Posts Tagged ‘Pakistan’

CPEC: The Case for Full Disclosure

May 19, 2017

By Anjum Altaf

I am now less interested in CPEC, which is unstoppable, and more fascinated by how people think. Conventional wisdom has individuals using reason to objectively weigh the costs and benefits of an option and then choosing it if benefits exceed costs. More and more evidence on actual behavior suggests that individuals start with their minds already made up and then pick and choose arguments to support their positions.

At this time PML supporters are convinced CPEC is a game-changer while those opposed to the party believe it is a recipe for disaster. The former claim Nawaz Sharif is an astute industrialist and China a trusted friend. The latter argue Nawaz Sharif is corrupt and is using hype to distract attention from his troubles. Supporters are not willing to consider that their party can make bad decisions; opponents are unwilling to concede the the PML could get something right. No one is basing their position on factual information which remains irrelevant to the debate.   

Such attitudes make it difficult to convince anyone that their views might be mistaken. Objectively speaking, everyone should be neutral on the CPEC at this time as enough reliable information is not available to evaluate costs and benefits within reasonable bounds. The rational individual should be withholding judgement and demanding the numbers. Instead, stormtroopers on both sides are frothing at the mouth, ready to dismiss all contrary arguments as treason.

Although I am convinced that few minds are likely to be changed by my opinion, I still feel a responsibility to present the case for neutrality till more data is available for credible analysis. I believe my argument will make sense even to those lacking the expertise of  economists and financial analysts.

The starting point is the acknowledgement that $56 billion is a significant amount of money in the Pakistani context and that an infusion of this magnitude has the potential to do a lot of good. The big question is: Will the potential be realized?

Instead of answering this question on faith, I suggest participation in a thought experiment. Imagine your family is facing financial hardship and everyone you have approached has turned you down. Now someone comes along offering a loan of a million dollars, an amount that can solve all your problems and change your life. Would you accept the money with your eyes closed?

I am hoping you will ask for the terms of the loan. Suppose you are told you would be expected to convert to another religion. Or that you would have to indenture your children in case you fail to meet the repayment obligations. Would you accept the money on such terms?

These are hypothetical examples. I am not saying the Chinese are asking Pakistanis to give up their religion or indenture future generations. The extreme examples are only meant to dramatize the essential point that only a very foolish or reckless or desperate person would be willing to sign on the dotted line without knowing the terms of the deal. Is that an unreasonable conclusion?

Let us return to CPEC assuming the Chinese would not be asking for any such thing. But let us think of what the Chinese might ask for. Suppose they ask that whatever we buy with the money must be purchased from Chinese suppliers. Would you accept such a condition on a personal loan? If not, would you not worry if the nation is being asked for such an arrangement?

Consider the personal risks of accepting such a demand. The lender could sell you second-rate goods at above-market prices. Any tied arrangement would deprive you of better alternatives available in the market. At the national level, sole-sourcing would eliminate the efficiency gains resulting from procurement of supplies via competitive international bidding. Therefore, we should be reluctant to accept loans conditional on sole-sourcing.

The Chinese may not insist on sole-sourcing but ask instead for guaranteed charges and exorbitant rates of return on the investments independent of whether the projects are profitable or not. Many people know someone unfortunate enough to get enmeshed in exploitative arrangements with loan sharks and are aware of the consequences. This kind of outcome is not to be taken lightly.

These examples are speculative and may appear outlandish and I have no idea if CPEC involves anything of the kind. But that is exactly the point because such examples are by no means purely a figment of the imagination. Readers are well aware that usury, the charging of exorbitant rates of return on loans, is prohibited in most religions for good reason. They know that bonded labor still exists in some industries. Some who know their history would recall that the British passed an act in 1938 to rescue the heavily indebted Punjabi peasantry from the clutches of moneylenders. And there are records of violent opposition to alleged attempts by missionaries to influence people by offering them material temptations.     

The bottom line is that it is never a good practice to accept loans without full knowledge of the terms and conditions, more so when one is desperate for financial assistance. Readers would do well to read Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice to reinforce this conclusion. And, if convinced, wouldn’t it be ethically wrong to urge the country to accept something that one would personally reject? You should not do to others what you would not do to yourself.

Intellectual honesty demands a stance of neutrality on CPEC till the terms and conditions are disclosed without which one cannot arrive at an objective assessment of whether it could be potentially beneficial for the country. Only then could one move to the next stage of appraisal knowing that even potentially beneficial projects of this magnitude depend for their success on many other factors. Asides from the truly random and uncontrollable ones, these would include the implementation capacity of Pakistani governments whose probity and track record is not one to inspire confidence. What would we need to do to hold the government’s feet to the fire and prevent another Reko Diq?

This opinion appeared in Dawn on May 15, 2017 and is reproduced here with permission of the author. See also, CPEC: Lessons from History and CPEC: Questions Persist.

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A History of the Left in Pakistan – 20

May 13, 2017

By Ahmed Kamran

Chapter Four: The Road to Pakistan – (Continued)

Balochistan – A Tribal Rebellion

Among Muslim majority areas of British India and the princely states inside Pakistani territory, Balochistan occupied a unique position. It was neither a wholly British Indian province nor a subordinate princely state like Kashmir, Bhawalpur, Junagadh, and Hyderabad. Its relationship with British India evolved differently and this factor has continued to mar its relationship with Pakistani state till today. As a separate political entity in history, Balochistan evolved as a Rind-Lashari tribal confederacy, first established by Mir Chakar Rind in late 1400s. It comprised of a large swathe of mostly barren land, stretching from Kirman in the west (in present day Iran) to Derajat on the right bank of Indus River in the east, including Kalat highlands and the fertile areas of Kacchi and Sibi. It had united all Baloch inhabited areas in a political entity for the first time. The confederacy was centered around two most powerful Baloch tribes of Rind and Lasharis, each in turn constituting loosely organized federations of several lesser tribes. During his peak, Mir Chakar also advanced into Punjab, taking over Multan and southern parts of Punjab in the early 1500s. The 16th century saw not only the rise of Safavid power in Iran, but also the Mughal power in India, and the arrival of European ships in the Sea of Oman and the Persian Gulf. Towards the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Portuguese found their way to the region and captured several places along the Makran coast. In 1510 AD, they occupied the small port of Gwatr (not Gwadar), east of Chahbahar in western Balochistan. Later, they also occupied two other larger coastal settlements of Gwadar and Pasni further east. Thus, the conflict of interest between these three external imperial powers (the Persians, the Mughals and the Europeans) continued to influence the internal politics of the Baloch. Portuguese were soon replaced by the British. The first Baloch confederacy did not survive long. Mir Chakar Rind died in 1550 and lies buried at Sahiwal in Punjab. After witnessing periodic border expansions and contractions by the time British arrived in the area, the nominal seat of Baloch tribal confederacy was based in Kalat. Mir Ahmed Khan I established the dynasty of the last Khannate of Kalat in 1666 and since then the ruling family has been known as Ahmedzais.

The Baloch Confederacy had treaty obligations with Afghanistan (1758) from the time of Mir Noori Nasir Khan. In its ‘Forward Policy’ for securing the western borders of India and for resisting the southward push of the Russian Empire in the Central Asia, British needed to keep Afghanistan and Iran under its influence, or, at least, ‘neutral’ to serve as buffers between the two expanding European empires. But the British supply routes to Afghanistan and Iran could not be safeguarded without securing Sindh and Balochistan. For this reason, the British advanced into Kalat as early as November 1839. The reigning Khan of Kalat, Mehrab Khan was killed in the battle. His minor son was installed in his seat and a regent was appointed to oversee the British interests. To serve their military strategic interests, the British parceled out the Baloch country. The Derajat, Khangarh (now Jacobabad) and Kacchi area were detached from Balochistan and annexed to British India. Quetta and Mastung were given to a pliant ruler of Afghanistan, Shah Shuja in a treaty with Afghanistan. The British signed their first formal treaty with Kalat in 1854. Recognizing Khan of Kalat’s nominal sovereignty over Baloch areas, an annual subsidy was agreed to be paid to him in exchange for his loyalty. British expansion towards Afghanistan continued and it annexed its Pishin, Zhob, and Loralai regions. Meanwhile, taking advantage of the situation now Qajar Shahs who had in the meantime replaced Safvi rulers of Iran also captured parts of western Balochistan and included them in their territory.

In 1876, Britain signed a new treaty with Kalat as an independent state but under protection from Britain and the British troops were stationed in Kalat. The establishment of the Balochistan Agency with its headquarter at Quetta followed in early 1877. In the same year, Scottish General Robert Sandeman was transferred from the post of Assistant Commissioner Punjab to Balochistan. Having experience of working as district officer of Dera Ghazi Khan, he was appointed Agent to the Governor General (A.G.G) and Chief Commissioner of the Agency for Balochistan. Under an agreement with the Khan of Kalat in 1883, the British obtained Quetta, Nushki, Bolan Pass, and Nasirabad areas on lease from Kalat and attached them with the British controlled Pashtun regions renaming the area as the ‘British Balochistan’. With a view to lure Afghanistan and Iran away from Czarist Russia, the Britain unilaterally ceded some parts of Baloch areas of Kalat State territory to Iran and Afghanistan. Thus, the Baloch country was arbitrarily divided into several parts. Initially, Khan of Kalat was included in the border negotiations but later he was excluded from the process and unilateral boundary decisions were taken by the British (44). Under a British-Iranian agreement the ‘Goldsmith Line’ drawn in 1871 as border between Iran and British interests, large parts of the western Balochistan were ceded to Iran. Similarly, a little later the ‘McMohan Line’ drawn in 1896 demarcating boundary between Afghanistan and the British Balochistan left a northern portion of Baloch area with Afghanistan. Large tracts of eastern Balochistan including Kacchi, Sibi, Jacobabad and adjoining areas together with Quetta and other Pukhtun areas remained with the British administration under long term lease contract. The rest of the Baloch territory was left in possession of the Kalat State. Thus, the Baloch territories were divided among three states – India, Afghanistan and Iran. In India, the Baloch areas were sub-divided between British Balochistan (areas under direct British rule) and the State of nominally independent Kalat. In theory, Kalat was a sovereign state, much like Nepal and Bhutan and was different from other Indian Princely States. The responsibility for its defence and foreign affairs were handed over to the British Crown based on mutually agreed friendly treaties promising British support to Kalat in case of need in the maintenance of a just authority and protection of territories from external attack. The Kalat state was further carved into the agencies’ territories of mainly Pukhtun belt and the federation of Baloch States (Kalat, Makran, Kharan and Lasbela) with the Khan of Kalat as the head of the federation. The Khan of Kalat was, however, traditionally bound to consult the Jirga (Council) of main tribal Sardars (chiefs) on all important social and political matters. During First World War, some tribes of Marri-Khetran and Mengals revolted against conscription and British interference in their areas but the revolt was crushed and some tribal leaders, including Misri Khan Baloch, fled to Afghanistan and to the newly established Soviet Union for assistance (45).

Over time, the Baloch tribal system, unlike the Pukhtun tribal system, had ossified into a highly oppressive feudalistic Sardari system, giving near absolute control to the Sardar (Chief of tribe) over life and death of its subjects, perpetuating their abject poverty and deprivation. The Kalat Confederacy was not exactly a princely kingdom in its strict sense either. It evolved differently. Nina Swidler of Fordham University, New York, a pioneering scholar on the subject completing her doctorate thesis on The Political Structure of a Tribal Federation in 1969, succinctly explains the characteristic of the Confederacy thus, “Even though the Ahmedzais consolidated a new order of structure, they did not integrate Kalat into one uniformly administered territory. Although a central bureaucracy developed, the khan never succeeded in incorporating the tribes economically. No revenues of any kind were exacted from them. Each tribal constituent of the Khannate was internally and territorially autonomous. The khan had no access to the tribes except through the chiefs…The autonomy of tribal constituencies in the Khannate is based on the authority of the sardar, which is largely a result of Brahui tribal structure” (46). The nature of a despotic Sardari system developed in Balochistan may be adequately depicted by an observation by Sylvia Matheson in her book The Tigers of Balochistan (1967) recording the remarks of a typical representative of Baloch Sardars, Tumandar Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti on a question to him during her interview sometime in 1948 about his plain admission that he had killed the first man when he was only 12, he said, as he sipped his tea, “Oh that! Well that man annoyed me. I’ve forgotten what it was about now, but I shot him dead. I’ve rather a hasty temper you know, but under tribal law of course it wasn’t a capital offence, and, in any case, as the eldest son of the Chieftain I was perfectly entitled to do as I pleased in our own territory. We enjoy absolute sovereignty over our people and they accept this as part of their tradition” (47).

Due to arid lands, stagnant repressive social conditions and little agricultural and commercial opportunities coupled with religious persecution (Shia rulers persecuting mostly Sunni Baloch) in Iranian parts of western Balochistan gradual migration of Baloch population from both eastern and western Balochistan into Sindh and Southern Punjab resulted in more Balochs living in Sindh and Punjab than in Kalat itself. Many of these migrating Baloch settled in Karachi making it the largest Baloch urban centre. Balochistan in general and Kalat confederacy remained one of the most under-developed and poor parts of India. There were almost no modern schools. In 1903, there were only 21 schools in Balochistan with 800 students, mostly children of non-Baloch servicemen of British Administration in Quetta. To move its part of Balochistan away from Persian influence, British made Urdu as its official language replacing Persian. The first newspaper ‘Balochistan’ was started in 1927 by Abdul Aziz Kurd and Master Pir Bukhsh. Inspired by the bold ‘modernist’ political developments taking place in Turkey (Mustafa Kamal) and Iran (Reza Shah) in 1920’s, the earliest Baloch political activists included Yousuf Ali Magsi and Abdul Aziz Kurd who established an underground organization ‘Young Baloch’, which was later converted into an open ‘Anjuman-e-Ittehad-e-Balochan’ (Baloch Unity Organization) in late 1920s. This Anjuman marked the beginning of modern Baloch middle class nationalist movement. Yousuf Magsi was the scion of Nawab Qaisar Khan, the Chief Sardar of Jhal-Magsi area in Balochistan, who was made to abdicate and exiled to Punjab by the British-appointed Chief Minister of Kalat. In his youth, Magsi lived in Multan and Lahore and was influenced by the then Indian independence movement. Aziz Kurd was the son of a middle class civil servant of the Khannate of Kalat. Karachi, having the largest Baloch urban population, also played an important role in the development of Baloch nationalist movement. A ‘Baloch League’ was founded in Karachi with Ghulam Nooruddin as president (48). The Baloch League held its conference in Karachi in 1930. After graduating from Aligarh College, noted Baloch nationalist leader Ghaus Bukhsh Bizenjo also first joined the Baloch League in Karachi. By early 1930s, Anjuman-e Balochan was demanding political reforms in the Khannate of Kalat, reunification of all Baloch territories in one political unit and the establishment of a united independent Balochistan. The demands of political reforms included establishment of an elected parliament and a cabinet under the Khan of Kalat. A Baloch Unity Conference was held in December 1932 at Jacobabad. The Anjuman’s weekly magazine ‘Al-Baloch’ from Karachi also published a map of ‘Greater Balochistan’ showing the State of Kalat together with British leased and Iranian occupied parts of Baloch territory, including large parts of Sindh and the state of Bhawalpur as a united Baloch political entity. The Khan of Kalat, Muhammad Azam Jan, died in 1933 and his young son, Ahmad Yar Khan, 31, ambitious for a Greater and United Balochistan took over the reins in his place. He sent Yousef Magsi of Anjuman Balochan to London in 1934 as his personal representative for pleading the case for Balochistan’s sovereignty but the mission failed as the British Government in London did not pay serious attention to the Baloch pleadings and refused to introduce reforms in Balochistan. At this stage, Magsi is also said to entertain the idea of seeking help from the Soviet Union and start an armed struggle but it seems no meaningful step was taken in this direction. Magsi was killed in the severe Quetta earthquake in 1935.

In 1937, the Anjuman was converted by its left-wing workers influenced by the socialist and communist ideas led by Mir Ghaus Bukhsh Bizenjo, Gul Khan Naseer, and Abdul Aziz Kurd into Kalat State National Party seeking constitutional rule in the Khanate and founding of an independent Balochistan after British leave from India. The principal objective of the nascent middle class and petty bourgeoisie of Balochistan was to get freedom from an overbearing traditional Sardari (tribal chief’s) system of oppression, which was supported and perpetuated by the British and the Khan of Kalat in their own interests. Unlike Muslims of other parts of India, the Baloch intelligentsia was not threatened by the Hindu domination and, therefore, did not find Muslim League’s struggle in British India for ‘protectionist’ rights of Indian Muslims attractive for itself. Herein lied its predicament; on the one hand, it was seeking more political and economic space for itself from the oppressive Sardari system with Khan of Kalat as the overlord of the whole system, and, on the other hand, it was rallying around the Khan in his ambitions for getting full independence from the British rule. The Khan of Kalat was not interested in relenting any democratic rights or equal economic opportunities to the Baloch people. He never allowed even those limited political and democratic rights that were granted in the British Balochistan and neither did he promoted any social or educational development of people in his Kalat state. But, he was keen to exploit the political activism and popular appeal of the middle class nationalist leaders in his grand monarchical designs. In return for some pep talk by the Khan and few symbolic gestures by him in theory (nothing changed in practice) like announcement of abolition of Bigar (free compulsive labour) and other illegal taxes, the National Party gladly conferred the title of ‘Khan-e-Muazzam’ (the Great Khan) on the Khan of Kalat in 1938 as a gesture of party’s full support and loyalty to the Khan. The British government through its political agents was adept at using the self-centered tyrant tribal Baloch Sardars and Pukhtun tribal leaders to put pressure on and keep the Khan of Kalat under check. The strong opposition of Kalat National Party frustrated British efforts at obtaining Jiwani port on lease from Kalat. Unhappy over the Kalat National Party’s increasing activities and Khan’s tacit support to it, the powerful Sardars with a wink from the British retaliated against the party. On 6 July, 1939, a tribal Lashkar (armed band) attacked the National Party convention at Mastung and dispersed the gathering. On the demand from Sardars, the National Party was banned by Khan of Kalat and its leaders were expelled from the state, and strict restriction was imposed on its newspapers and literature entering the state from British Balochistan. As a measure of delimiting Khan of Kalat’s influence and cut him to size, the British government had also ‘encouraged the vassals of the Khannate in Makran and Lasbela to emerge as separate protectorates and thus there was a practical administrative trifurcation of the Khannate even within British India, i.e. the British India, the Khannate and independent princely states of Makran, Kharan, and Lasbela, and [Pukhtun] tribal territories’ (49).

With the Pakistan movement gaining traction and the transfer of power from Britain to one or two independent governments in India becoming imminent, the Khan of Kalat, Mir Ahmad Yar Khan, made efforts to obtain full independence for Kalat state. His argument was based on the fact that unlike other 560-odd Princely States of India, the state of Kalat as a sovereign state had special treaty agreement (1876) directly with the British government in London as the paramount power, and not with British Indian government in Delhi. Therefore, with the withdrawal of Britain from India the state of Kalat together with its leased territories like Quetta will legally revert to its original position before 1876 and it will be released from all treaty obligations and lease contracts; that no government in India, as successor to the British Indian government, can inherit that role. Khan of Kalat also engaged M.A. Jinnah as his lawyer in this regard who apparently agreed with this legal position. Khan of Kalat also presented a Memorandum to the visiting Cabinet Mission of the British Government in March 1946 through M.A. Jinnah as his lawyer. The Kalat state’s case was prepared by I.I. Chundrigar, a noted lawyer from Bombay and a future Prime Minister of Pakistan, Sir Sultan Ahmed, a noted barrister-at-law of India, and Sir Walter Monkton, an influential British lawyer and the Solicitor General in Winston Churchill’s caretaker government of 1945. The Khan of Kalat also sent Abdul Samad Achakzai, a member of All India Congress Committee, to plead his case with Nehru, and Ghaus Bukhsh Bizenjo, the head of Kalat National Party, to meet with Indian Congress President Abul Kalam Azad. But Indian Congress was mute and avoided coming out in Kalat’s favour fearing creation of a bad precedent for similar counter moves by the Muslim League in the matter of the states of Junagadh and Hyderabad inside the territory of India. This way, Indian Congress implicitly conceded the right of contiguous successor state of British India over Princely States falling inside its territory. Similarly, on 27 March, 1947, V.P. Menon was reported in an All-India Radio broadcast that India has declined repeated requests of Khan of Kalat for accession of his state to India instead of Pakistan. Although, subsequently this report was denied by Nehru (50) but the message to Khan of Kalat was clear that India may not help him at that stage. The Marri-Bugti Baloch tribal chiefs, Sardar Doda Khan Marri and Sardar Akbar Khan Bugti are reported to have sent memorandum to the British government for joining with the state of Kalat. Similarly, Sardar Jamal Khan Leghari, the father of future President of Pakistan Farooq Leghari, together with few other tribal chiefs is also reported to have sent a memorandum demanding their separation from Punjab and joining with the Kalat state. But, the British government ignored these requests.

Meanwhile, as far as the British-controlled part of Balochistan was concerned, as per the local tradition, an assembly of Baloch & Pukhtun tribal leaders of the area (Shahi Jirga) was called on 29 June, 1947, which voted in favour of joining with Pakistan. The Municipal Council of Quetta also voted for Pakistan (51). However, in a round-table conference held in Delhi on 4 August, 1947 attended by the Viceroy Lord Mountbatten, Khan of Kalat, his Chief Minister, Liaqat Ali Khan, Sir Sultan Ahmed, as advisor to the Indian Chamber of Princes, and M.A. Jinnah as Khan of Kalat’s legal advisor, it was decided that the Kalat state would become independent on 5 August, 1947. Subsequently, the rulers of Kharan and Lasbela were informed by the British government that control of their regions together with the Marri and Bugti tribal regions under British control had been transferred to Kalat State. After a series of meetings held between the leadership of Muslim League, including M.A. Jinnah, and Khan of Kalat, the Muslim League signed a joint ‘Stand-Still’ statement with Khan of Kalat on 11 August, 1947 saying, “The Government of Pakistan recognizes Kalat as an independent sovereign state; in treaty relations with British government, with a status different from that of Indian states. Legal opinion will be sought as to whether or not agreements of leases made between the British government and Kalat will be inherited by the Pakistan government” (52).

On Friday, 15 August, 1947 Khan of Kalat declared full independence of the State of Kalat, which was immediately ratified by the Kalat State parliament that was hurriedly elected only a few weeks before. The traditional flag of the state in green over red colour and the crescent and star in the centre was hoisted and a traditional Khutba (religious address) was read on the day in Khan of Kalat’s name in Friday congregational prayers in the Jamia Masjid of Kalat. The Khan of Kalat offered to negotiate a special relationship with Pakistan in the spheres of Defence, Foreign Affairs, and Communications. But, the Pakistani leaders promptly rejected Kalat’s declaration of independence and its offer for negotiation on its relationship with Pakistan, triggering a 7-month row over Kalat’s accession to Pakistan. In the changed circumstances, Jinnah in his personal capacity also advised Khan of Kalat to join with Pakistan but the Khan evaded the issue. Feeling the increasing pressure from the government of Pakistan, he also sought help from outside. He instructed Kalat’s army commander-in-chief, Brigadier General Purves to prepare for armed resistance and arrange for weapons and ammunition. Brigadier Purves approached the British Commonwealth government in London in December 1947 for supply of arms to Kalat state but the British government refused the request without the Pakistan Government’s approval (53). There were also reports that Khan of Kalat was seeking support from the Indian government and the Afghan King but with no success. Nehru, however, denied these reports (54). The rulers of Kharan, Makran and Lasbela, being too timid to side with Khan, voted to join Pakistan on 18 March, 1948, immensely weakening the Khan of Kalat’s position. Finally, after a Pakistan military action in Kalat, Mir Ahmed Yar Khan also signed the instrument of accession to Pakistan on 27 March, 1948. The state of Kalat as legal entity was abolished and merged with Pakistan. Most of the members of a short-lived Balochistan cabinet were arrested or exiled from Balochistan (55).


44. Balochis of Pakistan: On the Margins of History, The Foreign Policy Centre, London, UK, 2006 [henceforth FPC UK Report], p. 14.
45. Taj Mohammad Berseeg, Baloch Nationalism-Its Origins & Development,, p. 211.
46. Nina Swidler, The Development of the Kalat Khannate, monograph in the Journal of Asian and African Studies, p. 118.
47. Quoted in The Tumandar of the Bugtis by Ardeshir Cowasjee, Daily Dawn, Karachi, 3 Sep, 2006.
48. Waja Omar Bukhsh, Maulvi Muhammad Usman, Mehrab Issa Khan, Allah Buksh Gabol, and Abdul Samad Sarbazi were among its other leaders.
49. Balochis of Pakistan: On the Margins of History, p. 15.
50. FPC UK Report, p. 24.
51. Ibid, p. 16.
52. Ibid, p. 21.
53. Taj Mohammad Berseeg, p. 250.
54. FPC UK Report, p. 18.
55. Taj Mohammad Berseeg, p. 253

Chapter 4… To be Continued

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Nowhere to Go

May 4, 2017

By Anjum Altaf

I am intrigued by the thought that for an ambitious youngster, passionate about the arts and with a compelling belief in himself or herself, there may be no place in Pakistan to run away to.

The thought occurred to me on reading the biography of Naushad, one of our great music directors. Born in Lucknow, he became fascinated with music early in life. Told by his father to choose between home and music Naushad ran away to Bombay at the age of 18. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Bombay of those times was the place to run away to for the passionate young. Naushad was not the only one. There were literally hundreds of others from cities as far away as Peshawar and Madras and towns and villages scattered across the subcontinent. It was a magnet not only for those interested in music but in dance, theater, films and writing – a mecca for aspiring artists whose talents and ambitions were either thwarted or had no prospects of fruition in the milieus in which they were born and raised.

Bombay was a magnet because it also had the ecosystem of peer groups, mentors and patrons in which a young runaway could hope to find a niche and be accommodated. Naushad, after sleeping on footpaths for a while, found Ustad Jhande Khan (himself from Gujranwala) who became a guide and a link to others who could recognize, appreciate and nurture a precocious talent.

Thinking along these lines brought home to me that such artistic meccas exist in many countries. New York City is the quintessential example. Reading the biographies of celebrated American artists one is struck by how many of them gravitated there from small towns, rural districts and depressed areas thousands of miles away and how the city provided the nourishment for their talents to be realized.

London, Paris and Vienna are well-known examples from other countries. It is cities like these that keep culture alive and vibrant within countries and serve as beacons of hope for those who feel the overpowering urge to become a part of that culture.

One might wish such ambitions to find nourishment for their fulfillment anywhere in a country but that is an impossibility because of the economies of scale and agglomeration. Much like clusters of industry there are clusters of the arts where nourishing ecosystems become established. Some countries have more than one. In the US, for example, one can consider New Orleans and Los Angeles in a similar light. Young people attracted to jazz head to New Orleans while those hoping to make it in the world of film are drawn to Los Angeles.

Does it matter that there is no such place for the young to run away to akistan? Is the artistic culture of the country being impoverished or not being rejuvenated sufficiently or being confined to those who have privileged access to it by being born in the right home in the right place?

Young men from Charsadda and Skardu and Turbat do move to Karachi for jobs but does one know of budding musicians or artists or actors heading there from similar places with a hope that a nurturing haven would be found in the metropolis.

Lahore could have been considered a mini-Bombay in the decades when it had its major film studios and the Pak Tea House as the abode of writers. But that seems no more the case. Even then, at the Tea House it was only local students who could become part of the intellectual circle. There is no evidence of a regular influx of outsiders turning up with burning ambition and the hope of learning enough to make a living from their passions.

I hope I am wrong and wish someone will identify such places in the country. Perhaps some shrines, especially in Sindh, serve a similar function though I wouldn’t put them in the same category as a place like New York where something new is always in the process of being born.

I am also sobered by the thought that over the last few decades places to run away to in Pakistan might have emerged for the young moved by religious fervor. Depending on preference they could head to Raiwind or Akora Khattak or Karachi with the knowledge that they would find a haven with refuge and nurturing.

Some of these havens have acquired international recognition and youngsters have started streaming to them from the far corners of the globe. In a sense they have attained the stature of the Paris between the two wars when it became the destination of choice for aspiring artists from the world over.

Could this be a reason that Pakistan has become known in the world as the center of Jihadi culture while its artistic evolution continues to shrivel?

This opinion appeared in Dawn on April 30, 2017 and is reproduced here with permission of the author.

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Is More Religion the Answer?

April 28, 2017

By Anjum Altaf

Religion is always ticking away in the background of almost every issue in Pakistan but there has been a decided uptick in the intensity of instructional fervour in recent days. The thrust is a desperate effort to make Pakistanis more pious in order to achieve the fast disappearing better society of our dreams.

To start off, a committee of the National Assembly passed a bill to make teaching the Quran compulsory in grades 1 through 12 in all federal educational institutions. According the committee chair “the bill is one of the good steps and will benefit students.” The education minister added that “this bill was moved because it was the people’s demand and because it was the need of the hour.” The text of the bill states that “it will make the divine message understood; ensure the repose of society; peace and tranquillity; Promote the supreme human values of truth, honesty, integrity, character building, tolerance, understanding others’ point of view and way of life. It will lead towards spreading goodness and auspiciousness and towards ending chaos and uncertainty.”

Not to be upstaged, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education of the KPK government placed a front-page announcement in national newspapers that it was ahead of the game as the only province to have already implemented such an initiative. “We are ever-committed to harvesting all-rounder children to fully contribute to our society,” it claimed proudly (Dawn, page 1, March 18, 2017).

The Punjab government, never one to be left behind in matters of righteousness, chimed in with a more modest suggestion. The minister for higher education lamented “We are leaving our religion behind, we are forgetting our culture and ethics. Hence, I have made the hijab compulsory for our women and sisters in colleges.” He added it was his duty to take the step “as it is the duty of every Muslim.” He had also thought through an operational plan: “I have also made a policy for it, if your attendance falls below 60 pc then we will give 5 pc attendance to those girls who wear a hijab.” When the government had second thoughts on the idea, the public prosecutor stepped in to salvage the prestige of the province. He offered to guarantee the acquittal of 42 Christians accused of a crime if they agreed to embrace Islam.

Soon thereafter, the newly-appointed Chief Justice of the AJK Supreme Court announced that prayers had been made mandatory and that the annual increment for court employees would be conditional on the regular offering of prayers, which, he said, would be secretly checked. No doubt we will be hearing soon from the laggard governments of Sindh and Balochistan but the trends seem fairly clear about the direction in which we are headed to make the country more pious.

No one would fail to applaud the desire to improve society. Things are so abysmal that it is difficult to think of a single governmental transaction that is free of fraud and graft. And the state of general morality is so degraded that few are willing to engage in market transactions without first securing a trusted personal connection with the transacting party.

There are two concerns, however. The first is that those pushing for piety are among the more impious. Not even the ministry of Haj and Religious Affairs is spotless. And how transparent is the KPK department of education in appointing people to its own sub-departments? When the dishonest begin pushing honesty, the red flags go up automatically. This could be just another distraction while the loot continues uninterrupted.

Second, we live simultaneously in the age of religion and of science. Where, one wonders, is the evidence on which all these policy proposals are based? On what basis is it argued that Quranic teaching from grades 1 through 12 or wearing the hijab in college would make us more pious? If this is only the belief of some individuals why is that belief getting privileged without any empirical support?

What there is by way of evidence might suggest quite contrary conclusions. At least since Zia ul Haq there has been an exponential increase in religiosity as well as nationalism with the infusion of Islamic and Pakistan studies throughout education but Pakistan has only declined on the corruption index of Transparency International.

The number of mosques per square kilometer has risen steeply to the point that simultaneous broadcasts have rendered azaans cacophonous. The number of mentions of God per hundred words spoken in Pakistani languages is now perhaps higher than in any other language in the world. The number of madrassas has multiplied without any increase in peace or tranquility. Rather, the growth in strife and intra-religious bigotry is there for all to observe.

This evidence suggests that more religion is unlikely to reverse the trends. The reason might be that most people have compartmentalized their behavior into separate compartments for  religion and practical life. This is best exemplified by the apocryphal story of the Pakistani importer visiting China who requested his host to give him spurious merchandise at inflated prices but not to serve him any pork. We see the equivalent at home everyday when bureaucrats and shopkeepers suspend all activities at prayer times only to resume fleecing clients and customers once they return from the mosques.

If this characterization is correct, pumping more religion into the religious compartment will have little impact on behavior in this world. That is because the social system we have validated is one in which all that matters is how rich one is no matter how one has accumulated the wealth. Wisdom, integrity and simplicity have all become the hallmarks of fools and the unworldly.

Religious education with a focus on belief divorced from action is not the same as an emphasis on ethics that guide actions independent of belief. Ghalib articulated this clearly long ago:

nahiiN kuchh subbha-o zunnaar ke phanday meN giiraaii
vafaadaarii meN shaykh-o barhamin kii aazmaa’ish hai

(there is no staying-power in the snare of prayer-beads and sacred-thread
the test of the Shaikh and the Brahmin is in faithfulness to principles)

An edited version of this opinion was published in the Express Tribune on 27 April, 2017. The original text is reproduced here with permission of the author.

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A History of the Left in Pakistan – 19

April 27, 2017

By Ahmed Kamran

Chapter Four: The Road to Pakistan – (Continued)

A Complex Knot

Indeed, for CPI it was highly complex and difficult situation. As soon as it was visible that the scepter of the foreign rule over Indian political horizon will not last for long, the ‘national question’ in its naked form in India overshadowed the ‘class question’. The Indian National Congress was started as a political party of the national bourgeoisie, the aspiring middle classes and petty bourgeoisie of the whole of India. CPI’s support for National Congress in its fight against British colonial rule, big absentee landlords, traditional Jagirdars, and Nawabs and Rajas of the princely states for a national democratic revolution was a progressive policy in the right direction, provided it had maintained its political independence and had built and maintained its organizational capacity for simultaneously pursuing its long-term goal of a peoples’ democratic revolution. But, confronted with the growing aspirations of other religious and national minorities and long suppressed Shudras and outcaste Achuts (Untouchables) of India, the National Congress had quickly reduced and crystallized itself into a representative party of upper caste Hindus, the big bourgeoisie, and the middle classes only. Failing in subduing the increasingly powerful Muslim identity and separatist movement led by its intelligentsia and financed by Muslim businessmen of Bombay and Calcutta, the big Hindu bourgeoisie was losing its patience for a protracted and, in their eyes, quite ‘useless’ negotiations with Muslim League. In fact, many of them realized the potential value and ‘political and electoral benefits’ of getting rid of ‘undesirable Muslim irritants’ in their future governance of Indian state. The big bourgeoisie was impatient, frustrated and worried about the stalemate. Powerful Indian industrialists such as G.D Birla were seeing in the plan of loose confederating units— as was proposed in the Cabinet Mission plan— all their dreams for a strong, centralized India coming to a naught. These industrialists and influential upper caste Hindu middle classes were hoping for a powerful central government in free India, footing the bill for capital-intensive projects, paving the roads, transmitting electric power and pumping the water supplies to develop new domestic markets that Indian business desperately needed. The Viceroy of India, Lord Wavell, after a meeting with Indian leaders, noted in his diary, “The Congress premiers of Bombay, UP, Bihar, Central Provinces and Orissa pressed for the establishment of a strong centre and said that the Muslims had been given far more concessions than they were entitled to” (42). The prospect of a large restive Muslim minority and particularly an army with dominant Punjabi Muslim recruitment was an undesirable ‘irritant’ for them to carry forward for vague emotional reasons. Without publicly admitting and taking blame for it in public, they were, in fact, quite willing or even encouraging to let these irritants cut away from the body politics of an independent India. But in an emotionally charged situation expected to develop because of the great human tragedies that were bound to follow this amputation the blame of the vivisection of the ‘Mother India’ was needed to be put on someone else’s doorstep.

On the other hand, by 1945-46, with the prospect of an ‘independent’ India becoming a reality getting brighter every day, the big Muslim landlords and Jagirdars of Punjab were getting fearful of Congress’ avowed policy program of radical land reforms. Failing to stem the tide and the great resurgence of highly charged and increasingly radicalized Muslim middle classes and peasants, they swiftly changed side and threw their weight with Muslim League to secure their position in its leadership and protecting their class interests in a free Pakistan. With this shift taking place in Punjab, the fate of a united India was completely sealed and Pakistan becoming a reality was almost assured. The joining of the big landlords and Jagirdars of the Muslim majority areas in an essentially a Muslim middle class movement for Pakistan sowed the seeds of strong undercurrents and intense conflicts in the factional politics of Muslim League in future in post-independence Pakistan.

Evidently, due to its lack of clear understanding of the conflicting class, social and national interests, and therefore, its inability to put forward bold political formulations for satisfying the political needs of all national and religious minorities and oppressed castes of the traditional Indian society in its confused bid of running with the hare and hunting with the hounds, the CPI was discredited among Sikhs and the oppressed ‘scheduled’ castes alike. The Sikhs, particularly, faced a bitter prospect of getting nowhere. In a communally charged atmosphere of imminent partition of their homeland, Sikhs didn’t have the majority in any part, neither in east Punjab (to be part of India) nor in the west Punjab (to be part of Pakistan) where many of their revered religious centres were located. With an acute feeling of being loser on both sides of the divide, most of the Sikh Communists tended to take up independent Sikh ‘national’ cause with a new vigour as now Akalis were seen more committed to Sikh self-determination than either the Congress or the Muslim League. A CPI leader, Harkishan Singh Surjeet who later became a prominent CPI-M leader, described the helplessness of communists in Punjab, “if the ‘Peoples War’ line had meant that the cadre were working with their hands tied behind their backs, the vacillation on the nationality question tied up their feet as well and whatever success they achieved was remarkable considering they achieved it by crawling on their bellies” (43). The Kirti Communists, in particular, who had earlier grudgingly submitted to the discipline of CPI in 1941, were again restless. They were the mainstay of the communist party in Punjab. In the Kirti Kisan Party elections in 1946, Kirtis took most of the seats; Out of 258 delegates to the state conference, 229 were Kirtis while only 29 were from ‘CPI group’. Owing to their intransigence and formation of an independent group in the party in Punjab, CPI finally expelled Teja Singh Swatantar, Bhag Singh, and Ram Singh from the party in 1946. Teja Singh even formed a parallel Communist Party in Punjab but due to the eruption of extensive bloody communal riots in Punjab in 1947, Teja Singh and other Sikh communists were compelled to cross the border. They later founded a parallel Red Communist Party in January 1948 at Nakodar, Jalandhar. This was perhaps the first ever split in the CPI due to policy differences. Red Communist Party in Punjab also adopted aggressive radical policies and raised its military wing for carrying out direct armed revolutionary struggle. It exhorted peasants to refuse sharing of crops with landlords and paying water charges and other taxes. It also engaged in armed clashes with state police. In 1949, during an armed encounter with police at Kishangarh in Bhatinda a police inspector was killed and the police contingent was forced to take flight. Finally, the state government sent in army units to quell rebels and the Red CPI soon surrendered, with six of militants killed and 26 arrested.

NWFP – ‘The Pukhtun Question’

Unlike Punjab and Sindh, NWFP and Pukhtun parts of Balochistan, which were arbitrarily separated and made part of Balochistan in 1901 for administrative reasons, were a predominantly Muslim area with a remarkably egalitarian social structure and traditions of communal land holdings. The society was, however, divided along Pukhtun clans and tribes with Maliks as their tribal leaders among equals and traditionally bound by the decisions of a rudimentary democratic form of Jirga (a tribal council). All were, however, not equal. Few, like ‘settlers’ from other tribes and areas, menial service providers (shopkeepers and artisans) of village society, and Fakirs— landless peasants did not enjoy the privilege of a full member of the tribe. Syeds, Mullahs and religious leaders were traditionally allowed a degree of social respect and some share in the agricultural produce for their upkeep and occasionally some paltry land grants for the purpose. The Mughal Kings and subsequently British colonial administrators had given large land and cash grants to some prominent and powerful Maliks and bestowed titles upon them thus creating a thin top layer of Nawabs and Jagirdars, usually entrusted to collect and remit land revenues, keep their tribes under leash and main communication highways open for royal army movements, and provide soldiers when needed. The advent of modern commercial life and socio-economic interaction slowly gave rise to a Pukhtun intelligentsia of rural background, essentially belonging to rich peasant classes, which showed the first signs of ‘national consciousness’ and ‘political activism’ for socio-economic reforms in the Pukhtun society in the beginning of the twentieth century.

For the rising Pukhtun intelligentsia in its conflict with the traditional Nawabs, Jagirdars, big landlords and moneylenders of NWFP who were mostly Muslim here, the vehicle of Islam as a rallying tool was not useful at all. Therefore, the politics of Muslim League struggling for the Muslim minority rights had not much attraction for it. The Muslim League was unable to establish its provincial organization in NWFP till as late as 1937. But the contradiction of the Pukhtun intelligentsia and enlightened rich peasants with the colonial rulers in its bid for greater share for itself in civil services and government contracts was more direct. The British government in collaboration with the Punjabis dominating and holding the best jobs in the province were clearly seen as ruthless defender of an oppressive ‘colonial social order’. The early reformism of Khan Brothers of Uthmanzai near Peshawar—Dr. Ghani Khan and Abdul Ghaffar Khan and their ‘Khudai Khidmatgar’ (Servants of God) movement in late 1920s necessarily assumed a strong ‘anti-British’ and ‘anti-Punjabi’ Pukhtun nationalist colour. Although, located on the fringe of India and otherwise isolated from the mainstream Indian politics in large measure, the Pukhtun nationalism soon became a strange bed partner of the Indian National Congress. The absence of the push of anti-Hindu socio-economic compulsions in his homeland endeared Ghaffar Khan with Gandhi and Nehru rather than with a Muslim’s leader M.A. Jinnah, winning him the sobriquet of ‘Frontier Gandhi’. In their bid for independence from British rule, the budding Pukhtun middle class was eyeing for possibility of uniting all Pukhtun tribes on both sides of the Afghan-India border in a united ‘Pukhtunistan’ either as an autonomous federating unit inside a free India or as a separate state outside of it. The Durand Line was drawn as a border in 1894, between Afghanistan and British India, cutting across vast tracts of Pukhtun lands and splitting their tribes between Afghanistan and India. In India Pukhtun tribes were further divided between NWFP and Balochistan. The Khudai Khidmatgars gained significant support among Pukhtun middle classes and rich middle peasants in their rising ambitions. It could form provincial governments in coalition with Indian National Congress both in 1937 and 1946 elections. But, a rapid change in the political dynamics of Muslim majority parts of India in 1940s and an independent Pakistan as a separate country of Muslims becoming a reality the gradual political isolation of Ghaffar Khan and his party from the Muslim masses was becoming obvious and the going for it was getting increasingly tough.

Although, Muslim League had lost 1945-46 elections in NWFP it was still able to mobilize many people to gain support for its movement. The political influence of the Khudai Khidmatgar movement that was led by rich middle peasants and supported by the Congress was clearly on the wane. The failure of its government in bringing the promised change in the lives of poor peasants or providing any significant relief to them in reducing peasant debt and rent burden was slowly taking its toll. The few tenancy regulations that were introduced helped only an elite group of rich tenants. Though, CPI organization in NWFP was very weak and rudimentary but any attempt to organize the working class and poor peasants was suppressed by the Khudai Khidmatgar-Congress joint provincial government with colonial firmness. The best jobs in the province were still going to more educated Hindus and Punjabi and other settlers. Meanwhile, the top landed aristocracy of NWFP in the footsteps of big landlords and Jagirdars of Punjab was also getting fearful of the radical rhetoric of Congress and was gradually moving towards Muslim League. As the independence of India and the partition of Punjab and Bengal on religious lines was getting closer, the Red Shirt government demanded that instead of only two options of either joining with India or Pakistan in the proposed referendum to be held in NWFP, an option to secede and form an independent Pukhtunistan be also granted. But having this option been flatly denied by the British government and, consequently, in the face of clear prospects of most people opting for the only practical option of joining with Pakistan, Ghaffar Khan and his party decided to boycott the referendum. Obviously, the results of the referendum were almost assured; the overwhelming majority (98%) of those who casted votes (over 51% of registered voter turnout) opted for Pakistan.


42. Yasmin Khan, The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan, Yale University Press, 2007, p. 59.
43. Mirdula Mukherjee, op cited, p. 219.

Chapter 4… To be Continued

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CSS: Probing the Examination

April 12, 2017

By Anjum Altaf

It stands to reason that a poor selection test would be unable to identify the best candidates in any given applicant pool. Given the importance of the civil service I reviewed recent CSS written examinations and discovered serious issues of intellectual ineptitude and quality control.

Questions from the 2015 and 2016 examination papers whose scans are posted on the official FPSC website were reviewed. Those mentioned below are faithfully reproduced without  correcting for errors of spelling, capitalization, punctuation or grammar which the alert reader would spot easily. Commentary is avoided for lack of space leaving the reader to identify problems which range from the amusing to the highly problematic. Some would merely confuse applicants while others might force them to dissemble or risk being failed.

Starting with the less serious, a question from the compulsory English Precis and Composition paper asks applicants to correct the following sentence: “We were staying at my sister’s cape’s code vacation home.” From the British History paper: ““Margarte Thatcher is judged to be best post war Prime Minister of England.” Discuss.” From the History of Pakistan and India paper: “Political Parties are responsible for the imposition of Marshal Laws in Pakistan. Comment.” From the Economics paper: “Discuss the Rostow’s stage of growth with special reference to Pakistan.”

Two questions from the International Relations paper: “Critically discuss the fundamental factors of “Greece Economic Crisis” which need huge financial assistance from European Union and IMF as a debt relief to create “a breathing space” to stabilize economy and explain out-of-the-box solution for the crisis-ridden country.” And, “Critically discuss main political, socio-economic and strategic hurdles between “Afghanistan-Pakistan Relations” and how can both countries come out from the Cold War scenario?”

Two questions from the Comparitive (sic) Studies of Major Religions paper: “What was the secret of success of Buddhism and its effects on the Hinduism? Discuss.” “Describe the effects of biography and teachings of great preacher of Hinduism “SHIRI RAM Chandar G” on the society?”

Two questions from the Sociology paper: “Youth is an asset of any nation but Pakistani youth is inclined towards youth bulge. What strategies being an expert suggests the state to put the youth on positive track? Give your suggestions in the light of sociological theories.” And, “Why social stratification is an inevitable for a society? Explain its determinants in the context of Pakistani society.”

Some questions are out of place. From the Anthropology paper: “What are the major Contemporary Social Problems of Pakistan?” Some lack meaningful details. From the English Literature paper: “After their gift exchange, are Della and Jim richer, poorer, or just about where they were at the beginning? Have they made a wise decision in sacrificing their most precious possessions?”

Some questions reveal a sloppiness that comes in the way of a proper understanding of the question. Consider this from the General Knowledge paper: “Jinnah in his Presidential Address to the annual session of All India Muslim League in March 1940 said, “The problem in India is not of an inter-communal character, but manifestly of an international one, and it must be treated as such.” Write note on the Two Nation Theory and the Lahore Resolution of March 1940 in the light of this statement.”

From the Governance and Public Policies paper: “Do you support the representation of public opinion information diffusion in the policy making process? Support your answer with valid justification in the context of policy advocacy.”

More problematic are questions that really allow only one answer to avoid putting a candidate’s chances at risk. Consider this from the General Knowledge paper: “Discuss the prospects and challenges to the construction of “China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.” How will CPEC become a game changer for the region?” From the compulsory Islamiat paper. “Argue for supremacy of ‘Wahi’ as the solution of human problems against other sources of knowledge.” From the Islamic History and Culture paper: ““Administration of Justice” has been the policy of Muslim Rulers throughout History. Explain.”

Other one-sided questions are ambiguous in addition. From the Islamiat paper: “Highlight the importance of Zakat and prove that economic stability of a society can be ensured through its effective implementation.” Some questions combine many of these problems: From the Islamic History and Culture paper: “The Spanish Muslims established the foundations of Knowledge which become the mile stone of progress in Europe. Explain.” And, “Muslim culture in Pakistan is being dominated by European and Hindu Culture. Do you think we need Renaissance and Reformation? Explain.” From the Political Science paper: “Discuss the features of Turkish model of democracy keeping the distinguished position of the armed forces in the Turkish politics.” From the Public Administration paper: “It is easier to make a constitution than to run it. Discuss in the light of Politics Administration dichotomy.” From the International Relations paper: “Discuss the “Moral Dimensions of Pakistan’s Nuclear Programme.” Explain its essential features and justify its offensive gesture which maintained the national and regional strategic balance.”  

The following problems are quite obvious: The questions exhibit very poor command of the English language and manifest thinking in Urdu while transcribing in English. It is ironic that applicants are asked to write their answers in a language over which examiners have such poor control. There are factually incorrect, incomplete and misplaced questions. Most importantly, there are questions with only one safe answer and where matters of faith are asked to be scientifically proved.

It was Oscar Wilde who quipped that “In examinations the foolish ask questions that the wise cannot answer.” This kind of examination would surely rule out the wise in favor of the dull, the timid, and the clever – those who memorize appropriate answers, refrain from speaking their minds, and say what would curry favor. A selection mechanism cannot identify selectees wiser than the selectors. That might explain the dilemma of the civil service in which each cohort is weaker than the one it succeeds. The order is the reverse in societies moving forward.

And consider that this is the state of the premier examination in the country. What might be the fate of the testing of lesser mortals is best left unexplored.

This opinion was published in Dawn on April 11, 2017 and is reproduced here with permission of the author. The first two articles in this series are CSS: Danger Alert and CSS: Why English?

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A History of the Left in Pakistan – 18

April 8, 2017

By Ahmed Kamran

Chapter Four: The Road to Pakistan – (Continued)

Punjab – The Main Battleground

Owing to its large fertile irrigated lands, majority Muslim population and economic strength, Punjab was going to be the principal theater for Muslim League’s battle with Congress. In its strategic importance for Pakistan in future, Punjab was even ahead of Bengal, which had been a forerunner in the Muslim’s independence movement. Bengal’s importance lied mainly in its large Muslim population; otherwise, barring for Calcutta and its jute mills the economic assets of the Muslim East Bengal were not significant. Muslim League desperately needed to mobilize the peasants and aspiring Muslim middle classes and petty bourgeoisie of Punjab, Sindh, and NWFP to exert full pressure on the big landlords for them to fall in line with its push. Despite it being a large producer of food grains, the food scarcity during the war followed by large scale post-war demobilization of soldiers created massive unemployment and restlessness in the rural areas of Punjab. It jeopardized the popularity of the Unionist Party among large agrarian producers who had been the traditional mainstay of the party. Muslim League’s political appeal to Punjab’s middle classes and rich peasants resting only on ‘religious’ and ‘communal’ issues had not been very successful. Muslim League was trying to lend a mass appeal to its campaign for Pakistan directly approaching the peasants, combining its religious appeal with economic appeal and bypassing the big landlords. Now it was the time for the Muslim League to re-brand itself and reach out to Muslim peasants and working classes in Punjab.

During about last 75 years being the principal ground of massive ‘social engineering’ experiment of canal colonies, a large part of Punjab had been through a ‘sea change’ in its class composition and patterns of class relations. Unlike much of the rest of India, Punjab’s rural area was the home of a very large number of independent peasants, petty bourgeoisie and rural middle classes who had long freed themselves from the traditional relations of production and feudal bonds. It was a unique feature of Punjab compared with other parts of north or south India. As Ian Talbot observed, ‘The rural elite which remained loyal to the Unionist Party could, the League leaders believed, be by-passed by a direct appeal to the peasant masses. Why did this policy achieve such limited success? The answer lies in the fact that, firstly, the Punjab League’s religious appeals were being made through the wrong channels, and, secondly, that even when they were made through the right ones, peasants are not readily moved by such appeals alone. They must be accompanied by efforts to solve their immediate social and economic problems.’ (Talbot, 1982:15). Joining hands with socialists and communists in Punjab was Muslim League’s master stroke to garner ground support for its cause among the rural middle classes and lower peasants of Punjab and to bring its traditional big landlords under check. The need to join hands was not one sided. Extending its hand towards Communists in Punjab was a timely tactical move on the part of Muslim League.

As we noted above, Muslim League’s popular support started gaining ground after 1940 with its shift in focus from Muslim-minority provinces to Punjab and other Muslim-majority provinces with a promise of an independent state comprising of Muslim-majority areas (see Chapter Three). This shift in focus in geography also accompanied with a simultaneous shift in its target audience. It now started directly addressing the students, urban and rural middle classes, and peasants in Punjab with a new promise. With the CPI’s policy of supporting Muslim League’s demand for Pakistan towards the end of 1942, the Muslim Communists in Punjab were encouraged to work closely with the Muslim masses and join Muslim League as their growing representative political party. Sajjad Zaheer, by now a member of the Central Committee of the CPI, was made in charge of the work among Muslims. He was, together with G. Adhikari, responsible for developing and defending CPI’s new and changed policy on Pakistan and the Muslim question. According to CPI’s political assessment in Punjab, the replacement of Unionist government of the big landlords by a Muslim League’s government was expected to be more liberal and, therefore, preferable. Sohan Singh Josh and Daniyal Latifi from CPI met Muhammad Ali Jinnah in Lahore in April 1944 to offer CPI’s support. Jinnah and the Muslim League welcomed the move but with caution. Liaqat Ali Khan made it a condition that the Muslim communists joining Muslim League must resign from CPI. Accordingly, Abdullah Malik and Daniyal Latifi formally resigned from CPI and joined Muslim League. Others joining Muslim League included Ataullah Jahanian, C.R. Aslam, Anis Hashmi, and Ghualm Nabi Bhullar. Firozuddin Mansoor was made in charge of the ‘Muslim Front’ in Punjab CPI. Daniyal Latifi went on to be appointed as the Office Secretary of the Punjab Provincial Muslim League and together with Abdullah Malik is said to have drafted the Muslim League’s election manifesto of 1944, declaring support for the land reforms and universal adult franchise. Marxist Urdu poets like Majaz and Makhdoom Mohiuddin wrote poetry for Pakistan. A young and ambitious Mian Iftikharuddin, a prominent progressive leader of the Congress enjoying confidence of Nehru, also joined Muslim League. Mian Iftikharuddin had close links with some prominent CPI leaders. He soon became a favored protégé of Muhammad Ali Jinnah in the fast expanding Muslim League, the kind of leader M.A. Jinnah was reported to pin his hopes on for the new Pakistan.

Nevertheless, despite Punjab being the largest pocket of upwardly mobile and ambitious Muslim peasants and petty bourgeoisie concentrated in the central and parts of western Punjab, the middle class was still not strong enough in national level politics to tilt the balance of power. The Muslim national bourgeoisie of Bombay, Gujarat, and Calcutta leading the Muslim League and relying on the petty bourgeoisie and middle classes of both Muslim majority and minority areas needed the decisive vote of the big landlords of Punjab, Sindh, and NWFP in their favour. In the given situation, all these diverse classes and interest groups could have been galvanized based on their ‘Muslim’ identity coupled with their ‘economic’ interests. Boldly coming out in support of the Muslim League’s demand for Pakistan, CPI had successfully addressed the issue of the ambitious Muslim petty bourgeoisie and the middle classes, particularly of the Muslim majority areas. Sajjad Zaheer said, “the task of every patriot is to welcome and help this democratic growth which at long last is now taking place among the Muslims of Punjab. The last stronghold of imperialist bureaucracy in India is invaded by the League. Let us all help the people of Punjab capture it” (40). Envisioning themselves in a separate Pakistan, free from dominance of a large and overbearing Hindu petty bourgeoisie, the lure of Pakistan as it was getting closer to achievable reality was too powerful for them. CPI’s effective network in Punjab and its sympathizers supplemented the channels to gain access to the Muslim middle and lower peasants and petty bourgeoisie with vague promises of land reforms and expanded market opportunities. But, while reaching to the Muslim masses CPI could not simultaneously address the concerns of prosperous Sikh peasants and Hindu and Sikh petty bourgeoisie in Punjab. Thus, the Indian national aspirations sharply split into three conflicting and rising cross currents, which eventually swept the feet of the CPI leadership off the ground.

During 1945-1946 elections, Muslim League won all reserved Muslim seats in Punjab. CPI held a unique and an awkward position. It supported candidates from both the Congress and the Muslim League. Support of Indian Muslims’ separatist demand based on their right to self-determination should have logically lead to the conclusion of supporting Sikhs as well in their aspiration of a ‘Khalistan’ within or without India. The united Indian national aspirations viewed in this new prism sharply split into three divergent streams: Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh. A significantly large number of Communist leaders and party cadre in Punjab were Sikhs. The CPI’s support for Pakistan and its thesis of Muslims being a ‘nation’ qualified for self-determination led Sikh Communists to believe that they also qualify to be a nation to claim self-determination. By now many of the astute members of the Indian bourgeoisie leading the Congress Party had grudgingly reconciled to the idea of letting the upstart Muslim bourgeoisie spin off the Muslim majority areas in the west where in any case they had little political prospects in future; a kind of right-sizing the future India. In the process, they were getting rid of the nuisance of a significant part of a perpetually recalcitrant minority. But, further fragmentation of their market by allowing Sikhs, who were widely dispersed in Punjab and didn’t enjoy a majority in any significantly large part, or for that matter any other community to have their own sway was not acceptable to them. For the same reason, Congress bourgeois’ leadership strongly opposed and immediately killed the idea of Sarat Bose and Suhrawardy in 1947 for an independent undivided Bengal for which M.A. Jinnah is also said to have given his in-principle consent. The CPI’s policy shift on Pakistan, however, caused major ripples in the party, especially among Sikh and Hindu communists of Punjab. Sohan Singh Josh drafted a ‘Khalistan’ scheme but it was rejected by the Central Committee of the CPI. Among CPI leaders, Dr. Adhikari had realized that now with CPI having committed itself to support the idea of Pakistan, leaving Sikhs with no choice but to seek whatever terms they could negotiate for themselves with the Muslim majority of West Punjab, there was hardly any hope of winning Sikh’s support for this policy. To secure safeguards for Sikh’s interests in future Pakistan he even suggested various alternative plans (41). Caught in the rising cross currents, however, the party remained mute and essentially followed the Indian Congress in its bid to keep Sikhs firmly included in the new independent India.


40. Sajjad Zaheer, Light on League Unionist Conflict, People’s Publishing House, Bombay, July, 1944, pp. 26-33.
41. Mirdula Mukherjee, p. 218.

Chapter 4… To be Continued

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Silly Season in Pakistan

April 5, 2017

By Anjum Altaf

The last shred of doubt regarding the reality of climate change should have been removed by the unnaturally early arrival of the silly season. One warming outcome has seen the hot-air balloon of the Pakistani economy lifting off into the stratosphere without anyone ever noticing what happened.

First there was the upward draft in the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post that removed the veil from the transformation we had failed to observe. Not wanting to leave anything to our blinkered visions, the WSJ blared it all out in one breathless headline: “Pakistan’s Middle Class Soars as Stability Returns: Consumer spending rockets as poverty shrinks, terrorism drops and democracy holds.”

Before the excitement could die down and lest a couple of eyebrows be raised, the redoubtable Economist added the gravity of its authoritative voice with an article titled “Pakistan confronts something unfamiliar: optimism” reiterating thereby that we were too befogged to see what was happening before our eyes.

Leave aside the fact that the land wouldn’t know real pessimism if it were staring it in the face, populated largely, as it is, with optimists of which one can count three types. First, those who can only be called ‘resigned optimists’ who subscribe to the Allah maalik hai philosophy that everything would come good in the end because we are God’s chosen people. And who can quarrel with them given that the nation has survived the most incredible stupidities that any ruling class can visit on a country.

Second, the ‘oppositional optimists’ who indulge in temporary pessimism only because it is not their charioteer that is leading the charge. Give a chance to the theocrats or the autocrats or the bureaucrats or the cricket bats and watch how we emerge roaring as the tiger of Asia if not of the entire world.

Third, the ‘incorrigible optimists’ who really need no excuse to feel positive. After soberly recalling all the gross errors committed over the past seventy years and recounting all the obvious but unfortunately missed chances, he or she arrives inevitably at the cheerful “I remain staunchly optimistic” conclusion. For this set, optimism need not be based on any evidence; it is more a genetic trait like green eyes – one is just born so. Press them a bit and they will pluck anything out of the air as the reason for their buoyancy – a very youthful population would do as well as anything else. Never mind we haven’t invested a penny in potty training.

For the EconomistA cricket match and an obscure administrative reform” in FATA are sufficient signs for the great leap forward. Add to that the handy standby: “Pakistan’s stock market has risen faster than any other in Asia over the past 12 months, by a heady 50%.” Heady, indeed. For years the Economist has been warning of dreaded bubbles underlying the heady rise of the Chinese stock market but no such qualms are warranted in the case of Pakistan even as its own regulator cracks down on malpractices in the exchange. It is all a matter of the balloon one wishes to float.

One does wonder though what caused the Economist to so radically change its story. It was just a couple of months back that it posted its last roundup of the Pakistani economy under the title “Roads to nowhere: Pakistan’s misguided obsession with infrastructure” with the despairing subtitle “The government is building more airports, roads and railways, even though the existing ones are underused.” That article labeled our last great economic corridor, the Lahore-Islamabad motorway, a “$1.2bn white elephant” and compared the Prime Minister to Sher Shah Suri. It ended with dripping sarcasm: “the railways minister, recently admitted to parliament that the country would not be getting a bullet train after all. “When we asked the Chinese about it, they laughed at us,” he said.”

The Economist clearly doesn’t expect much of Pakistanis not least to pay attention to what they read. The conclusion to its suddenly upbeat and optimistic gushing notes with genuine surprize: “For Pakistan, however, even to be debating the subject is encouraging.”  

Just to prove wrong the charge that Pakistanis are unable to recognize optimism when they see it a motley set of experts jumped into the fray adding colour to the silly season. Some excoriated the detractors for failing to appreciate the economic takeoff. Others claimed we were already much richer than we believed. Yet others asserted poverty was a thing of the past. I can only presume the malnutritioned children (nearly half of all children in the country) must be so because their parents have better things to do with their wealth much as the unemployment in the Great Depression had been an outcome of the voluntary trade- off between work and leisure.

Wake up Pakistan: feudalism is dead, we are all urban now, poverty is licked, every city is a growling tiger cub, and the Chinese are coming. The writing is on the wall. “Yes, how many times can a man turn his head / Pretending he just doesn’t see? / The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind / The answer is blowin’ in the wind.”

Think what you may. It is the silly season. It is the season for feeling good. March madness has barely ended. April is the kindest month in our part of the world. But still, why the obsession with the economy? Why not just fly a kite?

This opinion appeared in The News on April 4, 2017 and is reproduced here with permission of the author. See related article Economic Bullshit.

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Mind the Money

April 1, 2017

By Anjum Altaf

Leafing through the Sunday Careers section of Dawn I came across a quarter-page Position Vacant advertisement by the U.S. Pakistan Center for Advanced Studies in Energy (USPCAS-E) at the University of Engineering and Technology, Peshawar. I am wondering if readers will find the experience as surreal as I did.

The advertised position is for a driver on a contract basis with a high-school degree and a valid license. A long job description includes the following: application of knowledge of commercial driving and skills in maneuvering a vehicle at varying speeds in difficult situations, such as heavy traffic and inclement weather; the ability to sit and remain alert while driving for an aggregate period of up to 11 hours; and the ability to operate equipment in all types of weather and conditions which include going forward and backing up long distances, around corners, and in and around very tight areas.

An online application form is to be requested; only shortlisted candidates will be called for an interview; and no TA/DA will be admissible.

Is this the most efficient and cost-effective way of recruiting a driver? Do all public sector institutions follow this process? Or is this the outcome of the fact that, going by the name of the organization, this is a USAID funded initiative in which the donor’s procurement rules are to be followed without exception and there is more money floating around than anyone knows what to do with?

To me it seems that a call to a local employment bureau or agency would have yielded half a dozen candidates for selection at minimal cost instead of a quarter-page placement in a national English language newspaper, an online application process, in-house shortlisting of candidates, followed by interviews, etc.

Frankly, I found this mindless and immensely wasteful. The most ironic part of the absurd exercise for me was the fact that an organization ready to throw away money in this manner was not prepared to offer any TA/DA to the few shortlisted low-income applicants that it intended to invite from cities across the nation.

I tried to put this use of funds and rule-bound procedure, which makes eminent sense for large procurements or recruitment to senior positions, in the context of three other phenomena that have been on my mind.

First, how do we square it with the super-cavalier attitude being demonstrated towards procurement of billions of dollars worth of equipment and services related to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor? Almost every project seems to be sole-sourced to Chinese firms. How can these contradictory practices exist at the same time? And, if they do, should we be ultra-careful in the purchase of power plants or in the recruitment of drivers on a contract basis? We seem to be living in an Alice-in-Wonderland world in which anything goes and no questions can be asked.

Second, I keep thinking of things for which we really need money and to which little attention is being paid. As an economist, I keep worrying about the quality of education in the subject and fail to understand how many of the public sector universities in secondary cities have come to be accredited. One can visit the websites of many and find departments with one or two assistant professors with MA degrees responsible for programs offering BA, MA and MPhil degrees and announcing the launch of PhD programs in the near future. Quite a few of these websites have not been updated for years.

This is an act of immense cruelty being inflicted on the students enrolled in these programs which should either be funded appropriately or shut down. Till such time as enough qualified faculty is not available, it would make a lot more sense to pool resources into provincial centres of excellence where graduate training of an acceptable quality can be imparted. As it is, the discipline is in a stage of transition and even the best institutions in the country are having a hard time keeping up with the changes.

Third, there is the question of the very model of centres of excellence that was in vogue in the country years ago and has now resurfaced with new funding from USAID. Is there any evaluation of the centres funded in the previous cycle? Has there been any meaningful output commensurate with the amount of money spent? Could that money have been spent in a more useful manner?

Without such an evaluation, the infusion of dollars into new programs like USPCAS-E can only be expected to result in quarter-page advertisements for contract drivers capable of going forward and backing up long distances, around corners, and in and around very tight areas without really arriving anywhere.

This opinion appeared in Dawn on March 31, 2017 and is reproduced here with permission of the author.

Note: The ad appeared in the Dawn Careers supplement on 12.3.2017 on page 10. A copy can be seen at:

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A Unique Ruling Class

March 30, 2017

By Anjum Altaf

Do you remember the time when the necklace donated by the Turkish first lady for flood victims disappeared? After much search it was discovered in the possession of the prime minister of Pakistan. The explanation he offered was that he had close ties with the first family and first lady was like a sister to him – “The necklace belongs to my sister and is with me.”

Now the former chief executive and president has disclosed that the Saudi monarch gave him millions of American dollars to buy apartments in Dubai and London because he “was like a brother to me” and “I was the only one with whom he used to smoke.”

Why are only Pakistani leaders fortunate enough to find such generous brothers and sisters and does this phenomenon, beyond its surreal aspects, merit some serious deliberation? We know of rulers patronized for being the ‘running dogs of imperialism’ as the Chinese used to call them, but is there any other country whose leaders get tips worth millions of dollars just for being nice guys loitering around swimming pools?

Just in our neighborhood, can you imagine, say, Manmohan Singh or Vajpayee pocketing a cool few million to buy apartments in fancy places? If not, what does it signify about our leadership and is there cause for concern?

What deserves attention is that unlike the leaders of, say, India or China or Vietnam, almost all our leaders have arranged safe havens abroad where they can recuperate when out of power or seek refuge when things get hot – apartments in Dubai, palaces in Jeddah, flats in London, estates in Surrey, villas in France, ranches in Texas and Australia, and who knows what else where. Some leaders are permanently overseas directing affairs from abroad; others move back and forth as the situation demands; some just fly in and fly out.

The reason this matters is because there can be a world of difference between the attitudes of political leaders who know they have to live among their people when out of power and those that know they can flee abroad to the protection of patrons who can engineer their return at suitable moments in the future under some kind of ‘don’t-ask-don’t-tell’ deal.

Besides, leaders anchored abroad needn’t just stop at furnishing their foreign abodes for the occasional sojourn. They can go all the way and park the bulk of their assets in safe havens while retaining just enough running expenses in local currency to suffice for the odd buying and selling that may be necessary to keep the gig afloat.

This is how one can end up with an extractive economy in which the game plan of the leaders becomes impervious to the risk of accountability or citizen pushback. They can extract resources till the very last moment at which time they can take flight, literally with the clothes on their backs, and be safe abroad until some patron or the other engineers their return after a decent interval.

Think of a country as a ship at sea with citizens as passengers and the leader as captain. The fate of ships in which the captain knows he will sink or swim with the passengers is different from that of one in which the captain believes he can bail out at the first wave of a storm. For the latter there is little need to pay attention to the welfare of citizens. Projects and schemes, billed to serve people, are initiated more as a source of funds to be added to the capital abroad – think of where the proceeds of a game-changer like Reko-diq went. And thus the strip-mining cycle continues before our eyes.

These extract-and-escape cycles undermine the legitimacy of the democratic process. In India, political contestation is still between political parties (except in the Naxalite belt where the extractive economy is at its most rapacious). Pakistan, however, is spawning groups that reject electoral politics and aim to destroy the entire rotten system associated with rapacious elites beholden to outsiders. The virulence of this rejection also removes from their consciousness any compunctions about the destructive consequences of their actions. Unlike the despised leaders, these groups consider themselves locally anchored. They can survive on a bare minimum without luxury apartments and believe everyone else should too till the transformation from which the nation would rise purer and stronger.

The contrasting imperatives, incentives and strategies of their respective rulers have led to divergent sociopolitical trajectories in Pakistan and India and thereby to the different prospects for their citizens. While democracy slowly evolves and delivers in India, Pakistan has descended into a civil war without end.

At another level, the real question is the following: Why do our leaders, who make so much of national honor, not comprehend there is another option when offered a gift? It is possible to say NO. It really is.

This opinion was published in Express-Tribune on March 28, 2017 and is reproduced here with permission of the author.

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