Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sign The Petition..Join The Fight Against Corruption.

G20 Transparency Petition

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services…

--Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Research shows that developing countries are losing $1 trillion every year due to crime, government corruption, and tax evasion. These illicit monetary outflows are roughly ten times the amount of aid money going into developing countries for poverty alleviation and economic development.

The loss of money from poor economies that would otherwise go to provide health services, infrastructure, and other critical needs exacerbates poverty and leads to the deaths of millions of people. The annual loss of hundreds of billions of dollars from the world’s poorest and most vulnerable economies constitutes one of the most pressing human rights issues of the new decade.

The key to tackling this problem is transparency in the global financial system. After these stolen or otherwise ill-gotten gains exit their country of origin they vanish into an opaque financial system comprised of tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions. The most effective deterrent to criminals, corrupt officials, and tax evaders is to create a global financial system where illicit money cannot hide.

When the world’s 20 largest economies – the G20 – meet in Toronto on June 26-27, 2010 they will have an unprecedented opportunity to institute changes to create a transparent global financial system that is open, accountable, fair and beneficial for all.

Toward that end, we call on the G20 leaders to:

• Recognize the link between illicit outflows of capital from developing countries, absorption of those resources by tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions, and the adverse impact those flows have on poverty alleviation and economic development.

• Call on the Financial Action Task Force to amend its recommendations 33, 34, and VIII to provide that the beneficial ownership of all companies, trusts, foundations and charities be made a matter of public record.

• Instruct the International Accounting Standards Board to recommend that all multinational corporations report their income and taxes paid on a country by country basis.”

We the undersigned call upon the leadership of the G20 nations to take action on the problem of illicit capital loss in developing countries and increase transparency and accountability in the global financial system.

-Your Name Here

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pakistan: Negotiating With Taleban, Should It Be A Taboo?

Pakistan :  Negotiating With Taliban, Should It Be  A Taboo?

While talking to a knowledgeable intellectual who has authored books and articles on reforms, development and governance also, I  learned many important points in order to reach a more peaceful environment in Pakistan today. Post war on terror and Swat operation, it seems that although the Pakistan army has managed to clear many strongholds of the Tehrike Taliban Pakistan, many co-existent militant networks remain. These are based in Punjab, loosely in some parts of Sindh and are as such are not easily categorized or traceable. The recent Lahore bombings are a clear evidence of their swift reach and access to urban Punjab and their ferocity and ability to inflict wounds on the state and its ordinary citizens. Though , the recent blurts of the Punjab chief minister speak volumes about his parochial and somewhat confusing stand on the Taliban issue, there is an undercurrent of reaching out to the militant forces that are inflicting unbearable damage on innocent people of Pakistan. The doors of talks and negotiation should never be closed. Take the example of the Sein Fien, Irish Republican army. Despite the almost impossible scenario of reaching a peaceful solution, in the long conflict ridden, bombed out, murder ridden streets, a final peaceful solution was found and Ireland limped back to a normalcy. The conflict was so bad that the children across a street were divided and a very dangerous and death ridden political scene was the norm. Thank God, in Pakistan no such scene is there at least in larger towns. The Green Chowk murder scenes are also taken care of post Swat operation by the Pakistan army.
All violent conflicts, especially in the modern era have been solved only by negotiations and talks. Pakistan also needs a very well negotiated and widely inclusive peace talks .Only one example of that of Bader Meinholf operation by the German army , police and intelligence is not possible for Pakistan due to its various constraints and deficiencies.
There are a very large number of people who are of banned outfits and banned organizations, which freely access and are part of the community of politicians and parliamentarians in the Punjab. Recent news and television reports of the incumbent Punjab interior minister is a case in point. Pakistani society is very intertwined, complex with close linkages between families, biradaris and villages. This is very apparent in the Punjab province. These groups if militant also, are still operative and are not really bound in a very rigid way. Simply wishing them away will also not solve the problem.
  The Taliban are also a militant force, though they may not pretend to be an army and basically put a face as only implementers of the Islamic Shariat in order to gain legitimacy of the existence and gain favor from the ordinary masses. Post Bajaur, Waziristan and other area operations, some success has been achieved in inflicting some damage and containing some strike capability of the militants in NWFP, but a large population still remains un- convinced and with the Taliban ideology, which again appears confused and abstract. They were really not anti –Pakistan initially and as reflected by Sufi Muhammad’s post Nizam e Adl show of force, appeared totally limited in a regional context to Swat and Malakand. These other areas in NWFP also seem to be populated and led in a similar way. As a large number of women and children were displaced in the Bajaur operation. There is now a dire need for prevention of further displacement and difficulties for these vulnerable groups. The purpose of the military operation was to secure peaceful environment in these areas where the larger population is not militant but becomes hostage to militants and their ideology (no matter how vague or misplaced) over a period of time. As the displaced population has to go back and be rehabilitated safely in their areas, a negotiation with militant groups, in this case, the Taliban becomes relevant. No wars are really won or lost. All are resolved through negotiated settlements. As the Taliban were initially created by us, the time has come to negotiate a peace deal with them and resolve the conflict so that the displaced people are rehabilitated.
If suicide attacks are an indicator, the recent spate reflects the need and justification to open a dialogue. The beauty of democracy and politically diverse groups’ plurality is in dialogue and negotiated settlements. The militant and violent groups that were are our very own creation in a fascist way, will gradually be finished and dissolved only if we open a window of getting back to normal polity for them. How can they give up their desperate violent acts if we do not offer any window of dialogue for them? I am sure there are many among them who are sick and tired and just simply want to get back to normal life of being a Pakistani .citizen. ( I personally know one such family who has seen death and destruction by joining the militant Taliban. Their pain agony and loss has destroyed their and the children’s lives).
By this appeal I am not asking the military to stop their operations without achieving their objectives and begging the Taleban to spare us. I simply mean that a dialogue should be started so that the path to peace becomes defined and clarified and the poor population of Pakistan areas that are directly affected and also the areas that are under threat of suicide bombings are able to start their lives again.
Only today, while shopping at a shopping mall in Karachi, Clifton area I came across three boys of Pathan origin, residing in Tapu, near Shireen Jinnah Colony, trying to clean my car. They were from ages 14 to 16, innocent and young, so poor, with no future, no education. I gave them some petty cash and was wondering as to why should they not become suicide bombers? They would at least have some ideology, paradise for a future abode, some cash 10-20 lakh rupees for their families? Some justification for being born even. I may sound terrible, but the dust ridden clothes, their innocent beautiful faces, the hopelessness in their eyes, while other people with blackened windows in cars with dubious number plates shopped around in luxury malls, made me feel so guilty, helpless and wanting to do something for the poor people of Bajaur, Waziristan and other such areas. As these boys and I have seen even smaller, begging here in Karachi, cannot even speak Urdu, shows that they have come down to Karachi recently. What future awaits them here in these slums, shanties? Should not these people be able to go back to their areas and given some decent schools or a living? If we do not think of peace and negotiations this problem of militancy and these violent groups solvency will remain and we will never be able to contain violence.
The people of Pakistan are very brave and resilient. They have great courage and ability to rise from the ashes and be able to make something for themselves. Given the chance again, the people especially of the NWFP will again contribute to Pakistan. Only this time we have to really extend the political parties and democratic system to all closed tribal areas and use development as the tool mall over NWFP. Only political voice and amalgation with the rest of the frontier province will curtail the tendency of the people to join non-state or anti-state forces. Providing education and developing infrastructure for economic activity will change their mafia, cartels, smuggler groups and recently militant activities. Only if healthy choice is given for jobs and lifestyle will this impoverished and violence ridden area be rehabilitated. This also stands true of the Punjab. Here also the education and economic opportunity aspect has to be addresses on a priority basis. The power groups which post Afghan jihad have taken a religious fa├žade, have to be deflated only through education and employment. Southern Punjab has to be rehabilitated by bringing in land reforms or providing some mechanism of absorbing the masses in economic activity that is not cartelized by the big landlords. The political economy of Southern Punjab has to be recognized and given a new dimension. Maybe Cooperatives as Akhtar Ali writes in his forthcoming book.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Lahore Bomb Blasts....The Eye Witnesses Say.

As the ink does not dry on the last bomb blasts in Lahore, I am amazed at the insensitivity, the business as usual attitude of the Punjab government. The interior minister Rana Sanaullah told the reporters and people on tv appearance, that this was not a security lapse and instead of pointing fingers we should stand as a nation against these terrorists. The question is that why is the Punjab administaration taking all these attacks as business as usual. Lahore is it seems an easy target for the terrorists right now.It is apparent that the Jehadi, militants are acting in league with Al-Qaeda and the NWFP militants. Only last evening the Tehrik e Taliban had threatened further attacks. How is it that the Punjab government taking the security situation so lightly?
The eyewitness accounts make it clear that the first blast occured at 12 .50 pm and the second was heard at 12.55pm after some firing was heard. According to  a  tv report highly explosive d4 category material was used with ball bearings and nut bolts. A lady eye witness was very categorical that in this cantonement area which is always high risk was not particularly secure. There was no security check. This seems correct as it is reported that both the suicide bombers were on foot. They blew themselves up near an army convoy of three trucks who were patrolling the area. The day is significant as it was Friday and there was a rush of people going to prayers. The death toll while I write is 37(3.45 pm) and the injured are about 80. the area also has a bus stand where buses come from all over country. It may be that these terrorists arrived by bus?
The lahore city people are very brave and resilient but it is not fair  that the  administration take it so lghtly. I think that these areas especially with army and security installations and residences should be under special security.  
As Pakistan's important city, Lahore has to be well guarded. Due to its large population , it is not very easy to check every single individual. There is a need to form area vigilance committees with residents and stakeholders to devise the guatrds and checks to entry and exit in each area. This can be divided into small Mohalla groups and very small areas manged. In such a way a useful and credible, vigilance will be formed. if the group looks after the residents, new tenants or residents, entry , exit checks, this kind of damage and tragedy may be prevented.
The special security force should also man areas that are at high risk.Crowded spaces such as bazaars should also have entry and exit checks  with scanners so as to avoid any terrorists entering. The Moon Market tragedy showed the sheer inhuman, barbaric brazenness of the militants when they bombed bothe entry and exit points with incendiary material in order to trap the women, children and their families inside . It seems that now the rush areas will have to be made vehicle free zones and the entrants should be checked. This has to be done.The citizens of Lahore should demand special measures for security.
The latest news is that the terrorists fired on people before bombing in RA bazaar. Eyewitnesses say that the terrorists went on firing at the passerbys , some of which died and some of which were injured. The second terrorist blew up the first bomb ,as their heads and bodies are recovered. the second suicide bombing occured five minutes after the first blasts.
As  in my previous post on Pakistan happenings , the video film made from CCTV footage of a previous Lahore bombing shows the well trained, and well planned  actions of the terrorists. Meanwhile the denouncing of fight against terrorists by Imran Khan and Khwaja Saad Rafiq appears misled. If at this juncture the war is withdrawn and the militants are left, they will multiply again like cancer cells and threaten the state of Pakistan and be helping the enemies of Pakistan.  

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Pakistan Happenings....March 2010.

As a powerful and deadly bombing occured in a densely populated residential area of Lahore, in Pakistani Punjab, many questions are comng to the fore. As is evident from the video CCTV footage cleverly put together in a documentary film form by a Pakistani, the attackers are well  trained, focussed suicide bombers , who use all the attack and assault tactics such as using automatic weapons, camouflaged vehicles, scaring away the guards and then attacking with ramming the vehicle on target, which in this case is the intellegence office of a Pakistani security agency. As I was researching for an article on terrorism, including bomb blasts in Lahore, strangely on the same day, a powerful bomb attack occured in Lahore at a safe house of a security agency. According to Dawn newspaper which contains many reports and an editorial on this tragic and harrowing incident,  the residents and neighbors had objected many times since the last bomb attacks to the presence of such an organization in a residential and densely populated area. As I went through the news items and videos of previous Lahore bombing attacks I was shocked and angry to see the apathy, cheekiness, negligence and sheer non-chalance of the present Punjab government and especially the interior ministry to keep quiet on these deadly issues and take business as usual. Last year , in May , a similar attack was targetting an intellegence agency premesis. After about a few weeks the government stopped giving any news of the culprits and what it was doing to actually to remove such organizations from densely populated areas. Some may say that this is the work of Federal government. My argument is that because of the elected governments bieng in place, their attitude should have been more people friendly. As reported, so many people including women and children who were far away have been injured and even died. The houses that were located in vicinity are completely destroyed and the residents either dead or critically injured. It seems that the Punjab government does not realize the seriousness of the situation. It is so far apparently, unprepared, ill informed and untrained to handle and administer a special situation that the populous cities in Pakistan are facing. The legislators do not realize or are not smart enough to understand the demands of modern , terrorist infilterated urban areas administration and security. They are more relaxed discussing useless issues such as allowing polygamy to fat , sexually adventurous men especially in Punjab. So far it appears that inspite of massive , popular support PML-N is behaving in the same way, that the government will provide plots, permits, factory deals to its supporters and everyone of them will live happily ever after.
Their abolition with insistence of the local governments shows this mindset of punishing all the others who are not in the party. How are they prepared to handle this situation. The business of "Business as usual " will define the "bright " and safe future of the people of Punjab! The  PPP government is bieng criticised for non-governance . Is this the kind of "intellegent" governance the Punjab government is offering as an alternative.
Safety and security is a foremost concern now for the people of Lahore. This should be proactively handled. I do hope that the ever agile, and nightly touring "Khadim e Ala" aka Shahbaz Sharif sahib, spends his energy and precious time in taking some reorientation and training in how to fight terror and plan and deliver safety to his "poor Riyaya " too ! His plate will be overfull as he will have to become an expert and deliver too!
Meanwhile the sasta atta scheme and the anecdotal bandaging the wounds of raped, molested, beaten and thrown out poor women and children will remain an activity to be reported in daily facebook and twitter updates ala Salman Taseer, the most modern governor of Punjab. Punjab leaders rise as stars in four man shows, and others. bright shining , secure future.Sorry I am sounding so bitter, but can you stand the pictures of women wailing on dead all around in a beautiful city that boasts of monumental buildings, beautiful gardens and most beautiful culture.

The other sad and shocking story is the girl students bieng burnt and suffocated in their hostel premesis in Rawalpindi. The sad part is that the CDA should have inspected and enforced their rules regarding fire, emergeny evacuation and safety , which are there in all bye-laws both for buildings and residential public buildings. CDA should have also updated its manuals, emergency procedures, evacuation excercises as we all face terrorism in Pakistan today. Their attitude is also the same, giving sanctions to buildings, plots and construction. safety and disaster does not seem to be on their schedule. The loss to the parents , families is immense but the loss to Pakistan is also great as so many bright young girls lost their lives. After the moon market incidence in Lahore and the Marriot Hotel fire in Islamabad, where many including a distinguished Romanian diplomat was burnt alive, the authorities in Rawalpindi and Islamabad should have checked all public buildings like hostels, hotels, hospitals and also large residential apartment complexes. I am sure even now the attitude will remain business as usual and we will need some foreignor to wake us up to taking simple measures and checks to ensure public safety.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Hidden Children Of Pakistan

The Hidden Children Of Pakistan.

Article by Dr Meher A. Zaidi.

Why And How Children Are Missed In Immunisation And Vaccination.

Pakistan has a very large number of child population. A very large number is in the age group which can be vaccinated . The Federal Government of Pakistan provides a standard Expanded Immunization Program (EPI) under which it tries to give a broad coverage to preventable diseases like, tetanus, measles, polio, diphtheria, hepatitis B, Influenza Haemophilis B etc.
The statistical records of number of vaccinations and immunization is roughly estimated from various registries in government run hospitals and dispensaries. As the larger number of population is covered by both registered medical practitioners and unregistered quacks all over  Pakistan, a considerably larger number is never, ever reportedly covered both in government programs and private campaigns. The newspaper and electronic media gives coverage to government or  some organization announced program , therefore a large number of unreported or uncovered children are never reported and counted in statistical records.
The majority of Pakistan’s child population is covered by ,if covered at all, by unregistered  medical practitioners or popularly known as quacks in Pakistan. They are called “Doctors” irrespective of the fact that they are not even  primary school pass. A doctor friend of mine , practicing in an urban slum of Karachi, known as Shireen Jinnah Colony since last 30 years had to forcibly support and inaugurate a “Clinic”, by her own driver who collected “charity money” , some 70 ,000 Rupees and practices with daily injections and antibiotic prescriptions, copied from other doctor’s prescriptions. He is given protection from the “religious” community elders in the area and is flourishing. She can neither “dare” to report or be rude to the “competitor” .She is  a very conscientious doctor and was giving preventive vaccination out of her own subsidized resources. Now she cannot guarantee a large number of children who have happily switched to the quack “doctor”. There are a large number of such quacks all over Pakistan.(The rackets of stolen and expired and ineffectively stored vaccines is another story).
The other large chunk is the population of children who are living in remote areas such as Baluchistan, interior of Sindh, mountaineous areas of the Frontier province. The Frontier province as it is due to militancy, war, and the religious teachings of the militant preachers has lost a large number of children to non-receiving portion of the immunized children. Here the early vaccines such as DPT, Polio are missed , so the later vaccines such as Measles as in MMR are definitely missed.
The third very important “Hidden” children groups are the children whose parents are very poor and are either sick, hospitalized, or are not with the child. I see a large number of such children begging for alms and food in urban “posh” shopping areas of Karachi. Such children are all over Pakistan and are neither categorized or registered or covered in any government, private, organizational capacity. These “hidden” children are neither reported nor searched for vaccination or immunization.
The fourth very important component is the “poor girl child”. She is present in villages, urban slums, employed in homes, non-traditional work force, cottage industry. She is neither given curative medical care, preventable medical care is a far out dream for her. She will fall sooner or later to the much dreaded Tuberculosis, and also Measles and  Rubella  as MMR vaccine which is given later in the EPI schedule (at 9 months of age ) is surely missed for her. Due to gender discrimination which is a sad and established part of the cultures of all the ethnic groups in Pakistan, the girl child is a large  chunk of the “Hidden” child population.
It is clear that factors such as poverty, illiteracy, religious and social discrimination against girl child and other “poor” social groups, lack of awareness among the general population, insensitivity and lack of focus on compassionate approach to the “poor” child are all relevant factors that are creating constant hurdles in Pakistan for the achievement of a disease free state. The mere reporting of some causes or statistics to lack of achievement in measles vaccination does not give a true picture of the lack of access to preventable health services. I do hope my article opens the eyes of some researchers and policy makers in really how to approach this problem. The statistics available on Unicef and Pakistan government websites are mere “fillers” for expensively funded studies and reports. They neither give the true picture nor give any help in realistic addressing this issue.
The very idea of compassion so quickly claimed by our “religiously” oriented elite falls shamefully short of getting a poor child vaccinated and immunized against the basic diseases covered by the EPI. If each family in Pakistan takes responsibility for one family children coverage, be it from taking to the government run program, or private doctor then the massive deficiency in this program will be covered. Also the schools especially the private schools which give largest coverage to Pakistani children should encourage vaccination, organize parents awareness programs and liase with government and NGO  to cover all children.