Monday, July 03, 2006

Some Interesting Titbits


Shortcut Aziz’s weird examples of ‘Good Governance and Transparency’
Much is being made of the Supreme Court’s cancellation of the sale of Pakistan Steel Mills Corporation on the grounds that state functionaries violated ‘by acts of omissions and commissions’ mandatory provisions of law concerning sales of state assets in pursuance of its declared privatization policy.

After the courts decision leading Chundrigar Road-wallas, such as Khadim Ali Shah Buhkari & Co told
Reuters that the court’s decision raised questions about the credibility of the privatisation process – "The court decision revealed that the privatisation process, as claimed by the government, is not at all transparent".

Just to prove these views last week’s Friday Times (no link available) had this to say:

Anyone ever heard of conflict of interest or conduct unbecoming in this land of the Pure? If so, it ain’t Shortcut [Aziz] who was spied dining with the man in the eye of the Steel Mills storm. The two sauntered into [Islamabad’s] up market Lebanese restaurant with not a care about the propriety of such a public get-together. And this while the case was before the Supreme Court pending a verdict…
And the ‘the man in the eye of the Steel Mills storm’ can be none other than Arif Habib of Arif Habib Securities, one of the leading members of the consortium that originally won the $362 million (Rs21.68 billion) bid to acquire 75 per cent stake and management control of Pakistan Steel Mills.

Apparently Shaukat Aziz can’t resist being buddies with Karachi billionaires. His other close pal is Aqeel Dedi, who together with Arif Habib are the goliaths of the Karachi Stock Exchange, both are believed to be the richest two people in Karachi these days. Rumour has it that they both make mega-money in the stock exchange, whether it goes shooting up or crashing down (but not when it stays still).

After last month’s stock market it appears that members from both sides of the political divide in the national Assembly were seemingly convinced of one ‘fact’. As the
Business Recorder reported:

Members from both sides of the divide alleged four or five brokers, including Arif Habib and Aqeel Dedi were behind the stock market fluctuations.
It is wishful thinking but isn’t it time someone asked old Shortcut to ‘unsleaze’ his act?

Musharraf’s consistent inconsistency

On Tuesday 27 June the Pakistan government publicly announced, in the presence of visiting US Secretary of State, Condi Rice, that it would deploy a further 10,000 troops along the border with Afghanistan to control cross-border infiltration.

As the
Daily Times reported on its front page the following day:

At a joint press conference with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri said Pakistan would deploy another 10,000 troops to dispel the impression that it is not doing enough against terrorism.
Then three days later came a complete volte-face. As Dawn reported:

Pakistan would not deploy additional security forces along the Pakistan-Afghan border as already deployed 80,000 troops were sufficient to check the cross-border movement of terrorists, Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Sherpao said on Friday.
One is free to wonder at the contradictory mindset that seems to be prevailing in Islamabad these days. But then again what else is new?

Imran Khan begins to hit the target

Imran Khan appears to be battling on and finally winning some brownie points from the ordinary joe citizen. Here is an excerpt from an interview he gave UK’s Sunday newspaper
The Observer:

When [Imran Khan] stood at the last election in 2003, he says, 'the government stuffed the ballots. One guy who was against me was the biggest drug mafia guy in the area. They let him out of jail to run in the election because they thought he controlled the area. But still I got record votes. In most of Pakistan it is a feudal country. People are very scared and oppressed by authority. But when you move to these wilder areas, they are not so easily suppressed.'

Did he think, despite the fears people have, he would have more seats in parliament by now?

'Well,' he says, crisply, 'It is not easy to win against a military dictator in an election that is being run by the security services.'


The Islamabad Pugilist is at it again

Musharraf’s Minister of Law (and ironically – Human Rights) who has already achieved notoriety for punching up PIA passengers and restaurant waiters has hit the headlines once again. This time for illegally dishing out funds to his constituents (local political chumchas would possibly be the apt word here).

Here is a report from
Geo TV

Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) has revealed that the ministry of law and justice has illegally disbursed lacs of rupees from human rights funds among the voters of the federal minister for law and on refusal of releasing more funds, a joint secretary of the ministry was confronted with the dismissal process. AGP report said that this amount from the human rights funds was disbursed in 2005 among the 305 voters of the Federal Minister, Wasi Zafar.

In fact, this amount was meant for the victims of abduction, excesses, police highhandedness, police encounters, arrested women and extra-judicial killings, but most of the amount from this fund was distributed among persons of Tehsil Jaranawala of Faisalabad, which happened to be federal minister’s constituency on the directives of the law minister.

Overall 83 percent of this fund went for patronization of such persons in this particular constituency, while the remaining 17 percent only was given to persons living in other areas of the country.

The report further divulged that the ministry’s joint secretary Saira Karim refused to pay to some more 560 persons of Jaranawala from thehuman rights funds, for which, she was facing a dismissal process.

A subsequent editorial in The News commented:

It found that of 360 people who received funds from the ministry, 305 happened to be voters from the constituency of the law minister himself. The minister (whose son physically assaulted a passenger at Karachi airport last year, while he looked on and did nothing to intervene) is then said to have initiated an inquiry against a senior bureaucrat who had raised objections to funds being given allegedly to another 560 voters from his constituency. While the minister initially denied on the floor of the National Assembly that he did any such thing, the contents of the auditor-general's reports will be difficult to deny. Such instances show an utter lack of accountability among senior government officials, especially those at the ministerial level.
Obviously nothing is going to happen to Wasi Zafar as he is one of Musharraf’s most loyal flatterers, one who regularly gives press statements such as “Musharraf can contest election of president in uniform”.

Heavy PR Drive in Dera Bugti

It appears that our Khakis are doing a major PR exercise on Balochistan. Reading between the lines a large number of foreign journos were flown into Dera Bugti and given a work over. It was effective as can be seen by BBC Barbara Plett’s sugary piece but The Economist was a bit less gullible. Here are some excerpts:

In the past few years, 400 Pakistani soldiers have been killed in the [Balochistan] conflict, as well as several hundred people in army attacks. Pakistan's Human Rights Commission has documented government atrocities, including a massacre of 12 civilians in January.

For General Musharraf, this has become a serious headache. Gas supplies to Pakistan's main towns have been interrupted by attacks on Baluchistan's pipelines and gasfields. Construction of a vast new port, at the Baluch village of Gwadar, has been occasionally disrupted. Across Pakistan, meanwhile, for reasons including rising inflation and his pro-America policies, the general is fast becoming unpopular; and the Baluch insurgents have drawn sympathy.
While clearly not partial to the Buti Chief the Economist further opined:

Mr Bugti has a dreadful history of oppressing his people, yet the grievances he claims to be fighting for are real.

… If only General Musharraf would listen to the aggrieved Baluch, his more level-headed critics say, worse violence could be averted. But that looks unlikely. In May 2005, a parliamentary committee proposed 32 sensible ways to placate them, including increased development spending and a local stake in the port at Gwadar. None of these has been taken up. And General Musharraf's hand is growing heavier. Across Baluchistan, thousands have been arrested, often merely because of their alleged nationalist opinions. An alliance between feudal tribes, like the Bugtis, and more enlightened nationalists, who despise the sardari system, has been forged by shared suffering.

…[General Musharraf] seems convinced that to end its insurgency, he has only to crush the bothersome sardars. In that…he is wrong.


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