Tuesday, June 20, 2017

#HappyBirthdaySMBB - Remembering the lifeline of PPP, Benazir Bhutto on 64th birthday

By Maleeha Manzoor

In a society that was stuck in the morass of misogyny, where women were surrounded by strangling mediocrities, a young woman emerged as the strongest and the most powerful: Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto. Muslim World’s first female Prime Minister, who broke all the barriers refuting the anti-woman narrative and paved way for all the female achievers, once caged in the prisons of patriarchy.
Not for the women alone, Benazir Bhutto rose as the hope to countless of the poor and destitute. A saviour to the marginalised who were subdued under dictatorship post the assassination of her father Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan’s undisputed leader who preferred to accept gallows but didn’t bow down before usurpers – for a people’s love; for country’s honour. He continues to be eulogised decades after his assassination.
“What gift can I give you from this cell out of which my hand cannot pass? I give you the hand of the people.” – writes Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in a birthday letter to his daughter Benazir Bhutto from his death cell on June 21, 1978.
BB was the father’s daughter. She held the people’s hand. Bhutto’s legacy as her raison d'être, she fought for democracy, for emancipation of masses till the last breathe. Inherited the prowess to woo popular support from her father, she ruled over the hearts of millions. Such deep-seated was her connection to the people that no exiles could keep them away, 1986 and 2007’s grand receptions remain unequalled in Asia’s political history. But BB’s rise to becoming Pakistan’s greatest political hope was not a piece of cake; it was a trial by fire.
In 1977 when tragedies befell Pakistan and its elected government was overthrown, BB was only 24. She was placed under house arrest as she returned home after completing her studies. Bhutto’s dismissal landed the young Benazir on a hard road and the PPP in dire straits.
Under the worst of the dictatorial regimes governed by the law of the jungle, where human rights were a fiddling little affair, BB had to fight for her father’s life and later on, for the PPP’s survival. During Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s homicidal trial and after his execution, BB was faced with a lot of challenges from within and outside. She along with Begum Nusrat Bhutto was left unescorted by the powerful political elite that once enjoyed perks during Bhutto regime. To change things outside, the biggest challenge for the young Bhutto was to first put her own house in order.
Apart from breach of trust by party leaders, she had to run the gauntlet of some egocentric elders. The New York Times in 1986 quoted some of her colleagues that she refused to be treated as a mere face to the campaign, asserted her command to lead instead. And what strengthened the BB-led PPP the most was her credence in workers’ loyalty. As she fielded young loyalists on important positions, the party workers backed her, the ministers and uncles did not – nor did she care about them.
BB was told that she could not win an election, that she didn’t know the language of the people. Nevertheless, she brought all her opponents’ claims to naught. The Oxford educated proved that she might be new to the political environment but was well acquainted with her roots; that she might not speak people’s language initially but knew their music.
Within a few years, she took party to a position where people would believe that even if a pole is given the PPP ticket, it would win. To quote two big examples of transfer of power from political elite to workers: the feudal lord and spiritual leader Pir Pagara was defeated by a PPP commoner Pervaiz Ali Shah and Mumtaz Ali Bhutto, ZA Bhutto’s cousin and his former aide, lost elections to a BB’s candidate Deedar Hussain Shah, who had once served as his manager. Her art of political war was her penchant for positioning the educated young people against the mightiest.
This day marks the 64th birthday of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. More than 9 years have passed since her assassination but the party is somehow unable to grasp biggest of the popular support, and rightly so. The juxtaposition drawn between current popularity of other parties and the PPP’s is unmerited. PPP has not only survived the assassination of its leading figures but has also arisen to eminence in the political realm every now and then. Is it possible to imagine a PMLN and a PTI without their main leaders?
Today, the hullabaloo over defections is same as 80s. Bilawal Bhutto is confronted with many challenges similar to BB’s – he is living in better times though; living in a democracy restored with his mother’s blood where no political leader has to stay in the blazing hot Sukkur jail in political vendetta like she did. Critical opprobrium against him too is on the account of his young age and his first language etc. But he has this whole legacy of his mother to follow, which provides him best of the solutions to overcome crises. Empowering workers whilst giving no fig to the desertions and committing to not let them re-enter, prioritising loyalists over turncoats, making everyone abide by party policies, instilling faith into the workers – this is the BB Shaheed’s strategy.
BB was not concerned about the political elite. In an interview she said, “all ministers who betrayed us, people who made hay while the sun was shining. I decided I didn’t want such men around me, ever.” If the picayune reneging of party members had to matter, BB would not have re-emerged after sitting in the parliament with only 17 members in 1997, nor had she sustained betrayal of infamous party leaders elected on PPP tickets landing in Musharraf’s lap in 2002.
PPP has survived everything. What this almost fifty year old party will not be able to survive is the deviation from its ideological basis and that is out of question as long as the workers remain. PPP’s power headquarters lies among its ideological workers for BB gave them this empowerment; she is the lifeline of this party. She breathed oxygen into PPP with her sacrifices. She connects the third generation of the party to the first, links Bilawal Bhutto to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. She is still the rescuer and what can make this party the most popular again, is the SMBB’s way of running the PPP.
BB’s son, like his mother, has the savoir faire to represent Pakistan internationally. He has inherited the same affection for masses; he too has his heart in the right place. PPP is undergoing an extensive reorganisation process under his watch and he has been personally interviewing every single candidate. With sheer commitment to mother’s cause, he is trying to connect to the masses. If the facts are not resented out of prejudice and if the history tends to repeat itself, then the party is not over yet - the party has just begun…
This snippet from SZAB’s letter to his warrior daughter should serve as the motivation for the young Chairman and all the supporters:
“I believe I still have a role to play. I believe people still want me on this stage, but if I have to bow out, I give you the gift of my feelings. You will fight the fight better than me. Your speeches will be more eloquent than my speeches. Your commitment equally total. There will be more youth and vitality in your struggle. Your deeds will be more daring. I transmit to you the blessing of the most blessed mission.”

#HappyBirthdaySMBB - Benazir Bhutto - A memorable birthday

Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was the voice of the people. She had a genuinely strong relationship with her people. It was as if her heart used to beat in the same rhythm as the heart of the masses.
She was the true keeper of national interest and this has been demonstrated by her long struggle against dictatorship. She not only fought the forces of martial law but her voice in favour of democracy was heard as the true voice of sanity in the international political arena.
In the world she was known as the “Iron Lady” of Pakistan and in the Muslim world, she was known as the “Daughter of Islam. ” it goes to her credit that she was the first woman prime-minister of any Muslim state.
Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto (BB) represented the Pakistan that was beautiful and with an immense potential for development and success.
For this reason, her birthday is celebrated every year on June 21.
Both, nationally and internationally, a tribute is paid to her in ceremonies that are organised across the world to remember her great contributions for this country. I reminded her that she was present alongside me as I cut my fiftieth birthday cake in Gulzar House. I assured her that I would be honoured to join her in her birthday celebrations in Dubai. In June of 2003, BB came to visit London on a short trip. She invited me to attend her fiftieth birthday celebrations in Dubai.
A few days later, I reached Dubai through a flight on British Airways and found BB’s driver waiting for me at the airport. I reached her residence and was warmly received by her.
I was staying at her house as a house guest. June 21, 2003 was a remarkable and a memorable evening.
Only fifty guests were invited, perfectly suited to the occasion of a fiftieth birthday. The guests included Pakistanis, Arabs, and other foreigners as well.
We all enjoyed food together. The cake was customised according to the fiftieth birthday party. BB cut the cake surrounded by the guests and as the knife went through the cake, the drawing room was filled with a melodious happy birthday song. A unique thing about that evening was the poem that BB recited, “Story of Benazir”. It was written by her and it beautifully described her life’s journey and struggles. The poem was appreciated a lot and on that day BB’s poetry skills were revealed to the world.
On that day, Mr Asif Ali Zardari had sent her a bouquet made up of fifty dozen roses. She had arranged the flowers in her drawing room and had photographs taken next to it along with her three children Bilawal, Bakhtawar, and Asifa. She also called me in to join them and I was glad to be able to become a part of that beautiful family moment. That memorable photograph has been published in my book “Rafaqat ka Safar”.
BB was very happy that evening and it was not only a memorable day for her but also for all of us who were privileged enough to join her. Soon, I returned to London with memories that would stay with me for the rest of my life.
Today, June 21, 2017, is Mohtarma Shaheed Benazir Bhutto’s sixty-fourth birthday. Pakistan needs a phenomenal leader like her but unfortunately she is no longer here. Her absence is felt today more than ever before and no one can ever fill the gap left by her. She is missed both, nationally and internationally as she represented the cause of Pakistan at all available forums. Although she is no longer among us but she will always be with us. She will always live in our hearts.
I believe the best and the most befitting tribute to her on her birthday would be to reiterate our commitment to BB’s vision. Her workers should not be disheartened by her loss and should remember how much she cared about their rights. Every time they hold on to their rights and her vision and programme, she is with them; if not in person, but certainly in spirit. Her children, Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Bakhtawar, and Asifa are the custodians of her legacy. They have grown up under the care of one of the best leaders in the world.
They are all well-educated and capable individuals who will continue BB’s mission of serving the people and keeping aloft the flag of PPP. There is no doubt that Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Bakhtwar, and Asifa will make a great team and they will live for Pakistan and for the people of Pakistan as did Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. The writer is Ex-Press Secretary of Benazir Bhutto and current Chairman of Bhutto Legacy Foundation.

Restructuring quotas for FATA

By Naimat Ullah Khan
The existing system of quotas in government jobs for FATA domicilie holders benefits those settled outside of the tribal region with access to better education facilities.
The constitution of 1973 has the provision for a special quota system through which “posts may be reserved for persons belonging to any class or area to secure their adequate representation in the service of Pakistan”. Domicile holders of FATA, due to the region’s poor standard of living, have access to this quota system. However, it is imperative that we question if this quota truly benefits the least privileged residents of FATA, and whether the beneficiaries return to FATA to serve their area of birth.
Federally Administrated Tribal Area (FATA) is a buffer zone between Pakistan and Afghanistan governed primarily by the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR). In total, there are seven tribal agencies and six frontier regions (FR). The administrative structure of the FR is complicated by the fact that these regions are governed both by the administration of an adjoining settled district (eg Deputy Commissioner) and by the Political Agent (PA) of an adjacent tribal agency.
The quota system must be reformed to give preference to domicile holders who gained their education in FATA. Those who studied outside the region must be considered afterwards Since its inception, the Pakistani state has done little to improve conditions in FATA. Until 2016, the entire 27,220 kilometers of the FATA region did not have a single university; a fact which highlights the state’s neglect towards the region. Considering how the recent surge of terrorism in the region has further weakened the provision of basic health and education facilities in FATA, it is a good thing that FATA residents can benefit from the quota system.
Domicile holders of FATA are entitled to quotas for admission in educational institutions and to quotas for employment in the federal and provincial governments. The quota is available to FATA domicile holders residing all over the country, not just in FATA territory. Thus, a domicile holder of FATA who does not reside in the tribal regions but is instead settled somewhere else in the country can still benefit from the quota for FATA domicile holders.
This is where the essence of the problem with our quota system lies. In most cases, the quota system benefits domicile holders who have not lived in FATA and cannot even speak their respective tribal Pashtu accent or dialect. These domicile holders also have access to educational institutions which are far superior to institutions in FATA, thus giving a natural edge to domicile holders who chose to move out of FATA. The actual residents of FATA lose out in this system since they now have to compete with individuals who not only have access to the quota system, but also benefit from access to better resources available in Pakistan’s settled areas.
The government must reform this system in a way which gives preference to individuals who gained their education from FATA. FATA domicile holders who gained their education from outside FATA, on the other hand, must be preferred after the residents of the area. This will also ensure that the beneficiaries of the quota system are individuals who are loyal to the region. In several cases, domicile holders who never lived in FATA, once employed, choose not to serve in the region, and instead opt to settle in other parts of the country. The State must counteract this issue by compelling individuals to serve a minimum tenure inside FATA.
As the National Assembly debates the Rewaj Act and considers making FATA a part of KP, we must look inward and question why the current system failed FATA. The Assembly should also debate the quota system and consider restructuring it. In the meanwhile, the onus is on FATA domicile holders to undertake some self-reflection and wonder how they can contribute to their own Khawra (soil) while benefiting from FATA’s quota system.

Pakistan shoots down Iranian drone near border

Pakistani officials said an air force fighter jet has shot down an unmanned Iranian drone in Balochistan .
Both officials Tuesday said the unmanned aircraft was shot down over the weekend and was deep inside Pakistani airspace. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to media.
The Pakistani Air Force declined to comment on the matter. Iran, in recent months, has expressed concern over militants operating along the Pakistani border. Iran’s army chief recently warned that the country was willing to strike militants inside Pakistan — remarks that drew a strong protest from Islamabad.


Exclusive: Trump administration eyes hardening line toward Pakistan

By Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali
President Donald Trump's administration is exploring hardening its approach toward Pakistan to crack down on Pakistan-based militants launching attacks in neighboring Afghanistan, two U.S. officials tell Reuters.
Potential Trump administration responses being discussed include expanding U.S. drone strikes, redirecting or withholding some aid to Pakistan and perhaps eventually downgrading Pakistan's status as a major non-NATO ally, the two officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Other U.S. officials are skeptical of the prospects for success, arguing that years of previous U.S. efforts to curb Pakistan's support for militant groups have failed, and that already strengthening U.S. ties to India, Pakistan's arch-enemy, undermine chances of a breakthrough with Islamabad.
U.S. officials say generally they seek greater cooperation with Pakistan, not a rupture in ties, once the administration finishes a regional review, due by mid-July, of the strategy guiding the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan.
The discussions include officials from across the Trump administration, including the White House and the Defense Department, both of which declined comment on the review before its completion.
Precise actions have yet to be decided.
But Pakistan's embassy in Washington warned against "scapegoating" Pakistan to explain the stalemate in Afghanistan, pointing instead to Afghanistan's own troubled internal dynamics. It also noted past Pakistani efforts to battle militants and expressed willingness to work with the United States and Afghanistan on border management.
"Singling out Pakistan and pinning the entire blame on Pakistan for the situation in Afghanistan is neither fair nor accurate, nor is it borne out by the ground realities," said Abid Saeed, press minister at the embassy.
Experts on America's longest war argue that militant safe havens in Pakistan have allowed Taliban-linked insurgents a place to plot deadly strikes in Afghanistan and regroup after ground offensives.
Although long mindful of Pakistan, the Trump administration in recent weeks has put more emphasis on the relationship with Islamabad in discussions as it hammers out a regional strategy to be presented to Trump, who took office in late January, one official said.
"We've never really fully articulated what our strategy towards Pakistan is. The strategy will more clearly say what we want from Pakistan specifically," the U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Other U.S. officials question whether any mix of carrots and sticks can get Islamabad to change its behavior. At the end of the day, Washington needs a partner, even if an imperfect one, in nuclear-armed Pakistan, they say.
The United States is again poised to deploy thousands more troops in Afghanistan, an acknowledgment that U.S.-backed forces are not winning and Taliban militants are resurgent.
Without more pressure on militants within Pakistan who target Afghanistan, experts say additional U.S. troop deployments will fail to meet their ultimate objective: to pressure the Taliban to eventually negotiate peace.