Exploiting sensitive ethno-linguistic issues should be discouraged
Whether my country is right or wrong, nationalism is basically associated and defined with a firm and unshakable national pride, with enduring love of country, of their nation, unbound feelings of patriotism and finally unquestionable loyalty. Wikipedia and internet presents multifold definitions of nationalism such as “devotion to the interests or culture of one’s nation, a belief that nation will benefit from acting independently rather than collectively that emphasizing national rather than international goals, aspirations for national independence in a country under foreign domination, a sentiment based on common cultural characteristics that binds a group of population and often produces a policy of national independence or separatism, a loyalty or patriotism to one’s country that leads to fanatical devotion to the interest of national community, the desire for national advancement or independence and the doctrine or policy of asserting the true interests of a particular nation based on cultural values over the interests of other nations”. While accepting the fact that all these norms or characteristics are true in spirit for strengthening and unifying the diversified community bond, it nevertheless provides realistic fundamental ingredient to the growth and development of any just nation or society.
Earlier in the recent past, nationalism has been considered as an important instrument to unify various multi-ethnic and multi-cultural groups in the European continent that led to an overall but gradual society development of our time. For example, in the 19th centuries, a unified wave of romantic nationalism swept the continent of Europe transforming the various countries of the continent. With a spirit of common national identity, here some new countries, such as Germany and Italy were formed by merging smaller states. Others, such as Romania, Greece, Poland and Bulgaria, followed the same path and were formed by winning their independence. Furthermore, a French revolution paved the way for the modern nation-state and also had a fair contribution in the emergence of nationalism. Here, political transformation across Europe was led by radical intellectual Bonaparte Napoleon, where revolutionary armies carried out the popular slogan of liberty, equality and brotherhood along with the idea of liberalism and self-determination. A process of national awakening emerged out of an intellectual debate to the enlightenment that emphasized national identity and developed a romantic view of cultural self-expression through nationhood at gross root level.
More recently, a German leader G.W. Friedrich Hegel introduced a modern idea of a nation state where he argued that a sense of nationality should be considered hard cement that held diversified societies together in the age when dynastic and religious allegiance is in decline.
Over a period of time and through various movements (e.g., 1804 Serbian movement, 1815 Congress of Vienna, 1821-29 National independence declaration by Greek and the revolution against the Ottoman empire, 1846 uprising in greater Poland, 1830 Belgian revolution, 1859-1861 Italy unification, 1866-1871 German unification, 1867 Irish nationalist uprising movement and 1908 Bulgaria independence), the growth and development of nationalism was expanded and continued in Europe and even widely spread in other parts of the world in various stages. As a result of this, a true spirit of national harmony and prosperity established their roots to strengthen the society at national level. Finally, we see a strong and prosperous unified Europe today, embedded with industrial growth and with functional social welfare system in place for the people and by the people.
Reflecting the dominance of religious and political elite in Pakistan, a concept of unified nationalism is gradually being shattered. Note that the fundamental concept of the two nation theory on which Pakistan was founded was largely based on Muslim nationalism that resulted in its status as Islamic republic. Internal differentiating conflicts induced by various racial, sectarian, ethnic or linguistic groups are further shrinking nationalism space in the country. It is worth to mention that these ethno-linguistic factors have been a far more prevalent cause of strife in specific areas of Pakistan, besides religious activism. Rather than unified national integrated politics based on various real issues, our politicians are further using negative tactics to exploit these conflicting virtues to get more political gain from different segments of the society. Worsening country’s economy due to many other reasons, a greater polarization between rich and poor is noticed now a days. Regrettable to say that national language “Urdu” is still not widely spoken and understood in all state provinces since independence. Note that Pakistan is also missing a unified education system at School level, acceptable to all faction of society that results in a diversified mindset in the country. While hardly visible and untouched issue in the public domain, Pakistani national flag has been buried under umbrella flags of various political and religious parties inside the country.
Fundamental factors such as communitarianism (i.e. a philosophical approach that emphasizes the connection between the individual and the community), cultural identity, unified religious belief, respect of national flag, integrated identity and national politics, belief on the meaning of state emergence and existence, equality of justice, system of national accountability, objective of Pakistan resolution, struggle for self-confidence and national independence are the key parameters that lay the foundation for establishing true nationalism in the country. All these objective parameters are following the route of collective national demise in Pakistan now. A lack of communitarianism and decline of communal bonds along with respect for traditional cultural and religious values are being eroded in our society by various means.
A classic example of demise of our nationalism is associated with the gradual growing influence of arch rival India in Pakistan – through media (i.e. Indian movies on TV channels and on Cinemas, TV commercials, fashion shows etc.), promoting Indian goods in Pakistani market, projecting Indian national heroes on Pakistani channels and paying frequent visits by artists pose major threat not only to the spirit of our national pride but also raises concern for our young generation who try to often adopt Indian popular slang and dialect learned through Bollywood movies. Contrary to largely Indian absence in Pakistani musical concerts in Europe and in America, Indian based musical concerts are generally fully packed with Pakistani audience, presents another shameful example of declining faith on our nationalism belief. On the other side, presenting liberal Turkish plays at prime time slot on Pakistani TV channels proving to be a cultural Titanic for Pakistani TV media business.
A huge foreign investment in the Pakistani media as exposed recently in the private TV media for exploiting and projecting cultural image of respective countries presents another source of concern for deteriorating nationalism spirit. Moral and political support given to Kashmiri brothers, issues of Sir Creek, Siachen, Indus Water Treaty and Kashmir conflict where the whole nation has been united so far and also linked with prime resource building capacity, are considered now forgotten chapters.
The situation is even more disturbing among Pakistani families living abroad where the children are now questioning about our national identity and possession of Islamic belief and ideology. Knowing the fact that Indian goods and Indian influence is growing worldwide and Pakistan definitely cannot be left out of this emerging development, a fair amount of our ignorant population is ready to respond positively that should be discouraged with full strength and with utmost belief. More interestingly, exponential growth trend is frequently witnessed among youth male and female discussing about Indian popular songs and movies and think of Indian actors and actresses as their legitimate heroes. Importing and celebrating alien days (e.g., mother day, father day, and valentine day etc.,) with full panorama in our national domain presents another source of frustration for demolishing our religious values where respect to father and mother is boundless by default and for everyday. It is really painful to see that vast majority of Pakistani society take these critical issues as pointless and simply ignored.
Admitting the fact that business and developing good relation with neighbors are critical for economical and national survivability, various national contentious issues described earlier should not be neglected at any cost besides sustaining nationalism belief in the society.
Note that the nationalism is not born by itself but is artificially made and then polished by intellectuals, nationalists and religious think-tanks. Religious and sectarian intolerance is not born by itself but is artificially induced in the society. Other racial and ethnic factors described earlier are also human made and fabricated for political gain. Now, the question comes into mind what should we do to protect our cultural, religious and national values as earlier voiced by Ch. Rahmat Ali’s pamphlet entitle “Now or Never, Are we to live together or perish forever?”.
The role of our governments has so far been extremely deplorable in all fronts that allowed unlimited penetration of Bollywood and other alien culture into our society. Firstly, this Bollywood embedded Pakistani mindset needs to be thoroughly washed out in real sense by promoting religious and cultural values, supporting our industrial products, exploiting young talent and ensuring that our countrymen are the best in all walks of life. Legal mechanism should be in place as earliest possible to make sure that the right (and filtered) content is shown on the screen. A countrywide well-disciplined national campaign with the support of intellectual think-tanks, academics, businessmen, artists, analysts and students should be launched to promote nationalism agenda in the country. Simultaneously, a culture of awareness should be introduced among school children so as to realize them that how important is the nationalism uplift for growth, development and sustainability of any nation/country. Pro-western NGOs that provide recipes for secular mindset in the country should strongly be condemned and let them not allow exploiting their classified agenda that violates nationalism spirit. While Pakistan is a victim of globalization, supremacy of national interests over personal interest should be upheld at all cost to justify utmost love for the nation. Above all, it’s our responsibility to confine wish list and pattern of living within religious and cultural bounds. While Pakistani pocket is already filled with true national heroes, a pro-government strategic driving force is needed to actualize the potential of this nation. Simultaneously, politician and religious scholars should be discouraged and banned from exploiting sensitive ethno-linguistic issues. Finally and for green Pakistan, let us unite, push and commemorate the nationalism uplift in the country as originally defined and set by Allama Iqbal and Quaid e Azam for people at their best.
The writer is a senior scientist/researcher at ABB Corporate Research. He can be reached at: email@example.com
Resurrection of IP gas pipeline project
The chances of resurrecting the Pak-Iran gas pipeline project, which has remained in doldrums ever since it was conceived in 1995 — due to a variety of reasons including financial constraints and the unrelenting US pressure on Pakistan to dissuade itself from the venture — have surely brightened up after a meeting between Pakistan’s minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Shahid Khaqan Abbassi and his Iranian counterpart Mr Bijan Namdar Zangeneh in Tehran on Monday, 9th December, wherein both sides expressed their resolve to move forward on the project. It was also agreed to hold another meeting shortly to review parameters for accelerating the implementation of the project and other issues related to it. It is indeed a very encouraging development in the backdrop of some discouraging signals in the recent past about the project ever taking off. The PML-N government certainly deserves credit for not succumbing to the US pressure and remaining steadfast in fulfilling the commitment made with the Iranians, in our best national interests.
It is pertinent to mention that the US has been trying to persuade the PML-N government to withdraw from the project by promising help in the energy sector as an alternate to the venture and also supporting the trans-regional projects like CASA-1000 and TAPI. It even used threats of sanctions against Pakistan but the government exhibited rare guts and vision to spurn the combination of lures and threats by the sole superpower in the world. The PML-N government by sticking to the project has also made a healthy break from the unenviable past practice by the new governments to discard and disown the projects initiated by the previous regimes. The stance of the government is also in line with the vision and paradigm shift in the conduct of our foreign policy orchestrated by the present government with greater focus on building regional linkages.
Pakistan belongs to the South Asian region and its economic prosperity and security is inextricably linked to this region. Any policy divorced from these realities would not be in our long term national interests. Giving due consideration to the geographical realities and historic bonds with the countries of the region, as being advocated by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, is a pragmatic and realistic thinking. The P5+1 agreement with Iran on nuclear programme of the latter has also contributed to creating a congenial atmosphere for the implementation of the project and both Pakistan and Iran must capitalise on this development to fast-track its implementation.
The only trans-regional project relevant to Pakistan’s situation at the moment is the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline (IP).The Pak-Iran gas pipeline is not only important for energy-starved Pakistan but also for Iran in terms of showing the world that it is not isolated, more so in its own region. The groundbreaking ceremony of the Pakistani section of the pipeline on 11th of March early this year, despite US threats of possible sanctions against Pakistan not only promised a perennial lifeline for Pakistan but also provided much required props to Iran to reinforce that notion.
The Pak-Iran gas pipeline is almost indispensable in view of the energy crisis gripping the country at the moment and its future needs. The completion of the project would be instrumental to the addition of 4,000 MW of electricity into the system. The Pak-Iran gas pipeline will serve our economic interests for a long time to come besides other benefits that will come through economic integration with the region. It is hoped that in view of the importance of the pipeline for both the countries and their determination to make it a reality, issues such as pricing and availability of the finances for construction of the 781 km section of the pipeline on the Pakistani side would be amicably resolved.
India, which initially was also part of the project known as IPI, withdrew from the venture in view of the US opposition to it. However, it has been adequately compensated through the signing of the agreement for transfer of civilian nuclear technology to her from the US and its allies like UK and France as well as US’ commitment to install power projects with a cumulative power generating capacity of 40,000 MW of electricity. The US is not prepared to treat Pakistan at par with India in regards to transfer of civilian nuclear technology. Pakistan perforce has to find other avenues and sources for generating power to meet its current and future needs.
China, our time-tested friend, has come to our rescue in this area. It is helping us in building Chashma III and IV and is also engaged in the construction of nine power units in Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir, including the Neelum-Jhelum Project. As agreed during Prime Nawaz Shrif’s visit to China, the Chinese companies would be making an investment of US$ 6 billion in the power projects in Pakistan over the next five years, especially in the coal based electricity generating units in which China has exceptional expertise.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif recently also performed ground breaking ceremony of a nuclear power plant at Karachi with a potential to generate 2,200 MW, with the Chinese help. At present Pakistan has an installed power generating capacity of nearly 23,000 MW from all sources and according to an IAEA assessment report power demand in Pakistan will increase to more than 49,000 MW by the year 2025. The PML-N government therefore is moving in the right direction by giving top priority to tackling the energy crisis and adding new power generating capacity to the system. IP is surely a project of immense value in regards to attaining energy-security and kick-starting the process of rehabilitation of the febrile economy, as envisaged by the government.
Malik Muhammad Ashraf is an academic. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
PM’s investment package/amnesty scheme
The prime minister announced his investment package or the ‘Amnesty Scheme’ a few days back and I am being constantly asked to comment on the same. Although personally I am quite opposed to unconventional economic measures such as amnesty schemes, whitening opportunities, loan write-offs, etc, leaving my personal bias aside, let’s try and objectively assess this governmental measure. We can first start by listing the nature and ambit of this new prime minister’s investment package (as it is being referred to), followed by arguments on why governments should avoid launching such schemes, then going on to finding some sound rationale, if any at all, that could have possibly induced the PM into announcing such breaks, and finally listing an implementation model; meaning that if in the PM’s eyes such amnesties were truly unavoidable to rekindle the investment process in the country then what should he have done differently.
Describing it as a package that will promote growth and investment, Nawaz Sharif last week announced incentives for the industrialists or mainly traders – who are believed to be his traditional voters. The incentives offer the industrialists or traders to legalize their black money by investing in various projects. He also stopped the FBR (Federal Bureau of Revenue) from accessing the bank accounts of taxpayers and exempted a category of existing and all new taxpayers from tax audit. As desired by him, the FBR has now allowed the banks not to give any information about monthly transactions and written-off loans of those who either hold a National Tax Number (NTN) or are active taxpayers. In case, a person does not have an NTN and is a non-filer, it will be mandatory for all banks to furnish the FBR his monthly deposit statement, credit and payment details and any loan write-off. However, any such information will becomes useless when a person decides to file the income tax return and pay a minimum tax of Rs25,000 irrespective of what he owes to the exchequer. Further, the initial limit of Rs20 million per person per investment has also been removed and now under this scheme there is no limit to the investment you can claim as being exempt from scrutiny.
Post-2008 financial crisis the global economy per se is currently going through a very low growth cycle. However, one of the important lessons that come forth from this challenging period is that even in unprecedented low growth cycles the mature and developed economies tend to stay away from any such amnesty schemes. Their rationale being that amnesty schemes actually go on to be a reward for tax thieves and in fact tend to have the very opposite effect on the honest and legitimate tax payers. Just like loan write-offs to defaulters are considered to be unfair to people/businesses who instead fully discharge their debt liabilities on time, these whitening schemes likewise are also detrimental to a clean tax culture, since these schemes promote inequality and rent-seeking, disrupt a level playing canvas for businesses across the board, disturb the market equilibrium vis-à-vis competitiveness and supply chain management, and ironically aide the growth cum development of the un-documented sector in an economy over the documented one.
Further, even from the ‘good corporate governance’ perception and perspective, such messages can be extremely detrimental to an economy. Not only do such measures protect corruption, they also unleash a much broader negative impact by bringing the corrupt to the forefront of the national business scene and thereby discouraging genuine entrepreneurship & innovation. Finally, in a country like Pakistan where the tax base is quite narrow these schemes do little to promote legitimate businesses and on the contrary tend to be counter-productive and impediments to organized investment.
However, having said all this, Pakistan is going through one of its leanest investment periods (both domestic and foreign) in history. Pak Rupee is rapidly losing ground and our foreign exchange reserves are depleting fast. Naturally, Mr Sharif is worried – his mind must be racing back to October 1999, when the foreign exchange reserves (as today) had reached a precariously low level. It is neither surprising nor farfetched that ‘in the larger national interest’ a leader under such circumstances and stress allows his Machiavellian instincts to take over. Ethics and rules of business can take a back seat when it comes to the interest of state, which in this case would be protecting the economy!
Fair enough, but then extracting desirable results from undesirable measures requires competent management skills and sadly, this government from the very onset of its current tenure has been lacking in this department. The logical question that arises from this comment is that assuming this package was necessary then what differences in its formulation should have been made to make it comparatively more transparent and effective? The suggestions are as following:
Finally, the timing of announcing such a package could not have been worse. With the IMF board meeting (where our loan package is to be finalized) scheduled in the 3rd week of December 2013, and with most of the IMF inflows structured in 2014 and onwards, perhaps the government could have waited another three to four months. When you partner a financial institution to seek budgetary support, it is only fair to also keep them on board on policy decisions that can be perceived to undermine the very spirit of improving economic governance at home. And if it is industrial revival and investment that the government truly seeks then it would have been more appropriate to first undertake the long overdue micro level industry-operational reforms to unshackle businesses from the unnecessary and corrupt government oversight!
May lead to more CBMs with India
On numerous occasions in about five years since Mumbai there were signals that the ice was breaking between Pakistan and India, only for the relations to become tense again. The meeting between the prime ministers of the two countries in New York in September on the sidelines of the annual UN General Council meet this year had inspired hopes that remained unfulfilled. It was decided that the two DGMOs would meet soon to investigate the cross-border firing to ensure that there was no recurrence of these incidents in future. The meeting failed to take place over the next three months while more serious incidents took place on the LoC, further ratcheting up tension between the neighbours.
With the US-led NATO troops scheduled to leave Afghanistan at the end of 2014, Pakistan, India and other regional countries need to develop an understanding regarding the post withdrawal scenario. There is a need to ensure that Afghanistan does not once again turn into In a staging ground for terrorist attacks inside neigbouring countries. This will not only hit Pakistan badly but India too will not remain secure for long. An unstable Afghanistan could in fact cause problems to the entire region. While the US hopes that either Karzai or his successor will sign the bilateral security agreement, paving way for the retention of 8,000 to 12,000 US troops in Afghanistan till 2024 for training and support purposes, there should be little ground for smugness on account of a mercurial and unpredictable Karzai.
The Cabinet Committee on National Security (CCNS) in its first meeting on Tuesday directed the ministries of foreign affairs and defence to take measures that could contribute to making the neighbourhood peaceful. The first step in the direction would be stabilising peace on the LoC and the working boundary. The seriousness of the directive will be adjudged from the efficiency shown in further improving the bilateral ties which is crucial for the security of both the countries. With the TTP leadership spurning the government’s offer for talks, a reluctant Islamabad might be left with no option but to remove a fairly large body of troops and military assets from the Pak-India border to the Western marches. The decision by the CCNS to tighten security in tribal areas could in fact be the first move in that direction. This would require improved ties and further CBMs with India.
Saying they won’t back down
Negotiating with Taliban is a good step, for the sake of peace, but surrendering to their will is not. The Taliban know that by holding back military operation and offering to hold talks, the government has shown weakness. They were not ready to lay down arms and bring peace in the first place, but now it appears they have become aggressive more than ever.
In the latest episode, the Taliban have brazenly retorted back at the government which announced its new security policy the other day. They say that they don’t agree to talks and would intensify their terror activities across the country. They dared the government to launch a military operation in the tribal areas, saying that they have seen such military operations before. This attitude of a ragtag militant organization, or 50 organizations, won’t be there in the first place if the government had taken a firm stand against them from the beginning. Since it has been taking a knee jerk approach to this menace of humanity, it has given enough leverage to the Taliban to make embolden them to challenge the writ of the government. The government says that there is a consensus among the Cabinet Committee on National Security (CCNS) that “economic development and prosperity of the people of Pakistan is dependent upon ensuring security and stability of the country”. No doubt about that but the question is how to achieve that. The current strategy lacks the punch if it falls through. A threat of launching an operation is apparently not achieving its desired objective. The only way it would be possible is if the government actually launches an operation. Talking to each organization on its own, instead of talking to the TTP, their umbrella organization, is going to take some time and even then might not yield the desired result.
The government has already wasted more than enough time in formulating a policy on terrorism and seeing it through. The people are quite tired of hollow promises the government makes every other day. They want action, they the government to take steps in removing ambiguity in its intentions and come up with a concrete, fool proof plan that can bring peace.
Too early to express satisfaction with the law and order
Finally, after more than six months, the government has come up with what it considers to be a comprehensive national security policy. The policy document was finalised at a meeting of the cabinet committee on national security in the first ever sitting of the body. A day earlier, Ch Nisar had spelled out the outline of the three-pronged policy. Only the strategic and operational components of the policy have been made public while it was decided to keep the third part confidential. The policy spells out a clear timeframe with a target to have an operational institutional network in place in a year. The policy comes in the wake of the Pakistan Protection Ordinance which has already enhanced the powers of the security agencies while making changes in the laws related to evidence and a considerable extension in the period of the suspects’ custody. Civil armed forces serving unauthorised persons have also been withdrawn.
The policy will strengthen the hands of those who hold talks with the militants and will provide the much needed backing to the army. Talks with the militants is the first option, we are told, while other options would be used as a last resort. This raises a number of questions. The Taliban under the new leadership have not shown willingness for negotiations while attacks by militants continue to be launched all over the country, the frequency depending on proximity from the tribal areas. The attacks on military convoys continue to take place in North Waziristan. Despite a lot of noise about negotiations that has gone on for months there is still no visible move in the direction. How long is the government going to wait for the Taliban to come to the table? And if the talks falter, what will determine that time has come to shift to the option of the last resort? The meeting was briefed about internal security as well as the situation on the LoC and Pak-Afghan border. One is yet to know if the confusion regarding the principle source of security threat has been removed. How are the sectarian terrorists, who are now targeting Punjab also, to be treated? Would the government talk to them or direct the security agencies to dismantle their networks and take them out? Despite over 10,000 taken into custody, all is not well with Karachi. It is too early to express satisfaction with the law and order situation as was done in the cabinet committee meeting.
A lot of hullabaloo but not much seems to be happening that could be termed encouraging or positive. Enthusiasm vis-à-vis composite dialogue between the two arch rivals seems to have enthused Pakistan more than India. Lukewarm response to Pakistan’s overtures for bilateral talks loudly speaks of India’s indifference towards building a congenial and mutually beneficial relationship with Pakistan.
While Pakistan sincerely continues to make overtures to its neighbour-India to hold a composite dialogue on all long-drawn issues, including the major issue of plebiscite in Indian held Kashmir, India persists in giving a cold shoulder to Pakistan’s sincere urge to augment its friendship with India. As known to the world, India remains totally unmoved by Pakistan’s call for dialogue. It, in fact, has categorically ruled out recommencement of the broad-based peace dialogue, despite repeated calls made particularly by a person of no less than the stature of the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, since his coming to power, and most recently by Pakistan Premier’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs, Mr. Sartaj Aziz during his mid-November visit to the Indian capital-New Delhi.
Analysts believe that the stalemate over renewal of the composite dialogue would perhaps continue till the holding of general elections in India, in May 2014. This strong belief of the analysts stands further strengthened by India’s External Affairs Minister, Salman Khurshid’s mid-October public statement that Delhi would not quickly return to the composite dialogue process. In this context one might recall that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s meeting with his Indian counterpart, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh in New York on September 29, 2013 ended with the Indian side emphasizing on “improvement of the state of affairs” on the Line of Control (LOC) as a prerequisite for moving forward towards renewal of bilateral negotiations and improving relations between the two countries. If the forecast made by the analysts turns out to be true then the fate of the composite dialogue would largely depend on how the succeeding (new) government in India would look at this important issue and how much weight would it be willing to attach to it.
Although tensions on the LOC have significantly declined (with much less ceasefire violations in November 2013 compared to what it had been in the earlier months), no signal has yet emanated from the Indian side for resumption of the bilateral talks. In fact, the Indian stance on the issue continues to remain unaffected. India must realize that in ‘reciprocity’ lies the resumption and success of the bilateral talks. It must sincerely and quickly reciprocate Pakistan’s overtures for dialogue. As only in dialogue lies resolution of not only all unresolved, contentious issues between the two countries but also the progress and prosperity of its two peoples and the people of the region.
M FAZAL ELAHI
This is in reference to your report on the delay of a PIA flight, PK711, on 14 Dec. Two of my nieces arrived by separate PIA flights from Jeddah and Manchester at Lahore. Both of them received their accompanied booked baggage with locks broken and missing items. These locks must have been broken by PIA staff deputed to offload baggage from aircraft for transportation to arrival lounge, where they are put on conveyor belts for collection by passengers. Just few months back, media reported that 46 passengers with confirmed seats and valid work visas travelling on PIA flight from Lahore to Kuala Lumpur were refused Boarding Cards by PIA staff, because they refused to give them money which was demanded from these passengers.
As usual PIA management ordered an inquiry, but nobody was punished because all of them were members of union affiliated with the ruling party. Similar reports of irregularities have been reported at PIA booking in Lahore, but no disciplinary action has been taken against those responsible. On 14 December, the media again reported that PIA flight to New York from Lahore was delayed for over two hours, just because breakfast and snacks offered to passengers and crew were not to the liking of pilots.
Over the last ten years indiscipline in PIA has risen and trickled down from top to bottom of the ladder. During PPP’s tenure, a senior PIA executive was caught on camera dancing like a circus clown with a whiskey glass balanced on his head at a dinner hosted by MD Aijaz Haroon. The fish, they say, rots from the head down, and PIA is best example of this rot where indiscipline and financial irregularities in top-heavy management have paralysed this airline. Today they hardly have 25 aircrafts, but surplus employees of all cadre, sufficient for a fleet of over 100 aircrafts.
Today is December 16. It has been 42 years since the notion of creating and keep it united as a country based on a common religion came to a terrible and bloody end on December 16, 1971. Perhaps first time in the world’s history majority population of a country ceded from the minority. Today Pakistani newspapers and TV channels will be blaming all the world, save themselves, for what led to the creation of Bangladesh out of a country, Pakistan, which itself was created out of British India on August 14, 1947, dividing the subcontinent on religious grounds.
Hundreds of thousands of (some claims up to millions) people were killed, injured, uprooted, unaccounted number of women and children were raped, all in a country which proudly finds its roots in religion. On December 16, 1971, Bengali population of Pakistan found its destiny in the form of an independent and sovereign country. Pakistani soldiers who fought in the then East Pakistan also returned to the homeland after few years. However, the dark night which started in 1971 for few hundred thousand Urdu speaking Bihari Muslims has not come to an end till today. These people refused to take up the Bangladeshi citizenship when offered in late 1970s, and continued to call themselves as Pakistanis. 42 years have passed and they are still living in refugee camps, once run by the UN but now converted into overcrowded slums. As the international funds dried away over a period of time, these poor souls were left on their own. With no right to education and work, poor health and sanitation conditions (one latrine shared by 90 families), these half million forgotten stateless people still look forward to those who took the mantle of religious divide in 1947 to come to their rescue.
During the last three decades, Pakistan hosted millions of Afghan refugees, allowed them to do business and work, buy properties, acquire passports and national IDs — all in the name of Muslim ummah and humanity. One wonders, where all this ummah and humanity get vanished when it comes to those half million Urdu speaking Bihari Pakistanis? For the last few days, religious parties in Pakistan are mourning the hanging of Abdul Kadir Molla in Bangladesh, but forget to demand repatriation of Pakistanis to Pakistan — contradiction continues as it doesn’t garner votes.
Jubail, Saudi Arabia