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Trade with India: Nawaz Sharif must fulfill his mandate

Raza Rumi

India will gain from freer mutual trade, but so will Pakistan

Trade with India: Nawaz Sharif must fulfil his mandate A paramilitary soldier stands guard as a truck crosses into Pakistan from India, at the Wagah border

It seems that the PML-N government may well be set to achieve one of its key policy goals ie bolstering trade with India. During 2013, the process of normalization was scuttled by the untoward tensions on the Line of Control (LoC) and the situation was controlled in part by the meeting of DGMOs in December 2013. That was a welcome initiative led by Nawaz Sharif himself and reportedly some quarters were not all that pleased with such a putsch from the PM’s office.

For years, the right wing and fringe extremists have abused the term Most Favoured Nation (MFN) as some kind of a ‘concession’ to India at the cost of national sovereignty. The political elites have resisted this narrative and Sharif happens to be the most consistent and clear advocate of trading with India. To bypass the constructed discourse on MFN the government is set to give India Non Discriminatory Market Access (NDMA) – on a reciprocal basis – which essentially implies sorting out some of the irrational barriers erected over the years to discourage and/or block trading with the enemy. The positive list of Pakistan comprises 8000 items, but only 1967 are importable from India while the negative list includes 1209 items. In 2012, federal cabinet approved abolishing this negative list. […]

Disasters, dengue and local government

By Raza Rumi:

In the past few weeks, the intractable crisis of governance has once again exposed the dysfunctional nature of the Pakistani state, and its inability to grapple with basic issues of citizenship. After all, the guaranteeing of people’s rights and entitlements is the responsibility of the state, which it simply cannot abdicate. In Sindh, 5.3 million people have been affected by flash floods, out of which 250,000 are now homeless. The floods had been predicted earlier but the provincial and federal authorities were shamefully ill-prepared like last year. In Punjab, over 5,000 people are battling against the dengue epidemic and there are indications that it may spread to other parts of the country.

The killings in Karachi have momentarily halted but as hundreds of citizens were butchered for no fault of their own, the politicians indulged in a macabre game of accusing each other of breaking up Pakistan. Pity that the discourse on Karachi came down to Zulfiqar Mirza versus the MQM and seldom did anyone debate the fundamental causes of ethnic conflict, social breakdown and the governance vacuum. The killings have been followed by the inundation of the megalopolis by heavy rains. The civic failures of Karachi and Lahore on drainage and public health have exposed how cities cannot function without effective, accountable local governments. […]

Pakistan Floods: Making the same mistakes?

Rarely have countries been so incapable of responding to challenges, as is the case with Pakistan. Last year, the worst flood in our historyhit millions of poor Pakistanis, wiping away their livelihoods and depriving them of their dwellings and, in many cases, land entitlement. It was due to the resilience of the Pakistani people thatsome post-flood rehabilitation took place. Like much else in the country, people took their lives into their own hands and the state, at best, was a secondary player. Media focus remained on the politicisation of the response to the natural disaster and making heroes out of army battalions which, at least on paper, are subordinate to the elected executive.

What has happened since then? I was intrigued to note an advert a month ago in the national newspapers wherein a multilateral agency was hiring a programme manager for ‘early recovery’ after floods! Multilaterals reflect the speed and bureaucratic labyrinths of the government and, therefore, this little notice seemed farcical at best. Forget early recovery, we are now back in the monsoon season. And the federal and provincial governments appear to be as ill-equippedas before.

I was part of a team that undertook post-flood assessment and had a chance to interact with key stakeholders last year. The attitudes of some high level public officials are a subject of a satirical book rather than this short piece. In summary, their assumption was that the poor were resilient and knew how to deal with disasters and that life goes on. Several of the recommendations that we offered remain unimplemented, chiefly those relating to local governments. […]

July 9th, 2011|Pakistan, Published in the Express Tribune|2 Comments

Disaster management – which way now?

The NDMA also needs to be taken seriously by senior decision makers. Its capacity should be strengthened and the organization decentralized through investing financial resources and deputing able, willing and energetic officers to it. Similarly, the bleak situation with the provincial DMAs needs urgent attention. Punjab does not have a provincial disaster management authority, Sindh and KP are better led but without powers or resources; and Balochistan has seen more PDMA heads pass on the torch than prime ministers in the early days of Pakistan – an achievement in itself

August 17th, 2010|Pakistan, Politics, Published in The Friday Times|3 Comments