Villages of concrete

While the taxpayer continues to foot the bill for big government, local economic development and grassroots representation remain elusive till this day. Millions of people in Pakistan depend on urban areas, whether we derive livelihoods, indulge in recreation or engage in other pursuits. Yet, we do so within a visibly degenerating environment characterized by corruption, poor accountability and diminishing access to opportunities for economic growth.
With over fifty per cent of

Sanity prevails

Better sense prevailed at last. After digging in their heels the government and the judiciary let the situation find a new equilibrium.
The Supreme Court's interim order referring to the parliament for reconsideration the new mechanism provided in the 18th Amendment for appointing members of the superior judiciary was hailed by the saner elements of society. But there obviously was a disappointment for the naysayers who had been trying to weaken the democratic dispensation by

After the day of judgment

I read in an article the other day that Robert Hutchins said: "The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment." Apathy, indifference, and undernourishment we have in abundance. I would add exploitation and predation.
What we in Pakistan call "the democratic process" has indeed been ambushed many times, both by civilians masquerading as democrats and generals masquerading as

White Lies

Style, they say, is the man or woman himself. Is it, as the PM Gilani family interprets it, running around to beauticians in motorcades, indulging in retail therapy with underpaid security personnel escorting bulging shopping bags to official cars and babysitting them all the way to the PM House? Can style be interpreted as building a Rs. two crore security wall around the Gilani haveli in Multan, billing it to an emaciated exchequer and then expecting the nation to be charmed by

So what next?

"Army that rules cannot fight" was the theme of my research article I wrote when I was attending Australian Staff Course in 1973. My sponsoring DS (Directing Staff) called me and asked me how I could dare write on such a subject knowing the environment in Pakistan. I said I was entitled to my views, and jokingly remarked that I was too far away from home and wont' be reported. I went to the Pakistan Military Academy in 1959 and had seen how Ayub Khan usurped power and how he misused

Colonising our own people

The alienation in Balochistan has gone full circle. Every institution of the state, civil society organization and the entire mainstream media are increasingly losing credibility in the eyes of the Balochi people. There is no one in the province, not even the chief minister, governor or cabinet members, willing to defend the federation openly. A number of nationalist leaders have bidden good bye to parliament and the few who are left are on the defensive when inside Balochistan. The

Landmark judgement

Except for a few specks of display of integrity, the history of the judiciary in Pakistan through its first 60 years leaves a woefully lot to be desired. Generally perceived to be captive of the so-called 'Doctrine of Necessity', the judiciary invariably capitulated before the dictates of the every despot who barged in clamouring to put the country right. All that changed when one Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry displayed the gumption to stand up to the incumbent dictator and refused to

On the media

Thanks to our 24/7 electronic media and the perennial punditry of it anchors, there is rarely a dull moment in Pakistani politics. An unconfirmed report on a Karachi based channel the other day about the intention of the government to sack the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, forced the Prime Minister to address the nation, in order to clear the air.
The very next day, judges of the apex court disposed of the case without a whimper despite the fact that the government had

Toasting wisdom

The Supreme Court's Oct 21 decision to return Article 175-A to parliament for review is good news. The article amended the procedure for appointing superior court judges.
But while the Chief Justice of Pakistan said in his remarks that the article "harmed judiciary's freedom", the SC chose not to strike it down. This speaks of a mature approach and must be lauded, given the fraught relations between the executive and the judiciary. Just days ago the two sides came close to the

Bangladesh shining

In the recent past, the Bangladesh superior courts have taken many decisions to remove imbalances that can change the country's culture. One of these was the restoration of the secular status of the country. Now, in confirmation, the government has ordered the reprinting of the country's constitution to restore secularism as a "fundamental state principle".
The prime minister however told a cabinet meeting that the country would remain an Islamic state and did not ban political

Pay up and play the game

Well, a third 'do more' has been foisted on us. And quite unlike the previous two - a political/military 'do more' and the more recent cricketing one, courtesy an abrasive and clueless PCB chairman Ijaz Butt - this economic/taxation 'do more' may be even more intrusive and insulting as the earlier two, but it is something that may actually be a long-range blessing in disguise.
Weaned on foreign aid, and addicted to doles and handouts, our ruling elite and the privileged rentier

Facing the truth

Our rulers have a feudal mindset. It is this very mindset that the Pakistani public and foreign powers have to face when dealing with the Pakistani establishment. This mindset can neither comprehend internal matters nor fully understand foreign issues. This is why it is always in a state of conflict with the Pakistani people, treating them like subjects of a fiefdom, belying the realities of the 21st century. The people want change; the ruling class is not ready to deliver change.

The fire this time

Small boys often dream of becoming either a fireman or a prime minister. But no child should be so precocious as to fantasise about becoming both at the same time.
The problem about becoming a heroic firefighter is that there must be a fire to fight. There is, moreover, an invisible line between the temptation to become a hero, and the immediate necessity of dousing the fire. The hero saves the child on the burning deck with a last-minute intervention. The art of public

Going green, seeing red

The government's claims of going green are amusing to hear, especially when one considers the poor track record of Pakistan's environmental stewardship. We may sometimes notice the public walks, banners and the odd speech from public representatives, but most of the lip-service paid does little to stop the pollution, wastage and mismanagement of resources. Although some of us have the luxury of being insulated from environmental damage, our collective amusement quickly turns to alarm

The Messiah Complex

Pakistani generals are never out of the news. This includes both serving and retired ones. They draw attention, whether it is a security or terrorism policy issue or it is a purely civilian domestic political crisis. Three sets of factors help them to attract attention. The civilian political leaders have not been able to create a consensus-based viable civilian alternative. Pakistan's political class is so polarized that they create the crisis of legitimacy for each other and they

Up in a capsule

In the early hours of October 13, one by one the Chilean miners were rescued from their pit of despair. The world watched as a spectacular high-tech pod was lowered into the ground to lift these 33 men up to the life they thought they'd never see again.
It was bittersweet to see how innovative governments could be if they wish: sweet because of the effort organized to help innocent civilians, bitter because it is so rare.
And bitter because this particular copper and gold

Want Bihar?

There's a saying in Hindi that everyone salutes a rising sun. Ugte sooraj ko sab salaam karte hain. Biharis are different. On the three-day-long Chhatt Puja, a Hindu festival that begins next month, Delhi's Bihari community will gather on the banks of the polluted Yamuna, wade into the river and pray to the setting sun instead.
This week the eastern state of Bihar starts the election process for its legislative assembly. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, a soft-spoken pro-BJP