A union of castaways

That the four Muslim League factions which were expected to form a single party could settle only at an amorphous alliance underlines the absence of unanimity over immediate aims and objectives. Alliances are normally formed by opposition parties to bring down a government through street power or use their combined parliamentary strength to form a new administration. As things stand, Pir Pagara’s PML(F) is an ally of the PPP-led coalition both at the center and in Sindh. What is more,

Desperate times

The good earth gives. Its bounty is plentiful. It is men that are not as kind. Specially the sort with large tracts of land. News reports of the government’s scuttling of the plans of its tax committee to figure out ways to tax agriculture are saddening. That, too, at a time when the world community in general is pushing for the government to take steps to increase the country’s tax revenue, in particular at a time when it needs all the money it can get in the face of the recent

Unrealistic expectations

President Obama’s Indian visit is causing a stir in India and Pakistan, altogether of a different type. The Indians are generally jubilant while many in Pakistan who thought the country deserved democracy dividend are unhappy over Obama’s decision to ignore Pakistan during his visit to the region. Earlier resentment was expressed when Secretary of State Clinton had acted similarly when she made her maiden visit to India in her new official capacity in July 2009. Anticipating the

She came, she saw…

Asma Jahangir’s victory in a fight down to the wire has many implications. That the lawyers voted into office the first woman president of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) is yet another proof that not only the masses but also the educated people of Pakistan reject extremist and reactionary ideas. She won not only in Lahore and Karachi but also in Peshawar and Quetta which is yet another proof that enlightenment and moderation among the legal community are a near universal

Downing Hemlock

Arundhati Roy, that gadfly of the Indian establishment, is in trouble again. Not bad enough was the fact that she was sympathetic to (and some say assisting) the Naxalite rebels in India’s red corridor that she had to top it off with a controversial statement about the latest round of anti-government protests in Kashmir. Saying that Kashmir is not an integral part of India was bound to ruffle feathers. And she knew it. But it was, as she maintained, what everyone in Kashmir says

Double whammy

Reports by Transparency International (TI) and Amnesty International (AI) should make the government and concerned agencies do some serious thinking. The Transparency International, widely recognised as a responsible whistle-blower, notes that Pakistan has slid down the ladder leading to the bottomless corruption pit from 42nd rung in 2009 to 34th this year. Information Minister Kaira has dismissed the report maintaining that the methodology adopted by TI in compiling the report is

BB investigation

What to make of the investigations (or lack thereof) into the assassination of Benazir Bhutto? At the time of the ghastly incident, there was a quasi-military regime at the helm of affairs, one not too enamoured by the leader. But what about now? The slain leader’s party is halfway into its tenure and the investigation is dicey to say the least. The criminal negligence that the government of the day had displayed that day, first towards her immediate security and second, in the

Strengthening democracy

A number of moves have been initiated recently with claims that these were aimed at strengthening democracy. Last month, leaders of PML (Q) met PML (F) chief Pir Pagara to triumphantly announce the unification of the two factions. This was needed, said Ch. Shujaat, because the PPP-led alliance had brought the country to the edge of a precipice and if patriotic parties do not come forward to lead it, God alone knows what would happen to Pakistan. Not to be left behind, the leaders of

Dengue again

Though no one can suffer the symptoms of the Dengue virus more than the hapless victims themselves, the Punjab government is beginning to feel the heat in the form of criticism of its inability to deal with the fever. Why specifically the Punjab government? Because the said mosquitoes have zeroed in on the province with more effervescence than the People’s Party. But it gets even worse. Generally accused of focusing all his energies onto the provincial capital rather than the rest of

Another shrine

The attack on the shrine of Baba Fariduddin Ganjshakar, one of the most revered saints and poets of Punjab, could only have been conceived and carried out by terrorists having no sense of values, culture or history. The terrorists ascribe to an interpretation on Islam that is rejected by most Pakistanis. Their ideology is based on hatred while the teachings of the Sufi poets are imbued with love for man irrespective of his religion, race or ethnicity. This is what leads the extremists

Back to the ballot

Power to the people. The Prime Minister’s disclosure about the upcoming local bodies polls was heartening. Though no date has been given as of yet, it is expected that the polls are going to be conducted for a modified local government system. This is indeed a good step forward.
Many have written on the irony in the fact that it was a military dictator who installed the system and a democratically elected government that did away with it. The irony about the latter holds true,

And now, the North

There really is no such thing as a free lunch and the two billion dollar repast that the US just gave the military was bound to have a price. Long overdue, a military operation in North Waziristan, albeit one limited in scale, now appears to be around the corner. Opposition to this particular operation is manifold, not just in the conservative segments a sizeable section of the press but also within the armed forces themselves.
Several issues. First, any argument against the


They call it government-by-news-leak. It is the first solid and clearly discernable effect of the digital age on statecraft, governance, diplomacy and politics. Whistleblowers have always had a profound influence on the workings of governments, specially in democracies; one of them did, in fact, cause a US President to give up his office in disgrace. But it is the openness of the internet and the creation of platforms that make it easy to do some effective outing. You know a force to

The Great Game

The ongoing Great Game Part II continues in the region amidst deceptions, double dealings and fierce fighting. This time the protagonists have changed with the US replacing Britain and the Al-Qaeda-cum-Taliban taking over the part played earlier by czarist Russia. Byzantine moves made for maximum gains have led to mind boggling twists and turns. The talks being held with the Taliban were earlier opposed by the US but then suddenly Karzai was given a go ahead and Gen Petraeus claimed

Karachi Operation?

Official huffing-and-puffing when it comes to the Karachi killings aren’t taken seriously by anyone. After all, by now, the public knows the sequence of events by heart: target killings, all parties complain, MQM threatens to quit, Rehman Malik is called in for some firefighting, the fire doesn’t stop and burns itself out. Till next time. So what’s different this time? The O-word. The prospect of that-which-shall-not-be-named has not only riled up the city’s major political force

Tough love

It was by no means out of the ordinary for President Obama to drop in when a key meeting was in progress between National Security Advisor designate Tom Donilon and a core group of Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, COAS, Finance Minister and ambassador. It is highly significant however that he reportedly stayed there for nearly an hour. He is reported to have expressed support for Pakistan’s democracy and also delivered a tough message regarding action against terrorists. Though he

Free for all

It’s no small change, 47 billion rupees. That’s the amount of loans that the central bank told the Supreme Court were written off in the past 12 years. This is not, of course, the complete list, which is said to be much larger. The list includes quite a number of who’s who amongst the country’s captains of commerce and industry.
Under the patron-pillage model of Pakistani politics, all governments are charitable towards their coteries (it does begin at home, after all). This can