Progressives in Pakistan demand an immediate end to military operation in FATA

It is good to know that at least few progressives have stood up against the military operations in FATA. We often see many fake liberals and progressives in Pakistan, who actually are sectarian and social class fascists, support this fake war on terror. It is one of the rare moments that a group educated people with some sense of justice left in them stood up against tyranny.

I would have loved to see them criticizing military’s policy of using sectarianism itself through the likes of Zaid Hamid, Faisal Raza Abidi, Sunni Ittehad Council etc to forward the war agenda or to see some blame wrongly going against capitalism but in fact it is ‘corporatism’ which should have been targeted. However, it is a great thing to know that not all progressives and liberals are fake in Pakistan.

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We, the undersigned, demand an immediate end to the ongoing military operation in the North Waziristan region of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). We expect this, the sixth military operation in FATA within the last decade, to follow the pattern set by the previous “decisive” operations which resulted in death and suffering for the people of FATA.

The current operation in North Waziristan is nothing but a sham that will only increase the suffering of the people of FATA. Those declaring “full support” for the military operation choose to ignore history (and the present) at their own peril.

While we condemn religious extremism and militancy in the strongest terms, we do not believe that the problem of religious militancy in Pakistan can be addressed through military means nor by an exclusive focus on FATA as a harbour of militancy. Our demands are as follows:

1. An immediate and unconditional halt to the ongoing military operation in NorthWaziristan and other parts of Tribal Areas.

2. We demand that the people of FATA have the right to decide what to do with the problem of militancy in their area. This process must include working-classes, peasants, women and minorities in FATA – with complete accountability, full access to independent media and without any coercion from the security establishment or militant groups.

3. Public disclosure of the names, details and any alleged militant linkages of those killed in the ongoing operation.

4. Immediate abolition of the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) and steps to integrate FATA into mainstream Pakistan by providing guarantee of fundamental rights including rights of political association and the national penal code.

For complete demands and list of people who signed the documents, please visit:

http://progpak.wordpress.com/2014/06/22/stop-the-military-operation-in-fata/

I am especially glad to see the names of teachers in the list who are showing support for some good cause.

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Tax Culture or Manorialism?

Before the concepts of agrarian and market economies, ancient societies especially the Roman Empire used to have a system based on Manorialism. In that society ruling elite comprising mostly of feudal elite and others used to control the land resources of the state through their political and military influence. The ruling elite support their finances and lifestyle by collecting obligatory contributions from the peasants and slave population under their jurisdiction. The contributions were in the form of coins, mandatory labor or even in the form of usable items and kinds. The dependent in return only used to get the right of living, earning just enough to live and a false sense of security.

The way situation in Pakistan is going, it seems we are moving very fast in backward direction of time to the point where Manorialism was at its peak and few lords used to enjoy enormous economic and ruling power. Recent debate on imposing new taxes or increasing the percentages of the old ones to serve the expenses and corruption of our ruling elite is a good example of this.

The reality of our situation is that few classes of our people are working like bonded labour to pay most of the taxes so that they can ensure their living and also serve the ruling classes of the state. The Tax to GDP ratio debate and the methods which are devised to increase it in order to bring it to so called international standards seems to be leading a common salary class person in a position where he will only be able to serve the ruling elite with his hard work and his own survival will be just enough to keep him available for work.

The problem with our country is not of low Tax to GDP ratio but the real problem is wastage of resources and money for serving the huge size of governments comprising of around hundred of federal ministers and equal positioned offices. Also in provinces the situation is no different with lots of illicit ministries and offices working just to accommodate the supporters of ruling elite and ensure a regular income through kick backs and percentages.

Major area of our budget goes into debt retirement and interest payments. With Debt to GDP ratio of over 60 percent resulting in high interest payments and no policy of reducing or controlling the expenses, we cannot expect any improvement in our current economic crisis. In fact the current tax debate is for RGST which is being imposed to fulfil the demand of IMF to get more loans.

Another area where we are suffering badly is unaccounted defense budget and useless expense on an unwanted war. The war is not only hitting some estimated 13.5 billion dollars annually but it is taking the investment and business opportunities away from the country resulting in unemployment and economic slow down. This economic slow down and unemployment is also resulting in high crime rate and low standard of living. This shows a real sorry situation and it seems we are in a self-destruction mode.

Now the question is how to come out of this mess keeping in mind our problems, limitations, resources and opportunities. The problems and limitations discussed above are obvious and only an average mind is required to understand them. The real thing is to look what resources we have and what opportunities we can produce for the economy of our country.

First thing to do is to reduce government expenses and for that reduction in the size of government is must. Government should limit itself in areas where it is required most or if required at all. Most of the departments and ministries like housing, women development ,defence production and many others are simply there to accommodate political allies and cronies. Also we need to see how much burden the government-owned organizations put on our economy. Not only illicit expenditures are a problem but the real problem is corruption and resulting loss of money. Not only ending corruption in these institutions is required but giving them to private sector through privatization or if no buyer is there then involving private sector through public-private partnership on merit and transparent accountability can help in reducing the expenses.

For debt retirement, not only steps like privatization based on merit, transparency and fair value can help but selling the prime commercial land which our institutions hold can help the cause. There is simply no reason to have military bases or armed forces colonies on prime commercial area such as Shahra e Faisal or Sadar. In most of the countries military bases are planned outside the cities which not only help in controlling the problem of population congestion and development of new areas but the commercial value of land can give billions of dollars which can be used for debt reduction. If we are able to reduce or eliminate our debt then instead of putting more taxes on people, our country can afford some tax relief for them.

We also need to end non productive politically motivated programs such as Benazir Income Support Program which are making people beggars. For welfare of extremely needy a community driven Zakat system can help the cause with checks and balance from the society, where it is collected from. There is a serious requirement of revising our defense and intelligence budget and for this transparency and accountability are must. We need to see where the money is going and whether it is required in the area or not. This is every taxpayers right to know that the money is spent in the right direction.

We have also invested heavily in defense technology areas including nuclear technology, military vehicles and aeronautical technology. It is right time now to open the opportunities for private sector and share the research with private sector in return of royalty or going for joint ventures with government only contributing with technology base or in rare cases land. This can help us a lot in developing a strong private sector base in automobile, aeronautical, energy and other areas of industry. Not only huge revenue can be generated but job creation without burdening the budget and taxpayers will be possible with this.

Instead of taking flood taxes, value added taxes or useless surcharges on energy which make the economy slow and increase the cost of living and business. Again a community driven Aushur system for agriculture and natural resources areas can help bring those people in contributing classes who only know how to get more out of the economy i.e. feudal-corporatist ruling elite. Also the plot and agriculture land distribution culture is needed to be ended. Currently prime residential and agricultural land is being distributed in influential sections of our society especially related to military and political elite. This culture of giving exclusive control of land based on influence is a sign of slave society discussed in the beginning.

Apart from reducing cost of business to ensure economic growth and progress of business, Rule of Law is must. Not only terrorism and government created energy crisis are making the business difficult but red-tapism, extortion money collected by mafias and political parties, illicit licensing and quotas for political corruption are making it harder for a genuine business to flourish or even start. Independent and strong judiciary, protection of human rights and freedom are must for the progress of any country.

It is wrongly assumed that government has every right or authority to get taxes out of the hard-earned money of its working classes. Government needs to justify the taxes they take and expenditure they make. Its high time for nation to see what their ruling elite is doing and whose interest they are serving. We need to decide whether we live in a free country or a medieval slave society.

 

Monitoring by SC going on for years–>Ansar Abbasi report in The News

Source: http://www.thenews.com.pk/top_story_detail.asp?Id=26187

By Ansar Abbasi

ISLAMABAD: The monitoring mechanism reflected in the Supreme Court’s landmark judgment for the accountability courts is well within the parameters of judicial functions of the Supreme Court and a practice that is going on for years.

However, the judgment has been grossly misinterpreted by some to show that it amounts to interference in the functions of the executive branch.

Independent sources in the Law Ministry confided to The News that all the special courts, set up in the past or are functioning right now in Pakistan, have been and are being monitored and supervised by the apex court, which adopts such monitoring mechanism to ensure that cases pending before the courts concerned do not get delayed unnecessarily.

The sources believe that those feeling uneasy with the monitoring mechanism announced in the Dec 16 judgment for the accountability courts are deliberately creating confusion to prove this judgment as a move by judiciary to interfere in the executive functions.

These sources said such elements are said to be oblivious of the fact that a similar monitoring mechanism is working in the apex court for anti-terrorist courts.

Even for high courts and the subordinate judiciary, a comprehensive monitoring mechanism is presently in place as part of the national judicial policy to ensure quick disposal of cases and to clear the backlog.

Following the government’s complaint that the terrorism cases are not timely pursued and result in increase in terrorism, the present Supreme Court under Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had set up an effective monitoring system to keep a vigilant eye on the anti-terrorist courts so that no unnecessary delay could occur in such cases.

Under this monitoring scheme, Justice Javed Iqbal serves as a monitor for anti-terrorism courts of Sindh; Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday oversees the ATCs in Frontier; Justice Nasirul Mulk supervises the Balochistan ATCs; and Justice Sardar Raza Khan is monitoring the performance of the Punjab ATCs.

Neither anyone had objected to this monitoring mechanism for the ATCs nor was any objection raised for such overseeing strategies adopted in the past for the special courts during the last three decades. However, the sources said a vested interest group is deliberately trying to create confusion for the monitoring mechanism evolved for the accountability courts by the Supreme Court.

In its latest judgment, which has unnerved many powerful and mighty in the government, the Supreme Court clearly said this mechanism is evolved to “monitor the progress and the proceedings in (NAB) cases”.

Since the NRO beneficiaries and their sympathisers were generally complaining that the cases terminated under the condemned NRO remained undecided for over 10 years, this mechanism was evolved to address these complaints and ensure the NAB accused get quick justice.

The NAB has been condemned by the NRO beneficiaries while the Supreme Court also found its incumbent chairman, the prosecutor general and the deputy prosecutor general incompetent. Therefore, the apex court judgment directed the Bureau to transmit periodical reports of the actions taken by them with regard to NAB cases to the Monitoring Cell of the apex court set up following the same order.

Interestingly, similar directions were given to all the provincial governments under the national judicial policy to ensure that the challans in criminal cases, pending before the lower or superior judiciary, are submitted by prosecution within the stipulated time period to avoid unnecessary delays in dispensing justice.

NRO Trashed By Supreme Court

In a remarkable judgment by 17 member bench headed by Iftikhar Chaudhary, Supreme Court of Pakistan has declared NRO as unconstitutional from the day of issuance.

As a result of this judgment all the cases closed by NRO are reinstated on the positions of 5th October, the day General (R) Musharraf issued the order of National Reconciliation Ordnance (NRO).

According to the judgment of SC 17 member bench the NRO is contrary to the equality of all citizens in front of the law guaranteed by the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan.

The historic judgment also says:

1) All the High Courts will make sure that cases reopened by this judgment get a fair trial, proper investigation and proper legal procedure.

2) Government is responsible to pursue the cases in Swiss court against Asif Ali Zardari and team.

3) NAB Chairman, Prosecutor General and Deputy Prosecutor General to be sacked and replaced by some other persons.

4) Government needs to take action against former Attorney General, Justice (R) Malik Qayum for writing unauthorized letter to Swiss court to withdraw cases against Asif Zardari.

During the proceedings Chief Justice also made clear that even parliament has no right to change the basic structure of the constitution.

The court has also shown displeasure on Acting Attorney General Shah Khawar and said he hide the truth.

The judgment is welcomed by a majority of legal community and civil society considering it another milestone towards to goal of real independent judiciary and rule of law.

NRO List and Government Stance–>The question here is of morality and social justice.

Finally the ever awaited list of National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO)  is out which has names of 8,041 beneficiaries out of which only 34 are politicians and rest are from bureaucracy , criminals, businessmen and other accused.

There is a huge demand from various corners of the society to take resignations voluntarily or in voluntarily from the people who benefited from this law and are still serving in the government.

The point of view of government as presented by federal minister for information and governor of Gilgit-Bultistan Qamar Zaman Kaira is that demanding resignations from NRO beneficiaries uncalled for.  The reason he gives is one will have to differentiate between charges and crimes and that nothing has so far been proved against the NRO beneficiaries which on principle seems to be OK! But can the information minister inform us about the pending cases and trials of common people in courts who have to justify their innocence before law to get acquitted and if the NRO angels where innocent then why they took refuge in a dictator’s shelter of NRO.

The question here is of morality and social justice that why an elite group of people found it necessary to get a clearance certificate through a draconian law instead of facing the courts whereas a common man has to face years of trial to get justice.

Still no full list of beneficiaries and cases is provided to the people and media.

We also demand the list of people who got benefits from loan forgiveness or unfair settlements through corrupt political and banking practices.

(Images source: http://pkpolitics.com/2009/11/22/nro-list-shows-34-politicians-out-of-8000/)