Of Persons and Things

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Welcome home Ali Gilani. I am sure the entire family bowed down before God in gratitude for your safe return. They should also be thankful that you bear the name “Gilani”, for the fact that your father is an influential person; a V.I.P (Very Important Person).

Many mothers have lost their Ali never to be found or heard of; erased from all nooks of reality except from the hearts of a few loved ones and a dust laden FIR eroding away in some record room. Many wives lost their Shahbaz who did not bear a last name as heavy as “Taseer”, “Bhutto”, “Sharif”, “Gilani” etc.

I am glad that both Shahbaz and Ali returned to their families, I am happy that their ordeal ended and I empathize with them for what they went through.

I also feel for the families whose lost or kidnapped are forgotten. In a population of 200 million, we cannot keep record of each and every child gone missing, we have to select the “important” ones. Law enforcement agencies have piles and piles of kidnapping cases, they have to prioritize. Media has to cover stories that attract the interest of a large portion of viewers. No one wants to read or hear about Ahmed Javed (a 7 year old boy kidnapped from Lahore in 2015 and recovered dead) or the unnamed children kidnapped, raped and killed. They are mere nameless statistics used to show us, and the world, the grim face of our society. There are no special planes, no celebrations, no press conferences or repeated news reports with joyous songs in the back ground for these “ordinary” persons.

Let the Gilanis and Taseers celebrate; they have a reason to dance and rejoice, the ordinary don’t have anything to celebrate.

While the foreign ministry holds a press conference to report the recovery and return of a VIP, not even an SHO was moved to lodge the FIR of an “ordinary” citizen’s rape; who consequently committed suicide by self immolation in front of a police station in Muzzaffargarh for denial of justice. It wasn’t justice that was denied by the way, even the opportunity to get justice was denied to this unfortunate victim. She is not alone, there are several unnamed ordinary citizens who were kidnapped, raped and then denied justice by the state because they did not carry a VIP’s name.

Inequality is a reality, egalitarianism is fiction and we are all in denial. If we cannot bring our practice in line with theory, why not make theory conform with practice? Remove the prefixes “very” and “important”. Let the VIPs be known as “persons” and all others be called “non-persons” or “things”. A person has rights to life, protection, equality before law, equal opportunity and dignity. In the absence of these rights you are more of a thing than a person.

A CIA agent killed two “things” in Lahore and went scot free. Widow of one of the victims committed suicide in Faisalabad for want of justice. They did not carry a last name that mattered.

We have become a herd of pushovers ruled and dictated by a few “persons”. Laws are made for all of us, but enforced for a select few. A “thing” accused of stealing 20 thousand is picked up from his home by the police before an investigation even begins and at times, before a case is registered, but a person cannot be proceeded against until law takes its due and undue course and until a commission is formed to investigate into the allegations.

A person can make a city come to a standstill while he travels to inaugurate a health facility for things, while a thing  dies in the arms of her father who couldn’t get her to that very facility in time.

A person can expect his thing followers to sit in protest for days and months, while he stays at his lavish home and makes short appearances.

A person can drive his BMW while underage and without a license, a thing can only hope for not getting in his way and be killed.

A person  can slap you for following procedure at the airport’s customs counter, a thing has to add being slapped by a person, to his duties.

A person can make an entire airplane, loaded with things, wait for him while he runs late.

Inequality in our society is not as frightening as our complacency towards it. My concern is that we do not have a problem with being things anymore, we only strive for a right to choose the person we belong to.

 

Electoral Reforms: One key to many doors.

The importance of identification, investigation and eradication of corruption and the corrupt cannot possibly be undermined. Electoral reforms however, are equally – if not more – important and focus need not be diverted to issues that can well be handled simultaneously.

On this 18th of April, a sub-committee formed under the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms (PCER), submitted that the draft for unified electoral laws (UEL) is in the final stages of preparation and will be tabled before PCER soon.

PCER was formed on the 25th of July, 2014. Rule 7(1) of its rules of procedure states that the committee shall submit its final report within three months of its formation. However, after a lapse of 21 months PCER is still far from completing its task. With sub-committees yet to submit their reports and recommendations, it doesn’t seem likely that proceedings of the PCER will culminate any time soon.

There is limited information on the Committee’s workings since most of its proceedings are kept secret. No draft of the proposed laws under UEL, or recommendations for amendments to the constitution, have been made public leaving little opportunity for outside review or suggestions.

The European Union’s (EU) Electoral Follow-up Mission (EFM) which was deployed to assess electoral reforms processes in Pakistan, has submitted its report to the PCER wherein considerable dissatisfaction has been expressed over the electoral reforms process. EU’s Election Observation Missions (EOMs), which observed three Parliamentary elections, recommended fifty measures for electoral reforms after the general elections 2013. As per the report of EFM, none of the 50 recommendations have been totally implemented; only two have been mostly implemented, thirteen minimally and thirty five have not been implemented at all. Pertinent to note that Pakistan’s progress on electoral reforms is also significant for the continuation of generalised scheme of preferences (GSP plus) status awarded in December, 2013. As per the GSP Plus agreement, Pakistan is bound to ratify, and fulfill its commitments under, twenty seven international conventions including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Reforms in Pakistan’s electoral system are long overdue and vital not just for the continuation of our GSP plus status, but more for our own stability, progress and development. There are deficiencies in our electoral laws, and legal provisions that are in field are not entirely enforced. This has rendered almost all the elections controversial. There are loopholes that create room for malpractices and manipulation, putting a huge question mark on the fairness of an election. For the first time after the 2013 general elections, an election controversy has taken a potentially productive shape. Strong reaction from political parties, Pakistan Tehrik e Insaf (PTI) in particular, to the age old electoral transgressions resulted in the formation of an Inquiry Commission and the PCER. The General Elections Inquiry Commission (GEIC) though absolved the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) of the allegations of organized rigging, it did write the most comprehensive commentary on ECP’s inefficiencies and short comings.

While GEIC’s report focuses on the internal functional failings and incompetence of the ECP, several local and international observers find the ECP’s lack of autonomy and authority to be the problem area. PCER should thus ideally be addressing these two core issues;

(i). making the ECP autonomous, independent and more powerful, and

(ii). taking capacity building steps aimed at improving the ECP’s efficiency.

As mentioned earlier, there is little to no knowledge of the PCER proceedings. A proposal to alter the qualifications criteria, appointment method and tenure of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Members of the ECP has been put forth by the EU. There are reports that there is a consensus on this proposed reform and it is being considered.

However the current members of ECP are due to retire in June, 2016. There is little hope that PCER will complete its work, and – when it does – proposed amendments would make their way through Parliament within the next month. So in all probability the new Members will be appointed as per the current laws and will remain in office till 2021, overseeing the next general elections.

There are several other concerns that may already have been added to the PCER’s agenda. Many of these issues have already been pointed out by the EU and other observers. I will be mentioning a few of my own in the following lines.

Firstly, PCER should consider dividing its work into three phases.

1).        In the first phase, proposals for legislation of, and changes in, provisions relating to ECP’s structure and constitution may be finalized, so that said provisions/amendments may be enabled before new Members of ECP are appointed.

Currently the CEC and Members are appointed as per Article 213 and 218 of the Constitution. As per Article 213(2) and 218(2)(b); to qualify for appointment as CEC, a person has to either be a serving or retired judge of the Supreme Court or the High Court; in the latter case he should be qualified to be a judge of the Supreme Court. For appointment as Member, a person has to have been a judge of the High Court. In practice, a retired judge of the Supreme Court is usually appointed as the CEC. With all due respect to the honorable Justices and their fervor, a person who by reason of his age is retired from the position a judge, cannot be expected to efficiently perform the task as mammoth as that of the Chief Election Commissioner with one of the most crucial state responsibilities on his shoulders. Furthermore, the pool of potential candidates is unreasonably restricted to only members of the judiciary. There may be persons more able and apt for the job yet not qualified for not having been a judge.

There is then the method for appointment of CEC and Members covered under Article 213(2A) & (2B). It is the Prime Minister’s and Leader of the Opposition’s prerogative to decide three names, with mutual consent, each for appointment as the CEC and four Members. The names are then forwarded to a committee comprising of almost all the political parties in the National Assembly. While the committee has members from all or most political parties, it is not in the committee’s discretion to change or add to the names already provided to them. They will instead be bound to select from the list provided to them by the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition. In practice all the political parties that intend to contest an election will be forced to have a CEC, and Members ECP, proposed by the two major political parties. This may result in controversy and may not be deemed as an appointment by consensus, of the people in-charge of ensuring a free and fair election. In effect there is no constitutional check on the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition’s powers to have a person of their choice appointed as CEC or Member ECP.

It may therefore be wise to;

  • make changes in the qualifications criteria for CEC and Members ECP so that qualified and able people, other than retired judges, are also eligible for these important slots.
  • make changes in the method of appointment to ensure consensus of all the stakeholders and strict adherence to merit.
  • a contribution from state institutions other than the Parliament may also be considered, for instance an amendment can be made to include, in the committee, two judges nominated by the Chief Justice of Pakistan, to ensure a fair and transparent process of appointment.

2).        The second phase ought to deal with the powers of CEC and ECP, making it a more autonomous and powerful institution.

Although there already are provisions like Article 215(2) to ensure some level of autonomy to the ECP, they are insufficient and the ECP does not seem as powerful and autonomous as it ought to be. Article 221, for instance deals with the rules for appointment of ECP staff. The provision subjects the appointments to the President’s approval. The President is in effect bound in almost all of his functions by the Prime Minister’s advice, as per Article 48(1). Therefore the ECP’s independence to appoint its own staff is curtailed and made conditional to the Prime Minister’s consent. Article 221 also makes room for the Parliament to make rules for appointment of the ECP staff.

It is crucial for a free and fair election that the ECP is not bound down by the whims of Parliament or any other institution, in its appointment or the performance of its functions. Amendments in the constitution to empower the ECP are thus quite crucial for any actual reform.

  • Amendments can be made to make the caretaker Prime Minister subordinate to the CEC and the caretaker Chief Ministers subordinate to the Members for each province.
  • The method for appointing caretaker Prime Minister and Chief Minister should also be changed, making the appointments subject to the CEC’s approval.
  • The Chief Secretaries of all four provinces should be made directly answerable to the CEC and Members for all administrative matters relating to, and during, the elections.
  • The civil administration should be made aware of the ECP’s power. Provisions may be added for empowering the Provincial Election Commissioner to write, either on his own or on a District Returning Officer’s recommendation, a note in any officer’s ACR for any of his acts or performance during the election period. Such note should be subject to the Member ECP’s approval and may be made expunge-able by the CEC on application by the aggrieved officer.

3).        In the third and final phase, PCER should work on ECP’s capacity building. An autonomous and powerful ECP already having been established, PCER should play only an advisory role in this phase where the ECP takes measures to improve its own efficiency by way of devising strategies that would cater to a host of administrative concerns.

  • ECP should make arrangements for the training of its permanent staff. There is already news of ECP establishing a training academy.
  • New methods should be introduced for hiring temporary staff to act as monitors, returning officers and presiding officers during elections. The staff may be hired on contract instead of borrowing from judiciary or civil services.
  • Such temporary staff may be hired 6 to 8 months before the elections and be comprehensively trained.
  • The persons hired on contract should not be informed of where they would be performing their duties, instead should be appointed just a day or two before the need for their presence in that place arises.
  • Persons to be appointed as presiding officers should be appointed, in areas other than where they may eventually be appointed, to act as election monitors and observe and report any violation of laws, rules or the code of conduct, by candidates during campaign.
  • The staff may also be made to sign sworn affidavits to abide by their oath and violation thereof must be made punishable by imprisonment and fine.
  • Codes of conduct for political parties, candidates, media and observers should be made legally binding by making it a permanent part of Representation of Peoples Act or the new proposed UEL.
  • Enforcement of all legal provisions should be ensured and un-enforceable and vague provisions should be removed.

ECP, PCER, Parliament, political parties and we the people need to realize that time is of the essence. Even after finalized reports are submitted to PCER by sub-committees, it will take time for PCER to prepare its own report and recommendations. The Parliament will then be required to debate and legislate on the proposed reforms. Only when the laws have been made and amended, will they be injected into the system and ECP and relevant authorities will begin to get acquainted with the new system.

With two years remaining in the next general elections, the nation awaits a productive and improved electoral structure wherein free and fair elections may become a norm instead of an exception. There are distractions on the way, and political parties including the staunchest proponents of these reforms; PTI, seem to shift focus from one thing to another when in fact progress and completion of the PCER’s agenda should be a consistent top priority, for all political stakeholders including the masses. This is the first time that we tread the path to electoral reforms, let’s not lag, let’s not wander off.

Corruption, not Accountability, is the threat to Democracy.

Accountability is not an attack on, or a threat to democracy. Purporting this foul and flawed narrative is equivalent to purporting that vitamins are bad for health. Corruption is a disease that plagues democracy, or any system of government for that matter. Moral, financial or intellectual, corruption eats at the roots of a state. Unchecked, it enfeebles the foundations and eventually collapses the system that stands on them. Corruption is unquestionably the root of all vices that bring a country to its knees.

Never have we witnessed accountability in its truest manifestation; fair, stern and across the board. On every rare occasion when accountability was initiated, there were sacred cows that eluded the process. The doctrines of political necessity, conciliation and survival of “democracy” were used to exempt a few and try the others. Accountability was often used as a tool for political victimization and never for cleansing our society and state. As a consequence the disease spread from institution to institution and person to person turning Pakistan from a victim of this disease to almost the disease itself. Parliament, bureaucracy, media, judiciary, services industry etc. all have been infected. Corruption has become a norm instead of an exception. Money became the only and most effective tool for nuisance and influence. Your wealth replaced your driving skills and knowledge of the traffic rules when getting a driver’s license. Money diminished the want for being not guilty to be acquitted in a trial. It bent the rules of immigration and customs checking at airports, rendered obsolete the want of knowledge to pass an exam. In essence, money became law of the land.

The introduction of plea bargain by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) effectively closed the doors to any material accountability and the loot-billions-pay-millions-walk-free formula was adopted by many. This was not accountability, it was instead the validation of ill-gotten wealth, a purchasable clean chit. It became an incentive for the corrupt when actually reprimand and retribution were needed.

Yet again the bugle of accountability has sounded. Yet again the nation hopes for it to be real this time. The cart is apparently being pushed by the military establishment whereas the civilian setup seems to have chosen to stand before the cart rather than behind it. It is a failure on part of the political parties to have allowed this perception. In public view, it is a good versus evil battle, and sides are to be chosen wisely, for institutions and not for individuals. There ought not be any loyalty or affiliation to a political party greater than the loyalty to an institution. There ought not be any loyalty to an institution greater than your loyalty to the state.

Despite statements to the contrary, the perception of a civil-military divide is very much alive. In reality, this divide is the actual threat to democracy, to the state and its institutions. China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a top priority for Pakistan’s civil and military establishments. The two main hindrances; terrorism and corruption, are to be rooted out. Accountability drives in the past were not motivated by something as huge as CPEC, and there lies the hope that this time will be different. There might not be a way around, this may well be the time to come clean or go home. The question is whether political parties will be willing to sacrifice their institutions for a few individuals.

Leaders of all mainstream political parties i.e. Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehrik e Insaf (PTI) are claiming probity. That is all the more reason to jump on the accountability bandwagon, cleanse their respective political parties of any and all corrupt elements and turn a new page wherein an actual democracy may flourish.

The dishonorable dismissal of a dozen serving military officials on charges of corruption is how the Chief has displayed his resolve to place the state before his institution or any individual. For the first time in our history high ranking officers of Pakistan Army have been publicly reprimanded for a crime. And it will not end here, several investigations and proceedings are underway. The civilian side now needs to act. There are bureaucrats, politicians and businessmen whose journey to wealth and fortune is marred with allegations of corruption and misconduct. There are many who have owned up to these allegations and gone for a plea bargain.

Corruption cannot be eradicated overnight. It is a cancer which will need several different kinds of treatment. It may take years to root it out completely, and this has to be the first year. Regardless of the frightening paranoia of Military going for another intervention, politicians, judges and bureaucrats need to hold themselves accountable. All references against members of the bench pending with the Supreme Judicial Council should be addressed and proceeded with. All allegations against members of parliament and provincial assemblies need to be investigated and same is to be done in case of bureaucrats. Being the Chief Executive of Pakistan, our Prime Minister needs to play this wisely. He needs to realize that this is happening one way or the other. He should not let some unwise friends, advisers or sycophants choose sides for him. It’s his own name that is going to go down in history on the page of his choosing. It’s his parliament that stands to gain or lose strength, significance, relevance and its existence. Most importantly, this is a service to the very democracy that he so loves, not an attack on, or a conspiracy against it.


 

WITH DUE APOLOGIES TO NOT-SAHIR

sahir

A friend of mine who has nothing to do with journalism, is not a reporter, has never conducted an interview, is not even really my friend and come to think of it, may not even be a real person, managed – after some serious struggle – to get Sahir Lodhi’s interview, except, it wasn’t really Sahir.

Anyways, this not-friend of mine is a huge fan of Sahir Lodhi, especially ever since he watched the trailer of his upcoming movie “RAASTA”. So when he got an opportunity to interview not-Sahir Lodhi, he was ecstatic.

Unfortunately no one agreed to publish his interview because he isn’t a real person and, well, it wasn’t actually Sahir’s interview. I on the other hand, being a friend in need to him, have agreed to reproduce it on my blog. So here it is;

 

Not-Friend Not-Reporter:   Hi, it’s such a pleasure to finally meet you sir.

 

Not-Sahir:                              I know, it must be. Awesomeness is only my second best trait, after humility.

 

Not-Friend Not-Reporter:    So you are finally making an entry on the big screen, how does that feel? Are you nervous?

 

Not-Sahir:                              I feel good, it really is an honor for the big screen and everyone who works in movies all around the world that they will be sharing the space with me. Am I nervous? No, I am awesome, Jiyaay Shahrukh!

 

Not-Friend Not-Reporter:    A lot of people say you are a Shahrukh Khan wannabe…how would you respond to that?

 

Not-Sahir:                              Hahahahahahaha!!!

 

Not-Friend Not-Reporter:    ?? That’s it? That’s your response?

 

Not-Sahir:                              It is just a co-incidence that if I try, I can look a little like him and, with a lot of effort, can even sound like him at times. He is a famous person, a successful celebrity, but I have no reason to go down a notch. I am more famous and more successful than him.

 

Not-Friend Not-Reporter:    But I couldn’t help but notice you copying Shahrukh’s trademark pose and his voice in the movie’s trailer.

 

Not-Sahir:                              Again, a co-incidence. We had to do a 100 takes just to get that co-incidental pose just right. As for the voice, I naturally sound like him, it’s just that i don’t usually speak in my natural voice because it takes a lot of effort.

 

Not-Friend Not-Reporter:    I have here with me some pages from your diary, with entries you made ten years ago. I can’t tell you who gave them to me, but it wasn’t your sister. I will read some of the lines here..

I wish I was Shahrukh, or his twin brother…or even his toothbrush“…

Someday I am going to be like Shahrukh Khan“…

God, why do I love Shahrukh so much…why can’t I  take his place??“.

I hate shahrukh khan, I am much better than him…..No!!!NO!!! I love him..i love him.“.

we loves shahrukh…my preccioooussss

It seems to me like you were pretty obsessed with Shahrukh…

 

Not-Sahir:                              Uhh…that’s not my handwriting. I have a blue handwriting, and this is  clearly black.

 

 

Not-Friend Not-Reporter:    How high are your hopes with your upcoming movie? I hear you are its co-director, co-producer, screenplay and dialogue writer and the lead hero. Is it correct to say that your inspiration is Taher Shah?

 

Not-Sahir:                              No, no..Taher Shah seems like a genuinely nice person, whereas people see me as a pompous shokha. Basically I only wanted to be the lead hero in a movie, but no producer was willing to take that risk so I offered to share the blame and become co-producer. We then could not find a director who would bear me as the lead hero, so again I had to step up. As for the screen play and dialogue; no one else remembered Shahrukh’s dialogues as well as I did, so that happened.

 

Not-Friend Not-Reporter:    So if the movie makes it and is a hit, do you see yourself becoming a full-time movie actor?

 

Not-Sahir:                              Well at the moment I am only planning my responses to bollywood and hollywood. Obviously after the movie’s release, there are going to be offers. I am going to say no to any offer to play Shahrukh’s stunt double, because I can’t do stunts, they are bad for  my skin. I am open to all other offers – to work in movies I mean.

 

Not-Friend Not-Reporter:    Your movie will most definitely be a flop, how will you deal with that?

 

Not-Sahir:                              hahahahahahaha!!!

 

Not-Friend Not-Reporter:    You have achieved a lot of fame, may be not as much as Taher Shah or Qandeel Baloch, but you are almost there. And something tells me your movie will get you there. Who would you like to thank for that?

 

Not-Sahir:                              Well, I think I owe my fame to my hotness, my beautiful eyes, my perfect skin, my intellectual thoughts and, above all, my  modesty and humility.

 

Not-Friend Not-Reporter:    Well Mr. Sahir, it was a pleasure talking to you. Wish you the best of luck for your movie, not that you need it or it would do you any good.

 

Not-Sahir:                              Thank you chum. The pleasure was all yours.

This 23rd day of March

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I have said, and heard, “I love Pakistan” millions of times. At times I have wondered what it really means to love Pakistan. Is it love for the soil? the seas and the sand? or the land that is Pakistan’s territory?

For me loving Pakistan is loving the people who belong to this country; my people. It is this sense of belonging that creates a bond between families, tribes, towns and a countries.

Love, as one of its characteristics, has the urge to benefit and better the loved one; their life and their person. Selflessness is an essential ingredient of love. Benefiting one’s self at the cost of detriment to the other is not love by any stretch of imagination. Yet that is what many of us do, don’t we?

We loot billions while in offices of power, manufacture and sell fake medicine risking each other’s lives, we provide substandard food items and play havoc with the health of our people, we lie through the teeth while selling products deceiving others into paying more for an item that is worth much less, we violate traffic rules putting the lives of our fellows in danger, we remain silent on the miseries of our brothers and sisters – all of this for a little benefit to ourselves, regardless of the grave implications, of our acts and omissions, on the lives of our people. I cannot even think of doing any of those things to anyone in my family, because I love them. If I can do it to someone else, I obviously do not love that someone else.

A soldier’s patriotism is often deemed unquestionable, for he is willing to sacrifice his own life for his country. This is an epitome of love, since life is the most valuable of worldly assets. It is the kind of love that one has for his family. Frequent and shameless vile actions of some in our society and  the inconsiderate silence of others, are acts unbecoming of an emotion as sincere and pure as love.

From the humiliation and agony or being raped to committing suicide for denial of justice, the indifference of our society towards the victim speaks volumes of the care and concern that we have for the victim, or others who may follow. If I am content and do not act as long as the threat stays miles away from my own daughter or sister, it’s the sister and daughter that I love, not my country’s children, not my country.

We jump on an opportunity to criticize the vices of other Pakistanis, all the while ignoring our own ills, grave as they may be. Pakistan bashing aside; bigotry, intolerance and polarization have made us opinionated and judgmental. Peaceful differences of opinion find no space in our interactions. We cannot agree to disagree. For the advocate of each narrative, the believer of another is a traitor or a fool. Be it Malala, Sharmeen, Shafqat Amanat’s unintentional mistake, or any other issue, we find ourselves at each other’s throats for holding an opinion different than our own.

In times of tragedy like December, 2014, we did manage to stand together, but we haven’t yet learned to stand united. At times political affiliations blind us, at others, religious beliefs turn us into blood thirsty primates.

Patriotic songs, flag colored clothes, festive celebratory events, wearing the Pakistani flag on our chests and decorating our homes with it, are all testaments to the assertion, not the fact,  that we love Pakistan. Our actions, not our words or shrieks, will give merit to our claims.

My love for Pakistan would not allow me to distinguish between a Shia Pakistani and a Sunni Pakistani, a non-Muslim and a Muslim Pakistani, a Punjabi and a Pakhtoon, a male and a female citizen, a rich Pakistani and a poor Pakistani. If and when I love Pakistan, I will love them all, beyond cultural, ethnic, religious, political and social divides.

Unfortunate as it is, patriotism, like democracy, is turning into a fiction. It used to be a reality. The fight for independence and subsequent frequent wars with India may have tied our older generations together in a national bond. But as time passes the grip loosens, the bond weakens.

Tall claims, write-ups and promises won’t do us any good. We do not need a messiah or the “perfect” political leader to come and turn us into patriots, we do not need democracy or dictatorship for that either. To love our country we need to start loving each other, it is that simple.

Let’s not make any promises this 23rd of March. Before we go on to celebrate our love for Pakistan, let us first start loving Pakistanis.

 

Agents Agents everywhere.

BeyondTheBlameGameArticle

How dare Shafqat shame this great, honorable nation by making a few unintentional mistakes while singing our national anthem? Even if 90 % of us did not know that he had actually made those mistakes until we were told by the few who knew the anthem by heart and could pronounce it correctly, how dare he!

Before walking out at the Eden Gardens and standing before an Indian Crowd, Shafqat should have known that he is an ambassador of Pakistan and that his performance will honor or dishonor this great, self respecting, righteous nation. He should also have known that any unintentional mistake, petty as it may be, will not go unnoticed, un-bashed, or un-blown-out-of-proportion. We do not forgive, we do forget though, but as long as we remember, we do not forgive. We later forget and do not remember what we haven’t forgiven you for, nevertheless, we never forgive.

Shafqat’s crime is no way any less grave than the crimes of Sharmeen Obaid Chinoi. Sharmeen chose to shame this great, righteous, holy nation by highlighting a non-existent vice i.e. honor killing of women. It was her, who first with the help of CIA hired some men and planted them in different parts of Pakistan to start families and later kill a woman of their family in the name of honor. She then made a documentary on those killings and brought a bad name to Pakistan; this great country of the noblest of  people. It is surprising how some ‘liberals’ haven’t cracked the code, it is so obvious. If the so-called criminals who committed these crimes were not planted by Sharmeen in connivance with the CIA, how did she know where to find them? ehh? ehh?

Shafqat on the other hand was hired later on, as part of the same conspiracy to defame this greatest of great nations. RAW was in on this one. He was paid a huge sum for making an unintentional mistake that would disrepute Pakistan. Motive? If a professional singer can make an unintentional mistake while singing the national anthem, how can Pakistan ensure the safety and security of its nuclear arsenal? ehh? ehh?

Then there is another agent on the list, a madam that goes by the name QB. The foreign intelligence agency behind her has not be identified yet, or has been identified but cannot be revealed. There are rumors that she works for the devil himself. She is responsible for spreading profanity in our otherwise sin-less society. I have to admit she does work in mysterious, supernatural ways. It is heard that in her videos, she subliminally hypnotizes you, making you go back in time and clicking on her videos. Why else would any Muslim brother click the video that obviously has some provocative or profane content in it?

A recent survey based on public opinion conducted by a private secret agency has revealed that 30% of Pakistanis are either CIA or RAW agents. Another 40-50% are terrorist sympathizers, jaahils, paindus, fundoos, falanoos and timkanoos. The rest have just not been exposed yet because they have chosen to keep their opinions to themselves, or do not have a Facebook or Twitter account yet.

Private Schools-Parents-State: The Hate Triangle

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Recent events have changed the way a student looks at his/her educational institution. The parent-school tussle does not have a party that is entirely wrong. Strong emotions from frustrated parents paint a devilish picture of these schools, while stubborn and rigid stances and strikes by the schools makes them seem like monarchs from the past. Both extremes are unnecessary, non-productive and harmful to the society in general, and children in specific.

Resting in the centre of this controversy is an amendment to the Punjab Private Institutions (Promotion and Regulation) Ordinance, 1984 whereby Sections 7A, 12A, 12B and 12C were inserted. Said amendment was the government’s way of responding to protests by parents against unreasonable fee hikes made by the private schools, thereby becoming a necessary and proper party to the dispute. A hate triangle was born where parents, private schools and the government stand firmly in their corners.

Section 7A is the core of contention for private schools. It regulates the process for annual increase in fee by the schools. Seen as necessary by the parents and the government, private school owners see it as a gross violation of their fundamental rights, especially the right to free trade and business as enshrined in Article 18 of the Constitution of Pakistan.

What the parents need to acknowledge, and schools need to admit, is that it is a business. Education and health are two of the most profitable businesses in Pakistan today, primarily owing to the State’s failure in the performance of its obligations. There is no doubt that education, even if taken as a business, is still a noble business. But the nobility depends largely on the priorities of those who undertake it.

A common misunderstanding, intentional or for lack of understanding and knowledge, is that parents are protesting against the exorbitant fees being charged by the heavy weights in private schools industry. That is not the case, and if it were it would have been unreasonable. When a parent chooses a school for his/her child, its standards, faculty, campus, results, facilities as well as fee are all taken into consideration. There is a mark difference between an average private school’s standard and those of an established school with high end, state of the art facilities. It would be plain stupid to protest against the makers of Mercedes for not selling their cars for the price of a Toyota, or against Avari Hotel for not renting out rooms at the rate charged by Gammay da hotel. But once the room is rented out, any increase in its rent which prima facie seems unreasonable and puts an unforeseeable burden on the tenant is exploitation, extortion even. So if I had my child admitted in a school with an annual fee of Rs. 50,000/- and am charged Rs. 1,00,000/- two years later, I am bound to feel exploited, extorted and taken advantage of.

While the schools are within their rights to charge what they want, being a private business, they cannot keep making huge annual increase in fees and consequently enlarging the financial burden on parents without just cause.

When the parents were protesting against fee hikes, there were regular remarks made by some private schools whereby not resorting to legal recourse was shunned. Now after the schools themselves have challenged an allegedly unconstitutional amendment before the High Court, how can they justify shutting the schools down in protest? Is it a protest against the amendment passed by the provincial legislature or against the High Court for an order that they haven’t yet passed? If the amendment is actually unconstitutional and violative of their fundamental rights, the best forum to contest is the court. A strike or shutting down can only be taken as a pressure tactic applied to make the protesting parents back off. If so, it will not bode well for their education-before-profits stance.

As for the case itself, true that freedom of trade and business is a fundamental right as enshrined in Article 18, but like all fundamental rights it is not absolute or unconditional, it is a qualified right. The government is within its rights to impose “reasonable” restrictions on any such liberty. Regulating the process on increasing fee, is in my opinion reasonable. A school owner’s fundamental right to freedom of trade is not above, or independent of, a citizen’s fundamental rights.

In the words of honourable Justice Mr. Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani;

“The Constitution of a country is an organic whole and the import of a certain provision has to be construed in the context of the overall scheme of the Constitution.”

Therefore while enforcing or safeguarding the freedom of trade, the state cannot ignore Article 38 wherein promotion of social and economic well-being of the people has been declared as one of its primary responsibilities.

Justice Jillani further says;

“By qualifying the right to business and trade, the Constitution makers wanted to create a balance between the societal needs and rights of an individual”     

The state has played its due role, it is now a legal battle, let the due process take its course and accept the court’s verdict when it comes. Private school owners should not be portrayed as evil entities, they are within their rights as corporate entities to protect their interests. Parents too, are not engaging in frivolous hate campaign, but are merely safeguarding their economic interests and the future of their children.

As for the news of a strike, in my honest opinion, a strike by the schools at this point will damage their own cause, tarnish their repute and bring undue bad name which demeans their sincere efforts put into bringing quality education within our reach, in the absence of any such provision by the state.