Kulsoom Nawaz Sharif’s death and her opponents’ bad taste

Sixty-eight year old Begum Kulsoom Nawaz Sharif, wife of three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif, passed away in a hospital in London, after one year of battling cancer.
Ever since Begum Kulsoom’s illness last year, detractors of Nawaz Sharif and many supporters of Imran Khan claimed her illness was only a ruse to help keep her husband out of jail.
 
Even Aitzaz Ahsan, Senator from the Pakistan Peoples Party, had doubted the illness of the former first lady and said “Harley Street Clinic is owned and operated by Sharif family.” However, he apologized “to Sharif family” today “for hurting their sentiments with his statement about Kulsoom Nawaz’s illness.”
 
Chief of Army Staff, General Bajwa also condoled with the family with DGISPR tweeting that “COAS expresses his grief and heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family on sad demise of Begum Kulsoom Nawaz. “May Allah bless the departed soul eternal peace at Heaven-Amen.”
 
However, the PTI crowd has shown that it lacks manners, dignity, and taste —all qualities Kulsoom Nawaz Sharif demonstrated in standing up to Musharraf dictatorship.
 
Kulsoom Nawaz served as the president of Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz from 1999 to 2002, during the initial years of General Pervez Musharraf’s coup when her husband and brother in law were both in jail.
 
She, along with her daughter Maryam Nawaz, were also placed under house arrest by the Musharraf regime. As mentioned in all her obituaries, “Begum Kulsoom led defiant, lonely protests against the Musharraf regime to get her husband freed from prison.”

 

Princeton Economist’s Withdrawal from Advisory Committee Exposes Pakistan’s Bigotry Problem

Pakistan has once again lost the opportunity to benefit from the potential of its diaspora and also made itself a mockery in front of the world. The case of Prof Atif Mian’s appointment to the Economic Advisory Council (EAC) and then making him resign only exposes Pakistan’s bigotry problem.

Dr Atif Mian, a Princeton University Professor for Economics, Public Policy and Finance known for his work on finance and macro-economics, was nominated to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Economic Advisory Council (EAC) but later his name was withdrawn because he happens to be a member of the Ahmadiyya sect, which Pakistan’s mullahs (& the country’s constitution) describe as non-Muslim. Ahmadis are widely discriminated against in Pakistan and are targets of persecution.

 

The real tragedy in this saga is that Imran Khan’s government could have anticipated the reaction of the Islamists and their followers and if he and his advisors did not have the guts to face it then they should not have created the controversy involving a good man & a world-renowned economist. Prof Atif Mian did not need or want the position. Pakistan would have benefitted from having his expertise. Following Prof Mian’s resignation, two other Pakistani-origin economists, Asim Khwaja from Harvard University and Imran Rasul from UK have also resigned.

In the words of lawyer and human rights activist Yasser Latif Hamdani, “The unceremonious removal of Princeton economist Atif Mian by PM Imran Khan shows the end of meritocracy in Pakistan. Atif Mian, the great Princeton economist who was unceremoniously removed from his position on Imran Khan government’s Economic Advisory Council, is not the one who lost out. It is Pakistan’s loss.” In his latest piece the ‘Insulting removal of Princeton prof shows Pakistan has forgotten Jinnah’s view on Ahmadis,’ Hamdani gives the long list of “Ahmadis who tried to serve Pakistan but were murdered in cold blood.” “The downward graph of Pakistan has interestingly followed Ahmadis’ marginalisation. This is not because Ahmadis are the only ones talented but because their marginalisation has also meant the end of meritocracy in Pakistan. Pakistan will continue to lose unless it reverts to Jinnah’s wise words that religion caste or creed has nothing to do with the business of the state.”

 

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan also released a statement that ‘Faith no criterion for public service.’ According to HRCP: “There is overwhelming evidence to show that Dr Mian was eminently qualified to serve on the EAC and that his contribution to economic policy making in Pakistan would have been immensely valuable. The government’s decision to withdraw this nomination on the grounds that it might prove divisive – merely because he happens to belong to the Ahmadiyya community – contravenes Article 27(1) of the Constitution of Pakistan, which clearly states that ‘no citizen otherwise qualified for appointment in the service of Pakistan shall be discriminated against in respect of any such appointment on the ground only of race, religion, caste, sex, residence or place of birth.”

 

Further, “The withdrawal of Dr Mian’s nomination does not augur well. The spate of faith-based attacks this year, not only on the Ahmadiyya community, but also on the Christian, Shia Hazara and Hindu communities, should make it clear that any steps by the state that are seen to legitimize religious discrimination are unacceptable. Defending human rights is necessarily a question of moral courage and HRCP strongly urges the government to avoid any sort of precedent that allows a person’s faith to trump all other criteria for public service.”

Pakistan Treats Critical Journalists as Enemy Hybrid Warriors

The consistent attacks against the Pakistani media over the years has resulted in creating an atmosphere where anyone who criticizes the government or the deep state is viewed as ‘anti national’ or a ‘RAW agent’ or a ‘CIA agent.’ In his latest piece, former editor of Dawn, Abbas Nasir asks the question: “Aren’t we all on the same side — ie Pakistan’s?”
 
According to Nasir, the information minister’s desire to create “a supra regulator” to oversee all media and social media platforms “will create misgivings at a number of levels.” Nasir asks: “Why does the government feel the need to regulate the media with an extraordinary body when there are existing regulators and laws that adequately provide for the job?”
 
Giving the example of the United Kingdom, Nasir points out: “electronic media and the newspapers are regulated by entirely different bodies. Ofcom is the regulator that covers phones and internet, TV, radio and on demand. Ofcom’s mandate is to ensure the orderly growth of the communications industry across the spectrum of its responsibilities. Equally, it enforces anti-monopoly regulations and then addresses user/ viewer/ consumer complaints which cover a broad sweep such as billing, quality of the service provision, and last but not least, content. It also provides the code that broadcasters have to follow. Then there is the Press Complaints Commission which is the body that rules on reader/ affected party complaints against newspapers. As for social media, there is no regulator per se. Laws exist to safeguard the public against defamation, slander etc which are routinely enforced by the courts.”
 
Nasir ends by stating: “It is now up to the government to allay concerns that more curbs may be on the way and to state unequivocally that it is committed to media freedoms. At the same time, let me say no legitimate journalist approves of or reports fake news or other distasteful content. If someone were to do that, the laws exist and the book could be thrown at them. I hope we can collectively safeguard our hard-earned freedoms and not be forced to give them up on one pretext or the other. However, as one social media rights activist in her 40s said: we have survived two dictatorships so will survive a democracy too. I am just hoping it never comes to that.”

 

Is Naya Pakistan a house built on lies?

Prime Minister Imran Khan and his supporters’ claims that they are not wasting any government money and that former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif are proving to be false.

 

Imran announced that he would be the first Premier to not stay in the officially designated PM house and thus reduce the expenses. However, reports have emerged that former PMLN Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi “stayed in his own house in Islamabad and never moved to the 11,000-kanal official residence, which has 524 employees. Similarly, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah is also known to have stayed at his personal residence in Karachi and only using the CM House for official meetings.”

Further, even the criticism of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif “for having an extravagant lifestyle” has turned out to be untrue as Sharif “paid all the expenses on his family at the PM House from his own pocket.” According to a report in The News “‘PM Khan asked the PM Office staff about expenditures incurred by Nawaz Sharif in his tenure as PM. The officials told the new PM that Sharif did all the expenditures from his pocket and never used taxpayers’ money, the anchorperson told Geo News. ‘He (Imran Khan) didn’t believe till he was shown invoices confirming the PML-N supremo never used public money as PM.’ Later, Senator Musadik Malik confirmed that the former premier handed cheques amounting millions or rupees when he vacated the PM House. He said that government pays for salaries of Prime Minister House staff. “If government auctions all PM House vehicles, who will arrange transport for foreign dignitaries?” he questioned.”

Similarly, there has been a lot of talk of “billions of dollars” belonging to Pakistanis that are allegedly stored in foreign accounts. However, as former editor of Dawn, Abbas Nasir noted “If the $200bn actually existed anywhere apart from the fertile imagination of so-called journalists with expertise in financial affairs — in print and on TV — then not only would the external debt of the country be wiped out, the country would also have substantial forex reserves left over.” And as economist and Dawn columnist Khurram Hussain asserted in 2014: “An absurdity is doing the rounds, saying there are $200 billion of ill-gotten gains stashed by Pakistanis in Swiss bank accounts.”

Instead of false allegations and wild assertions maybe it is time to look at the hard realities of Pakistan, a country that is increasingly isolated because of its failure to tackle the issue of terrorism, has been referred to as a failing state for over two decades, and will need to go before the IMF for a 13th bailout!

More Criminals, Billionaires in ‘Naya Pakistan’ Parliament

Naya Pakistan, Purane Loag! Almost three dozen newly elected Members of Pakistan’s National Assembly (MNAs) face criminal charges. 34 of them belong to five major parties along with one independent MNA.

 

According to a new report titled “Parliament Monitor” released by Free & Fair Election Network (FAFEN) Parliament Monitor, 18 of them belong to Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), while Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is in second position with nine MNAs and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) occupies third spot. One each belong to Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P).

Also, “Around one-third (112) legislators have declared their assets worth between Rs11 million and Rs50 million while 58 had the assets worth one to 10 million rupees. As many as 12 legislators have assets having worth ranging between Rs501 million and Rs1 billion while five legislators have the assets less than one million rupees. Furthermore, the lower house of the parliament has eight billionaires with PTI’s Noor Alam Khan being the wealthiest legislator. His net worth, as declared on Form B of nomination papers, is more than Rs3.2 billion. Among eight billionaires, four belong to PTI, two to PML-N and one each to PPP and Awami National Party (ANP). These include PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, PML-N’s Ehsanul Haq Bajwa and Noorul Hassan Tanvir, PTI’s Muhammad Najeeb Haroon, Sher Akbar Khan and Muhammad Yaqoob Shaikh as well as ANP’s Amir Haider Azam Khan. Five legislators, on the other hand, have less than one million worth of assets. As many as two of these legislators belong to PTI, and one each to PML-N, MQM and PPP.”

These facts “are based on information contained in Form B and affidavits as annexed to the nomination papers submitted to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) by the candidates ahead of July 25 polls.”