Was it at a gathering of the old boys club that the Minster of Interior, a former veteran of the FIA, declare that the FIA is now going to be given more powers to crackdown on corrupt officials? On the face of it, the steps, including a rumoured granting of police powers to the agency, seem like solid action. But to what end? There is a need, granted, for accountability but why not through more transparent channels? There needs to be a consensus on the accountability bill. This is one

Attack inside red zone

The bomb cum gun attack in Karachi killing at least 24 and injuring over 1,000 indicates that the city which had till recently avoided bigger attacks by Taliban militants is no more immune. Like the strike on the Marriot hotel in Islamabad in 2008, this too was an audacious but well planned adventure. The CID building, where recently arrested Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) activists were also being interrogated, was chosen despite its location in the red zone. The attack was presumably aimed

New taxes

Well, is it a mini-budget? Given by the major restructuring in the scheme of revenue generation, coupled with the costs to be incurred in flood relief, we can safely say that it is. These taxation measures aren’t going to be too practical. For instance, there is the one-time flood surcharge, which is an additional tax on the salaried classes for a period of six months. Then there is the increment on withholding tax, one that many economists believe businesses will transfer on to the


The PPP and PML(Q) have reportedly reached an agreement on toppling the PML(N) government in Punjab through vote of no confidence. This is bound to revive in many the bitter memories of the 1988-99 period ending in a military coup. But will the PPP be willing to pay the price demanded by the PML(Q), which is the post of the province’s chief minister for the PML(Q) nominee?
The PPP can maintain that the battle was actually initiated by the PML(N) by failing to fulfill the promises

Sugar goes sour

What to do about our perennial sugar problem, if anything at all? Well, conditions of international donor agencies seem to imply that we shouldn’t do much. Just the day before, the government agreed to the proposal to end the role of the Trading Corporation of Pakistan in the import and supply of sugar. In effect, letting millers and wholesalers work the whole thing out themselves. This would then mean an end to the system of direct subsidies that the government gives for the

Nawaz in Khairpur

Nawaz Sharif’s address in Khairpur was widely reported the next day by the vernacular Sindhi media. It was noted, with ironic connotations, by some that this was the first interaction on the part of the chief of the major opposition party with interior Sindh during the last two years and a half. The visit came in the wake of an announcement by Nawaz early this month that he was working on a new social contract that he called the Charter of Pakistan and which, according to him, was

On Constitution Avenue

Any unusual activity by the army personnel on the Constitution Avenue is liable to arouse public curiosity. Such is the unhappy history of the relationship between the army and the civilian government that this is bound to revive bitter memories among many. It was unusual for the army controlling traffic at the Avenue checkpoint instead of police. For the soldiers to stop a federal minister in a car flying the national flag was regrettable and to point guns at him, a really serious

Obama charms India

A bomb would have been kinder. Hysteria has set in the Pakistani establishment after US President Barack Obama formally endorsed India for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Having played the jilted lover’s role of late, at least as far as relations with the US are concerned, Pakistan is going to interpret this bombshell as the last straw on the camel’s back. It is being viewed, not incorrectly, as the most significant development in US-India relations.
Should we worry,

Obama’s India visit

President Obama’s three day tour of India is the most important part of his trip to Asia that will also take him to Indonesia, South Korea and Japan. The US president has been at pains to explain that his mission is aimed at seeking avenues for US exports, crucial for resolving the issue of unemployment, which continues to erode Obama’s popularity at home. This explains why a large number of US business executives form part of the President’s entourage. An India flush with money and

Darra tragedy

Of late, the Taliban’s version of Islam has been referred to as tribal. It is a misnomer. There is nothing tribal about this, or, at least the interpretation of the word tribal that we have come to apply to the area bordering Afghanistan. No traditional conflict amongst the tribals bombs mosques, kills women and children. And none of it was beyond the control of senate of the spingiri, translated, literally, as the white beards. The control of old men can be at the same time a problem

Limited capacity?

Times are tough. It doesn’t take an economist to figure this out. Making ends meet has never been this difficult, especially for the salaried classes and the sustenance wage earners. The peculiarities of our polity are such that inflation has never become a focal point in anti-government movements, if not general strikes. Maybe the reason for this is that the political opposition feels it also would not be able to do a good enough job in stemming the tide of the great price hikes.


Within days of declaring in the National Assembly that midterm elections remained an option, Ch Nisar has denied that his party ever asked for snap polls. A categorical demand by another PML(N) MNA on the floor of the house that “midterm polls must be held next year” was thus no more than a theatrical exercise. So was the clear cut demand made by Khwaja Asif on a TV channel a day earlier. Calls of the sort made by leaders otherwise considered responsible manage to do enough harm by

Flood tragedy

Even though the flood waters have receded, the flood victims in Pakistan are still drowning in misery with the approaching winter, lack of coordinated relief efforts, water-borne diseases and general mismanagement, adding to their ever-increasing troubles Internally, Pakistan has been plagued with issues of governance and an already shambolic infrastructure badly damaged by the floods. Externally, there has been a lack of international mobilisation around the issue and an alarmingly

Teething problems

The PML(N) and PML(Q) have finally agreed on Senate’s representatives on the Committee to appoint members of superior judiciary, despite the Q League’s rather strange desire to have two members of its own. As often happens with new experiments, the appointment of members of the Judicial Commission has also hit unforeseen snags.
First came objections to the nomination by CJ of retired SC judge Ali Hasan Qazalbash on grounds that he was unsuitable for being an octogenarian

Reformed GST

Governments are inefficient. Specially ours. This is not to talk about the incumbent political government but the very machinery of the state itself. Though it is fashionable to attribute a lot of our woes on the lack of political will to solve them, one also has to factor in the limited capacity of the state in not just responding to challenges but also just performing a normal routine duty. Delays and lack of insight blights not just the inability of the state to evacuate a village

No, he couldn’t

No final word in politics. The most seemingly certain of realities are in a flux. Only two years ago, the incumbent President of the US was sworn into office after perhaps the most impressive election campaign in that country’s history. His popularity was unprecedented. Even though his predecessor George W Bush was extremely unpopular, the ’08 election was not a referendum against the Bush but one in favour of Obama. The conservatives were nigh completely decimated and the GOP faced

Other side of PML(N)

In an ironic contrast to Mian Nawaz Sharif’s talk about principles, visions and long term plans, the PML(N) leadership below him remains wedded to realpolitik aimed at achieving narrow political gains and unconcerned about the negative impacts this could have on national politics. Rebutting prime minister Gilani, who emboldened by recent talks with PML(Q) leadership, had ruled out the possibility of the change of government through mid-term polls or military coup, Ch Nisar hinted at a