Monday, July 27, 2009

Whither Pakistan Politics? The Fate Of Local Bodies

After the new elected parliaments and people came into power there was a general impression that they will work towards improving governance, devolution to grass root levels, including empowering marginalised segments of society like women and children , illiterate and poor workers and farmers. This was especially expected of the Pakistan Peoples Party as it won a mandate in all four provinces and is considered people friendly.Somehow many prejudices have emerged both in Sindh and Punjab and the basic idea of devolution is bieng attacked by both the PPP and Muslim League (Nawaz) by abolishing the local bodies govt., and replacing them with administrators or beauracrats. After watching much debates , I have come to the conclusion that this much antidemocratic step is bieng taken by both the parties in pesuance of their own agendas and I think to the detrimant of democracy and it's spirit of power to the people, hastily and with complete misunderstanding of the process.
In Punjab , the PML (Nawaz) thinks and I emphasise , that the chief minister wants to rule the administration in the commissionerate style which is a bad and poor example of old style, colonial governance. This kind of administrative system is now defunct in most of civilised states and only helps to breed more autocracy, corruption and centralisation of power. It makes the execution of development projects at smaller levels more difficult and is never suitable for the modern underdeveloped or developing states like Pakistan. This model of governance where the Chief minister will juggle the powers, progress, administration and everything will destroy whatever governance is built in Punjab which is the most populous, most progressive province in development in Pakistan. Here the nazim Lahore who has been elected twice has performed considerably well and a lot of development has taken place.The issue of corruption will be discussed by me in full deatail in a future post as we will discuss the mechanisms to check or handle corruption and monitoring of projects and the comparisons with such mechanisms in other forms of administrative setups will be discussed in detail for the reader.After listening to the prominent members of PML-N I have come to the conclusion that they and especially the Chief Minister Punjab is opposing the local govt., system only because President Musharraf introduced the system and this system ran under him. He had a hidden agenda as he made these elections non-party like Ayub Khan and of course he intended to use the nazims for his power. The pretention of his National Reconstruction Beaurue chief that he was the visualiser and creator of this concept is a farce. This concept has been in vogue for a long time and most modern states like Germany, France and Britain now successfully practice this form of governance. I edited a book by Akhtar Ali in 1996, The Political Economy Of Pakistan, An Agenda for Reforms and Restructuring in which he gives the concept as a system of governance for the people so that they are helped at the lowest teir by good and self governance. The irony is that the media is inviting people like Danyal Aziz , who maybe sincere in their defence but as they have worked with Musharraf are not acceptable to the elected or prodemocracy people and especially The PML-N, and their defence of the system makes these parties cringe away more.
The PML-N will be doing itself a damage by doing away with this system and going back to the old administrative system. The corruption scandals plaguing their parties coming to light almost everyday also are reflective of the mindset and state of their legislators capability to handle governance and clean concience. I am not against any party but they have to bring reforms in their own parties and improve their understanding of democratic values,governance and devolution of power at lower levels. They do not seem to be in sync with modern issues.
The Pakistan Peoples Party in Sindh is giving it a flavour of the MQM" is bad and is ruling Karachi" flavour. They are in coalition because Mr Zardari has cleverly and rightly managed to take the parties in coalition.So far so good. The mindset of the Sindh faction of PPP seems that Karachi is part of Sindh and somehow is slipping away from the hands of "Sindhis" is reflective of the Qaumi (nationalist) prejudice which they put on MQM as a blame. The real truth here is that the MQM even before it came into power is organised in a way where the lowest level worker in the party has to work diligently in solving civic problems. I am a witness to this in 1987 when I saw the dirty streets of Ranchore Lines and Jubilee areas , in very old Karachi, transformed into neat and clean streets with garbage removed and the sidewalks and large walls painted with "Choona"white lime, also acts as disinfectant by these MQM workers. This kind of civic activity is continued uptil now and it was only natural for these people to adapt and work out the Local Govt., model to good governance. The Karachi Nazim is young and down to earth, so in continuance with his party"s actions he has made Karachi a much better city. The apprehensions of PPP (mostly fuedal )leaders are ill founded . Mohtarma Benazir also favored the local government and devolution of power to the lowest level of governance.The 1973 constitution also helps in this. The elections can be on party basis.
Out of the 18 Nazims in Sindh province ,only 4 are from MQM and as they are working on the ideal model, they should be copied in all other areas and not blamed for something they have not done. I have lived in Sindh and am very aware of their rural and urban issues. I am sure if all Sindh adopts the good governence model literally,in rural and city areas the PPP will really help it's votebank. Places like Sukkur are suffereing immensely and the old system of governance has failed miserably for all to see. The PPP instead of accusing MQM for something they have not done, should infact invite people like Mustafa Kamal and his team to plan a pilot model for Sukkur and implemnt it themselves. People like Fahim Zaman, former administrator of KMC , Karachi appoianted by Mohtarma Benazir is an ideal man to be taken as an advisor on this. Only by emulating the Karachi model will improve Sukkur tremendously and help Sindh people . If the model for development is already is tested then it can be improved. The idea of many PPP parliamentarians that by abolishing this system will somehow diempower MQM in Karachi especially and will somehow dent their votebank is very naive indeed!
It seems that the PPP in Sindh is still in the frame of mind of "fighting the dictator "and because of the untimely Shahadat of Mohtarma Benazir has not been able to address the issue of devolution and decentralisation in the present context.I sincerely hope the young leadership of PPP understands the real governance issues .

The "giving in" to the demands and whims of Punjab at this stage maybe considered expedient by Mr Zardari now at this stage but failure to address this basic political reform and governance issue in it's true perspective and context will be massively damaging in the longer run. We also have to keep in mind that as increasing inflation, energy crises, job instability is crushing the common man, the thrust of fascist forces like the militants and people who abuse the constitution and the government and army of Pakistan, now openly on tv, will be able to damage democracy and devolution of power to grass roots with an unretrievable force. PML-N and PPP maybe cutting the branch with a saw on which they are sitting!

The issue of addressing the problems in system can be solved even when local governments are in office. We need to strengthen reforms and restructure according to our needs and not abolish the whole syystem and start experimenting with a new one. If this system is improved, new elections held on party basis , constitutional cover given to local bodies, I see no reason for the people of Pakistan of not getting the fruits of democracy. I again insist that the politicians understand that politics in the modern world is not about playing dirty tricks and staying in power and ruling the people like Raja or Feudal lord, but it is devolution of power and governance to the people at grass roots.Only this way the people will be able to have their say in their own development and destiny.Democracy and fairplay are the only solutions in the modern day.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Do Masterpieces Reflect The Eternal Anguish Of Human Soul?

I have been brought up watching art , great Pakistani artist Sadequian, Guljee, Jamil Naqsh, Ali Imam, right infront of my eyes, working, sometimes talking to me, touching my heart in some subtle and yet profound way. The artist Ali Imam was the one who really gave me real perception of painting. As I would walk down to my home in Nursery, from my school, P.E.C.H.S., Ali Imam's gallery would be on way,and here was a treasure house.He was a great man and a real artist. He would show me and my sister (I was about 10 ,my sister 7) around and literally taught us to appreciate, Gulgee, Jamil Naqsh, Sadequain, Ghulam Rasool and many great painters whose art he had in his gallery. There I learnt the colorful strokes of Gulgee, the mysterious woman form of the Black Girl, the beautiful reality of Ghulam Rasool's landscapes.I even got to see many Chughtai paintings in one exhibition, where his brother was there.
I remember the great Sadequain, in my schools' big hall, where my headmistresses office was. He had almost started living on the floor and every morning after school I made it sure to spy in on him. He made some great paintings during his stay there and made it sure that usually a big exhibition was held in our college auditorium and the girls saw it first. I know his paintings as the back of my hand. When I was in 9th class he put a calligraphy exhibition at the arts council. I remember his Kohi Toor painting with Al Noor written over. I questioned him if the light of God , Noor could be expressesd or depicted in Islam and he laughed and gently patted my cheek.
These great artists had such a human side to them. This was much before this "corporitisation" of art in Pakistan.

My firsts lesssons in art were from an Oxford Encyclopedia series for children. This was a treasure trove that has given me all my passion for books, knowledge and life. My father worked for OUP back in the 50"s and he had many books , some to proof read copies and many others. I literally devoured all during my childhood, Jim Corbett taught me about the jungles and the Bengal Sunderbans and tigers. I learnt about the Burmese and the Karen dilemma from , The Karen Wakes, which I still have. I learnt the great volcanic eruption near Indonesia from Kratakowa East of Java, which I still have!
So I learnt my early art from this beautiful encyclopedia by OUP. I saw what Michealangelo did with the human form, how exact, meticulous and precise he was in depiction of the human body.
I saw the beautiful paintings on the roof and walls of the Cysteine Chapel.By the way, I saw some beautiful and rare collections of Leonardo Da Vinci prints in Windsor castle in june 2001, which the queen and prince Phillip had graciuosly opened for public viewing after the fire.
I learnt the difference between Manet and Monet. I learnt to admire Turner, Carpenter and Rembrandt. I appreciated impressionism, surrealism,realism,modern art. I learnt the difference between Picasso , Gaugin and Cezanne.
All this quiet infusion was happening in childhood.
As I grew older I formed my tastes and now I find Degas tops the list of my favorites!
I love his strokes, colors almost real into scenes, picturisque depiction of the girls and people.I find his paintings amazing!
I have also great admiration for Guagin in his deep colors, forms and shapes. Fascinating!
Then of course Picasso,masterpieces of modern art, like no other.
Fransisco Goya is in my view one of the gretest painters of all times. His amazing human expresssions and depiction of facial expressions is almost like the modern cartoon or caricature form! I think he was ahead of his times in this . Modern caricature is like Goya's faces. It seems that he has captured the full expression in a single snapshot caricature! I do not understand why there has been no reasearch and critique on this. He expresses the agony of the soul and of human living so poignantly. It seems I am sucked into the time, the situation almost wholly!
In the modern day context and what we are going today in Pakistan, if Goya was here to paint he would capture the agony of all our existence and the pain of all our souls, eternally in his works!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Return To Eden!

The tragedy of displacement even it is temporary is too severe to bear. As millions of people start returning to their homes, the state of mind of women are in is to be of prime importance. The women are always passive recievers in our societies. Not that the men had any say in this .The assault or power grabbing by the militants was an apparent threat but the displacement was so sudden, some even had not even 15 minutes to leave their homes, just picking up their chaddors and burkas. When asked about their comments on their stay in camps leaving their beautiful Swat and Buner, the women could not even say much. Most just said that they remember their homes. The little girls who were going to school were missing their schools and friends. There was hardly any evaluation of their mental status and psychological stress. The idea of providing Psychological help was missing from the whole of the relief aspect. The women suffered from displacement in the following ways ;
  • Feeling of physical insecurity, due to lack of built up shelter and bieng lodged in tents nd open spaces.
  • Lack of privacy due to over crowding in camps/tents, and in schools and houses.
  • Lack of proper toilet and sanitation facilities.
  • Lack of proper food and nutrition.
  • Lack of proper health facilities.
  • Inability to socialize with familiar people like family, neighbors .
  • Psychological and emotional stress.
  • Inability to govern as in a home surroundings.
  • Parenting stress, especially with newborns.

The cultural positive side of these people is due to family and strong bonding values, these women are supported by a family system.The few women were able to live with extended family members as the tents were nearby and so were able to communicate.The children were able to attend camp schools and were not so unhappy. The people who suffered most were young people who were in colleges and medical and other universities.They were unable to take their exams or prepare for them.

The return of these people is welcome also but many have apprehensions regrding the security situation. The issues here are:

  • What will be the security cover? According to the army person incharge of security, they are providing extra security personnel and also helicopter cover for returnees. In the hometowns the Frontier government is increasing police force and will set up special service personnel to help the civil administration when the army finally leaves. Also in Swat they are setting up a cantonement for the army on a permanent basis.
  • The money promised by government is not bieng properly dispersed and as they have lost their fruit orchards in the operation and field crops, they need the cash very desperately. To sustain they have already taken loans from their families and friends in other areas, so they cannot burden them any further. The state of economy as it is bad so except for people with smuggling, drug and other black money all others are pinched badly. The ordinary shopkeepers of these areas have suffered badly as their sales were down due to Taleban inurgency and no tourism, this displacement finished off their trade.
  • The security of food on return, what will be it's status?
  • The World Food Programme has said that they are providing their food baskets even to families who have returned till December. The issue of not bieng registered is a problem.
  • What will happen if the residents and infrastructures are destroyed. The tragedy is that the towns and roads were built and these places were not so remote or under developed.
  • What will happen about schools, hospitals,etc.

These are some of the insecurities facing these people. The positive side of this whole ghastly episode is that the Pakistan Army, establishment and the public in general has now to address these following issues urgently and devise ways and means to not let such situations arise in future:

  • The transparency and accountability of the establishment, army and other security agencies.
  • Institutions like the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Council Of Islamic Ideology, Parliament, Senate should be strong and follow all foreign and internal policy aspects in line with the constitution of Pakistan.
  • Any new policies regarding foreign policy, army actions, formation of paramilitary and security organisations should be open for public debate and should be made part of the policy only on consensus. Actions like the Afghan Jehad favor by Pakistan dictator Zia ul Haq single handedly, and whose gory, dreadful consequences we are bearing today, should be condemned and not allowed to occur in the first place by these institutional mechanisms.
  • Internal Reforms within Political parties.
  • Holdin political elections in Frontier regions which are now FATA and PATA.
  • Complete banning of formation of any militant organisation, wings or parties by Pakistanis be it the army.
  • Bringing in police reforms at every level.
  • Defining and implementing a consesus Anti terrorism policy.
  • As this displacement was helped by the previous experience by Earthquake Rehabilitation, improvement in mechanisms and provision of relief.
  • Complete rehabilitation of the returnees .

As people return to their homes our prayers and love is with them. They have sacrificed so much for the whole nation. We are so greatful to them and hope that they forgive us for the things we have done to hurt them. Long live Pakistan ,our free country, our Eden!

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Inhuman Side Of Humans,Micheal Jackson's Children.

I was always so affected by Larkin Syndrome! Here was a young guy who committed suicide at age 32 years because he could not reconcile with the unfair fact that we give birth to children because we so desire, experiment with parenting, because that is an artform, and in the end mess up. The result is so many people with problems.Larkin's syndrome is what comes to mind when I see the Micheal Jackson kids. Well here is a guy who is himself broken and so child like in so many ways. Looking for some fun, laughter ,giggles as the beautiful Brook Shields said about him.He always wanted to have some fun which , I guess he missed as a child.So he marries Lisa Marie Presley an it does not work out. He then marries Debbie Rowe, an unglamorous but suitable,breeding woman who was his skin? doctor's secretary for some 22 years. So under an arrangement, she got more than $4 million plus a Beverly Hills home,(over nine years) she gives him two children.They seperate. Then again he desires another plaything "child" so he arranges a surrogate mother for the youngest son ,"Prnce Micheal II". This is the same child whom MJ hanged from a balcony!
End part 1.
Micheal dead in his bedroom just before his relaunch. He appeared ok!So say the relaunch arrangers.( Nicole Smith's life, isn't it the same and remember her last child and the lawyer,lover trial? Eeerie similarity!)
Now the much awaited ,publicised funeral, almost performed like a show, yes I say a show, almost lacking the human touch, almost like a gory drama ,Dr Faustes performance!Only genuine people appeared to be his own daughter, Brook Shields and Magic Johnson and maybe Dr King's daughter!So here is my point, why was not Ms. Debbie Rowe not allowed for the funeral show. She is the alive parent of the little girl who said "daddy was the best ever"and who cried. The false western and I say western values showed through. Everybody trying to put up a show and not letting the mom of the children be with them naturally. And the ugly,yes ugly father Joe,trying to appear so grieved. All false!So what if Debbie Rowe had collected money for the "services rendered". Wasn't this what Micheal Jackson wanted and after all these were not his children. The biological father was different. Thanks to the almost perfect racket of artificial reproduction, now bieng done in the west especially like a cosmetic procedure.The ethics of this kind of episodes and their effects on children who are at the recieving end are neither clearly defined nor defended. Where is the Church on this?
What is the government doing in this? Why are the rights of the child not addressed on such issues. Why are the American media behaving so shamelessly? As if this is a show.For God's sake these kids are for real. They are humans. Debbie Rowe is right in reacting to some journalists!
Micheal Jackson always" had his way "according to his doctor, and "was on a self destruct mode " according to Lisa Marie Presley( read her MYspace blog). So why not let the children be loved by the mother afterall "turning the other cheek is an amazingly good practice as told by Jesus.
Give the children their rights ,not as told by some grandparents or some such people who care for the inheritance,I mean money,goodies and the legend's.
Let them feel the love of the real alive parent.And for God's sake stop this hypocrisy that Micheal Jackson's immediate family is good and Debbie Rowe and the other surrogate mother are"bad".The children are real, the mothers are real and alive and Micheal Jackson is dead!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Disaster Management, Italian Earthquake,BBC World Debate with Nick Gowing.

I listened to the world debate as Nick Gowing probed into the minds to find answers to so many important questions regarding our world preparedness to handle disasters and mitigate their risks to people in various regions and of different types.The experts gave various answers and emphasised on the involvement of the communities and the vulnerable populations of the world in the context of disaster preparedness. As a response to the Italian Aquila earthquake showed that no matter how much the civil government does in terms of preparedness the actual mitigation measures are very diluted in terms of survival unless the local communities are not educated and are prepared for the disaster.As David Alexander writes in his blog ( ) the building stucture was defective and the disaster struck quickly and the community was not able to handle quickly and efficiently. The disaster management teams were trained and their civil defence structure is good. The issues here were more of buildings structure. If the community was aware and evacuation drills were held there may have been less human suffering. By the way David Alexander is an excellent source of scholarly information on the blogoscape!
The audience from Bangladesh gave an input in the programme about the preparedness in Bangladesh about cyclone disasters.Their approach at community level training and preparedness is absolutely crucial for relief and survival. This model ought to be incorporated in the preparedness priority response. This increases both survival and decreases morbidity and mortality rates when a disaster strikes both in the known or vulnerable areas such a s southern Italy(earthquakes) or Bangladesh, for( cyclones).

In Pakistan as a response to the massive earthquake in northern areas a National Disaster Management Authority was formed. ( that there was no coordinating or overseeing authority or institution for disasters as such. There are a lot of nicely written plans and policy initiatives in their book (National Disaster Management Risk Assesment and Roadmap, which is also available for download as are so many informative documents) but the actual fact is that there is no new information available on the progress in achieving these goals and objectives. As a recent information on their website indicates that NDMA will give annual input of their work done to the prime minister. Fine, but we need to know that what is bieng done on the level of objectives as laid down in this crucial although absolutely flavored like a beauracratic document. It seems that the document is written for display and the further actions are not to be displayed for public perusal. The questions which interest me most are ;
As written in their document,What are they doing at a)Community and the Local Level programming like
-Strengthening community and local level risk reduction capacities?
-Training,awareness materials for communities and stake holders.
-Community risk assesment and planning.
-Implementation of small scale(?what do they mean by small scale , size of populae tion, size of resources? size of area affected or covered?) mitigation schemes.
-School preparedness in high risk regions.

As seen on their website a tsunami preparedness excercise is done in Gwadar. Good! But this does not address and inform about why and how they handled the Baluchistan floods ! They should have information portal for public perusal with a professinal handling the information. Maybe he /she should write an updated blog in order to make this more useful and get real feedback. Community representatives, NGOs ,other persons could access and interact.
The other very important goal of School preparedness has to be made clear and complete. As seen in the earthquake in Pakistan, lots of schools perished with children and teachers inside. The recent conflict in the Frontier also damages school buildings and affects the future of our children. Traditionally if disaster strikes school buildings like in area floods in Punjab and Sindh have been used as relief abodes for displaced. Recently in the displacement relief in Malakand areas schools are bieng used as temporary relief. The buildings are not available to children to study. A priority should be to address this problem of school buildings as used in disaster relief .
On the whole the NDMA is doing a good job and should be encouraged to develop more ties with the local communities in vulnerable populations and also politically with the common man in order to function better and effectively increase it's outreach.

The world debate showed that no matter how prepared a country like Japan, Italy maybe ,disaster preparedness is never enough at this stage of the development now!