Monday, December 18, 2006

PWC-ing has moved

PWC-ing has a new site and a yet-to-be-determined new name:

Friday, December 15, 2006

Pakistanism No 7

“As a journalist you can raise as many questions as you like with regard to the political fallout, morality or whether the re-election of the president by the same assemblies would go down well in the history or not, and whether there would be a hue and cry over the re-election of the president by the same assemblies, but the fact remains that we have to go by the Constitution,” according to an aide of Gen. Musharraf.

At issue is the re-election of Gen Musharraf as president for another five year term by the present national assembly, which has already elected him once. It's worth spelling out what this means: a government elected for five years - one term - will elect a president for ten years - two terms.

Pakistanism No 6

See no evil

The Karachi Stock Exchange scandal has had many twists (See Bears and bulls; foxes and eels?), but appears to finally have been definitively buried. Dawn reports that "data pertaining to the booking of shares were deleted not only from the records of the stock market and the brokers but also that of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, leaving no proof for the forensic experts to ascertain anything substantial."

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Is this freedom?

The much ballyhooed "free press" during Gen. Musharraf's regime has had its share of consistent critics, who argued that the methods of coercion may have changed, but the ethos had not (See Carrots and sticks and the media). Now, with an upcoming general election, widespread political unrest and armed resistance to the government's policies, the old ways appear to be making a comeback.

The News reports that its Islamabad editor was followed on his way home at 4 a.m. by several unmarked cars and then surrounded outside his home by the occupants of the cars. The editor was not harmed, but the message was loud and clear: "We can get you any time we want".

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Military Inc.

Most countries have an army; in Pakistan, the army has a country. Ayesha Siddiqa Agha, writing in Newsline, exposes the hidden economy of the armed forces. Excerpts below.

On the scale of the armed forces' commercial ventures:

"The Pakistan military is among several other armed forces in the world engaged in commercial ventures. Today, its financial empire has an approximate financial size of 200 billion rupees with military-controlled welfare foundations operating in areas ranging from banking, insurance, leasing and real estate to private security, education, airlines, cargo services, knitwear, and major agri-based industries."

On the financial cost to the state:

"These businesses denote an additional cost for the government because of the use of state assets. A number of the commercial operations of the four welfare foundations, the Fauji Foundation, Army Welfare Trust (AWT), Bahria Foundation and Shaheen Foundation, as pointed out by several reports of the auditor-general of Pakistan, use state resources without reimbursing the government. However, the military's top management continues to claim that these are purely private sector ventures that do not fall under the scope of government accountability procedures and, hence, have continued to grow as part of the military's hidden economy."

On blatant illegalities:

"Referring to the military's small and medium enterprises, one would like to cite the example of one recent venture started by the corps command/cantonment board Bahawalpur. In this case, the cantonment board erected a toll plaza on the main GT road and started to collect money, an action that is in contravention of the cantonment board/local bodies law. As per the rules, none of these organisations can impose a tax on a highway."

On support from civilian politicians:

"Some of the military's concerns have huge operating/management costs. As for the AWT, it had to ask the government for a 5.4 billion rupee bailout in 2002. According to sources, the Nawaz Sharif government bailed out the trust through helping it with one of its foreign loans. This is highly scandalous, and certainly as scandalous as the Sharifs getting unfair concessions for the Ittefaq group.

"Nawaz Sharif is not the only one who supported the military's business. A number of projects by the welfare foundations were sanctioned under Benazir Bhutto's government as well, with rumors of close linkages between Asif Zardari's close friends and Shaheen Foundation's management regarding the setting up of the Shaheen pay-TV and radio projects. None of the political governments raised any major objection to the military business complex during the 1990s."

On the impact on professionalism of the armed forces:

"(C)ommercial ventures, even if they do not use serving officers, do, unarguably, have an impact on the professional mindset. Senior officers, who are quite aware of the rewards that await them after retirement in terms of extension of perks and privileges as a result of jobs in these companies, tend to compromise on the quality of their work during service. It is important to note that there is no streamlined system for selecting people for appointment in these organisations."

Click here for more Ayesha Siddiqa Agha.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Baluchistan and the federal government has an excellent two-part series on the present Baluch insurgency. In Baluchistan: Pakistan's Internal War and Baluchistan's History of Insurgency, Ray Fulcher presents Balochistan as the federal government would rather not have you know. The commonly held view is that the Baluch sardars have been denying their people the fruits of development and that the creeping Islamisation in the province is also somehow the sardars' doing. The excerpts below prove both views to be wrong.

On the sardars' record on development:

"The Musharraf regime has long blamed the nationalist leaders for Baluchistan's underdevelopment, arguing that they are "anti-development." However, research conducted by the Social Policy and Development Center in 2001 shows those areas under control of nationalist leaders, such as the late Nawab Akbar Bugti, Nawab Khair Mari and Sardar Attaullah Mengal, were often better developed. A number of indicators, such as road networks, primary school enrollments, access to clean water and irrigation are often ranked higher than areas aligned to the federal government."

On the sources of discontent:

"A central demand of Baluch nationalists is the equitable sharing of revenue from the province's natural resources. A case in point is Baluchistan's production of natural gas, which is crucial to Pakistan's economy. Despite accounting for 36-45 percent of Pakistan's gas production, the province consumes only 17 percent of what it produces. The remainder is sold at a much lower price to the rest of the country than gas produced in Punjab and Sindh. That the federal government returns only 12.4 percent of the gas royalties actually due to the provincial government compounds this inequality."

"Almost all the construction contracts were awarded to non-Baluch, mainly Punjabi, firms. Despite thousands of jobless Baluch engineers and technicians being available, only low-grade jobs are offered to Baluch workers. The rest of the positions are filled largely by Punjabi and other non-Baluch workers. Of the 600 personnel that worked on the first stage of construction, only 100 were Baluch, and they were mainly day laborers. No effort has been made by the central government to train the local population so they can obtain jobs at Gwadar."

On the Islamisation of the province:

"Through the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the federal government continues to establish madrassahs (religious schools) to bolster the mullahs' influence. The lack of secular education is more noticeable in Baluchistan than in any other province, with 50 percent of children compelled to attend the religious schools. This is not surprising given that the national budget for the Ministry of Religious Affairs is around 1.2 billion Pakistani rupees ($19.7 million) while the secular education ministry is allocated 200 million rupees ($3.3 million). It is leading to what Baluch nationalists call the "Talibanization" of Baluchistan."

Click here for more on the Baluch insurgency.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Pakistanism No. 6

“The Naib Qasid got it from somewhere and even had a bite of it, thinking it is a biscuit. He later threw it in a dump in front of our office when realized it was not something eatable,” explained a chief of the Intelligence Bureau, while trying to clear up why a stick of dynamite was thrown outside the NWFP Chief Minister's house by one of his agents.

It should be noted that the MMA-led NWFP government is at loggerheads with the president.

Pakistanism No. 5