Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pakistan Happenings:Privacy, Civil Liberties, Media Ethics, Morality,Medical Ethics.

Friedrich Nietzsche believes that we have to assess the value of our values since values are relative to your goals and yourself. He emphasizes the need to analyze our moral values and how much impact they have on us. The problem with morality, according to Nietzsche, is that those who were considered “good” were the powerful nobles who had more education, and considered themselves better than anyone below their rank. Thus, what is considered good is relative. A “good man” is not questioned on whether or not there is a “bad”, such as temptations, lingering inside him and he is considered to be more important than a man who is considered “bad” who is considered useless to making the human race better because of the morals we have subjected ourselves to. But since what is considered good and bad is relative, the importance and value we place on them should also be relative. He proposes that morality itself could be a danger. [9] Nietzsche believed that morals should be constructed actively, making them relative to who we are and what we, as individuals, consider to be true, equal, good and bad, etc. instead of reacting to moral laws made by a certain group of individuals in power.
 Media in Pakistan is blatantly mushrooming. Sometimes like a cloud of dust and debris which when fall make the earth ashen and grey. Just like a nuclear fallout. Sometimes like the sweet sticky but harmless residue of a cotton candy.There are anchors who are responsible and educated and then there are anchors who are irresponsible , brash , who have no understanding of ethics, privacy and civil liberties.These latter anchors and morning show hosts are hosting and airing programs on television channels which are a shame on the channel they are aired on. The issues of moral policing, hypocrisy,morality, right to privacy , are unclear in the minds of these hosts and the public and audience are  left to their mercy. The producers and directors of these shows are either irrelevant or are not aware of the dangers they are causing themselves.
Recently a host on a morning show raided a park in Karachi and with a team of many men and women chased and humiliated many young men and women who were present there. Video  which shows the program which has caused furore amongst a very small segment of society who understand the right of individual to privacy and its guarantee under the civil liberties as enshrined in the UN  Charter of The Human Rights.
The issues in privacy debate now on social media in Pakistan is about what to do about the few public spaces that are accessible to women and men in only big cities like Karachi and how to protect the individual's freedom. The public spaces that are present in smaller towns are either occupied by drug addicts and are not used by women and children due to gender/ religious suppression.Many have protested but this is has a smaller audience.
It is high time that the right to privacy by individual is protected in Pakistan and the individual freedom of speech, thought, opinions and belief are respected as enshrined in Universal declaration of human rights.As it is the space for tolerance and liberal thinking is shrinking in Pakistan at an enormous speed.Before little space is also engulfed by intolerance and bigotry we may get some individual space for breathing.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pakistan Happenings :Women In Political Pakistan.

Women  In Political Pakistan.
An interactive Article  By  Dr Meher Zaidi
Pakistan has entered the middle of the 21st century ill prepared and poorly armed to face the gigantly immense challenges facing its polity, political future and economic well being. Its literacy rate not being improved as much as it should have been. The quality and quantity of education has not been up to a standard increasing competence and direction for development to take place.
More than 50% of population in Pakistan is women and girls. They are laborers, agricultural workers (Haris, tillers ), teachers, doctors, nurses, scientists etc.  They are amongst the most suppressed, vulnerable groups facing social sanctions, religious prejudice, inequality, gender discrimination, violence, economic prejudice and political suppression. Pakistan must understand that in order to increase its Competitiveness Index it needs to fast track its policies for women development and empowerment and bring Women’s Issues in mainstream politics. 

 In an enlightening interview in Herald (October 2002,, Ms. Hina Jilani ,in an answer to a question as to how will the increase in women’s seats in the parliament be beneficial,  says that the increase will help understand women’s problems better  and also erase the discrimination against women.She was critical of the small number of seats sanctioned at the time and said that she stood for bringing women’s issues in mainstream politics. This is an issue which has matured for open debate now in Pakistan. Mr Imran Khan is now emphasizing on good governance, corruption free society, rule of law. He has to bring these issues in mainstream political arena. This issue of bringing Women’s issues in mainstream has to be seen in the paradigm of Economic Dynamism and  Competitiveness.

Akhtar Ali in his new book Pakistan’s Development Challenges, Federalism, Security & Governance , writes in the chapter “Competition & Competitiveness”  that “Competitiveness in international markets & elsewhere would come about first from promoting  social mobility, reducing invisible barriers, eliminating class monopoly, releasing millions of human beings from social bondage of one form or the other. It is not just the poverty and economic conditions; it is the socio-political apparatus that may have to be overhauled. The politics of corruption and favoritism must end. “ He further elaborates how this disparity can be bridged over .
 My emphasis is on bringing the over  50% female population into the picture. As said by the learned author unless  the labor wages are brought out of the “cheap, low” paradigm into international competition , the issues of poverty, falling out of competition and social mobility will not be resolved. Both industrial and business community needs to understand the politics of competition and international competitiveness and of course the female input in economic productivity.
Agriculture contributes 26% to the GDP in Pakistan. The agriculture worker ( and thank God agriculture in Pakistan is neither fully mechanized and corporatized) is underpaid, overworked and un-insured. The women due to increased vulnerability (pregnancy, childbirth, nutritional deficiency, low literacy, social practices, lack of easy access to justice, population overload in family unit, poverty) also contribute to low agricultural productivity. This needs to be again addressed as a mainstream political issue.
 Akhtar Ali again in his forthcoming book (available on Amazon, emphasizes Land Reform Package  and Water Rights. These will surely improve the socio-economic conditions of rural population in general and women in particular. These suggestions on land reforms are not those that bring about social turmoil as envisaged by some  Tehrik- e- Insaaf politicians in public discourse. They are viable and doable options as presented in his book in detail.
Benazir Income Support Program is one such program which intends to bring about some fiscal relief to women and poor families in Pakistan. .  Their Waseela –e –Taleem program is scheduled to be launched in early 2012 but it seems that Pakistan due to its extremely bad luck has once again embroiled itself in issues like the memo gate and the NRO whereby the incumbent government instead of focusing on these social sector programs is again on the defensive and its  attention divided. This program should continue and be part of the policy programs by whoever forms the new government. Pakistan needs to continue its   development and social emancipation policies.
Another point to be emphasized is that whenever there is discussion and debate on the issues of development aid , the politicians start a verbal diarrhea against aid as if it is pariah dog. Aid in the context of social development has to be taken from the international community because due to our fat defense budget we are not allocating any funds for social sector development. Till such time we are generating these funds ourselves we will have this chicken –egg  problem of low social indicators (Poverty, health, literacy and education) and Pakistan’s inability to come out of its problems (Failed State, Lack of Freedom etc).
As Pakistan enters the middle of this century aware of its problems and its people are aware of the solutions to bring about an egalitarian  change in its politics, armed with education and economic vibrancy, the people who paint a doomsday picture will be dis-illusioned.  Pakistan’s judiciary, armed forces and above all politicians need to understand the emergency of bringing the politics of women in the mainstream.

Update 20th January,2012 : DAWN newspaper headlines Women's Commission Bill Passed By National Assembly .The significance of passing this bill at this time is that an even groundwork is available to remove the hurdles and barrriers of socio-economic and social injustices to provide a smooth transition of the women polity in development and economic prosperity.This bill is a major step by the parliamentarians to improve the lot of women in Pakistan. The government with its allies and the opposition has made it possible now for the women issues to be handled by a more adequate and informed class of individuals to handle the women's issues and fast track the issues instead of slow pace of work which took decades to be resolved.Its preamble highlights the understanding the parliamentarians have of the issues and we hope that democratic dispensation of the governments will continue in future.
 “promotion of social, economic, political and legal rights of women” as provided in the Constitution and “in accordance with international declarations, conventions, treaties, conventions and agreements relating to women, including the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women”.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Pakistan Happenings...The Gas And Electricity Riots.

The Gas And Electricity Riots; Failure of stable policy inputs.
Dr Meher Zaidi.

Due to shortages of gas and electricity , both for industrial and domestic users, rioting has erupted in many cities of Pakistan. The violent demonstrators are burning public and private transport. This is ominous for future investment in Pakistan as both national and foreign investors will hesitate. It seems that a hand grenade attack on a cellular company network is also done to discourage foreign investment in Pakistan.
Pakistan is a country of 180 million people. It is a growing and burgeoning economy which needs wider and stable policy inputs. Its telecom and IT industry is growing very rapidly and a sure policy in both these sectors will enhance the GDP enormously. Both these sectors need stable electricity supplies.
The textile industry which again forms   a major economic input again suffers because of electricity shortages.
The domestic consumers are suffering shortages   while the private and public sectors in transport are unable to use gas (CNG) due to shortages in supply. The gas load management plan by the federal government does not seem to be working as the social impact like transport to schools , offices suffers considerably. Commuters are using even the top of buses and wagons, which is most unsafe.
The media anchors who are very vocal against the incumbent government fail to realize that it is the last ten years policy failures and apathy on the part of economic advisors and policy makers in Pakistan that has precipitated this crises. It is true that out of ten years, three years are of the incumbent government but the previous Musharraf government is largely responsible for apathy. It only concentrated on oil guzzling power plants.
The new energy initiatives that need to be fast tracked liked Thar Coal are again being apathetically handled by the Sindh government and its support personnel as corruption and complete lack of knowledge to handle such a sensitive and technical issue is rampant in all these quarters. Dr Samar Mubarakmand  behaves as a magician and Mr Do it all which is again useless to fast track this major project. Sadly Senhua , the Chinese company that had done all the homework and whose rates were best for the project are no longer in the picture.
The issues of electricity tariffs and gas pricing cannot be understood easily by the common man. The demands by the political parties to bring the prices down are wrong. These prices and tariffs are linked to international prices and demand and supply. It is not an issue that the government can handle easily. Subsidies have to be cut and prices increased. That is the natural life cycle till we are sufficient in supply whether it is indigenous Coal, Hydro, Thermal , Wind or imported LNG. The gas supply is low because in the last ten years no sufficient gas exploration has been done. The issue of gas in transport that is CNG could have been resolved if Liquid Nitrogen Gas (LNG) was imported and used. Although according to the chairman CNG association only 7% is used of the total reserves of gas and they want to utilize the flame gas also, LNG would be a better option. The public needs to be properly educated on these issues but unfortunately the government media cell and the private media itself lack the knowledge of the issues themselves. The private media anchors are mainly show makers and they do not sincerely understand the issues to influence public opinion and build a positive response in consumer behavior.