Thursday, February 7, 2013
President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union Address -- the first of his second term in office -- on February 12. The speech to a joint session of Congress will be watched by millions across the nation and around the world.
http://thebalochhal.comBy Sanaullah Baloch Over the years, the ruling elite has been polluting the public mind with baseless assumptions and storylines regarding Balochistan. This leaves little room for logical debate on the province and on the appalling socio-economic and political realities that have resulted in the Baloch people’s hostility to the state system. Despite massive media outreach and the Internet revolution, the rigid perception about Balochistan and its people remains unchanged. Facts about Baloch society and its tribal structure, as well as the outdated government-sustained tribal system in which corrupt tribal chiefs are in collusion with the establishment are rarely analysed. These tribal chiefs have played a leading role in the wholesale destruction of the Baloch society. The establishment’s standard narrative on the crisis in Balochistan revolves around such standard assumptions as: the sardars and nawabs are the main cause of the province’s socio-economic backwardness; the Baloch uprising is foreign-funded; and Balochistan is fully empowered and governed by the locals. No serious efforts have been made to understand Balochistan beyond the fact that the province is a mineral-rich region that produces natural gas, and is a colony populated by tribal warlords and their impoverished subjects. There is no denying that the power-hungry tribal chiefs are widely responsible for Balochistan’s woes. But these sardars derive their legitimacy from Islamabad, and are sustained by the government and the civil-military-establishment. However, while the Baloch deeply respect their tribal traditions and culture, this doesn’t hinder their participation in socio-economic development. The first universities, schools and other centres of learning in Balochistan were established by moderate and nationalist Baloch tribal chiefs who were staunch opponents of colonial rule in the Subcontinent, particularly in Balochistan. In the early 1930s, Nawab Yousuf Aziz Magsi established the first educational institution – Jama-e-Yousufia – in Jhal Magsi. He brought revolutionary changes in Baloch society by encouraging education and opposing the sardari system, despite being a sardar himself. Being very concerned about the welfare of the Baloch youth, he widely campaigned for social and political reforms in the province. As far back as the late 19th century and the early 20th century, the Khan of Kalat provided scholarships to young people to help them gain access to education in some of the best colleges and universities of India. He also sought the help of the British to establish schools and colleges in Balochistan. Until 1972, Balochistan was completely ignored when it came to education and economic development. The first Baloch government, headed by Sardar Attaullah Mengal and his visionary education minister, Mir Gul Khan Nasir, gave to Balochistan a university and hundreds of schools and colleges, including a medical college. Special economic zones, including the Hub Industrial Area were a brainchild of Baloch nationlist sardars who wanted their people to be empowered. In 1972, a resolution was moved in the Balochistan Assembly demanding that the federal government abolish the sardari and jirga systems, since the assembly itself did not have the power to legislate such radical changes. The PPP government at the time took no action in this regard. On February 14 1972, eight months later after the passage of this resolution, the National Awami Party presented the resolution in the National Assembly. On June 8, 1972, a resolution was introduced demanding “the eradication of outdated institutions such as the sardari system, the jirga system and the tribal system so that the province of Balochistan may progress socially and economically.” In his speech Balochistan’s senior minister Mir Gul Khan Nasir told the speaker: “Four things have been pointed out as hurdles to the economic and social progress of Balochistan in this resolution. These are: the sardari, tribal and jirga systems, and all other measures by means of which the people of Balochistan have been, and are still being, exploited.” He explained in his speech: “Sardari in the beginning wasn’t a parasitic institution, but when the sardars became agents of an imperial power, the integrity of this institution began to deteriorate. With the passage of time…some knights rose from within the ranks of the sardars…and succeeded in diminishing its influence. But despite this, we do not wish to keep this rusty skeleton of the sardari system as a monument or memorial of the past because as long as this institution remains, even as a vestige, it will keep our nation divided into various tribes and sub-tribes, which will render it impossible for us to achieve economic progress. Therefore, the main objective of presenting this resolution is to completely eradicate from the face of this earth the disease-stricken sardari system…” In Quetta, Chief Minister Attaullah Mengal unequivocally spoke in favour of the resolution, saying, “Now that the tribal system has lost its advantages, keeping it is going to act as a hurdle in the development of the people of these tribes. And the large amounts of annual allowances being given to the royal families of the states that merged with Pakistan and the sardars are putting undue pressure on the country’s economy. Therefore, the sardari system should be abolished…and the annual allowances to former royal families should be discontinued. And all the responsibilities of the sardars need to be transferred to other institutions, just like in the other parts of the country.” Despite the opposition of pro-establishment nawabs and jams, the Balochistan Assembly adopted the resolution with overwhelming majority. But Islamabad paid no heed to the demand. Furthermore, any socio-economic development of the Baloch bothered the regional powers, resulting in the dismissal of the first truly elected Baloch government and also in a full-fledged military operation.
The Baloch HalThe Balochistan government says it plans to take stern action against hundreds of employees from various departments who are currently living outside the country but still receiving regular official salary. The Chief Secretary of Balochistan, Babar Yaqoob Fateh, on Tuesday took strict notice of reports that hundreds of government employees were currently living or working overseas but were being paid salary from the official exchequer. Most of these officials have left the country without even getting official leave from the departments where they worked. Every government employee is otherwise required to obtain a no-objection certificate (N.O.C.) from the government before traveling to another country. This precondition has been violated by those who now face strict official action. These public servants have attained private passports instead of applying for passports specific for government officials. Initial findings have revealed that most of the people who have been found involved in this illegal practice are those who were offered jobs under the Aghaz-e-Haqooq-Balochistan Package. The government had offered the Package to Balochistan in November 2009 in an effort to resolve the current political crisis in the province but massive irregularities were reported as people complained that jobs created from the Package were offered to the relatives and supporters of political leaders instead of being offered purely on merit. The new findings indicate that people who got jobs under the Balochistan Package already possessed jobs and they took these jobs only to receive salary without ever showing up for work. “This is absolutely unacceptable,” said the Chief Secretary, “it is not fair to the unemployed youth of the province.” The Chief Secretary has immediately ordered an official inquiry into the matter and directed concerned officials to provide him further details without any delays.
The Express TribuneAmerican drone programme conducted its first attack of February 2013 in Pakistan, targeting militants in North Waziristan Agency. Three militants, including a foreign fighter, were killed when an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) fired missiles on a militant compound in Ghulam Khan tehsil in North Waziristan on Wednesday. An official of the security forces said that around 12:30 pm, a drone fired two missiles on a Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) compound in the mountains of Martal in Bangidar near the Pakistan-Afghan border, around 15 kilometres from Miramshah, headquarters of the agency, killing the three TTP militants. The official added that residents from the surrounding areas immediately rushed to the site to begin a rescue operation and pulled out the bodies from the debris. The first US drone strike of February 2013 follows six attacks conducted in January, in which 42 militants were killed and seven were injured in both North and South Waziristan. Its most high-profile victim last month was Taliban warlord Maulvi Nazir Wazir, also known as Mullah Nazir, a powerful elder of the Wazir tribe. Nazir was killed when a US drone fired two missiles at a double-cabin pick-up vehicle in Sara Kanda of Birmal tehsil in Wana subdivision, South Waziristan on January 2. Fighter jets kill 8 militants in Orakzai Agency Pakistani fighter jets launched a blitz on militant hideouts in Orakzai Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas on Wednesday, killing eight militants, an official of the security forces said. The jets bombed TTP hideouts, destroying three in Arghanjo and Lando Qamar in the troubled Mamozai, which borders Tirah Valley in Khyber Agency. The bombardment killed eight militants. It was the fifth such attack on militants this year. According to security forces, the previous four air raids have killed around 38 militants, while 11 hideouts were destroyed. However, the exact figures are difficult to verify. Strategic importance of Orakzai Agency Orakzai Agency is strategically an important area. Covering an area of 700 square miles, the agency shares its borders with Kurram and Khyber agencies, Hangu district and Kohat, Darra Adamkhel. It is the only agency among seven that does not share a border with Afghanistan. Its estimated population is 450,000. Since 2010, most of the agency was believed to be a safe haven for local and foreign militants, but security forces launched an operation to eliminate them. The operation is still continuing. Around 97% of the agency has been reclaimed from militants.
Frontier PostGen Pervez Musharraf’s prime minister Shaukat Aziz, who also held the portfolio of finance, created a superfluous “economic boom” by heavy imports majority of which comprised luxury items. PPP government’s first finance minister Shaukat Tareen more or less followed the same policy and his successor Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh did not lag behind making a mess of the national economy either. The mismanagement of the three finance ministers has now resulted in Pakistan’s total debt and liabilities now nearing Rs16 trillion in about a decade’s time. Two policy statements issued by the ministry on Monday conceded that the government breached major limits imposed by parliament under the Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation Act, 2005, that seeks bringing down debt levels and this seems even vulnerable of the sovereignty of state. Of this the domestic debt is around Rs9 trillion and the rest is the international liability. This is a highly alarming situation owing to higher subsidies, lower revenue collections, drying up of external program loans and currency devaluation. Not only the government showed no limits of its bizarre economic management, it also faltered in submitting annual reports on economy to parliament for three years. The Musharraf regime also behaved similarly. The key requirement of the act of reducing the revenue deficit to nil not later than June 2008 and thereafter maintaining a revenue surplus, remained total failure to begin with and throughout the last one decade. The revenue deficit stood between 3.2 per cent of GDP in 2008 to 2.5 per cent of GDP at the end of fiscal 2012. The second condition of confining total public debt below 60 per cent of GDP and then maintaining it at this limit every year, also could not be fulfilled owing to subsidies related to food and energy sectors due to which public debt to GDP stood at 61.3 per cent of GDP at end June 2012. The third key milestone required reducing total public debt by no less than 2.5 per cent of GDP every year for 10 years - 2003 to 2013 - provided poverty alleviation related expenditures did not fall below 4.5 per cent of GDP was met but failed in doubling health and education expenditures. The policy statements admit that reducing debt by 2.5 per cent every year remained a pipedream throughout the decade. Instead total debt to GDP ratio stood at 59 per cent in 2008 and finally increased again to 61.3 per cent in 2011-12. However, the government was able to maintain social sector and poverty related between 6 per cent in 2008 and 8.2 per cent in 2012. What seems to be the most conspicuous of this economic debacle is, once again, the inability of the corrupt Federal Board of Revenue in taxing all the affluent persons and the wealthy corporate sector. Unless, the FBR does not introduce a judicious taxation system, the economic ills of the country cannot heal.
Radio PakistanThird death anniversary of renowned Pashtu poet Ajmal Khattak is being observed on February 7.Born in September 1925‚ Ajmal Khattak was a committed political worker and also a literary man‚ having published a number of books of prose and poetry‚ mostly in Pashto and some in Urdu languages. Khattak started his career as a school teacher in a government school. But he left the job to become a journalist. He worked with dailies Anjam and Shahbaz and did well in both Urdu and Pashto journalism. He later began writing columns on political and social issues. Ajmal Khattak lost the election for the MNA slot in 1970 from Nowshera. He finally won the assembly seat in the 1990 elections to become an MNA on the ANP ticket. He also remained a senator. His early political career began during the Quit India Movement. Ajmal Khattak had served the ANP as central president for two terms when Wali Khan stepped down from the post. He was ousted as ANPs president in 2000‚ after a protracted power struggle with some members of Wali Khan Family. Deciding to leave the party‚ he briefly led a splinter group called National Awami Party of Pakistan. His party did not win even a single seat in the 2002 general elections amidst the religo-political parties alliance in NWFP. He wrote 13 books in Pashto and Urdu‚ including A History of Pashto Literature‚ Pakistan Main Qaumi Jamhoori Tehrikin‚ Da Ghirat Chagha‚ Batoor‚ Gul Auo Perhar‚ Guloona Auo Takaloona‚ Jalawatan Ki Shairee‚ Pukhtana Shora and Da Wakht Chagha. His first poem was published in 1944 in a magazine named Pakhtun (founded by Bacha Khan) while his first poetry collection‚ Da Ghairat Chegha‚ came out in 1958. He died on February 7‚ 2010 after protracted illness.