Archive | October 6th, 2009

Power corrupts

Editorial: The News

To the surprise of nobody the Minister for Water and Power Raja Pervaiz Ashraf announced on Saturday after a meeting of the Private Power and Infrastructure Board (PPIB) that the installation of some rental power plants might be delayed. The reason for this he said was …”opposition by some political parties and investors’ fear about political uncertainty in the country”.

So there we have it, and the much-trumpeted December end to loadshedding has now been relocated to the middle of next year, far enough away not to have to worry about in the frantic world of short-termism that masquerades as political management.

We now face a minimum of nine more months wherein our productivity will continue to decline, the economy dives further into the red and businesses and other forms of commercial enterprise wither on the mildewed vines of the power supply system. In the light of the ministers comments we have to say we view with deep scepticism the possibility of an end to this ongoing disaster.

Quite apart from the loss of power and revenue, the government is inevitably going to see its stock fall but power crises have been with us from the beginning – India flicked the switch on us in 1947, but we were a society of villages rather than cities sixty-two years ago whereas today we are increasingly an urban population.

Then a power cut meant little nationally. Today it is fuelling a seething public discontent that has already produced rioting in some places and it is reasonable to expect that security will deteriorate further as the power outages mount. The entire story of our powerlessness is hung about with the usual decoration of alleged corruption, profiteering, circular debt passing from agency to agency; and a long-term and durable solution is nowhere in sight.

It has taken decades to wreck our power infrastructure, and it is going to take decades to put it back into working order. Whether the lid can be kept on the national anger that is currently coming to the boil is a moot point, particularly as there were raised expectations as a result of the ‘no loadshedding by December’ pledge.

Once again it is our political establishment that has consistently failed us, and now brought us to the point where we are on our knees and in the dark. We imagine that the Taliban find our discomfort vastly amusing (if indeed they have a sense of humour) as well as very much to their advantage. Why waste bombs and bullets when the government is doing the job for us?

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Sugar being sold at Rs50-55 in NWFP

Taking advantage of the traditional lethargy of government departments to implement the Supreme Court’s verdict, the sugar cartel in the province was selling the commodity in the range of Rs50 and Rs55 per kg on Monday.

Retailers, despite the rate of Rs47 per kg earlier fixed by the government, were selling sugar between Rs50 and Rs55 per kg, while the sweetener had not been available at the utility stores in the provincial metropolis for the last one week.

Sources told The News that the provincial food department was anxiously waiting for the federal government’s directives to bring the prices down to Rs40 per kg as fixed by the Supreme Court.

Food department sources said the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the registry office of the Supreme Court were contacted about the fixation of sugar price.Director Food Department, Abdul Ghafoor Baig, said no notification for the fixation of sugar price in the light of the apex court’s decision had been received so far. He said the department would take whatever action it was directed to take to re-fix the price of sugar in the province.

The sources said both the federal and provincial governments were awaiting the outcome of ongoing talks with the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association which had still not agreed to sell the commodity at the ex-mill rate of Rs38 per kg.

Upholding the Lahore High Court’s verdict, the Supreme Court on Thursday directed the authorities concerned to ensure the sale of sugar at Rs40 per kg and also urged the federal government to notify sugar price at Rs40.

During a market survey on Monday, the surplus supply of sugar was observed at the local wholesale market, where 40kg bag was being sold at Rs2,300. Prior to the artificial crisis caused by widespread hoarding across Punjab and Sindh just ahead of Ramazan, the price of 50kg bag of best quality sugar was Rs2,100, which later rose to Rs3,000. It was also observed that a huge supply of sugar continued to arrive from Punjab at the wholesale market at the Rampura Gate Ashraf Road where 50kg bag sugar was available at Rs2,300.

Though there is no shortage of sugar in the province as supply from both the province and Punjab daily arrives at the local wholesale market, the high prices continued to hit the consumers in the province in general and the city district in particular.

However, the market sources also dispelled any shortage of sugar in the province and said the local gur (molasses) has also arrived at the market as local mills have started crushing sugarcane at Shabqadar, Doaba, Tangi and Charsadda. The prices of gur at the local market on Monday fluctuated between Rs72 to 76 and the good quality gur was selling at Rs74 per kg, while its pre-Ramazan price was Rs80 per kg.

Baig also said there is no shortage of sugar in the province, adding that in a bid to increase sugar production, the price of sugarcane had been raised by Rs20 per 40 kg. He said previously the price of 40kg sugarcane was fixed at Rs80, and it has now been jacked up to Rs100 which may effectively contribute to the production of sugar in the province.

{Source: The News}

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UN offices in Pakistan temporarily closed

The United Nations has temporarily closed all its offices across Pakistan after a suicide blast Monday killed four people at the World Food Programme compound in central Islamabad, a UN spokeswoman said.

‘All UN offices in Pakistan have been closed until further notice,’ spokeswoman Susan Manuel told French news agency.

Another UN spokeswoman, Ishrat Rizvi, told the news agency that the offices would be shut ‘for security reasons.’

A suicide bomber walked into the WFP’s heavily fortified offices in Islamabad early Monday afternoon, police say, with three Pakistanis and one Iraqi man killed in the blast.

WFP Deputy Executive Director Amir Abdulla said in a statement from the agency’s Rome headquarters that the blast was ‘a terrible tragedy.’

It is the second time the UN community in Pakistan has been hit this year, with two employees from the refugee agency UNHCR and children’s agency Unicef killed in the June suicide bombing at a luxury hotel in northwest Peshawar.

{Source: ARY News}

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Monkey’s day out Jam sajjad hussain

The City Zoo monkey, who sneaked out of an enclosure on Monday, put up a great show of entertainment for at least five hours by its playful movements on The Mall and in Bagh-e-Jinnah.

A large number of people especially children thronged around the monkey and enjoyed its live show of jumping and dancing. However, it was caught and encaged after rigorous efforts of the Lahore Zoo workers and Rescue 1122. This is the first incident in the history of the Lahore Zoo that an encaged monkey escaped from its cage.

According to the details, the monkey was shifted to an empty peacock’s cage some days back, as its cage was under-construction. On Monday morning, when sanitation staff opened the peacock’s cage for routine cleanliness, the monkey made off considering it a golden chance to get itself free. After frisking in the premises of the Lahore Zoo, it came out on The Mall to breathe in the open environment. Proving itself as the best performer, the fugitive gravitated the full attention of everyone passing through The Mall in a flash. It gambolled and climbed up a tree to provide free of cost recreation to the visitors. People’s gathering continued growing on The Mall to enjoy monkey’s natural aerobics that caused disturbance for traffic for at least two hours. After creating some mess for traffic, it rushed to the Bagh-e-Jinnah to keep up its further entertainment programme. It moved from one tree to another venting emotions that it was free forever and no one could catch it.

Meanwhile, the Lahore Zoo administration and Rescue 1122 reached the spot to catch the monkey. Both the parties tried different tactics to catch the escaped beast but in vain.

An eyewitness Nasreen Atta said the monkey spent more than two hours on The Mall. She said the monkey flatly refused its submission for re-arresting to the administration, as it must be the most pleasurable moment of its life when it was jumping from one branch to another.

While another visitor Tayyba Yasmeen said, the ape provided a lot of fun to the public especially to school going children. After its influx in Jinnah Garden, the monkey again challenged the administration but at the end it was captured and was shifted to its cage.

Earlier, when contacted to City Zoo Director Zaffar Shah for his version about the administration failure, he switched off his mobile phone. While the source said that the City Zoo Education Officer Bushra was visiting market for some shopping when this incident happened.

{Source: The Nation}

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Death of Pakistani driver in Saudi Arabia in 2000

Karachi: The life of Shahnaz Begum and her siblings — three sisters and a brother were — devastated when their father, Mohammed Yaseen, died in in October 2000 in a road accident in Tabouk, Saudi Arabia.

Yaseen, a resident of Orangi Town, had gone to Saudi Arabia in search of greener pastures in 1990 and worked at a shop owned by an Arab national.

The errant driver who was responsible for Yaseen’s death was arrested and the court concerned imposed a fine of 75,000 Riyals on him, which were submitted at the Baitul Maal in Saudi Arabia. The money was supposed to be given to Yaseen’s heirs. For the past nine years, however, his children have been running from pillar to post to get the compensation money.

Shahnaz Begum told The News on Sunday that the Saudi Arabian government had approached them in 2000 through the Pakistani Embassy in Riyadh. They had sought guardianship and succession certificates and the power of attorney duly attested by the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Pakistan. She said that they had sent these documents through the Overseas Pakistani Foundation. Till today, however, they have not received any money.

She recalled that Waqar Ahmed, a community welfare officer posted at the Pakistani Embassy in Riyadh, had approached them on April 4, 2008, and asked her to sign a letter and sent it to him so that the Pakistan Embassy could approach the King of Saudi Arabia, Shah Abdullah, for the compensation money. She said that a year-and-a-half has passed but they have not received any positive response.

She further said that the owner of the shop where her father worked had immediately sent arrears to them in 2000, but they are still waiting for the compensation money despite the passage of nine years.

She urged President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Overseas Pakistanis Minister Dr Farooq Sattar, and other authorities concerned to take up their legitimate grievances and provide them the compensation money.

{Source: The News}

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Governance reforms in education

By Ishrat Husain

The education policy announced recently envisages a big jump in the allocation of public expenditure on education from the current level of two per cent of the GDP to seven per cent over the next five years.

Many well-meaning commentators, political leaders and external agencies also believe that the problem of education deficiency in Pakistan can be attributed to the lack of funding. However memories are short and we have forgotten that a multi-donor, multi-million dollar project — the Social Action Programme in the 1990s — was a failure. It did not increase enrolment rates or achieve any other goal; in fact, it left the government with a higher debt.

We should avoid making the same mistake again and putting the economy in further jeopardy. The total expenditure on education by all tiers of government would jump by almost 50 per cent in one year if we raise it by one per cent of the GDP only. As much as Rs400bn would become available for spending in one year. Unless we pay attention to the serious governance problems facing our education sector we will end up with more ghost schools, ghost teachers, greater absenteeism, misuse of grants to private schools, inflated building contracts and other leakages and waste.

The availability of funds for education from donors is also not a constraint as almost all external donors are vying with each other to finance education projects. The duplication, overlap and competition among the suppliers of funds would add to the already poor state of governance in our schools, colleges, universities and educational administration.

Does this mean that we should not pursue the target of higher allocation for education? No, but there are some prerequisite governance reforms that have to be undertaken before the allocation is stepped up. The National Commission for Government Reforms had carried out a two-year study, field visits and consultations with stakeholders and produced practical recommendations for improving the quality of governance in the education sector. There are at least 10 critical reforms that have to be put in place.

First, there is a clear need for delineating responsibility for the provision of education among the three tiers of government. The federal government should deal with curriculum and higher education financing, standards and regulations. The provincial governments should be responsible for college education and technical and vocational training while the district governments should take charge of primary, secondary and high schools.

Second, to bring about coordination, ensure uniformity in the standards of public, private and non-profit schools, a district education board should be established in each district. The board must consist of eminent persons enjoying a good reputation and the district education officer act as the secretary of the board and implement the decisions taken by it. The detailed terms of reference of the board have been developed.

Third, like the Sindh and NWFP governments, there should be separation between management and teaching cadres in other provinces and the federal government. While the selection to the management cadre would be open to teachers with the requisite aptitude, all teachers could progress in their teaching careers to higher grades without becoming headmaster, principal or education officers.

Fourth, teachers’ cadres should be de-linked from national pay scales. Educational levels in backward districts will not improve unless the compensation package is aligned with local market conditions. If, for example, a science teacher in Musakhel has to be paid Rs15,000 per month to attract her to work in this backward district, she should be given that package.

In contrast if qualified science teachers in Karachi or Lahore are available at a salary of Rs12,000 per month, they should be paid that amount. Otherwise the present distortions — teachers appointed in backward districts are transferred to big cities because of political influence — will continue to persist.

Fifth, all teachers should be appointed from among the candidates domiciled in a district through a test conducted by the Public Service Commission on merit alone. These posts should be non-transferable. Other posts for which suitable candidates are not available locally can be filled from outside the district. The powers of recruitment, transfer, promotion and disciplinary action must reside with the district education board.

Sixth, the school management committees (SMCs) and/or parent-teacher associations (PTAs) should be empowered to effectively oversee the internal management of a school, i.e. keeping the school infrastructure in good shape, ensuring teachers attend school and managing other problems. Budgetary resources would have to be given to the SMCs but they would be accountable to the district education board for results.

The head-teachers/principals would be given appropriate administrative authority to carry out the day-to-day operations of the school. They would also be given powers to initiate action against recalcitrant teachers.

Seventh, the district education board should be allocated funds annually for carrying out the approved infrastructure projects, operations and maintenance and training of teachers in all schools. The training would be delivered by the provincial governments, who would also test the competency of the teachers and the learning achievements of the students on an annual basis. Funds allocated to the district boards must be audited regularly.

Eighth, children from low-income families should be given the option of going to private schools provided these schools meet prescribed eligibility criteria. These schools must be given per capita grants for the students from low-income families. The activities of the education foundations in the provinces should be expanded and supported to find other suitable means of fostering public-private partnerships.

Ninth, a decentralised and empowered education network can function efficiently only if it is monitored continuously. A management information system (MIS) should help the district boards in monitoring the performance of the schools. For example, if a primary school is producing a constant stream of pupils for enrolment in higher classes, the upgrade to elementary school could take place immediately.

Finally, all talented students from poor families and backward districts who secure admissions to private schools, professional colleges, business administration institutes and institutions of higher learning should be awarded scholarships for pursuing their studies. Eligibility criteria must be announced beforehand and advertisements placed inviting applications for scholarships.

These reforms would take some time to take root and must be initiated before the spigot of money for education is opened.

- The writer was the chairman of the National Commission for Government Reforms. -

{Source: Dawn}

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Younus haunted by dropped catch

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OFF THE RECORD with Kashif Abbasi: OCT 5

Postponement of Punjab bye-polls and rumors of Saudi-Nawaz deal not to contest polls and chances of mid-term polls; Guests: Sardar Mehtab Ahmed Khan (PML-N) and Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed (AML)

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CAPITAL TALK with Hamid Mir: OCT 5

Discussion on Kerry-Lugar Bill and its impact on Pakistani nation. Guests: Abid Sher Ali (PML-N), Marvi Memon (PML-Q) and Naveed Qamar (PPP)

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Muslim Singles, Matrimonial, Shaadi and Marriage Introductions Online -

Talk Shows

    October 22, 2009 | 2:06 am

    NRO and level of corruption among political leaders specially PPP and PML-N leaders. Guests: Syed Talat Hussain (Anchorman), Shahid Khaqan Abbasi (PML-N) and Fouzia Wahab (PPP)

    October 22, 2009 | 1:26 am

    A MUST WATCH: Attack on Islamic University in Islamabad; Was Indo-Israeli axis behind it?; Guests: Qazi Hussain Ahmed (Ex-Ameer JI), Sardar Asif Ahmed Ali (PPP), Sen Zahid Khan (ANP)

    October 21, 2009 | 9:28 am

    A MUST WATCH: How intrusive are the conditions and clauses of Kerry-Lugar Bill. Who will implement the reforms mandated in it? Guests: Imran Khan (Chairman PTI), Qamaruzzama Kaira (PPP), Maria Sultan (Defense Analyst), Ishaq Dar (PML-N)

  • OFF THE RECORD with Kashif Abbasi on ARY: OCT 20
    October 21, 2009 | 8:55 am

    NRO and Transparency Intl’s latest report on Corruption in Pakistan which has increased by 600 pct. Guests: Syed Khurshid Shah (PPP), Javed Hashmi (PML-N) and Ahmad Bilal Mehboob (PILDAT)

    October 21, 2009 | 8:32 am

    Runoff polls in Afghanistan; Af-PAk affairs; South Waziristan Operation; War on Terror and its toll on PAkistan. Guests: Rustam Shah (Ex-Amb to Afghanistan), Syed Saleem Shahzad (Asia Times Online Analyst) and Sadiq Al Farooq (PML-N)

    October 21, 2009 | 2:51 am

    Twin suicide blasts at Islamic Univeristy in Islamabad. Guests: AVM (R) Shahzad Chaudhry (Analyst), Rauf Klasra (The News Journalist) and Abdul Hafeez Pirzada (Renowned Attorney and ex-PPP leader)

    October 21, 2009 | 2:32 am

    Twin suicide bombings in Islamic University in Islamabad and its repurcussions vis-a-vis South Waziristan operation. Guests: Tasneem Ahmed Qureshi (PPPP), Makhdoom Javed Hashmi (PML-N) and Sen Muhammad Ibrahim Khan (Jamaat Islami)

    October 21, 2009 | 1:15 am

    Rehman Malik’s unusual media-hogging appetite and Talat Hussain’s demand that Rehman Malik be sacked. Media performance on twin suicide blasts at Islamic University in Islamabad.

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