supposedly better placed to handle the economy. The big thing to watch is whether he is willing to tax the business community which is the biggest dodger of taxes right from a common shop keeper to the super rich industrialists. Many think he failed to raise taxes from his community in the past and is going to fail again. The only way left to pay off the circular debt would in that case be through loans, Saudi crude and furnace oil on deferred payment being an example of the sort. This would considerably add to the burden of loans the poor nation has to carry.
Hopefully Nawaz’s special relations with the Saudi royalty will not lead to the cancelation of the Pak-Iran gas pipeline which is an economic need. There are a number of excuses that can be cooked up to cancel the project. A demand can be put up to review the agreement and then announce that the price needs to be slashed.
Unless Nawaz learns to live with his political rivals in peace, he will face challenges from opposition parties which will intensify with the passage of time. Imran Khan, who got the second largest number of votes, is going to be the first challenger. Raising taxes locally was a major plank of Imran Khan’s policy. This was the only way, he maintained, to get rid of the begging bowl. One cannot be the defender of the interests of one single class and call himself the leader of the nation.
Nawaz needs social peace in order to be able to implement his policies. This has led him to have a meeting with Zardari on the sidelines of the lunch for the Chinese premier. Nawaz has also proposed to the opposition to shun street protests as a tactic for government change. Few would differ with him on the point despite the fact that the PML-N continued to hurl challenges of the sort to the PPP government. The PML-N was the proponent of elections before time maintaining that the PPP had lost its mandate. The PML-N pressurised the PPP-led government to hold polls ahead of the 2012 budget session. It tried its best to bundle off the PPP government by taking the so called Memo Gate sandal to the Supreme Court and creating hysteria over the issue. Soon it will meet its nemesis unless it learns to have better relations with opponents.
The writer is a political analyst and a former academic.
Season 6 Episode 21
Fellows, I heard about your Mazhar in the summer of 2010. The news about you and your Mazhar was broadcasted all over the world, with every man and his dog giving their verdict on the level of disgust they felt by the whole episode in the UK. I was among the global jury as well. I polished up my best condescending tone, donned my favourite holier than thou garb and began the cursing blitzkrieg.
How on earth, could a professional athlete do something as obnoxious as that? I wondered. Wearing your country’s badge on your chest, you had what millions in your country would die to have, I believed. You sold your soul, your integrity, your pride and your credibility all for the sake of a hike in your bank account, I thought. You had fame, success, veneration, respect and you gave it all up in exchange for money, I observed. And I was never going to blame your Mazhar, for it was you and you alone who were at fault for the horrendous act, I decided.
And then I met your Mazhar.
I met your Mazhar in Rajasthan last week and how that changed my point of view! Your Mazhar showed me a few bundles of cash and then I sat wondering what on earth, was the fuss all about. It was a wonderful opportunity to bag some cash, one which if offered to employees all over the world, would’ve seen a lot of them biting Mazhar’s hand off. Just a teeny tiny bit of dishonesty – if you could call it that – would have resulted in multiple times more money than what I would’ve earned at my job, without causing any tangible damage to my employers or my overall performance at the firm. It was a goldmine that had decided to jump onto my lap, and I wasn’t going to push it away.
And then I got to know your Mazhar.
I got to know your Mazhar after I mulled over a few questions. How many guitarists would refuse to take a hefty sum in exchange for slightly mistiming a chord of a particular song in a concert? How many stage actors would decline the opportunity to stutter while delivering a particular dialogue on stage for considerable amounts of cash? How many teachers in the world would turn down the offer of teaching their students a particular chapter that wasn’t included in the syllabus only for a day, for several times the amount of their monthly salary? How many hotel chefs would reject the cash bundles for an ever so slight alteration in a particular recipe? And how many editors would snub the proposal of some serious dough for leaving a minuscule typo in an article? Not many, I presumed.
And then I finally recognized your Mazhar.
I recognized your Mazhar as the one who tells civil servants that since they don’t get paid enough, they have every right to take whatever comes their way from underneath the table. I recognized your Mazhar as he who guides journalists to record staged interviews and write skewed write-ups, since siding with the highest bidder is the only way they can ever earn any money out of their profession. I recognized your Mazhar as the one who orchestrates the military’s manoeuvres that ensure instability in their region, which in turn ascertains that their own pockets remain healthy. I recognized your Mazhar as he who wants an intellectual to never be honest about his ideology, and instead keep toeing the popular lines for his personal acclaim. I recognized your Mazhar as the one who persuades a politician to sell the sovereignty of his nation to a superpower because they were going to snatch it away anyway. And I recognized your Mazhar as he who supports the Peer-o-Murshid’s quest of cashing in on the popular deception that he is closer to the deity than the rest of us are.
But more criminally I recognized your Mazhar as the same person who encourages a student to cheat in their examinations, because there is unemployment everywhere outside the gates of their institutions. I recognized your Mazhar as the voice who tells the person who has just breached a traffic rule to bribe the officer instead of facing the due punishment. I recognized your Mazhar as the one who encourages milkmen to add water and unhealthy chemicals in their milk because that’s the only way they can survive in the corrupt system. I recognized your Mazhar as the man who tells people they don’t really have to return the money they borrowed from a friend, since everyone in this world is a cheat and a little bit from their side wouldn’t do much harm. And I recognized your Mazhar as the mastermind behind an individual’s quest of fooling as many people as he can, to muster as much money as he can at the expense of everyone else.
And despite the fact that we’ve all known your Mazhar throughout our lives – at different times and in various shapes and forms – and fulfilled many of his wishes ourselves, the only time we decide to get worked up is when someone else listens to him, and acts according to his suggestions. The moment I recogniezd your Mazhar I realised that I’ve known him forever, and have always succumbed to his whispers. I consider myself very fortunate to have familiarized myself with your Mazhar, for it helps me steer clear of most things he tells me to do. But unfortunately the world would continue to scan others’ bond with him, even if they were to be told the fruitfulness of getting themselves acquainted with the story of how I met your Mazhar.
The writer is a financial journalist and a cultural critic. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @khuldune
How a state shifts blame for the popularity of tobacco
In recent years, with the ever-growing tobacco industry, an interesting phenomenon has been brought to attention in China. According to studies, 55 percent of Chinese doctors, ironically regarded as the stalwarts of good health, are smokers. China’s doctors not only smoke cigarettes but are also pilloried as furtively promoting tobacco induced morbidity. In China, cigarettes kill over a million citizens a year and if present trends hold, between now and 2050, the countries annual death toll from tobacco will jump as much as 300 percent. Executives of state regimes and key international organizations have been pursuing a dual track regarding tobacco in the past three decades or more: (a) a longstanding strategy of using tobacco sales as a front for economic development and pre-eminence (b) maintaining their legitimacy by increasing striving to regulate tobacco in the face of empirical evidence that it is highly toxic.
Mathew Kohrman in his essay, “Smoking among Doctors” draws attention to the manner in which bio-politics and Chinese cultural ideas of masculinity shape the practice of smoking amongst surgeons. Tobacco production and sales in China have been an emblem of economic development and the government has ‘centred on regulating’ its harm instead of expunging it from society. The idea that smoking is unhealthy is ‘normalised’ by the government and media and physicians are presented as dispersers of health. The shift of the blame onto the doctors is in accordance with the eminent French philosopher, Michel Foucault’s idea that “governments have multilayered modes of authority making to techniques” for establishing control over people as the focus is shifted from the powerful institutions of the state and the cigarette manufacturing industry to the medical community. Social factors such as the pressure to enact one’s masculinity have eased the processes of ‘governmentality’ into creating and ‘problematizing’ the behaviour of physicians with regards to smoking.
The medical environment is mostly dominated by men who are like most other people will not ‘exclude a behaviour’ solely on the basis of scientific rationality. The cigarette has been advertised as a symbol of manhood and the same gendered notions operate in forming its role among physicians. Smoking develops bonds between doctors who share the practice and keeps the medical departments working as units defined by gender, class and similar habits. Offering a cigarette or ‘fayan’ is a very important feature of ‘male performativity’ in Chinese culture and it is symbolic of the socialization process in the male dominated field of surgery as well. In most settings, whenever men encounter one another and wish to engage in dialogue, it is expected that one or more will pull out a pack of cigarettes and offer a smoke to all men immediately present, with special attention given to a participant’s social status and understood quality/cultural coding of the cigarette offered. The image of important members of the Chinese government ‘with lit cigarettes in their hands managing the nation’s future’ posits smoking as a crucial embodiment of masculinity adopted and sanctioned by the state.
In his ‘Problematisation’ discourse it becomes apparent that powerful institutions such as the mass media and state use their authority to shift the focus of the national problem of smoking to ‘individual failure’ of doctors. Institutions consciously ignore socialization, the tobacco marketing industry and the failure of the government to eradicate smoking and disperse knowledge/facts in a manner that is the most suitable for them. Foucault’s notion of the ‘relationship of the self to the self’ is echoed as sense of fatalism and low self-worth is induced by techniques of individual accountability that even disregard the lack of a support system for people who want to give up smoking in China.
Significant social factors in Chinese society such as defined masculinity and the connotations of smoking, class, and economics lead to the prevalence of smoking amongst doctors. However, the same institutions that promote these ideals seek to curb the practice by conveniently shifting the blame onto the individual as opposed to holding the system accountable.
The writer is a staff member of Pakistan Today and holds a degree from Mount Holyoke College.
From both the left and the right, three common misperceptions have emerged about US foreign policy: First, that the Global War on Terror has become a perpetual state of affairs; second, that no strategy is available to end this conflict in the near future; and third, that “the Obama approach to that conflict is just like the Bush approach.” I disagree with all three propositions.
First and most important, the overriding goal should be to end this Forever War, not engage in a perpetual “global war on terror,” without geographic or temporal limits.
Second, this is not a conflict without end, and there is a strategy to end it, outlined below. In November, also at the Oxford Union, Jeh Johnson, then general counsel of the United States Department of Defense, argued that in the conflict against Al-Qaeda and its affiliates: “there will come a tipping point – ... at which so many of the leaders and operatives of Al-Qaeda and its affiliates have been killed or captured, and the group is no longer able to attempt or launch a strategic attack against the United States, such that Al-Qaeda as we know it, the organization that our Congress authorised the military to pursue in 2001, has been effectively destroyed. At that point, we must be able to say to ourselves that our efforts should no longer be considered an “armed conflict” against Al-Qaeda and its associated forces; rather, a counterterrorism effort against individuals who are the scattered remnants of Al-Qaeda, or are parts of groups unaffiliated with Al-Qaeda….”
The key question going forward will thus be whether the US treats new groups that rise up to commit acts of terror as “associated forces” of Al-Qaeda with whom it’s already at war. This seems unwise, as under both domestic and international law, the United States has ample legal authority to respond to new groups that would attack without declaring war forever against anyone hostile to the country. More fundamentally, the United States is at war with Al-Qaeda, not with any idea or religion, or with mere propagandists, journalists or sad individuals, like the recent Boston bombers, who may become radicalized, inspired by Al-Qaeda’s ideology, but never joining Al-Qaeda itself.
Third, in regard to this conflict, the Obama administration has differed from its predecessor in three key respects. First, it has acknowledged that the United States is strictly bound by domestic and international law. Under domestic law, the administration has acknowledged that its authority derives from Acts of Congress, not just the president’s vague constitutional powers. Under international law, this administration has expressly recognized that US actions are constrained by the laws of war, and it has worked hard to translate the spirit of those laws and apply them.
The Geneva Conventions envisioned two types of conflict – international armed conflicts between nation-states and non-international armed conflicts between states and insurgent groups within a single country, for example, a government versus a rebel faction located within that country. But September 11 made clear that the term “non-international armed conflicts” can also include transnational battles, for example, between a nation-state like the United States and a transnational non-state armed group like Al-Qaeda that attacks it. The US Supreme Court has instructed the US government to translate the existing laws of war to this different type of “non-international” armed conflict.
Second, in conducting this more limited conflict, the administration has shown an absolute commitment to humane treatment of Al-Qaeda suspects. Third, the Obama administration has determined not to address Al-Qaeda and the Taliban solely through the tools of war. Instead, this administration has stated a longer-term objective – a “smart power” approach – under which force is used for limited and defined purposes within a much broader nonviolent frame, with the over-arching aim being to use diplomacy, development, education and people-to-people outreach to challenge Al-Qaeda’s ideology and diminish its appeal. Applying this approach, the Obama administration has combined a law-of-war approach with law-enforcement methods to bring all available tools to bear against Al-Qaeda. In a remote part of Afghanistan, a law-of-war approach might be appropriate, but in London or New York, a law enforcement approach is surely more fitting. In either case, the US response to a suspect turns not on whether we generically label a person an “enemy combatant,” but on whether we assemble the facts to prove that a particular person’s behavior reveals that he is part of Al-Qaeda.
So how to end the Forever War? President Obama should now diligently pursue three previously announced aims of US policy: 1) disengage from Afghanistan, 2) close Guantanamo and 3) discipline drones.
Disengaging from Afghanistan is fully underway, but three challenges loom. First, in transferring control of detention facilities, the US must ensure that transfers comply with obligations under international law not to return detainees to persecution or torture, and that future detentions comply with fair process and treatment obligations. Second, the US must work closely with the Afghans to help secure what Secretary of State John Kerry has called a “credible, safe, secure, all-inclusive, … transparent, and accountable presidential election” to succeed Hamid Karzai in 2014. Third, the Afghan government must tackle the controversial task of negotiating with the Taliban. In so doing, it’s crucial to build upon the myriad advances that have expanded individual freedom within Afghan civil society over the last decade.
Closing Guantanamo permanently is long past overdue. The US military prison in Cuba has 166 detainees, 76 fewer than in 2009. More than 100 of the detainees are on hunger strike, with many being force-fed. President Obama has acknowledged, “Guantanamo is not necessary to keep America safe. It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us in terms of our international standing.”
Crucially, he does not need a new policy to close Guantanamo. He just needs to put the full weight of his office behind the sensible policy first announced in 2009: Resume transfer of those who are cleared for transfer, try the triable, grant periodic review of those in law of war detention, resist further congressional restrictions and appoint a high-level White House envoy to implement the foregoing.
The goal of decimating Al-Qaeda’s core leads to the final contentious issue, disciplining drones. Critics often ask, “How, as a human rights advocate, could you criticize torture, while as a government lawyer, you defended the legality of drones?” The answer is sad, but simple: Torture is always unlawful. But killing those with whom a country is at war may be lawful, so long as the laws of war are strictly followed. It is the duty of government lawyers to police the line between those violent acts that are lawful and unlawful, and distinguish between those uses of force that do and do not on balance promote the human rights of innocent civilians.
Drones are not per se unlawful. If accurately targeted, they could be far more discriminate and lawful than indiscriminate weapons. The main problem is not drones, but that the Bush administration grossly mismanaged its response to 9/11. Instead of acting surgically against Al-Qaeda when it had the chance, the administration squandered global goodwill by invading Iraq, committing torture, opening Guantanamo, flouting domestic and international law, and undermining civilian courts.
Left to pick up the pieces, Obama got off to a promising start, but that effort has slowed. Since 2010, the Obama administration has not done enough to be transparent about legal standards and its decision-making process. Small wonder that the public has lost track of the real issue, which is not drone technology per se, but the need for transparent, agreed-upon domestic and international legal process and standards. The Obama administration should now make public and transparent its legal standards and institutional processes for targeting and drone strikes, give facts to show why past strikes were necessary, and consult with Congress and allies on principled standards going forward. Most important, he should oppose proposed legislation that would grant him unneeded new authority to strike new shadowy foes.
The real and pressing issue facing the United States is how to end the Forever War underway since 2001. If the Obama administration cannot persuade its citizens, Congress and its closest allies that its drone program is legal, necessary for that task and under control, it will be hard for President Obama to see that war to its much-needed conclusion or take the other steps needed to secure the peace.
The writer is a Sterling Professor of International Law and former dean (2004-09), Yale Law School; former legal adviser, US Department of State (2009-13); former assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labour (1998-2001). This is a condensed and edited version of a speech to the Oxford Union on May 7, 2013, and reflects his personal views, not that of any institution of which he is or has been affiliated.
At the reception of Stephen Hawking’s book ‘A brief history of time’, one of the reviews in Sunday Times opined that, ‘This book marries child’s wonder to a genius’s intellect.’ This can be attributed as the simplest and most basic definition of science, a journey that starts with a child’s wonder and ends at the intellect of a genius.
What started off as a scholarly pursuit has now become the cradle of progress for all the elitist nations of the world, and the only potential redeemer of the developing nations; but science is an expensive luxury which the modest nations such as ours can’t afford, or at least that’s what the communal belief is. This is the very reason our science labs are mostly deserted and the culture of science, largely absent. The paucity of science-based activities can inevitably be attributed to the factors such as scarce funding resources, inadequately furnished labs and lack of expertise. However, besides all these factors, an overriding cause of the crippled state of research in our country is our ‘attitude’ that has put research on the backseat. Although, pragmatically, a scientist is supposed to be an innovative and venturesome individual who plays around with novel ideas, yet our culture has stereotyped him as a ‘withdrawn’ and ‘comatose’ entity, who camps all-day-long in labs and mass-produces publications in his leisure time. Not an exciting image at all!
Bearing in mind that science is an ever-evolving craft, where old theories are frequently debunked and substituted by the new, more authentic ones; the scientists are required to be more creative, more imaginative and more clued up than ever, to join dots and to elucidate connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena. This, certainly, isn’t a dull affair provided you are doing it the scientist way.
It’s not only the scientific gear that makes a scientist, scientist, but a thinking, questioning and curious mind that lays down the groundwork of a scientific life. It was his inquisitive mind that transformed little ‘Al’ Edison into the world-famous Thomas Edison of later years, even without a formal degree in science. But having ‘an inquisitive mind’ is hardly considered an eligibility criterion for any of the disciplines in our universities. Our existing university culture entails long-drawn-out commentaries on established theories, fenced perceptions and a spate of assignments that are turned in only on the day before submission of final results. The students keep juggling with assignments, quizzes, presentations and projects all through the semesters and ta da, one day, they are in their graduation garbs, thinking of switching their fields and wondering what’s next. Nobody thinks, nobody asks and hence, there are no answers.
The psychology of students expressing reluctance in putting forth their questions has been well-established; they hesitate for the fear of embarrassing themselves in front of their peers and competitors. But one more thing missing in the equation of ‘active learning’ is the quotient of teachers. Students aside, even our teachers flinch when it comes to raising questions; they sidestep from questioning themselves, their students or even the decades-long research studies. This is partly owing to their chockfull teaching schedules where they don’t get time to put their minds to some constructive thinking and partly because they are not accustomed to this way of teaching. This boils down to the core argument of this article, our general lack of aptitude for research. One doesn’t simply become a scientist by earning a doctorate in a science field; it all starts with your curiosity from the childhood. We grow up with several knots in our minds, but unlike the common lot, the curious ones hold onto them and struggle to figure out answers in their own capacity. This is precisely what steers one towards an advanced culture of research; a nagging, persistent and inescapable curiosity.
This kind of approach can be instilled by teachers, through simple exercises, during early years of education. The students must be encouraged to look around in their surroundings and ask a simple question regarding the origin or working of a phenomenon they are most fascinated with, and then the teachers must urge them to pursue an answer to their questions. For this, they might have to consult a few books, internet and may even have to carry out a simple experiment. This will give them the de rigueur direction and a sense of purpose. A rudimentary exercise such as this will be incredibly effective in honing the instinctive curiosity of children, dusting off thick layers of obliviousness that enshrouds juveniles over time and in warming them up to the idea of research, right at the beginning of their academic lives. Once introduced to the concept of reasoning, it wouldn’t be too long when the students would take up inductive and deductive reasoning in the course of their routine lives, posing a tough competition to the fictional physics genius Sheldon Cooper.
Every year, nationwide universities produce oodles of dissertations. Regrettably, only a few of those measure up to the benchmark of first-rate, authentic research studies while the remaining bulk communicates a sense of burden with which the dissertations were over and done with, rather hastily, just to obtain a degree. Ideally, the PhD faculty members must first frame hypotheses concerning critical national and international issues and then form research groups, inviting students who may be interested in working in their area of expertise, to work on conceivable solutions. For instance, having research groups working on affordable and sustainable energy solutions, in the milieu of Pakistan’s catastrophic energy crisis, will not only get many minds simultaneously thinking about the potential solution, but would also open doors to many possibilities.
With a solid groundwork laid down, funds can be roped in from HEC or other research-funding organisations. In a similar vein, the capable minds of the country can put their assets of analytical thinking into developing cost-effective measuring equipments, which are currently highly exorbitant in the market. There are a variety of people in Pakistan who, despite having never been to a school or university, are pretty well-versed with basic scientific laws. These are the ones who personify examples of curiosity-driven (as opposed to textbook) individuals.
With the aim of encouraging research in the country, HEC introduced tenure track system, according to which the appointed faculty members are required to produce a substantial amount of quality published papers so as to achieve promotion and increments. This, in principle, is a very effective tool to warrant perpetual, quality research endeavours throughout the country. However, as with most of the matters in the country, this principle lacks effective implementation. Teachers continue churning out same kind of work, year after year; by supervising research students and ‘innovative research’ takes a backseat.
Currently, the undergraduate and MS/MPhil level research studies are designed keeping in perspective the facilities available within the departmental laboratories which are mostly delimiting. Many students have to bear additional charges of their research as well as the transport fare within the city for the acquisition of data and surveys by themselves. For efficient utilisation of resources, universities must establish strong, active networks of association to facilitate researchers to make most of the equipments, literature and expertise that is not available to them in their own institutions. Research study of any scale involves considerable amount of time, energy and financial resources of the researcher, the dissertations of students should be tailored to produce valuable contributions to the research world.
The way forward is not a linear journey. The government bodies, universities, teachers and students all will have to work, side by side, in unison, to bring about the much needed research revolution. It is also necessary to keep the charm of the science, the adventure of treading the path of unknown and the thrill of arriving at plausible theories, intact. Teachers will have to be trained for new and innovative training methods and additional funds, amassed. As for the students; think, ask and pursue, who knows you might be the next Isaac Newton in line.
The writer is an environmental researcher.
The enervation the American politics
To observe the Republicans, one would think that the US military was involved in nothing more controversial than a Marine holding an umbrella for President Barack Obama while he gave a speech in the rain. Sarah Palin, one of the many darlings of the rightwing, has stated that most Americans hold their own umbrellas, despite pictures showing her disembarking a plane on a rainy day with a lackey holding an umbrella for her. Lou Dobbs, formerly of Fox News, said it was ‘disrespectful, inconsiderate, classless,’ although one looks in vain for his similar comments when Presidents Ronald Reagan, George Bush and George W Bush had soldiers holding umbrellas for them. And the conservative blogosphere has been awash with condemnation, criticism and great umbrage about an action the president took, that has been taken by many presidents before him, including many of their heroes.
Someone awakening after a multi-year sleep and observing this would certainly believe that society overall was in very good shape, if the most important things political activists had to complain about was a Marine holding an umbrella for the president. However, such a person might be deceived. Let us take a quick look at another current issue that is somewhat less benign than an umbrella, and that no one on the right or the left seems concerned with.
US drones, unmanned aircraft, have for some time been bombing targets in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and other countries, all in the sacred name of the U.S. war on terror (whatever that is). In the last couple of years, over 5,000 people have been killed in US – initiated drone strikes, and the frequency of these bombing is escalating rapidly. Their purpose, ostensibly, is to rid areas of Al-Qaeda operatives, a strategically important goal (we’ll not consider the morality of it quite yet), as the U.S. prepares to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, after twelve years of U.S.-sponsored terrorism against the Afghani people.
But what of the human debris left in the wake of these bombings? Ibrahim Mothana, a young Yemeni writer, said this in a New York Times op-ed last year: “Drone strikes are causing more and more Yemenis to hate America and join radical militants; they are not driven by ideology, but rather by a sense of revenge and despair.” Much as US citizens are told that people throughout the Middle East hate them because of their freedoms, it might be worth considering that the US is hated by many in the Middle East and other areas because the US government keeps killing their loved ones. In moving testimony on April 24 of this year, another young Yemeni man, Farea al-Muslimi, who had lived in the US as a high-school student, told the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, that his neighbours had felt positively about the US, due to his experiences there as a youth. “Now, however, when they think of America, they think of the fear they feel at the drones over their heads,” he said. “What the violent militants had failed to achieve, one drone strike accomplished in an instant.” But are not these victims just ‘collateral damage’? Are they not just the unfortunate cost of keeping the world safe for freedom and democracy? The answer to those questions is, of course, simply no. They are innocent victims of US imperial aggression. As Corporate America, with all its callous greed and complete disregard for human rights, lumbers across the globe, seeking new economic conquests, it knows that such conquests cannot occur only in the boardroom. Third World peoples, with no interest in corporate profits, who simply want to live simple lives, raising their families and earning their livings on farms, must not stand in the way of the almighty dollar, when their farms lay atop precious natural resources, coveted by the US. So as the US moves in, and is resisted, those resisting them are said to be ‘insurgents’, terrorists hating the freedoms that US citizens so enjoy. Therefore, they must be removed. Certainly, they are not all terrorists, but the ringleaders must be destroyed, and if, in the process of killing them, some innocent children are blown to bits in front of their terrified parents, well, that is simply war. One might see it as the cost of doing business.
And what is the result? Those parents, and others, fill in the ranks of any opposition leaders the US has managed to kill, inflating the numbers of ‘insurgents’ (read: freedom fighters), causing the US to send more of its bombs, thus killing more innocent people and fostering more hatred of the United States.
One could ask if these facts are too complicated for the US’ elected representatives. It seems rather basic: kill innocent people, and their loved ones will not necessarily grow fond of you. However, why is any of the relevant, when corporate lobbies contribute vast amounts to elected officials for their reelection campaigns? Who wouldn’t want to keep a job that requires showing up to the office whenever you feel like it, provides all-expenses paid travel benefits, and pays well? What do integrity, honesty, upholding the law and the Constitution have to do with the bottom line?
The US’s never-deserved but self-proclaimed image as a global beacon of peace and freedom began to wear thin during the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. While Congress and the president prefer to look the other way, and view the ‘war on terror’ as defending freedom and democracy, more and more people throughout the world see it for what it is, and until US government officials decided to see reality, hatred toward the US will only continue to grow.
The writer is author of ‘Desertion and the American Soldier: 1776 – 2006 and Look not unto the Morrow.
PML-N needs to partnerships cutting across provinces
The 10th general elections have proved to be a mixed blessing. It is now clear which parties enjoy popular mandate at the federal and provincial levels. The new political configuration will assume power in the first week of June, setting up a healthy tradition of transfer of power through constitutional and peaceful means from one set of civilian leadership to another.
The downside is that every party is talking of manipulation of electoral process in some constituency. It seems that it has become fashionable to talk about the ‘stealing of electoral mandate.’ Even the political parties that are expected to set up new governments at the federal or provincial levels are spending a part of their energies in delegitimizing the electoral process that has set the stage for their assumption of power.
Most political leaders and parties are focused on their narrow and immediate gains – how to win the election after losing it. They do not have a long term perspective. By blowing the irregularities out of proportion they are making their own mandate doubtful. If they delegitimize the democratic process in a bid to outbid each other, all of them will lose. The future of political leaders and parties is closely linked with the working of democracy. If they are unable to manage one of the basic requisite of democracy, i.e. elections, how can they manage democracy and talk about civilian primacy?
This situation is very different from the situation after the 1977 general elections when the opposition coalition, Pakistan National Alliance (PNA), accused the PPP government of manipulating and rigging the elections. The inability of the government of that time and the opposition to handle the rigging issues enabled the military to assume power under General Zia-ul-Haq.
In 2013, the situation is very different. It is a free-for-all situation. Every party is accusing its rival party of manipulation of elections. Even individual candidates are raising hue and cry. If the PTI is projecting itself as an aggrieved party in one place, its winning candidate in another constituency is being accused of the same charge of manipulation of the election. Even the PML-N which is going to set up the federal government and is expected to head provincial governments in the Punjab and Balochistan, is accusing the PPP of winning the election in rural Sindh by manipulation.
The political parties and the leaders that are going to establish new governments at the federal or provincial levels need to discourage their party activists from resorting to protest and sit-ins on main roads as it causes a lot of problems for ordinary citizens and creates an undemocratic tradition of lack of restraint and tolerance.
The new ruling parties or their coalition partners should give attention to addressing the problems that they are going to face soon. The PPP and the ANP have lost the elections because of their poor governance and non-delivery of civic services to people. The acute electric power shortages have caused much political damage to their reputation. Similarly, terrorism and law and order problems worked to their disadvantage.
The new government will have to address economic issues as the highest priority. This should be accompanied by taking up of other issues. The salvation of the PML-N lies in addressing these problems rather than getting involved in the ongoing politics of electoral rigging.
Pakistan faces multiple and acute problems. Therefore, the new leadership should set its priorities very clearly so that it does not waste its energy on frivolous issues that seem to have become the key issues for political parties. Even the small parties that hardly win few seats are talking of denial of their mandate.
There are legal remedies available for the polling day related complaints. The Election Commission has already accommodated some complaints. More are likely to be accommodated over time. The option of election petition is available to the candidates that have lost the election. The polling-day complaints pertain to 7 to 9 percent of polling stations but the defeated candidates are trying to delegitimize the whole process which is a negative and unfortunate approach.
Sindh is experiencing a dangerous political game nowadays. The PPP has retained its electoral clout in interior Sindh that has given it an over-all majority in the provincial assembly. The smaller parties and Sindhi nationalist groups that always lose the elections have decided to avail of the current wave of making hue and cry for election manipulation to delegitimize the PPP majority in Sindh. These groups are now trying to enlist the support of the PML-N for their agenda against the PPP. A good number of them have offered support to the PML-N with the expectation that the power of the PML-N federal government will be invoked in their bid to challenge the PPP in Sindh. If the PML-N leadership at the national level allowed the party to become an instrument of the small Sindhi groups for making it difficult for the PPP to rule Sindh, it will result in an unfortunate clash between the Sindh government and the federal government. The PMLN national leadership should not succumb to the pressure of the Sindh leadership of the party and others who want to ride on the bandwagon of the federal government to settle their old scores with the PPP.
Another issue that needs immediate attention of the PML-N is that 95 percent of its elected members belong to the Punjab. It is important for the PML-N to cultivate partnership with the representative political forces of other provinces so as to accommodate them in federal cabinet and other key appointments at the federal level. The new federal government should be seen in the country as the government of Pakistan rather than that of the Punjab.
The PML-N’s extraordinary mandate is almost exclusively loaded in favour of the Punjab. It is therefore a challenge for the PML-N to create political partnerships and power sharing that cuts across provincial boundaries. It should address socio-economic issues, the energy crisis and extremism and terrorism as its highest priorities. The management of these issues will shape its political future. It needs to pull out as a party from petty issues like polling-day rigging. Individual candidates may pursue these complaints through legal channels. It should avoid being used by Sindhi groups for their local and personal fight with the PPP.
The writer is an independent political and defence analyst.
A response to an article by Sartaj Aziz
Mr Sartaj Aziz, senior vice president of PML-N, in his article in this newspaper on April 23, has rightly argued that generation capacity is not the cause of the present energy crisis and his explanation of the circular debt is eminently reasonable. However, his position on the 1994 energy policy is untenable. In particular, the figures that he has mentioned on hydel-thermal mix in 1994 as part of his critique of the 1994 policy are incorrect.
The 1994 power policy was framed in the backdrop of power shortages which date back to 1982. In 1985, the government of Pakistan announced an initiative to encourage private participation in power generation which led to the development of Hub Power Project in 1987. Construction of the power station began in December 1992, financial close was achieved in January 1995, and the project started operation in 1996. The experience from Hub Power Project cleared the way for attracting more private investment in the power sector.
In 1994, electricity shortage was 2000 MW during peak demand, and electricity was available to only 40 percent of the population. The 1994 power policy projected an eight percent annual increase in energy demand over the next 25 years.
A solution to the power shortage which addressed the problem in 2-3 years had to rely on thermal energy. A solution based on hydel power, which involved greater capital cost but lower operating cost, would have taken 7-10 years, at least.
The fast-track solution entailed higher energy cost but it had to be seen in the context of the loss that the economy was suffering in terms of loss of economic growth because of energy shortage. Although the 1994 energy policy invited investment in the power sector and not specifically in thermal power, the investments that materialised in 3-4 years were thermal-based.
Mr Sartaj Aziz claims that in 1994, out of the total installed capacity of 11000 MW, 60 percent was hydel and 40 percent was thermal, and in the next few years this mix was reversed from 60:40 to 30:70. This is not correct. The share of hydel-power in 1994 was 42 percent and not 60 percent.
The statement that the additional thermal power capacity installed under the 1994 power policy agreements was about 6000 MW is also not correct. If Hub power, which is being claimed as a project of the first PML-N government, is excluded, the actual installed capacity under the 1994 power policy was 3000 MW and not 6000 MW as stated by Julia Fraser in Lessons from the Independent Private Power Experience in Pakistan, Energy and Mining Sector Board Discussion Paper No 14, The World Bank, May 2005.
The share of thermal power in hydel-thermal mix in 1994 was 58 percent. If we add the Hub power capacity (1292 MW) the share of thermal power increases to 62 percent. The Ghazi Barotha hydel power project, whose PC-I was approved in 1994 and became operational in 2003 and 2004, added 1450 MW of generation capacity. The short-term impact of the 1994 policy (before the Ghazi Barotha became operational) was to increase thermal share in the hydel-thermal mix from 62 percent to 70 percent. The long-term impact of the 1994 policy on hydel-thermal mix (taking account of Ghazi Barotha) was a change of thermal share from 62 percent to 64 percent. Therefore, the impact of the 1994 policy, when complementary public sector investment in hydel power is taken into account, is not very dramatic.
The 1994 policy served the purpose of addressing short-term energy shortages but more power was contracted than the economy could absorb in the short term, especially because of anemic growth in that period. The ‘dazzling speed’ that Mr Sartaj Aziz has referred to and the lack of transparency in awarding contracts had added to the perception of corruption. Notwithstanding these perceptions, prices offered under the 1994 policy were comparable with those offered by Indonesia, Philippines and India at that time, as Julia Fraser made it clear in the same paper.
The same paper reports that in July 1998, the PML-N government served Notices of Intent to Terminate to seven IPPs on grounds of corruption and to two on technical grounds. Evidence on corruption charges were not presented in court and Hubco was constrained by courts to seek international arbitration. Eventually a number of IPPs agreed to tariff reductions.
After many years of slow growth, the economy picked up in 2003-04 and for the next four years the growth rate was between 5.8 percent and 9 percent. This growth rate would have been impossible without the availability of electricity that was made possible in large part by the 1994 energy policy, and contributed cumulatively more than $44 billion to the economy during the four-year period (2004-2007) over and above what would have been possible at the 3.4 percent growth rate in the previous four years of the Musharraf government.
The high growth rate during this period had started to create shortages and new thermal projects were approved during this period and started operations during the tenure of the last PPP government. A number of small hydro plants were commissioned and some large hydro power plants are under construction including the Neelum-Jhelum hydro project with 969 MW capacity, first approved in 1989, on which construction started in 2008 and is expected to be completed in 2016.
The hydel-thermal mix in 2012 was 30:70. New thermal power projects during the PML-Q government were approved at the time when the economy was growing strongly and electricity shortages had reappeared. The commissioning of these projects coincided with major escalation of international oil prices. The government policy of not passing the higher cost to the consumers and keeping tariffs low creates excess demand. Meeting the entire excess demand would involve unacceptable fiscal burden. The extent to which the government is willing to bear the subsidy burden determines the extent of load shedding.
The tariff subsidy burden is made worse because of poor recovery of energy bills, power theft and pilferage, relief provided to consumers by courts, and non-payment of dues by provincial governments’ departments and agencies, all of which add to the problem of circular debt and load shedding.
Even though load shedding can be addressed to a considerable extent if consumer tariffs reflect the higher cost of generation, but this would involve rationing through the price mechanism rather than quantity rationing through load shedding as is being done at present. Higher tariffs affect the competitiveness of our industry, not to mention the greater incidence of power theft and other corrupt practices. Therefore, the search for cheaper forms of energy has to be a major priority. Generation of electricity through hydro power is cheaper but project engineering and social, environmental and political dimensions are far more complex than those of thermal power. Other power options based on wind and solar energy are in their infancy in Pakistan. Thermal energy based on Thar coal reserves is also at an exploratory stage. Let’s hope the new governments will focus on indigenous and renewable resources for power generation, which have become economically far more viable because of major escalation in international oil prices since 2008.
Reehana Raza is the CEO of Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives (IDEAS). Anjum Nasim is a senior research fellow at IDEAS.
Reign of mafia in Karachi’s society and economy
There is an old and established bazaar (shops below, owners’ flats above) in Clifton, Karachi, close to the Defence Society – all in the now-famous NA-250 constituency – known as Delhi Colony. It is inhabited by Muslims of various sects, Christians, Hindus, locals and migrants, none of who give a hoot about what other people’s faith or ethnicity are, let alone who they vote for. Previously, its best feature was that even when all other city bazaars shut down, Delhi Colony always stayed open, quite oblivious of news and politics. So much so, when people in other parts of town had urgent need on hartal days, they would drive all the way to Delhi Colony – Until about 10 years ago.
On that fateful day, out of the blue, a gang of hoodlums brandishing clubs, charged in and overturned the thelas spilling cooked food and other items onto the street, flung and smashed goods from shop shelves, and beat up enough shopkeepers and roadside vendors for good measure. As word spread like wildfire through Delhi Colony, people quickly pulled down their shutters while thela-walas fled, some forced to leave their thelas behind, losing their wares and earnings for the day.
The attackers did not hide who they were. They warned their victims who were told to pass on the word, that if ever again Delhi Colony was kept open during hartals, they would not be left with a business to run – or perhaps their skulls. Delhi Colony has never again disobeyed. It took just one decisive assault to ensure that. Routine reminders come with ‘inspection’ or ‘bhatta’ visits.
It was therefore significant how quickly the patience of residents and shopkeepers wore thin, albeit justifiably, because of the PTI protestors’ dharnas in Lahore that inconvenienced traffic and affected business. How would they have reacted if they had to endure what Karachiites did for 30 years every time life suddenly came to a standstill.
The bigger the city, the richer the pickings. This makes any metropolis in the world — especially of 18-plus million potential prey – mouth-watering for mafiosi. Money can be made from rich and poor alike depending on nature and scale of activity. There’s hierarchy among thieves as well, and many are directly vertically linked. The police are a prime example of this.
But cruel and corrupt to the core though the police may be, it can be contained if, by some good fortune, some head honcho turns out to be honest, tough and transparent enough to get cracking. In fact, the police are the lesser of Karachi’s problems. The mafia leads, work in collusion with facilitating partners – government functionaries, and the police, who get their respective cuts. Favours done for politicians too.
The mafia calls the shots in Karachi. It is highly organised, fascist, carving up the city territorially, every apartment building or locality assigned an armed unit to ‘manage’ it. Grounds rules are spelt out to residents, regular ‘donations’ collected for voluntary services, like looking after their ‘security’. In return, they just need to attend mass meetings at short notice.
There are separate charges for one-off but more complex jobs. Want an electricity connection that won’t fetch a regular bill? Or some service, whether legitimate or document tampering, from a reluctant government department? Want to encroach and build on government land or private absentee property? Easily arranged. Teachers and municipal jobs also for sale. Of modest means? Need a permanent location on the roadside, ideal for selling fruit, vegetables or whatever from the thela? Done deal.
Own a conspicuously large generator that says you must be loaded to afford it? Then you can also afford the price for its protection. Or is some greenhorn trying to muscle into what you consider to be your territory, albeit through honest competition? For a reasonable price, he’ll be taught a lesson never to give cause again. One rule every family head must always remember: if rules are defied, someone will have to pay in the worst way possible. God help you if you have women and children in your family you can’t bear to see hurt.
There’s one serious – perhaps gutless – mistake every single government, civilian or military, has made about Karachi for over three decades. Or was it just cruelly easy, self-serving compromise?
Every government has always treated Karachi’s known but unacknowledged mafia hegemony as a political instead of a criminal issue, although dealing serious social and economic consequences. It was established long, long before the Taliban and other terrorists entered the scene. Yet it took the latter’s equally unacceptable behaviour to justify Rangers operations, although mafia mayhem wasn’t very different. As if democracy doesn’t include that citizens have a right to a mafia-free society and economy.
In change there is hope!
“I am so proud to be Pakistani”, said Ayesha Baigmohamed, a Pakistani-American based in Washington DC, five minutes into the ride from Dulles Airport earlier this week. “Don’t get me wrong”, she said, “I am privileged to be American, but yes after this election, I am really proud to be Pakistani.” This sentiment has universal echo in Pakistan.
Taking this further, I was privileged to attend a distinguished gathering at the Atlantic Council, graciously hosted by Shuja Nawaz, whom I unfortunately did not have the pleasure of meeting as I had to leave early. The principal speakers at the event directed at discussing the recent elections and their anticipated impact on the Pakistan scene were Dr Maleeha Lodhi, via Skype from Islamabad, Riaz Mohammad Khan, former foreign secretary and Mohsin Khan, former IMF Director. Opinion makers in DC and Pakistani-Americans attended the event. Among the attendees was Fauzia Saeed of Islamabad, on a book launching tour of her new book based on the rigours faced by women in our environment.
Maleeha is a greatly admired and dear friend. As anticipated she started the meeting with a profound and well-structured discourse covering every aspect of the recent situation and emphasized upon the difference in calibre of governance that the change will bring. She focused on the benefits a Nawaz-led dispensation, considering the elections provided him the simple majority to form government enabling him to deal with critical issues without having to barter or negotiate with coalition partners. At the same time she was precise in warning that being out of office for a long time would require Nawaz Sharif to be cerebral in setting goals, selecting personnel and putting aside personal sentiments in achieving success.
There were two significant points she raised which I believe require attention. First, she said that this election has indicated that the base of Pakistani politics would move from the rural to the urban scene. Perhaps she was overcome with euphoria at the election turnout. Let me say I disagree with this statement based not simply on the disenfranchisement of the bulk of the population but on the fact that the majority of urban Pakistan has no idea of how the people of the rural areas exist. If this were to happen Pakistan would suffer irreparable damage. As it is, rural Pakistan is severely under developed and government must focus on horizontal fiscal equalization to ensure more inclusive development. Failing this the march on the urban centres would become so great that infrastructure could never cope. I would therefore hope that this assessment is incorrect.
The second point is definitely debatable. When asked during the Q&A that followed: what Zardari would do, she said, “He should contact his travel agent”. Setting popular sentiment aside, one must not forget that President Zardari has certain significant political assets that require logical consideration. First of these is the majority for the next three years in the Senate. Second the large vote in Sindh, with Nawaz barely on the board, the converse of the situation in the Punjab. Third and the most important fact is that Zardari has the numbers to make Imran Khan the leader of the opposition. Considering the number of votes won by Imran’s losing candidates in the Punjab, he is undoubtedly a serious player and, hospital call notwithstanding, will want to build on this much to Nawaz’s discomfort. Add to this the fact that Zardari literally handed Nawaz the election by ensuring the PPP’s pitiful election campaign and by finally deciding at a critically late juncture to follow court orders and give up the two offices.
So to completely and quickly write him off is premature. He has proven to be a wily politician and pulled many a trick from his bag. Perhaps they are all used up and this may be one too many and prove difficult to pull off. We will have an answer soon enough.
Riaz Mohammad Khan’s rendering of the foreign policy and administrative necessities and realities was both expansive and direct. He believes as do most rational and progressive Pakistanis that improved ties with India, and more importantly trade with India, is of absolute essence. In driving home the point he emphasized that the army no longer holds this fact taboo and is more open to positive developments. On the ‘drone’ factor and the US participation in Pakistan’s development, he advised the new government to continue to work hard in developing relations to mutual advantage.
His views that drone strikes are not likely to just “go away”, are by and large correct. In my opinion, a significant fact that the ‘anti-drone’ lobby seems to conveniently forget is that the collateral damage being caused to civilian population is no different to the damage to innocent civilian lives and those of military personnel and installations being caused by ruthless and cruel terror attacks on the Pakistani population by the various factions of the Taliban. Therefore in striving to pressurise the US to stop drone attacks are they ensuring a stoppage to terror attacks? If so, they must reveal the methodology. To take it a step further, should our leaders not be absolutely honest instead of selfishly playing with emotions and reveal that there is precious little we can do if the drone attacks are to continue.
His view that election results portray Nawaz as a leader of the majority Punjab province is not entirely incorrect, although Nawaz does have the largest number of seats in Balochistan and a reasonable number in KP with Sindh being the least represented. He opined, in order to overcome this deficit in the Federal government, Nawaz must build consensus overall and in particular in Sindh. This will certainly be an extremely sensitive issue. The new government must provide a level playing field in Sindh as the possibility of serious difficulties in maintaining peace in rural areas and especially Karachi loom large on the horizon.
The crux of Pakistan’s problems is centred on the economy. “Economy, economy, economy,” Mohsin Khan highlighted. He stressed the fact that a new programme with the IMF will be required and that will be centred on the basic pre-requisites laid out in the previous programme that the former government had turned down. The caretaker economic team that visited Washington was told the IMF was open to discussion but would like to do this with the elected government. The last government failed to build consensus on the VAT, tax reforms and non-development expenditures. In fact the politicians never had the will to do it despite having a brilliant economic team for the last three years. And political parties opposed the reforms vehemently, especially in Karachi and Lahore. Perhaps with the change in government representing the Punjab maybe a chance exists for reversing the situation. For Pakistan’s economy to even begin to show signs of correction, the new government will have to dispassionately review the status and dismiss political expediency in driving the change.
Hold our heads high we must. There isn’t a single Pakistani I’ve met here in the last few days who is not celebrating the flow of democracy in our country. In fact, even the significant Americans I’ve met are rejoicing for us. In democracy lies our future and in change there is hope. But there is extreme sadness in the heinous murder of Zahra Shahid Hussain. Those who knew her will know what a wonderful woman she was. May Allah rest her soul in peace, and let us pay tribute by continuing to work for what she stood for: A better and prosperous Pakistan.
The writer can be contacted at: email@example.com
The PML-N’s golden chance
After what seemed like years of campaigning, speculations, name-calling, conspiracy theories and what not, the most anticipated general elections, for my generation at least, finally concluded. If the eventual outcome is to be taken at face value, with the huge mandate given to the winner in mind minus the various allegations of rigging and all that is rotten, it appears that the result has been an extremely joyous one for the significant majority of voters of this country; disappointing for those who thought that their voters would still turn up to support them despite their shortcomings and incompetence; and incomprehensible for the rest, who seemed to ride on a wave of unrealistic expectations and perception only to wake up post-May 11 with a bad case of hangover that often follows such a high.
Before proceeding any further, I would take this time to toot my own horn for a bit. When my assessment of the seats in Lahore was printed on the pages of this very newspaper two weeks prior to the polls, I faced a barrage of questions and opinions from disgruntled supporters of one particular party for not considering certain factors which they apparently believed were to act as game-changers; the youth vote; the passion and vigour or ‘Junoon’ of their supporters; their naïve and idealistic belief that their message and rhetoric seeking a poll on principles was stronger and more effective than others and was enough to tilt the tide in their favour; and so on. While addressing their reservations, I mastered my two-pronged response; firstly, the entire youth vote was not a guarantee for their particular party and it would split for reasons and factors which are too long to list here; and secondly, for a fair and objective analysis of something as complicated as elections in a city such as ours, you cannot and should not really consider ‘passion’, ‘motivation’ and all that jazz as reasonable indicators because the ground reality was and is significantly different than the one perceived by them.
While I got 12 out of a total 13 seats right (I still cannot figure out for the life of me how Samina Ghurki lost) and while am in a position to play my favourite game of ‘I told you so’ and claim a sense of superiority over some extremely senior and respected analysts who predicted differently, I shouldn’t because I believe any prudent mind who had followed politics in the city from the pre-tsunami days should have reached the same conclusion as I did. But what’s the harm in saying it one last time? I told you so!
On a serious note, what went wrong? Why, despite the popular perception created by analysts and media houses suggesting a hung parliament, did we see one party walk away with the ‘tiger’s share’ of the seats? Surely the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) and Pakistan Peoples Party-Parliamentarians (PPP-P) were hoping to make more of a dent in Punjab if not in just Lahore than what we eventually saw. And more importantly for these and all other parties, what now?
It is the ‘what now’ question that I want to focus on, in turn, aiming to briefly suggest a future course of action and strategy for both the disgruntled party as well as the disappointed party, namely the PTI and the PPP-P respectively.
Let’s first address the fall from grace for the one party that has always staked a claim at being the ‘only national party’ in the country, simply because it isn’t anymore. One doesn’t need to know rocket science to figure out where they went wrong. Granted that their campaigns were hampered by threats and other such factors but a mere perusal of newspapers from the last five years should be sufficient for their think-tanks to prepare a mile-long list of faults and errors that they committed while in power. Yes the NFC, amendments to the constitution and the doing away of presidential powers were good initiatives, but the general public, as it showed, weren’t interested in these steps which the common man fails to understand or appreciate, and craves for immediate relief.
All the social indicators point towards a job poorly done by the previous government. The level of disappointment amongst the masses can best be analysed by the fact that all the coalition partners of PPP-P suffered due to their affiliation with the last government. Awami National Party (ANP) not only lost their government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa but also had only one seat in the National Assembly to show for their performance and sacrifices. Similarly, the Chaudhrys of Gujrat could not have imagined the damage that was caused to Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-e-Azam (PML-Q) candidates by agreeing to a seat-adjustment/coalition with PPP-P. MQM would probably have lost more seats too, if their voters didn’t have the remarkable capability of casting four votes per second for their candidates.
With their popularity graph at an all-time low, the PPP-P needs a complete overhaul, especially in Punjab. Maybe drop the extra ‘P’; maybe do a bit of spring-cleaning and get rid of all such leaders and members who have been successful in alienating and disenfranchising the party’s core supporters; no change will be big enough. One major hurdle for PPP-P turned out to be lack of a central leader for the rest to rally around. With the president barred from campaigning and Bilawal not ready yet, the party should have had someone to lead from the front. It is time to start grooming some young and new faces to re-establish the party in Punjab and try to reconcile with the lost voter base of the party. It won’t win them the next elections, but it would be a significant start.
As for the ‘ballaybaaz’ of PTI, they need to first of all pat themselves on the back for a job quite well done. From having won only one seat since 1997 to becoming the third largest party in the National Assembly and being in a position to form a government in KPK, they have come a long way. What went wrong for them? Well for starters, it was a case of too many expectations on the part of the supporters. Secondly, the PTI supporters and candidates are guilty of exactly the same things that they accuse others of; arrogance and indifference to the opinions of others. In some constituencies in Punjab, PTI fielded candidates whom the locals could not relate to and who themselves appeared not to know much about the needs of their common constituents.
The Tabdeeli Razakars in Lahore, for example, were mostly volunteers from well off areas of the city with absolutely no recognition in the areas they were working and trying to mobilise support. This is where PTI needs to focus because it is in an ideal position to start the groundwork for the next elections. The candidates or local PTI offices need to start socialising and networking in their areas right away; attend funerals, weddings and whatever event possible to establish grass-root level presence in their respective constituencies. And for heaven’s sake, avoid the fiasco that we saw just a couple of months prior to the elections and have the intra-party elections at least a year in advance, if not more, to the general elections. If there is decent governance in KP coupled with poor performance by the newly elected government in the centre, then PTI may get a chance to avenge the first-innings deficit.
A few words for our new rulers: Fortunately for PML-N, the bar set by the previous government at the centre is so low that anything they do will be considered as an upgrade on what we saw for the past five years. But I am sure the leadership of PML-N is aware that they can’t afford any slip-ups or they may face the wrath of the voters with a certain Pathan waiting to pounce on their every mistake come elections next time around. The residents of Punjab are hopeful that we won’t have many complaints from the new government especially as far as administration goes but there are still a few concerns. The PML-N’s continued affiliation with extremist sectarian outfits still sticks at the back of minds of all minorities. So we request the new government of Punjab, can we please have someone new as the provincial law/home minister? We really don’t trust the previous one. Oh, and a proper health minister would be much appreciated as well.
The writer is an advocate of the high courts, a guidance and career counselor and a public speaking coach. The views expressed here are his own. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
In what the Indian government says
Believe it or not, the Supreme Court gave the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) an opportunity to be independent in one of the matters before it, asking the agency why it was not independent. Yet the CBI failed to grab the chance with both hands. It had a fool proof case against Law Minister Ashwani Kumar when he amended the report on the coal blocks allotment scandal. The government’s blatant interference resulted in a “corrected draft,” exactly the way the law minister wanted the report to be.
The Supreme Court said that the CBI had “shaken the system” and it expected the agency to give its independent verdict on the probe. But it did not because the agency realised that it would have meant opposing the government. Apparently, it was the failure of both the CBI and the government. They could have seen to it that the agency would have its own say. Now that it has lost the chance to be viable, the way out for the government is to make the CBI independent. The present bill pending before Parliament falls short of giving the CBI independent character. It looks that both major political parties, the Congress and the BJP, do not want the agency to have teeth. I do not know how far other parties want the agency to be independent. In any case, the CBI has lost the opportunity to become viable.
Corruption still gets most attention in Indian politics. The present government at the centre beats all records in scandals. Never before did the CBI have so many eyes riveted on it and what comes out again and again is the inadequacy of its powers. The reason, simply put, is that the CBI realises the extent of independence it can exercise in the present setup. The law minister’s argument that he has not committed any wrong by vetting the report as his ministry has been the authorised legal adviser of the agency sounds hollow.
However, every time a scam tumbles out of the government’s cupboard, there is a familiar exercise that follows. The CBI is asked to conduct a probe. But when the agency remains a department of the government and part of the system, doubts about its functioning cannot be brushed aside. Several former directors of the CBI have written articles and books to show how they were given instructions from above to decide a case in a particular way.
In the entire scenario, it is difficult to say whether or not Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had been briefed. Because of his clean record in public life, we come to infer that he did not know. It is probable, if not possible, that such a situation did obtain and that Manmohan Singh knew what was happening under his nose. But then you expect some heads to roll when the scams come to light and particularly when you can spot out the officials in the loop. Why has no one been punished till today and why has nothing concrete emerged after practically every investigation?
This doesn’t surprise me at all. The party has confronted with several such situations before and had weathered them all without much ado or damage to its existence. Yet what the Ashwani Kumar and, of late, Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, episodes have brought to the fore is that even before one controversy dies down, there is another one waiting to catch the administration on the wrong foot. No government since independence has been as badly battered and shattered as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s has been.
But there is a certain pattern to the CBI-law minister controversy. As was to be expected, the Congress first dismissed the accusation and then issued a perfunctory explanation before finally admitting that the law minister did go through the report and suggest some changes to it. But for the three-judge bench, which ordered CBI director Ranjit Sinha to file an affidavit, the actual behind-the-scene activities would not have come to light, although we know the agency always functioned under the influence of the government of the day. Hence, the confession by the CBI director before the Supreme Court that “the investigation agency does not exist in isolation” is no revelation.
However, Sinha’s admission has let the cat out of the bag. We knew that institutions like the CBI have been devalued over a period of time. And it is the government which has its last word on a charge-sheet because of political power. Even with the Supreme Court breathing down its neck, there have been several instances where the CBI’s investigations have remained questionable. In fact, political parties have their own views and positions on ways and means to improve the efficiency and accountability of the CBI. But no government has been ever willing to give up its administrative controversy over the agency.
Take the case of the BJP, the main opposition party. It did create a ruckus in parliament over the issue, demanding the resignation of Ashwani Kumar. So did the other parties with their leaders baying for his blood. But we have not seen anybody making concrete proposals to insulate the CBI from government interference. In a way, it is good that the apex court is seized of the entire matter and is determined to liberate the agency from the clutches of the government. But it remains to be seen what structure it would recommend to give the CBI full freedom.
Unfortunately, the government does not seem to be even sorry for what has happened to revive faith in governance. Some ministers try to explain things “in proper perspective”. Yet what the Manmohan Singh government does not realise is the yawning trust deficit: none of its claims is accepted, none of its explanation is considered credible and none of its action is taken seriously. It is thus the loss of faith which has put a question mark against every segment of the administration.
The writer is a senior Indian journalist.
Sharifs ride the Punjab wheel of fortune, again
One outstanding corollary of Pakistan’s electoral science is that whoever wins Punjab – the country’s most populous province with 148 out of 272 general seats of the National Assembly on offer – is pretty much home and dry.
This is why PML-N despite only scoring big in Punjab gets to rule the country again – and with their kind of numbers, decisively.
Nawaz Sharif’s return as prime minister for the third time was well scripted as a number of national and international opinion polls preceding the vote had predicted.
What has taken most pundits by surprise however is the scale of mandate PML-N has received from the critical bastion of power in the Pakistani matrix. Still, there is a sense of disbelief at the roughshod riding since it flies in the face of strong projections in the media ahead of the polls, in which rival PTI appeared to be giving the PML-N sleepless nights as it surged in public reckoning with a kinetic campaign that culminated with an emotional appeal for the electorate not to miss a golden opportunity to change the old order from a hospital bed after Imran Khan fell from a 15ft high fork-lifter at a rally two days from closing time.
The dramatic images of the fall galvanized a disparate nation with even Sharif forced to cancel rallies for a day as a sympathy wave surged across Pakistan for its revered cricket hero.
However, the end results show this may not have contributed to the eventual tally in any meaningful way, if at all. The ‘PTI factor’ – easily the biggest draw of Pakistan’s 10thgeneral elections – is deserving of a separate piece, perhaps, in the coming weeks.
Apparently, the electorate in Punjab chose to go with experience, leaving Khan with a window to learn the ropes in opposition.
But the capitulation of the PPP did contribute enormously to the PML-N’s return to power. While it was expected the former would take a bit of a hammering, again, the scale of bludgeoning has embarrassed analysts over their pre-poll calculations.
However, what cannot be denied is that the PML-N’s was always the big ticket for Circa ’13 as was evident in how droves of wannabe parliamentarians from other parties flocked to Raiwind in the months leading up to the polls.
In fact, the process was started in earnest last year as Sharif forged alliances with a number of political groups or parties to reinforce his political capital. In bare knuckle terms, the PML-N won the day thanks to its calculated ploy of herding electables of all hues.
The party had the right mix to go with it as Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif did more than just raise populist slogans: he delivered with a handful of public welfare schemes with a strong shelf life in terms of political capital as usual.
You have to hand it to the Sharifs for always calibrating projects that are etched in public memory, bringing them a windfall each time they go to the hustings.
The recently built Metro bus system in Lahore, spread over 27km and covering dozens of residential and commercial localities along the city’s main lowbrow artery – like the Motorway and Yellow Cab scheme of yesteryears – are all a stellar reminder every day about who delivered them!
Even though ‘intellectual’ criticism about launching mega projects at the expense of improving basic infrastructure persists, at the end of the day, the public visibility of road networks and the plying yellow cabs handed out in the 1990s and also more recently on easy loans perhaps overrides the argument at least in the public perception.
Coming back to the polls, even though the European Union largely declared polling ‘satisfactory’ at 90 per cent of the polling stations and its chief observer Michael Gahler felt the overall exercise was “a step forward towards democracy”, serious irregularities in 10 per cent of the polling stations mainly in the Sindh province were also cited.
Punjab itself was not immune from cries of foul play with the PTI up in arms. Subsequently, serious allegations of irregularities were also leveled by other parties, citing vote snatching, stamping of ballots by party activists and/or polling staff, delayed arrival of polling staff and material, clashes between political activists and, in the odd case, even candidates, and last but not least, even the kidnapping of poll staff and candidates!
What is evident from dozens of videos and hundreds of individual cases of being at the receiving end of an unfair poll exercise is: the Election Commission as well as the law enforcing agencies failed in their singular obligation of ensuring an error-free and intimidation-free poll.
Indeed, Fakhruddin G Ibrahim, the octogenarian chief election commissioner, invited ridicule when he called the conduct of ‘free and fair’ polls as a ‘gift from us’ whilst referring to the “kidnapping of polling staff and re-polling in 43 stations of a constituency” in the same breath!
The social media was chock-a-block with evidences of rigging particularly, indicting the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) in Karachi, whose activists were allegedly caught in the act in multiple videos indulging in coercive measures.
Having said that, rigging allegations are nothing new as anyone with even remote Pakistani electoral experience will tell you. However, it marks the first time these have made an impact with recorded evidence since these were the first elections conducted in the presence of a robust electronic media and a near-zealous occupation of the social media cutting across the divide.
But it would be unfair not to give credit to the valiant voters – a large number of whom were first timers, including the zestful youth and women inspired by Imran Khan’s tremendous appeal – who defied militant threats to come out in what marked one of the highest turnouts in Pakistani history.
Pit this against the dozens of killings, including those of candidates, and the unavailability of a level playing field for secular parties and you get an idea of how treacherous the terrain was.
The writer is Editor Pique Magazine based in Islamabad. He can be reached email@example.com
For PML-N the way forward is to work together with other parties
The PML-N President and the future Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mian Nawaz Sharif, went to Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital to inquire about the welfare of PTI chief Imran Khan and reportedly told the reporters after the meeting that putting the bitterness of the electoral campaign behind, both Imran Khan and he, had agreed to bury the hatchet and work together to surmount the challenges facing the country. He also made it a point that he would respect the mandate of PTI in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa. This gesture of Mian Nawaz Sharif is the best example of humility in victory, a rare human trait. The large heartedness shown by Mian sahib has gone well with the masses and those who were apprehensive about the continuation of hostility and confrontation between the two parties in the backdrop of the heat generated during the election campaign and the allegations of rigging in Punjab levelled by Imran Khan.
Imran Khan also needs to be complimented for reciprocating the goodwill gesture and political initiative of Mian Nawaz Sharif. Pakistan is at the crossroads and it can hardly afford the continuation of confrontation among the political entities. Mian sahib is well advised to also recognise and respect the mandate of the parties who have won majority seats in other provinces and discourage the underhand wheeling and dealing to fabricate coalitions in disregard to the mandate given by the people. In Balochistan, which has a split mandate, it would perhaps be in the fitness of things to work out an arrangement whereby a Baloch nationalist, preferably Akhtar Mengal, is installed as the chief minister. It will really help in tackling the insurgency and removing the sense of deprivation.
It is really sad that some of the political parties are back to their old ways and trying to cast doubts about the credibility of the entire electoral process by levelling allegations of extensive rigging and even taking to streets to put pressure on the ECP for re-polling in those constituencies. The scenario in Karachi is particularly very regrettable. The MQM chief Altaf Hussain, as usual, has committed the indiscretion of hurling threats on the political opponents and the media and even alluded to separation of Karachi from Sindh. Though he has climbed down from earlier posturing and called off the sit-in by the workers of the party, his convulsions have invited a very severe backlash. He needs to act more responsibly as the words spoken are sometimes more damaging than the wounds inflicted by guns. Karachi is already like a seething volcano and therefore nothing should be done to precipitate the crisis.
There is no denying the fact that a number of instances of irregularities, mismanagement and administrative flaws in coordination among different agencies have occurred at some places but there is no evidence of any organised rigging on a massive scale as being alleged by some parties. Therefore, instead of reinforcing the impression of being sore losers, they should revisit their strategies and let the ECP look into the complaints and come up with plausible solutions and remedial actions as prescribed under law. The ECP has already constituted 14 tribunals to deal with complaints pertaining to elections and is also in contact with the political parties in a bid to redress their grievances.
The sapling of democracy needs to be nurtured to become a strong tree capable of weathering the gusty winds instead of being trampled by inflated egos and false prides. Democracy is the only way we can move forward and leave a good legacy for the posterity. The political parties need to establish healthy democratic norms and traditions and prove their commitment through concrete actions rather than words. Democracy is the art of possible. The political entities therefore should not vie for something that is impossible to achieve. The enormity and gravity of the challenges faced by the country needs a concrete and determined cooperative effort by all the stakeholders to work out a broad based strategy to deal with those challenges. No single party, even enjoying majority in the legislatures can stabilise the lurching ship. The scenario emerging out of the electoral exercise also dictates the adoption of a cooperative approach.
It is said that wise people learn from the experience of others while the fools learn through their own mistakes. Regrettably, we as a nation have failed on both counts. Neither have we learnt from the experience of others nor have we learnt any lessons from our own setbacks and tragedies. However, we cannot afford this luxury anymore. There is no escape from reality. The reality is that we are where we are due to the shenanigans of the military dictators and self-serving politicians who have ruled the roost and encouraged the politics of graft and entitlement and indulged in reckless corruption which provided the predators to derail democracy repeatedly.
Neither was any attempt made to reform the political system nor was a viable security policy evolved to ward off the dangers lurking on the horizon. Our economic policies regrettably have been dominated by political considerations rather than being embedded in economic realities. The emphasis has been more on prestige projects in complete disregard to the necessity-led approach. All this has to change and a new beginning made. The rulers will have to tell the truth to the people about the state of the economy and the sacrifices they will have to make for its revival, the true nature of the security threat and above all the political reforms that are needed to improve the system of governance.
To accomplish these arduous tasks, some constitutional amendments and legal measures will have to be put in place, which will require an unstinted support of all the political parties. It is now or never. Therefore all the political leaders will have to set aside their narrow political interests and work collectively for the national good. Politicking can wait for better times. Bringing about the required transformation will be a big challenge for Mian sahib and it is hoped that he will not repeat the past mistakes and prove himself equal to the trust reposed in him by the people.
The writer is an academic.
Shiite, Sunni radicals to fight it out in Middle East
The conflict in Afghanistan is unique in many respects but there is one obvious peculiarity. The coalition there is truly global in nature. The Taliban never had any formal state sponsor supplying sophisticated weaponry. During the Afghan jihad of the 80s it was the stinger missile that made it impossible for the Russians to keep relying on air power, and this turned the tide of the war.
Overtime, the war against terror progressed and shifted to various other fronts in the Middle East and North Africa. As the war evolved the use of violence, towards whatever end, was outlawed within the realms of international law. In other words, terrorist was no longer a freedom fighter for anyone. This obviously had far reaching consequences.
Nations of the region that had chronic insurgencies to deal with used the ‘carte blanche’ of terrorism to suppress these movements. Then there were the autocratic Arab governments with a track record of poor governance and human rights violations, and they too exploited the war to garner western support and legitimacy. This dynamics played no less a role in stimulating the Arab awakening. Meanwhile, a perception began to emerge that NATO is shaping the new world order under the garb of war against terror. This has gradually unnerved both Russia and China, despite their own challenges with extremists.
The rules of the game have begun to decisively change in case of Syria, which had many tangents from the get go. The nature of the beast there was never like Iraq and Libya. For one, Syria is Iran’s closest ally, whose fall may isolate Iran in a way the sanctions have never been able to. Moreover, Assad’s regime has been important to the balance of power in Lebanon, and by consequence the Middle East peace process. Then there are concerns regarding Syria’s chemical weapons that could fall in the hands of Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah, or militants linked to it, and then used against Israel. In this regard, Syria is similar to Iraq; the scare of weapons of mass destruction was one of key pretexts for the second Gulf War.
However, the most important difference in case of Syria is the formal state sponsorship of various groups involved. For example, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and western powers are supporting the Free Syrian Army (FSA) to topple the Assad regime. FSA’s complex relationship with AQ linked Sunni extremists means that some weapons are ending up with groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra. These radicals are proving to be the most effective on the ground, and are well supplied through their own links in the Arab world.
Now that President Obama and other European nations are contemplating supplying arms directly to the Syrian opposition forces, Russia is conveying that it means to do the same, and may already be doing it, in support of the Assad regime.
Obviously, what is occurring in Syria is of serious concern for Israel. It does not want Syrian chemical weapons and missiles to fall in the hands of Hezbollah or Jabhat al-Nusra. On the other hand, the West has its own dilemma; it cannot allow the Sunni or Shiite radicals to dominate the post-Assad scenario at the cost of nationalist opposition forces.
Reportedly, the meeting between PM Netanyahu and President Putin, held in Sochi on May 14, did not go well. Russia warned Israel against anymore airstrikes in Syria. Meanwhile, PM Netanyahu attempted to convince Putin not to sell its sophisticated S-300 air defense system to Syria.
With no easy solution, heightened diplomacy is once again being witnessed between Russia, UK and US, with a proposed international conference in a month seeking a political solution. The differences over if Assad should stay or go, remain. With Turkey being dragged in and Israel warning of more strikes inside Syria, the region is at the precipice of a wider war.
Syrian response to a direct state intervention, such as continued Israeli air raids, is likely to come from its proxies. On the other hand, Israel has threatened more strikes and going after the Assad regime, which it claims to have not done so far, if Syria deploys its proxies or provides sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah.
There is now a growing likelihood that Syria is truly heading towards a state meltdown that would involve a confrontation between Shiite Hezbollah fighters, fighting in support of Assad regime, and Sunni AQ linked extremists, such as Jabhat al-Nusra. The group recently claimed allegiance to Ayman al Zawahiri and agreed to a merger with AQ in Iraq. Qatar in particular is being blamed for providing support to the Sunni extremist groups operating in Syria to topple Assad from power. The scenario is likely to pull extremists and jihadist elements from across the region.
On April 30th, Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah warned of revenge if the shrine named after the grand daughter of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Sayida Zeinab, was to be desecrated. “If the shrine is destroyed things will get out of control,” Nasrallah commented. He also assured Assad of his support and that Hezbolllah would not let Syria fall to Israel, US or the Islamic radicals.
From the western and Israeli perspective in particular, the chaos in Syria provides a bizarre yet dangerous opportunity. It could end the war against terror or insinuate it even more. The scenario could not get any better: religious zealous fighting each other out to death and leading to a dramatic end to the war against terror. The reality being one or the other type of radical, Shiite or Sunni, is likely to prevail, while posing the question of where do matters go from there. Nonetheless, the Syrian conflict has now morphed with the regional and global tussles to shape a new order in the Middle East.
The writer is chief analyst at PoliTact, a Washington based futurist advisory firm (www.PoliTact.com and http:twitter.com/politact) and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org