Saturday, February 22, 2020

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#Pakistan - #Baluchistan - Closing the doors of education

 By Mannan Samad
The students of Balochistan have long been beset by the egregious circle of violence, ruthlessness, persecution, exploitation, intimidation entailing unfathomable pain and anguish triggered via various angles which remains unabated so far. Students are regarded as the future builders of any nation. They are the valuable assets of the nation who are overwhelmingly contributing for the progress and advancement of the country but the despicable maneuvering to push students to the wall is highly lamentable, unacceptable and condemnable. It is very frustrating to jot down that students, in this hapless province, seem more on roads than academic boundaries. They are perpetually engrossed in staging protest demonstrations to seek acceptance of their demands instead of being engrossed in their studies.
There is no iota of doubt that it is a planned and organized conspiracy of unidentified or identified plotters to close the doors of education by inducting gruesome tactics after every passing day. The entanglement of students, in protests, lurking from one problem to another problem, is, no doubt, a glaring manifestation of putting students away from the essence of education. The anti-education elements know if they (students) acquire education, they (students) witness stumbling blocks on the way of materializing their nefarious designs.The University of Balochistan blackmailing scandal leaves no ambiguities to corroborate my aforementioned notions. The scandal largely parked hue and cry in societal spheres, political circles and education boundaries in which students particularly female students were allegedly blackmailed and harassed by the security officials and vercity faculty under the tutlage of Vice Chancellor in order to extort money, extinguish lust and restrict students in getting access to education.
On the one hand, the scandal left a visible stain on education system of the province, while on the other hand, it has massively bolstered the stereotype of confining girls and women within the boundry of home and mere monitor the domestic activities. The eruption of scandel came as a jolt for all conservative families of Balochistan, aftermaths, they (families) piled up pressures on concerned students to return home immediately and skip education in halfway. A number of students did alike as they were submissive at the behest of their families. This has directly affected the literacy proportion of women education. The plotters somewhat become victorious in closing the doors of education for female students in an already-educationally marginalized province.
After the very few days of vercity scandal, another mishap emerged out wherein the house offiers of Bolan University of Medical and Health Sciences (BUMHS) were forcibly ejected from their hostel. Assistant Commissioner (AC) Quetta Nida Kazmi was seen in a video who was misbehaving and threatening the female students of dire consequences, aftermaths, the video went viral on social media invoking a wave of anger and outrage on behalf of public. The Governor and Chief Secretary neither took notice of force ejection of female doctors nor they issued directives regarding new hostel for postgraduate doctors which frankly domonstrates the sheer reluctance of promoting women’s education.
The students of BMC are now grappling with another issue which is drastically adding to their financial woes. The students and employees of BMC are protesting over the past several weeks against the privatization of the institute. The have been conducting peaceful sit-ins in order to meet their demands. They demand that Bolan Medical College (BMC) should be restored, BMC2017Act should be changed, the decision of hike fees should be reversed and University Vice-Chancellor should be sacked immediately. But it is very lamenting that around,128 students and employees of the veracity were arrested at GPO Chowk recently in Quetta through the hooliganism of police. Peaceful protesters were heading towards Balochistan assembly to stage a peaceful sit-in in front of assembly in favour of their demands when police launched a crackdown against the students but this shameful act couldn’t break their resolve for marching towards provincial assembly.
Embarrassingly, police also tried to arrest the female students. In a video, women were seen being humiliated and beaten up at the hands of police, went viral on social media which jolted the reputation and reverence of the Baloch society. The act of beating and humiliating women is flagrantly against the values and traditions of Baloch nation.

It is outrightly astounding that police misbehaved inappropriately with the peaceful protesters instead of provinding adequate security to them. On the one hand, police is considered a protective entity which is supposed to deliver safety to the ordinary folk, but on the other hand, it is promoting the culture of violence and prevailing an atmosphere of awe and trepidation.
The students of BMC are now grappling with another issue which is drastically adding to their financial woes. The students and employees of BMC are protesting over the past several weeks against the privatization of the institute
Resorting to violence is the emblem of immature democracies while suppressing the dissent voices reeks of directorial tactics. It is the constitutional right of every citizen to conduct peaceful protest demonstration. It must be noted that torturing the peaceful protesters is not a good omen in a democratic country. The vanguard role of students in the democratic struggles of the country should not be denied at any cost.
The Balochistan government is hell bent upon neglecting the serious issue of BMC privatization and tends to turn a deaf ear to the demands of concerned students. It seems oblivious in terms of addressing the genuine grievances of the students instead of the fact that, education is a provincial subject after the implementation of 18th amendment.
Time is ripe the incumbent government should wake up from its deep slumber to take stern action against the corrupt and incompetent administration in order to foil the hideous designs of privatizating BMC and restore the veracity which is the only ray of hope for the thousands of medical students of the province.

#Pakistan - An expensive talk shop: Prime Minister Imran Khan's attendance in Parliament

Aamir Ghauri

Hopes were raised by Prime Minister Imran Khan who claimed during his electoral campaign that he would not only empower the parliament but would personally attend parliamentary sessions.
 Long ago our political science teachers taught us that any parliament is expected to perform three basic functions: bona fide representation of citizens’ interests, effective and honest legislation and monitoring government actions in public interest. In an ideal democratic set-up, public representatives are supposed to perform a legislative function besides introducing legislation on their own, because they are entrusted with the power to amend, approve or reject draft laws introduced by the government.
Being a follower of the Westminster genre of parliamentary practices, our Executive branch should ideally develop most draft laws and then allow the parliament to review, amend and ultimately pass laws. That should not stop the individual parliamentarians from introducing draft laws otherwise known as private member’s bills but only a handful of such draft laws reach the committee stage and even fewer are passed.
Information on the British process of parliamentary legislation, widely available in public domain, says that all bills (proposed new law) must be agreed upon by both Houses of the Parliament – Commons and Lords — before being presented to the sovereign for the Royal Assent. Between the introduction of a bill in the first reading and the Royal Assent, parliamentarians are given two further readings to discuss, reconsider and debate the proposed draft and if the government secures a majority, it moves to the Palace. Once the Royal Assent is received the bills become Acts of Parliament, meaning they become laws of the land. Since assuming the throne in 1952, Queen Elizabeth II has given Royal Assent to over 3,000 Acts of Parliament.
Many more thousands of draft laws are introduced in the Parliament but do not become national laws. Similarly, in the United States, otherwise a presidential system, over 10,000 draft laws are brought in before the Congress. Most do not go beyond the committee stage.
Hope has always been that Pakistani parliamentarians would act according to the rulebook on legislation for they make a lot of hue and cry whilst in opposition that assemblies – national and provincial – won’t get strengthened as institutions unless they do what they are supposed to i.e., legislate in public and national interest. However, once in power they ordinarily behave like the 16th and 17th Century European monarchs who wielded the executive power and retained the prerogative to think, make and pass laws.
Hopes were raised unnaturally raised by Prime Minister Imran Khan who claimed during his electoral campaign lasting well over four years that he would not only empower the parliament through pro-public legislations but would also personally attend parliamentary sessions like British prime ministers who attend a Q&A session every Wednesday noon because it is required by convention. But like most other promises, Imran Khan’s promise on parliamentary punctuality has turned out to be a pipe dream, at least for now.
Statistics gathered by the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) reveal that Imran Khan has attended only 16 sittings out of a total of 133 since taking oath on August 8, 2018, till February 17, 2020. He remained absent from 117 sittings. Records for Asif Ali Zardari, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif are also not very encouraging for the same period. Asif attended 21 sittings while Bilawal and Shahbaz were present during 53 and 51 sittings respectively. One reason for Asif Zardari’s continued absence could be his incarceration because of NAB cases.
But as they say while the cat’s away, the mice will play. Why would party MNAs turn up for a job they are paid for when they know that the leader would be missing? Parliamentarians who do come to the Parliament spend more time chasing ministers for seeking personal favours or for matters relating to influential constituents — hence a buzzing parliament cafeteria when the session is on.
Performance of the current government’s abysmal legislative work is also evident from the fact that more laws have been made through presidential ordinances than through parliamentary legislative procedures. Parliament, as per the Opposition, is a mere formality for the PTI government for the ruling party treats the institution as nothing more than an “ordinance-making factory.”
Since the sitting government is averse to journalistic comment, The News on Sunday thought it appropriate to speak to three prominent parliamentarians – one each from the leading political parties as to what they think of the legislative performance of the current Parliament and also the capacity of our law-makers to read and review draft legislations and amendments. We also sought the opinion of one of the most known watcher and commentator of the Parliament’s work.
Leader of the House in the Senate, Syed Shibli Faraz of the PTI agreed that a member of the Parliament in Pakistan serves as an enactor of effective legislation, an overseer of its implementation and a communicator with constituents. But he also contended that the legislative capacity of the lawmakers in Pakistan “varies depending upon their experience, tenure and terms in the Parliament as there is no provision of educational qualification or background prescribed for them to understand legal or legislative issues.”
But is he satisfied with the legislative work done so far by the current Parliament? “Of course, I am not satisfied with the level (of legislation done so far) but we have inherent weaknesses in the system.” He thinks things would improve if the parliamentarians were provided with more assistance and legislative/research facilities and staff. As leader of the upper house, Faraz could not have been more forthcoming knowing fully well that his party’s performance is way below satisfactory level.
In PML-N’s Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed’s opinion “there is hardly been any serious legislation in the past 18 months, mostly ordinances imposed surreptitiously and that too without consulting the Opposition, which has always been cooperative.” Syed thinks the PTI is afraid of the Parliament and “like the Press, they see the Parliament as a threat.”
He said any attempt at legislation reflected an approach that’s shoddy and lacked professionalism, particularly in drafting legislation, as was evident in the now famous case of ‘the Notification’. He described the last parliamentary year as “a disappointing year”. Parliament has become an extension of the ‘container politics’ with verbal feuds and political point scoring are the order of the day, he opined.
Six-times senator and a former Senate chairman Mian Raza Rabbani of the PPP very candidly said that the government was not serious about legislation and had made the parliament redundant. “The intent of the government was made clear in a speech by the prime minister within the first 100 days of his government when he said that since they didn’t have the majority in the Senate, the legislation would be done through ordinances.”
The intent turned into reality when the presidential ordinances were promulgated mercilessly in violation of the Constitution, he said. The president promulgates ordinances under Article 89 of the 1973 Constitution. “The government has violated Article 89 and breached the privilege of the members of both the Houses by causing delays in laying the ordinances in the Houses and depriving the members from moving resolution of disapproval under Article 89 of the Constitution. This threw out the bill concept of legislation by the Parliament, which has been upheld by the superior courts of Pakistan.”
Rabbani said that despite the government’s haughty attitude, the Opposition had helped in passing laws having pubic good at heart though the ruling party lacked a majority in the Senate. “The government shies away from the parliamentary legislation because that requires consensus building. This government believes in adversarial politics.”
Founder and president of Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT), Ahmed Bilal Mehboob says, “Our parliamentarians generally are not interested or do not have staff support to undertake any serious work on legislation. A vast majority finds it difficult to comprehend, analyse and form an opinion about any legislation before the Parliament. There is no incentive in doing this hard work any way because they have to follow the party line.”
In his opinion the voters and constituents do not give much credit to the MPs for their performance in the Parliament. “They expect their legislators to intercede on their behalf with the Executive for jobs, transfers, police cases, reaching out to judges if possible. The second priority is local development: roads, schools, water supply, electricity and gas connections and sewerage, etc.”
Legislation does not find any place in the constituents’ priorities, Mehboob said. “It’s not that legislators do not work hard, they do work but on individual issues of the constituents or local development. There is hardly any facility like research support, staff, office etc, for serious work by a legislator because legislators have never seriously demanded it. So, mainly, the legislative agenda is in the hands of the Executive. There are a few knowledgeable and hard working legislators like Raza Rabbani, Muzaffar Ali Shah, and Ahsan Iqbal, etc, but there are very few of them and the number is fast dwindling.”
Regular interruption of Pakistani politics by ultra-political forces has thrown up fresh lots of provincial and regional politicians. Many of them have made a mark by incessant appearance on independent news televisionssince early 2000s. Participation in daily talk shows with loose or non-existent editorial control or broadcast etiquette, many young politicians have picked up a confrontational style conversation. Those who have made it to the Parliament justifiably think that politics is mere inane verbal circumlocution. Lack of knowledge of parliamentary traditions or tacit backing by the equally untrained leadership to stage rowdy scenes makes the newcomers believe they are doing pretty well by engaging in shouting bouts, personal taunts or plain absence from the House for days at end. Politics for them remains a costly non-serious affair.

In #Pakistan Extremists are treated differently from liberals - Skin on the line

Irfan Husain

 IF I were mad enough to occupy a federal government building in Islamabad with a group of like-minded men and women, you can easily imagine the consequences: we would be thrashed, dragged to jail and probably charged with sedition.

I doubt very much that I would be offered 20 kanals of land. But this is exactly what happened to Maulana Abdul Aziz when he recently occupied the contentious Lal Masjid in the heart of the capital, along with a group of female students. From press reports, I gather that he has demanded reinstatement as the mosque’s khateeb or prayer leader, 20 kanals of land, Rs250 million and the children’s library located next to the mosque.
Given the way successive governments have caved in to the demands of our clerics time and again, I have little doubt that the PTI, too, will give the maulana much of what he has demanded. We don’t have to go back very far to prove my point: when the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan staged a weeks-long sit-in at the Faizabad interchange, cutting off traffic between Islamabad and Rawalpindi, causing the deaths of patients being rushed to hospitals, and preventing students from taking their exams, one thought surely this time the government would crack down.
Extremists are treated differently from liberals.
But instead of prison sentences, these protesters were handed cash in envelopes by a senior military officer. I could give more examples of the lack of official spine, but I think I have made my point: while the state deals with secular and progressive protests with an iron hand, it puts on kid gloves when faced with opposition from religious parties.
The reason for these double standards is not difficult to fathom: there are thousands of clerics and their supporters across the country, and for many of them, a street protest is a bit like a picnic. So they willingly take to the streets and confront cops, bringing large parts of cities to a grinding halt. The police, for their part, know that even if they make any arrests, the violent protesters they put in jail will soon be released as part of a deal with the government.
However, this is not what civil society protesters experience when they are agitating against human rights violations so widespread in Pakistan. They are usually beaten up and taken to jail. Our cops know they have no lobby or party to back them, so they are free to wield their sticks with great gusto.Another aspect of this equation is the fact that while secular, free-thinking protesters are viewed as godless people deserving of no sympathy, other agitators are regarded as doing their religious duty. They are thus exempt from manmade laws. This view is widely shared by law-enforcement agencies, much of the judiciary and the bureaucracy.Then, of course, there is the recurring need of the establishment for allies: time after time, religious parties have given military dictators political cover and legitimacy. They have also provided foot soldiers for the ‘jihad’. Few figures in uniform would wish to alienate potential supporters.
Finally, there are Saudi finances for seminaries that promote a rigid brand of religion. True, some of this money comes via the private sector, but we still suffer the consequences.
To be fair, Pakistan is not the only state where extremists are treated differently from liberals. Just look at what’s happening in Modi’s India where Hindutva nationalists are aided by the police as they thrash and murder those protesting the new anti-Muslim law. University students and professors have been targeted. Instead of protecting them, cops have joined the hooligans in beating up liberals. Needless to say, Hindu nationalists form the core of Modi’s support.
Trump’s America has seen a similar swing in attitude. Today, white supremacists — once on the fringes of society — have been empowered by Trump’s rhetoric, and are now spearheading his re-election campaign.
Clearly, right-wing politicians have spotted an opportunity in the shape of a nationalistic resurgence. This resembles the Fascist rise to power in Italy and Germany in the 1930s, and one can only hope it will not be as destructive.
It is clear that the right wing is on the march. In part, it draws its energy from the mass movement of migrants, and the local resentment it generates. But equally importantly, a dislike of the globalised elite, and the condescending attitude of the college-educated drive much of the resentment we see today.
Another problem for progressive elements is their inability to take to the streets with the kind of fervour and righteousness shown by Pakistan’s religious right. While we are perfectly happy to sign online petitions, the reality is that these don’t bother the establishment at all. Until we are willing and able to put our skin on the line, we shouldn’t expect things to change.

Anti-Terror Agency Keeps Pakistan on 'Gray List'

By Ayaz Gul
A global agency leading the fight against the financing of terrorism and money laundering has kept Pakistan on its “gray list” of nations with inadequate mechanisms to curb funding sources to terrorist groups.
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) met Friday at its headquarters in Paris and reviewed Islamabad’s commitments under an action plan agreed to with the international agency. It decided to keep Pakistan off its blacklist in the wake of “recent and notable improvements,” giving the country four months to deliver on its remaining commitments.
In a post-meeting statement, however, the FATF said that while it recognized progress made by Islamabad, it was concerned about the failure to complete the action plan to reduce money laundering and terrorist financing risks.“The FATF strongly urges Pakistan to swiftly complete its full action plan by June 2020,” said the global agency. “Otherwise, should significant and sustainable progress, especially in prosecuting and penalizing TF [terrorism financing] not be made by the next plenary, the FATF will take action.”
Call for special scrutiny
The watchdog group said punitive action could include the FATF calling on member states and urging all jurisdictions to give special attention to investment-related business relations and transactions with Pakistan.
“FATF members agreed to maintain Pakistan’s status on FATF’s Compliance Document, normally referred [to] as the gray list,” the Pakistani government said in a statement issued after the Paris meeting.
Pakistan was placed on the “gray list” in 2018 for a lack of adequate controls over terrorism financing, which made foreign firms more cautious about investing in the South Asian nation.
Islamabad has long been accused of harboring and supporting Islamist militant organizations allegedly orchestrating terrorist attacks in neighboring Afghanistan and India. Pakistan rejects the accusations and has been able to avoid being blacklisted because of support from close allies, including China, Malaysia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.Finance Ministry adviser Abdul Hafeez Shaikh hailed Beijing’s continued “massive support” in FATF meetings.
'Brotherly' assistance
“China and other brotherly countries have supported Pakistan throughout the process in terms of guiding the country to improve its frameworks,” Shaikh said in a statement his office issued Friday.
The Pakistani government maintains it has taken “significant” steps in recent months to address terrorism-financing-related deficiencies under the FATF action plan.
Just days before Friday’s meeting in Paris, a special court in Pakistan convicted a radical cleric, Hafiz Saeed, and an associate in terrorism-related cases, giving Saeed two 5½-year prison sentences that will run concurrently.
The Pakistani cleric became a known figure worldwide when the group he headed at the time, Lashkar-e-Taiba, or LeT, was blamed for a series of coordinated attacks lasting almost four days in Mumbai, India's financial capital, in November 2008. The attacks killed 166 people, among them, Americans, Canadians and Europeans.
The United States has offered a financial reward for bringing Saeed to justice.
Senior State Department diplomat Alice Wells swiftly hailed the February 12 Pakistani court ruling.
“Today’s conviction of Hafiz Saeed and his associate is an important step forward – both toward holding LeT accountable for its crimes, and for Pakistan in meeting its international commitments to combat terrorist financing,” tweeted Wells, the State Department's principal deputy assistant secretary.