Category Archives: Constitution

Scottish referendum

Glasgow voted YES in the referendum.- Photo by Shamima Hasan​

By Zubeida Mustafa

LAST week Scotland decided its destiny. It came to the brink of independence and then pulled back. In the closing days of campaigning it was estimated that several thousands of the 4.2 million voters were undecided till the last. When the ballots were cast on Sept 18 over 55pc voted to stay in the union.

The 45pc who voted for change were overruled by the majority and conceded defeat. Alex Salmond, the first minister of Scotland whose Scottish National Party spearheaded the movement for an independent Scotland, announced his decision to step down.

Negotiations will follow in the coming months as more devolution of power is on the cards as has been promised by the Westminster parties in a last-ditch attempt to lure the Scots back from an irrevocable breach. Continue reading

3 Comments | Posted in Constitution, Economy, Education, Health, Human Rights, Justice, Labour, Politics, Social Issues, View from Abroad |

Rules of the game

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By Zubeida Mustafa

It was quite an extraordinary way of celebrating the 67th anniversary of Pakistan’s independence last week. Believing that they could usher in freedom/revolution by bringing their supporters out on the street, Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri succeeded only in creating polarisation and instability in a crisis-ridden country.

The two marches organised by these leaders have evoked strong reactions from political observers. A large segment of pro-democracy opinion views this show of force as an extra-parliamentary move by the opposition that could derail the democratic process and open the door for military intervention. There have also been allegations of collusion between the agitators and elements in the military. Others have defended the people’s right to protest against government excesses. The speculation of regime change has been intertwined with an ongoing discourse on the military-civilian role in politics. Continue reading

3 Comments | Posted in Books, Constitution, Defence and Disarmament, History, Kashmir, New, Politics, War and Peace |

The tsunami’s vortex

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani
guest-contributorThere have been many who have played a destructive role in Pakistan’s politics but Imran Khan may well come to head the list.

He has never had the kind of stately intellectuality or revolutionising party political standing another eventual political disaster did so one does not want to honour him by comparison with the giant; but if Bhutto’s political use of the Punjab-dominated western wing of Pakistan culminated in the loss of east Pakistan, Imran’s focus on the Punjab mass might take care of the remains.

Bhutto had the capacity to revitalise a truncated defeated nation: Would anyone wager that Imran has the capacity – or even the will – to collect the pieces of the Pakistan he is pushing towards implosion? For that could well be the way the curtain falls on his political dramatics if he persists in routing democratic leadership the Azadi March way. It is a pity as well as a national humiliation that so shallow a political entity has to be taken so seriously in terms of the damage he can inflict. And it saddens that Imran Khan, an individual who has used his privileged position to significantly positive social effect establishing ShaukatKhanum Hospital; and his cricketing gifts to delight and animate nationally should be cutting the kind of political figure he now does in his August antics. Continue reading

2 Comments | Posted in Constitution, Guest Contributor, Law & Order, Politics, Terrorism and Violence |

Education myths

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By Zubeida Mustafa

IT is budget time in Pakistan and one issue of special concern to the people is the attention that the education sector will receive from those who hold the purse strings. In the federal budget for 2014-15 Finance Minister Ishaq Dar announced an allocation of Rs63bn for higher education. The true picture will emerge only when the provincial budgets are presented, as they address the bulk of the education sector.

There are, however, a number of myths that surround this vital area of national life. One that has been perpetuated for long is that the more funds poured into education the more the latter will improve. For long the size of the education budget has been used as a yardstick to measure the government’s commitment to this sector. Hence the boast generally in budget speeches about the size of the education expenditure. Continue reading

4 Comments | Posted in Constitution, Culture and the Arts, Economy, Education, History, Human Rights, New, Social Issues |

Weapons and information

no-weapons

By Zubeida Mustafa

IT is exactly 12 weeks to the day when Perween Rahman, director of the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) Research and Training Institute, was gunned down in Orangi when she was returning home from work.

Two months later, another activist of the OPP who ran a school, Abdul Wahid Khan, was killed outside his home. A few days later on May 18, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf leader Zahra Shahid Husain was assassinated by armed men.

These were not the only people who were victims of target killing in Karachi. Approximately 259 other people met a violent death in the city in the same period. We mourn them all. Above all, we mourn our own helplessness to save these precious lives.

Zohra Yusuf, the chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, was spot on when she once commented that in Karachi a person championing a human rights cause, who dies a natural death, is indeed lucky. Continue reading

8 Comments | Posted in Constitution, Defence and Disarmament, Human Rights, Information, Justice, Law & Order, Terrorism and Violence, War and Peace |

Trying presidents

guest-contributor

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

ONE could well say Pakistan’s democracy suffers from a president problem. Ghulam Ishaq was adept at dismissing Parliaments. Farooq Leghari, popularly doubted for the party status he enjoyed till assuming office, let down the party, if not the public. Tarrar, unofficially renowned for carrying a briefcase, drifted through the crosscurrents of a countercoup without a hiccup. Presidents Musharraf and Zardari though are in a class by themselves; and who would you send to the top of the class? If one posed a conceptual challenge as a COAS president, the other posed a more empirical one as an active party promoter and controller.

And now, perhaps the thorniest nettle the incoming premier, Mian Nawaz Sharif, will have to grasp: Should the government he is to lead press treason charges on the former President Musharraf? Continue reading

4 Comments | Posted in Constitution, Defence and Disarmament, Guest Contributor, Justice, Politics |

2008-2013 Democratic Annals

democracy-politics

by Rifaat Hamid Ghani

The government and the Parliament of 2008 completed a full term: a democratic first. But it could be more because interventionists have matured than because politicians demonstrated a reassuring capacity to learn on the job.

If we step outside the trite paradigm of democracy and dictatorship and the polarities of the civil and military public political interest, we might not see any polarities: Both want power and there is a competition for it. For most Pakistanis Pakistan is home, not a cow to be milked dry. They need and want their country. The touchstone for legitimacy then becomes pragmatic for them: How is the power of government being used?

guest-contributorIf asked about the 2008-onwards use of democratically mandated power there would be more than carping complaints about law and order and safety in daily life. The common perception is the state itself is increasingly endangered by the vice and folly of the politically empowered. In 2013 despite democratic freedom a question is suppressed: Is it a myth, which local democratic experience exposes each time, that democracy is invariably the better formula? As soon as there was no self-perpetuating incentive in maintaining or reaching a consensus, political rivals needed arbitration on the caretaker PM. When mainstream parties so evidently mistrust each other’s motives and nominees they also need unusually skilled spin masters to tell the electorate why it may place faith in their candidatures and avowals. Continue reading

1 Comment | Posted in Balochistan, Constitution, Defence and Disarmament, Guest Contributor, Justice, Politics |

The battle of ideas

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE seminar organised recently by the Forum for Secular Pakistan on ‘Democracy and Secularism’ drove home two basic truths.

First, there can be no democracy without secularism. Secondly, democracy needs a national democratic movement to survive and develop further. The keynote speaker I.A. Rehman, secretary-general of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, elaborated this very succinctly.

On the occasion all the speakers did an excellent job of highlighting the dangers faced by the advocates of secularism in a Pakistan that is under threat of Talibanisation.
For the audience, mostly likeminded liberals who had turned up in sufficient strength — by the standards set by such intellectual exercises — this did not provide new food for thought. The slogans for secularism have been raised again and again for a long time now. Read Sibte Hasan’s book The Battle of Ideas in Pakistan that appeared in 1986 and you know secularism is not a new demand.

Yet, I would say it is not bad strategy to revisit such ideals since this serves to strengthen the conviction of those who stand for them and refresh the memories of others who may have forgotten their history. Continue reading

6 Comments | Posted in Constitution, Human Rights, Islamisation, Politics, Social Issues |

The battle must go on

By Zubeida Mustafa

SUCH are the paradoxes in Pakistan’s politics, that at a time our politicians are locked in a grim power struggle in Islamabad, the same gentlemen joined hands to pass unanimously the women’s commission bill last Thursday.

Whether this show of unity on a matter concerning women should be interpreted as an act of chivalry or a demonstration of ‘woman power’, it will be widely welcomed. One must, however, admit that it was the clout of the women’s caucus and the determination of the speaker — also a woman — to get the treasury and opposition benches to forge a consensus that ultimately carried the day. The bill is expected to have a smooth sailing in the Senate. Continue reading

12 Comments | Posted in Constitution, Politics, Women |

Reminder of their rights

By Zubeida Mustafa

DECEMBER 10 was human rights day. That was the day 63 years ago when the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was hailed as the international magna carta.

Much to their chagrin, people soon discovered that governments pay lip service to good causes as long as their freedom of action is not restricted severely. In many cases they have managed to get round obligations by not actually implementing on the ground what they have promised on paper. Continue reading

4 Comments | Posted in Children and Youth, Constitution, Culture and the Arts, Education, Human Rights |