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Monday, 23 June 2008

My choice today: Monday 23 June 2008

The Pakistani nation needs a visionary leader; a statesman. By Khurshid Nadeem

Nizam ki tabdeeli? Rhetoric or reality? Hasan Nisar

The pathway to the future of Pakistan – Khurshid Nadeem

Remembering Benazir Bhutto – Ajmal Niazi

Death sentence abolished in Pakistan – Abbas Athar

Myth of minorities’ protection

The ANP government is challenged by the outlaw militants of the Tribal Areas and their followers in Peshawar and has vowed to fight back to protect the city. But while the resolve is still in the process of being strengthened, a gang of “bearded youth with long hair” has kidnapped around 20 Christians of Banaras Town and savagely beaten up the rest. The Christians were gathered at a charity dinner and had no idea that they would be accused of “bad behaviour”. The Taliban left a message behind: “Christian population should mend its ways”. This is a fresh reminder for Pakistanis that Pakistan’s dirt-poor Christians have been killed in the past to avenge the killings of Muslims at the hands of American “Christians” elsewhere in the world.

Banaras Town or Banarasabad has 350 Christian families that go back in history. Peshawar itself is a kind of melting pot of nationalities and Muslim sects. The act of attacking the poorest section of the citizens of Pakistan was dastardly in the extreme. The terrorists, arriving in half a dozen brand new SUVs and as many pick-ups, failed to see the moral contrast of what they were doing. A fully armed gang had attacked the most disadvantaged section of the city. It would be a cruel joke if the 20 abductees are kept as hostages to the demand that the Americans should leave Afghanistan. Peshawar city has seen maltreatment of its non-Muslims at the hands of its “pious” extremists in the past, but this is the most shameful example of how the city has lost control over itself and finds itself in a state of siege even as it parleys with the Taliban for a “peace” deal.

But why should we single out the NWFP? Punjab has had the dubious distinction of staging the most gruesome attacks on the life and property of the country’s constitutionally protected citizens. Under the jurisdiction of the last government, Sangla Hill saw the wholesale destruction of the places of worship of the local Christians after one Christian was accused — you have guessed it — of “desecrating the Quran and insulting the Holy Prophet PBUH”. As the government — which boasted a mismatch of ideology with its patron President Pervez Musharraf — acted against the vandals with painful unwillingness, fire-breathing clerics from Lahore swooped down on Sangla Hill and saved the culprits from punishment under law.

Faisalabad has the distinction of being the scene of the self-immolation of Bishop John Jacob after the conviction for blasphemy of an innocent Christian. It outdid itself again when on June 5, 2008, the principal of Punjab Medical College, one Mr Randhava, rusticated 23 Ahmedi boy and girl students from college and ordered them out of the college hostel “with immediate effect”. His decision was triggered by the campaign of some one thousand students of the college demanding their expulsion. The zealots encircled the principal’s office and he, instead of calling in the administration, got rid of the minority students just because they were accused, falsely, of trying to proselytise on the college premises. The agitation came from students belonging to organisations like Muslim Students Federation (MSF), Islami Jamiat-e Tulaba (IJT) and Anjuman Tulaba-e Islam (ATI). Some politically “non-aligned” students joined the siege for the sake of their own safety and also for the “empowerment” which the weak enjoy by joining the strong offenders these days. The rustication order read: “Due to the religious dispute, hate material distribution and on recommendation of the college disciplinary committee, the following students are rusticated from the college as well as hostel roll under Rule III clause-V of the college prospectus with immediate effect to maintain the law and order situation in the college and hostel premises”.

The students clashed on the basis of religion. The Ahmedi students tore down the Sunni poster against their faith and were threatened. The police arrived. Governor Punjab activated the administration. A committee has been formed of three teachers of the College to find out what really happened. But everyone in the College says it would be impossible to reinstate the expelled Ahmedi students. According to a student, as quoted in a newspaper report: “The College has a very rich history (sic!) of curbing this fitna (evil). In the 1974 movement against the Ahmedis, the College played a very important role. Some of our teachers, who were then students of the College, took an active part in that movement. We are once again ready to lead such a movement if the Ahmedi students are allowed to come back to the College”.

Up in Peshawar, the state has lost most of its writ; down in Faisalabad, the dominant sect wants to finish off an apostatised minority. There are very few who would like to prevent Pakistan from violating its own Constitution that gives equal rights to its minority communities. (Daily Times).

Islamabad Knowledge City

THE development of our country’s intellectual capital is crucial because this is an important source of competitive advantage in the new economy. So is the development of academic-industry linkages. An ambitious knowledge-development project focusing on nurturing local if not regional talent is being planned for the federal capital. Known as Islamabad Knowledge City, an initiative of the federal ministry of education, the project will be executed by a nine-member task force comprising leading officials from relevant ministries and the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The term ‘knowledge city’ refers to an urban centre that places knowledge at the centre of city planning and economic development, enabling knowledge flows, research, technology, brainpower and innovation to provide a sustainable environment for high value-added products and services. In other words, knowledge cities are those in which both the private and public sectors value knowledge, nurture it and spend money on its dissemination and discovery to create products and services that add value and create wealth. Currently there are over

65 urban development programmes worldwide formally designated as knowledge cities. Islamabad Knowledge City could feature on the list if the project is soundly planned and effectively implemented.

What is required is not only political will and commitment to see the project through but effective coordination between relevant government agencies and industrial and commercial sectors, both private and public. Islamabad already possesses the basic educational infrastructure for such a knowledge hub. Building on the special sector which the civic authorities recently designated as an education city, Islamabad Knowledge City can leverage all other knowledge resources in the capital including schools, higher education institutions, technology parks and other public and private academic and training institutes, particularly those in the portion of the city reserved for educational and institutional development. It is also expected to house branch campuses of leading foreign universities. Supported by adequate residential and recreational facilities, Islamabad Knowledge City could help establish the federal capital as a model in innovative education and research in this region, as well as lead the people of Pakistan in meeting the challenges of an ever-changing world. (Dawn).

Lessons of the long march
By Mohammad Waseem

THE great show of solidarity with the judiciary from June 10 to 15 ended not with a bang but with a whimper. Nothing can be more offensive to the leaders and organisers of the long march than being blamed for turning back from their commitment to lay siege to the corridors of power till they achieve their objectives. They never promised that.

But, scepticism about the efficacy of the whole strategy of the long march has crept into the minds of at least some of the leaders at the top of the movement itself, apart from others from the media, the political class and civil society.

The march was a genuine outburst of anger against a series of illegal actions taken by President Musharraf from March 9 till Nov 3, 2007. It was a tribute to the intellectual, organisational and financial commitment of the lawyers’ community to the noble cause of the restoration of the judiciary. The march exhibited a superb sense of collective leadership, and a sense of shared responsibility on the part of the leaders and their followers. The picture fitted the frame.

But the question is, to what end? This has been answered in multiple ways by people from within and outside the march. The leadership replied on a positive note; it believes that the objective of building pressure on the powers that be on the judges issue has been achieved. But, some lawyers, many journalists and a large number of participants from the civil society interpret it as a lost opportunity. In hindsight, one finds two things missing in the whole spectacle: firstly, there was no strategy to achieve the goal of putting the judges back in the courts in the form of either a sit-in or a blockade, or lobbying as a pressure group or conducting negotiations. Second, there was no policy on the target of the long march, whether it was the President House or Parliament House or Army House.

In terms of strategy, the black coats’ movement failed to devise a plan beyond a show of street power. No sit-in was on the agenda, possibly because it would have been difficult to sustain it after a while in terms of numbers, momentum and newsworthiness. To lay siege needed a commitment of a much-higher order, such as in the case of Shia activism in 1980.

In the weeks and months before the march, the leaders of the movement had consistently lobbied but failed to elicit a favourable response from the government. Similarly, no elaborate preparations were made to enter serious negotiations with the PPP leadership. In the absence of a strategy, it boiled down to a shot in the dark with a hope that sheer numbers on the street would deliver.

In the light of a long delay in the restoration of judges, protagonists of the cause wanted to put their entire weight behind the long march to achieve their objective. Others, especially from the media and political parties, cautioned the lawyers against measures that could weaken parliament and harm democracy. The leadership seemed to take two steps forward and one step back.

Who was the target of the long march? President Musharraf did it all. But, he was already relegated to a secondary role in the power structure. He could not bring the judges back to their positions even if, in theory, he wanted to do so. Why was parliament projected to be the target? Was a new law to be passed or a new amendment sought? It was amazingly naïve to target the parliament. In the end, even the parliament was not really targeted, unless gathering in the parade ground can be construed to mean that.

Prime Minister Gilani was conspicuous by his absence from the political scene altogether. It was a tacit recognition of the fact that the chief executive did not carry authority of his office with him. He was neither a part of the controversy nor the target of public anger. The lawyers’ leadership comprehensively missed out on delineating the target of their great show of discipline, commitment and solidarity.

In the first phase, the movement upheld what was essentially a legal cause. The case in the Supreme Judicial Council, later Supreme Court, against rendering the chief justice non-functional remained a constant point of reference in the movement. Lawyers were able to make a common cause with the civil society, the media and to some extent the political community.

In the second phase after the emergency, when sixty judges were sent home in an overtly extra-constitutional measure, the movement widened its scope to join the political parties in protest. The third phase after the formation of governments in the centre and provinces from April onwards obfuscated the whole situation. Partners of yesterday stood opposite each other. Partners within the coalition spoke with two faces.

What will happen now? Will the bar associations be able to mobilise lawyers and the public at large within a few weeks or months? Loss of momentum on June 15 is critical in this respect. People saw no tangible gain after their huge mental and physical input. PPP lawyers are caught between two loyalties. Meanwhile, other issues such as inflation and shortage of food items and electricity are potential competitors when it comes to attracting people’s attention and energies.

All this poses a great challenge to the leadership of the legal fraternity in terms of its credibility; and the judges’ issue is staring it in the face. Will it or will it not deliver on this count? Will it reconcile with half-way measures such as the provision for 29 judges of the Supreme Court and other ‘soft’ provisions in the envisioned constitutional package? Will the movement be overtaken by events? Alternatively, do lawyers have other strategies up their sleeve to restore the judges to their rightful positions, and the country to a respectable position in the comity of nations? (Dawn).

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