Sunday, August 5, 2012
The Express TribuneWith elections looming in the near future, tribal elders and various political party leaders are still divided over the government’s introduction of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) Local Government Regulations 2012. The Fata Secretariat had sought proposals from local legislators for the introduction of a local government (LG) system in the Fata. A pilot project in this regard was started almost ten days ago in Bajaur Agency. The Express Tribune had asked various local political leaders, parliamentarians and tribal elders for their views on the coalition government devised draft of the LG system. Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) National Assembly member (MNA) Akhunzada Chittan said that the party backs the move and demands the election mechanism be based on adult franchise and the party system. He lamented, however, that the funds allocated for the tribal areas had not been utilised properly and were instead being diverted for the development of other sectors across the country. Chittan hoped leaders elected under the LG system would help solve problems that continued to plague the region. He suggested setting up a Fata council to decide the future of the tribal areas. Senator Hilal Rehman urged the need to discard decades-old draconian laws and introduce a proper judicial system. He said the council should keep a strict check on financial matters and supervise the execution of welfare projects across the tribal belt. Rehman further suggested that tribal leaders and representatives be taken into confidence before introducing any legislation. Zahir Shah Safi, a political reformer and tribal lawyer, told The Express Tribune that elections should be held on union and tehsil levels before merging Fata with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) or keeping the region independent, and Fata councils should have the final say on the decision. He supported the setting up of a municipal system in Bajaur Agency’s Khar headquarters. President of the Awami National Party’s (ANP) Mohmand Agency chapter, Nisar Mohmand said their party supports the plan. He added that it should not follow the Nazim-based system introduced by Pervez Musharraf. “The regulation should be like that of the provincial LG system.” He opposed the Fata council, however, saying the time was ripe to merge the tribal areas with K-P. Mohmand criticised the role of political agents in the process and stressed the need to reduce the political administration’s role and make the process more result oriented. Tribal elder and Halemzai peace committee leader Muhammad Ali Halemzai also opposed the plan and called upon the stakeholders to forge unity for the restoration of peace. He said normalcy was necessary to implement any regulation and introduce a new setup. He wished for the tribal areas to be brought at par with other parts of Pakistan in terms of peace, development, rules and regulations.
EDITORIALThe common man's status of mental health is getting low increasingly - and greatly characterised by pessimism - and a growing sense of inadequacy. In other words, he's in a state of low spirits caused by loss of hope or courage. There is no gainsaying while the people in Pakistan strongly believe that democracy and rule of law are sine qua non for the country to make progress they fail to elect equal to the task leadership. Not too late after the elected representatives take seats in assemblies their real worth starts coming to light, with media and gossip exposing how blatantly they exploit the people's mandate for their personal gains. Almost on a day-to-day basis the scandals surrounding their murky deals make headlines in the media, and with that the people's enchantment with their democratic choice begins losing its luster. At the end of the day if and when the system is wrapped up on a note of 'dear countrymen' the people pour unto the streets and distribute sweets. Given the judiciary's repeated commitment to uphold the constitution and the waning interest of the 'guardians of state' for a 'patriotic' action this time we hope the pattern will undergo a change. The chances are that the coming electoral exercise would throw up better political leadership. Nonetheless, abundant caution has to be exercised to ensure that the pre-election ambience doesn't get nasty enough, a vulnerability to which as suggested by the recent PML (N)-PTI tit-for-tat sword rattling the parties can succumb. Having received quite a bit of negative flak over the alleged accumulation of Rs 50 billion worth of foreign assets owned by a son of Nawaz Sharif the PML (N) has launched a matching counterattack. At a press conference on Wednesday, one of its leaders, Khwaja Asif, accused Imran Khan of committing 'money-laundering and gambling on charity funds' meant for the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital. Imran Khan hasn't taken it lying; he immediately called the media persons to tell them that there is no truth in what the PML (N) was saying. This is match of accusations and counter-accusations. Unless there is a professional probe there is no way to find the veracity in these personal attacks. However, the fact remains that in this crossfire helplessly caught is the cancer treatment hospital that is serving humanity with great dedication. We wish both sides had shunned the path of personal attacks, for these not only tend to cast political leadership in bad light they also cause a lot of collateral damage which hurts the public cause in many ways. If there is a case that a politician or his party feel should be investigated and culprit brought to justice in that case the courts should be approached and meanwhile wait for the court orders. Being public leaders they all live in glass houses as people know them through and through, accusations or no accusations by the opponents. What they can do and shall do for the betterment of people if elected that is of interest to the people. These are not the ordinary times in the life of an average Pakistani, caught as he is in the eye of a swirling storm of corruption, high inflation, deepening poverty and unrelenting fear of insecurity. In the larger context, he finds the country beset with serious existential threats stemming from terrorism, sectarianism and lawlessness. Rightly then his love-affair with political option is badly jilted given his experience that successive political governments could not deliver. Obviously, the man in the street would like to hear something positive, pragmatic on his problems instead of watching dirty linen of political opponents being washed in public. Since most of players in the political field are old hands and people are well aware of their capacity or otherwise to deliver it is all the more necessary for them to trying at inventing an entirely new culture for the national politics. Yes, the past political performance of elected governments was never up to the mark and it is also admitted that not many hands are clean either. But with a grim and uncertain future standing in front of us the past performance is no more an issue; the issue relevant to our times is what these contenders for national power can do to turn over this page and write a new paragraph that aptly rhymes with people's hopes and aspirations. They must not ignore the fact that people are increasingly feeling downcast, disheartened and hopeless.
Editorial:DAILY TIMESFive senior military officers have been convicted by a court martial for having links with a banned outfit, Hizbut Tahrir (HT). They received from five to eighteen months’ rigorous imprisonment. Brigadier Ali Khan, the main protagonist, had been actively pursuing the cause of HT of indoctrinating military personnel to foment a rebellion against the alleged pro-US military and civilian leadership of the country. Following the killing of Osama bin Laden by the US forces in Abottabad in early May last year, Ali Khan expressed his displeasure to the COAS over the failure of the Pakistan army to prevent the killing of OBL. This led to a probe into Khan’s activities by the army’s Special Investigative Branch, and he was finally arrested on May 6, 2011. Though this is not the first time the military has prosecuted officers on disciplinary grounds, the invasion of Islamic extremism into the rank and file of the armed forces makes this case sensitive and a test case for future reference. The state of denial on the involvement of extremist elements in the assassination attempts on Musharraf, the attack on the Mehran naval base in Karachi, and the storming of GHQ in Rawalpindi should end now. HT is not the only Islamist outfit having influence in Pakistan. This is a widespread phenomenon with its tentacles spread over the length and breadth of the country and even into the defence and security services. Mumtaz Qadri, the assassin of Governor Salmaan Taseer, is one example, hardened by extremist Islamist views and averse to any other interpretations of Islam. It is about time the government, taking cognizance of the situation, launches an across-the-board crackdown on the extremist elements in our society. One of the major intelligence or tactical failures of Pakistan has been its inability to stop the ‘banned’ organisations from operating in the country. Banned, yet they have been allowed to operate with different names. Unless we cut the umbilical cord, i.e. the operational, financial and tactical alliances of the religious outfits within and without, the ban would remain a farce. The glory of Islam that HT and other Islamic organization are idealising and for which the return to a Caliphate is seen as the only alternative, is an ideology out of touch with present day realities. Therefore any attempt towards that end would end up as a non-starter, given the present state of and divisions in the Muslim world. HT’s bellicose anti-western imagery coupled with promoting anti-state sentiments, especially within the armed forces of Muslim countries, belies its claim of being non-violent. That is why the organisation should not be allowed to disarm opponents by its declarations of non-violence and be dealt with as a dangerous and insidious threat.