Thursday, 14 September 2017

QK Archives: DOST "The Friend"

The friend
Maryam Babar
Published September 2004 Statesman

Most of us are now familiar with the name of the Dost Foundation. Mention Dost and you get a vaguely hostile reaction: They work with druggies and powdery, don’t they? Few people would think of donating their Zakat to an organisation that is committed to helping rehabilitate the ultimate rejects of our society. The fact that most of our families have one, if not more, such victims of substance abuse is ignored. As long as we can pretend in public that it is not happening then it is more comfortable to ignore the whole terrible question of drug abuse and how closely it affects all of us.
I have written earlier about the wonderful work that the Dost workers are doing in our prisons with our female inmates and juveniles. They also have street programmes, crisis centres and half way houses that reach out to a vast number of people. However, I felt I was being an apologist for what Dost considers its primary function: DRUG AWARENESS. It’s an unpopular and slightly unsavoury subject and it’s easier to get that warm, fuzzy feeling talking about the Dost prison programme.
Never one to court the easy way out, I decided to go to Dost and find out about it from the drug addicts themselves who are undergoing recovery and rehabilitation. I wanted to look into their lives and find out. Who are these people? What brings them to the point where they reach out and ask for help? After all, no one wakes up one day and says I am going to become a heroin addict and enjoy myself. Every one of us has seen the gutters filled with these people. We are all aware of that back bedroom where some unfortunate, shuffling relative passes his days in a blurry haze. I did not want to hear the doctor’s spiel or the embarrassed explanations of friends and dear ones. I wanted to talk to the drug abusers themselves.
To ensure the privacy that is assured to all patients at Dost, I will call this young man Niaz. This is his story:
Niaz was born in 1967 in Panshir. His father was a high official in the Afghan government. Educated in Germany and France, he lavished all his love and the best that money could buy on Niaz and a younger son. When the troubles started in Afghanistan he thought it wise to send his eldest son to friends in Germany. Niaz was then only 13 years old.
Niaz lived in the home of his German guardian, a bank director, and enjoyed the status of an adopted son. He finished his schooling and went on to become a computer engineer and eventually got a good job with Siemens. He admits that as a teenager he experimented with some of the fashionable party drugs of the ‘80s. Speed, cocaine, pot and even LSD - which, he said, were a scary experience. Despite these few forays into the seedier side of social life, he always tried to remain faithful to the Islamic principals his parents had instilled in him and he continued to pray, fast and read the Holy Quran. His devotion to his faith impressed his adoptive mother and Anna, the eldest daughter of the family. They both converted to Islam and started wearing full Hijab and learnt to read Arabic and made an attempt to memorise the Quran. A few years later Niaz and Anna were married.
Unfortunately, Anna could not have children and kept urging her husband to marry a second wife. She arranged for Niaz to marry Shaheen, a girl of Turkish origin, whose family had migrated to Germany many years earlier.
Niaz found that the gentle, religious Anna was the wife he loved. The pretty, vivacious Shaheen had been brought up in Germany, knew little about Islamic traditions and cared less. Though she produced two little daughters what she wanted out of life was quite different to that with which Niaz and Anna had been content.
Added to the building tensions within this ménage a trois, their neighbours had become suspicious and started asking questions. Whispers started about bigamy and Niaz became nervous. They were forced to split up the family and the two wives lived separately, with Niaz moving between both households. This is when he started suffering from deep depressions and soon found himself unable to face the day without resorting to a shot of cognac. Slowly, he found himself becoming more and more dependent on the alcohol to get him through the wreckage of his daily life.
Worried about his personal problems and the future of his daughters he decided to try and return home. With twenty-five thousand dollars and a lot of hope, he set of for Afghanistan via Pakistan.
A large number of his family had settled in Chitral and that is where Niaz and his family headed. Anna loved the life of the extended family. Aunts, cousins, nephews and nieces welcomed her into their hearts and she felt she was in an environment that suited her better than Germany. She did not want to go back. However, Niaz was not having such a good time. He learnt that his mother had been killed in a scud attack on their village. Forty-two other members of his family had perished with her. His father had resigned during the Tarakai regime and moved back to Panjsheer with his wife and daughters. More tragic news was slowly broken to Niaz. His brother, who had become a brigadier during the Najib years, had been suspected of spying for Masood and had been assassinated. Devastated to hear of all these personal losses Niaz sank deeper and deeper into depression.
While Anna enjoyed the warmth and love of her new family, Niaz found himself getting more and more alienated from his relatives. Having spent most of his formative years growing up in Germany, he had clung to his religion and faith. It had become the major force in his life and he was appalled at seeing the use that was being made of religion during the Mujahideen years. He was vocal in his criticisms and angered by the hypocrisy of his family and friends. No one was willing to speak out against anything for fear of repercussions. Niaz tried to speak out but was called a kaffir by those with whom he wished to argue. Isolated from those around him, the final blow was when the attack on Panshir started and he was told he could not proceed to Afghanistan to meet his father. He left for Karachi and the nightmare got worse.
Living in a hotel, Niaz found his money substantially reduced in a matter of weeks. His father came to see him but was barely recognisable. He was a shattered man, old and bent. With his own family decimated, his position in Afghanistan precarious and his wealth gone, he advised his son to go back to Germany.
Living in a hotel was also becoming daily more difficult. The children were constantly sick and the heat and the unfamiliar food took its toll. Niaz decided to send the family back to Germany. Alone and downcast at the ruination of all his plans, Niaz decided to look for work in Iran. He was fluent in Farsi and would be close to home. He still hoped that peace would be restored and he would be able to, eventually, go back to Afghanistan.
He left for Zahidan.
He was horrified to find that the Afghan refugee community in Iran was quite different to that in Pakistan. In Pakistan the mohajirs had managed to settle into a fairly normal life style. They had been easily assimilated into the local population and were leading productive lives. The situation in Iran was quite different. The refugee camps had a strongly criminal element and were viewed with a lot of suspicion and resentment.
One day, when Niaz was in the bazaar with a man, Jabbar, who he had recently met, he became embroiled in a bizarre incident. Niaz did not know that Jabbar and his family were involved in a long-standing family feud. As they were walking, peaceably, in the market, Jabbar was attacked by two thugs wielding knives. Niaz tried to protect and help his friend and held one of the assassins. In the scuffle, that man slipped and fell on his own knife and started bleeding profusely. Jabbar seized this opportunity to escape and ran away. Niaz called out to passers-by and started giving the fallen man CPR. The police soon arrived and promptly arrested Niaz for murder. Taken to the police station, he explained how he had, inadvertently, got involved in this mess. But, when the police went to Jabbar’s house it was to find the place deserted and no sign of Jabbar or anyone who knew where he had fled.
Niaz spent twelve days in the jail. He was badly beaten and lost eight teeth and when he was produced before the judge he was immediately sent to the prison hospital. When he re-appeared in court, though the judge was sympathetic, the proof of his innocence could not be established and he was given the death sentence and fined twelve million tumans.
While in the overcrowded jail, where eight thousand of the twelve thousand inmates were Afghans, he got the news that his father had died. With nothing left to live for, he started using heroin. He says that his intention was to try and die as quickly as possible.
After twenty months of this, he was suddenly told to prepare himself for yet another appearance in court. Penniless and despondent, he was sure that he was being taken to the scaffold. But, the news was different to what he had expected. Jabbar has been caught at the border and when his name came up on the computer, the guards realised that this man was wanted for murder. He was brought back to Zahidan, confirmed Niaz’s innocence and took his place in jail. He was later hanged.
The judge, who had always felt sorry for Niaz, suggested to him that he go to the UNHCR who were trying to repatriate the refugees. The UN authorities gave him clothes, a ticket to Kabul and eighteen hundred dollars.
In Kabul, ashamed of his drug addiction and penniless condition, he avoided contacting his relatives. The first thing he needed was an identity card. Here chance, again, played a strange trick on this ill-fated man. After filling in his registration forms, he was told to come back in a couple of hours to pick up his card. Shortly after he left the office, one of his cousins happened to visit the officer who had interviewed him. This cousin was overjoyed to hear that his long lost cousin was back in Kabul. His cousin went into the crowds of Jad-e-Maiwand, asking people if they had seen a man dressed in Western-style trousers and shirt. Niaz said that that was the first thing that struck him about the new Kabul. When he had left Afghanistan, as a young boy, he had never seen shalwar khameezes in Afghanistan. Now it appeared to have become the national dress.
Reunited with his family, he found himself even unhappier than before. The months in jail, his terrible addiction and his penury made him feel a total misfit. He knew that if he was ever again going to become a part of his old life and family he would have to try and kick the habit.
With great shame, he admits that he stole one lakh afghanis from his cousin and, leaving a note saying that he was returning to Germany, he found his way down to Peshawar. Here he checked into a hotel and headed straight for the Karkhano bazaars. He smoked and injected ninety-five thousand afghanis worth of heroin in six weeks. On his last visit to the dealer, or Saaghi as Niaz calls him, he was surprised when the dealer asked him why a man of his class and education was wasting his life on drugs. The saaghi then proceeded to tell him about Dost. Instead of buying heroin, Niaz used the last of his money to take a taxi to the Dost centre.
Determined to free himself of his addictions, he first went into the free, ten-day programme in the Darul Salaam drop-in centre. From there, he was referred to the Dost facility in Hayatabad where he was an out-patient for twenty days. Seeing his total determination to succeed, he was then admitted as a non-paying patient and stayed for eighteen days in detoxification and recovery. After that he underwent a full two and a half months treatment of rehabilitation.
With some semblance of normalcy and control back in his life, he started trying to, once more; pick up the tangled strings of his life. He called Germany and found that as he had been declared missing, then dead, his wives were now re-married and his children living with their grand parents.
Saddened by this final loss, he decided that he had to start taking responsibility for where his actions had led him. He knew that addiction was still too recently conquered a monster to be handled carelessly. He stayed on at Dost as a volunteer to help others like himself. The whole philosophy of Dost, its dedicated workers and the hope they offer the hopeless has made a deep impression on him. He is now keen on being repatriated to Afghanistan and has been offered a post there by the UNDCP/UNHCR. He says that drugs destroyed his life and left him without family, war without a country and fate leeched out all hope. Yet, at Dost, he has learnt not only to live again but also wants to do something, in his own country, for others like himself. Money, position and success are no longer goals. He says it is payback time. All he wants from life is peace and he says that working for others is the only way to achieve it.
I shall make no comments of my own about the work Dost does. Niaz’s story of death, devastation and, finally, the help he received in overcoming his problems and re-starting life says far more about the people who run that organisation than anything I could add. You decide whether or not Zakat given to this organisation would be money well spent. Islam teaches us that to save the life of one man is as though one had saved all mankind. How many lives have they saved in Dost?

Monday, 11 September 2017

QK archives: Afghanistan under the Taliban must make us shudder

Published by The NEWS on sunday' August 2000

LEARNING FROM AFGHANISTAN: lessons that pakistan can't easily ignore

Afghanistan must make us shudder!

The lessons for Pakistan from the Afghan experience are profound. Afghanistan was a dual society. The elite lived comfortably and even luxuriously. The mass of the people merely eked out a living without any of the trappings of modern civilization. The pressures of duality fractured the society, leading to political upheavals and war, and the consequential deaths and destruction on such a vast scale. The internal conditions for such a situation were provided by the Afghan ruling classes themselvesÉ Political Economy draws lessons from the tragedy of Afghanistan -- for our ruling elites' skeletons in the closet

Kaiser Bengali

Landing at Kabul or any airport in Afghanistan conveys the message, loud and clear, that one has arrived in a war zone. Off the runway, the grounds are littered with debris of anti-aircraft guns and planes, some burnt and charred, some partly blown off, and others lying in various angles. Airport buildings are pock-marked, interior furniture and furnishings have apparently been looted, and the few international passengers are dealt with at improvised immigration desks by officers wearing crumpled shalwar kameez and slippers, who make entries in registers bought in Peshawar book shops.

The drive to the city shows more signs of war damage. Charred and twisted tanks, armoured cars, trucks etc., litter both sides of the highway. Entering Kabul reveals the full horror of the war. About two-thirds of the city is completely destroyed, with about a dozen or at most two dozen buildings standing in the centre. One can drive for miles in the city and all one can see is rubble.

Imagine driving in Rawalpindi along Murree Road and onwards to Raja Bazaar, or in Lahore around the Assembly area along Mall Road, or in Karachi along M.A. Jinnah Road or University Road, or in Quetta along Jinnah Road, or in Peshawar through Chowk Yadgar or Hayatabad and every building on either side as far as the eyes can see is a pile of rubble. That is Kabul today.

Public utilities are rudimentary. The only vehicles on the streets are taxis and UN jeeps. The few private cars are mostly owned by government officials. Ninety percent of shops are either boarded up or empty, apparently looted. The Palace built by King Amanullah is also in ruins. Standing there, one can make out where fountains and other garden adornments must have been. Otherwise too, one can make out that Kabul was once a beautiful city, with broad two-way roads lined by trees and green belts and with several gardens and parks. But that is the Kabul that was.

Standing amidst the physical destruction leaves one numb and speechless. Most painful, however, is the human destruction; so plainly visible. The number of deaths and missing run into hundreds of thousands. But those who have survived are paying a continuing price. The war has shattered families and destroyed lives. More than once, I encountered old women who asked me to find sons who had been taken away by armed men and had never returned. More than once, I had to deal with old men who held my hand and wept because their sons had died. Standing on a corner of the city, I lost count of the number of disabled adults and children; some without arms, others without legs, some blind in one eye, others blind altogether. The sight of children without both legs crawling before you or children with one arm asking for alms is most heart breaking.

One family of five consists of a man and four minor children. The man is crippled on account of war wounds and cannot work. His wife was killed. The four minor children are the bread earners of the family. In the words of the man, sometimes they eat and sometimes they don't. Hunger is endemic. A survey in a northern city revealed that one fifth of households subsist largely on bread, onion soup and tea.

Over three fourths of households do not consume any meat, milk or fruits. During the survey, enumerators reported that respondents wept when asked how much of mutton, chicken, eggs, milk or fruit they consumed. Several said that their children did not know what these items tasted like.

It is also common to come across mentally disturbed people. One relatively well dressed man blocked the way of our vehicle and began to make a speech, as if in a public meeting. The driver had to get out and gently nudge him out of the way. Another man was found sitting motionless, face cradled in his right palm and legs crossed, on a pile of rubble on a street where houses on both sides had been bombed out. On inquiry, I was told that the house besides which he was sitting was where he used to live with his family. While he was away, the house had received a direct hit and the entire family had been killed. He arrived there every morning and left at sunset.

One teenager works as a tea boy in a donor office. His father is a professor at Kabul University, but has not been paid the meagre salary for months. His elder brother is an engineer, but sells old things on the street. His sister was a final year student at the University, but could not complete her education because of the Taliban edict. She just sits at home, doing nothing. He himself is the major bread earner of the family and cannot afford to go to school. He knows that without education his future is bleak, but surviving the present has to take precedence over the future.

The irony of the two decades of conflict in Afghanistan is that the city of Kabul was largely intact by the time the Russians left in 1989. The destruction was wrought on the Afghan people by the Mujahedeen commanders, the blue-eyed boys of the CIA and the ISI. Driving along a road in Kabul, one is told of Hikmatyar's control on the left side and Masood's control on the right. Further along, one is pointed out the area under Hizb-e-Wahdat control and so on. Different commanders controlled different areas of Kabul, shelled each other with the heaviest weapons available, and turned Kabul into rubble; murdering families and destroying lives. The Mujahedeen period from 1989 to 1996 is remembered by Afghans for its anarchy and lawlessness. Groups of armed men barging into homes, taking away any young men or older boys with them, looting whatever took their fancy, and raping women was a common occurrence.

The Taliban may be the bad boys in the eyes of the west and the drawing room liberals in Pakistan, but they have to be credited with imposing absolute peace in the parts of the country under their control. One may not agree with Taliban laws, but they have to be acknowledged for instituting the rule of law. Despite widespread hunger, robberies and holdups are rare. Truckers can drive from one end of the country to another without anyone accosting them for money or any favours. Most of all, women are safe. They can walk alone on the streets, albeit in a burqa, without any fear of being harassed. None of these claims can be made for the territory controlled by non-Taliban forces. And incidentally, none of these claims can be made for any part of Pakistan either.

The Islamic regime imposed by the Taliban is harsh indeed, particularly for women. In reality, however, what appears to have occurred in Afghanistan is not Islamization but tribalization. Prior to the war, whatever semblance of modernization there existed was limited to the city centres of Kabul and some other big cities. The modernized elite, who wore western dresses and sent their daughters to universities, was narrowly centred around the royal family and the military officer class. Outside of this island of relative modernity, Afghanistan existed in the medieval age. Mountain tribes had had no experience with electricity or telephones or with education or health facilities. In the world that they knew of, girls never went to schools and women never went to hospitals because there never ever had been any school or clinic in their village or in any of the villages that they knew of. When these mountain tribesmen gained the reins of power in Kabul, they could not but impose a social and political order that they were aware of and familiar with. What really occurred was that the Afghan hinterland arrived in and took over Kabul. For want of an ideological platform, however, they chose the banner of Islam.

The Taliban regime is also egalitarian in some respects. Ministers' offices are modest and they sit on the floor and eat like any body else, the head of Kabul airport commutes to work on a bicycle, and so on. However, the egalitarianism appears to be borne out of sheer poverty rather than conviction. This is indicated by the fact that the Taliban have reversed the land reforms of the 'communist' era and the lands distributed to poor peasants have been reverted to the feudal lords and tribal chiefs. For a war ravaged country, where one in seven household does not have any adult male or an able bodied male, the ban on women's work amounts to condemning these families to starvation and only betrays the Taliban's callousness regarding the plight of the under-privileged.

The lessons for Pakistan from the Afghan experience are profound. Afghanistan was a dual society. The elite lived comfortably and even luxuriously. The mass of the people merely eked out a living without any of the trappings of modern civilization. There was a rising urban bourgeoisie which was progressive enough to clamour for egalitarian change; but their efforts amounted to too little, too late. The pressures of duality fractured the society, leading to political upheavals and war, and the consequential deaths and destruction on such a vast scale. The criminal role of the two superpowers in using Afghanistan as their cold war battle ground and destroying at least two generations of a part of humanity cannot be over-looked, but the internal conditions for such a situation were provided by the Afghan ruling classes themselves.

Pakistan is no less a dual society, with sub-layers within each layer. Societal fault lines have primarily been created through parallel education systems. At one end are the westernized English-medium educated propertied class, whose life-styles would be the envy of any upper class family in any developed country. This class classifies itself as 'modernized' and encompasses the military, the civil bureaucracy, the judiciary, the major political parties, professionals, and even the nascent NGO-cracy. At the other end are the non-propertied Urdu-medium or Madrassah educated class. Both have a totally different and conflicting world view. While the upper elite subscribe to liberal values such as individual rights, gender equality, etc., the Madrassah graduates reject such liberal values and do not even subscribe to notions of democracy or human rights.

Pakistan is not Afghanistan by any stretch of imagination. Unlike Afghanistan, even the remotest village in Pakistan has been exposed to elements of modernity: electricity, telephones, schools, dispensaries, etc. The danger of a takeover by 14th century minded tribals is non-existent. However, it cannot be ignored that Pakistan is also a society fractured along multiple fault lines.

The 'modernized' upper elite is limited to E and F sectors in Islamabad and the Defence Societies in Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar. The 'modernized' upper elite has assured the best housing, education, health and recreation facilities for itself. It bears only about 15 percent of the tax burden, which will be reduced further now that Wealth Tax has been abolished. It has turned a blind eye to the fact that the mass of people live in slums, send their children to worthless schools and madrassahs, suffer morbidity and mortality on account of poor nutrition and health facilities, and yet bear over 85 percent of the tax burden. That the vast hinterland of the dispossessed Urdu-medium and Madrassah educated cadres will one day take over the capital cities is inevitable. That Pakistan too may suffer the nightmare of Afghanistan is something one can only pray against

Sunday, 10 September 2017

QK archives: Farid Toofan

Farid Toofan
The NEWS on Sunday 2005

Radically different

The intelligence agencies want to create two factions in the ANP. If so far this factionalism has not emerged, full credit should go to Begum Nasim Wali Khan.



By Raza Rahman Khan Qazi

Farid Toofan started his political career in 1967 by joining the National Awami Party (NAP). He also spent some time in the National Democratic Party afterwards and became its provincial general secretary. When Awami National Party (ANP) was founded, he joined it and served as its provincial general secretary twice.

Hailing from Karak, Farid Toofan did his graduation from Bannu College and LLB from Sindh Muslim Law College, Karachi. While studying, he was also the president of Pakhtoon Students Federation.

A two-time provincial minister, Farid Toofan is a very outspoken character and has made many political foes through his devil-may-care statements. The self-styled Pakhtoon nationalist is always in the middle of controversies. He was recently removed as secretary general of ANP' Frontier chapter by party chief Asfandyar Wali on disciplinary grounds. Many believe he became a victim of serious differences within the Wali family. He sided with Begum Nasim Wali in her tussle with Asfandyar Wali, her stepson. Begum Wali was also removed as the provincial head of ANP by Asfandyar.

Recently, The News on Sunday interviewed him. Excerpts follow:



The News on Sunday: What is it that you and Begum Nasim decry the most in the ANP's new agenda?

Farid Toofan: Today's ANP is not the one that Baacha Khan founded. The two distinguishing characteristics of the ANP of the yore had been its Pakhtoon traditions and principles. Asfandyar Wali has done away with both. In Pakhtoon traditions, women enjoy great respect but in the contemptuous manner in which Asfandyar removed Begum Wali was an absolute violation of these traditions. Moreover, ANP and its fore-runners have always been the champions of provinces' rights. But when Asfandyar removed Begum Wali and me as provincial president and general secretary of the party respectively, he completely bypassed the party's provincial cadre.

TNS: Why should intelligence agencies, as you allege, want to create problems within the ANP?

FT: The ANP has always challenged the wrong doings and the undemocratic acts of establishment. For instance, on the construction of Kalabagh Dam, on naming the Frontier as Pakhtoonkhwa, on provincial and fundamental rights.

The way the ANP has pulled out of the ARD (Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy) shows how the party leadership has given a free hand to the agencies in running the party affairs. The excuse given was that the ANP had differences with ARD over Afghan policy. If it were the real basis for withdrawal from an alliance headed by a democratic leader like Nawabzada Nasrullah, then why did the party had an alliance with Nawaz Sharif whose Afghanistan policy was diametrically opposed to ANP's? When you want to sit in the government, the Afghan policy is not an issue but when the question of restoration of democracy arises then it becomes an impediment. Why didn't the ANP recently attend All Parties Conference? Because the establishment did not want it to. A party which once had a role against the establishment, is playing in the hands of establishment today.

The intelligence agencies want to create two factions in the party. If so far this factionalism has not emerged, full credit should go to Begum Nasim. Asfandyar is all out for the bifurcation of the ANP. Begum Nasim has desisted from any legal or political confrontation on the ground that after two years everyone will know how competent Asfandyar is for running the party. The intelligence agencies want to create two factions in the party. If so far this factionalism has not emerged, full credit should go to Begum Nasim. Asfandyar is all out for the bifurcation of the ANP. Begum Nasim has desisted from any legal or political confrontation on the ground that after two years everyone will know how competent Asfandyar is for running the party.

I tell you an interesting thing. When Asfandyar and his cohorts were trying to strike a deal for the acquittal of (senior ANP leader) Azam Hoti (in an accountability reference) and the establishment was using delaying tactics, Asfandyar spread the word that ANP was going to join ARD. He met (ARD leaders) Amin Faheem and Chaudhry Nisar and promised them that the ANP would join the ARD if they came to Peshawar. Both ARD leaders came to the city, talks were held at the Bilour's house but, in the meanwhile, the establishment had agreed to acquit Hoti. So, the ANP refused to join the ARD, using guarantees on provincial autonomy as an excuse.

Azam Hoti was a convict but today he is a free man. Has an absconding convict been ever bailed out in Pakistan? He was sentenced for 14 years in absentia and he had to appear in person for a bail from the high court. Hoti did not fulfil this requirement.

TNS: You have levelled serious allegations time and again against the ANP's present leadership...

FT: I level these allegations because the leadership has been brought in by the establishment. Many ANP dissidents, who now have returned to the party's fold and are in the driving seat in running the party, are the same people who some years ago had formed National Awami Party Pakistan (NAPP). Then they had serious differences with the ANP. But now that NAPP has fizzled out, they are coming back into the ANP because their disassociation was personal and not ideological.

Two men are behind whatever has happened in the ANP. They are Hoti's son Ghazan and Afrasiab Khattak. I don't know what will happen to the ANP now because Afrasiab Khattak has a track record of dividing parties.

Since Pervez Musharraf came to power, Afrasiab Khattak and Azam Hoti are trying to derail the ANP from its traditional line. Afrasiab and company are trying to suggest that the ANP has a new role to play in the changed circumstances. But undemocratic forces are taking advantage of these policy shifts.

TNS: But don't you think that Asfandyar's action against you was legal?

FT: His action against us was akin to a martial law clamped by a dictator. Asfandyar's first martial law regulation came in the form of a unique decision in the political history. When he removed me as an officebearer, he did not merely suspend my basic membership of the party. He rather expelled me and banned my re-entry for ten years. It is totally against the ANP constitution which in fact has been suspended by the party dictator. It is the same treatment which Musharraf meted out to Nawaz Sharif. We have put everything we had on stake for the sake of the ANP while Asfandyar has never suffered in his only 15-year long political career. His political baptism happened with a golden spoon in his mouth because he is the son of Wali Khan, (the ANP founder).

Like no one can work without Asfandyar's permission on his lands in Rajar, it's the same in the ANP which he considers as his ancestral property. The present leadership of the ANP, except for Asfandyar, has left and rejoined the party more than once. Afrasiab Khattak left the party thrice even when it was under Wali Khan's leadership. In 1978, when Wali Khan was in jail, Afrasiab came to me and said: "Wali Khan does not understand politics so I am establishing a new party. Due to his policies our leaders have gone to jail and Pakhtoons and Balochs are suffering a lot". Afrasiab then formed National Progressive Party. When under Wali Khan's leadership, the ANP forged an alliance with Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), Ajmal Khattak, Latif Afridi and Afzal Khan left the party. Haji Bilour once challenged party elections in court. In all the difficult times, and even when Baloch leaders had left Wali Khan, I was the only one loyal to Wali family. I always enjoyed Wali Khan's trust. He would always appoint me if and when need arose for tough negotiations.

TNS: Isn't it true that you and Begum Nasim were expelled because under your leadership the ANP suffered unprecedented electoral losses?

FT: No, I was expelled because they wanted to expel Begum Nasim. They first wanted to remove her loyalist from the party. The pretext they offered for the expulsion was that I created differences between Begum Nasim and Asfandyar.

According to the ANP's constitution, no one can be elected party president for the third term but Asfandyar wanted to amend the party constitution to make way for his third term. He and his fellows also asked me if I could support the change. I, however, unequivocally said no. I did not support the idea even when Ajmal Khattak completed his two terms as the ANP president. I never favoured this undemocratic step. It was as a punishment for this refusal that I was removed.

The current rift in the ANP is different from the earlier ones because it is playing itself out in Wali Bagh, (the party headquarter), while the rifts in the past used to be at the branch level.

TNS: How do you see your own political future?

FT: Asfandyar has treated me like an egoist and a ruthless feudal lord. He feels as if I was his tenant. He believes if he has expelled me from his party, no one else should allow me to join their party. He thought I would join Pakistan People's Party or Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz). So, his team contacted the leadership of both the parties and counseled them not to let me in. Recently Afrasiab along with representatives of six NGOs held a press conference on the violation of women's electoral rights in Dir and Kohistan districts. When you are violating a man's fundamental rights of political participation enshrined in the UN Charter, how can you demand the same rights for women. I have appealed to human rights bodies to prevent the violation of my rights.

Asfandyar recently held a meeting with Benazir in Dubai only to tell her that I am an outspoken person and that letting me in her party would have a negative affect on the cooperation between the two parties.

Here I must add that I have always adhered to the party discipline. My 38 years in ANP is a proof of this. Whichever party I will join it will be forever because changing parties overnight is someone's else habit, not mine.

TNS: Why do you say that the ANP has left its leftist, progressive and democratic ideology?

FT: The ANP is no more in Pakistan Oppressed Nations Movement. It's no longer in the ARD. Similarly, Pakhtoon unity is no more an issue for the party.

Once Mahmood Khan Achakzai told Begum Nasim that his Pakhtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party wanted not just an alliance but a merger with the ANP because he considered Wali Khan his mentor. Achakzai at the same time told Begum Nasim that he would never leave her even if her own brother did so. (It is ironic that it was) Azam Hoti who hindered this merger.

TNS: How can you say that some leaders of the ANP are against the unity of Pakhtoon nationalists?

FT: The ANP is no more a party. It is a limited company. To misappropriate funds of Baacha Khan Trust is to sell his belongings. Today Baacha Khan Trust has a paid secretary who gets Rs 40,000 as salary while at evening pizza parties are arranged at Baacha Khan Markaz. It is a pity that all this is done in the name of a leader who preferred to eat dry bread for the sake of his nation. Now the opportunist leadership of the party has eyes on the property of Baacha Khan in Afghanistan.

Asfandyar is not an intelligent person. He has become a puppet in the hands of others.

TNS: Do you think the ANP can prevent the construction of Kalabagh Dam -- a cherished goal of the party -- if the government decides to go ahead with it.

FT: On the issue of Kalabagh Dam, policy statements by the ANP can be construed as attempts to keep up appearances. I am witness to the party's special committee meeting which was held on 28th December 2004 just before Musharraf's speech to the nation to take it into confidence on the uniform issue. In the meeting Asfandyar, who had just come back from Islamabad, told us that President Musharraf was going to announce the construction of Kalabagh Dam as he was determined in this regard. We asked Asfandyar then what? He retorted that we must admit that the ANP cannot stop him. So in order to keep up appearances we will hold protest meetings and take out rallies. Some of us said it would not be enough. I asked Asfandyar given the regional situation if we really wanted to oppose the construction of the dam, could Musharraf still build the dam? He replied that we could not go to that extent. So the problem is the present ANP leadership is no longer capable of suffering the political hardships which was once the party's hallmark.

TNS: How do you view the ANP politics in the years to come?

FT: Cracks within the ANP will create a political vacuum which will work to the advantage of other parties in the province. During the last elections, Azam Hoti sold party tickets to prospective candidates. Even Ilyas Bilour, who has spent time in torture cells for his politics, got the Senate ticket after paying Rs 0.3 million. So sacrifices and work for the party is not a criteria. Only money is. During the last general elections a candidate was given the party ticket by taking Rs 1.5 million from him. But he was not a graduate. The sitting MPA in the same area was not awarded the party ticket. So the seat went uncontested by the party. In coming years every ticket of the ANP will be sold. There are people who are hoping that they will purchase the chief ministership of NWFP after the next election.

Friday, 8 September 2017

An equal Pakistan

by Muhammad Saleem who tweets at @memzarma

[originally published in Pakistan Today on 7th September, 2017 and is reproduced here with permission]


Pakistan is a constitutional federation with a three-tier system of government; federal government in the center, provincial governments in the provinces and local governments at the districts and lower levels. All these three tiers of government are managed through a fiscal federalist framework where functions are assigned to different levels of government with appropriate fiscal instruments. The federal government has the basic responsibility of macroeconomic stabilization & income redistribution through taxes and expenditures while provincial/local governments are entrusted with decentralized provision of socio-economic services to maximize welfare.
Revenue generation is highly centralized in the federal government while expenditure has been decentralized, largely, to the provincial governments. For example, during the last fiscal year which ended in June 2017, consolidate fiscal account of federal and provincial governments shows that 92% of total resources were collected by federal government while provincial governments spent around 38% of these resources. The increased spending space of provincial governments, well above their own resources, is provided by federal transfers through National Finance Commission (NFC) Awards.
The purpose of NFC Award is, thus, to achieve fiscal equalization to fill the gap between revenues and expenditures in the provinces. In case of Pakistan, the true spirit of fiscal federalism was first introduced in 1973 constitution. That spirit was then further strengthened in 2009-10 through 7th NFC Award where provinces share in total divisible pool taxes were considerably increased to 57.5% from 45%, which help all provinces. A special clause was inserted in constitution through 18th amendment that the share of provinces in each NFC award shall not be less than the share given to the provinces in the previous award. Further, a multi-indicator formula was devised in the 7th NFC award to horizontally distribute these increased resources among provinces. Population as a sole criteria of resource distribution among provinces was discarded and other indicators such as poverty, inverse population density and revenue generation capacity were introduced. This revised horizontal distribution formulae thus increased the fiscal space in Balochistan province where its share rose from a mere 5.11% to 9.09%. Research on the impact of 7th NFC award show that the award did improve fiscal equalization matrix among federating units as compared to previous awards. This, in turn, helped in improving budgetary allocation by provinces to vital social services such as education, health, rural and urban infrastructure.
7th NFC Award is truly historic for the four provinces but it misses out three ‘special status’ regions namely Gilgit Baltistan (GB), Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). These three regions of Pakistan receive only a one-liner block allocation in the federal budget, which is an arbitrary number not based on some rule or formula. The dream of fiscal equalization is thus unfulfilled for the Pakistanis inhabiting these regions. Out of these regions, FATA is integral part of the federation while GB and AJK are ‘autonomous’ regions as per our constitution. The true spirit of fiscal equalization in Pakistan can only be achieved by including these regions in the NFC award.
Moreover, 7th NFC Award given for fiscal year 2010-11 onwards, used poverty figures which were as old as 1998-99. Specifically, the award used an average of three poverty figures derived in 1998-99, 2003 and 2008. Using old poverty figures has serious implications for the fiscal equalization efforts in the 7th NFC award. Luckily, we now have two latest poverty figures calculated by UNDP & World Bank, which were owned by the federal government. Poverty figures of the UNDP capture the multi-dimensionality of poverty while the ones by World Bank captures the monetary side of poverty. These new poverty figures coupled with new population numbers of the recently concluded 2017 census should be used which will ensure fiscal equalization across different regions.
What will be the fiscal equalization impact of a new NFC award if FATA, GB and AJK are included as constituent parts of the next NFC Award? While provisional figures of 2017 census are out for the four provinces, Islamabad and FATA regions, we have to wait for the regional governments in AJK and GB for the population figures for these two regions. However, by plugging in new census & poverty figures in the old 7th NFC Award formula, we can derive an estimated NFC share for FATA. As per calculations of the author, FATA’s share in NFC award comes to around 5.2% of the total divisible pool taxes using the new population census with UNDP poverty figures. This is higher than the demand of an arbitrary figure of 3% NFC share for FATA as approved by Federal Cabinet on the recommendations of the Committee on FATA Reforms & is well above the current amount FATA receive as a one-liner block grant. FATA & FR regions were allocated a total of Rs 55.5 billion in 2017-18 federal budget. In contrast, a 5.2% share in NFC for FATA will translate to Rs 118 billion, even if we do not include FATA in other state transfers. Besides due share in NFC awards, FATA, GB & AJK also deserve Royalty from various dams like the other four provinces.
Being constituent parts of NFC, the four provinces receive regular annual fiscal transfers from the federal divisible pool taxes. In contrast, FATA, GB & AJK receive ‘gifts’ from the federal government in terms of block allocations which need to be converted to a due right of these regions. To achieve fiscal equalization among all regions of the federation of Pakistan, the next NFC award need to remove these anomalies. The new award should also correct the historical neglect of these regions by allocating a specific percentage of resources to regions over & above their due share. Regional inequalities has serious implications for the future of our federation and a higher economic growth can only be achieved by a balanced and equal growth across Pakistan.

Are we deliberately excluding FATA?


by Muhammad Saleem, who tweets at @memzarma

[the article originally published at Pakistan Today on August 29, 2017 and is reproduce here with permission]

If not, let’s not encourage the notion
Availability of reliable and timely data is the prerequisite for any solid research and policy interventions by different tiers of governments. Last week, I attend a conference on ‘Marginalization and Social Exclusion in the Perspective of Market Economy” organized by Department of Economics, University of Peshawar with collaboration from Quaid-e-Azam University and Higher Education Commission of Pakistan. Around 30 research papers were presented in the conference by researchers in the field of economics from across Pakistan. A majority of these research papers used rich socio-economic datasets of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS). The findings of these papers offered some concrete policy recommendations for the policy makers. However, in an unfortunate reflection of government data, the scope of all these research papers were limited to the four provinces of Pakistan and excluded FATA, GB & AJK from the analysis due to unavailability of data on these regions. The irony is that a conference on marginalization and exclusion cannot study the regions because, of the fact, that federal data collecting organization do not collect socio-economic data on these regions.
PBS is the single most important organization at the federal level which conduct nation-wide representative surveys on different socio-economic indicators on yearly basis. While some surveys do include GB and AJK, it completely ignores FATA as a region. With its head office in Islamabad, PBS has 18 Regional and 16 Field Offices across Pakistan but there is not a single office in FATA. With lesser population then that of FATA, PBS has one regional office in AJK and one field office in GB. FATA is probably the only region in the world where Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were not monitored and, if the neglect continues, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) too will be not monitored in FATA.
Almost all the socio-economic surveys conducted by PBS clearly states that the sample designs of these surveys excludes the whole FATA region. As discussed earlier, this exclusion not only limits serious research on the region but also excludes FATA from important policy documents. Everything from the Economic Survey of Pakistan, Annual and Quarterly Reports of State Bank of Pakistan, Pakistan’s Vision 2025, Annual Plans of Planning Commission of Pakistan, CPEC Short and Long Term Plans, Public Sector Development Programs, Poverty calculations and many other government policy documents mention only the four provinces and exclude FATA and other regions of special status. FATA gets a mention only when the reference is made to War on Terror or security concerns in the country.
FATA is also excluded from important national economic and social policy forums such as National Economic Council (NEC), Council of Common Interest (CCI), National Finance Commission (NFC) Awards and other such policy forums.
This marginalization is not driven by economics or a lack of interest by researchers, instead analysts and legal experts are in consensus that these FATA exclusions stems from article 246 and 247 of the constitution. This marginalization and exclusion of FATA has serious consequences on the wellbeing of the people living in FATA. Pick any socio-economic indicator on FATA and a comparison with the national average will reveal that FATA lags behind the rest of Pakistan by a big margin. For example, the first ever official national multidimensional poverty index (MPI) developed by UNDP, revealed that poverty incidence in FATA is 73.7% as compared to national average of 38.8% during 2014-15.  It should be noted here that the MPI figures for FATA were derived from a data source, which is less rigorous than the one conducted, by PBS.
Governing FATA through an opaque and unaccountable system like the FCR has serious repercussions on service delivery. The political marginalization of FATA in Pakistan’s constitution led to its economic and social exclusion from different national policy forums, policy documents and data collections. This marginalization is not because of the people of FATA but in spite of their desire. In a recent statement released by Ministry of SAFRON, around 31,000 messages were received by the ministry from people of FATA in support of FATA’s mainstreaming. Similarly, the recently held 6th population census peacefully concluded in FATA by PBS with not a single incidence of obstruction in FATA. There were huge rallies from Lawyers, students, and political parties in FATA demanding constitutional reforms in FATA to mainstream the region.
Pakistan’s constitution may have codified marginalizing FATA and to some extent AJK and GB but despite this, its writers aspired for a better world in the future. This is best reflected in Article 37a ‘Principles of Policy’, which states “..State shall promote the educational & economic interests of backward classes or areas”. If we want to create a more inclusive Pakistan, reflecting those principles, mainstreaming FATA should be a top priority, and a small step in that direction would be to immediately include FATA in PBS surveys.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Game of Thrones at the Pakistan Foreign Office

Game of Thrones at the Pakistan Foreign Office

Abdul Basit, former High Commissioner of Pakistan in India, who is considered as one of the best among the Foreign Service Officers of Pakistan in recent time, resigned from service for being superseded some weeks ago. This was not the first time that he was not considered for the top slot of Foreign Secretary. While he was Ambassador of Pakistan in Germany, he was called back by the PML-N Government to be appointed as the Foreign Secretary, but there was a change of heart and Mr. Aizaz Chaudhary was elevated to the top post. A vast majority of Foreign Service Officers did not like this decision, because unlike Basit, Aizaz Chaudhary was neither charismatic nor accomplished. According to sources, many senior Officers belonging to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) were disappointed with reversing the decision of making Basit, who hailed from KP, the Foreign Secretary. Moreover, Aizaz Chaudhary had serious health issues, due to which he was not fit for a rather stressful job. As a compensation, Basit was sent to India as High Commissioner, a job he performed quintessentially. With the elevation of Tehmina Janujua, a relatively junior and comparatively less illustrious Officer to the position of Foreign Secretary, Basit could not take it anymore and called it a day, thus ending his notable career bitterly.

Recently, a letter, written by Abdul Basit, the then High Commissioner, to Aizaz Chaudhary, the then Foreign Secretary, on July 5, 2017, has been leaked, which has gone viral. Abdul Basit has conveyed to Aizaz that he is convinced that the latter was the “worst Foreign Secretary ever” and has “weak and dubious credentials”. While there is a history of important communications being leaked from Foreign Office, especially in the last three years, this particular letter is very damaging for the Foreign Office and Pakistan. This letter has received a great deal of amusement and humour in India at the cost of credibility of our institutions. It is unfortunate that such bitterness existed between two senior-most Officers of the Foreign Office, holding responsible positions, which has been reflected by this letter. No wonder, there must have existed a disconnect between the Foreign Office and Pakistan’s High Commission in India during the tenure of Abdul Basit (as evident from the issue of invitation of Hurriat Leaders). The unfortunate situation calls for serious soul searching and rectification of the system.

Primarily the PML-N government was responsible for this fiasco and the undoing of Foreign Office. The controversial decision not to appoint a Foreign Minister and replace this strong position by two relatively weak Offices of Advisor to the PM on Foreign Affairs (Sartaj Aziz) and Special Assistant to the PM on Foreign Affairs (Tariq Fatemi) has taken its toll by affecting one of the best institutions of Pakistan. Once Foreign Office was known for its credibility, professionalism, transparency, aptitude and merit, but now its position has been reduced to a secretariat with unprofessional conduct, infighting, indiscipline and feeble policy output. Its prime role of foreign policy formulation and implementation has been taken over by more powerful institutions of the country. While the government is directly responsible for the downfall of the Foreign Service, its own Officers like Aizaz Chaudhary and Abdul Basit are also the reason for precipitating the total collapse of the institution’s integrity.

Aizaz Chaudhary’s tenure as the Foreign Secretary, in absence of a Foreign Minister, was the most damaging one in the history of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Before him, controversies and infighting of the Foreign Office rarely hit the headlines, however, during his tenure, ridiculing Foreign Office in print and electronic became a commonplace. The reason was his weak administration and docile attitude towards other institutions and politicians. Even if his problems with Abdul Basit are ignored, he has committed too many other faux pas and wrongdoings, which have resulted in the present plight of Foreign Office. His decisions have resulted in loss of confidence and trust of his colleagues. There is a long list of his victims in the Foreign Office but a few examples may suffice.

For instance, a bright young Officer of the Ministry posted at Camp Office Karachi, was put behind the bars for crimes he did not commit. While the Officer, who was Aizaz’s junior colleague, should have been protected, the Foreign Secretary instead made sure he is arrested and humiliated. This frustrated a lot of younger colleagues of Aizaz who suddenly started to feel vulnerable.

Aizaz Chaudhary was also responsible for the arrest of Shafqat Cheema, the infamous Robin Hood of Foreign Office. Although Cheema has dubious credentials, the manner in which he was humiliated was protested by his colleagues. He was called for a meeting and when he entered the Foreign Office, police and NAB Officials arrested him from the premises of the Foreign Office like a hardcore criminal. The whole drama was captured live on TV and brought a bad name to the institution. The matter could have been handled in a subtle manner, without creating a scene, which an institution like Foreign Office should avoid at all costs, as it is closely being watched by the foreign diplomatic missions.

Similarly, a case of another young Officer was mishandled by Aizaz and the matter was brought to court and again Foreign Office became a laughing stock. The Officer was then posted at the Camp Office in Quetta as a punishment. Similarly, senior and bright Officers (most notably Ghalib Iqbal) were sidelined and have since gone into self-exile from their own Ministry. The tenure of another illustrious Officer, then the Ambassador of Pakistan in UAE, was cut short due to political imperatives. The weak administration of Aizaz damaged his Officers to a great extent. He failed to protect his Officers in crisis and could not take a stand for them, as a result of which his Officers bore the brunt. Reportedly, Aizaz Chaudhary also tried to prematurely recall another upright Officer posted in Iran. The Officer wanted to put an end to corruption and close down an illegal school opened inside the mission by an Officer from another Ministry. However, instead of protecting his junior colleague, Aizaz entertained fabricated reports against him and tried to arm-twist him. The Foreign Secretary did not have the moral courage to close down the illegal school, however, the uncompromising young Officer went on to shut it down on his own. Moreover, the Foreign Secretary, due to weak administrative control, was not able to put an end to the squabbling at the Consulate General of Pakistan in Dubai, and as a result, first Consul’s tenure was cut-short and then Consul General (both from Foreign Service) was sent back to home. A senior female Officer, who is spouse of another senior Officer of the Ministry was sent to Portugal as Ambassador, even though it was in the knowledge of the Ministry, and was advised by some of her colleagues, that she was not fit to become Ambassador. She got into trouble soon, and was prematurely recalled after a short duration – a decision which embarrassed the country in Lisbon. Similarly, a problematic, but well-connected Officer was sent to Los Angeles as the Consul General, who was also recalled soon, after numerous complaints from the community.


An extremely resourceful and shining Officer of Foreign Service, Faisal Niaz Tirmizi, who is presently making Pakistan proud in Chicago as its Consul General, and was then the Director in Administration, reportedly prepared a list of “Psychoes” of Foreign Service – the Officers with whom no other colleague is ready to work along, and recommended that they should not be posted abroad. However, the senior Officers ridiculed and rejected his proposal. Many of the Officers on his list have either been recalled prematurely, gone to court against the Minstry or have made life hell for their colleagues in foreign Missions. An infamous example is that of Najm-us-Saqib, who was sent as an Ambassador to South Africa. No Officer is willing to work with him. Moreover, a DMG Officer, accused of murder in Model Town case, was sent by the PML-N government as an Ambassador to WTO in Geneva. Reportedly, security agencies were not comfortable with appointment of an Officer, who is very close to Chief Minister Punjab, with such credentials as Ambassador, but Aizaz Chaudhary did not object to his appointment at such an important mission – thanks to his submissive nature. Similarly, he also did not raise an eye brow when Maliha Lodhi was appointed as the Permanent Representative of Pakistan to UN, a coveted post, for which only a Foreign Service Officer with prior experience of multilateral diplomacy, is suitable.

As evident from these examples, Officers, who were not fit for the delicate job of diplomacy, have not only been posted abroad but have also been protected and pampered by Aizaz Chaudhary and his political bosses. There is not a single case where this Foreign Secretary has had the audacity of saying no to the political superiors, on an issue of principle. Rather he fits perfectly in a system where there is no accountability, and where only those prosper who further the plans of their political superiors, regardless of the consequences. Aizaz also actively took part in the Dawn Leaks issue, but he was spared by the establishment for his compliant track record as Foreign Secretary, since he had delegated his say on foreign policy matters to either his political superiors or the establishment, depending on the issue at hand.

During the stint of Aizaz Chaudhary as Foreign Secretary, another controversy that tarnished the reputation of Foreign Office was the dubious activities of PFOWA, which is run by the spouses of Officers of the Foreign Ministry. Journalists criticized the Foreign Secretary for not being able to answer the questions related to the use of government premises and resources by the charity organization and supposedly its objectionable funding sources and doubtful utilization of donations. Handing over of a government-owned land in the heart of Islamabad, which is worth millions of rupees, to Roots School, by the Foreign Office, on the advice of the spouse of Aizaz Chaudhary, was another controversial issue that gained considerable media attention.

During the last few years, foreign posting policy has become a matter of a great deal of debate in the Foreign Ministry. A foreign positing policy was devised by Aizaz Chaudhary, in which it was decided that an Officer serving in A station (mission in a developed country) would not be sent to any other A station consecutively. However, the Foreign Secretary violated this rule by posting the blue-eyed Director of his own Office to A-station, who had already served at another A-station. Similarly, an Officer, whose spouse is from the family of Moulana Fazl Rehman, has been posted from Malaysia to Geneva and now to London. Another Officer recalled prematurely from China was sent to a sensitive mission of Athens, despite his contentious credentials. As expected, he again ran into problems, and is now entangled in a legal battle with the Ministry. Moreover, female Officers of the Ministry, even the junior most ones, were given undue preferential treatment and with a few exceptions, most were sent to Europe and America. A number of similar violations happened right under his nose.
It was an achievement of the Foreign Office to get back the coveted post of Pakistan’s Ambassador in US from political appointees, with Jalil Abbas Jillani, former Foreign Secretary, becoming the Ambassador. However, insiders in Foreign Office say that due to Aizaz Chaudhary, the Foreign Office may lose this post again. Aizaz could have retired honourably and convinced the Government to post any other dynamic Officer of Foreign Service as Ambassador to US. However, he decided to take the coveted post for himself and went ahead to become the Ambassador in US, who is technically under the command of the Foreign Secretary and is answerable to him/her. Thus, for a sought-after posting, he preferred to relegate his position, which is unbecoming of a true leader. With less than a year left in his retirement, he went ahead to US, so that he is given extension by the government. Many see it unlikely, and predict that in next February, the Government may post another political appointee to this position. Foreign Office has already lost the post of Consul General in Dubai to a political appointee under Aizaz Chaudhary, who could not resist such an unprecedented and unjust move by the PML-N Government. It was the first time that an outsider was appointed at the level of Consul General in a mission, a trend which is considered extremely detrimental to the Foreign Service. A similar attempt by the PML-N Government to post a serving DMG Officer as Pakistan’s High Commissioner in Canada was thwarted by junior Officers of Foreign Service, spearheaded by a Director-level Officer, Ruman Wazir, who persuaded his colleagues to write a petition to the Foreign Secretary. Although, Aizaz was reportedly inclined to bend the knee to his political masters, Foreign Service was saved from this calamity by brave and honourable young Officers, who had neither the 30-year plus experience, nor high-level positions.

Thus, Aizaz Chaudhary has set a number of precedents, which have put the Foreign Office in low light. Ideally, he should have worked together with other senior Officers, and better administrators, like Abdul Basit and Ghalib Iqbal, among others, to settle his succession issues and postings to important missions in amicable manner. Instead, he recommended appointment of Tehmina Janjua, another compliant Officer, as his successor. She has no prior experience of administration, and with disgruntled and superseded senior Officers, she faces an uphill task to put her house in order. It is said that the administration of Foreign Office is at the lowest ebb presently.

Unfortunately, all the Foreign Service Officers want to be posted to highly developed countries, as the Ministry has failed to incentivize less lucrative postings or problematic foreign missions. The foreign allowance of our Officers has not increased since a long time and our diplomats are growing desperate, as most of their diplomatic counterparts from other countries get twice or more as much as they do. It was expected that Tariq Fatemi, who was also from Foreign Service, would convince the Prime Minister to increase foreign allowance of the Officers, but he remained engaged in court intrigues. There is a perpetual struggle in the Foreign Office for coveted postings and there exists a lot of interference of outsiders, especially politicians, in finalizing foreign postings. Even in deciding about postings of staff members, like clerks and security guards, the Ministry’s administration faces a lot of pressure. The Foreign Secretary Office, during tenure of Aizaz Chaudhary, changed posting rules of staff members a number of times in order to accommodate blue-eyed officials and those exerting political pressure.

It is true that the letter of Abdul Basit is impulsive and should not have been written, as it maligns the prestigious Foreign Service, and reflects negatively upon the unsung heroes of the Foreign Service, but insiders in Foreign Office say that Aizaz Chaudhary deserves worst. They say that Aizaz’s time had been disastrous not only for maladministration in Foreign Office but also at the policy level. Some have even pledged that if Aizaz is given extension, they would go to court against the decision.

It is high time that the new Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Foreign Secretary bring about fresh reforms, which aim at betterment of the prestigious institution. A starting point would be an increase in Foreign Allowance, incentivizing postings at C and D stations, ban on extension after retirement, ban on Foreign Secretary’s posting as Ambassador abroad, revising the posting plans of Officers and Officials and making them merit based, updating security policy to stop leakage of important official communication, security of tenure for Foreign Service Officers (like that of attached Departments), decreasing the quota of political appointees and devising an institutional mechanism to vent out frustration and redressal of grievances of the Foreign Service Officers.

By Ammar Ali Akif
With special thanks to the serving and retired Officers whose input was obtained for writing the article

Monday, 14 August 2017

QK archives: A letter from Talha Sughlatwala

A Letter from Talha Sughlatwala
Zeejah
June 29, 2000


Submitted by Zeejah, as Talha joined his maker in 1997, may he rest in eternal peace



Prologue:

Having been in England for three months, I soon began to feel strangely disconnected. I used to say, half jokingly, that I felt like climbing the highest steeple and saying, "Allah ho Akbar" to reaffirm my identity.

That is when I asked an Indian IRC friend, 'choccy' (Talha Sughlatwala) how it felt like being a (permanent) minority in India. This is the email he wrote in reply.

It might prove to be something of an eye-opener to people who ascribe to the view that Indians and Pakistanis are basically similar.



Dear zeejah,

I never really talked with a Pakistani before.. about Pakistan. This time when I went to Ahmedabad, I did ask a Paki cousin, (Amena, the daughter of my uncle. She is married in India, but still a Pak citizen on an LT visa). She was very reserved, but given a little impetus, she started off on how everything in Pak was so beautiful and how everything in India was so ugly...:)) Then I asked her husband, who is also a cousin (I've already told you that I've got lots and lots of cousins), but he didn't take me seriously. I kept on at him until he finally said that he hated Pakistan. I asked him why, and he said "because Amena is from Pakistan" ....hahahaha that was funny..:) You know,whenever my my old chachi, (Amena's mom), comes to India, she insists that I should marry a Pakistani girl. She very seriously asks me whether I would prefer a Punjabi, Sindhi or Pathan girl. What can I say to that? So I jokingly tell her to get someone like herself. But hey! me and marry a pakistani?..nah! chance hi nahi hai! Given the pure urdu they speak, I would need an interpreter to communicate!While in Ahmedabad I, along with 4 cousins, had gone to see the movie "Border". In case you haven't heard about it, it's the first Indian war-film and is about the battle of Longewala which was won by the Indians, despite being only 120 soldiers against 2000 Pakis.. blah blah. Actually the battle was won by the Air Force, but that would make the movie too short, right? Anyway the movie was horrible, terrible.

There seemed to be no Muslims in the Indian army. They were all Hindus or Sikhs who kept shouting their religious war-cry, whatever that is. The only Muslims in the border villages were shown to be supplying information to the Pakistanis. The Pakistani soldiers were shown to be dumbos who couldn't fire a missile straight, and begged for mercy when caught. The director almost turned it into a Hindu-Muslim war. Half-way through the movie my cousins began to side with Pakistan. They snickered whenever an Indian soldier died or showed 'extra-heroism', and said "shit" when the Indian Air force planes finally arrived at the crack of dawn, blowing up the Paki tanks. When the Pakistani flag was shown fluttering in the wind, at least one of them would say "Wow"! Agreed that your flag is beautiful, but I didn't find any need to show such outright enthusiasm. Just before the movie they had told me that they were anti-Pakistan!

What troubled me was that, half-way through the movie I began to side with Pakistan as well! I remembered what you had said once, that when they hear the rallying cry of "Allahu Akbar" even loyal Indian Muslims would side with Pakistan. I have never really been anti-Pakistan. I have a strange love-hate relationship with it. When I was younger, say about 11-12 yrs old, I would tell Nasir that in case war broke out between India and Pakistan I could go to my relatives in Karachi, where did he have to go to? He would be very depressed because he didn't have anyone in Pakistan.

Ever since I can remember I have been supporting the Pak cricket team, even against India. I remember the Sharjah cup in which Javed Miandad had hit a sixer on the last ball. I was the only Pak supporter in my house that day, and i was the happiest to see "my" team win. I was once very happy that America had resumed military aid to Pakistan. Why did I behave in such a way? I have never even been to Pakistan! Maybe it is like the hate you people have for Hindus, even though most of you have never even spoke to one.

I think the only reason for my behaviour was the fact that Pakistanis were "Muslims". I wonder, would I have felt the same way had some other Muslim country, say, Iran or Iraq, been at odds with India? Maybe, maybe not. After all, I know that Pakistanis are no different from the Indian Muslims I see everyday. In fact, once upon a time, we were one. Pakis I felt were my "brothers". This was all about love, then where is the hate?

Actually I have always hated the existence of Pakistan. Pakistan, I feel, should never have been created. The idea was basically mooted by those who felt that Hindus and Muslims could not live together; not me, I don't feel that way at all. I have always loved the sight of a United India, before 1947. Look at the maps of India and Pakistan now. This was the land over which the Mughals, Muslims, ruled for centuries.

When it was finally divided what did Muslims get? Only one-fourth, while the Hindus got three-fourths. Why did Jinnah settle for this pittance? If there had to be a partition, at least it should have been done with some justice. So now we had a huge undivided India, with two small muslim states on either side.

As for Jinnah's two-nation theory, that fell flat on its face. It was the Bangladeshis who asked for independance. India only helped them gain it, especially since it served their purpose well! So now we have a totally weak Bangladesh (seems like God doesn't like it either), and a small Pakistan, all parts of which are accessible to Indian missiles and warplanes. A small Pakistan that has to live forever in mortal fear of its big neighbour. A small Pakistan that I doubt can ever win a war. Before partition there were other Muslim majority areas as well, such as Junagadh, Hyderabad and Kashmir. We, as Muslims, lost them all. Your "Quaid-E-Azam" divided Muslims between Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.

The real time to settle the Kashmir issue once and for all was in 1947-48. It is useless to talk about freedom now. We are now 150 million Muslims living in India, the largest minority of Muslims anywhere in the world. Fifteen percent of the population. Had Pakistan and Bangladesh remained united this percentage would have been much much higher. Do you really think there could have been any danger of a "Hindu takeover"? Of course you do! But if I know Muslims, the Hindus would have had much more to be afraid of. A united India would have been a superpower by now; But that wasn't destined to be. So now we are left hanging, without any leadership, between the devil and the deep blue sea! A Muslim Pakistan that doesn't care a damn for us and a Hindu majority India, in which we are a minority. I feel like a bloody orphan!!

I had asked my parents about the war of 1971. They were in Bombay during that time, all that happened were a few blackouts, that was all! They weren't even affected by the war, and they lived in the most important city of India! If nothing could happen to Bombay, what could happen to Madras, Calcutta, Bangalore, etc?

When I read your accounts of the war I was really moved. You must have realised it then, and I have realised it now.... that war is useless, needless and destructive. As long as India and Pakistan are friendly, all is well. But when they go to war, everything changes. Indians Muslims are suddenly looked upon as Pakistanis. Some of them may even feel like that themselves, and who knows... maybe myself.. I do not even know myself! That is why I shudder to think about war. It should never happen. In case war does break out and Bombay is bombed, do u think the Pakistanis will be selective of their targets? Will they care whether they are killing Hindus or Muslims? I don't think so. They wouldn't give a damn, as long as those who die are Indians. So why should I support Pakistan anyway? Those who support Pakistan should go live in Pakistan!

You know zeej, the real loyalty towards one's motherland doesn't come from fighting and dying for it, rather it comes from within. If any foreigner speaks badly of India I immediately want to defend it; make excuses for its actions, even if they are right. I do this automatically. I don't force myself to do it. That is why I am always speaking well of India in front of Pakistanis. Somehow, with Pakistanis I feel more of an Indian than with anyone else; and it is not an external facade of loyalty that I put up in front of you all. The external facade is for the Hindus. With foreigners I really do feel like an Indian, and am even proud to be one! I dunno, but one thing I do know and that is, I would never like to be called a Pakistani, ever. Only India and Indian for me, I don't even like Hindustan, it is "Oh Darling yeh hai India!" for me.

When my brother had gone for Hajj last year, he met some Pathans who asked him the trangest questions. He came away feeling that Pathans and Sardarjis were very much alike! They asked: "Are you allowed to carry guns?", "Are you allowed to pray?", "Is there a 'huqumat' in India?" etc. etc. Let me tell you this, Muslims in India have no less freedom then Muslims in Pakistan. We are \\*not\\* oppressed like Muslims are in Israel. Provoked? Yes. Oppressed? No.

And then, who said minorities in Pakistan are the happiest people? We have all heard of what happened to Iqbal Masih, although I'm sure he'll be happier in Germany than he ever was in Pakistan! I have yet to meet an Indian christian with the name "Iqbal". Those who left everything they had and migrated to Pakistan 50 years ago are still referred to as "mohajirs" and treated as second-class citizens.

You know zeej, ever since I was a small child I have always liked to believe ... No.. I have always KNOWN that India is a secular country. That India is \\*not\\* a Hindu country. I always scoffed at those who called India a Hindu country. It always pleased me to know that when India was partitioned Pakistan became a Muslim country while India chose to be a secular country with no official religion. When I was in school and read in the text-books that "India is my country and all Indians, irrespective of their religion, are my brothers and sisters". I really believed in that, I still do. I have never been made to feel like a minority here. Of course, when a person is so used to sleeping on the hard floor he does not know what a soft bed feels like! Since I have always been a "minority" I don't know what it feels like to be in majority. I guess I won't find it too difficult to adjust in the US. Perhaps it was just as well that I was living in Bombay, Ahmedabad has been prone to riots as long as I can remember. I was always proud of the cosmopolitan structure of Bombay. Here it was not unusual for a Hindu to greet a Muslim with an "Assalam-u-alaykum".

The biggest and most powerful dons of India were from Bombay, and were Muslims. There was Karim Lala (his was the Pathan gang), Haji Mastan and of course the Big D, Dawood Ibrahim. Bombay, especially south Bombay (not far from where I live) has a huge population of Muslims. There are some areas like Bhendi Bazar, Dongri, Nagpada, Madanpura, which I am sure are not much different from any place in Pakistan. Only Muslims can be seen all around. I suppose a certain degree of ghettoism occurs among all minorities, but Muslims in Bombay are quite powerful and well-mixed with the majority. The area where I live has many Muslims, too. I went to a Jesuit school )St. Mary's High School) where half the students and teachers were Muslims. Due to all these reasons I have never felt like a minority and had no reason to hate the Hindus.

Then in 1989 riots broke out (once again) in Ahmedabad. It was a consequence of L.K. Advani's "Rath-yatra". These riots were different. For the first time we were affected; my family, I mean. You remember, I told you about my mom's eldest brother? The one whose son was murdered? He had two sons, Anees and Umar. Umar was not yet born, when his father died. He was the best guy I have ever known. If there is any definition for innocent, it was Umar. He was the most pious amongst all my cousins, and never did I hear a bad word from him about anyone. Well, on that fateful day in June 1989 his house was attacked by a mob. There were women in the house who needed to be protected. Anees and Umar saw that the people attacking their house were no other than the people whom they knew as their neighbours, friends with whom they had played cricket.

They decided that the only way to protect the women-folk was to go out and try to reason with them, and if that failed, to fight it out. They did go out. Anees was badly injured, but survived. And umar ..... he was burnt to death. His body thrown into a gutter. He was 18.

I guess I'll continue this letter later.

Well, from that day onwards, my whole family (including myself) became blatantly anti-Hindu. It was always "us" and "them". We hated them, and the police too, who had failed to gather any evidence. The killers got off scot-free. In any riots that followed it was always how many Hindus died? compared to how many Muslims died. More dead Hindus was always more satisfying. In my eyes they were all killers, deserving to die.

Then came 6th December 1992. The Muslims of India got the rudest shock. The Babri Masjid was demolished. It was the greatest betrayal. The congress government was in power. The congress that had always been a friend of the Muslims had failed to protect a structure. How would it protect the muslims? I cried that day. I heard everyone say the same thing, again and again, that India was no longer a secular country. India was a \\*Hindu\\* country, now.

The very next day the Muslims of Bombay revolted. It was the only outlet under the extreme provocation we had been subjected to. Dozens of policemen were killed and scores of Hindu shops in Muslim areas were burned and destroyed. The police reacted in the only way it can, shooting people as it willed. Those who fell to their bullets were not only rioters; there were pregnant women, women hanging clothes in the balcony, small chidren and imams of mosques. All innocent people. In a week the riots of Bombay had abated, but they started in Surat. The Muslims in Surat are not as strong as in Bombay. They couldn't even fight back. Hundreds were killed by murderous mobs, in the most horrible ways. Women were raped, and it was all videotaped. Reading about it in the newspapers, to me the Hindus represented a race worse than animals.

Exactly a month after December 6th., on January 7th. 1993, riots started in Bombay once again. The worst in its' history. Muslims were angry because of Surat. Hindus were angry because of the earlier riots. There was too much hatred on both sides. It lasted for a week. You have been through war zeej, but have you ever known what it is like to be in the middle of a battle-field?

That's exactly like how it was here. I used to go home (on the 18th floor) only once in a while. To show my face or see if there was anything to eat. The rest of the time was spent on the grounds with the other youths of the building. We were worried. What if we were attacked? Such a tall building would go up in flames in no time at all, a virtual death trap for everyone inside!

Though the much awaited, the attack never took place, we were totally prepared for anything. At night the sky over Bombay would seem to be glowing with light. From the terrace of the building it seemed as if the whole of Bombay was burning. There were huge fires here and there. Hindu places being burned in Muslim areas, and vice versa. The crack of bullets being fired would continue unabated throughout the night. Then after 7 days things seemed to quieten down a little. People started venturing out of their houses. My dad went out too. Why? I dunno. My mom tried to stop him, but he went. He was attacked by some Hindus. The police, standing a mere 50 meters away were mute observers. It was a Sikh soldier who finally took him to the hospital. He suffered fractures in the head and hands, but he was all-right. Anyway, that made me despise the police even more. They are disgusting people and I hate them.

Anyway, after the riots, the Hindus referred to them with pride; as if it was some kind of a "victory". Two months later Ramzan began. It was March 12th, the last friday of Ramzan, Alvida Jumma, I was in the mosque and soon after the prayers ended, I heard a loud noise. I casually walked out and asked what had happened. Someone said that a bomb had exploded in the stock-exchange. I walked a little further and came to Bombay hospital, one of the largest hospitals in Bombay. The flow of the dead and injured had just started. The injured were taken straight in. But there was no place for the dead, they were left at the gates for the time being. There was blood everywhere.. streams of blood.. and I saw it all with my own eyes. One body that was brought in was burnt black, and completely naked except for a leather belt around his waist. That was the only apparel that did not evaporate due to the heat of the blast. As I headed home I saw a little child in the arms of his father, blood streaming down their faces. Then there was another loud bang. That was the Air India building basement blowing up. I reached home and was in the middle of telling my story to my family, when there was another \\*really\\* loud explosion.

That was a crowded bus blowing up near Worli. In all there were more than 10 blasts within two hours, coinciding with the Jumma prayers. In all, 400 people died. Not a single Muslim died. It was the worst urban terrorist strike in history. It was like 'manaa' to our injured psyche. There was no more talk about the "victory of riots" and "teaching 'them' (us) a lesson". They knew now that Muslims couldn't be messed with!

Although the blasts were very satisfying, all the gory scenes I saw DID leave an impression on me. Those that died were probably as innocent as the Muslims who were killed earlier. If the Hindus decided to retaliate, it would go on and on forever. Having stared at death and violence in the face, my thirst for blood was quenched. I realised that mindless and senseless killing did not serve anybodys' purpose. A few weeks later a Hindu professor who had heard of the incident regarding my father, talked to me about it. He said that neither Hinduism nor Islam preached hatred, bigotry and killing. Those who did such deeds were neither Hindus nor Muslims. They were simply insane people who got a rush from seeing others die and see their properties destroyed. Such people he said, were used as puppets by politicians, to serve their own purpose. Politicians, whose only job is to change names of places, place wreaths on people long dead and consolidate their vote-banks. They are useless, worthless, corrupt people, with loose morals. I hate politicians! (Oh allright, for you zeej, just for You, I'll change that to \\*indian\\* politicians!) As for the Hindus, we must remember that the Taliban claim to follow Islam. So are ALL Muslims like the Taliban? I think NOT!

Anyway, all this did a lot to assuage my feelings; and time being the greatest healer, soon every thing was forgotten and forgiven; but the Congress was completely routed in the next elections. We could tolerate direct animosity, but stabbing in the back and all their pseudo talk about secularism we could not!

So you see, choccy wasn't always gentle and harmless. He has had his moments of insanity too! But you will have to agree that they were under extreme provocation and duress and he is normal now, and intends to stay that way. I wouldn't have been so graphic in my accounts, but then how else would you have been able to empathize? I'm sure this letter must sound very confusing. But then, I AM confused by the ambivalence of my feelings. I don't think I ever wrote such a long letter before in my whole life. Even that "longest letter" that I wrote is miniscule in comparison to this one, as is YOUR longest letter, for that matter. That letter I wrote in just one sitting within a couple of hours. This one took me 2 days. I would squeeze in an hour or two, now and then.

Well it's Sunday today, and I hope you are having a great time in whichever 'gali' you are in. It's Maghrib and I'm off to pray.

choccy.



Epilogue:

My gentle, good, kind 'choccy' died soon after, in a motor-cycle accident. He died at midnight 14th. August 1997, while the two countries he loved and hated rejoiced.


originally Published on June 29, 2000