Local government vs. provincial government

Purely by coincidence, I read two very closely-related items tonight. The first was this paper (PDF) by Arshad Habib weighing the pros and cons of devolution and local government, specifically in Pakistan. Basically his thesis is that this is a great idea in theory but unfortunately in Pakistan has tended to be a tool in the hands of military dictators to increase their power at the expense of the provincial government. This was particularly true in the case of Ayub Khan’s Basic Democracies Ordinance of 1959, which, according to the author ended up being very reminiscent of the colonial rule:

This was the period of high economic indicators in Pakistan whereas political participation was touching the lowest ebb. The absence of common people from politics proved fatal and created one of the greatest instability in the history of Pakistan.

By comparison, Musharraf’s devolution of plan of 2000 was more promising since it involved bringing district administration under an elected representative unlike the four-tiered indirectly elected representatives of Ayub’s time. Other plus points were devolving more expenditure to the local level and reservations of seats for women and other disadvantaged groups. Unfortunately, the major disadvantage was that most of the devolution came at the expensive of the provincial government which made the centre disproportionately strong. That’s what brings me to the second item which was this report in The News of Bashir Ahmed Bilour’s statements today about how he believes that the local government system introduced in Musharraf’s time has been a major contributing factor to the weakness of the current NWFP provincial government:

Speaking as chief guest at a consultation workshop for parliamentarians on local government reforms here Thursday, Bilour said it has been acknowledged that most of the powers and resources of the provincial government were devolved to the lower level, but same was not done in case of the federal government level as per the local government ordinance.

This was interesting to me because usually one thinks of a conflict between the federal and provincial governments, but as it turns out, local government can end up adversely affecting provincial autonomy, as well.

UPDATE: I uploaded this report by The International Crisis Group about the Local Government Ordinance of 2001 (it’s available for free on their website, but requires registration).


Two good links

I read two great articles in the current issue of the Journal of International Security Affairs:
Turkey: Partnership on the Brink by Zeyno Baran and Hezbollah: Lebanon’s Power Broker by Robert Rabil. Highly recommended.

The Army

Guest post by Hasan:
In this article, Farhat Taj argues that most Pushtoons see through the army’s inaction in the NWFP, specifically in the Swat Valley. It’s a question all Pakistanis should be asking these days. Why is the army not moving out of its bunkers to at least make it’s presence felt in the Valley? The much discussed concept of “strategic depth” is discussed by Ms Taj. It’s hard to understand how the army/ISI could actually still think that the jihadis are controllable. Never in Pakistan’s long involvement with these groups has it ever been able to extend direct control over them. I for one would much rather have an Afghanistan that has closer ties to India, but doesn’t spew Islamic militancy across the border at us. Obviously those in the corridors of military power in our country would beg to differ. The fact that such a “strategy” exists in military circles should be enough to convince Pakistanis that far from being the “only functioning institution” in the country or “the glue that holds Pakistan together” (phrases I am sick of hearing from my compatriots), the army is and has always been the source of most of our society’s ills. I, for one, have been struck by how difficult it still is to suggest this idea to other Pakistanis. Most will look at me as if I am mad, and some will even fire back a belligerent reply and suggest that such suggestions against the army amount to being unpatriotic. Until Pakistanis realize what our army is really all about, we can’t even begin to recover. As a nation of ostriches, most Pakistanis will even refuse to accept the obvious when it comes to 1971. Instead of condemning the atrocities the army and aligned groups such as the JI committed in East Pakistan, most Pakistanis will insist that the East and West should never have been one country and that if India hadn’t fomented unrest and supported the Mukti Bahini all would have been hunky dory in the Islamic republic. It has always amazed me as to how misdirected the anger in our society is. Blame the Americans, Zionists and Indians for everything that happens in Pakistan. It’s about time we saw the writing on the wall. The true enemy lies within.

Note: Hasan also sent me a link to this review of Ahmed Rashid’s Descent Into Chaos

FATA poll and a video

There’s an op-ed by Brian Cloughley in the Daily Times today that references a poll of public opinion in FATA conducted last year by the Centre for Research and Security Studies in Islamabad. Some of the major findings were:

  1. 91 per cent thought that “the Taliban way is the wrong way”
  2. 86 per cent believed that Taliban activities were hurting Pakistan
  3. Only six per cent believed the Taliban represented “true Islam”.
  4. When questioned as to whether “religio-political parties are true representatives of FATA people,” 84 percent said No,

Here is a link to the study’s findings (PDF). They are truly astounding and I wish that there were a way to publicize them because they completely contradict the conventional wisdom of what the people of the tribal areas think about the Taliban. By the way, CRSS’s website is also well worth looking at.

This is a video (in Pashto) made by a journalist talking to people of the tribal areas who have been displaced by the military operations. I simply cannot describe the shame and sadness that I felt, as a Pakistani, watching it. Khyber News has a lot of other related videos on their website that are definitely worth watching.

a few links

My friend Ayesha wrote a fascinating column yesterday comparing the present situation in Swat to the Hur uprising in the last 7 years of British rule in Sindh.

And Karachi Khatmal went to Gwadar and interviewed a bunch of local residents about how they felt about the construction of the port.

A harsh assessment of “modern Afghans” by an Afghan who just returned to Kabul.

PML-PPP rift widens

From the Dawn editorial today:

The report in this paper about the Zardari-Shahbaz Sharif meeting carries a couple of very significant sentences that bring out the drift of Mr Zardari’s politics. “…[T]he PPP has strengthened its ties with the MQM. An MQM leader said the PPP had accepted all major demands of his party.” This is consistent with the course that Pakistani politics has taken since the general election last year. There are a number of small but powerful stakeholders who today stand at a distance from the PML-N and who are firmly in the camp that President Zardari has assiduously built for himself. These include the MQM, the ANP, the JUI, as well as some other smaller parties that have a good presence in the Frontier and Balochistan. The current alignment that pits the PML-N of Punjab against the grouping representing smaller provinces could have very serious repercussions for the federation.

It reminds me of a really interesting entry I read a while ago on another blog, East Pakistan Vs. Punjab (Parallels?)

Reading “War and Secession: Pakistan, India and the Creation of Bangladesh”, and finding alarming and disturbing similarities in the way things unfolded in the east. The reactions (and obstinacy) of Mujib seem eerily similar to how Nawaz Sharif is steering the ship currently.

To understand Zardari’s attitude better (ie; what “bibi taught him”) look at this quote in that book, this is Zulfikar Bhutto speaking to an Italian writer Oriana Fallaci:

Politics is movement per se–a politician should be mobile. He should sway now to right and now to left; he should come up with contradictions, doubts. He should change continually, test things, attack from every side so as to single out his opponent’s weak point and strike at it. Woe to him if he focuses immediately on his basic concept, woe if he reveals and crystallizes it. Woe if he blocks the maneuver by which to throw hi opponent on the carpet. Apparent inconsistency is the prime virtue of the intelligent man and the astute politician.

That quote from ZAB is just great.

Hell could not be worse than this:

Taliban Swat issued the list of persons to be killed

The Taliban spoke person Muslim Khan told media on Telephone that in a Shura meeting held under the chair of Fazlullah, today, the following persons belong to different localities of Swat have been charged on supporting operation against Taliban Swat. They have to appear before Islamic court in one weak. If they failed to do so a one sided verdict will be announced against them. The rest of the people of Swat should feel themselves secure and those who fled can come back to their homes.
1: Muzafar Ali Khan, Shakardara
2: Mian Gual Jan, Bara Bandai
3: Sher Auzal Khan, Alias Kaptan, Bara Bandai
4: Sher Shah Khan, Koza Bandai
5: Faridoon Khan, Koza Bandai
6: Sher Mamad Khan, Koza Bandai
7: Haroon Rashid Khan, his sons and his Brothers, Koza Bandai
8: Adalat Khan, Koza Bandai
9: Sham Sher Ali Khan, MPA, Derai
10: Wajid Ali Khan, MPA and his brothers, Mingawara
11: Rafi ul Mulk khan MNA and his sons, Mingawara.
12: Nisar Khan, Nazim, Mingawara
13: Sher Shah Khan MPA, Gogdara.
14: Khan Nawb, Katyard
15: Waqar Khan,MPA, Shahderai.
16: Muneer Khan, Totanubandai.
17: Khurshid Khan Totanubandai.
18: Maulana Irfanulla, ex- MPA-JUI
19: Malack Akhmad Khan, Taal.
20: Akhmad Khan, Manja.
21: Saifullah Khan, Totanubandai.
22: Qaimoos Khan. Janoo.
23: Said Bacha, Qalaqai.
24: Wahid Zaman and Sons, Kabal
25: Jamsheed, Bishbanr.
26: Jaffar Shah,MPA, Shagram.
27: Abdul Qahar Khan, Shinr.
28: khuda Bakhash, Qambar.
29: Sahib Zada, Aazara.
30: Bacha Rahman and brothers, Asharai.
31: Amir Muqam, Shangal now resides in Sangota.
32: Ajmeer, Sar Khazana.
33: Jamal Nasar, District Nazim.
34: Shjuat Ali Khan, Shangwatai.
35: Auzal Khan Lala, Bara Durush Khela.
36: Abdul Jabar Khan, Bara Drush khela.
37: Ayub Khan, Asharai
38: Tahir Khan, asharai.
39: Khurshid Khan, Baghderai.
40: Akmad Sher Khan, Shawar.
41: Dr. Haider Ali Khan, MPA, Khwazakhela.
43: Bakht Jamal.

passivity to islamic law

I remember back in 1997 when the whole country was awaiting the LHC judgment on the Saima Waheed case. The LHC bench ultimately ruled in her favour, but in the September of the previous year, a Justice Cheema of the LHC had ruled, in two cases, that a woman cannot marry without the consent of her wali or guardian, under any circumstance.

I was in the 9th grade then and I remember that this case was discussed in some detail one afternoon in one of our classes. Now this was an all-girls school, one of the best schools in Karachi — the most liberal city of Pakistan. In that first discussion, I don’t remember a single girl voicing the opinion that Saima Waheed should not be allowed to marry without her father’s consent. Anyway, we all went home and some of us asked or read up about what Sharia says about marriage without the permission of ones guardian. As it turned out, three of the four major school of Sunni Fiqh absolutely require the Wali’s permission for a marriage to be valid, and the fourth one, the Hanafi school, strongly discourages marriage without the permission of the Wali. It is backed up by some pretty strong Hadiths. Now at the age of 14, not many of us knew this when we first expressed our opinions on the case (overwhelmingly in favour of Saima Waheed), but the next day after reading up about it, the silence in the classroom was deafening. I remember asking a friend why she had changed her mind and she said, simply, that her grandmother had read the following Hadith to her:

“No marriage except with a guardian and the ruler is the guardian of she who has no guardian.” (Reported by Abu Dawud & others and classed as Sahih)

And that was the end of that.

The point is that in the face of Sharia, all Pakistanis, even the most liberal, are passive. There are many reasons for this. First, we are Muslims, second, the ideological nature of the Pakistani state unfortunately magnifies this passivity immensely.

So when conservative Pakistanis in Swat were initially confronted with militancy, it is not surprising that the fact that they came carrying the slogan of the rule of Sharia significantly weakened the initial resistance to them. But there is an argument put forward by many that since Maulana Sufi Muhammad’s TNSM movement originated in Malakand division,( of which Swat was a part until the devolution of 2002), the people of Swat are merely getting what they asked for. There are two problems with this argument. The first is that it ignores the role of the intelligence agencies in the creation of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the parallel rise of TNSM activity in Malakand. It ignores Sufi Muhammad’s connection with and contacts made through the Afghan Jihad:

Failure of the Pakistani state to tackle these issues in a timely manner created political confusion and religious groups found an opening for their agendas. Sufi Mohammad, an activist of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), followed the situation closely. After returning from the successful Afghan jihad in the late 1980s, he was more convinced of his religious ideals. His exuberance, according to Pakistani journalist Amir Rana, led him to create TNSM on May 10, 1989. The very name of the organization framed its manifesto and agenda in unmistakable terms. His networking and experience in Afghanistan meant that on top of his battleground experience, he had no dearth of resources or religious motivation.

In short, this argument ignores the fact that Sufi Muhammad’s movement was part of a concerted effort of radicalization of the region on the part of the security establishment, and there are quite a few reasons why this radicalization was in the interest of the establishment, and many argue, still is.

The second problem is related to the beginning of this post — all Pakistanis are passive when confronted by any invocation of Sharia. This passivity is not just limited to the people of NWFP and FATA, but exists within all of us. So we can either sit and do nothing except make blase judgments about what the savage tribals really want (which courtesy we oddly never seem to extend them when it comes to their demands for more provincial autonomy) or we can address this very serious problem within our own societies and stop pretending that it won’t affect us when an extremist group attempts to establish its authority over us which, by the way things are going, does not seem to be a remote possibility anymore.

In any case, Muridke, home of the Lashkar-e-Taiba with membership allegedly in the thousands, is a mere 30 kilometers away from Lahore. Will the people arguing that the people of Swat are getting what they deserved by virtue of being in the same vicinity as Sufi Muhammad’s TNSM movement argue that the same is true of the residents of Gulberg and Defence? I doubt it.

Drone strikes

Someone sent me a link to this ABC News story about the new generation of US drone strikes which are much more accurate than previously thanks to new technology linking on the ground informants with the drones:

Current and former Pakistani intelligence agents say residents of the area who are helping the United States have access to what locals call “pathris,” literally “small things” — referred to by one agent as a “gadget” — that can be thrown into homes and used as targeting signals.

Of course this means much stronger retaliation against these on-the-ground informants from the Taliban:

In the most recent case, two bodies were dumped on the side of the road in Ghulam Khan early this month with notes pinned to their chests. They read, “If someone spies for America they will also suffer like this,” villagers told local journalists.

Interestingly, the US does not seem to be interested in sharing either this technology, or its new network of informants with Pakistani intelligence. This is not exactly surprising if David Sanger’s account of Gillani’s disastrous attempt to “surprise” Bush with the news of the Haqqani madrassah raid last year is to be believed:

The National Security Agency had picked up intercepts indicating that a Pakistani unit warned the leadership of the school about what was coming before carrying out its raid. “They must have called 1-800-HAQQANI,” said one person who was familiar with the intercepted conversation. According to another, the account of the warning sent to the school was almost comic. “It was something like, ‘Hey, we’re going to hit your place in a few days, so if anyone important is there, you might want to tell them to scram.’ ”

When the “attack” on the madrassa came, the Pakistani forces grabbed a few guns and hauled away a few teenagers. Sure enough, a few days later Gilani showed up in the Oval Office and conveyed the wonderful news to Bush: the great crackdown on the madrassas had begun. The officials in the room — Bush; his national security adviser, Stephen Hadley; and others — did not want to confront Gilani with the evidence that the school had been warned. That would have required revealing sensitive intercepts, and they judged, according to participants in the discussion, that Gilani was both incapable of keeping a secret and incapable of cracking down on his military and intelligence units. Indeed, Gilani may not even have been aware that his gift was a charade: Bush and Hadley may well have known more about the military’s actions than the prime minister himself.

What a tangled web, huh.