Tuesday, December 24, 2013
A Global Times poll has revealed that more than 85 percent of respondents see the merits of Mao Zedong as greatly outweighing his mistakes, with more than 90 percent of respondents showing reverence or respect to Mao. The survey, conducted by the Global Times Global Poll Center through telephone interviews and online polls on Monday and Tuesday, interviewed 1,045 respondents aged over 18 in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Xi'an, Changsha and Shenyang. The findings showed respondents aged above 50 and those with a high school or vocational school education are more likely to revere Mao, while respondents who have a bachelor's degree or above are more likely to be critical of him. In a multiple choice poll, nearly 90 percent of respondents believe the greatest merit of Mao, who was born 120 years ago on Thursday, is founding an independent nation through revolution, while nearly 60 percent admire him for advocating the idea of serving the people and spreading the notion of fairness. "Fairness being the second most popular of Mao's merits makes sense as it's part of the reason that people miss the Mao era, because the wealth gap was not as big as now," said Zhao Zhikui, a research fellow at the Academy of Marxism under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, noting that it should be an alert to the authorities. The poll also shows nearly half of respondents value Mao making China a nuclear power by making its own atomic and hydrogen bombs, as well as his promoting the liberation of women. About 48 percent of respondents praised his deeds in paving the way for opening up the country through building Sino-US relations, nearly 55 percent voted for him promoting China's international position, and nearly 46 percent acknowledged his advancing the industrial and economic systems. Nearly 80 percent of respondents believe Mao's main fault was launching the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), around 60 percent of them voted for his pushing the Great Leap Forward (1958-61) out of not respecting economic rules, and 46 percent mentioned Mao's main fault as launching a personality cult. "The concern of those who hold a negative point of view toward Mao currently is that the acute social contradictions in today's China may lead to people rationalizing the Cultural Revolution and hoping to solve the problems through repeating the pattern," Huang Weiping, director of the Contemporary Chinese Politics Research Institute at Shenzhen University, told the Global Times. "The authorities avoid deep discussions of the mistakes Mao made in launching the Cultural Revolution," he noted. More than 90 percent of respondents believe that Mao's era still influences today's China. Those respondents aged from 18 to 29 were most likely to believe Mao's era still has an influence today, with figures of 96 percent. Xie Chuntao, a professor with the Party School of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, told the Global Times that the survey shows Chinese society has a more rational attitude toward Mao and consider him as a politician from the perspective of his influence on the whole nation. Zhao said the influence Mao had on China is obvious, as its political system, economic basis and international position is all rooted in the Mao era. Activities such as galas, exhibitions and seminars are being held nationwide to commemorate the anniversary of his birth. Local authorities in Mao Zedong's hometown in Shaoshan, Hunan Province, have spent billions of yuan on celebrations and public projects to mark the anniversary.
For Denise Acosta, it was being laid off for the first time. For Diana Martinez, it was the death of her mother, leaving her as the sole carer for her severely disabled younger brother. For Johnny Hill, it was having to take responsibility, a year away from retirement, for her two young granddaughters. Each of these hard-working women from San Antonio, Texas, have fallen victim to circumstances that turned their lives upside down, robbing them of their full-time jobs, the paychecks they once enjoyed and, in Acosta's case, her home. Their stories vary, but they all belong to a growing group, America's working poor, for whom the journey from getting by to hunger can be brutally short. Deep cuts to the US food stamps programme, designed to keep low-income Americans out of hunger in the aftermath of the economic recession, have forced increasing numbers of families such as theirs to rely on food banks and community organisations to stave off hunger. An expansion of the programme, put in place when the recession was biting deepest, was allowed to expire in November, cutting benefits for an estimated 48 million people, including 22 million children, by an average of 7%. As these cuts begin to bite, even harsher reductions are in prospect. Republicans in the House of Representatives have proposed $38bn cuts over 10 years, in their latest version of a long-delayed farm bill that would also require new work requirements and drug tests for food stamp recipients. The cuts have forced poor families to make tough choices. The Guardian spoke to beneficiaries of the food stamps scheme, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programme (Snap), in San Antonio, Texas. As the second most populous US state after California, Texas suffered the second-biggest cut to its Snap programme, affecting 4 million recipients. At the San Antonio Food Bank, where she comes for help with her resume and to register for its work force program, Acosta, 36, a mother of four children aged 14 and under, described how being laid off from her job as a healthcare administrator seven months ago had caused an immediate family crisis. An $800 medical bill, no longer covered by insurance, meant Acosta quickly fell behind on the $1,200 monthly payments on her house, then the car. She lost both, and was forced to move in with her sister in Edinburg, Texas, 200 miles south, until her unemployment benefit came through. The strain of having her income slashed has taken its toll. “For a while I had trouble sleeping. I would go to bed at three and four in the morning and I went through a depression. But I tell myself the children depend on me. I think 'Mind over matter'. People are worse off than me.” In October, the family's Snap benefits were $113 a month, a sum that lasts them about a week and a half. A letter Acosta received warned her of a Snap cut of $11 for each family member in November. Acosta has learned to be creative: with the children's meals, with juggling bills, with trying to keep the kids from noticing the dwindling food on the table and in their schoolbags as her job search drags on. “They are always starving, the boys have a very high metabolism – I don't know where the food goes. I used to buy Lunchables [lunch packs] for snacks, now I get a big pack of ham and cheese and we make our own. They say: 'Why can't we have Lunchables?' I tell them, 'This way they get more.' I buy larger packs of cheaper meat and stretch it out. We buy the cheaper brands of cereal now. If I don't have enough food, the older ones are harder to please. The younger ones will have a tuna sandwich or Roma noodles, around 19 cents a pack. The older ones say 'This isn't even a meal.' I do my best to make sure they don't see a difference. I don't want it to affect them as much as it's affecting me.” The soaring participation in Snap, which has almost doubled in seven years – from 25 million people in 2006 to almost 48 million today – has made it a prime target for large cuts by Republican lawmakers anxious to save money. The House bill would deny Snap to 3.8 million low-income people in 2014, according to estimates by the Congressional Budget Office, and to an average of 3 million people a year for 10 years. Those who would find themselves no longer eligible include some of the nation's neediest individuals, working families, children and senior citizens. In addition, 200,000 families would lose access to subsidised school meals. “That would make it really difficult for people who struggle to find work like me to get back on their feet,” Acosta said. Even since the November cuts took effect, those involved in emergency food distribution reported higher demand and longer lines, with new clients they had not seen before. The San Antonio Food Bank says donations are up 16% But because of the cuts to Snap the supplies disappear faster. Eric Cooper, the CEO, said: “For me, October, November and December is harvest season. Our community is at [its] best. There's a great spirit of the holidays and giving is at its peak. But when I go into the warehouse, there are a lot of empty shelves. It used to last longer. Demand is outpacing supply.” The food bank’s 535 partner agencies, food pantries and kitchens across 16 counties in southwest Texas, are ordering more food, Cooper said. “They are reporting longer lines and they are seeing people sooner in the month.” Of the 58,000 clients fed by the SAFB every week, Cooper said, half are working families, many are underemployed, the rest are seniors and people who, through mental or physical disability, cannot work. There are a lot of veterans in Texas, some of whom have been disabled through military service. But on the whole, he said “Hunger is biased towards women and kids. A divorce, a separation can put a lot of women in poverty.” From the San Antonio Food Bank it is a short drive to the Baptist Temple Church food pantry, one of its partners. It usually feeds between 220 and 240 needy families a day, representing around 900 individuals. When the Guardian visited, on an unseasonably cold night in December, scores of people stood shivering in line in the crowded car park across the road from the church, while others took refuge in cars. Johnny Hill, 64, a divorced great-grandmother, is raising her daughter's children, aged five and three, and looks after another grandchild part time. A former school cafeteria manager for 25 years, Hill now works in administration six days a month for the church, which pays her $600. Her Snap benefits fell rom $550 to $494 last month. She comes to the food pantry three times a month and shares what she has with her 85-year-old neighbour. “It doesn't matter about me,” she said. “I just need to look out for the kids. We eat a lot of salads. We manage. I'm dealing with it.” She has a lot of “good church friends”, who help out, but admitted: “We'd be in trouble if we didn't have the food bank.” Like Hill, Diana Martinez, 46, inherited the responsibility for another family member. Her mother's death, left her in sole charge of “baby brother” Michael, 41, who is severely mentally disabled, forcing her to give up her 18-year job as a head custodian for the school district. “Michael has the mind of a two-year-old,” Martinez said. “He goes to day care, but when he's not feeling good, he acts up and he won't go for weeks. Who would give me a job and time off when he acts up?” Now she earns minimum wage of $7.25 an hour from an agency for 24 hours a week of caring for him, a total of $754 a month. The rest of the time she does it for free. Martinez and her son, Sean, six, live with her brother in a handicapped apartment paid for by Michael's disability benefits and they get $288 in Snap, reduced from $308. It has meant less meat and a trip to the food bank once a month, usually to the Salvation Army site downtown. “I got a chicken here today, so we'll have that and mashed potatoes and macaroni. Sean will like that. If it wasn't for the food bank, I would be hungry. It helps me a lot.” Last month, the need for emergency food in this community soared to its highest level yet, according to Joe Guinn, a minister at the church. He shakes his head in disbelief as he recalls last month. “There were 260 families, that's almost 1,500 people,” said Guinn. “Our absolute highest ever.”
Egyptian police have arrested the prime minister who served under the deposed President Mohamed Morsi. Interior ministry confirmed on Tuesday that Hisham Qandil has been arrested for not carrying out a court ruling to nationalise a private company. Last April, Kandil was sentenced after he refused to implement a court ruling to renationalise a textile company sold off by the administration of former president Hosni Mubarak. Judge Khaled Hassan said the prison sentence must be carried out and ordered Kandil's arrest. Officials in the Kandil government said renationalising state enterprises was not straightforward and the company had been broken up since it was sold to the foreign investor. Morsi appointed Kandil in July 2012, after the Muslim Brotherhood politician won Egypt's first freely contested presidential election. Morsi was deposed by the army on July 3 after mass protests against his rule. He is in detention charged with crimes including inciting the killing of protesters and escaping from jail. The sentence against Kandil related to a 2011 court ruling demanding the government repurchase textile company Tanta Flax and Oils from a Saudi Arabian investor who bought it in 2005. Egyptian courts have issued at least 11 rulings since the revolution that toppled Mubarak ordering the state to reverse deals signed by the former president's administration. The lawsuits have been brought by activists and lawyers who say companies were sold off too cheaply and were representative of corrupt business practices during the Mubarak era. The subsequent rulings have plunged a number of foreign companies operating in Egypt into legal limbo, exposing the government to the risk of costly international arbitration that could scare off much-needed investment from abroad.
Aseefa Bhutto Zardari has warmly greeted the Christian Community on the eve of Christmas falling on Wednesday December 25. She further said that the teachings of Jesus Christ (May Allah be pleased with him) who always spread the message of love remind us of peace, tolerance and brotherhood.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Patron-In-Chief, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) said the best way to pay homage to Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah is to protect Pakistan from the followers of extremist elements who vehemently opposed his struggle for independence and mounted attacks on his personality, during and after the independence.
http://dunyanews.tv/A policeman was killed and several others including two police officials were injured when in a blast near police vehicle at Chakrali Road. According to police, the bomb was planted by roadside that killed police official Aurangzeb and injured others. The injured were shifted to Abdullah Hospital for treatment. The police vehicle and windowpanes of nearby building of an educational institution ware also damaged in the explosion. Police and Bomb Disposal Squad were busy in search operation when the blast occurred. According to Bomb Disposal Squad, the bomb weighed five kilograms and it was locally made. Police cordoned off Chakrali Road and put security on high alert.
The Express Tribune
Clash between Police and the Protester in... by TheExpressNews As Pakistanis observed the Chehlum of Hazrat Imam Hussain (RA) on Tuesday, a total of seven people were killed and at least 25 injured in multiple bomb explosions in Karachi and Mansehra, Express News reported. The Chehlum is an observance that occurs 40 days after Ashura and is marked by processions. The government suspended mobile services in 56 cities to ensure tightened security, but that did not stop two explosions going off in Mansehra. The first one injured four people while the next one on Chakrali Road killed three near a school. Earlier, in Karachi, blasts in Orangi Town took four lives and injuring 21. In Rawalpindi, a clash broke out between between a group of protesters and security personnel the Pirwadhai area, which borders Islamabad. Five people were injured in a firing incident in Raja Bazaar area of Rawalpindi, too. A heavy contingent of security officers was present in the area when unidentified armed men opened fire. It was reported that processionists in Rawalpindi tried to enter Islamabad but the police stopped them, which led to clashes.
The Express TribuneChances that the polio vaccination campaign will take place in Khyber Agency as per schedule are looking slimmer after each development – 400 volunteers have now refused to take part in the drive. And, if earlier most of the hesitation came from daily wage volunteers, this time health department employees are also threatening to throw in the towel, The Express Tribune learnt on Monday. Eight polio paramedics have decided to quit. They have informed health department officials about their resignation. The rest are threatening to stay away till their demands are met. One of employees requesting not to be named, said all eight have handed in their notice to the relevant department. Khyber Agency Paramedics Association (KAPA) President Abdul Haleem confirmed the development and said they will not back down. Agency Surgeon Sameen Jan told The Express Tribune things have become difficult for them as far as conducting anti-polio drives is concerned. He also corroborated reports of volunteers pulling out and employees quitting. Volunteers have shared their apprehensions with him, said Jan. “We cannot force them to work; eight paramedics have submitted their premature resignation letters.” Jan went on to share field supervisor medical officer (FSMO) Dr Usman Afridi was also taking steps to get transferred from Khyber Agency. According to the agency surgeon, the anti-polio drive planned for January included 328 teams, which, by the looks of it, will be missing 400 workers and a FSMO. More security, compensation The agency’s paramedics held a meeting on Monday in which they decided to refrain from participating in the vaccination drive until their demands are fulfilled. These include better security and a financial compensation package for families of slain polio workers. The meeting was chaired by KAPA President Abdul Haleem. Two polio workers have been killed in the past 10 days, emphasised Haleem. “Vaccinating children against polio in Jamrud tehsil has become an uphill task,” he said. The government should provide a financial package to heirs of the martyred workers, insisted the KAPA president. “It is shocking that the government is yet to take solid steps to provide security to polio workers in the face of growing threats to vaccinators, even when they know the next drive is right round the corner in January. The government should also announce employment for family members of those killed, and an amount for compensation.” Security to paramedics and volunteers is only provided during polio inoculation campaigns. They are left in the lurch once the drive ends, leaving them exposed to threats, explained Haleem. Polio workers have formed a negotiation committee for talks with the administration, he added. An official of the health department confirmed these developments came to the fore after recent killings of polio workers in Khyber Agency.
THE extremist mindset that has come to increasingly dominate the religious discourse in Pakistan has in large part been attributed to the hold of the madressah system of ‘education’ in the country. Even in areas considered ‘secular’, such as large parts of Balochistan, madressahs have made significant inroads as our story on Sunday indicates. The madressahs that proliferated in the 1980s during the Afghan war were different from the traditional seminaries in the subcontinent that taught subjects other than just religion. The new madressahs focused on political Islam. They were nurseries for a kind of militancy that spawned a new Islamic army whose goals expanded from challenging Soviet and Western domination to imposing on society a way of life that came close to its religious ideals. “There were 570 madressahs in the country in 1979,” says Amir Rana, an expert on religious militancy and director of the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies based in Islamabad. “Ten years later, by the time the Geneva Accords were signed, there were more than 7,000.” Their funding, he points out, came from different sources. Saudi-funded Wahabi madressahs, the ones most blamed for the export of religious extremist thought, were not the only variety. Funding by the Pakistani diaspora helped state institutions within the country to ensure the proliferation of mostly Deobandi madressahs. Unfortunately, today, the government seems to have no control over the growth of madressahs. Far more than the ones whose details have been recorded are the unregistered seminaries that receive funding through private donations. And though madressahs are attractive options for poor families as they provide free board and lodging, what they are teaching is anyone’s guess. What is clear is that the government, after committing its initial mistake of encouraging the growth of seminaries of a starkly militant bent, has failed to develop the counter-narrative that is so desperately needed. A ready instrument for this narrative would have been the formal schooling system. According to the Education Emergency report released in 2011, only 6pc of students learn in madressahs; the rest attend government or private schools. Increasingly, parents are turning to low-cost private schools, which may include Islamic chains of schools that teach religion and more mainstream subjects. But public-sector schooling is still believed to have the edge in terms of enrolment. It is unfortunate then that the government’s neglect of these schools has caused parents to look elsewhere for more viable alternatives. This is what the report says of government schools: only “65pc have drinking water; 62pc have a latrine; 61pc a boundary wall, 39pc have electricity.” Inaccessibility and teacher absenteeism are other factors, among numerous, that have contributed to the diminishing interest in public sector schooling. Thousands of such schools are only a statistic, and referred to as ‘ghost schools’. Here too, education has become imbued with religion. Although stridency in religious views is still reserved for the madressahs, national ideology as taught in public schools has come to be increasingly associated with Islam. According to retired Prof A.H. Nayyer, who has extensively studied the curriculum of these schools, “Citizenship-making is part of the curriculum. In Pakistan, national identity is defined in terms of religion which can then lead to the revision of history and to contradictions. For instance, a textbook may state that Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance. But another one might put Hindus in a bad light or incite jihad.” Indeed, evidence suggests the curriculum document offers resistance to any concept of plurality, to ideas that promote the emergence of diverse religious or cultural identities. The state will have to find a solution before the discourse turns more dangerous. One suggested by Prof Jaffar Ahmed, director of the Pakistan Studies Centre at the University of Karachi links education to a standard system of schooling. “Before we move to reform either the madressah or government schools in terms of the curricula, there should be structural reforms. We need one main schooling system — after Matriculation students should be able to decide what they want to study ie theology or other subjects.” Just as they criticise the system, academicians and educationists may have valuable suggestions to offer. The question is, is the state listening?
Christmas for 700 Christian families in Multan was made extra special this year, as the Shia community showered them with gifts the day before the Chehlum of Imam Hussain. The goodwill step was taken by Chairman Markazi Azdari Imam Hussain Council (MAIHC) Hasan Mashadi in collaboration with religious leaders from other religious sects. The gifts were sponsored by Multan’s civil society.
The government announced on Monday revival of electricity loadshedding for ‘about two hours’ per day throughout the country because of an increased gap between power generation and demand arising out of annual canal closure and diversion of gas to textile industry. “The Indus River System Authority has reduced indents for annual canal closure due to which loadshedding of about two hours will start on Tuesday,” a statement issued by the ministry of water and power said. “Inconvenience to be caused to the people due to loadshedding is regretted,” it added. An official, however, told Dawn that loadshedding could go up to four hours on an average, but it would be kept at two hours in big cities and maximum loadshedding would be done in the rural sector and areas with lower recovery of bills. As a result, some consumers may complain of more than 10 hours of loadshedding. He said the government was engaging with Irsa to persuade it to make higher water discharges from Tarbela dam to enable Wapda reduce electricity supply gap. At the same time, consumers have been advised to adopt energy conservation measures to minimise electricity shortage. But Irsa had not accepted the water and power ministry’s demand because of the absence of its chairman, an official said. He said Irsa had been asked to ensure at least 15,000 to 20,000 cusecs of water releases from Tarbela dam against usual discharges of about 8,000 cusecs for drinking purposes during annual canal closure. Discharges from Tarbela dam stood at 35,000 cusecs on Monday. The official said the Irsa chief would be back in town on Dec 26 and preside over a meeting to consider the government’s demand. He said the government had not asked for higher discharges from Mangla dam because Punjab had availed higher discharges from them and further depletion of storage could create operational difficulties. An Irsa official said members of the authority appeared to be inclined to accept the government demand for higher water releases for more power generation, but for genuinely different reasons. He said the industrial sector was mostly releasing its waste into the river system and causing higher contamination. “Even though the drinking water was properly treated before use, there should be higher flows in rivers to enable filtration and treatment.” A power ministry official said the electricity shortage had been caused not only because of canal closure but a sudden drop in temperatures beyond freezing point in many parts of the country. On top of that, the diversion of 100 million cubic feet of natural gas per day from the power sector to textile sector had generated an additional shortfall of about 450MW. The official said Sindh would close down Kotri canal on Dec 26, followed by Sukkur on Jan 6 while canals in Punjab would remain closed for annual maintenance between Dec 25 and Jan 31. As a result, the hydropower generation would fall drastically to 1,000MW for about 35 days. Coupled with the canal closure, the production from Wapda’s thermal stations will remain static at 1,500-2,000MW because of the ongoing rehabilitation programme. Maximum reliance will, therefore, shift to IPPs. As a result, the cost of electricity will go up in view of more reliance on furnace oil and diesel for power generation.
A big explosion rocked the area near Capri Cinema here on the route of the central mourning procession of Chehlum at M.A. Jinnah Road, ARY News reported on Tuesday. The explosives were kept in a pipe. A destroyed mobile phone was also found from the place, officials said. The participants of the Chehlum mourning procession had to offer Zohrain prayers at Imambargah Ali Raza near the bombing spot. The device went off when the procession was away from the place of bombing, so as remained unharmed in the explosion. According to the law enforcement agencies the explosives were kept in a pipe of a billboard. The bomb disposal squad reached to the spot of the blast near Sea Breeze at M.A. Jinnah Road.
http://www.thefrontierpost.com/ A blast occurred near Numaish Chowrangi Tuesday morning when the city is already on high alert on the occasion of chehlum of Hazrat Imam Hussain (RA) and his companions, Local TV reported. According to initial reports, no casualty occurred in the explosion while security forces have cordoned off the area to ascertain details about the nature of the blast. Bomb disposal squad also reached the spot immediately after the blast was reported. Miscellaneous reports suggested that it was a tyre blast but on the contrary, police told that the bomb was triggered remotely. However, further details are yet be ascertained. With cell phones off the grid and pillion riding on motorcycles banned, the government has put in place strict security measures for the chehlum today. Under the comprehensive security plan, 10,000 police and Rangers personnel have been deployed for security of the main mourning procession in Karachi. The procession route would be monitored through aerial surveillance and through a network of 150 closed-circuit television cameras. Cellular phone services in major cities of the province, including Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur and Khairpur was suspended from 7am till 10pm. The government has also barred pillion riding for a day across the province. The ban would remain in place from Monday midnight till Tuesday midnight. All weapon carrying permits have also been suspended for 10 days. Fourteen mourning processions scheduled in Karachi have been declared highly sensitive. Additional Chief Secretary Home Mumtaz Ali Shah said troops would be deployed at all sensitive positions to avoid any untoward incidents. Most parts of Rawalpindi have been sealed for fear of untoward incidents. Cellular services will be suspended in various cities, with the government taking strict measures to ensure security for the mourners. Thousands of police personnel and Rangers have also been deployed in the city, with entry and exit point of the troubled Raja Bazar sealed. Similarly, strict security arrangements have been made in other major cities including Lahore, Peshawar Multan and tribal agencies.
Imran Khan’s (IK’s) PTI took out rallies in Lahore, Karachi and Quetta on Sunday against inflation and the state of the economy. Whereas the Lahore rally was sizeable, it was nowhere near the ‘tsunami’ the PTI had promised. The rallies in the other cities were even smaller. In his speech at the rally in Lahore, IK spelt out a nine-point ‘formula’ for righting the wrongs of the economy. IK’s ‘economics’ could be boiled down to declaring war on drone attacks and the NATO supply lines, improving law and order, eliminating corruption, avoiding dependence on IMF loans, taxing the rich, eschewing the printing of currency notes to avoid inflation, and promoting accountability and foreign investment. The implication in this delineation of a magic formula to bring economic wellbeing and prosperity was that IK’s PTI could do this job better than the elected government at the Centre. Even if, for the sake of argument, it is conceded that the PTI could do better than the incumbent PML-N, a closer examination of these nine points would show that there is nothing new in them that is not the stuff of the existing narrative on the country’s, let alone the economy’s woes. Declaring ‘war’ on drone attacks has already been carried out by the PTI through blocking the NATO supply routes in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the likely outcome of which will probably be the curtailing of Pakistan’s aid from the US and the west. How that will improve the economy is known only to Dr Keynes IK. As for one of the main planks of the PTI’s politics, i.e. eliminating corruption, although a desirable goal, cannot be guaranteed to make rivers of milk and honey flow. In case IK is unaware, the developed world, in which the kind of crude corruption we have is rare, corruption in government and the corporate sector and a nexus between the two is hardly new or unknown. If that corrupt nexus was the only source of the west’s and the world’s current economic woes, by now it would have been corrected. If ever there was a case of misplaced concreteness, IK’s implied view that corruption’s elimination is the magic wand for all economic ills would top the list. IMF loans are not a luxury. Even a government like the PML-N, wedded to according the private sector the role of the engine of the economy, recognised the necessity of such loans if Pakistan was to meet its external obligations. This is bitter but necessary recognition of reality, not the pie-in-the-sky promised by IK’s uneducated take on the economy. Taxing the rich in a capitalist economy has proved difficult even in the developed world, let alone a country such as Pakistan that has known mostly the privileges, perks and state-fuelled concessions to the rich and powerful in our history. Of course the rich should be taxed, especially those hoarding hidden income and wealth. But this is too is neither easy nor quick. The IMF, whatever our view of it and its programmes, is also insisting on just such tax reforms, but the dire straits of the economy have compelled the PML-N government to offer a tax amnesty to hoarded wealth in the hope of boosting investment. The measure may or may not pay off, and will almost certainly postpone the day of reckoning for tax evaders, but no one, including IK who argues for foreign investment, has come up with a better idea so far that encourages not only external investment, but persuades our businessmen to reverse the flight of capital from Pakistan and put their money where it is needed. Perhaps the main reason why IK has embarked on economic terra incognita is because his pro-Taliban pronouncements and policies have alienated a large section of the youth who flocked to his banner in the lead up to the 2013 elections. The fizz seems to have gone out of that youth wave, hence the resort to perceived ‘populist’ demands such as relief from inflation and other steps. But the facts are stubborn things. IK’s ‘economics’ is essentially a reductionist and superficial view that the ‘system’ can and should be run (preferably by Imran’s party) in a better, cleaner way, and that will solve all our problems. The problem with that simplistic notion is that the economic status and problems of the country require intelligent handling of the crisis we (and the world) are passing through, without indulging in flights of fantasy. In the end, capitalism has proved once again to be a system that self-produces periodic crises that are inherent in its make-up. IK has no alternative to offer to that system, except a better ‘managerial’ approach that may yield marginal benefits, but is unlikely to pull Pakistan out of the economic morass it is mired in.
The government of Sindh has announced a public holiday on December 27 to pay homage to former prime minister Shaheed Benazir Bhutto on her sixth martyrdom anniversary.
“It was staged and pre-planned,” said Shahid Attaullah, referring to the arrest of a homeopath Dr Masood Ahmed on charges of blasphemy. Narrating the details of the events preceding the arrest of a 72-year old doctor, who is also a British national, Attaullah, the spokesperson for the Ahmaddiya Jamaat, said: “Two men posing as patients, came to his clinic in the Anarkali, an older part of Lahore, on November 25. After a few minutes they started discussing religion. Supposedly the doctor responded to their questions about Islam and then they left. Within minutes, a mob gathered around the clinic. A complaint was lodged and the police arrested him for preaching. He is in lock-up and his bail denied.” According to news reports, the doctor was arrested for ‘posing’ as a Muslim. Ahmadis consider themselves Muslims but in 1984, the government promulgated an ordinance, declaring them non-Muslims. According to Pakistan’s constitution, this community cannot call themselves Muslims; are banned from referring to their places of worship as mosques and cannot recite the Kalima, which is the first tenet of Islam, whereby a Muslim proclaims that he is a Muslim. The Ahmadis are banned from even singing hymns in praise of Prophet Muhammad. Of late there have been incidents where they have been harassed for keeping Muslim names. Attaullah sees this to be a long-drawn case now that a first information report (FIR) has been lodged. “It is now gone into the court.” Last year 20 trumped up charges were registered, while this year as many as 33 people have so far been booked including the doctor. According to Attaullah while there are some judges who are themselves prejudiced towards the community, those who are not are pressured by religious hardliners. “There was a case where the judge of the Lahore High Court refused to take decision and sent the application back to the lower court. This is quite unprecedented. Two months ago in another case, after the judge granted bail to the accused, a group of clerics went to the judge’s chamber. I don’t know what transpired inside, but a little later, the judge changed the written order stating ‘no bail’”. This does not surprise Zohra Yusuf, the chairperson of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. “I can understand the judge’s predicament because a lot of power has been ceded to the clerics and most people buckle under their threats,” she said. Since 1984, 299 people belonging to the community have been charged under the blasphemy law, 764 booked for displaying the Kalima; 38 for the Azan (calling to prayer); 447 ‘posing’ as Muslims; 93 for offering prayers, 770 for preaching and hundreds others for many such offences. Little wonder then that Attaullah says: “There is always the sword of Damocles hanging over all of us and the mental anguish is permanent”. “Many of our youngsters are migrating to other countries,” he said. “They do not see a future in Pakistan and the elderly members don’t want to leave the country they think is theirs,” he pointed out the social quandary they find themselves in. The religious apartheid has become overt with the oppressors having declared an all out war. “In the last few years, I find the persecution has escalated and the attacks on us are pre-meditated and carried out in a planned manner,” said Attaullah. He further added: “And they always pick on the weaker elements of our community.” In addition, said Yusuf: “The persecution of Ahmadis knows no bounds and, regrettably, there’s not enough condemnation from society or the media.” According to Attaullah, the space for Ahmadis in Pakistan is getting narrower by the day. Talking about the doctor’s arrest, he said: “The complainants had filmed the unsuspecting man reading aloud the translation of a verse from the Quran through the hidden camera.” A Lahore-based journalist, requesting his name be withheld, (as he has received threats by an Islamic group for covering faith-based issues) has seen the video clip: “It was clear the doctor was trapped into saying what he said, but he was not preaching,” he said. Further, said the journalist: “Ahmadis don’t talk about religion publicly and never to strangers; these people must be known to him and from the video it seemed they were asking him questions and he was responding to them.” Attaullah, said they regularly circulate directives telling their people not to participate in any religious discussions with anyone and if the opposite sides wants to pull them in, they should simply disclose they are Ahmadis and the law does not allow them to speak on Islam.
By AKBAR AHMED If ever there was a target for the Pakistan Taliban, I thought to myself, this would be it. Besides the 750 graduating students and more than 2,000 guests gathered on the campus of Forman Christian College on Nov. 30 were the university’s American rector and two of Pakistan’s five provincial governors. Senior officials in Lahore had already warned the public to be vigilant. The police had information that the Taliban had dispatched suicide bombers to the city to take revenge for the recent killing of their leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, in a United States drone strike. Their targets would be senior government officials and foreigners, especially Americans. Forman is Pakistan’s leading Christian educational institution, now celebrating its 150th anniversary. Only 600 of its 6,000 students are Christian; what’s remarkable is how fully integrated into campus life they are. Like many non-Christian Pakistanis, I owed my education to Christian teachers, both at Forman and at my previous school, Burn Hall in Abbottabad, which was run by Roman Catholic priests. We loved and respected our Christian teachers, and they us. We never doubted that harmony and cooperation between faith groups were not only possible, but also completely normal. It was the reality of our lives. I had returned after half a century to my old college (now a chartered university) to receive an honorary doctorate. Once there, I found myself transported back to one of the happiest periods of my life. It was a different Pakistan and it was a time of hope. Christians were very much part of the fabric of the nation. Times have changed. Today, Forman is an island of tranquillity for Christians in a troubled sea. With increasing frequency, Christians have been attacked and their churches vandalized. No one was taking lightly the seriousness of the threat at the commencement. I was told there were snipers on all the vantage points and security officers in plain clothes all over the campus. Yet, as if to insist on the normalcy of university life, the rector announced a new center with the express purpose of bridge building between different cultures and faiths. Many Pakistanis are unaware of the role Christians have played in the nation’s history. Although the Christian population is barely three million, or 1.6 percent of the population — as compared with 180 million Muslims (more than 95 percent) — Christians have had a considerable impact, especially in education. Many of Pakistan’s most prominent leaders — including the current prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, the assassinated prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, and former President Pervez Musharraf — went to Christian schools. Christians also educated Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who founded Pakistan in 1947. Under Pakistan’s Constitution, Christians were guaranteed equal rights. The targeting of Christians comes amid a widespread breakdown of public order. The ordinary citizen — hearing stories of gangs breaking into homes and kidnapping people — thinks only of survival. Groups like the Pakistani Taliban have challenged government authority to the point where the rule of law barely exists in parts of the country like the tribal areas of the Northwest. While militant groups are frequently the culprits in attacks on Christians, a general anger against the United States has caused large numbers of people to target Christians, whom they associate with America, as scapegoats. Christians have been especially vulnerable in cases concerning the blasphemy laws, which easily convert into a tool of oppression against them. Cases like that of the 11-year-old Christian girl arrested last year after being accused of burning pages of the Quran in Islamabad gain nationwide publicity — easy causes célèbres for those who are opposed to United States foreign policy in Pakistan or who believe that Islam is under siege from the West. This, in turn, makes it very difficult for public officials to intervene, even if they are inclined to do so. Government promises to reconstruct the homes of Christians destroyed by mobs and distribute aid are rarely carried out. Those Pakistanis who do speak up for Christians have themselves become targets of violence. In 2011, a governor of Punjab Province who criticized the blasphemy laws was killed by his own bodyguard, who was then hailed as a hero. Senior politicians and the Pakistani elite have been complicit in the sectarian hostility because they fear that any of them could meet the same fate. Perhaps the worst blow to date was the deadly assault on a historic church in Peshawar earlier this year, in which 78 people were killed and 130 wounded. Little wonder, then, that there is widespread fear and uncertainty among Christians. There are rumors of entire families fleeing the country, many stranded in halfway stations like Thailand, awaiting official papers to emigrate. The situation of the Christians will improve only if the causes of Pakistan’s instability are addressed. These include the breakdown of law and order, the dangerous gap between rich and poor, the ever rising prices of wheat and sugar, the lack of jobs, and the conduct of the American war on terror in the region. Pakistanis also need to be reminded of their own history of religious tolerance. What they perhaps do not realize is that the protection and rights of the Christian community are more than a constitutional obligation: The situation of Pakistani Christians is a barometer of the health of the nation. Today, the signs are not good.