Author Archives:

Mixed reviews

Mixed feelings, always. The Americans are now optimistic, now not so. That state of mind comes from the one-step-forwards-two-steps-back nature of the conflict in Pakistan. Despite some of the worst violence since the initial invasion of Afghanistan back in 2001, the White House review of the war concluded that some positive developments had indeed taken place in the Taliban strongholds. But not enough to become complacent about. The review categorises the said victories as fragile

A fine balance

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who is scheduled to visit Pakistan later this week, is presently in India where he has stressed development of strategic ties between the two countries. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has expressed hope that the two sides will be able to reach strategic consensus. Chinese attitude to ties with India, despite several unsettled disputes, is highly pragmatic and while it has not resolved the disputes, it has benefited both countries in several spheres.

Reformed GST

Pakistan is no different from any other democracy when public policy issues fall prey to politicking, as the RGST issue has at the moment. Different political parties view any piece of legislation more as an opportunity for a quid pro quo on another bit of legislation or perhaps even getting a cabinet portfolio. In vibrant democracies, however, it is the job of the media to create a contact between the general public and the chambers of legislation by ensuring that the debate does not

Democracy and Mush

Talking to Sky News on Wednesday, Musharraf said that Pakistan was more important to him than democracy. All of a sudden the former military ruler has realised that democracy could, in fact, harm Pakistan in which case he will not support it. This is quite interesting because till recently he was trying to create the perception that he had finally embraced democracy and was committed to return to Pakistan to contest the elections.
History provides enough evidence to prove that

Richard Holbrooke

Compared to his boss Hillary Clinton, who was not even a career diplomat, state department veteran Richard Holbrooke was far from diplomatic. To many, he perpetuated the American strongman stereotype. Always in a bad mood, always upset at something. The Ambassador (proper) to Pakistan, Anne Patterson was, in comparison, the toast of the town while Hillary Clinton stood up to the pack of local TV anchors with the sort of aplomb that a local politician would give his left arm for. The

Beginning of the end?

Who would have thought the JUI (F) would be the first one to go? Sure, tensions were simmering between the religious party and the PPP, but not anywhere near the situation with the MQM in Karachi. Mild mannered Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, as always, had been very subtle and private about his reservations. The wily politician has also built a very strong case for his parting of ways; the PPP had unilaterally sacked both Senator Azam Swati and Hamid Saeed Kazmi from their respective

One out of every four

Over a hundred out of the four hundred housing societies in the Punjab capital are illegal schemes, reports the Lahore Development Authority. The question: whether the urban development body does this reporting with a straight face? Regulating housing societies is, after all, one of the LDA’s principal mission statements, along with the provincial revenue department’s. These are the bureaucratic gauntlets of red tape that have to be waded through in order to set up a housing

In introspection

The tough language employed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to exhort Pakistan to take action against terrorists was in fact a repetition of what David Cameron, followed by President Sarkozy, had already said in a similar tone. Identical views, albeit couched in a less abrasive language, have been expressed by several US officials in the past. Pakistan’s European allies have, however, often chosen words that would please New Delhi while giving umbrage to Pakistan leading to

RGST obstacles

That the government is forced to seek a three months extension for getting the RGST bill through is an indication of its failure to carry its coalition partners along. There can be no two opinions that the country badly needs a documented economy. Further that it has got to raise the currently abysmal tax-to-GDP ratio by expanding the tax net, particularly bringing incomes from agriculture, real estate transactions and stock exchange dealings under its purview. For this, the


Corruption is an unfortunate aspect of governance in the third world. Though that does not mean to imply that it does not exist in the developed world, its presence isn’t of the ubiquitous, in-your-face variety as the one that blights our institutions. The present government doesn’t have too stellar a record as far as governance is concerned. It is neither good, nor clean. Nor does it realize that the precarious times of today can’t possibly allow for the shady-business-as-usual of

The not-so hidden hand

Finally, the top security agencies have changed their erstwhile stand vis-a-vis the authority of the Supreme Court and the possession of the 11 prisoners kidnapped from Adiala jail. They have disowned the statement by the Attorney General submitted on their behalf a few days back questioning the jurisdiction of the apex court in such matters. The counsel for the ISI and MI has conceded that under the law and the constitution all institutions of the state, including the army, the ISI

Battlefield: Assembly

The protest against the formation of Boards of Governors (BoGs) in 26 colleges in Punjab took an ugly turn leading to clashes with police, suspension of traffic on the Mall and adjoining roads for over an hour and the arrest of numerous teachers and students. The teachers have been protesting peacefully against the BoGs for months now, but this time the protest became violent as a student organisation patronised by a religio-political party tried to use the occasion to advance its

The Al Capone way

It’s like catching Al Capone on tax evasion. That was the only thing the authorities in the US could stick on the legendary mobster. Forget the protection rackets, bootlegging, the numbers games and what have you, take him out with anything you can, which in his case was cheating the IRS. That seems to be the approach they used with WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange. Not to trivialise the charge of sexual assault, which the whistleblowers’ go-to guy is currently facing, but the actual

Getting it back

Lightening, they say, doesn’t strike the same place twice. But that is probably because it isn’t as enterprising as shady multinational corporations. Like the company that has taken money from two power projects for the same set of machines. A three-member bench of the Supreme Court ordered the company to pay back the advance it had received, along with due interest. The said amount was duly paid yesterday.
Kudos to the apex court, then. It showed some proactivity and got the

Hajj scam

How does one differentiate between refreshing candor and brazenness bordering on indifference? Minister for religious affairs Hamid Saeed Kazmi admitted to the Supreme Court the other day that there was indeed corruption in the Hajj fiasco but it was lesser than previous years. A statement like this, made under duress no doubt, is bound to attract criticism. Matters related to the Hajj fall in the minister’s ambit. Admitting corruption is, in effect, an admission of failure on his

Killings in Mohmand

While terrorist attacks in large urban centres are not taking place with the deadly regularity witnessed last year, the frequency of these attacks in tribal areas remains unchecked. The two suicide attacks on the premises of the Political Agent in Mohmand Agency leading to the death of over 50 persons indicates that there is no respite to the severity of these attacks either. Besides concentrating on soft targets like schools, dispensaries and government installations, the terrorist

Breakfast at Lahore

The way to a Lahori’s heart is through his stomach. It is a meandering path, with many clogged arteries. Ambassador Cameron Munter sure did earn his hazard allowance the other day, when he publicly had a desi breakfast, along with his Consul, Carmela Conroy. Also known as the heart-attack-on-a-plate, the typical Lahori breakfast invokes warm feelings in the hearts of the good citizens of the city like nothing else can. The venue was the sterile environment of cantonment because