Home » federal

Pakistan’s budget: Policy sans public

The government should involve the media and civil society in raising awareness and building consensus on reform. In several parts of the world, accessible materials to increase budget literacy are commonly used. Similarly, it is time that the legislators are made more familiar with the budget process to enhance public oversight. Techniques that track inter-governmental expenditures can help reduce corruption and waste. All of this requires deepening of democracy, civil service reform and the emergence of a responsible media. We need a light year to get there.

June 11th, 2010|development, Pakistan, Published in The Friday Times|1 Comment

Divide or perish: creating new provinces in Pakistan

My piece published in TFT
Since 1947, two characteristics of the Pakistani state have continued to haunt its legitimacy and survival. The first relates to the lopsidedness of its federal framework; and the second pertains to the dysfunctional citizen-state compact. Prior to 1971, the efforts to achieve parity between the eastern and western wings remained a constant struggle eventually culminating in the break-up of the country. Nationalist narratives insist on the Indian intervention in 1971 rather than acknowledging that the governance arrangements for the two wings through a powerful Centre in Karachi and later Islamabad were inherently biased and unworkable. In the post-1971 context, the lopsidedness did not end as the Punjab continued to dominate the way country works and how power is distributed between the various federating units. How can a federation work when one province will always be the most populous, resourceful and hold keys to state power through the civil-military bureaucracy?
The second unfortunate legacy of the colonial governance arrangements i.e., an over-developed state operating through central rule and diktat , is now facing the greatest crisis of legitimacy. It is now commonly recognized that state legitimacy is a function of how effective a state is in delivering services, ensuring entitlements (such as security) and negotiating plural identities and competing demands for resources and power. Pakistan’s dominant classes have always been averse to address this endemic issue until the recent political consensus that has been achieved through the passage of the 18th Amendment. While the political elites are clear on the future roadmap it remains to be seen whether the unelected institutions of the state are on board with the new provincial autonomy arrangements. Perhaps the recent violence in response to the renaming of the erstwhile North West Frontier Province to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa was allegedly orchestrated by the Kings’ party known for its servility to the establishment.
The debate on creating new provinces from different corners of the countries is a healthy sign and a direct result of a democratic phase, howsoever uncertain it might be. […]

Remembering Benazir Bhutto

Raza Rumi retraces the bittersweet legacy of Benazir Bhutto (published in the Friday Times)

CXNMCHZWsAAIOPNIt was only yesterday that we were mourning for the loss of an icon of our times. The much loved, and passionately hated Benazir Bhutto whose tragic murder in broad daylight was the greatest metaphor of what Pakistan has turned into: a jungle of contested history, ethnic conflict and extremism. Little wonder that Bhutto’s worst enemies cried and lamented the loss of a federal politician whose life and times were as unique as her name. The populist slogan – charon soobon ki zanjeer (the chain of the four provinces, literally) could not have been truer than the most tested of axioms. As if her death were not enough, the state response was even more brutal. Why did she participate in public rallies? On that fateful day of December 27, 2007, why did she invite death by sticking her neck out – literally and metaphorically? This was tragedy compounded by invective and betrayal. After all, had she not received a tacit understanding from the then military President, General Pervez Musharraf?

The official machinery then went to work in a super-efficient frenzy. Within hours, the murder scene had been washed away, right opposite the Liaqat Bagh in Rawalpindi where Pakistan’s first Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, was also shot dead. If anything history repeated itself with a bang – only to restate that Pakistani Prime Ministers are dispensable accessories of the power game. The misogynistic thirst for blood-letting once quenched, patriarchy dictated that the autopsy of a woman became an issue of honour, confusion and violation of the law. How telling, that the laws of the land remain subservient to the imperatives of culture and tradition.

Within a day, Pakistan shook and the world also felt the tremors from an already stinking cesspool of violence, terror and CXLkP_CWEAEak3-global mischief. Many Pakistanis think these labels are of imperialist manufacture, reeking of hogwash. But the case has been made: Pakistan is a rogue and failing state and no one is safe. […]

December 27th, 2008|History, Politics, Published in The Friday Times, Sindh|6 Comments