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A twist in the tale

 

My Interview conducted by Abdullah Khan for Earthen Lamp Journal:

ELJ: Tell us something about your journey from being a civil servant to a journalist and then to a writer of non-fiction books.

RR: It has been a mad, chaotic yet edifying journey. I have been a civil servant in Pakistan and then with the Asian Development […]

Final round of survival? It’s do or die

Tehelka story last week: Government in final round of survival game: It’s do or die

Either the government will withstand the pressure from the unelected arms of the state or will cave in, says Raza Rumi

Pakistan’s beleaguered civilian government has entered into the final round of its survival game. This is not a new ‘game’ as the transition to democracy has been jeopardised from the very start. In 2007, the military junta started the process of negotiating with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the then Army chief, General Pervez Musharraf, and his trusted associate General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani shaped a power-sharing arrangement with late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. The ‘arrangement’ was formalised in the shape of a law—National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO)—which inter alia intended to drop dozens of cases against PPP’s leadership and politicians. It should be noted that many of these cases were pending in courts for over a decade and due to lack of evidence or faulty prosecution, there were no convictions.

Politicians in Pakistan have faced ‘corruption’ charges since 1950s largely as an instrument to keep them in line and expand the space for the unelected executive i.e. the civil-military bureaucracy, which has ruled Pakistan for the longest period of time in its chequered history. The judiciary historically acted as a subordinate ally of the executive legitimising coups, convicting and debarring politicians and enabling a praetorian state to run the country.

Since 2007, the judiciary has evolved as a powerful institution due to the popular middle-class movement which contributed to the restoration of the deposed Judges and paved the way for Musharraf’s ouster in 2009. The period between 2007 and 2009 was when the urban middle class’ (led by the lawyers) aspirations […]

January 31st, 2012|governance, Pakistan|1 Comment

A Shifting Political Landscape

By Raza Rumi:

If there is any single constant in Pakistani politics it is perennial instability. More so when fledgling democracies struggle to change the governance discourse and attempt to consolidate their hold over power which has traditionally been concentrated in the unelected ‘arms’ of the executive. The current civilian governments at the centre and the provinces are no exception
to this historical trend.

Nevertheless contemporary political dynamics in the country display both continuity and discontinuity from historical trends. This is what makes Pakistan’s evolution during the 21st century a most fascinating process of societal change and resistance by the post-colonial state which is basically fighting a serious battle for its survival; and perhaps has entered the decisive
phase of this conflict. […]

September 6th, 2011|Lahore, Published in South Asia Magazine|5 Comments

Pakistan: “It is time for the judiciary to address incompetence and prejudice within its own ranks”

Ali Dayan Hasan, Senior South Asia Researcher for Human Rights Watch, spoke to Raza Rumi about the blasphemy law.

What is your position on the blasphemy law and how is it viewed internationally?

The blasphemy law is a blot on Pakistan and brings disrepute to Islam. It is precisely the kind of law that reinforces, with good reason, negative stereotypes of Pakistan and Muslims. Because it is justified in the name of religion, it is difficult to explain to the world that this is a law imposed by a military dictatorship in the ‘80s for cynical political purposes and does not enjoy any “divine” sanction. It is our view that Sections 295 and 298 of the Pakistan Penal Code, which include the blasphemy law, should be repealed forthwith. The obscene consequences of these laws have been evident for decades through the continued criminalization and persecution of those the state ought to actually be protecting and failure to repeal makes successive governments, and the state itself, complicit in heinous discrimination and egregious human rights abuse.

But a substantial body of religious scholars argues that the blasphemy law is in keeping with Islamic jurisprudence…

It is interesting that political actors operating in the name of Islam, such as the Sunni Tehreek, the Jamaat-e-Islami and the JUI, take this position. They are cynically exploiting religion and encouraging social persecution and legal discrimination to seek political mileage. No serious religious scholar without a political axe to grind has spoken out in favor of these appalling laws. In fact, scholars such as Dr Javed Ghaamdi and Prof Khalid Masood oppose it vehemently. It is important to bear in mind that the imposition of these laws was a political not religious act, as is their defence. […]

December 4th, 2010|Pakistan, Published in The Friday Times|3 Comments

Trade with India is a rational policy choice

China and Taiwan are sworn enemies. In 2009, the total volume of their trade was 110 billion dollars. India’s trade is expanding with China, and the current volume is nearly 60 billion dollars per annum. On the other hand, the total volume of formal trade between India and Pakistan is around a billion dollars. What […]

An agenda that does not deliver

South Asia is a region marked for its turbulent history and its endemic poverty and misgovernance. Much has been written about how certain states in India are worse off than Sub Saharan Africa in terms of social and economic indicators. Or that Pakistan and Bangladesh have millions of people struggling for a meager income to keep their families alive. The truth is that despite the recent gains made in economic growth in most South Asian economies, the structural causes of poverty persist and haunt the national planners.

The World Bank, or the rather grandiose title – the Bank – has remained a major player in the South Asian economies aiming to help these countries in reducing poverty and enhancing economic growth. The Bank has gained more traction in countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh where the unelected executive is eager to engage with the IFIs and decisions on lending are achieved quickly. India has remained engaged but its complexity and federalism makes transactions more intensive. Having said that the country has emerged as World Bank’s favorite in the recent years. For instance, the Bank, committed USD 9.3 billion in financial assistance to India in the 2009-10 fiscal, more than the aid committed by the U.S. and the European Union. Although this is a small sum for India’s U.S. $1.2 trillion economy, it represents a sharp increase from the U.S. $2.2bn lent to India by the Bank last year  – Bank lending to India has traditionally averaged about U.S. $2.5-3bn a year. Similarly, for Pakistan the average lending level has been around $1-2bn, this has increased lately due to the recent recession and food and energy shocks. […]

November 1st, 2010|development, governance|7 Comments

Ardent messiah lovers and regime change in Pakistan

Erosion of public institutions under authoritarian regimes is an undeniable lesson of our history. At a time when al Qaeda and its cohorts are eyeing Pakistan’s state power, what could be more suicidal than the current power-game cooking up in Islamabad?

October 1st, 2010|governance, Politics, Published in the Express Tribune|11 Comments