The real Sondhi
There was a reference to my late husband in Saeed Naqvi’s article ‘Long lost friends’ (TFT - August 29). ML Sondhi was a great advocate of friendship with Pakistan (and also of normalisation of relations with Israel) and I think Naqvi’s article distorts his considered and views and public stands.
I would very much appreciate if the wrong impression conveyed to your readers could be rectified. I have responded to the article in Indian newspaper Sunday Guardian.
In that article, to get a fuller perspective of his views, I quote from his 1973 article, ‘India’s role in West Asia’ published in the Weekly Round Table:
“The Arab states have objected to India normalising its bilateral relations with Israel. More attention to pragmatism would convince Arab policymakers that an Indian diplomatic representative in Israel could play a constructive role in the context of the complex pattern of major power relationships. For example, India could examine more closely the case for the creation of a Palestinian Arab state on the West Bank. India’s voice and influence would be heard in favour of opportunities for political self-expression to Palestinian Arabs. Realistically, it is neither a sober nor an intelligent assessment to regard India’s diplomatic representation in Israel as anti-Arab.”
Again, “As India knows from its own experience with the refugee problem the permanent settlement of the Palestinian refugee question is a priority item for West Asia. The important point to bear in mind is that a fearfully difficult situation has been created on account of the shameful neglect of a human problem. India’s views will naturally be shaped by its own attitude to the refugees from Pakistan at the time of partition and the refugees from Bangladesh in 1971.”
And he concludes, “It is not through messianic Zionism or through Pan-Islamism that a new era of reconciliation can be ushered in. India perceives its own opportunities and achievements through its democratic traditions and its faith in modernisation. It is not just an exaggeration to view India’s role in West Asia as that of healing the wounds of the Arab-Israeli war through international social responsibility and hard-headed realism.”
Madhuri Santanam Sondhi,
Symbols of state
Sovereign countries have buildings symbolizing the state, such as President’s or Prime Minister’s House, the Supreme Court, or the Parliament. Attacks or breach of security and illegal entry into buildings that are symbols of the state and its security are serious matters. Nowhere in the developed civilized world would any public protest be tolerated by men or women carrying batons, axes, hammers, wire cutters and cranes.
If Allama Tahirul Qadri had been found involved in putting in harm’s way infants and children in Canada, not only he, but the parents also would have been prosecuted and children taken away by child protection agencies. Protests outside White House are allowed by citizens (not carrying any weapons) only after prior approval at a specified distance, and if anybody dares to climb the fence or tear it down, in the post 9-11 era, the marines have orders to shoot at sight.
The Taliban attacked our key state buildings, and we would have mounted a ruthless military operation to eradicate them. But some people have the audacity to justify the breach of security of Prime Minister’s House, the Presidency, and the Parliament on television. That is callous and irresponsible.
Iraq disintegrated the day Republican Guards headquarters and the Baghdad Airport fell without a shot being fired. Within a year, Saddam was killed and an Iraqi dual national who had taken oath of US citizenship placed at the helm, and within three years he ensured its disintegration into three parts engaged in endless rivalry.
Let us learn some lessons from history and not allow our motherland to be further subjected to any more humiliation by men blinded by greed and obsessions.
At a loss
The country’s capital Islamabad has been under siege for weeks. Followers of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) have occupied the capital’s ‘Red Zone’ and, besides other things, are demanding resignation from the Prime Minister of Pakistan. The principal charge of election rigging leveled by the two parties against the incumbent government may be correct, to some extent, but unless proven accurate with tangible evidence, this demand of theirs may not be fully unjustified.
The issues of corruption, nepotism, economic and social injustice and election reforms raised by both PTI and PAT are true down to the core. Their demand to bring about a phenomenal change in the existing system of autocratic governance and making it more people-centered is undoubtedly the need of the hour and must be implemented in letter and spirit. However, the path chosen by the leaders of both the parties to get their demands fulfilled is perhaps not appropriate.
The country’s history stands testimony to the fact that long marches and demonstrations, such as the one currently underway in the capital, have done more harm to the country than good. It has always caused huge losses to the country in economic terms. Not only this, it has also badly tarnished the image of Pakistan in the comity of the civilized nations of the world.
The ongoing protests launched by PTI and PAT against the incumbent government, besides holding the capital of Pakistan hostage for almost two weeks and making lives of the residents miserable, have made the already severely battered economy of the country suffer a mammoth financial loss of over Rs 800 billion. This loss undoubtedly is bound to increase if the protests continue and an early end to the impasse is not brought about through meaningful dialogue between the government and the agitating parties. The protests have a negative impact on foreign investment. The heads of states of China and Sri Lanka have postponed their visits due to the prevailing situation and the country could not hold important economic negotiations with these partners.
In view of the political dilemma the country is currently caught in, enormous efforts will have to be made to erase the harmful effects of this upheaval on the economy. One earnestly hopes that sense will ultimately prevail and the leaders of the agitating parties and those at the helm in the government will sincerely endeavor to resolve the stalemate, as quickly as possible, in the larger interest of this nation.
M Fazal Elahi,
Imran Khan’s call for civil disobedience and nonpayment of taxes in a country where less than 0.1% of population pays direct taxes leaves much to be desired.
As for his call for tax evasion, there already is a consensus on that among the ruling elite and the bureaucracy for decades. This can be verified from the tax returns filed by them, compared to the lavish lifestyle they lead and the assets owned by them and their immediate family abroad.
If Imran Khan wants to bring a change, he should have given a call that uniform direct taxes be levied on all sorts of income, yields, or profits earned by all Pakistani citizens, including himself, with a pledge to follow the constitution, pay all taxes, obey all laws, submit to accountability and implement the rulings of the constitutionally appointed judiciary.
It has taken more than 25 years for the security establishment to decide to eliminate the curse of terrorism that has haunted this country, and destroyed our moral fibre and economy. There is no doubt that Pakistan’s security and foreign policy has failed miserably for several decades and today, apart from our traditional enemy on the eastern border, we do not enjoy cordial relations with any of our neighboring countries, because they all have reservations against our policies. As a nation we must accept our collective and institutional failures, and proceed without wasting any time to follow the vision of the Quaid-e-Azam that Pakistan will function as a modern democratic welfare state. Recourse to any other system of governance, or extra constitutional misadventure, will result in a disaster, and this country cannot absorb another setback.
The process of elections is merely a tool to select through majority vote a government which must strive to improve the socioeconomic conditions of majority, invest in the development of human resources and provide to people their basic constitutional rights. No system of governance can survive without a social welfare system and this cannot be achieved without imposing direct taxation on anyone earning more than a declared uniform quantum.
Limits of freedom
Liberty and freedom must be practiced within rules, morals and ethics, otherwise one looses the right to possess these privileges, acquired through years of struggle by our forefathers. For any elected government, or an institution which runs on taxpayer money, power comes with responsibility. No government has a right to exempt the rich from taxation, while depriving the poor of welfare on grounds of funds scarcity. The reason why our governance system is rotting is that no institutions or paid or elected public office holders consider themselves accountable before the law. Our yardstick for power is the audacity with which we can flout laws.
The absence of good governance is the biggest obstacle to our financial growth and political stability, and is the primary reason behind the breakdown of law and order and the crippling widening gap between taxes and the GDP, and yet nobody in this country is willing to follow universally adopted norms by enforcing principles of conflict of interest, transparency, independent auditing, regulatory institutions, and the supremacy of law.
The unfortunate reality is that Pakistan was created to have constitutional self rule, where all citizens irrespective of their faith, color, creed or sex were entitled to equal rights, and expected to equally owe undivided allegiance to it, but we ended up having a ruling elite which takes pride in having their assets and children located in other countries and justify possessing a foreign passport for ease of visas. Intolerance for dissent and refusal to submit to confines of the constitution, abusing the right of freedom of expression without respecting the law, resorting to physical or verbal abuse, infringing rights of others, and violation of universally accepted norms of morality cannot be justified under any circumstances.
Unbridled media freedom, when it chooses to becomes a vehicle for scripted spin doctoring, blackmailing and sensationalism, invites intervention if constitutional supremacy is to be enforced.
By engaging millions of people around the world, the ATOM project aims at stopping nuclear testing by showing the world leaders that the humanity demands their right of a world “without nuclear weapon testing”. The purpose of the ATOM project is to raise awareness at an international level about the devastation caused by nuclear weapon testing and its impacts on the environment. By signing the ATOM project petition and joining the dialogue, we can stop nuclear weapons testing forever.
The project also called for an international moment of silence on August 29, the UN International Day against Nuclear Tests, at 11:05am. “That time was chosen because the clock hands show a V, which stands for victory,” ATOM project honorary ambassador Karipbek Kuyukov said. “This moment is meant to signify a victory of common sense over fear and a victory for global efforts towards a nuclear-weapons-free world. We hope the August 29 Global Moment of Silence will bring the world one step closer to that goal,” said Kuyukov, himself a second generation survivor of nuclear weapons tests and a famous armless artist.
In a statement dedicated to the upcoming fifth annual observance of the International Day against Nuclear Tests, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted the importance of focusing the world’s attention on ending nuclear testing. “On this International Day against Nuclear Tests, the international community reaffirms its commitment to secure the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which would prohibit all nuclear explosions. This would mark a welcome step toward a world without nuclear weapons.”
The time has come to revive among governments and the public around the world an awareness of how dangerous and appalling the consequences of the testing and retention of nuclear arsenals are, and of the threats that their continued possession pose to the human race.
Chess or Kabaddi?
Chess is a game of far reaching strategic thinking where the humble pawn is fully dispensable against a formidable adversary, capable of destroying Knights, Bishops and checkmating the King! Our Theatre of the Absurd has rapidly morphed from a media circus to a farce, to downright bizarre, and now, the ominous.
We thought the melodramatic combination of a finger wagging demagogue spouting a mixture of religion and well researched but highly embellished facts seesawing with a now abusive, slanderous and often incoherent jester, both egged on by their respective wannabe cheerleaders, was just that. We thought that after a few songs and dances and tears Freedom and Revolution would yield to the constitutional strength of State. Two weeks later, the government is paralyzed, unable to realize the difference between kabbadi and grand masters playing a major chess tournament for the greatest stakes. The other ‘democratic’ parties, having made the initial supportive sounds are now vacillating to avoid burning their bridges with the powers that be. Apart from the media ‘breaking news’ faster than the blink of an eye, the complete isolation of the government by a largely silent and distant judiciary and military shrieks volumes.
Unlike our protagonists of liberation, Mr AR Kasuri is not a man of excessive hyperbole, finger wagging or jest. I wonder how many people heard him on August 22 on a TV channel shouting match — and I have never understood why almost every ‘talk show’ degenerates into that. When asked what he thought our beleaguered Nawaz Sharif should do, his reply brought four seconds of silence: (translated) “Nawaz Sharif should call up General Musharraf and say, ‘Brother Musharraf, forgive me’ (Musharraf bhai, mujhay maaf kar do).” On August 25, he argued in another program that we need the “constructive intervention of the armed forces”.
We continue to see a few thousand people led by the two demagogues on the street. One is a foreigner, the other an unlikely democrat. They must be either too ignorant to recognize their own limitations and dispensability, or carried away by this rare opportunity for unfettered verbal diarrhoea. And they remain in constant media limelight. They hold a whole nation hostage threatening a modern day Guy Fawkes overthrow of our sixth attempt at a very fragile move to Parliamentary democracy.
An article in The New York Times: Final Act for Sharif in Pakistan? (August 24) has a very revealing cartoon that speaks volumes. Did the writing on the wall just light up in bold, capital letters?
Dr Mervyn Hosein,