Of Journalism

March 8, 2009

Merit, Politics and Pakistan

Filed under: Uncategorized — fawadalishah @ 9:37 am

While the nation was still grappling with the controversy of unfairly granted marks to the chief justice of Pakistan’s daughter, another case of a special daughter has hit the headlines and this time Pakistan Peoples Party stalwart Makhdoom Amin Fahim’s daughter has been directly appointed as first secretary in the Pakistan Embassy Ireland.

The story appeared in The News on December 22,  tells about the gross violations of rules and merit.

“Maliha Makhdoom, daughter of the PPP diehard loyalist and Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim (MAF), has been appointed as first secretary to Ireland. She has been hired as a Foreign Service official without fulfilling the prerequisites of appearing in the CSS examination and going through 18-month training in two different academies.

Her appointment has been facilitated at the behest of the Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. While following PM’s verbal orders, Foreign Secretary’s office moved the summary for appointment of Amin Fahim’s daughter.

The story further unveils the cancerous tradition of nepotism and rampant corruption of those who call the shots in the present political setup,

“According to the summary approved by the PM on 28th November, she would draw a salary of $3000 a month. Along with the perks and privileges of a diplomat, she will have a residence with $2500 monthly rent. The summary also says that Maliha Makhdoom, born on 11th February 1980 is appointed as 18-grade officer. Other than her Masters degree, there is no mention of her prior work experience in public service or of her any other relevant training. Maliha Makhdoom did her masters in English Literature from Brunel University, London in 2007.”

What about the cobweb of rules and regulations, that only seemed to be enacted to keep the have-nots at bay in God gifted republic of the pure:

“After passing the tough CSS examination, the successful candidates are required to take a collective training of 9 months at CSS academy Lahore, followed by another separate training of 9 months at Foreign Services Academy, Islamabad. After eighteen months of rigorous training, final passing out examination under FPSC certifies the candidate for Foreign Office service.

After going through all these procedural requirements, a successful foreign service personnel works on his first assignment as assistant director. After serving for 2 years at the headquarters, the official is then posted abroad as 3rd Secretary for three years.
After a series of postings back to headquarters and abroad, the official reaches the rank of First Secretary. Hence it requires at least ten years of Foreign Service experience to be elevated to such a high position. At some Pakistani missions abroad, First Secretary is the second highest post while at others it’s the third highest.”

Every second day media reports shameful conduct of members of parliament, judiciary, bureaucracy and other influential, but the well of our national conscience has dried up as no one feel ashamed of his wrong deeds. In every matter our so-called intelligentsia tries to compete with India, whether it is military hardware or nuclear deal with America, but why our rulers not follow the examples set by the Indian leadership by resigning from their offices, acknowledging their responsibility following Mumbai terrorist attacks.

What disturbing and disgusting fact this story reveals is that the where the millions of poor unemployed youths of this country would head, who prepare for CSS for years, if such appointments continued to be made on such high profile posts. What kind of massage our uncouth political leaders want to convey to career diplomats in Foreign Office, who have to wait for ten years for such appointment abroad.

The NRO anointed kitchen cabinet of President Zardari thinks that the newspaper reports could not open a Pandora Box, and let the media made a hue and cry for some time and then a new scandal would hit the headlines and they will forget the previous one.
Poet Akabar Allahabadi once lamented same situation in his famous couplet,

“Barbaad Gulistan karne ko, ek hi ullu kafi hai,

Har shaakh pe ullu baitha hai, anjame gulistan kya hoga”

“One owl could destroy a garden,

But what will be the fate of the garden with an owl perched on every branch”?

 

Mr Prime Minister Think before what you say

Filed under: Uncategorized — fawadalishah @ 9:35 am

When Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani was addressing the Formation Commanders at a banquet at the Prime Minister’s House on Thursday, he did not know how close he resembled Ziaul Haq, the bête noire for the PPP. “Pakistan Army, unlike armies of other countries, has double responsibility of protecting not only geographical boundaries of the country, but also its ideological boundaries,” Mr. Gillani told the glittering gathering.

This added responsibility of guarding the so-called ideology of Pakistan was assigned to the army by Ziaul Haq who toppled Z.A. Bhutto in late 70s. Like every military dictator he also promised to have been forced to scuttle democracy, and to hold fair and free elections within stipulated 90 days–a promise he never honoured. To the bad luck of the country the Afghan war started. Since it shares a long porous border with the land-locked Afghanistan, Pakistan became central to the U.S. designs to trap the Soviet Union’s Red Army across the Durand Line. The U.S., the West and Arab countries started pampering the military dictator to make Pakistan the staging post for a protracted war inside Afghanistan, and it came in as a double jeopardy for Pakistan and its people.

To ensconce the armed forces, his only constituency, in the political matrix of Pakistan, Ziaul Haq coined the slogan that our armed forces are the guardians of not only the geographical borders of Pakistan but also of its ideological borders. It raised the stakes of the army in the political structure of Pakistan. Like the much-abused term “national interests”, the ideology of Pakistan is also a vague term which was framed much after the formation of the country in 1947.

Probably, it was during Ayub Khan’s martial law that the term ‘ideology of Pakistan’ was formed. Since we have a very short and blur view of our otherwise short history, people at large owned up this slogan. Thus Pakistani politics, which was very pluralist, was constrained by an ideology. Every political force has to adjust itself to the new reality. Those who tried to oppose were dubbed traitors.

This turn towards ideology bolstered the reactionary a la religious forces. Being the guardians of the ideology the army found its allies in religious outfits like Jama’at-i-Islami and centrist parties like Muslim League which never changes in character; it adds a new letter to its name whenever there is guard of change in the corridors of power. [There is a long list of PML (Q, N, F, J, …)] However, Nawaz Sharif, going through tough moments of his life, has made his faction of the PML into a coherent party.

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which has a long history of struggle against military dictatorship, always ended up on the wrong side of the establishment. It sacrificed yet another Bhutto on December 27, 2007 when the charismatic Benazir Bhutto fell to the bullets of the assassins at Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi after addressing a public meeting. It looked the end of an emerging bonhomie between the PPP and the establishment. But, it was not so.

Prime Minister Gillani put a seal on it while addressing the banquet also attended by among many President Pervaiz Musharraf and Chief of the Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Pervaiz Kiyani. Things have changed a lot since the days of Ziaul Haq. Today Pakistan is embroiled in another kind of war which is eating into its vitals. Our social fabric is in tatters. The writ of the state is challenged within the confines of the state–even Islamabad is no exception what to talk of Swat and Waziristan.

All this mayhem visited us when our rulers hugged a narrow ideology only to please a lunatic fringe that has a lot of nuisance value and no vision for a prosper future. It is time to do away with this politics of ideology and focus on building democratic institutions. Democracy is the best ideology if we need any to latch onto. Prime Minister Gillani must weigh words before uttering them in formal gathering, because the powers that be will take him for his words when they strike a blow on democracy.

Ban or boon?

Filed under: Uncategorized — fawadalishah @ 9:31 am

Ban or boon?

 

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani in his first speech to the National Assembly, after being elected with a two-thirds majority, announced the lifting of ban on student and labor unions. Two kudos and too much trepidations. Many hailed the decision. They are of the view that democracy starts at the grass-roots level where young students learn the intricacies of leadership. There are no two words about that. However, the announcement raised many an eyebrow also fearing the politicization of the already polarized educational institutions.

Since 1984, when the military dictator Ziaul Haq slapped a ban on student unions, the Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT), the student wing of the Jama’at-i-Islami, monopolized the educational institutions across the country. Unchecked by any, the Jama’at students terrorized the whole community on the campuses in their zest for ‘Islamising’ the students and the education itself. This led to the emergence of a highly polarized situation on one hand; on the other, it circumvented pluralism on the campuses. Students and teachers found it difficult to expound their views on anything freely. Because everything was to be seen and debated within the parameters of a narrow ideology. Life was reduced to black and white without any grey areas. The fact is that life is all about the grey area which faded away in our society. While other student groups were hounded, the IJT had a field day to terrorize not only the students but even the teaching faculty.

The ban was imposed ostensibly to stop politicking in educational institutions. However, it produced the reverse results: atmosphere at the campuses became more polarized—and in many cases militarized. It caused a brain drain when the liberal-minded intellectuals were forced to leave the campus for greener pastures where they could breathe freely and express their thoughts without any fear. Pakistani universities, since then, are ruled by mediocre who stifle debate in the name of ideology and morality.

Ridiculously enough, during this period of regimentation in the name of Islam and morality, plagiarism flourished—as if intellectual stealing has nothing to do with religion and morality. University of the Punjab, which has been in the throttle grip of the IJT since long, has been in the press but for the wrong reasons. Five teachers at its Center for High Energy Physics have been found guilty of plagiarism. A professor of Applied Psychology Department has been dismissed from service after his MSc degree showing first division was found to be based on bogus notification.

This is the morality that has been pushed down the throat of the university students and teachers. What is more intriguing is that the Punjab university administration is finding it difficult to take any action against the plagiarists because they are protected by the Jama’at. The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has stopped funding to the university for its dithering over the plagiarism issue.

From 1984 onwards the campuses saw more violence and less peace. Educational institutions are considered the breeding ground for the future leadership. By electing their leaders the student develop a taste for democracy, while the elected ones, while speaking for the rights of the students, learn how to negotiate on behalf of the community.

However in Pakistan, the student unions turned into a bane when they became hand tools of the mainstream political and religious parties. At their beck and call, the student unions are being used by the parent parties for their own political ends. Thus the dirty politics of the streets creep into the campuses. Egged by the support from the outside the education institutions, the student unions fought their war among themselves spilling a lot of blood.

One expected that before lifting the ban on student unions the government would have evolved a mechanism to ‘free’ the students form the stranglehold of mainstream political and religious parties. It is hard to oppose student unions, but it is far harder to see them play puppets to the religious and political parties. The 24-year old ban did not help our education system, but the lifting of ban in the present circumstances is going to radicalize the environment on the campuses.

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