Thursday, April 30, 2020

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#Pakistan - #coronavirusinpakistan - Politics of faith

Zahid Hussain

MOST Muslim countries have stopped congregations at mosques, and even Islam’s holiest places are shut in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Not so in Pakistan. It is not just about the power of the pulpit; it’s more to do with the culpability of an inadequate leadership unable to take charge.
For the leadership, matters of faith appear to take priority over the lives of the believers. Last week, doctors called on the government and clerics to reverse a decision to allow prayers at the mosques during Ramazan out of concern that large gatherings would lead to an explosion of coronavirus cases. But the pleading of the doctors on the front line of the battle against the pandemic has gone unheeded.
Rationalizing the decision, the prime minister said that people could not be stopped from going to mosques in a free country. Many would argue that this argument has little to do with religious freedom. The restrictions on congregations in other countries have been imposed in order to save human lives that are more important than anything else. The government has simply given in to the demands of some vested clerical interests. The so-called 20-point accord with a group of clerics laying out conditions for mosques to observe during prayers is nonsensical. Most of the rules such as maintaining a gap of six feet between worshippers and barring those over 50 years of age from joining in the prayers at the mosque are very difficult to implement.
Even the pleading of those on the front line of the battle against the virus has gone unheard.

A survey conducted by an NGO has shown that more than 80 per cent of mosques in Punjab and the federal capital flouted the rules for the first taraweeh prayers. Mosques continue to be crowded and many worshippers are not even seen to be using the mand­atory facemasks. As per the agreement those mos­ques failing to fulfil the specified conditions would be closed. One knows well that it could never happen.
Unsurprisingly, there has been complete silence from the administration over the report on this defiance. A TV report showed the president visiting Faisal Mosque in Islamabad; he was reportedly happy to see that rules were being observed. But he seems to have ignored reports about other mosques defying the agreement. It is evident that congregations have been one of the biggest sources of the spread of the coronavirus in the country. A large number of initial cases were among the pilgrims returning from Iran and participants of the annual gathering of the Tableeghi Jam­aat in March this year. Tens of thousands attended the congregation in Raiwind despite the outbreak.
Instead of showing responsible behaviour, Maulana Tariq Jameel, who is associated with the missionary group, blamed the media and women for the pandemic. His misogynistic comments at a fund-raising event with the prime minister in attendance have provoked a strong backlash. His influence over the political leadership in power and other power centres is well known.
Indeed, most clerics acknowledge the hazards of cramped mosques in Ramazan. That may also be the reason why many clerics who have been at the forefront of the campaign themselves are not going to mosques and prefer to pray at home with their close family members. While keeping themselves away from the crowd, they are least bothered for the safety of others.
They conveniently reject the example of Saudi Arabia and Iran closing mosques for communal prayers when it clashes with their vested interests, and say that this does not apply to Pakistan’s situation. It’s hard to find any logic in this argument. Some reports suggest that besides a show of power, there are possible financial interests that could also have been a reason behind their pressure to keep mosques open during the holy month. This is the month when maximum donations are collected. The flow of funds is critical to keeping their establishments running.

Signs of the approaching catastrophe are palpable with the exponential rise in the numbers of victims in the last one week, following the government’s decision to prematurely relax the restrictions. In fact, there is little semblance of even a partial lockdown at the moment and the breakdown of social distancing is apparent. The government’s mixed messages have compounded the confusion in policy.
The center’s contradictory statements undermine the efforts being made by the provincial governments and the Command & Control Centre established to coordinate efforts. Consequently, the number of coronavirus cases has risen at an alarming rate, and according to WHO, could go up to more than 200,000 in the next few months.
An extremely fragile healthcare system unable to deal with the load could collapse completely. More worrisome is the fact that given inadequate safety measures, an increasing number of doctors are falling victim to the infection thus exacerbating the crisis. At least three doctors have died so far of the virus and a large number have contracted the infection. Despite their vulnerability, the medical community has not turned its back on its responsibilities. Yet some of those who advise the prime minister have dismissed the warning as a false alarm and even accused the doctors of playing politics. That shows their callous attitude towards the threat of the spread of the infection. Notwithstanding the prime minister’s muddled approach, most Pakistanis support the demand of the medical community for the strict enforcement of the lockdown at least till the curve of the disease starts declining.
A recent survey conducted by Gallup Pakistan shows that most people acknowledge that the coronavirus is a serious threat to themselves and their families. For that reason, some 68pc support enforcement of a complete lockdown in the country.
Undoubtedly, a shutdown even for a shorter period has serious economic consequences, pushing more people into poverty. But it is always better to take hard decisions for long-term gains. The next few weeks are going to be extremely critical and one can only hope that the worst is over soon.

#Coronavirus cases in Pakistan rise to 15,759, with 346 deaths

The Pakistan government said 3,560 patients were admitted across the country in 717 hospitals with Covid-19 facilities, while others were isolated at their homes.

 Pakistan reported 874 new cases of coronavirus in the last 24 hours, taking the total number of infections to 15,759 with 346 deaths so far in the county, an official statement said on Thursday.
The Ministry of National Health Services said the death of 19 more patients have been reported in the provinces of Punjab, Balochistan among others, taking the total death toll to 346.
Punjab reported 6,061 cases, Sindh 5,695, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa 2,313, Balochistan 978, Gilgit-Baltistan 333, Islamabad 313 and Pakistan-cccupied Kashmir reported 66 cases, a statement from the ministry said.
So far 4,052 patients have recovered while the total active cases in the country were 11,361.
At least 153 patients were critical in hospitals.
The authorities have so far conducted 174,160 tests, including 8,249 on April 29.
The ministry also said that local transmission was 84 per cent and foreign travel 16 per cent.
The government said that 3,560 patients were admitted across the country in 717 hospitals with COVID-19 facilities, while others were isolated at their homes.
Among the high profile people who got infected by the coronavirus includes Governor of Pakistan’s southern Sindh province Imran Ismail, a very close aide of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

چیئرمین پاکستان پیپلز پارٹی بلاول بھٹو زرداری کا مزدوروں کے عالمی دن پر پیغام

پاکستان پیپلز پارٹی کے چیئرمین بلاول بھٹو زرداری نے کہا ہے کہ محنت کش طبقہ، خاص طور پر روزانہ اجرت پر کام کرنے والے مزدور کرونا وائرس کی وباء کے نتیجے میں ہونے والی معاشی خرابی سے سب سے زیادہ متاثر ہوئے ہیں۔ چونکہ عالمی معیشت سکڑ رہی ہے، حکومتوں پر لازم ہے کہ وہ محنت کشوں کا ساتھ دیں۔ لیکن بدقسمتی سے، پوری دنیا میں دائیں بازو کی حکومتیں عوام کو فائدہ دینے سے گریزاں ہیں۔ مزدوروں کے عالمی دن کے موقع پر جاری کردہ اپنے پیغام میں پی پی پی چیئرمین نے کہا کہ مہلک عالمی وبائی نے نیو لبرل معاشی پالیسیوں کی خامیوں کو بے نقاب کر دیا ہے، اور حکومتوں کی مزدور دشمن پالیسیوں کو ننگا کردیا ہے، جو بہت سارے لوگوں کو نقصان دے کر مٹھی بھر لوگوں کو فائدہ پہنچانے والی ہوتی ہیں. بلاول بھٹو زرداری نے کہا کہ وفاقی حکومتوں کی ذمہ داری ہے کہ وہ مہلک وباء کے دوران غریبوں اور دہاڑی پر کام کرنے والے بت روزگار مزدوروں کو جلد از جلد امداد کی فراہمی کو یقینی بنائے۔ لیکن، افسوس کی بات ہے کہ غریب مزدوروں کو منافع خوروں کے رحم و کرم پر بے یارومددگار چھوڑ دیا گیا ہے۔ 
ریاست نے مزدوروں اور مزدور طبقوں کے حقوق کے تحفظ کے لئے اپنی ذمہ داریوں سے صرفِ نظر کر رکھا ہے اور مزدوروں و محنت کشوں کے حقوق کو تحفظ دینے کی ذمیداری کا بوجھ اپنے کندھوں سے اتار دیا ہے۔ پی پی پی چیئر مین نے کہا کہ یہ صورتحال ہر باضمیر پاکستانی کے لئے لمحہ فکریہ ہے کہ ایسے وقت میں جب ہمارے شہریوں کی زندگیاں خطرے میں ہیں اور ان کا مستقبل غیر یقینی ہے، اس وقت مخصوص اداروں کی نجکاری اور صوبوں کو ان کے آئینی اختیارات و رقوم سے محروم رکھنے کی سازشیں کی جارہی ہیں۔ بلاول بھٹو زرداری نے نشاندہی کرتے ہوئے کہا کہ سندھ میں عوامی حکومت نے قانون سازی کے ذریعے لاک ڈاؤن کے دوران کسی بھی ملازم کے ملازمت سے نکالنے پر پابندی عائد کردی ہے، جبکہ سیکڑوں ہزاروں بے روزگار مزدوروں اور ان کے اہل خانہ کو ان کے گھروں کی دہلیز پر راشن فراہم کیا گیا ہے۔ انہوں نے مطالبہ کیا کہ وفاقی حکومت بے روزگار مزدوروں کو حکومت کی طرف سے مقرر کردہ کم سے کم اجرت کی بنیاد پر اس وقت تک مالی امداد فراہم کرے جب تک کہ پاکستان کے لیئے لاک ڈاؤن کو ختم کرنا محفوظ اور لوگوں کی جان کو خطرے میں ڈالے بغیر انہیں کام پر واپس بھیجنا ممکن نہیں ہوتا۔
 انہوں نے مزید کہا کہ یہ مزدور ہی ہیں جو معیشت اور معاشرے کی ریڑھ کی ہڈی کی حیثیت رکھتے ہیں۔ انہوں نے اس عزم کا اعادہ کیا کہ پاکستان پیپلز پارٹی کے بنیادی اصولوں پر سختی سے کاربند رہیں گے اور محنت کش طبقے کی حفاظت کرتے ہوئے ایسی معیشت کی تشکیل دیں گے جہاں ان کا استحصال نہ ہو۔ انہوں نے کہا کہ یہ پاکستان پیپلز پارٹی ہی ہے جس نے ملک میں پہلی لیبر پالیسی کا اجراء کیا اور مزدوروں کی محنت کی قدر کو تسلیم کیا۔ اور یہ پیپلز پارٹی ہی ہے جس نے بینظیر اسٹاک آپشن سکیم نافذ کرکے ملازمین کو پیداواری منافعے اور دولت میں شراکت دار بنایا۔ اور یہ بھی پیپلز پارٹی ہی ہوگی جو صنف ، ذات پات اور نسل کے امتیاز سے بالاتر ہوکر پورے پاکستان میں مزدوروں کے استحصال کے خاتمے کے لئے ہمیشہ جدوجہد کرتی رہے گی۔

#Pakistan #PPP - Imran Khan-led government is showing indifference towards the provinces during the coronavirus crisis

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said the Prime Minister Imran Khan-led government is showing indifference towards the provinces during the coronavirus crisis.
In an interview with the BBC, the PPP boss said that the Pakistan Tekreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led federal government, rather than working alongside its provincial counterparts, is attempting to “sabotage the good work done by Sindh”.
He added that the Centre could not remain negligent towards its duty towards the provinces in light of its own interpretation of the constitutional 18th Amendment.
During a crisis, Bhutto Zardari noted, it is the national leadership’s responsibility to take ownership of matters.
He opined that it is the federal government that should formulate the policy to be implemented on a country-wide level, but there is a lapse in leadership this time.
“When the Centre wants to steal hospitals [from] under the government of Sindh, then no one sees the 18th Amendment. But, when there is a global outbreak of a disease and the country is in a ‘state of war’, then they bring up the 18th Amendment, which is extremely unfair,” he underlined.
The PPP chair said that at such a time, the entire country needed to unite and termed Prime Minister Khan’s statements as quite irresponsible.
“The sliver of doubt in the policy of [Prime Minister Imran] Khan gives an impression that the state of Pakistan is not free. Governments across the world are abolishing popular decisions and implementing measures that can benefit their public and secure their health,” Bhutto Zardari said.
While referring to the premier’s telethon for the Corona Relief Fund, Bhutto Zardari said that even though the donations were for a worthy cause, the premier needed to comprehend that donations are not a solution to everything.
He lamented that no matter which global organisation lauded the work of the Sindh government, the federal government always had some kind of criticism in store.
Bhutto Zardari also said that the Senate chairperson and National Assembly speaker should decide whether a virtual or in-person session of the National Assembly could be summoned to discuss pertinent national issues and relevant legislation.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

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The PTM movement - Redefining citizenship in Pakistan

The PTM movement envisions an alternate relationship between citizen and state.

Over the past two years, the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) has defined an alternative future for Pakistan. It has also contributed to the state’s anxiety about its own discursive and political power. The Pakistani state has used all the tools in its arsenal, ranging from censorship to arrests and intimidation. The country’s military in particular has been accused by the PTM of abductions and extrajudicial killings, and has opened fire on the peaceful PTM protesters.
Upon being released on bail after having spent four weeks in prison on sedition charges, the leader of the PTM Manzoor Pashteen simply said, “Prison was a lot better than my home. Its walls were intact. No one had stolen its iron and bricks. The walls were high. No one entered it without permission and violated its sanctity as is done with our homes. There were no landmines there. It was safe as [opposed to] our homes.” The PTM can’t be understood without considering the violence that Pashtun lands and bodies across the country have been subjected to post September 11, 2001.
Thus a gap was created in public consciousness, born out of harrowing violence, war and the violation of bodies. PTM is the political articulation of that consciousness.
However, the PTM is distinct from ‘classical’ Pashtun nationalism. This term has been understood to represent the community’s sovereignty over land within the federal structure of the state. Still, classical Pashtun nationalism can’t be reduced to a territorial claim over land and the rights of self-governance – the defining features of Pashtun nationalism are provincial autonomy, right to and recognition of language and culture and a fair share in the distribution of resources.
Proponents of this classical nationalism trace its lineage back to the freedom struggle against British colonialism. This form of nationalism has its shortcomings, for instance, silencing caste and class questions in Pashtun society and emphasising national discrimination. Nevertheless, historically it has had a progressive bent. The National Awami Party (NAP), the leftwing political platform active throughout the late 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, and out of which the modern political program of classical Pashtun nationalism emerged, was a mix of small and suppressed ethnic minorities in Pakistan.
If the PTM is about anything it is about giving political shape to the experience and feeling of pain. Its mission lies in channeling pain to create not only a new Pashtun individual but also a new Pakistani citizen
The anti-colonial national struggle, as well as the regional and identity-based politics of NAP and other leftwing political movements, have created a unique national consciousness among Pashtuns. There has been an evolution of the Pashtun national consciousness throughout history, which has redefined and re-articulated itself over time as socio-political conditions changed. PTM is a continuation of that national consciousness but it is also a departure from it in that it articulates what the mainstream nationalist narrative was not able to. The guardians of classical Pashtun nationalism were the nationalist political parties, operating under the prevailing political conditions, who had limits imposed on what they could say. Thus a gap was created in public consciousness, born out of harrowing violence, war and the violation of bodies. PTM is the political articulation of that consciousness.
In Pakistan, you can only talk about the war on terrorism in the most constricted terms. This has affected those from the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Swat and the adjoining districts in settled Pashtun lands in particular, and Pashtuns and Pashtun land in general, through electronic-media blackouts and internet shutdowns.
A political shape to pain
If the PTM is about anything it is about giving political shape to the experience and feeling of pain. Its mission lies in channeling pain to create not only a new Pashtun individual but also a new Pakistani citizen,  creating an alternate relationship between the individual and the state in the process. The securitisation and militarisation of space in Pakistan has affected Pashtuns, while their consciousness has been shaped by the two-decade long realisation that the state can only inflict pain. To reclaim their sense of agency and citizenship the resurgent narrative demands accountability for this pain.
In terms of defining patriotism, therefore, the PTM marks a point of departure from the norm. The challenge of such definition is not to be confused with separatism or other claims of exclusion.
But this violence is not inflicted on bodies alone. Due to the war on Pashtun lands and the racist structure of the state, Pashtuns have been portrayed both symbolically and through popular discourse as innately violent, simultaneously explaining away Talibanisation and also equating Pashtuns to the Taliban.  One slogan, which has become a rallying cry of the movement, counters this narrative; not only does it point to their lived reality, but it also counters the narrative of Pashtun ‘responsibility’ for creating Taliban: ye jo dehshatgardi hai, iske peeche wardi hai! (The uniform [referring to the Pakistan army] is behind this terrorism.)
That slogan is also crucial to how suppression of the movement is justified by the state. This different perception of reality by the periphery (ie, Pashtuns affected by war) and mainstream Pakistan represents the radically different experience between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’. In terms of defining patriotism, therefore, the PTM marks a point of departure from the norm. The challenge of such definition is not to be confused with separatism or other claims of exclusion. The PTM is vying for an enlargement of the ‘nation’ in nation state and the erasure of the violence embedded in the hyphenation of ‘nation’ and ‘state.’ To appreciate that, the spatial dimensions of the PTM movement must be understood.
Pashtuns are largely spread across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, but have also settled in other areas in pursuit of livelihood. Karachi has a large population of Pashtuns. The reasons for their migration within the country can be traced back to colonial-era policies of unequal development and their continuation but also to post-9/11 military operations which resulted in massive displacement. The death of Naqeebullah Mehsud, a Pashtun shopkeeper and aspiring model, also happened in Karachi, and triggered the long march to Islamabad and the creation of the PTM. The contours of the PTM’s national consciousness are not territorially defined but extend to the whole country. An extra-judicial killing in one part of the country gave birth to a nascent and radical movement in another; that’s how PTM represents the integration of land and bodies. It goes beyond classical Pashtun nationalism, and because of their new material circumstances, born of war and violence, includes ‘bodies’ in its articulation of a political programme.
Pashtuns have been portrayed both symbolically and through popular discourse as innately violent, simultaneously explaining away Talibanisation and also equating Pashtuns to the Taliban.
The leadership of PTM belongs to Waziristan, Khyber Pakhtunwa province, but its message finds resonance across the whole Pashtun community. The periphery of the periphery, that is the FATA and Pashtun-majority districts of Balochistan, have been impacted the most by the state’s war economy. In the past, Pakistan has been reliant on US and foreign aid ultimately used for fighting wars – with Pashtun lands often being utilised for these wars. They also have the weakest links to the structure of the state. As a result, these regions are mobilised the most by the PTM’s demands, because they have the most to gain from a new imagined citizenship. The yearning to belong can be no better expressed than in the slogan and anthem ‘Da sanga azadi da?’ (What kind of freedom is this?) That consciousness questions the present state of being and wonders how that being has betrayed its promises.
Demanding life
The PTM’s imagined citizenship includes the right to life. This demand may not seem radical because it is so basic, but therein lies the radical nature of the movement: that what is considered a given elsewhere is removed from the lived experience of Pashtuns who are suffering under war. Another popular song of the movement ‘Pukhtoon ta jwandon ghwarro’ (we demand life for Pashtuns) captures their grievance at being treated as disposable, due to the necessities of war in the mainland. This demand for life also extends the scope of the PTM to incorporate the whole country as a plane of the new imaginary. By demanding that right to life the claim to equal citizenship is asserted.
Perhaps, the only slogan borrowed from older iterations of Pashtun nationalism is that of ‘Lar-o-bar Yaw Afghan’ (All Afghans are one). This slogan particularly evokes insecurity within the Pakistani state because it implies the fracture of the country. It can also evoke either making a separate Pashtunistan (a homeland for the Pashtuns) or joining with Afghanistan. The propaganda and suppression tactics surrounding this slogan, it can be argued, form the basis of Afghan support for the PTM. But this slogan expresses the cultural, historical and linguistic identity of Pashtuns as transcending the borders of Pakistan and also as participants in the project of the Pakistani nation as a people having their own identity and culture.
The PTM didn’t emerge out of a bubble. Neither was it the first to articulate the grievances of people living through war.
This charge of separatism also comes with the charge of an exclusively ethnic movement. This charge erases the conceptualisation of the particular versus the universal. It raises questions around collective self-expression and how it can be done in a participatory, ethical way.
A national consciousness is very different from the kind of nationalism which creates an essential category of a ‘nation’. That national consciousness takes stock of race- or ethnicity-based oppression. Rather than essentialising the ‘nation’, this consciousness seeks recognition in a framework of the universal. The crucial concept is that a particular race or ethnicity shouldn’t become universal and collaboration should be sought with other groups working towards a universal movement recognising the specificity of nationhood. The universal in turn shouldn’t essentialise and erase particular communities (both go hand in hand).
In this light, the PTM can be seen as reclaiming the right of being different and simultaneously of belonging to a country through the instrument of the constitution. In the PTM’s imagination, the constitution has a life of its own, and can be called upon again and again in order to legitimise the movement. Though the constitution is not a perfect document and is open to change to reflect changing socio-political circumstances, it is a guarantee protecting against the violation of human rights and of the state’s praetorian hold. The abstractness of the articles of the constitution finds materiality in the political programme where those who see the constitution as subservient to the ‘interests of the nation’ are made subservient to the dictates of the constitution. The PTM finds solidarity from people who are not Pashtuns and are not affected by war, because the constitution has the seeds of an alternate tomorrow which can challenge the economy and war-fuelled state through the constant violation of rights of the periphery as well as of people cast as the undesirable ‘other’.
Pashtuns and the state
Pashtuns have a complex relationship with the Pakistani state. It is validly argued that they hold disproportionate representation in some institutions, such as in the army, with between 15 and 22 percent of officers and between 20 and 25 percent among the rank and file said to be Pashtuns.
This is partly due to Pashtuns being the largest ethnic minority of the country, the portrayal of Pashtuns as a martial race by the British Raj (continued by the postcolonial state), and a long political struggle leading to upward social mobility for Pashtuns in some areas. Despite being the largest ethnic minority, they are treated, consciously or unconsciously, as the ethnic other to the de-ethnicised Pakistan: their lands are treated as arenas of war and their people are deployed to fight proxy wars of the state. The PTM aims to disrupt this dual treatment born out of the war economy. Their program is not only non-violent, it is also anti-violence and anti-war.
It is for Pakistan’s future that the PTM and other like-minded movements have newly conceived of the nation. Those on the streets will come out in one form or another every time, with the same passion and energy.
The contestation of the PTM with the state in how to define its existence also raises the problem of time. The PTM’s demand for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission translates this into political terms. The Pakistani state, like all states, believes in the linear flow of time. The past is only a constructed entity where a sequence of events, revised or otherwise, serves to form an ‘official’ history which the state and the polity can self-construct. When it comes to war on Pashtun land, the state wants a linear conception of time to prevail there too. Violence happened, the Taliban and other terrorists committed unspeakable atrocities, but then the state, and specifically the army, came and delivered them to the people. Now, people must move on, with an elegy to the bravery of the armed forces the only way to recall the time passed. Time should flow according to the dictates of the powers that be. On the other hand, the PTM believes in a different flow of time, where the past cannot be forgotten and must be recalled in order to account for all the pain and suffering.
The political arrangement in Pakistan is what some analysts call, a ‘non-coup coup’. The mainstream political parties have acquiesced to the role of the security establishment. Their so-called resistance aims to convince the security establishment to make them their junior political partners. In this scenario, political movements on the margins of mainstream political activity is where the roots of resistance and hope for a substantial democracy lie. The PTM is not the only force vying to define an alternative way of belonging to the nation. The vacuum has also been reclaimed by small but motivated people-led movements: from those fighting for the recovery of missing persons, to women’s rights and feminist groups and student activists. The PTM has not only opened the space for other such movements but also builds on the space opened through others. This dual dialectic movement, ie, between the political consciousness of the people and the political articulation of it by the leadership, feeding into the wave of mass movements and depending on their solidarity, helps the PTM withstand repression from the state.
When Manzoor Pashteen was arrested a few weeks ago, the movement didn’t come to a halt. In fact it further mobilised. This says something about how grounded the movement is; it doesn’t have an organisational bureaucracy or for that matter a formal structure, yet it can voluntarily mobilise many. The PTM didn’t emerge out of a bubble. Neither was it the first to articulate the grievances of people living through war.  It is, however, the effect of a changing national consciousness, one that defines consciousness as a dialectical movement. It is only wishful thinking on the part of the state that it can do away with the resurgent anti-war and anti-violence consciousness, nor can it erase the pain stemming from violence. As long as that pain remains, people will find a way to articulate it in one way or another. It is for Pakistan’s future that the PTM and other like-minded movements have newly conceived of the nation. Those on the streets will come out in one form or another every time, with the same passion and energy.
As Kashmiri poet Agha Shahid Ali wrote:
Majnoon was again sighted
in the streets, intoxicated
as before, surpassing the rupture
of every mad love.

#Pakistan - Chairman #PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari asks for fair distribution of foreign relief aid

Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has asked for fair distribution of benefits from the relief received from various financial institutions, including the IMF, the World Bank and the G20 countries. “Federal government should also reduce its expenditures and give extra money to the provinces instead of cuts in their share,” PPP Chairman stated this while chairing a meeting of the party’s economic committee through video link here, which was attended by Raza Rabbani, Syed Naveed Qamar, Shazia Marri, Chaudhry Manzoor and others.

The meeting termed the economic relief package of the federal government as inadequate and demanded that the amount for the unemployed be increased from Rs.12,000 to Rs.17,500 under the minimum wage scheme.

PPP Chairman said that in an extraordinary situation, it was the duty of the federal government to extend utmost assistance to the provinces. Federal governments across the globe are extensively helping their provincial governments.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that the federal government should increase health facilities in all the provinces and conduct fair distribution of international aid in the wake of corona-virus pandemic. “Federation should reduce its expenditure and give extra money to the provinces instead of cutting their allocated funds. Federal government should also allow the provinces to benefit from the relief received from various International Financial Institutions (IFIs), including the IMF, the World Bank and the G20 countries,” he added. Earlier, Committee member Syed Naveed Qamar brief the meeting that foreign aid is being disbursed at personal wealth.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that it was not correct to say under the 18th amendment health is solely a responsibility of the provinces, who are already working beyond their means and resources adding that in extraordinary situations, central governments are extending support to their provinces the world over.
He demanded that the small traders should be assisted with quick relief packages and through tax relaxations, soft loans on easy terms and other concessions.

Farmers, he said, are also looking to the federal government, and in this situation, they should be given relief packages as well, in the form of fertilizer subsidy and electricity bills.

The situation of locust was also discussed in the meeting and the meeting was informed that the risk of locust attack is looming on agriculture crops once again.

PPP Chairman urged the federal government to come up with a comprehensive plan keeping in view the dangers posed by locusts on ready crops in fields.He said that at the moment, there is dire need to focus immediately on food security, as it will be the biggest problem for the country in near future. Pre-emptive measures are needed for food supply, storage and consumption, he added.Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that the impression should not be given that the Prime Minister belongs only to Islamabad and his perception is not more than that of the Mayor of Islamabad, but the PM has to bring himself forward as the head of the whole country.

During the meeting, MNA Shazia Marri said that the amount set aside for the unemployed has been reduced from Rs.200 billion to Rs.75 billion, which is a matter of serious concern for the whole nation.

#Pakistan - A session of the National Assembly of Pakistan must be called, Chairman #PPP

Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has urged that a session of the National Assembly must be called adding that it was unfortunate that the Federal government has failed to ensure a functional parliament in during the severe crisis.
Participating in the meeting of Parliamentary leaders through video link presided over by Federal Minister Syed Fakhar Imam today, the PPP Chairman said that his Party was willing to work with the Speaker’s office to ensure both oversight and safety.
He said Speaker and the government must also ensure protection of life and health of the members and the staff of the Assembly.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that lengthy debates could be limited in the session but that there would be no compromise on voting rights for legislations.
He pointed out that a meeting of the PPP’s Committee on Economy has already demanded fair distribution of the foreign relief aid received from IFIs, IMF, World Bank and G20 countries among the provinces, to enable them to cope up with the situation.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Video Report - Najam Sethi analyses the reasons behind changes in Ministry of Information, replacing Firdous Ashiq Awan with Lt General (rtd) Asim Saleem Bajwa,

آٹھ کمروں کے سکول میں 1600 سے زائد بچیاں کیسے پڑھتی ہیں؟

ایک جائزہ رپورٹ کے مطابق ضم شدہ اضلاع میں تقریباً 53 فی صد سکولوں اور کالجوں میں بجلی، پنکھوں، صاف پانی، ٹائلٹ اور دیگر ضروری سہولیات نہیں۔

گل روز خان چوتھی جماعت کا طالب علم ہے۔ وہ ہر روز تقریباً ڈھائی کلومیٹر کا فاصلہ طے کر کے نالے کے پار سکول جاتا ہے۔ اپنی آنکھوں میں بڑا آدمی بننے کا خواب سجائے یہ ننھا طالب علم اس لیے ڈاکٹر بننا چاہتا ہے تاکہ اپنی بیمار والدہ کا علاج کر سکے۔
گل روز ضلع اورکزئی کے ایک چھوٹے سے گاؤں بازید خیل میں واقع دو کمروں پر مشتمل گورنمنٹ پرائمری سکول کے ان 360 طلبہ میں سے ایک ہے جو کم و بیش یہی سپنے آنکھوں میں سجائے سکول کا رخ کرتے ہیں۔
گل روز خان کا یہ خواب شرمندہ تعبیر ہوسکے گا یا نہیں، اس کا اندازہ ان کے سکول میں دستیاب سہولیات سے لگانا کچھ زیادہ مشکل نہیں۔
سکول میں موجود تعلیمی سہولیات کا اندازہ اس بات سے باآسانی لگایا جاسکتا ہے کہ ان طالب علموں کو پڑھانے کے لیے صرف دو اساتذہ ہی موجود ہوتے ہیں۔
یہ کہانی نئے ضم شدہ اضلاع کے تقریباً ہر سکول کی ہے۔ پشاور میں ایجوکیشن ڈائریکٹوریٹ سے حاصل کیے گئے اعداد وشمار کے مطابق ضم شدہ اضلاع میں5900 تعلیمی ادارے ہیں، جن میں چھ لاکھ 54 ہزار 331 طلبا زیر تعلیم ہیں۔
ان میں سے تین ہزار 471سکول لڑکوں جبکہ دو ہزار 429 لڑکیوں کے لیے ہیں۔
حکومتی قواعد و ضوابط کے مطابق ہائی سکول کے لیے آٹھ جبکہ مڈل سکول کے لیے چھ اساتذہ کی موجودگی لازمی ہے، لیکن تعلیمی ماہرین کے مطابق یہ تعداد بالکل ناکافی ہے۔
پچھلے سال کے اواخر میں ضلع کرم کے صدر مقام پاڑہ چنار کے ایک گرلز ہائی سکول میں جانے کا اتفاق ہوا۔ آٹھ کمروں پر مشتمل اس سکول میں 1600 سے زائد بچیوں کے بیٹھنے کے لیے گنجائش بنائی گئی تھی۔ کیسے؟ اس بات کا اندازہ اس بات سے باآسانی لگایا جاسکتا ہے کہ اس سکول کے جماعت نہم میں 176 بچیاں فرش پر کندھے سے کندھے ملائے اس انداز میں بیٹھی تھیں گویا ان کو چھٹی سے پہلے ہلنے کی بھی ضرورت پیش نہیں آئے گی۔
مقامی صحافی اور پاڑہ چنار پریس کلب کے چیئرمین علی افضل افضال نے بتایا یہ کرم کے دوسرے سکولوں کی ایک چھوٹی سی تصویر ہے۔
2016 کی ایک جائزہ رپورٹ کے مطابق ضم شدہ اضلاع میں تقریباً 53 فی صد سکولوں اور کالجوں میں بجلی، پنکھوں، صاف پانی، ٹائلٹ اور دیگر ضروری سہولیات نہیں تھیں۔ اکثر سکولوں کی چار دیواریاں بھی نہیں تھیں۔
ٹرائبل یوتھ مومنٹ کے صدر خیال زمان اورکزئی کہتے ہیں قبائلی علاقہ جات جیسے روایت پسند اور قدامت پسند معاشرے میں کیا کوئی شخص اپنی بچی کو ایسے سکول بھیجےگا جس سکول کی چار دیواری نہ ہو؟
 شاید یہی وجہ ہے کہ ضم شدہ اضلاع میں تعلیمی شرح اور خصوصاً خواتین کی شرح تعلیم انتہائی کم ہے۔ فاٹا سیکرٹریٹ اور بیورو آف سٹیٹسٹکس کے اشتراک سے دو سال پہلے ہوئے ایک سروے کے مطابق ضم شدہ اضلاع میں خواتین کی شرح تعلیم صرف 7.8 فیصد ہے جبکہ مردوں میں یہ شرح 28.4 فیصد ہے۔
سروے کے مطابق  44.2 فیصد بچے ایسے ہیں جو کبھی سکول گئے ہی نہیں۔ان سکولوں میں سہولیات کے فقدان کے ساتھ ساتھ اہم سوال یہ بھی ہے کہ کیا اساتذہ کو حکومت کی طرف سے وہ تربیت دی جاتی ہے جوطلبہ کو عصری تقاضوں سے ہم آہنگ کرنے کے لیے ان کے نصابی اور غیرنصابی سرگرمیوں کی تکمیل کے لیے درکار ہے؟
مشہور ماہر تعلیم اور گورنمنٹ کالج پاڑہ چنار کے سابق پرنسپل جمیل کاظمی اس کا جواب نفی میں دیتے ہیں۔ ٹیچر تربیت کی سہولت یہاں پر نہیں ہیں اور نہ ہی خواتین اساتذہ کے لیے ہاسٹل کی کوئی سہولت موجود ہے۔ غیرموثر مواصلاتی نظام، سڑکوں کی حالت زار اور ٹرانسپورٹ کی کمی اس کام کو مزید مشکل بنا دیتی ہے۔
خیبرپختونخوا کے وزیر اعلیٰ محمود خان کہہ چکے ہیں کہ ضم شدہ اضلاع میں تعلیمی اور دیگر مسائل کو ترجیحی بنیادوں پر دور کیا جائے گا۔ تاہم ابھی تک یہ پیش رفت سست روی کا شکار ہے۔
حیرت کی بات ہے کہ اکیسویں صدی میں بھی ان علاقوں میں انٹرنیٹ کی سہولت موجود نہیں۔  کرونا وائرس کے پیش نظر ملک کے دورافتادہ پسماندہ علاقوں میں طلبہ کی تعلیمی ضروریات کو پورا کرنے کے لیے وزیراعظم  عمران خان نے گذشتہ دنوں پاکستان ٹیلی ویژن کے ذریعے ایک ٹیلی چینل کا افتتاح کیا لیکن وزیر اعظم کو کوئی سمجھائے کہ ٹی وی سیٹ تو بجلی سے چلتے ہیں اور بجلی تو ان علاقوں میں ناپید ہے۔

Pakistan’s response to Covid crisis is divided: between coronavirus fear and trust in God


As Muslims, we believe that we belong to God, and to him will we return. Our negligence will allow Covid-19 to decide who, and when.

World religions can be divided into two categories — those that are life affirming and those premised on life negation. Dr Albert Schweitzer identified this distinction: “World and life affirmation unceasingly urges men to serve their fellows, society, the nation, mankind, and indeed all that lives, with their utmost will and in lively hope of realisable progress. World and life negation takes no interest in the world, but regards man’s life on earth either merely as a stage play in which it is his duty to participate, or only as a puzzling pilgrimage through the land of Time to his home in eternity.”
Schweitzer regarded Islam, Christianity and Judaism as life-affirming religions because they acknowledge “the instinctive will-to-live”, whereas to him Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism represented life negation, a condition “when man takes no interest whatsoever in any realisable purpose nor in the improvement of conditions in the world”.
Where would Dr Schweitzer have placed Pakistan’s credo? Somewhere between the two. Its unbridled population growth could not be more life affirming, yet its determination to reject realities existing in today’s Covid-19 world reveals the weaker traits of life negation. We have chosen to discount the advice of international medical experts, to ignore the experiences of China, Italy, Spain, the UK and US. We pray in Arabic but repudiate the advice of the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia that prayers during Ramazan and for Eidul Fitr should be performed at home if the pandemic continues. Instead, we have opted to follow the tenets of an agreement between a group of unelected ulema and our country’s president.
Even the most cursory scrutiny of the 20-point agreement exposes its inconsistencies: worshippers are expected to perform their ablutions at home before coming to the mosque; they are expected to wear masks and forbidden from handshakes and hugs or touching their faces; no carpets in mosques, but hundreds of individual prayer mats disinfected with chlorine are permitted; prayers would be held in the compounds of mosques not within the buildings, but taraweeh preparations are allowed within the mosque premises; social distancing of at least three feet between worshippers would be enforced by the mosque administration and police.
Attendees at the meeting between the president and the ulema included Interior Minister Ijaz Shah, the PM’s aide on health Dr Zafar Mirza and Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri. Where, one wonders, was the representative of the National Command and Control Centre? After all, the NCCC had been established in March to ensure effective coordination among the federal and provincial governments to control the virus. Has the NCCC endorsed this agreement? Is the president aware that he had no executive authority to enter into such an agreement? Does he realise that its enforceability stood vitiated when the ulema refused to guarantee compliance by their adherents? One suspects that this shotgun agreement will prove as ineffective as the one signed with exaggerated publicity by the provocateur Canadian cleric Tahirul Qadri with the PPP government in January 2013.
Social distancing is not new to Pakistan. It has been ostracised often enough internationally, even by the Commonwealth. Today, however, Pakistan is social distancing within itself. Islamabad is at odds with the provinces. Ministers are at odds with each other. The more flamboyant vie to demonstrate their cosmetic concern. Railway bogies are converted into wards on wheels, yet no one asks where are the sterilization or washing facilities for patients and medical staff. Cavernous Expo cen­tres are cram­med with a thousand beds, even tho­ugh these public spaces have only communal latrines and no facilities for bathing. Three-star hotels in Islam­abad have been commandeered for Covid-19 patients but opulent marriage halls throughout the country are exempt.
The government’s Janus-headed approach to the Covid-19 crisis is unhelpfully ambivalent. It advocates a purposeful lockdown and simultaneously wishes to oblige religious and sectoral interests, such as the powerful construction industry. It fears rightly that an extended lockdown will cause an economic collapse which we can ill-afford. At the same time, it knows that any premature suspension of the lockdown could release a plague of unimaginable proportions. As a result, our nation stands divided between those who fear the virus and those who trust in God. As Muslims, we believe that we belong to God, and to Him will we return. Our negligence will allow Covid-19 to decide who, and when.
In the 1990s, Singaporean prime minister Lee Kuan Yew visited Pakistan. He was asked his opinion of his hosts. He responded that he had never seen any country more determined to commit suicide. He is not alive to be proven right. We are alive, and can with rational decisive policies prove him wrong.

#Pakistan - Centre sabotaging Sindh’s efforts against Covid-19, says Bilawal

wAAACwAAAAAAQABAEACAkQBADs=Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto has accused PTI-led federal government of sabotaging the steps taken by Sindh government in fight against coronavirus.
“It is the responsibility of the country’s leadership to take difficult decisions in the event of a national crisis. But this will be the first time that the Centre and the prime minister have announced their disengagement from the provinces,” Bilawal said, adding that the federal government cannot abdicate its responsibility to formulate a comprehensive strategy for the country by ‘misinterpreting’ the 18th Amendment. He emphasized that the federal government is responsible for formulating policy at the national level, adding that there is a ‘lack of leadership’ in the federal government.
Referring to the recent efforts of the federal government to bring some major hospitals of Sindh under its control, Bilawal said, “The 18th Amendment is ignored when Centre wants to snatch hospitals of Sindh, but when there is an pandemic all over the world and the country is in a war-like situation, Centre is talking about the 18th Amendment.” “If the federal government has no role to play after the 18th Amendment, then why is there a National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) in the country? Why is there a federal health secretary?” he asked.
Talking about the perception of tensions between the Centre and Sindh, Bilawal said that the federal government has been criticizing the most successful province ‘to hide its incompetence’. “Statements of the prime minister are very irresponsible. Every province is trying to deal with the situation to the best of its ability, but even then, Centre is busy in criticism,” he said, and stressed that it is time to get united to fight this deadly virus.

#CoronaInPakistan #Pakistan registers its deadliest day of coronavirus pandemic

Asad Hashim

Pakistan has registered its deadliest day in terms of deaths from the coronavirus, with at least 20 people dying, taking the country's toll to 301 deaths since the outbreak began in late February, government data shows.
Cases in the South Asian nation have been spiking since last week, with 751 new infections recorded on Monday, taking the overall number of cases to 14,079, data collected by Al Jazeera shows.
So far, at least 3,233 patients, or 23 percent of the overall cases, have recovered, leaving 10,545 active cases in a country where a weak health infrastructure has been at the centre of concerns regarding the rapid spread of COVID-19.
In recent weeks, the government has built several makeshift hospitals, with a capacity of thousands. A police officer uses a megaphone to disperse shopkeepers gathered to reopen their shops at a closed market in Karachi [Akhtar Soomro/Reuters] Last week, however, Prime Minister Imran Khan warned that cases could spike by the middle of May, possibly overwhelming infrastructure capacity.
On Monday, Khan chaired a meeting of high-level officials to discuss the government's response to the crisis, where de facto Health Minister Zafar Mirza told government leaders that "the number of corona[virus] cases and [the] death rate in Pakistan is less than that of the rest of the world".Khan reiterated that his government was seeking to "balance the need to save people from corona[virus] and the continuation of economic activity".In the same meeting, Industries Minister Hammad Azhar said the government would be paying electricity bills for qualifying small businesses for up to three months to support them during the crisis.
Earlier this month, Khan's government reopened several sectors of the economy, arguing that rising unemployment could kill more people than the virus.
Cases have been rising, however, with the country's number doubling roughly every 11 days, while the number of fatalities has doubled almost every eight days.
The latest "deadliest day" comes a week after the previous highest number of daily deaths, 17, was recorded in the country.
As it eases up on the lockdown, the government has also been attempting to tighten restrictions in certain areas.
On Monday, Interior Minister Ijaz Shah advocated for greater restrictions on intercity bus travel on the weekends, stopping labourers from returning to their home villages.
Also on Monday, Imran Ismail, the governor of the southern Sindh province - home to the country's largest city of Karachi - said he had tested positive for COVID-19.

Monday, April 27, 2020

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Federal government’s interpretation of 18th Amendment is disingenuous: Bilawal

The federal government is trying to ruin the efforts made by the provinces to fight the coronavirus, instead of working together, says Pakistan Peoples Party Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
The young PPP leader gave an interview to BBC Urdu. In it, he spoke about the Sindh government’s strategy to fight the virus, the need for unity between the centre and provinces and more.
Bilawal said the federation was interpreting the 18th Amendment incorrectly.
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He blamed Prime Minister Imran Khan of distancing himself from the provinces and its problems. 
“The centre doesn’t think of the 18th amendment when it wants to snatch away hospitals from the provinces like the Jinnah hospital, but relies on it when there is a global pandemic, which is a war-like situation,” Bilawal said, adding that this is disingenuous. 

فضل الرحمٰن کا بلاول بھٹو اور دیگر اپوزیشن رہنماؤں سے ٹیلیفونک رابط- - 18ویں ترمیم

پیپلز پارٹی کے چیئرمین بلاول بھٹو زرداری اور جمعیت علماء اسلام (ف) کے سربراہ مولانا فضل الرحمٰن کے درمیان ٹیلیفونک رابطہ ہوا ہے۔
پیپلز پارٹی کی طرف سے جاری کیے گئے اعلامیے کے مطابق بلاول بھٹو اور مولانا فضل الرحمٰن نےاس موقع پر 18 ویں ترمیم پر گفتگو کی۔
دونوں رہنماؤں نے بات چیت کے دوران کہا کہ جمہوری قوتیں 18ویں آئینی ترمیم پر کسی صورت سمجھوتہ نہیں کریں گی۔
بلاول بھٹو اور مولانا فضل الرحمٰن نے کہا کہ 18ویں ترمیم کے خاتمے سے متعلق کسی کوشش کو برداشت نہیں کریں گے۔
اس موقع پر پی پی چیئرمین نے مزید کہا کہ ملک کورونا وائرس کی وجہ سے سنگین حالات سے گزررہا ہے، وفاق آئین سے چھیڑ چھاڑ کے بجائےصوبوں کی مدد کرے۔
ذرائع کے مطابق بلاول بھٹو سے گفتگو کے بعد مولانا فضل الرحمٰن نے اپوزیشن لیڈر شہباز شریف، محمود خان اچکزئی، میاں افتخار اور آفتاب شیر پاؤ سے ٹیلیفونک رابطہ کیا۔
جے یو آئی سربراہ نے دیگر اپوزیشن جماعتوں کی قیادت سے موجودہ حالات میں حکومتی اقدامات پر بات چیت کی۔