Rethinking Development In Pakistan


Flag map of Pakistan

 

 

 

By Q. Isa Daudpota

 

25 May, 2013
Countercurrents.org

 

Trickle-down economics invariably fails in poor countries. For long-lasting progress, development policies that are bottom-up, those that ‘put the last first’, often succeed. Ideas supportive of this thesis are presented in the post-election Pakistani context.

 

Good development experts have failed to get across a basic truth to Pakistan’s politicians and economic planners: If you are on a dirt road, fill the ruts – don’t dream of bullet trains and flyovers! One has to get the basics right before anything else can work. This obvious fact failed to register with the government and the Election Commission as it set in motion the recent ballot-box democracy exercise, allowing law breakers of all shades a free hand in returning to parliament. They overlooked the fact which every cook knows: clean the pans before preparing fresh meals! For those undaunted by this recent failure and blessed with an optimistic spirit, a potpourri of home truths is laid out.

 

A poor country like Pakistan cannot have sustainable development without reducing its population significantly through enlightened family planning. (It is best not to use the euphemism ‘developing country’, which we were in the 1960s when an attempt was made at population control.) How can we get back on track? A global perspective will help.

 

About 3 million children in poor countries die annually of diseases that can be prevented by basic healthcare and vaccination. The cost of providing a package of basic vaccines to a child is about Rs. 3000 – the price of a good meal in a luxury hotel. Pakistan has about 3% of the world’s population of 7 billion. Therefore roughly 250 kids die here daily. What’s the cost of avoiding these deaths? Just the price of one lavish wedding reception daily! And as for the basic healthcare for all, nothing is more important than providing potable water through community outlets, which is easily affordable.

 

Enlightened education, particularly of females, that encourages critical thinking is another key area needing urgent attention. Attempts at improving higher education level over a decade have overlooking the more critical lower levels where irreversible damage is presently done to impressionable minds. Education when viewed holistically should integrate all levels of education, including informal education, which brings the adult population up to steam and encourages lifelong learning. But who is going to do this?

 

The standard of pedagogy at all levels is poor. This failing can be corrected by a nationwide program of teachers’ training, principally in English communication skills. The world’s knowledge will continue its exponential growth in this language and we need to build on our advantage in English from the colonial era. Shortage of master trainers will require importing talent and where better to find it economically than India. Even more important is the provision of fast internet access nationally in neighborhood community cybercafés — that double up as cultural centers.

 

Large-scale provision of inexpensive multi-media projectors in institutions would allow students to view off-line programs of the best teachers globally with the local teacher acting as a facilitator. Our teachers and professors should use them as role models, while weaving the knowledge from the Net into the Pakistani context for their students. Above all we need a rethinking of the curriculum across the board, cognizant of the amazing range and quality of knowledge now on the Net.

 

Pakistan’s radio and TV are largely news and entertainment outlets than need redirection towards worthier goals of enlightening, lifelong learning. The models of the BBC in the UK and PBS and NPR in the USA – live and on the Net – can show us how this can be achieved. Such tools of the new media will help achieve full literacy in the country faster than the mere 5 years that it took some South American countries to do so using the ideas of Paulo Friere.

 

I conclude with brief reference to three commonly voiced concerns: energy, human and environmental security.

 

Instead of lurching forward into dangerous technologies such as nuclear and coal, we need to focus on our natural abundance of sunshine and hydropower (about which much has been written). While wind technology needs exploration, the area calling for immediate implementation is solar thermal, i.e. direct capture of heat energy from the sun’s rays to turn turbines for power generation – an option cheaper than wind energy. It has the advantage of our engineers accomplishing this largely themselves. At the other end, appropriate technologies such as green roofs (or simply oil painting or installing reflective high insulation tiling) could cool our homes and reduce cost, as can improving efficiency of industry, vehicles and other energy guzzlers. Some complex problems have cheap, simple solutions, see: http://tinyurl.com/kg4ows4.

 

Human security issues require that we establish not just peace but cordial relations with India, Afghanistan and Iran and open our borders to free exchange of people and commerce. Let’s be honest and admit that Kashmir cannot be snatched from India – ask the experienced retired general under house-arrest in his farmhouse in Islamabad [Musharraf]! Money for wasteful military gadgets can then be diverted towards human development.

 

Human security would be best advanced by providing decent livelihood to the poor and disadvantaged — gimmicks such as the expensive Income Support Program will fail. What are needed are low-cost projects which provide employment and honorable income for the multitudes of unskilled and uneducated, coupled with literacy and skills training. One such project ought to be for countrywide reforestation – green cover is well below 5% of the land-area; it ought to be at least 5 times higher. The environmental and social benefits of it would be enormous.

 

Publicity-attracting expensive mega-projects have been dear to our leaders. The real skill of wise leaders, though, lies in generating a sense of self-worth among the citizens. Ensuring self sufficiency through transforming the country from the bottom up is the way. The new government must take up this challenge.

 

The author is an Islamabad-based physicist and environmentalist.

 

 

 

Pakistan releases 45 Indian fishermen as a goodwill gesture #goodnews


Press Trust of India | Posted on May 25, 2013

Islamabad: Pakistan on Saturday released 45 Indian prisoners as a gesture of goodwill though confusion surrounded the move as Indian authorities in Islamabad were not informed about it.

“We have freed 45 Indian prisoners and they will be repatriated via Wagah tomorrow,” Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani told a news briefing at the Foreign Office.

The prisoners, most of them fishermen, were freed from a jail in Karachi and put on a bus to take them to the eastern city of Lahore.

Pakistan releases 45 Indian fishermenThere are currently 482 Indian prisoners in Pakistani jails while 496 Pakistanis are in Indian jails.

However, official sources said Pakistani authorities had not formally informed the Indian High Commission about their release till this afternoon.

The verification of the identity of several of the fishermen had not been completed while others had not completed their jail terms, the sources told PTI. Several formalities have to be completed before the fishermen can be allowed to cross over to India via the Wagah land border crossing tomorrow, the sources said.

Footage on television showed the fishermen coming out of Malir Jail in Karachi and boarding the bus. On May 7, caretaker Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso announced that Pakistan would release 51 Indian fishermen who had completed their jail terms.

The figure was subsequently revised to 49 and later, 45 prisoners were freed. India and Pakistan frequently arrest fishermen for illegally crossing the maritime boundary.

There are currently 482 Indian prisoners in Pakistani jails while 496 Pakistanis are in Indian jails. When Khoso announced the release of the Indian fishermen, he expressed the hope that the Indian government would reciprocate by freeing Pakistani prisoners.

The move to release the prisoners came after Indian death row prisoner Sarabjit Singh died in Lahore on May 2 following a brutal assault within Kot Lakhpat Jail.

Following his death, Pakistani prisoner Sanaullah Ranjay was assaulted in a jail in Jammu and died later in a hospital in Chandigarh.

UN calls for strengthened protection of more than 260 million victims of caste-based discrimination


United Nations Human Rights Council logo.

 

 

 

 

Continued plight of the ‘untouchables’

UN experts call for strengthened protection of more than 260 million victims of caste-based discrimination

GENEVA (24 May 2013) – They occupy the lowest levels of strict, hierarchical caste systems founded on notions of purity, pollution and inequality. They face marginalization, social and economic exclusion, segregation in housing, limited access to basic services including water and sanitation and employment, enforcement of certain types of menial jobs, and working conditions similar to slavery.

They are the Dalits of South Asia, who constitute the majority of victims of entrenched caste-based discrimination systems which affect some 260 million stigmatized people worldwide, people considered ‘untouchable’.

Caste-based discrimination remains widespread and deeply rooted, its victims face structural discrimination, marginalization and systematic exclusion, and the level of impunity is very high,” a group of United Nations human rights experts warned today, while urging world Governments to strengthen protection of the hundreds of millions of people across the globe who suffer from discrimination based on work and descent.

“This form of discrimination entails gross and wide-ranging human rights abuses – including brutal forms of violence,” they said. “Dalit women and girls are particularly vulnerable and are exposed to multiple forms of discrimination and violence, including sexual violence, on the basis of gender and caste. Children victims of caste-based discrimination are more at risk to be victims of sale and sexual exploitation.”

On this day, two years ago, the experts recalled, Nepal adopted the ‘Caste-based Discrimination and Untouchability Bill’, a landmark legislative piece for the defense and protection of the rights of Dalits. A recent decision by the British Government in April 2013 to cover caste discrimination by the Equality Act serves as a good practice to protect Dalits in diaspora communities.

“We urge other caste-affected States to adopt legislation to prevent caste-based discrimination and violence and punish perpetrators of such crimes, and call on world Governments to endorse and implement the UN Draft Principles and Guidelines for the Effective Elimination of Discrimination Based on Work and Descent.”*

The UN experts expressed concern about a serious lack of implementation in countries where legislation exists, and called for effective application of laws, policies and programmes to protect and promote the rights of those affected by caste-based discrimination. “Political leadership, targeted action and adequate resources should be devoted to resolving the long-standing problems, discrimination and exclusion faced by Dalits and similarly affected communities in the world,” they stressed.

“Caste-based discrimination needs to be addressed as a major structural factor underlying poverty,” the expert said, while welcoming the acknowledgment of caste-based discrimination as a source of inequality by the global consultation on the post-2015 development agenda.

However, they expressed hope that the agenda will also include specific goals for the advancement of Dalits and particularly affected groups. “Their specific needs require tailored action to lift them out of poverty and close the inequality gap between them and the rest of society,” they underlined.

“We will pay specific attention to the particularly vulnerable situation of people affected by caste-based discrimination and advocate for their integration and inclusion so that they can fully enjoy their human rights in accordance with international human rights law and national legislation”, the UN independent experts said.

“No one should be stigmatized; no one should be considered ‘untouchable’”.

The experts: Rita IZSÁK, Independent Expert on minority issues; Rashida MANJOO, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; Gulnara SHAHINIAN, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and its consequences; Najat Maalla M’JID, Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; Mutuma RUTEERE, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; Catarina de ALBUQUERQUE, Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation; Magdalena SEPÚLVEDA, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.

(*) UN Draft Principles and Guidelines for the Effective Elimination of Discrimination Based on Work and Descent:
http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session11/A-HRC-11-CRP3.pdf

For further information on the experts mandates and activities, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

For further information and media requests, please contact Marta Franco (+41 22 917 9268 / mfranco@ohchr.org) or write to minorityissues@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

 

 

 

 

Mumbai – Why this Hypocrisy? #slumdemolitions


 

The demolitions in Ali talao, Kharodi, Malvani. Malad W. P north ward

The background

The informal settlement with about 300 households gets its name from Ali talao (a pond) situated next to the basti. Ali talao basti has been in existence for more than 6 years now. Epitome of how any post-2005 basti will be like; it has people from all corners of the country, Tamils, UP walas, Bihars, Marathis and other migrants who flock to the city in a bid to survive our country’s rural deprivation. Situated in one of the most underdeveloped wards of Mumbai– P north; it was only recently that the settlement obtained some sort of services in the form of electricity. But compared to the rosy picture painted of Mumbai, and its imminent World-classness, this settlement was still without water and other basic services. The settlement stood on public land (NDZ) as per the 1991 Development Plan (DP), and has been now demolished 6 times in its short span of six years, and once it was burned, allegedly by the authorities themselves.

The demolition and the current crisis

There were no demolition notices, only threat orders and summoning from the police station thus raising apprehension of an impending demolition. Kharodi Ali talao was razed – again – on 20th May 2013. With about 1000 souls living in open tents, Ali talao now looks like refugee camp. The demolitions violated many principles as laid out in the UN Principles and Guidelines on Evictions and Displacement. (http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Housing/Pages/ForcedEvictions.aspx). They now are under constant threat from the police who have put barricades around the site and are warning them from reoccupying the land. The families- like in the earlier instances- were not ready to move from the demolition site. To counter this, yesterday morning, the police rounded up more than 100 people (including children) from the settlement and held them hostage in the police station till late night- threatening with violence and adverse consequences if they do not vacate their demolished homes. In the night, 19 people were officially arrested and detained for the night and were produced in the court today morning; the arrested included 13 women. Some now have been released on a hefty bail of Rs 10,000, and 4 women belonging to the minority community face being jailed as they do not have such a large sum to pay-off. Perfect example of how our law and order system is employed to punish and incarcerate the poorest of the poor struggling to make their ends meet.

The Existing Land Use (ELU) survey and the ‘cleansed’ Development Plan (2014-34)

Ali talao residents in the last couple of months have given countless letters to the BMC to include them in the Development Plan revision process. They were happy that their settlement was mapped on the Existing Land Use (ELU) survey, which they considered as the first step to legalization! But unfortunately, the state is now on a demolition drive as if to correct the ELU where some informal settlements were mapped. It seems that rather than being obliged to offer a solution to the marginalized communities mapped in the ELU survey, it is using the same ELU to locate and demolish them using the draconian 1995 January cut-off date. This method of cleansing and planning is detrimental to this city, when about 25 lakh or about 20% of the city lives in informal settlements that have emerged after 1995. And we know that it impossible to rid the city of its 20% citizenry. But then we all are astonished on why some communities are selected and erased of the planning process.

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By- Aravind Unni, YUVA,

 

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