Jul 24

Judicial Commission: Najam Sethi did not rig elections

Posted on Friday, July 24, 2015 in Legal

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JC Report (Pg 226-229)_Page_1 JC Report (Pg 226-229)_Page_2 JC Report (Pg 226-229)_Page_3 JC Report (Pg 226-229)_Page_4

m Translation - JC Report (Pg 226-229)_Page_2

Jul 24

Water, water, everywhere …

Posted on Friday, July 24, 2015 in Aapas ki baat with Najam Sethi on Geo

Pakistan is devastated by floods every year. The Economic Survey calculated that the country lost over 3,000 lives and more than $16 billion to floods in 2010, 2011 and 2012. The National Disaster Management Authority estimated the negative impact of floods on the economy of over $2 billion in 2013 and damages to over 1 million acres of standing crops. But how many Pakistanis know that their country has been classified by international environment agencies as the third most “water-scarce” country in the world, more “stressed” than the likes of Ethiopia and some other semi-desert African countries where famine, drought and disease are common?

Water availability per capita in Pakistan in 1947 was 5600m3. By 2020, experts claim it will be down to 855m3, a shortfall in minimal needs of over 30%. By contrast, it is 6000m3 in the USA, 5500m3 in Australia and 2200m3 in China. A new IMF report has sounded the alarm bell. It claims that Pakistan’s water intensity rate — the amount of water, in cubic metres or m3, used per unit of GDP — is the world’s highest, suggesting that its economy is more water dependent than any other country’s in the world. Such levels of rising water consumption and depletion have dangerous consequences: the underground aquifers of the Indus Basin are the second most stressed in the world and groundwater levels, for example, are plunging by several metres every year in rapidly urbanizing parts of the country.

The situation is aggravated by inexorable climate change. Pakistan emits less than 1% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions but is most vulnerable to climate change – rising temperatures and glacier-melt in the Himalayas threaten the life-blood flows of the country’s rivers – with very low technical and financial capacity to adapt to its adverse impacts. This trend is forecast to continue, with serious adverse consequences.

So if these dire warnings are routinely sounded, why hasn’t anything been done to avert the looming crises? Why haven’t we built more dams and reservoirs for better water usage? Why haven’t we resolved our political problems with upper riparian India so that India stops obstructing downstream river flows? Why haven’t we improved water administration and governance, why haven’t we reformed water-pricing formulas to reflect true costs and benefits to consumers? Instead of heavily subsidizing it from our annual budget, why haven’t we taxed the agriculture sector that consumes 90% of the country’s water resources? Why can’t we repair and maintain our canal systems so that we can free about 75 million acre feet of water and close the gap between supply and demand? Why can’t we restore the significant loss of storage capacity of the Mangla and Tarbela Dams? (Pakistan’s total dam storage constitutes only 30 days of average demand as compared to 220 days in India). In short, why can’t we fund new water infrastructure projects and water-conserving technologies?

Part of the problem lies in the lack of political will in cutting subsidies and reforming tax policies, especially in the rural sector that controls parliament and makes laws. Land ownership is a proxy for water rights no less than political clout. No political party wants land reform. No party wants to cut subsidies to the fertilizer and sugar sectors and lose elections. Part of the problem lies in the failure of the ruling classes to construct a national interest narrative that transcends provincial, regional and ethnic rivalries and demands – that is why the Kalabagh Dam hasn’t been built, that is why extraction and distribution of energy resources is now becoming problematic, that is why even the Chinese Belt project has now become enmeshed in sub-nationalist passion. Part of the problem is related to an unstable political system that is periodically derailed by a powerful military that controls the national security narrative. When civilians can’t be sure they will rule for their full five-year terms, why should they waste time pouring over long-term blueprints to salvage the national economy when quick fixes and “yellow” handouts will stitch up the next election? Except during the first bout of military rule under General Ayub Khan from 1958-68 when the Planning Commission ruled the roost with Five Year Plans and water infrastructure projects were undertaken, military dictators Zia ul Haq and Pervez Musharraf had to make too many political and economic compromises for survival to think of long term projects in the national interest. Even do-gooding international donors are getting tired of revising funding requirements for such infrastructure projects because our sovereign guarantees are based on highly dubious budget forecasts and economic targets.

It took 25 years for the military establishment to realize that creating religious non-state actors for sum-zero foreign policy objectives could pose an existential threat to the country. How much longer will it take the elected civilians to realize that the country faces another existential threat? This one from lack of adequate provisioning for rationalized taxes to provide funds for long-term water infrastructure projects in the national interest.

Jul 24

Apas Ki Baat 24 Jul 2015

Posted on Friday, July 24, 2015 in Aapas ki baat with Najam Sethi on Geo

Jul 18

Apas Ki Baat 18 Jul 2015

Posted on Saturday, July 18, 2015 in Aapas ki baat with Najam Sethi on Geo

Jul 17

Finally, good tidings

Posted on Friday, July 17, 2015 in The Friday Times (Editorial)

There are good tidings all round. The looming confrontation between the PPP and the military establishment over the writ of the Rangers in Sindh has been averted. Pakistan’s interior ministry and the British government are cooperating in investigating the murder of Dr Imran Farooq in London. Pakistan and India have broken the ice in Ufa, Russia, where Pakistan has been admitted as a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). Most significantly, the army chief, General Raheel Sharif, has approved the direction of Pakistan’s relations with China, USA and Russia and thumped his resolve to make Zarb e Azb not just a military operation “which will be carried to its logical end” but a new and dynamic concept in the making of a better Pakistan.

A timely intervention by Bilawal Bhutto has saved the day in Sindh. He sought and obtained a one-on-one meeting with the Corps Commander Karachi and DG Rangers before he was joined by the Sindh CM and then Governor Sindh. In the meeting, Mr Bhutto was at pains to stress full support to the military operation in the same fashion as Mr Asif Ali Zardari after his recent outburst against the military establishment but cautioned that it was inadvisable for the Rangers to target the PPP’s political base via media briefings and inspired leaks. He pledged to beef up and reorient the Apex Committee so that the Rangers would be helped rather than hindered in their tasks. It now remains for both sides to fulfill their part of the bargain so that the task at hand can be achieved expeditiously and the mandate of the Rangers extended to its “logical end”. If neither side had budged, the federal government would have been compelled to impose Governor’s Rule with adverse unintended political consequences.

If the PPP can breathe easily for now without eroding the objective of the clean-up operation, the same thankfully cannot be said for the MQM that is in the eye of the storm because of its reliance on terrorism as an unacceptable political tactic to leverage political power. The MQM leadership is in a shambles following revelations of MQM leaders’ contacts with India’s intelligence agencies and the shocking ouster of Mohammad Anwar from the very top echelons of the MQM in London akin to the earlier expulsion of Dr Ishratul Abad, Governor Sindh, from the ranks of the MQM. Now a decision appears to have been taken in Islamabad to extend full assistance to the British authorities to uncover both the money laundering trail and the secret hand behind the murder of Dr Imran Farooq. It is time the continuous murderous mayhem in Karachi is finally and unequivocally brought to an end in the national interest even if it means tightening the noose around the MQM leaders who have brought it to this pass.

The meeting between the two Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan at Ufa is also a good development even though the usual suspects in Pakistan are decrying the lack of mention of Kashmir in the joint statement by Pakistan as an undue concession to the Indians. But the fact of the matter is that it is in Pakistan’s interest more than in India’s right now to reduce tensions so that the Pakistani military is not diverted from its more immediate task of fighting terrorism on its own soil. Recognition of the world’s right to demand and expect more from Pakistan by way of bringing the Mumbai accused to justice is also in line with our stated policy-determination to uproot all forms of terrorism based in Pakistan, whether against Pakistan itself or against neighbours India and Afghanistan. Indeed, the insertion of the clause in the joint statement relating to Mumbai is a Pakistani quid pro quo to China that recently vetoed the Indian push to have the UN sanction Pakistan on the basis of the “fact” that the Lakhvi trial hasn’t gone anywhere in years and the main accused has recently been released by a court for lack of prosecutor interest in the matter. If Kashmir wasn’t mentioned in a joint statement, it certainly wasn’t for the first time in the last twenty years and it certainly has no bearing on the long-term search for an enduring compromise on the dispute.

Finally, the army chief’s determination to end the role of armed non-state actors as adjuncts in the state’s national security policy is long overdue and most welcome. It is both an admission of a national security policy facing adverse returns and a reiteration of the progressive way forward now. The fact that the civilian rulers and the military establishment are genuinely on the same page on this issue is a sign, finally, of the long awaited paradigm change. All that remains now is for the civilians to accept the dire need for good and clean governance as public service so that these gains are not lost.