Sunday, August 6, 2017
By Adnan Aamir
Nawaz Sharif chose the old fashioned way of rewarding opportunistic political leaders from Balochistan. This was at the cost of addressing the most pressing issues faced by the people there.
Nawaz Sharif, the three-time Prime Minister of Pakistan, was sent packing on 28th July after a court verdict. Since his ouster there have been lengthy and thought provoking debates on the legal standings of the verdict against him. However, there is also need to debate and analyze what four years rule of elder Sharif brought for Pakistan and its fragile province - Balochistan.
After the general elections of May 2013, PML-N emerged as the largest political party in Balochistan Assembly. This is nothing to do with the popularity of the party. The political dynamics of Balochistan are such that majority of electable join the party which is expected to conquer Islamabad in general elections. Anyhow, provincial chapter of PML-N was ready to form government with support of right wing JUI-F. This did not materialize due to intervention of Nawaz Sharif in political matters of Balochistan through the infamous Murree Accord.
Just after the elections, leaders of Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), a left-wing Pashtun nationalist party and National Party (NP) a left-leaning Baloch nationalist party, rushed to Murree. Based on their insistence, Nawaz Sharif over-ruled the decision of provincial chapter pf PML-N to form government with JUI-F and ordered his party men in Balochistan to form government with NP and PKMAP.
In peak season, the electricity demand in Balochistan is around 1,800 MW but the province’s electric grid can only carry 650 MW of electricity. This means that even if there is surplus electricity available in the country — Balochistan can't get more than 650 MW This Murree Accord was a blatant interference in the political matters of a province. This was not only undemocratic but also against the spirit of provincial autonomy. Leaders of PKMAP and NP, who are otherwise champions of provincial autonomy, accepted thisviolation because they were getting a share in government.
Furthermore, the interference of Nawaz Sharif didn't end with Murree Accord. In fact, the process of cabinet formation in Balochistan took more than four months just because Nawaz Sharif did not approve the names of cabinet ministers. Even so, in early 2015, Nawaz Sharif again interfered in the elections of Mayor Quetta and ordered PML-N councilors to vote of candidate of PKMAP rather than PML-Ns own candidate. So, it can be said that under Nawaz Sharif Balochistan lost the gains in provincial autonomy which it had made after the passing of 18th amendment.
Likewise, Balochistan is still going a low-intensity conflict and the sense of deprivation still prevails. Last PPP government took some steps to placate people of Balochistan in the form of Aghaz e Haqooq Balochistan Package and increased share of province in NFC award. However, PML-N government under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif didn't take any such step and completely ignored Balochistan.
Moreover, Balochistan government was supposed to get the control and ownership of the copper-gold project in Saindak after Aghaz e Haqooq Balochistan Package. PML-N government did not make any headway in this regard and this issue is still unresolved. Similarly, Balochistan government signed an unfavorable agreement to extend lease of Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL) in 2016, under pressure from federal government. A well-placed source present in the negotiations of Balochistan government with PPL told this scribe that Balochistan government didn't take a strong line fearing that Nawaz Sharif will get angry.
Furthermore, the term of 7th NFC award expired on 30th June 2015 and since then incumbent government is exerting it through presidential orders, which is considered unconstitutional by experts. Balochistan is again the victim of the delay in formulation of new NFC award. The reason is that 7th NFC award uses obsolete and manipulated figures of poverty which downplays poverty in Balochistan. As a result Balochistan is losing up to Rs. 30 billion. However, PML-N government under Nawaz Sharif didn't show any interest in new and just NFC award.
Another area where Balochistan was ignored by government of Ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was electricity. Since coming into power, ending load shedding and producing the required amount of electricity has been the lead slogan of PML-N. In fact, a major chunk of CPEC projects is being used to produce electricity. Former Federal Minister for Water and Power, Khawja Asif, claims regularly about solving electricity problem. However the situation of electricity supply in Balochistan is same as it was in 2013 when PML-N assumed power.
In peak season, the electricity demand in Balochistan is around 1,800 MW but the electric grid in Balochistan can only carry 650 MW of electricity. This means that even if there is surplus electricity available in country Balochistan can't get more than 650 MW. Unfortunately, not a single penny was spent by incumbent federal government to improve the capacity of national grid. As a result, all districts of Balochistan, except the capital Quetta, face load shedding of more than 12 hours per day.
Lastly, Nawaz Sharif could not complete his constitutionally mandated tenure which is not a good omen for democracy. The flimsy ground on which He has been dismissed are also subject to debate. However, this fact needs to be accepted that Nawaz Sharif being the democrat that he completely let down people of Balochistan. He chose the old fashioned way of rewarding opportunistic political leaders from Balochistan at the cost of larger issues of the people of Balochistan.
Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) Chairman Aftab Sherpao on Saturday alleged that Imran Khan’s ‘wrong’ polices in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa deprived Pakhtuns of their rights under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
The statement came during a high-level meeting of the party in Peshawar chaired by Sherpao to discuss the ongoing political situation. The party also discussed strategy in the wake of quitting the K-P government.
During the meeting, Sherpao said that the party had devoted itself to the service of Pakhtuns and vowed to continue to safeguard their interests.
“The QWP never begged for ministries nor was it attracted by government offices,” he said. “We only care for the rights of our people, and denounce those who accuse the party of adopting such ways,” he said.
The QWP chief said his party is the only protector of Pakhtuns’ rights, and “through our manifesto we will be in power in K-P and at the centre in the 2018 elections.”
He also called for an independent inquiry to probe the allegations of estranged PTI MNA Ayesha Gulalai against PTI chief Imran Khan and said his party always protected the rights of women and respected them. He also offered his support for the parliamentary committee set up to investigate the allegations.
Sherpao also reiterated his support for peace in the region, especially in Afghanistan, insisting that there would be no peace in Pakistan until there was peace in the neighbouring country.
سابق صدر آصف علی زرداری کی صاحبزادی آصفہ بھٹو زر داری نے کہا ہے کہ عمران خان پر عائشہ گلا لئی کے الزامات کو سنجیدگی سے لینا چاہیے۔ ایک بیان میں آصف زرداری کی صاحبزادی آصفہ بھٹو نے کہا کہ عمران خان پر عائشہ گلالئی کے الزامات کو سنجیدگی سے لینا چاہیے کیونکہ طاقت ور مردوں کے سامنے کھڑا ہونا آسان نہیں۔
By MEHREEN ZAHRA-MALIK
When a Pakistani lawmaker said this past week that she had received “inappropriate text messages” from a male colleague, she was met with a wave of vitriol on social media.
The episode has attracted widespread attention, as the man she accused is Imran Khan, the former cricket star who is now one of Pakistan’s leading politicians, with a large social media following. The case also illustrates the rise of online abuse against women in a country considered one of the most dangerous in the world for them.
On Tuesday, the lawmaker, Ayesha Gulalai Wazir, from Pakistan’s tribal South Waziristan region, accused Mr. Khan of sending her “objectionable” text messages, and said women were not respected in his political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. The party denied that Mr. Khan had sent any such text messages to Ms. Wazir.
Social media users unleashed profanity-filled tirades against Ms. Wazir, calling her a liar and an opportunist. Many tried to shame her because her sister, Maria Toorpakai Wazir, a top squash player, has competed in international tournaments in shorts, the kind of attire considered immodest in Muslim-majority Pakistan.
Some messages were more frightening. “Ayesha Gulalai KILL YOURSELF,” one Twitter user wrote. Another Twitter user threatened to kill her. Others proposed throwing acid in her face.
Women around the world face online abuse, but in Pakistan, with its entrenched culture of discrimination and violence against women, the threats are not idle. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, about 500 Pakistani women are killed each year by family members who believe their honor has been damaged if a female relative refuses an arranged marriage, socializes with men or even claps and sings at a wedding.
In a country where 33 million people use Facebook and at least five million are on Twitter, social media has become a frequent platform for obscene and virulent outbursts. In some cases, online abuse has incited physical violence.
“Instead of responding to my accusations or proving that I am wrong, people are saying throw acid on me?” Ms. Wazir said in a telephone interview. “I can’t believe they have fallen to this level, but it is just part of a larger culture encouraged by the society and political parties here.”
Ms. Wazir said she was afraid to publicly share the objectionable text messages out of fear of further antagonizing Mr. Khan’s followers. But she said she was prepared to present the messages to a judge or an investigating authority on the condition that they remain confidential.
Maria Waqar, an Indiana University graduate student who has interviewed dozens of female lawmakers in Pakistan for her research on the legislature, said the abuse directed at Ms. Wazir was not surprising. She said that “the web is littered with websites, videos and message boards dedicated to objectifying and degrading women parliamentarians in particular and women in general.”
In a survey of women in 17 Pakistani universities, published by the Digital Rights Foundation in May, 34 percent said they had experienced online harassment and abuse. The actions included cyberstalking, bullying, and the leaking and manipulation of personal information and pictures.
Many women reported threats of physical violence and vandalism, blackmail, sexual remarks and false accusations meant to humiliate, threaten or discredit them. Seventy percent of the women surveyed said they were afraid to post their pictures on social media websites.
The country is taking some steps to address the problem. Last year, Parliament passed the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, which was widely promoted as a tool to curb online sexual harassment. Pakistan’s first cyber harassment help line, also set up last year, received 763 complaints in the form of calls, emails and Facebook messages from Dec. 1 to May 31.
In July, a man was sentenced to 12 years in jail for blackmailing a woman in the northern city of Peshawar. And in two cases still to be decided, a university professor in the port city of Karachi was arrested on charges of setting up fake Facebook pages and publishing doctored pictures of a female colleague, and two boys were arrested in 2015 on charges of using a fake Facebook profile to harass and blackmail up to 50 girls in Peshawar. Yet online activity has still led to real-life violence, including in July of last year, when Qandeel Baloch, a social media sensation, was strangled in what is known as an honor killing. When Ms. Baloch’s brother was arrested in connection with her death, he said at a news conference that he had killed her because he was incensed over her risqué Facebook posts.
Nighat Dad, the executive director of the Digital Rights Foundation, a Pakistani internet advocacy group, said, “There is a culture of violence against women that already exists in the home, the workplace, in public places, and now it is increasingly manifesting itself in online spaces as well.”
In another case, Saman, a 19-year-old university student from Lahore who asked to be identified by only her first name to protect her safety, said her sister’s husband had propositioned her for years before spraying her with acid, disfiguring her, in January 2016.
When she filed a case against her attacker, he threatened to post what she says are doctored nude pictures of her online. Last month, he was sentenced to 28 years in prison, but Saman said the harassment persisted.
“Even from behind bars, the threats continue,” Saman, who has seen the photos, said in a telephone interview. She said she had told the authorities about the images, “but they say they can’t do anything until the pictures are actually published.”
Marvi Sirmed, a Pakistani journalist, said people on social media had called for her to be publicly raped and killed over her views on the rights of women and minorities.
“Women who are opinionated, who are professionals doing jobs traditionally done by men, who are entering politics and media, of course they are going to be in the line of fire on the internet,” Ms. Sirmed said. “And when they fight back, the abuse just gets worse.”