Author Archives: pakpotpourri

Is Chabahar a danger to Pakistan?

Yasmeen Aftab Ali

Black DPIndia and Iran recently inked the Chabahar Pact, sending alarm bells ringing in Pakistan. Located at the Sistan-Baluchistan province lying to the southern coast of Iran, it offers great strategic pathway to India, easily bypassing Pakistan. The route allows outreach to Afghanistan, a land locked country. For India, transport costs and freight time will approximately be reduced to a third to the Gulf as well as Central Asia.  India has pledged $500 million towards the project. Besides this, India has already pledged $100 million for a 220-km road that will link western Afghanistan to Chabahar.

Both India and Iran are driven by economic interests. Iran is interested in a free trade zone near Gwadar – to accelerate its economic development that had been held back by many years of sanctions it was blanketed under. Further, Saudi Arabia and Iran are rivals in the market of energy products. Interestingly, the Gulf Cooperation Council states and Saudi Arabia supply a good percentage of Oil India imports while Qatar is their biggest importer of natural gas.

India on the other hand is rearing its head vying to be a regional leader and without doubt, the development of Chabahar will lead to a boost in her regional status. Lindsay Hughes, Research Analyst, Indian Ocean Research Programme writes, “India, however, does not appear to seek to only import Iranian oil; it wishes to invest in Iranian oil and gas fields, thus further securing its energy from that country.”(April 26, 2016) Chabahar, once it takes off, will offer better ingress to India into Afghanistan and Afghani markets, this will in turn lead to a stronger say with the Afghan government. This will also improve India’s chances to angle for Turkmenistan gas.

Development of Gawadar Port had fallen in neglect although it was originally built in 2007 with the help of China. Only now, with CPEC coming up has Gwadar gained impetus and urgency. One of the biggest stumbling block to see Gwadar delivering on its promise is the low level insurgency Baluchistan faces. India has tried to use the same tactics in Baluchistan as it did in Bangladesh. “Leaders of Baloch insurgencies have publicly listed India among their sponsors. Brahamdagh Bugti, a BLA leader, said that he accepted assistance from India and Afghanistan to defend the Baloch nationalist cause.”(Foreign Policy Journal, March 30, 2010)  In 2016, Kulbhushan Yadav, a RAW agent caught in Baluchistan, and later interrogated, “revealed he had been imparting Naval fighting training to Baloch separatists in an attempt to target Pakistani ports.”(Dawn March 27, 2016) Not to forget that according to The News, “An initial budget of $300 million has been earmarked by RAW for subverting the economic corridor.” (May 11, 2015)  Peace and a tight control over any possible escalation of insurgency or acts of terrorism are mandatory for meeting the development benchmarks for Gwadar. India’s growing influence in Afghanistan will also have a negative cascading effect on Pakistan, influencing the growth of CPEC and Gwadar. Growing jobs in Baluchistan too can lead to weakening of the simmering insurgency. It will be to India’s advantage to use multi-pronged tactics to delay if not to scuttle CPEC that lends boost to a developing Gwadar.

In light of India’s regional ambitions, China would like to keep Pakistan close more especially in light of its committed investments in Pakistan. India also feels with Chabahar operative fully, Afghanistan will be more independent in formation of her policies without being constrained by Pakistan.

One important tactic to keep Gwadar safe from attacks is, “The sense of containment will only increase with plans to build a security fence that will completely surround the town as the port is developed. “Everyone coming in will have to show a residency pass so we can keep a record of who lives in Gwadar,” police inspector Chakar Khan explained.” (The Guardian, February 4, 2016)

Focusing on Tajikistan; a gas-rich country already has its Ayni Air Base also known as the ‘Gissar Air Base’ with India, located 10km west of the capital of Tajikistan-Dushanbe. “Between years 2002-2010, India invested approximately $70 million in renovations, installing state-of-the-art air defense navigational facilities. The runway was further extended. This access offers immediate strategic depth in the region to India. The second place of Indian foothold is the Farkhor Air Base; a military air base located near the town of Farkhor in Tajikistan, 130 kilometers southeast of the capital Dushanbe. In 1996-97, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) started negotiations with Tajikistan to use the Farkhor Airbase to transport high-altitude military supplies to the Afghan Northern Alliance, service their helicopters and gather intelligence.” (My Op-Ed September 24, 2013)

The net result of the developments is a scenario with only Pakistan having a weaker influence with Afghanistan. Theoretically, though one would support a ‘hands off policy’ by Pakistan so far as Afghanistan is concerned, practically to have it replaced by Indian increased influence in light of the porous border shared by Pakistan and Afghanistan, Zarb-e-Azab afoot and Indian involvement in Baluchistan poses a dangerous situation for Pakistan. It puts Pakistan’s policy to severe test.

Without becoming India-centric, Pakistan needs to devise its policies in light of the new ground realities. This means ensuring security and lawlessness situation, fencing the Gwadar area, providing all facilities to investors in Gwadar project at any cost. Sweeping tax concessions for Gwadar is a wonderful step. It needs however to be implemented in letter and spirit.

“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” (Philip K. Dick)

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book, ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media and Media Laws in Pakistan.’ Her mail ID is  and tweets at @yasmeen_9


NOTE: This is a cross post from Pakistan Today 6/June/2016




Book Review: Tamiz Ud Din Von Elephant: The Phoenix Rider

Ali Abbas: Tamiz Ud Din Von Elephant: The Phoenix Rider

Published by: Zrematt Press 2013, Islamabad.

Pages: 282

Ali Abbas, the writer has a law degree and is a practicing lawyer. The book is an incredible journey with strange creatures in a strange world, fighting for rights of strange creatures. Tamiz Ud Din, the central character, hails from a family of aristocrats, now fallen; half human and half elephant with one damaged tusk which brings his prestige even lower in the eyes of other creatures. Tamiz Ud Din is a lawyer, who does not get hired owing to his fallen status. Well off, he can afford to have an indifferent practice with his not so well off assistant Woo Woo.

Tamiz Ud Din is approached by an ‘Appointed Representative’ who has been searching for him for thousands of years- as ‘the’ leader. His address to Tamiz Ud Din the Von Elephant is very interesting-an excerpt is shared here, ‘All you need is some training and you can be the First Ruler of the United Universe. First, we will take over the Earth and the Solar System. We’ll do away with the Empire and its Failed System. Then the Galaxy, then the Universe, then all the known Universes. No one will be able to stop us. We will be invincible.”

Tamiz Ud Din finds himself drawn into a rebellion. There is a severe fight within him. He is torn between his loyalty to the Solar King; the Ultimate Sovereign and the rebel within who always questions injustices. The story races, it twists and turns involving werewolves, witches, coercive State agencies, mix-breeds and pare-breeds. He is the honorable creature, fighting for the rights of other creatures. The difficult path of revolution.

This is a work of fiction. Yet it is not fiction. Every turning page is a political comment. It makes one pause and reflect. It makes one pause and question the system and injustices within our country. Wrapped in the web woven, Ali Abbas makes a powerful political comment through the characters in his book. They make sense in our given political environment. It makes attitudes of rulers and the powerful reassert itself, making weaknesses within glaring obvious.

Then there is the Phoenix. Legend had it that only one Phoenix could exist at a time. A legendry bird, a huge being that poured out fire, daring anyone to come near so that Tamiz Ud Din could escape on its back on his many judicious adventures. The legend stated only the next Universal Monarch or the next Emperor of the Seven Worlds would ride the Phoenix, no ordinary mortal.

The glimpse of the corruption rotting the innards of the system is interestingly stated, (Page 250, Chapter 38) “The Secretary of Finance will then send the file to the Chairman of the Revenue Board. The Chairman will repeat the process of ladder walking the file up and down the beaurucratic hierarchy and then if he thinks fit will send the file to a department called; “The Alternative Approval Board of Anything Significant or Insignificant to be Done in the Solar Empire. (AABASINDSE) The AABASINDSE are considered a group of chickens not because they lay eggs but because they sit for days on a stretch thinking them to be eggs! So they will then sit on the file for a few weeks just in order to make sure it doesn’t hatch!”

The book draws a laugh from the reader on many an occasion and an ‘ouch’ on others. The story builds up to an unbearable climax before ending on a happy personal note for Tamiz Ud Din but not before he has the opportunity to question Aristotle, the Writer of Fate, “You are the Writer of the Fate, why didn’t you just write me as a conformist?” Aristotle’s reply is profound, “It isn’t that simple. My contract gives me certain powers as the Writer of the Fate, yet everyone still has a degree of free will…and some have more than others. If I interfere in that too much I get grilled in the “Annual Board Meeting” and the new Chairperson really doesn’t like me….”

One thing is very certain. This book is not one to be missed. It’s different. It’s tongue-in-cheek. Its unstoppable reading!

ArticleYAAThe writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ Her mail ID is and tweets at @yasmeen_9

An Open Letter to Gen Raheel Shareef


Shared here is a mail being forwarded extensively signed ‘Naeem’.

RaheelaAn Open Letter to Gen Raheel Shareef

Dear General,

No gainsaying the fact that, today Pakistan is going through its most dangerous existential. The very survival of its state and society is at peril. I am sure that with the vast intelligence apparatus at your disposal; you must be the best informed person in Pakistan, regarding the terrorist threat to Pakistan. But sir, are you aware of the consequences of the government/ military inaction or lack of a cogent, effective response to unbridled terrorism?

Anyway, let me reiterate the current situation for you; as understood by a majority of Pakistanis:

1)   The current situation can be described in one short phrase – a blowback of our 35 years of continuous policy of using non-state armies in pursuance of our regional geopolitical/ foreign goals.

2)   The Frankenstein monster nurtured by the deep state now refuses to get back in the bottle. While it is true that some of the TTP factions are being sponsored by some external powers; but who is to be blamed for this? This inferno is of our own making.

3)   Since the army has been in the forefront of combating the terrorists, how come there is no national COIN or anti-terrorism policy? Do not blame the various political governments; since the army has been calling the shots for most of Pakistan’s political history and particularly since the last 35 years.

4)    Talking about the policy, does your team understand the difference between COIN and anti-terrorism?

5)   The non-policy that the army/ political leadership has been following; particularly after 2007 is just based on one strand – appeasement.

6)   Even today, on the face of worst atrocities against the military and civilian population; your response is just reactive.

7)   Am sure, in your defense you would say that the army is under the political government; but since when have this fact deterred you (the army leadership) from doing whatever you thought is in the best national interest? (Read corporate interest of the army leadership). Never mind that the army has arrogated to itself the authority/ responsibility to define the national interest.

8)   Now coming down to the charade of “talks” with the TTP. Do you really think it is pragmatic or logical? Do you really think that it will promote peace and tranquility in the country?  Do you not think that these “talks” are a non sequitur? Talks are always help between two legal entities; not with terrorists. Period. Talks always imply a certain “give and take”. Now pray tell me what could the TTP give to you or what could the state concede to them? So what are the talks going to be about? Do you not realize the chicanery of this fraudulent government that, both the committees are populated either by card-carrying Taliban or their known apologists? Even if we concede the need for talks; then why is the govt not talking directly to the TTP? Why has it outsourced it to non-representative persona?

9)   It is the considered opinion of most thinking Pakistanis that:

–         Nawaz is not serious about talks; it is just a gimmick to placate the gullible public.

–         Recent history shows that the Sharifs are master-appeasers of TTP. Rumors are that there is a tacit deal between the Sharifs and the terrorists to spare Punjab and no action will be taken against them as long as they confine their mayhem in other provinces parts of the country.

–         About 1000 terrorists have been convicted and cooling their heels in the death row; why have they not been executed as per the law?

–         Shabaz has been paying stipends to known terrorists and also giving funding from the Punjab budget to terrorist organizations.

–         Rana Sanaullah, the mouthpiece of PML-N in Punjab is on record in admitting that there are 175 madarrasas/ centers of terror in Punjab. The same Sanaullah has been hobnobbing and striking electoral deals with the TTP before the last elections.

–         There are reportedly about 250, 000 trained jihadis ensconced in the madrassas of south Punjab.

–         Nawaz gave tickets to 55 well-known terrorists (or their apologist) for the last elections).

–         The logical corollary of the above could well be that, under the garb of ceasefire; the TTP is restricted to FATA; while it ceases its terrorist activities in rest of the country. This will be tantamount to ceding a chunk of territory of Pakistan to TTP to declare its “emirate”.

–         An extended corollary may well be that in the due course of time Nawaz imposes “Sharia” to further appease TTP and they accept him as Amir ul Momineen (fulfillment of his 1998 dream).

10)                     The above clearly manifests that Nawaz and his govt are in a de facto alliance with the terrorists, out to undo Pakistan. This makes Nawaz and his accomplices terrorists.

11)                     I hope you do realize the deleterious consequences of the acceptance of “ceasefire” by the govt and its desire to resume the “talks”? Let me put it down for you:

–         The TTP has always used such “ceasefires” to reorganize and rebuild. And when they are ready, they will resume their nefarious activities from a position of strength.

–         Even after the declaration of ceasefire, 11 security personnel escorting polio teams and one student were killed by TTP.

–         This morning there is a report of an attack on a FC vehicle.

–         Have you General, ever given a thought that that, what would be the consequences on the morale and discipline of the armed forces in the face of restrains under TTP atrocities? For how long would the army be able to maintain its professional and organizational integrity? Am sure you are well aware that such problems have been recurring with an increasing frequency.

–         These hypocritical “talks” will only enhance the image of TTP and accord them legal status and legitimacy.

–         The military is the only impediment for the TTP and their collaborators- the Sharif mafia; in realizing their designs. God forbids, if your inaction and acquiescence in the nihilistic policies of Nawaz and party castrate our armed forces, then what fate would befall on Pakistan?

12)                     You have been touted as the author of the army’s COIN manual; but where is the info- war component of the COIN? Looking at the cyberspace and print media; it appears that the TTP has already won this crucial aspect of war.

13)                     Now the 64 million dollar question – what can you accomplish to get us out of this hole (created by your predecessors)? As one soldier to another; I would beseech you to straighten your spine, stand upright and without any ambiguity, vacillation or equivocation tell Nawaz that his current (non) policy on terrorism is wrong. A coherent and a holistic grand strategy should be quickly put together and immediately implemented; with the military force as its operational component.

14)                     No reactive/ retaliatory strikes; the military must grasp the initiative and strike to eliminate the terrorists and not merely contain them. We have seen the devastation and havoc caused on TTP by the recent strikes. They should be continued with vigor and consistency.

15)                     The majority of the public (and the armed forces) have had enough; despite the supposedly lack of consensus touted as excuse by the ruling politicians; the nation wants ruthless action against the terrorists and to be delivered from fear and harm.

16)                     Ask Nawaz to declare emergency, since we are at war. Use the emergency to muzzle the enemy (pro-TTP) media; because they are not only giving propaganda space to the Taliban, but are causing despondency among the public. (I again need to ask you, where is the info- war component of your COIN strategy?).

17)                     Nihilistic and anti-Pakistan mullahs (nurtured and sustained in the first place by your predecessors) should be collared and put into the time-honored protective custody (that is another reason for imposing emergency).

18)                     Now such a policy/ action would produce two major problems: a) IDPS and b) eruption of TTP retaliation in urban centers throughout Pakistan.

–         IDPs. Active the National Crises Management Agency.

–         Urban Attacks. Enhanced and coordinated intelligence could pre-empt these.

19)                     You could tell Nawaz that if he cannot take the heat, then he should quit; after all he won’t die of starvation unlike a lot of our compatriots; since he has the looted goodies/ monies stashed abroad.

20)                     And General, if you cannot do all this; then take the honorable way and resign; otherwise we would be constrained to count you as part of the problem.



The author is Lt. Col(R) Abdul Naeem


A Pakpotpourri Exclusive:

shomuSpread over six volumes- “Nothing But’ is a story of the 20th Century history of India & the Indian Sub Continent in particular, covering the period between 1890 – 2002.

It relates to the story eight Indian families and one British family & their five generations.
 Despite they being from different religions they were once very close friends and comrades and how circumstances beyond their control separated them Some even became each other’s enemies.

The complete book is in 6 parts and its main focus is on the disputed Indian Territory of Jammu and Kashmir – a volatile region that has been in the eye of the storm ever since the Great Game began in the late 19th century and remains the main bone of contention between India and Pakistan ever since the two countries became independent in 1947.


Book One -‘The Awakening’ covers the period 1890-1919 and tells the story of the advent and rise of Indian nationalism through the eyes of these fictional characters and how the Great Game was played and how The Great War (1914-1918) effected the lives of these people.


Book 2 — ‘The Long Road to Freedom’ covers the period 1920-1947 and tells the story about the sacrifices made to attain freedom and how partition came about.


Book  3 — ‘What Price Freedom’ covers the period 1947-1971 and tells the story of the horrors of partition and the 3 major wars that took place between India and Pakistan and which also gave birth to a new nation called Bangladesh.


Book 4 – ‘Love has no Religion’ covers the period 1971-1984. It is a tragic love story of two couples from the fourth generation with different religious and cultural backgrounds and how it affected their lives and those of their countrymen.


Book 5 – ‘All is Fair In Love and War ‘ covers the period 1984-1994 and tells us about the rise of communal, religious and regional politics in the subcontinent and corruption in politics together with the rise of fanatical religious organizations throughout the world in general and the subcontinent in particular .


Book 6  ‘Farewell My Love” covers the period 1994 – 2002 tells the story of the people from the 4th and 5th generation of these families and how the rise of militancy, terrorism and  selfish coalition politics  affected their lives and those of the people on the streets.

Sheduled for release in March – April 2014 & will be launched simultaneously in  major metropolitan cities of India. 
(We in Pakistan look forward to having it made available here too)

Major Satish Khanna


Students in search of the lost union: lifting the iron curtain!



Student federations active today in the country are unanimous in their demand that student unions be restored, an election schedule be announced, and union elections be held as soon as possible.

The demand has the backing of the leadership of National Students Federation (NSF), Democratic Students Federation (DSF), People’s Students Federation (PSF), Muslim Students Federation (MSF), Insaf Student Federation (ISF), All Pakistan Muttahida Students Organisation (APMSO) and Islami Jamiat-i-Tulaba (IJT).

The then-prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani had, in his maiden speech to the inaugural session of the 2008 parliament, announced restoration of student unions. However, the announcement was not followed on with action.

Rana Sultan, senior vice president of PSF, says: “The establishment” blocked any attempts to restore the unions. “The chief secretaries of all four provinces wrote to the Prime Minister (in 2008) saying student unions could not be restored owing to a precarious security situation,” he claims.

A nationwide convention of the vice chancellors of various universities later, also, expressed unwillingness to allow restoration of unions, which is believed to have sealed the deal on the matter.

The ban on student unions was imposed in 1984 by the regime of Gen Ziaul Haq through Martial Law Orders. Later, the orders were rescinded by the first government of Benazir Bhutto in 1988. Three years later, the unions were challenged in the Supreme Court of Pakistan on grounds that they were contributing to on-campus violence. In 1993, a three-member SC bench headed by the then Chief Justice, Afzal Zulla, imposed a ban on the political nature of student unions.

The NSF is running an awareness campaign aimed at helping students realise the true nature of student unions and better understand how their restoration would benefit them. As part of its campaign, it is collecting signatures from students who believe unions are needed. It also intends to call a national convention on the matter on Feb 11 the following year.

While talking to Dawn, most of the student leadership expressed willingness to join any movement for restoration of student unions. “We would stand side by side with anyone who tries to have the unions restored,” says Rana Sultan, emphatically.Malik Waqar, vice president of ISF, said, “The ISF will, through consultation with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and our chairman, Imran Khan, table a resolution in parliament in support of restoration of the unions, which we will ensure gets passed as well. Soon, we would be launching a movement for universal education in Pakistan. The ISF will include the demand for restoration of student unions in this movement.”

He also pledged to contact all other student organizations to form a joint front to lobby for restoration.

IJT’s Nazim-i-Aala Zubair Safdar pledged to start a movement for restoration soon. He was joined by Qamar Abbas, the general secretary for DSF, who said he would be willing to challenge the 1993 Supreme Court judgment.

The APMSO does not believe in challenging the Supreme Court verdict. “We will hold consultations with our leadership in the MQM and then go for legislation in the National Assembly on this issue,” says Ahmer Falistini, member of central committee of APMSO.

The IJT, however, stands apart on the matter. For one, it states that its mother party, the Jamaat-i-Islami is the only political party in Pakistan which has the demand for restoration of student unions incorporated into its manifesto. It claims to have already approached the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan and held consultations with vice chancellors of various universities. “We want student unions formulated on an entirely new basis,” says Zubair Safdar of IJT.

“We feel the new student unions should be apolitical in nature and should concentrate on education-related activities. There should be a change in the election process, and teachers should be involved in it as well. The new union should be in the shape of a representative council, not a traditional union.”

Arfan Chaudhry feels the government should call an all parties conference, bringing together all the stakeholders, to hammer out a code of conduct. Rana Sultan of PSF agrees, “We need all the stakeholders on board. One or two groups cannot do much because then the process of consultation deteriorates into petty point scoring. We need to build consensus.”

The IJT, however, already has cobbled together a joint front: the Muttahida Tulaba Mahaz. This front includes MSF, Anjuman-i-Tulaba-i-Islam, Muhammadiya Student Federation, and PSF. The IJT claims the Mahaz has already formulated a joint “code of ethics”. It believes there is no need for any other code. “If any student organisation has any objections, they should register with the Mahaz. If it is a bona fide student organisation, it will be admitted to the Mahaz, and then it may raise its concerns, which will be given due importance.”

The IJT does not acknowledge the existence of left-wing organisations such as the NSF and DSF, saying these are now dead.

In any case, student federations of today say the culture of on-campus violence is now ended. They point towards the virtual absence of violence on campuses as proof. Student leadership claims most of perpetrators of violence were in fact non-student actors which have now been purged from their ranks. They say they believe in the politics of dialogue and debate, and even if they are confronted with the bullet, they would respond through the ballot.

Student unions have contributed much to Pakistan. Many of today’s politicians have roots in student unions. Jehangir Badar of PPP, Khwaja Saad Rafique of PML-N, Javed Hashmi of PTI, Liaquat Baloch of Jamaat-i-Islami, just to name a few, were once student activists.

Student activism even created an influential political party in Pakistan – the MQM. Similarly, Dr Muhammad Sarwar, one time student leader, founded Pakistan Medical Association and Dr Adibul Hassan Rizvi, another student activist, founded Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation, Pakistan’s largest public sector health organisation. Other student activists are in leadership roles in organisations and firms which are contributing positively towards Pakistan’s social development.

On the subject of student union’s future, Iqbal Haider Butt, the author of “Revisiting Student Politics in Pakistan”, feels that student unions are “a part of history”. He says it is not possible to restore student unions in the shape and form in which they used to exist, because social, political and economic dynamics have changed on the ground.

Student unions are inextricably linked with their history. The general public perception about unions is grounded in the tumultuous ‘80s and ‘90s, and it is not misplaced. While violence on campuses has abated, the structures and actors which promote violence, perpetrate it, augment it and exacerbate it are still present in some universities.

There is need for the state, which helped foster such an environment, to take responsibility and help in its amelioration. Similarly, those actors which are directly linked with union elections, and which have played their part in bringing things to the present pass need to own not only what they have done, but also the process of change.

The latter part is tricky. Such actors find the status quo expedient, and indeed beneficial for their own vested interests. There is the question, then, of whether or not they would be willing to allow change in matters as they are.

Furthermore, there is need to find an interest group which would benefit from restoration of the unions, and would, therefore, own the process of restoration. According to the 2008 National Survey on Student Politics conducted by Bargad, the most comprehensive study done on the subject to date, 52.4% of students feel student politics should be limited to educational institutions only, 72.3% students feel student unions should not be allowed to affiliate with political parties and 57.9% think there should not even be student wings of political parties. The matter of student politics then remains a contentious issue, on which there is little clarity of opinion and direction.

The dynamics of the education sector have changed considerably since 1984, when unions were banned. The change has come in multiple ways. For one, in 1984 Pakistan had 21 universities. Today, there are over 124. A vast majority of these belong to the private sector, which was very close to non-existent prior to the ban. Several ex-student activists today own their own private universities and colleges – for instance, Mian Amir Mahmood owns the Punjab Group of Colleges and University of Central Punjab, and Khurram Murad owns the University of Management and Technology. Both were student activists in their youth. However, neither has created student unions within their own universities.

Similarly, soon after the then-Prime Minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, announced that student unions would be restored, vice chancellors of various universities from across Pakistan held a conference in which they rejected the idea of restoration. The VCs emphatic opposition is taken to be one of the reasons why unions were not eventually restored. This essentially means that not only did the sector assert itself and announce its own unwillingness to allow unions, but also that the education sector is powerful enough today to stall government action, which presents the sector in itself as a key impediment in the way of restoration.

Similarly, the education system itself has undergone some fundamental changes. The yearly examination system has been replaced by the semester system, in which there are regular class tests, projects, assignments and successive examinations. This means students have far less time for union activities. On the other hand, however, many universities now have their own academic societies, or their likes.

Government College University of Lahore alone has 52 of them. This reduces the student’s need to associate with a union for social or political expression of any sort.

Furthermore, the expansion of the education sector has made universities far more accessible. Whereas, thirty years ago a student from Gujrat in Punjab would necessarily travel to Lahore to study, today he has Gujrat University within his town. This means that there are far fewer people in hostels today, making an ever shrinking part of the student body susceptible to be pressurised into supporting the dominant student group of a university.

Another dynamic change the education sector has undergone is the increase in number of female students. Female students are now beginning to outnumber male students in universities across Pakistan. This dynamic gender shift is particularly important. Females would want issues such as an end to sexual harassment, better healthcare facilities, perhaps even child day-care facilities, et al, addressed, thus changing the nature of discourse within student politics. Should unions be restored, and the dominant gender group (females) assert itself, it might mean interesting things for gender relations in Pakistani society, and perhaps, might mar beginning of change in the social status of women.

Such changing dynamics need to be factored into any discourse on the future of student unions.

Thus, it becomes necessary to formulate a new “kind” of student union. Scholarship on such matters remains limited, and there is a dearth of new ideas. Most suggestions for a new “kind” of student union find their way back to the 1993 Supreme Court judgment. Therefore, these revolve around complete de-politicisation of union activities. Little else, however, is offered on the subject.

Often, one encounters the suggestion of a “code of conduct” to govern union activities. On the one hand, no viable code of conduct has been formulated and little is being done to work one out. On the other hand, the Muttahida Tulaba Mahaz, dominated largely by right-wing student organisations, claims to have prepared a possible “code of conduct”. One must ask, if a code of conduct is ready, why is it not accepted by the state, and unions restored on this basis. One must question also its general acceptance amongst other student organisations which are not part of the Mahaz, or did not participate in their code’s formulation.

Then, there is the matter of eligibility. Virtually all interest groups approached by Dawn emphasise the need for setting eligibility criteria which would decide whether or not a student can contest union elections. This might include an academic criterion in which students who maintain a certain level of grade and class attendance can contest. It might, also, include other criteria such as election hopefuls being bona fide students of their universities, with a possible age limit. This would help undermine non-student actors from entering unions. Further, to ensure fairness and transparency such rules as election campaign expenditure ceilings and a ban on distribution of printed material might be needed. This would keep political funding out, and ensure that suitable candidates, irrespective of the social class they belong to, might be forthcoming.

It is high time the iron curtain be lifted off of such matters of concern, and these be debated and resolved. Broad-based consensus needs to be evolved on what shape new student unions may be accorded, and a sense of direction on such issues needs to be ascertained for the future.

The absence of student unions has served only to dissociate the student body from the democratic process, thus de-politicising it, and making it apathetic and misinformed. The purported justification for the ban – namely, that of campus violence – crumbles when we look at the actual history of it: campus violence spiked and grew more deadly after the ban.

Students have a right to associate for political purposes – Pakistan’s constitution guarantees the same under its Article 17, as a fundamental human right. Students’ political association has not ceased. Students continue to remain part of student federations – including Jamiat, MSF, NSF, DSF and, more recently of ISF. The ISF has especially mobilised the youth. It undercuts traditional modes of constructing a support base by using all-pervasive technologies – particularly those which are online. The ban has not helped stop students becoming politically affiliated, which strikes at the very raison d’être of it, and it cannot succeed in today’s world which has gone online. It would, then, be better to restore student unions and bring today’s social activism and political zeal of the Pakistani youth into an institutional framework.

The writer is an up coming journalist based in Lahore.

This article is a cross post from Dawn News.

Faulty Gas distribution to Invite Disaster For Pakistan


By: Waheed Hamid

ElectrivityThere is no denying the fact that shortage of power generation is one of  the major cause of Pakistan’s current weak economic and social condition and this is being viewed as grave contributor  to the future economic condition of the country.   The experts estimate  that electricity shortages  cost Pakistan some $13.5 billion a year. Pakistan, a country of 180 million people, is currently producing  11,000 megawatts of power, falling well short of the estimated demand of 17,000 megawatts. Power outages of 12 to 20 hours a day have crippled industry and made life miserable for business and households. The previous government poured billions into the sector without eliminating the debt or significantly increasing the supply of electricity. The industry is riddled with corruption and professional losses  and depends  extensively on oil for power generation, instead of coal , wind or other alternate energy  generation power sources.  Gas another cheap alternative is presently being  misused with losses resulting in huge differences in gas input and electricity output of the power plants. PML-N government is correctly focused to resolve electricity crisis being the main challenge for which PML-N was given a mandate by the people of Pakistan.

The  sources confirm that the government  has decided to give top priority to the IPPs and steps will be taken to meet their  requirements.  Money is being arranged to reduce circular debts  and ensure supply of petrol/diesel to IPPs.  Gas is being diverted to gas run power plants by imposing heavy cuts on other sectors using gas.  Experts  however  have started raising many questions on government’s decision on gas distribution and its priority sectors. The main debate is focused on  the order of priority  among the IPPs, CNG and the fertilize sector. The experts  view that the deciding factor should hinge on two main factors FIRSTLY on technical terms and encompass  the best utility of the gas with minimum losses . SECONDLY on social and economic   terms  the order of priority will mostly depend on  the accumulated effects of distribution on public as a whole in longer run.

A  research concluded that  Fertilizer industry  is the most energy efficient in comparison to others which include power sector, Fertilizer industries and CNG sector. Federal minister of Petroleum Khakan Abbasi  and Khawaja Asif  have assessed over 30%  theft  of gas in CNG sector and the systems of power generation sector too lacks an efficient input output ratio analysis system . Fertilizer industry sources while quoting a comprehensive research report prepared by international Resources Group for the Asian Development Bank and the Ministry of Planning and Development Government of Pakistan informed that, “The System Level Economics Valuation indicates that reducing gas to the fertilizer sector costs the economy Rs. 196 million per mmscfd.  While increasing gas to the power sector costs the economy Rs. 98 million per mmscfd.” The plant level comparison between fertilizer and power plants show that using 100 mmcfd for power saves Rs. 6.4 billion compared to heavy fuel oil imports. Thus, using natural gas for fertilizer has a higher savings relative to using it for power generation by Rs. 23 billion. This compares well with the value from the economic model, which for use of 100 mmcfd in the fertilizer sector gives a net benefit of Rs. 19.6 billion. Sources said that the team working on the report applied two approaches: an energy system economic analysis, and a plant-level comparison. Both approaches gave a similar result, which is that natural gas has a higher economic value for fertilizer production.

Economically and socially Pakistan is an agricultural country. Its total area is 7, 96,096 square kilometers. 70% of our total population is living in the villages. The major source of their living is agriculture. Agriculture employed 66% of the total workforce in 1950-51 but by 1999-2000, this figure dropped to 47.3% and this trend continues. This shows that people are now not interested in farming. This decline indicate decreasing incentives by the government in the agriculture. With Population growth there is increase in the demand for food. The Expanding cities spread out across productive land, reducing the agricultural production and food production. The demand of increase in per acre production therefore becomes an important facet of agriculture in Pakistan which can not be met without cheap availability of Fertilizer to the farmers. Presently domestic produced urea prices are ranging between Rs 1600-1800 per bag and in-case of import they cost Rs 2400 to 2600 per bag excluding investment on foreign exchange and loss to government against tax which it charges  to domestic fertilizer industry. High fertilizer prices play a huge role in constraining the use of fertilizer by small farmers which directly effects  over all agri produce.

The power shortage is indeed a great issue but resolving it at the cost of food  security may not be a wise decision. Imagine the environment of food scarcity like Ethopia . Food scarcity  is considered the mother of all evils and has direct relation on law and order. We are passing a crisis situation in a electricity shortfall environment but has someone thought of the society with no food.  All stakeholders have to be consulted and taken on board on logical  grounds to come to a solution which is good and longer lasting for future of Pakistan and avoid jumping out of frying-pan into fire.

::::The author is a researcher and freelance writer in most of the english News papers.


Revealed: CIA’s Deadly Drone War in Pakistan Began With Shady Blood-Soaked Deal

By Alex Kane

The U.S. assassinated a Pakistani tribal leader in exchange for airspace to conduct strikes on America’s own targets.

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The exact specifics of how America’s global drone war began has long been shrouded in secrecy. But a New York Times article published over the weekend revealing how the Central Intelligence Agency gained Pakistan’s assent to drone strikes begins to chip away at that lack of transparency.

The New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti reveals that the U.S. carried out an assassination of a Pakistani tribal leader in exchange for the use of airspace to conduct strikes on America’s own targets. The article was excerpted by Mazzetti’s forthcoming book titledThe Way of the Knife: The C.I.A., a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth.

The drone killing, which took place in 2004, targeted Nek Muhammed, a key player in an armed fight by his tribe against Pakistan’s government. While Muhammed was thought to be more Pakistan’s problem, the U.S. killed him by drone anyway, opening the way for a nine-year campaign of drone strikes throughout Pakistan’s ungoverned tribal areas.

The strike on Muhammed also killed two boys–an early indication of the civilian cost America’s drone assassination program would impose on Pakistan. But the Pakistani government took responsibility for the strike. And the C.I.A., under no obligation to disclose its activities, was just fine with that lie.

The killing of Muhammed paved the way for the expansion of the C.I.A.’s unaccountable drone war on Pakistan. Mazzetti describes the details of the deal: “Pakistani intelligence officials insisted that they be allowed to approve each drone strike, giving them tight control over the list of targets. And they insisted that drones fly only in narrow parts of the tribal areas — ensuring that they would not venture where Islamabad did not want the Americans going.”

This specific assassination was the immediate catalyst for the C.I.A.’s drone campaign. But a more long-term reason fueling the rise of drones was unease about the C.I.A.’s torture program. In the years following the September 11 attacks, the agency embarked on a global program of capturing and torturing alleged terrorist suspects. A report authored by a C.I.A. official concluded that the agency was violating international law and that officers might face criminal prosecution. The report signaled an alarm that resulted in a reduction of the amount of suspects who were detained by the agency. So the intelligence agency switched to targeted killings rather than capturing people–a hallmark of the Obama era.

The switch to drone warfare was carried out by an agency previously “ambivalent” to those new tools of war, according to Mazzetti. But the C.I.A. has now made the shift, transforming an agency “that began as a cold war espionage service into a paramilitary organization.”

 Alex Kane is AlterNet’s New York-based World editor, and an assistant editor forMondoweiss.

Pakistan has become a playground for foreign countries

This is a Pakpotpourri Exclusive


Waheed Hamid

The increased diplomatic activity in Pakistan with closing of election schedule is not a silent issue any more. Islamabad, Karachi and  Lahore have become hub of undiplomatic activities of the Diplomats. After meetings of diplomats  with the politicians the surfacing of  promises in quite circles of media about  give and take between both have raised suspicions on patriotism of politicians. There are reports of direct involvement of embassy staff for influencing the political future of Pakistan through use of tools like NGOs. Planning of surveys for political leaders and parties and the task of exploring venues to influence  the election system has already been given to these NGOs. The Church World Services (CWS) P/A  is all set to organize and impart training to journalists and civil society in Peshawer to monitor the elections. All expenses, boarding and lodging will be borne by them. Similar plan of CWS are in hand for Quetta and they are using senior members of  journalist community to act as their front man. A common Pakistani is dragged into conspiracy theories when CWS, an International Non Governmental Organization (INGO) which implements humanitarian and development activities across Pakistan and Afghanistan starts throwing its finances into Pakistan’s elections. Moreover, the foreign funding for local foundations run by political parties in Karachi are being negotiated with promises of facilitation for the business zones adjacent to Kimari . It is not only the terrorists of Balochistan who sit in foreign lands and defame Pakistan but it has been learned that a political party has plans to approach United Nations and they are actively conspiring with diplomats seeking their  support. The weak democratic system becomes more exposed  as we move closer to the most important elections of Pakistan’s history. This pregnable environment has invited host of anti Pakistan elements and provided a stimulus to them to join hands and work for their motives  by penetrating into our political parties

It sends a wave of concern for Pakistanis when they hear that  Chief of USAID, Mr Raju Shah has increased his interaction with election commission of Pakistan with ready funding from his  embassy for number of projects on elections.  These rumors of unusual diplomatic attention and international funding will not only result in increase of trust deficit between the countries but  domestically  the gap between such political leaders and the public will also enhance. The decision of US military leadership not to visit Pakistan at this time was a welcome step but activities of  USAID are bound to pose problems as the region enters the Exit stage in Afghanistan. The requirement of these  activities are even of more  concern after the UNDP project’s for conduct of election in Pakistan have already focused on  provision of technical assistance for the needs identified by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in extensive consultations with UNDP and as articulated in ECP’s 5 year Strategic Plan, 2010-2014. The project is for 3 years duration and is divided into two phases, with Phase I covering the period up and including the conduct of elections while Phase II focuses on the post election period. There fore all other forms being initiated through NGOs will negatively affect Pakistan’s democratic future.  The media must unearth and expose anti state activities. With article 62 and 63 there is a need to also refresh  Pakistan Penal code, section 123-A which say who ever endangers safety of Pakistan, condemn its creation, harm two Nation theory or advocate the curtailment of sovereignty of Pakistan shall be punished  under the law.

Future of Pakistan now largely depends on the credibility and fairness of oncoming elections without any foreign interference. The optics of election are as important as the conduct. The people have to deliver and ensure selection of the best possible patriotic and competent leaders . Despite heartening statements from the leaders of glowing democracies of the world the actions of same nations strongly contradicts and unveils their intentions  Non interference  at this moment in Pakistan is the most desired and friendly course but we find  quite a few  of the diplomatic missions  involved in undemocratic activities. The wooing of media and political parties by other countries  to fulfill their goals is understandable but silence of National media and moving of politicians into this trap is mind boggling.  Barack Obama emphasizing his second term foreign policy objectives, vowed, “ the US would support democracy in Asia and the Middle East and resolve its differences with the world peacefully”. A  press release issued by the British High Commission recently  said: “The UK strongly supports democracy in Pakistan. Representative, accountable government that delivers for the people, and is chosen according to constitutional processes, is in the best interests of Pakistan,” but some how they fail to check and block the undemocratic diplomatic activities in this part of the world.

Myth of 300,000 raped in Bangladesh

WHISPERS TO VOICES: Gender and Social Transformation in Bangladesh

Asif Haroon Raja

It has been alleged that Pakistani troops raped 300,000 women on and after March 25, 1971 in former East Pakistan. This allegation has generally been accepted by the world at large and even by some Pakistani secular pseudo intellectuals like Tahira Abdullah, Asma Gilani and others. Sheikh Mujib was the inventor of this themes fed to him by India. This was phenomenal exaggeration which has no parallel in history.Rather than blindly buying the bloated figures, it should have been coolly analyzed by saner elements whether it was humanly possible to perform those unholy acts at such a gigantic scale. No one questioned as to how the Indians had gathered the data since the Army had gained total control over the province from May 1971 onwards. Direct linkage between the people and rebels housed in India had been broken.

The version of refugees who had fled to India after the military operation couldn’t be relied upon, being entirely at the mercy of Indian Army and BSF living in unsavory conditions. Foreign journalists based in Dacca had been asked by Lt Gen Tikka Khan to leave because of their biased reporting. Jilted journalists moved to Calcutta where they were lavishly entertained by Indians. Nursing ill-feelings, they went out of the way to magnify the stories fed to them by Indian media and broadcasted exaggerated news the world over.

Even if the entire Army and paramilitary forces numbering 12000 on 25 March 1971, later increased to 45000 had only one objective in mind of raping any female coming their way day in and day out, even at the cost of sleep and other essential daily rituals, it was still impossible to reach anywhere near the stated figure. It can now be safely concluded that the rapes committed by Awami League (AL) urchins in March-April 1971, and again in November- December 1971, as well as by Indian staff supervising refugee camps from March 1971 till February 1972 were all lumped in the account of Pak Army. Indian Army soldiers and officers had also indulged in daily sex for the entire period of their stay in Bangladesh after 16 December 1971.

Roman Catholic Relief Agency put the figure of rapes to as low as 4000. (New York Times, January 30, 1972). In fact, only ten cases of rapes had been reported till August 31, 1971, and the culprits tried and punished. These few cases were swollen to the exasperating figure of 300,000. The falsity of Sheikh Mujib’s repeated allegation of rape of 300,000 Bengali women was exposed when the abortion team he had commissioned from United Kingdom in early 1972 found that there were no more than a hundred or so pregnancy cases they could deal with throughout their stay in Bangladesh. (Bangladesh Papers, Vanguard, Lahore, page 287). The AL government opened many centres in Bangladesh and gave wide calls to the rape victims named as ‘heroines’ to come forward and register their names so that they could be rehabilitated. Not more than one hundred or so who reported to the centres were given into marriages and perforce the centres had to be closed down. These cases were also in all probability the victims of rapists in Indian refugee camps.

Dr. M. Abdul Mumin Chowdhry, a Bengali nationalist who actively participated in the separatist cause, writes in his book ‘Behind the Myth of Three Million’, writes, It was reported that on arrival in Dhaka on 10 January 1972, the lobby behind the fabrication of the absolutely impossible figure promptly briefed the returning Bangladesh leader Sheikh Mujib with added ‘fact’, of 300,000 women raped, who in turn immediately went on parroting it. Thus the fiction of three million killed and 300,000 women raped was created’. He gives research-based details of each major incident that was blamed on Pakistan; and the rapes of 300,000, now enhanced to 400,000 women, resulting in 200,000 pregnancies.

One of Pakistani prisoner of war (PoW) Maj (now retired Brig) M. Azad on his way to India after the surrender had stayed a night in transit along with others at Krishanagar in West Bengal. The camp in which they were housed was well laid out and didn’t like a hurriedly made make-shift arrangement. The in-charge of the camp, a Sikh major, in usual Sikh style of light-heartedness and frankness, got chummy with Azad and told him that the camp had not been prepared for Pak PoWs but was meant to keep rebellious Bengalis who refused to participate in guerrilla war. He added that sissies were taken to task and made to perform allotted tasks, while their womenfolk were kept as hostages to serve their carnal needs. He boasted that he and his colleagues had thoroughly enjoyed raping thousands of Bengali women during their nine-month confinement. Laughingly he added that many virgins were impregnated. He divulged that many more suchlike camps for unwilling Bengalis had been established in other areas. This inadvertent disclosure would give an idea to independent readers that who were the actual rapists of Bengali women.

Besides resorting to series of atrocities, Indian security forces are using rape as a weapon of war to subjugate the Kashmiris demanding their birth right of self-determination. Kashmiris want independence from India at all cost. Incidents of rapes and gang rapes in Indian occupied Kashmir (IOK) are on the increase, but no Indian soldier or policeman has ever been punished. While there was lot of hue and cry over gang rape of an Indian woman in New Delhi, no voice has ever been raised in India over rapes of thousands of Kashmiri women, as if they are not human beings. It is puzzling as to why the ever vigilant western media has never mentioned a word about thousands of rapes committed in IOK? Or is it that it has different yardstick for Muslims and non-Muslims?

The writer is a retired Brig, author of several books and a defence analyst.

Tariq Pervez: The Justice and now the caretaker

By Faheem Wali JusticeIn what is a positive precedent Justice (retd) Tariq Pervez has been unanimously chosen as Caretaker Chief Minister of Khyber-Pakhtunkwa in the run up to the 2013 general elections. The move by the Awami National Party dominated provincial government in consultation with other opposition leader was the first attempt in the post 18th amendment constitution of Pakistan. Previous caretaker Chief Ministers were appointed or agreed outside the democratic system and in some cases openly hostile to the previous elected governments.

This is in stark contrast to the other provinces where counterparts are still busy in wrangling over a simple Constitutional requirement. Both Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s Chief Minister Amir Haider Hoti and leader of the opposition Akram Khan Durrani needs to be appreciated for displaying political maturity and acumen.

Justice Tariq was born on 15th February, 1948 at Peshawar, in the house of Muhammad Sarwar Sulemani, a known educationist and reputed poet of his times who authored number of books.

Tariq Pervez, born second amongst his six brothers, has done his Matriculation (SSC) from Government High School no 1, Peshawar city and graduated from Government Degree College in 1968. He was awarded LLB degree by Khyber law college, University of Peshawar in 1971.

After completing his LLB and undergoing the requisite apprenticeship, he was enrolled as an Advocate at District courts Peshawar in 1972. Known for his hard work, he soon caught attention of the criminal litigants, a practice wherein he flourished by leaps and bounds under the watchful eye and Guidance of Barrister Zahoor ul Haq, a lawyer, informally considered to be the best criminal lawyer Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa ever had.

Tariq Pervez was not only famous for his legal acumen and grasp over criminal jurisprudence but displayed his leadership qualities by remaining Vice President Peshawar High Court Bar Association(1980) and elected its President in 1996. A year earlier to his elevation as judge of Peshawar High Court during Malik Meraj Khalid’s caretaker cabinet in 1997.

Young lawyers used to learn a lot while attending his court from his academic remarks and queries he used to raise during course of hearings. Even in his tiring concentration towards issue involved, he won’t miss any opportunity of throwing a blinder bringing smiles on faces of the audience. Like, once he taunted well known senior Lawyer Latif Afridi while allowing bail application by saying ,”jo shakhs boorha ho,ganja ho,langrha ho woh tu adalat mein behis bhi nahin ker sakta,bhaag ke kahan jayega” (a person who is old, bald and lame can’t even argue his case, how can he run away from law). Latif himself having enormous sense of humour took the comment about his age with an equal degree of humour. On another occasion, in a contested civil case, after hearing the counsels at some length, he asked the parties to swap Counsels because he could not tell who was arguing for what and adjourned the case.

Apart from his normal judicial work he is an accomplished administrator included, member of administrative committee, head of Bar Council enrolment committee, Chairman judicial service tribunal, in addition to heading circuit benches of Dera Ismail Khan and Abbottabad respectively.

Tariq Pervez’s real time in the spotlight came when after 3rd November 2007 and the emergency was imposed by President General Pervez Musharraf. As Chief Justice of the Peshawar High Court true to his reputation he became first ever chief justice of Peshawar High Court to refuse oath under Provisional Constitutional Order and joined movement for restoration of law and the constitution.
At a stroke those designed to impart justice were on roads and rallies to seek justice for themselves. Like most of his peers, he also used to be a speaker in all such functions arranged by lawyers across the country. Grabbing every opportunity, he displayed such oratorical skills that would keep his audiences spell bound.

He was eventually restored on 5th of September 2008 by the elected government he was elevated to the Supreme Court and withdrew from controversy thereafter mostly maintaining a low profile before retiring early this year.

Justice Tariq Pervez is passionately remembered and revered by legal community for his steadfast and clear approach towards dispensation of justice and his unflinching support for democratic principles and rule of law. Now he faces an even bigger challenge with taking on the role of the caretaker Chief Minister he faces the task of maintaining law and order in a province that has been hit by the consequences of large scale militant attacks. While at the same time ensuring free and fair elections are held in a relatively peaceful manner.
The writer is a practicing advocate from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa