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Can Imran Khan’s rise and ‘fall’ shape the nation’s destiny? May 9, 2013

Posted by aungsi in : Misra, Ashutosh, Pakistan , 2comments

Ashutosh Misra

At the time of writing this article Imran Khan’s condition was reportedly stable and improving, but not rapidly enough to enable him to cast his vote on May 11. What an irony that a leader whose political fortunes depend on every vote will not be able to cast his own. Imran Khan, the leader of the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf (PTI) party had sustained serious head and back injuries in a terrible fall from a wobbly car-lifter, supporting one personal guard too many, as it tried to hoist him atop a container-cum-stage. This accident must have instilled a frightening sense of déjà vu in the people of Pakistan who had witnessed the shocking assassination of Benazir Bhutto just before the 2008 elections, who later succumbed to the suspected gun-shot wound in the head. In the ensuing sympathy wave the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) came to power, making Asif Ali Zardari the President, in a yet another accident of history.

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India-China border tension and nuclear posturing May 9, 2013

Posted by aungsi in : Gordon, Sandy, India, Pakistan , Comment

Sandy Gordon

The standoff between China and India in Ladakh has been resolved, at least for now. After China set up five tents for 40 personnel 19 km inside what India regards as the line of control, India set up similar tents facing them.  Both lots of tents are now to be removed, but it is still unclear whether India is to remove any of the structures at Fukche and Chumar, as demanded by the Chinese.

The Chinese withdrawal only occurred after India had hardened its position on the impending visit of Indian foreign Minister Salman Kurshid to Beijing on 9 May and the reciprocal visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to New Delhi on 20 May. The Indian government was forced to harden its position by the strong public reaction to what was perceived to be its week-kneed response to the Chinese ‘incursions’.

A disturbing feature of the incident was the way it had been politicised on both sides, thus risking the protagonists being ‘locked in’ to their respective positions.

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Decent work deficits in Pakistan May 3, 2013

Posted by nishankmotwani in : Guest authors, Pakistan, Uncategorized , Comment

Aly Ercelan

The labour movement in Southasia has often expressed its deep concerns of development priorities being abandoned. Economic growth is indeed necessary. But increasing inequality prevents rapid eradication of income poverty and vulnerability. The excluded population rises not in numbers but also as share of a (growing) population. Policy failures are visible on several counts. Most of all is a missing active social policy that would not just mitigate the adversity, but offset the profit bias inherent in neo-liberal economic policy — of promoting capital-intensive growth and cheap-labour led export expansion (which privilege foreign capital by subsiding their consumers, and probably even subsidise the arms trade). This note discusses Pakistan.

Claiming divine will or peoples sovereignty, Islamabad asserts prosperity and progress in Pakistan, ‘achieving’ large food exports including cereals from a country filled with hungry citizens. Our interest in such assertions is focused upon inequality and poverty as consequences of neoliberal policies for output and employment growth. The primary concern remains the state structures whose oppression produces and sustains mass impoverishment and exclusion. When generations already feel abused then deadly terrorism will undoubtedly remain as a curse even upon our grandchildren. (more…)

Pakistan’s transition to substantive democracy April 17, 2013

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Pakistan , Comment

Rosita Armytage

When Pakistan holds elections on 11 May 2013 it will be the first time in Pakistan’s history that an elected government hands over power to another elected government.

Though this is a positive development, most Pakistani and international observers are not optimistic that the elections form part of a broader transition from procedural to substantive democracy — a system of government where civil and political liberties are protected.

There are many reasons for this lack of optimism. Ongoing attacks on the minority Shia population have significantly increased, with hundreds killed already this year. Political leaders and candidates are routinely targeted, and there have been regular attacks on development workers seen to be promoting ‘liberal values’. These political and social fault lines have been exacerbated by the worsening economic crisis. Economic growth has averaged just under 3 per cent over the last three years — a level that is insufficient to either substantially improve the population’s living standards or absorb the growing workforce. Prices are rising at around 11 per cent per year, and the price increases on fuel, together with severe electricity shortages, have prompted a growing number of mass protests across the country.

Politically, socially and economically, Pakistanis face deep insecurity.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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