Thursday, October 26, 2017
October 26 is an auspicious day for the Bengali people, for on this day in 1873 was born Sher-e-Bangla AK Fazlul Huq, the great leader of Bengal, who came as a saviour of his fellow Bengalis from the tyranny of the exploiting landlords and British colonial rule. A man who, with his rare qualities of head and heart, indomitable courage and mental power, fought throughout his life to protect the interests of his people. And it was he who instilled in them the belief and confidence that the Bengalis are to live as a nation with freedom, honour and dignity.
Sher-e-Bangla AK Fazlul Huq is a legendary figure in Bengal and All-India politics and in the history of movements for social change. Like many other leaders in public life, Fazlul Huq had his lamentations over some of his past actions and decisions. But to delve into those is hardly possible in a short piece like this one.
Fazlul Huq lived a life of dignity and honour. Of course, there were occasions when circumstances around him were not all that pleasant. At times he had to confront resentful critics often misunderstanding his intent and purpose.
Fazlul Huq's principal political adversary, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan and its first Governor General, lies buried in a grave in distant Karachi. Jinnah presided over the All-India Muslim League Conference at Lahore where Fazlul Huq, then Prime Minister of Bengal, moved the historic Lahore Resolution for a Muslim homeland in India. Only two years after he moved the resolution, Jinnah attacked him as a “treacherous person doing incalculable harm to the Muslims of Bengal.”
Mohammad Ali Jinnah as the Governor General visited Dhaka in March 1948 and addressed a public meeting on the Ramna Race Course ground (now Suhrawardy Udyan). In that meeting, he asserted that Urdu shall be the only State Language of Pakistan. Thus, he sowed the seeds of Bengali Language Movement, which ultimately led to the independence movement of Bangladesh. Jinnah, during his visit, must have realised that there was growing unrest and discontent among the Bengalis. He must have also realised the importance of a meeting with Sher-e-Bangla AK Fazlul Huq for a kind of reconciliation between the two stalwarts of All-India Muslim politics. It was at the instance of Jinnah that a reluctant Fazlul Huq was finally persuaded to sit for a meeting of reconciliation. The first session of talks between the two was somewhat of a failure and ended in anger and disgust. However, the second sitting seemed to be useful because of a conciliatory approach by an otherwise arrogant and uncompromising Jinnah.
At the end of the meeting, Fazlul Huq's assurance of cooperation gave some relief to Jinnah, who was worried about the defence of Pakistan's Eastern Wing.
Fazlul Huq, the illustrious leader of Bengal of All-India fame, was widely known to have a chequered political career and was often blamed by his critics for his vacillating character in politics. In the face of criticism by his rivals, Fazlul Huq stuck to his own ways and means in his political activities. He used to tell his people quite often that he had an ideal of his own for which he acted in the ways suiting the time and circumstance.
By way of personal explanation, Fazlul Huq said, “It is my crime that I love the common man of Bengal, otherwise there would not have been any need for me to deviate from a chartered path or fixed opinion.” He said, his ideal was to serve the greatest good of the greatest number of the masses of Bengal's poor peasantry and other have-nots. He also said that he had noticed in the whirlwind of complex politics that it would not be possible to perform the job properly. So, he had to change his opinion under compulsion.
Fazlul Huq was a practising Muslim, proud of his Bengali identity, and staunchly believed in Bengali nationalism. He was secular in his approach to socio-political issues. And he always worked for Hindu-Muslim communal harmony.
Fazlul Huq was considered by PC Ray, the great scientist, as a symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity on which depended the future existence of the Bengali nation. PC Ray, Fazlul Huq's one-time teacher, said he did not understand the Indian nationalism of the Congress. He knew only Bengali nationalism. And he believed that only Fazlul Huq could establish this nationalism. He said Fazlul Huq was “from head to toe” a Bengali and a Muslim at the same time, adding that he had never seen such an excellent combination of pure Bengali character and pure Muslim belief.
In one of Fazlul Huq's brief biographies, Bhabesh Roy, the author, began his writing with lavish praise and compliments for Sher-e-Bangla as a leader. “Sometimes some people are born who love their motherland a lot more intensely, may be very differently. And in the process of loving their land and the people differently – they themselves emerge as a different kind of human being – extraordinary personality.” AK Fazlul Huq, indeed, was such an extraordinary personality.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has urged Pakistan to up the fight against militant groups. Husain Haqqani, former Pakistani ambassador to the US, told DW that Pakistan could face dire consequence for non-compliance.
DW: What was the aim of Rex Tillerson's Pakistan visit on Tuesday? Will the Trump administration be able to achieve its objectives for Afghanistan and Pakistan?
Husain Haqqani: US Secretary of State Tillerson was in Islamabad to convey what President Donald Trump had already announced. The US now recognizes that its interests no longer converge with those of Pakistan in Afghanistan. Pakistan wants the US to accept its primacy in Afghanistan and continue to receive economic and military aid from Washington while the US wants Pakistan to change its policies in relation to terrorism. I doubt one visit by the secretary of state will end a problem that has evolved over several years.
Pakistan insists it has "sacrificed" a lot in the war against terror and yet the international community doesn't appreciate its role. Is it not true?
It is unfortunate that Pakistan has lost many soldiers and civilians since 9/11, but that does not change the fact that it is a result of Pakistan's wrong policy of supporting some terrorists while fighting others.
What impact will President Trump's Afghanistan policy have on Pakistan?
As Secretary of Defense General James Mattis has said, the Trump administration is giving Pakistan "one last chance" to align its policy on Afghanistan with that of Washington's. If Pakistan's support to the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network continues, it will result in consequences Pakistan has not faced before.
How do you see the future of Pakistan-US relations?
The two countries are drifting further and further apart. To change that, Pakistan would need to act on its oft-stated policy of eliminating all jihadist groups inside Pakistan, even those that attack India and Afghanistan.
Pakistan is currently facing diplomatic isolation amid allegations about militant safe havens along the Afghan border. What does Pakistan need to do to end this isolation?
It is true that Pakistan is getting more and more isolated. Growing ties with Russia and China will not end that isolation. Pakistan must shut down jihadist safe havens not only to avoid isolation but also for the sake of its existence.
Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif recently said Islamabad was willing to work with the Trump administration. Does his statement indicate a policy shift?
Pakistan has a credibility problem in Washington. Similar promises have been made for years without result. Washington will no longer ignore Pakistan's support for groups like the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani Network or Lashkar-e-Taiba. The policy of cherry-picking in relation to terrorist groups will no longer work.
Khawaja Asif recently said in a Twitter message that President Trump's harsh words against Pakistan were a result of your lobbying work in Washington. How would you respond to this allegation?
I guess he [Khawaja Asif] needs a scapegoat. Conspiracy theories and hatred for the US are a major part of Pakistan's political discourse. The Pakistani expectation that Washington would indefinitely provide economic and military assistance in return for partial support of US objectives is delusional.
Some analysts say the powerful Pakistani military played a key role in ousting former PM Nawaz Sharif. Do you agree with this assessment?
Sharif's removal from office reaffirms what I call the "iron law" of Pakistani politics: a politician can amass wealth and engage in corruption only as long as he does not challenge the ascendance of the country's powerful national security establishment. The military does not want civilians to assert their views in the conduct of foreign and national security policies. Sharif's desire to reshape policies on Afghanistan and India led to his clash with the security establishment.
How do you view the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)?
Pakistan is moving from economic dependence on the US to economic dependence on China. China sees Pakistan as a secondary deterrent against India as it helps keep India tied down within South Asia.
CPEC will not resolve Pakistan's economic problems but will soon become an economic burden when Pakistan has to repay the high interest loans.
The Pakistani security establishment has also clamped down on any protests against CPEC in Baluchistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and other areas, with the arrest, disappearance and torture of activists.
Why has the Pakistani government not acted against US-designated terrorists like Hafiz Saeed?
Because Pakistan's military establishment still considers terrorist groups that share its foreign policy goals in Afghanistan or against India as its "assets." They would rather mainstream Hafiz Saeed and pretend that he is just a politician with extreme views than acknowledge that terrorists deserve punishment.
STEVE Jobs once said, “sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.” Innovation is an adaptive or inventive learning process. By being adaptive, an organisation can produce the same products cheaper to improve profits. By being inventive, an organisation can keep producing better products to keep customers paying, which is what Apple successfully did. Deciding between these two approaches, whether to improve upon existing solutions or design new ones altogether, is a choice that education policymakers are currently facing in Pakistan.
The test score data in the Annual Status of Education Report for all provinces from 2011 on shows little improvement in learning. Ten years from now, Pakistan may have more high school graduates, but that may not mean much in terms of being employable. If learning does not improve, policymakers could even argue that these children are better off outside school learning a trade or being employed. I have encountered fifth-graders who, despite having attended school diligently, cannot name a second word starting with ‘A’ after apple. The injustice aside, this is a waste of precious material and human resources, something that a developing country like Pakistan cannot afford.
What is truly surprising is that the government has tried every single policy in the standard playbook to improve matters.
I and others from the Learning and Educational Achievement in Pakistan Schools (LEAPS) programme researched education reforms in Pakistan from 2000 onwards.
Evidence should guide our choices in education.
The first surprising fact was that there have been more than 100 reforms since 2000 alone. The second surprising fact is that all these reforms make sense; they are consistent with what countries around the world do to improve their educational outcomes. They include incentivising teachers, raising teacher qualification levels, improving the curriculum, more testing, better textbooks and better education support services. Name any reform, and it is almost guaranteed that it has been tried.
Given this huge emphasis on education reform, why has learning not improved?
At the recent Ednovate conference, many representatives from public, private and non-profit educational sectors agreed on the need for effective innovation in education reform, however it became clear that consensus on the approach remained elusive. Should the focus be on improving the current system or trying out new strategies? Because all consequences, good or bad, of either route cannot be immediately envisioned, any proposal could be countered with legitimate dissent.
To illustrate, take the 2010 Punjab school merger and staff rationalisation policies. To counter teacher shortage, the government of Punjab introduced teacher rationalisation policies that allowed teachers to be transferred from low to high-enrolment schools, where they were needed. The government had done this twice before in 2005 and 2008 with the aim of having one teacher for 40 students in a school. However, the imbalance kept returning because teachers sought transfers to their previous schools. The government took an adaptive approach in 2010 to improve upon the current solution by merging low-enrolment schools with high-enrolment schools before shifting surplus teachers to schools that needed them.
The policies led to unintended consequences including a loss of female teachers because the merged schools tended to be further away, causing some women to leave the profession, along with increased teacher absenteeism. In fact, this effort worsened the shortage of teachers.
Despite an adaptive approach, this policy did not achieve its desired objectives. Perhaps the mistake is that we are not challenging the policy’s fundamental underlying assumptions. In fact, the assumption that schools require one teacher for 40 students has not even been tested, let alone challenged. Being inventive means challenging the underlying assumption, and managing the process of change with the bureaucracy.
A common theme emerged from the conference: A prerequisite for effective innovation is to bring all stakeholders on the same page, and one way to achieve that is through evidence-driven decision-making. If the 2010 Punjab school merger policy had been tested before it was executed, policymakers may have accounted for unintended negative impacts, perhaps by involving teachers at the policy development stage. Policymakers too may have been less wedded to the idea and thus more open to reassessment if glitches were spotted before too many resources were spent on large-scale policy implementation.
Being committed to evidence-driven decision-making can lead to more effective innovation. Now is the time to let the evidence speak for itself and guide our choices, whether they rely on improving on current solutions or designing new ones altogether.
The incomplete federally-funded schemes worth Rs 7.9 trillion were reportedly delayed due to flaws in their planning and execution. The issue was brought up in the meeting of Public Accounts Committee where the ministries concerned were taken to task for apparent carelessness and ill-planning. The committee also noted that cost overruns in some cases have rose to many times more than the original cost of the projects.
Bureaucratic hurdles and lack of proper planning often result in public funds being wasted in the name of development work and hardly is anyone held accountable for the negligence. Lack of resources was termed as another reason for the delay in completion of the projects. This goes to show that the whole process from planning of schemes to initiating them is plagued with institutional incompetence and poor planning. The delays caused in the completion of the projects could have been avoided had there been proper planning on the part of those delegated with the responsibility.
PAC Chairman Khurshid Shah is right in saying that this is a failure of the institutions tasked with planning development projects. Needless to say, the authorities concerned should take notice of the situation. Once the schemes are approved, the relevant authorities should keep an eye on how well they are being undertaken and whether the work is proceeding at a satisfactory pace.
The ministries concerned should also work in meaningful coordination with the bureaucracy in this regard as delays are often caused by a lack of proper communication between the stakeholders associated with the schemes. Meanwhile, the reports that political affiliations have contributed to the delays are disappointing. The federal government ought to take decisions in national interest instead of trying to settle scores with its political opponents by delaying development schemes.
Mr. Sharif is in London with his wife Kalsum as she undergoes cancer treatment, and has not returned to Pakistan since he was indicted in the corruption allegations earlier this month, despite reports he would do so.
"The accountability court issued bailable warrants for the former Prime Minister in two cases of alleged corruption today and adjourned [the] hearing until November 3," one of his defence lawyers, Zafir Khan, told AFP.
In late July, the Supreme Court sacked Mr. Sharif following an investigation into corruption allegations against his family, making him the 15th Premier in Pakistan's 70-year history to be ousted before completing the full term.
The claims against the Prime Minister stemmed from the Panama Papers leak last year, which sparked a media frenzy over the luxurious lifestyles and high-end London property portfolio owned by his family.
Similar challenges in the past
Mr. Sharif has faced — and come back from — similar challenges in the past.
In 1993, he was sacked from his first term as Premier for corruption, while in 1999 he was sentenced to life in prison after his second term in office ended with a military putsch.
Following the coup, he was allowed to go into exile in Saudi Arabia, returning in 2007 before becoming the Prime Minister for a third time in 2013.
Last month, his wife won his former parliamentary seat during a heated by-election in Lahore, in a poll seen as a key test of the ruling party's popularity after Mr. Sharif's sacking and ahead of a general election due to be held sometime next year.
The Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors (CPNE) has declared the prevailing situation regarding press freedom in Balochistan as extremely bad and contrary to democratic standards.
According to a press release issued on Tuesday, the overall situation regarding press freedom in the province was reviewed in a meeting of CPNE’s standing committee in Quetta, which was chaired by CPNE President Zia Shahid.
A resolution declaring the freedom of press situation in the province as extremely poor and unsatisfactory was passed on the occasion. According to the resolution, the intolerant behaviour of certain forces and groups against the media in the province had become a norm.
It said newspapers were facing severe pressure and hardships, and hindrances are also being created in newspapers distribution while media workers and newspaper sellers were receiving severe life threats. Resultantly, journalists, media workers and newspaper vendors were finding themselves in an untenable situation due to the multidimensional sources of pressure around them.
Expressing solidarity with journalists and media workers of Balochistan in the resolution, CPNE assured them their full backing and support and demanded of all state and government institutions and other bodies to ensure that the freedom of press and expression and right to information are respected according to the Constitution of Pakistan. The CPNE also demanded steps that could truly strengthen press freedom in line with basic human rights.
According to CPNE’s opinion, a free and responsible media was necessary for the stability of democratic standards in a democratic society while press freedom itself was a vital part of a democratic society and reflection of social diversity.
Strongly condemning the decision of Sindh government’s information department of issuing official advertisements through the corrupt advertising agency Midas Pvt Ltd, the meeting said that the Sindh government was fully aware that Midas Pvt. Ltd. was denying payments to newspapers and magazines despite receiving billions of rupees from the government.
The meeting demanded that Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and Sindh Information Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah to revert the decision of issuing official advertisements through Midas Pvt. Ltd. and ensure recovery of all arrears of newspapers and magazines pending with the agency. The meeting also deliberated organizational and other issues and made several decisions in this regard.
The meeting was also attended by senior vice-president Shaheen Qureshi, secretary general AijazulHaq, vice-presidents Amir Mehmood, Rehmat Ali Razi, Anwar Sajidi and Tahir Farooq, senior members Ikram Sehgal, Ghulam Nabi Chandio, Dr Jabbar Khattak, Siddique Baloch, Hamid Hussain Abidi, Kazmi Khan, Ameen Yousuf, Irfan Athar, Javed Mehar Shamsi, Syed Mohammad Munir Jilani, Abdul Khaliq Ali, Usman Shami, Syed Kamran Mumtaz, Abdul Rehman Mungrio, Muzaffar Ejaz, Mohsin Goraya, Khalilur Rehman, Aslam Khan, Mumtaz Ahmed Sadiq, Mohammad Younis Mehar, Bashir Ahmed Memon, Ali Ahmed Dhalon, Arif Baloch, Ahmed Iqbal Baloch, Naeem Sadiq, Syed Khalil ur Rehman, Tazeen Akhtar, Javed Ahmed, Muneer Baloch, Ali Raza Lehri, Yahya Khan Sadozai, Mohammad Anwar Nasir and Zahida Abbasi. Quetta Press Club President Raza Rehman, Shehzada Zulfiqar, local newspaper editors, senior journalists, and other media workers were also present.
Meanwhile, delegations comprising CPNE members from across the country called upon Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Khan Zehri, Governor Mohammad Khan Achakzai, Speaker Balochistan Assembly Raheela Hameed Durrani, senior politician Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo and former Chief Minister Abdul Malik and apprised them of the difficulties and threats being faced by the media in Balochistan .