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Baldia fire tragedy aftermath March 22, 2013

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Pakistan , Comment

Vaqar Ahmed

The Baldia fire happened on 11 September 2012 at a garment factory in the Baldia area of Karachi, a city in the Sindh province of Pakistan. Karachi is the largest city of Pakistan and the most important industrial and financial hub. The fire took 259 lives. This is the worst industrial fire of the 20th and 21st centuries. The highest casualties previously recorded are 146 in the 1911 Triangle garment factory in New York and 187 in the 1993 doll factory fire in Thailand.

Twenty-three bodies were charred so badly that they could not be identified. DNA matching procedures have identified six bodies. In February, 5 months after the fire, authorities have mass buried 17 bodies that, according to the government, were never claimed after the factory fire.


A LOC-al affair – and India lacks a covert capability for use against Pakistan January 25, 2013

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Pakistan, Snedden, Christopher , Comment

Christopher Snedden

The recent India-Pakistan aggression and hostilities over the Line of Control (LOC) that divides the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) appear to have come out of nowhere. Or have they? What is essentially a local incident – of which, if history tells us anything, there indubitably will be more in future – may have serious ramifications for India, if one Indian analyst is to be believed (see below).

According to a well-informed Indian journalist, the recent India-Pakistan incidents on the LOC were instigated last September when a Kashmiri grandmother managed to cross the heavily fortified LOC from Indian J&K to Pakistan-Administered Azad Kashmir. (See Praveen Swami, ‘Runaway grandmother sparked savage skirmish on LoC’, The Hindu, 10 January 2013. Importantly, Indian troops failed to detect her crossing. Thereafter, the Indians built observation bunkers ‘to monitor the movement of [nearby] villagers’. Pakistani forces disliked these bunkers and started to fire at both them and their inhabitants, i.e. Indian soldiers.


Female education in Sindh January 24, 2013

Posted by barbaranelson in : Guest authors, Pakistan , 2comments

Abdul Razaque Channa

What if you and I are uneducated, have never been to school, do not know how to send and receive text messages and are repeatedly called jahil (illiterate) and andha (blind)? Being illiterate may not kill a person but the feeling of being a jahil does, if not socially, then emotionally for sure. A girl, a sister, a daughter and a wife who may be a part of our family, neighbourhood, city or country may possess such feelings.

When it comes to the crucial question of the provision of education, there seem to be two pivotal forces: the state and its citizens. It is the state’s responsibility to ensure that males and females residing in both rural and urban areas are educated through mass literacy programs. Secondly, the 180 million citizens of the state hold the right to receive education, of which 48.1 per cent are females. It seems that little success has been achieved by the state as far as imparting education is concerned. Policies and action plans are routinely produced. However, the reasons behind their failure have not been ascertained.


Land ownership for secure peasant livelihood in Pakistan December 9, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Pakistan , Comment

Aly Ercelan, Karamat Ali and Muhammad Ali Shah

Our story is simple. We believe that enormous imbalance in political power requires mass deprivation and exclusion so as to weaken resistance to oppression. Redistribution of wealth is urgently required.

Living in Karachi, we focus on land redistribution in rural Sindh. We find that food sovereignty can be attained by all landless and near-landless tenants by an ownership award of around an acre per capita, using private land of the wealthiest with 50 or more acres, supplemented by diverting public land from wasteful use. Cooperatives would enable ecological sustainability instead of the current large private farms that persistently degrade land and water.

Several surveys attest to pervasive impoverishment. These include the official National Nutrition Survey (e.g. over 70% households deemed food insecure with varying degrees of hunger, and over one-fourth of children under five were found severely stunted); Household Integrated Economic Survey (e.g. over 40% of workers in elementary occupations, whose average earnings were well under the already inadequate national minimum wage); Labour Force Survey (e.g. one-third of all wage workers received less than Rs 5,000 a month), Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement Survey (e.g. well over one-half the population has never attended any school; net enrollment at matriculation level was less than 20% even for males). (more…)

Recent developments in the India-Pakistan peace process: glass half full or half empty? November 22, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India, Pakistan , Comment

Rizwan Zeb

In the article India-Pakistan visa deal: a glass half empty? (South Asia Masala, September 14, 2012), Sandy Gordon declared the recent changes in the visa regime between India and Pakistan and Pakistan’s indication that it will grant India the most favourite nation state (FNS) status by December as positive developments.  He stated: “India sees such developments as consistent with what Krishna refers to as its ‘step-by-step approach’ to the relationship. India has for many years held the view that this is the best way forward, rather than pushing for dramatic developments in relations, for instance over Kashmir. New Delhi believes that a Pakistan more solidly stitched into the Indian economy is more likely to abjure the highly disruptive tactics in support of trans-border terrorism that have been witnessed from Pakistan in recent years. India is also keen to support what it sees as the delicate process of civilianising the Pakistani polity, consonant with its belief that it has been the military – and especially the ISI – that has been most heavily engaged in supporting terrorism.” Using Oscar Wilde’s dictum, these are noble sentiments, indeed! But how exactly does New Delhi want to achieve it?

A peace process is a two-way street. If one side tries to dominate it, however noble the intentions might be, the peace process fails. A lot has been already said about what Pakistan has to do to put its house in order and how to make South Asia peaceful as it is considered to be the problem.


The unresolved Kashmir dispute: Let the people decide October 25, 2012

Posted by nishankmotwani in : By contributor, India, Pakistan, Snedden, Christopher , 3comments

Christopher Snedden

The Kashmir dispute is alive and (un)well, as statements made in September at the United Nations General Assembly by Pakistan’s President Zardari and India’s Foreign Minister Krishna show.  These came almost 65 years after the accession to India by Maharaja Sir Hari Singh, the ruler of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).  Singh’s accession on 26 October 1947 was contentious.  He was reluctant to join India or Pakistan as he favoured independence for ‘his’ princely state.  Singh primarily acceded to India in order to obtain military help to defend J&K from Pukhtoon tribesmen from Pakistan who invaded Kashmir Province on 22 October 1947.  Their plan was to capture J&K for Pakistan.  India accepted the accession, promised a plebiscite so the people of J&K could decide their future, then sent its military to J&K.  It secured Jammu, the Kashmir Valley and Ladakh for India.


Pakistan government pressured by Imran Khan’s anti-drone rally October 23, 2012

Posted by nishankmotwani in : By contributor, Future Directions International, Guest authors, Pakistan , Comment

Andrew Manners

Imran Khan’s anti-drone protest march did not reach its final destination, but it may well heap pressure on the Pakistani Government to take a stronger stance against US drone deployments, especially ahead of the 2013 election.


A protest march against US drone strikes in Pakistan, led by former cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan, ended on 7 October 2012, when authorities prevented the marchers from entering the South Waziristan region. While the march of some 20,000 people failed to reach its final destination, it has renewed pressure on the United States and may force the Pakistani Government to take a stronger stance against US drone attacks, especially ahead of the 2013 election.


India-Pakistan visa deal: a glass half empty? September 14, 2012

Posted by aungsi in : Gordon, Sandy, India, Pakistan , 1 comment so far

Sandy Gordon

On September the 8th, India and Pakistan agreed to liberalise their visa arrangements. The deal came during three day talks between Pakistani foreign minister Khar and Indian counterpart Krishna at Islamabad. Under the deal eight categories of visa will be liberalised, including the provision of visa on entry at the land border for the elderly and young, and most importantly, the provision of multiple entry and multiple city visas for business people with turnovers of over Rs 3 million annually.

The latter is particularly significant in view of recent trade developments. These include Islamabad’s decision to grant most favoured nation (MFN) status to India – which had been granted by India to Pakistan in 1996.  Pakistan has promised by December this year to grant MFN to India by eliminating the system allowing only stipulated items to be traded in favour of a small ‘negative’ list covering defence-related and other sensitive items. India has also liberalised its regime by agreeing to remove yarn and textiles from its ‘sensitive’ list and allowing Pakistani businesses to set up in India.


Why Pakistan is lagging behind India August 12, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Pakistan , 5comments

Desh Gupta

Before the creation of Bangladesh in 1970-71 the then West Pakistan was economically more vibrant than India. There were a number of reasons for this.

It drew resources from the former East Pakistan to sustain its relatively large army. In addition during that period the Army, which even then determined whether it had direct or indirect control over the political apparatus, allowed its entrepreneurs drawn mostly from the Gujarati immigrants, a free reign and they drove economic growth. Fundamental Islam was weak and, muzzled by the army, Pakistan was politically and economically more liberal. This ensured a greater mobility of labour and capital, leading to greater efficiency in their use.

India’s economy, however, was highly regulated by the state. The government decided what should be produced and directed resources for this purpose. Economic efficiency was poor. This was reflected in the loss of competitiveness of Indian textile mills, which became ‘sick’ in the early 1980s. Even in steel production, which was a priority industry, the rate of increase was slow as it was limited to the public sector, and input of imports was difficult and low because foreign exchange was limited.

The loss of Bangladesh (but more so from 1980 onwards), brought economic change. It meant that Pakistan’s army could not be sustained at its then prevailing level. Cuts created dissatisfaction and were difficult to justify politically after its humiliation by India in the 1970 war. Its defence budget had to be bolstered after India’s explosion of a nuclear device in 1974, as Pakistan devoted resources to gain parity with India in nuclear defence technology. A redirection of defence resources from the army resulted in an alienation of the army that eventually led to the overthrow of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP), the elected government.

Had economic growth lifted it would have been easier to raise defence outlays without reducing those for the army. But Bhutto embarked on a nationalisation program. He stymied Pakistan’s economic dynamism by attacking its successful entrepreneurs who slowed investment, leading to a fall in investment and growth rates. Bhutto strengthened the power of the unions, which benefitted a very small segment of the labour aristocracy but created rigidities in the labour market. (more…)

Violent Sindhi nationalism raises its head again June 25, 2012

Posted by nishankmotwani in : Guest authors, Pakistan , Comment

Alok Bhansal

The attack on a bus going from Karachi to Kohat, at Nawabshah, by the shadowy Sindhu Desh Liberation Army (SDLA) on May 25 — that left seven passengers dead and 30 injured — clearly indicates that Sindhi nationalism has come of age and the extremists within their ranks are even willing to use violence to make their presence felt.

At a time when the government in Islamabad is headed by a party that has traditionally been led by Sindhis, this resurgence of violent Sindhi nationalism only shows that, in the eyes of the average person, President Asif Ali Zardari and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government are not perceived to be meeting regional aspirations or wielding effective power.