PAKISTAN: Be patient with democracy…

February 3, 2011

Democracy is in the blood of Musalmans, who look upon complete equality of manhood [mankind]… [And] believe in fraternity, equality and liberty. M.A.Jinnah –London, 14 Dec 1946

Switch on any TV channel, open up a newspaper or log on to social media and you will see our parliamentarians and their electorate especially those residing in the rural centers continuously drawing ire of the urban educated elite. At times participants in the TV talk shows having an intellectual discourse stoop low and raise eyebrows over the wisdom possessed by the electorate and flay their decision of re-electing the same person who is allegedly tainted.

Such feelings on the part of the educated elite incited me to ponder over the mystery shrouding the electorate who is willing to rally around the same bunch of politicians every time. And after introspection I came to the conclusion that the bone of contention is socio-economic imbalance prevailing in our society.

 

The brick and mortar of the conclusion I drew is a battle between two classes i.e. Haves and Have-nots .Both the classes will be at loggerheads till the time vast dichotomy in their status persists in our society.

All those born in well to do families, the “Haves” class, who had the privilege of going and graduating  from  good educational institutions , subsequently receiving mouth watering offers from multinationals  or a timely call from one of their family friend manages to reserve or create a slot for them.

And then there exist “ Have-nots”  a class of people who is barely able to meet both the ends and for them sending their children to a good educational institutions is like asking them for an arm and a leg. Hence their children end up at “peela” schools and soon after graduating or dropping out of school they compete with other poorly skilled individuals and graduates of good educational institutions in a hotly contested job market where opportunities are scanty and at times only exist for those with the right “links”.

Hence for this class of people their economic benefit lies in linking up with their local power broker who is further linked to politicians or others in the corridors of power. There’s nothing outlandish, these masses make quite a rational decisions based on their needs and wants.

Short cuts don’t help any one, covets of martial law, Bangladesh model or mid term polls by the urban educated elite won’t help and might set a dangerous precedent for the future. Those disqualified on the grounds of possessing a fake degree were discredited by the urban educated elite, however their electorate seemed content with them and got them re-elected even after an onslaught by their opponents and media.

So did the electorate make a whimsical decision this time around? No they did not. They vote for their tested people. They have experienced the elusive revolutionaries who have always usurped the throne impersonating as true representatives of the people in a quasi democracy which serves as a smokescreen to protract their rule.

During their stint as rulers ,Pakistan was always plunged into darkness, majority has suffered because firstly their power brokers in these times do not enjoy the power they ought to , secondly better than modest  economic growth witnessed during their regime failed to sustain and trickle down to the grass roots. And lastly the legacy left behind is what we know today as Bangladesh, exacerbated freedom movements, terrorism, draconian laws, political assassinations and a polarized society.

Though, don’t lose your cool, formidable fear in ones mind that Pakistan is doomed, division is in the offing and Pakistan being synonymous with predicament is chronic are mere illusions. Judicial activism, vibrant media, migration, remittances and electorate’s increased exposure to the outside world is slowly and gradually weakening the tradiontional power brokers.

Cameos of democracy will always damp squib. Only if democracy is given the time it lost to despotism. Pakistan would be an upper-middle class country with historical GDP growth and population enough to galvanize a change where the majority prefers policy over patronage. However one more impediment in the ongoing democratic process would act as a last straw that would break camels back.

 

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Free Media – bane or boon ?

November 26, 2010

In today’s time when freedom of expression cannot be emphasized enough, a pro media censorship agreement could be considered as blasphemy! What people should understand is that censorship doesn’t mean inhibiting freedom of expression – It is just drawing a line between freedom and uncontrolled deviltry. Censorship is a reminder for all those who have crossed the lines of morality and compassion under the name of freedom of expression.

With more than 40 television channels beaming soaps, satire, music programmes, films, religious speech, political talk shows, and news of the hour the significance and need of media censorship in Pakistan today is at its pinnacle hence I believe not all opinions, information and pictures need to go on air.

 

Firstly, speaking of censorship, one section of the media that is in a terrible need of censorship regulations are the news channels. Visuals of disfigured bodies during riots, bloodbath and carnage television channels appear to have forgotten about media’s moral values in their rat race for TRPs. Being a witness to some of the most ruthless reporting scenarios in some of the most devastating catastrophes, it is my personal opinion as a viewer and as a global citizen that censorship should be about keeping the media real enough to reflect the society but subtle enough to keep it humane.

Secondly, censorship regulations should also be applicable on most of the young and new anchors that are the product of lack of training, knowledge and experience. They seem to be mesmerized by their own faces on mini-screens. An anchor’s duty is to present events as they are happening without personal commentary but in all private television channels, it is seen that these people, who have less political training, are trying to present events according to their own liking.

Because of which it becomes relatively easier for them to mould public opinion because people only see what media shows them and most of the times it is perceived to be true and with low literacy levels it doesn’t require rocket science to propagate something which might be non existent.

Thirdly, the dog-race that the media has gotten itself into for delivering or ‘creating’ breaking news the first, which is sometimes not even confirmed causes panic among the masses, hurts business activity and hampers economic growth. Along with painting a very volatile picture in the mind of foreigners as if Pakistan is full of instability. Hence news which harms the country at large needs to be censored as well.

Abstaining from censorship in the above mentioned scenarios we ourselves are exposing children of impressionable ages to excessive violence at a growing age, innocence of children is replaced by questioning the happenings around them the bombs and the bloodshed. Hence to make sure that our future generations are intellectual and progressive the content on TV should also be one which promotes these traits.

Talking about the entertainment media – stage, film and drama is exposed to threats from two fronts. Firstly, the news media with all its drama and sensationalism has driven away the audiences from stage and films and secondly the foreign channels with their quality programming and marketing expertise have been a substitute to our local channels for the viewers which is diluting our culture and we seem to be more abreast with foreign cultural and religious rituals and occasions than our own.

Hence censorship of foreign content being aired in our country complemented by the revival of the entertainment industry is need of the hour.

Today, no law on media censorship exists in the country. However quite recently the senate standing committee on Information and broadcasting proposed a new media code of conduct. The bill calls for a ban on graphic footage of terrorist attacks and forbids the media from airing the statements of violent extremists. But so far it the government hasn’t been successful enough in getting it passed because of concerns raised by the media.

 

So rather then indirectly influcing media by means of threatening to cut off advertising or suspending licenses to censor certain information, pictures or news which might not yield favorable results, government should try to expedite the on going process in which media has been asked to prepare their own code of conduct which is acceptable to the government as well. Along with a mechanism to ensure that the regulatory institutions use censorship judiciously.

 

Furthermore, media training institutions which produce professional and politically unbiased media personnel need to be setup. And steps should also be taken after consultation with all stake holders to establish a credible ratings agency which rates the television channels and their programs comprehensively and serves as tool to gauge their true popularity.

 

Lastly I would like to make a point that media greatly assist in building better societies by defending rule of law, encouraging human development and security. However a media without a “code of ethics” will harm people, make media lose its credibility gradually and the role of watch-god will get weakened eventually.

Published in Slogan media magazine November 2010

 

BLOG PAKISTAN

November 26, 2010

 

“For those unaware, of who this man is, let me put it in a very simple way: Hollywood has Batman, Superman, The Hulk, and Spiderman. Pakistan has Edhi”.Stated on Usman Gulfaraz’s blog post, this statement moved many as he paid a tribute to Pakistani humanitarian, Abdul Sattar Edhi. Usman is part of Pakistan’s emerging blogosphere.

 

Initially what started as a slow trend, blogging picked up on popularity, as access to internet increased prompted by declining DSL costs and availability of free blog hosting websites like WordPress, Blogspot and iGoogle. Contrary to the widely held belief, that politics in Pakistan is recreation, blogosphere is not inhibited to political discussions only. Blogs cover a wide array of interests ranging from sports, music to media, culture and philosophy.

 

Professor Adil Najam, Sitara-i-Imtiaz, of All things Pakistan and Dr.Awab Alwi of Teeth Maestro are two names synonymous with Pakistani blogosphere. Their blogs are distinguishable by heavy traffic while their opinions and posts are highly regarded. One cannot hesitate in saying that the duo has the power to set the direction of our country’s blogosphere.

 

Blogs are not restrained to locals. Contributions to the blogosphere extend to expatriate Pakistanis like Kalsoom Lakhani of CHUP! – Changing Up Pakistan, allowing them to share opinions and discuss the happenings in Pakistan. While celebrities like Naveen Naqvi known for her association with Dawn News TV, have their own blogs which coagulates fan interaction with opinion sharing on various issues.

 

Of late, the blogosphere had been flooded with posts from Sialkot lynching incident to spot fixing to Aisam’s exemplary display of sports and statesmanship at the US open. Bloggers have been quite vocal when conversing about issues of daily concern.

 

Pakistani blogosphere has become a barometer for gauging the vibe and voice of the educated Pakistanis. The significance of which could be judged from the fact that even CNN, NY Times and DNA India have been quoting views from blogosphere when reporting on events of mutual interest.

 

The digital resurrection of media has evolved the power paradigms. Marked by a shift of control to the individuals, being a publisher on the web is not an un-accomplishable task anymore. Backed by a consistent influx of comments and opinion sharing on the content generated, the “search” aspect has allowed the individual to be in a relatively favorable position to control content discovery than the media brands.

 

 

The traditional media has finally embraced the new vogue in readership. The growing need of information by seekers has led news blog to develop. These blogs have strengthened the connect with their readers by giving them an opportunity to submit articles and photographs while simultaneously allowing them to comment on news items and blog posts. Expanding on revenue mediums, print media has managed to lure online ads through the heavy traffic on the blogs.

 

The blogging world is not all virtual as it’s widely perceived. Blogger meet ups and conferences take place periodically in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad whose aim is to connect blogger for idea bounce offs in regard to performance enhancement, content quality and revenues by sharing their experiences and expertise. Such meet ups are sponsored by companies like Google, CIO and HP.

 

While on the other hand some meet- ups are specific- purpose driven, like in the case of Nokia a blogger meet up was held when it started the series of sneak previews of the Nokia N97. Telenor too held such a meet up for their CSR initiative ‘Karu Mumkin’ whose aim was to experience the idea with Telenor Pakistan’s marketing and communications team.

 

Moreover, to acknowledge the best bloggers in different genres and branding Pakistan on the global blogosphere the First Annual Blog Awards 2010 Ceremony was organized by Google Pakistan and CIO Pakistan.

 

“There is a great need for events like these,” said Dr Awab Alvi, popularly known among the blogosphere as Teeth Maestro.

 

Accolades were handed out to a total of 41 blogs in different categories ranging from celebrity, fashion and gossip to politics, current affairs and technology among a host of others. The voting process brought thousands of internet users to cast in their preferences, after which a panel, representative of organizations like Unicef, Cisco, Intel, P@sha, Dawn News, DELL, Demotix and educationists from Columbia Journalism School and Harvard University deliberated to sift out the winners for the best blog award in their respective categories out of 207 entries.

Conclusively it can be inferred that the blogging phenomenon in Pakistan is not a fad, rather a media formulation that is gaining momentum and acceptance with the audience and contributors. The blogosphere is channeling out its resources more widely as conventional media picks it up to upgrade itself, broadening the purpose and role of blogging. The growing inclination and recognition of the blogging efforts can be translated as a positive stance towards this new medium.

 

Published in Slogan media magazine October 2010

 

 

 

Media in times of DISASTER

November 26, 2010

Communication is an important part of disaster prevention and management. Mass media have certain characteristics that make them advantageous for disaster communication: They provide easy access to large publics and some of them constitute a robust communication system which remains working even in cases of a partial breakdown of the infrastructure like battery-powered radio. Media also have latent functions in disasters, which consist of emotional support and companionship which helps isolated individuals to feel connected with the “outside world.” These functions are crucial as they reduce the negative effects of stressful life events. In pakistan media is so powerful that it’s often termed as fourth pillar of the state.

Pakistani media has been useful for disaster control and mitigation during current deluge. Though initially glitches did develop while reporting from Kyber Pakhtunkhwa because the flooding was sudden and its scale was mammoth but soon media braced it self to report a huge natural calmity which affected every province and during their coverage media did provide reliable information which helped to reduce the impact of flooding.

With leading anchor persons like Talat Hussain , Naseem Zehra and Javaid Chaudry  reporting live from the flood hit areas alongwith  stories of those stranded proping up in the leading dailes, highlighted the true enormity of the diasater, helped to increase the ranking of the disaster management issue on the policy agenda and succeeded in not only creating a political momentum by forcing the top political and military brass to be on ground with the affected and make sure that they are provided adequate relief.

This time around media  acted with maturity and restriant  by not indulging into any blame game and showing a sympathetic picture, which aided in mobilization of help from outside the affected communities  and  even successfull in  securing  international help

Local NGOs being run by credible personalities have been successful in tapping the audience exposed to the mianstream media by appearing on live marathons being aired by different media groups to galvanize the relief efforts , publications have been full of print ads  with regards to the scale of devastation and NGOs response retrospect relief , rehabilitaion and reconstruction and what help do they   seek from the philantropist alongwith guidance to those who wish to help by informing them about differnt relief funds which are setup and the the way to donate via SMS.

 

Globally social media and social networks are being used increasingly for fundraising, communication updates at times of disaster – from posting updates on Twitter to sharing information on YouTube. Red Cross was a trending topic in Twitter and was appearing in real time Google search results as a result of so many people posting status updates to Twitter about their relief fund and how they are supporting the disaster. On Facebook former US President Bill Clinton can be seen in a video sharing his thoughts in terms of how people can hep with the Haiti disaster.

Learning from the haiti experience the US embassy in Islamabad has been using , “Facebook,” “Flickr,” and “Youtube.” together with the traditional media to provide information about the relief work it has been carrying out and UNICEF too has been constantly uploading videos on its website about the relief operation its undertaking.

Groups like the Pakistan Youth Movement are active on Facebook and tweets are springing up under the topic pkfloods on twitter. For the sake of transparency  the Motor Sports Club of Pakistan and Off road Pakistan are  also updating the exact locations of their aid laden truck on the internet i.e. live tracking.

Former President Perzez Musharaf has  posted a video message on his FB page calling for people to help on the other hand Faisal Chohan a TEDFellow has established an incident reporting website http://pakrelief.crowdmap.com/ which allows people with cell phones to give live updates of issue on the ground. Which could be used by relief organizations to adequately divert resources where needed.

 

As the rescue operation nears its end and relief operation on going , mainstream media should be used to mobalize funds , create awareness  as it has the largest audience and to promote social media sites by Including social media icons in transmissions and publications,updating relevant blogs by media personnels present at the affected areas and linking it to website pages , creating links to each social media site on all website and inviting staff to include standard social media links in email signatures.

 

Published in Slogan media magazine September 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Our attitude towards corruption

August 25, 2010

Silence is an attribute of the dead; he who is alive speaks. TheNational Corruption Perception Survey 2010 by Transparency International-Pakistan graced the headlines and remained talk of the town for a few days but then went on the backburner as is usual practice in our country. However, in a developed country such high perceived numbers of corruption would have rang alarm bells and  drawn public ire.

The lack of public outroar – rather a deafening silence – against the alleged corruption which has become Pakistan’s greatest shame, forced me to think, we as individuals have become so corrupt ourselves that it is justified in saying that our state functionaries are from us hence no different than us.

This means that at some stage of our lives we ourselves have indulged in such corrupt practices ourselves, encouraged them or not resisted them in other words. Don’t we at the driving license office, passport office, NADRA or at vehicle registration dept. grease the palm of agents so that our job could be expedited may be because we hate to stand in a queue and wait for things to get done in their due time or lack of patience has become our second nature. Isn’t their a collusion of plunderers and mafias who spur electricity theft in the residential, industrial and commercial areas ,water theft by the tanker mafia , local agriculturist and industrialist courtesy the officials of relevant water board and irrigation department and gas theft by the influentials who own CNG stations and have the right links with the movers and shakers of the country.

The icing on the cake is that our rant about the shortages when we our selves fail to adhere any of the conservation initiatives in terms of closing down our businesses at 8 or setting our ACs at 26 or using water efficiently or abstain from the use of natural gas fueled generators without getting the extra load regularized by the SSGC SNGPL.

Now let us come to the burning issue taxation, yes it’s a fact we evade taxes worth 800 billion rupees as revealed by the world bank report and even after this we are not even bothered to ask for a proper invoice or issue a proper receipt whenever we transact. And above all this is our silence and indifference to report such actions, which serves as the biggest weapon for these plunderers and gives them the courage to carry on and usurp my rights and your rights to fill in their pockets.

Rest assured I am in no way defending any of the state deparments perceived to be corrupt but who is going to bell the cat, because it wont change over night, nor would it change if we are not willing to mend our own ways because it starts with you, it starts with me.

First posted @ http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/

What is missing this August?

August 25, 2010

August was once a month in which school children used to rehearse for tableaus for independence day functions, flags were bought to hoist on rooftops, independence day parade practice would take place in Islamabad and awards were presented on the big day. Fete and furore were synonymous with August . However, this August seems cursed with devastation, bloodshed and hopelessness from Karachi to Khyber.

The summer began with  stories of the unfulfilled dreams of  youths aboard an ill-fated airliner and the pain their loved ones went through. In the backdrop of this tragedy were bomb blasts in Peshawar and the Data Darbar in Lahore followed by target killings in Karachi.

Soon afterwards the words “floods wreak havoc”  reverberated across the country. Floods ravaged parts of KP and Punjab and we were told the worst was yet to come. The estimates of those who have lost their lives and those who stand displaced increases every day. Sheer unpreparedness on the part of the provincial and federal government is a sorrowful sight to witness.

Amidst all of this, came the assassination of a member of the Sindh assembly and the carnage which followed resulting in the death of at least 94. This was followed by a suicide attack in Peshawer which threw us into further darkness.

Even as I try to reconcile  myself with the facts – the plane crash was an accident, floods a natural catastrophe , the violence in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar the vengeance of  terrorists – there is one thing which I fail to understand, where is the one united Pakistan I saw  during 2005′s destructive earthquake? All of us had rushed to help the victims without waiting for any appeals. Camps had been set up on the road side in every city to collect donations and everyone was more than willing to help .

The earthquake was natural calamity and so are these floods but this time around the spirit of helping and volunteering is at it’s lowest and that too in the month of August when patriotic spirit is supposed to be at it’s peak. It has veen less than five years since the earthquake hit. So, what happened? Have we lost our sense of empathy?

On 28 December 1947 M.A. Jinnah  made a welcome address at Karachi where he famously said:

“I have no doubt that with unity, faith and discipline we will not only remain the fifth state in the world but will compare with any nation of the world …you must makeup your mind now. We must sink individualism and petty jealousies and make up our minds to serve the people with honesty and faithfulness ,we are passing through a period of fear , danger ,menace. We must have faith , unity and discipline.”

We must unite and contribute, whatever we can, large or small, in any capacity — money, food, rations, drinkable water, tents, quilts, warm clothes, medicines for  water-borne diseases — because our impoverished brothers and sisters need us.

In this month of August let us pledge that whatever difficulty comes our way it will be dealt with as one nation.

First posted @ http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/

Development in Karachi? Not really

July 4, 2010

From completing work on Signal Free Corridor 1, inaugurating the third corridor on August 14 to the current work on corridor 4, the City District Government of Karachi has built over a dozen flyovers and underpasses to revamp the city – something it takes much pride in. While former nazim Mustafa Kamal and his team at the CDGK have worked full speed ahead to develop Karachi during his tenure, I have resevations about the impact it will have.

All I see is a very short term solution to an ever worsening problem. Billions are being dished out to facilitate an absolute waste of hard-earned tax payer money.

“It is very clear today that solving traffic problems by building more and bigger roads is like trying to put out a fire by gasoline”

Enrique Penalosa, (the mayor who solved Bogota’s traffic problems)

We have seen television broadcasts of ex-city Nazim talking about how the travel time by car from point A to point B has been reduced to 20 minutes (or xyz minutes) in his various inauguration speeches, what I wished he would have said is that the CDGK has decided to invest an adequate amount in the –much ignored- public transport system of Karachi.

In fact Karachi has the potential for developing one of the best bus rapid transit systems in the world. If such a project is initiated, it would materialize immediately and with meager investment – opposed to the large sums spent on these corridors.

It’s a globally accepted phenomenon that a city needs to be car-free and not signal-free. Cities like Dubai and New Delhi have realized that building flyovers and underpasses or expanding roads is not the solution to traffic  congestion and have reverted to establishing new or refurbishing old  public transport systems.

But here, in Karachi we take pride in building corridors one after another which cater onlyto car owners or the elite. What about the rest of us? The bulk of this city, the masses, the awam, people who travel on footpaths and on top of buses.

By investing more in these corridor projects the CDGK is sending a venomous message. Stick to cars, and buy more cars because the CDGK is not interested in investing in the public transport sector. These short-term sighs of relief in traffic congestion send all the wrong signals.

Even the ex-city Nazim has said these roads will be choked with traffic eventually meaning signals will have to be installed – the roads were a waste of billions in the first place and now we have come back to square one.

Further more such development is  increasing the divide between the rich and the poor. If you don’t own a car then you can’t travel from one place to another safely because you will be traveling on the roof of a public buse – and they are becoming increasingly sparse. This disparity and feeling that Karachi-ites of a lower income group do not have the right to exist is reinforced with every footpath that is encroached, bulldozed for road expansion or used as make-shift parking spot.

As we sit in our cars and mock people jumping through traffic, risking their lives to cross the road what we don’t cosider is “What other option do they have?” Lack of pedestrian bridges at regular intervals is the city’s specialty. In fact try typing “Karachi” in the address bar in www.walkscore.com, a website on ‘walkability’ of a city; the result you will get is “Karachi, a car-dependent city.” Karachi has a ‘worst’ walk score on a scale of best to worst.

But having said, that I would still like to acknowledge CDGK’s latest effort to repair and restart the CNG bus service and get the Karachi Circular Railway project approved by the federal government. Though these are just drops in the ocean but they still deserve apprecition and are a step in the right direction. As they say, better late than never.

First posted @ blogs.tribune.com.pk

Hunger knows no friend but its feeder

June 30, 2010

While a minority, born with a silver spoon living in their palatial havelis, luxurious farm houses and bungalows, can talk about the problems being faced by the country such as fake degrees, terrorism, the presidency and target killings on their dinner tables, with generators on standby and water tankers at their disposal, there are millions in this ‘land of the pure’ who survive on one meal per day and it is nearly impossible for them to make both ends meet no matter how hard they try.

They are the deprived class, peasants or the masses that are being continuously exploited by the waderaschaudrys and seths to work on their farms, factories or houses for ages, that too on meager or no salaries at all.

recent study sponsored by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation titled ‘The state of food security in Pakistan’ and carried out by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) in collaboration with World Food Programme narrates that Pakistan is a country where 48 per cent of the population is under extreme food insecurity and these figures have doubled between 2003-2009 along with a 14 per cent drop in the food secure districts. Furthermore it hints that soon people belonging to the better off areas in terms of food security would also find it difficult to afford food, reason being the gradual decline in their purchasing power. According to the study Khyber Pakhtunkhwa tops the charts with the highest percentage of people in the poor food consumption category, followed by Balochistan and Fata.

Poverty is a fact. And with the lapse of each year, poverty figures continue to haunt further. But Pakistanis don’t deserve to live in hunger and staggering inequity.

The situation is so bad that parents have started to ponder on the lines of either educating or feeding their children. Some have even left their children at the disposal of madrassas so that they could at least have two meals a day without even caring that there are chances that their children might be brainwashed. All this would only lead to a generation which can’t synchronize with the society around it and recent cases of parents poisoning or selling their own children are alarming signs that something needs to be done. Can any sane person, after all this desperation, gauge where we are headed?

With millions being denied the right to food we can’t expect intellect or intellectuals to flourish but we can close our eyes and be sure of harvesting a crop of fanatics who will not only be attracted towards outlawed outfits whose aim is to destabilize Pakistan, but also be up in arms to lynch, arson and ransack whatever comes in their pursuit to eliminate the disparity and inequity around them.

Posted @ blogs.tribune.com.pk

Guantanamo like Prisons of Sindh

June 30, 2010

Cries of shutting down the Guantanamo prison have been around for some time now, reason being the inhuman conditions at the prison which rather than reforming the prisoners is forcing them to become hardcore terrorists once they are released. Numerous examples could be quoted in this context. Such huge global outcry in this regard had bent Barack Obama to include the closure of this notorious prison in his election manifesto and later order to shut it down for good with detainees shifted and tried in the US.

Keeping in mind the above scenario we do have several Guantanamo like prisons in Sindh, Pakistan especially the Karachi, Hyderabad and Sukkur central jail, which grace the headlines every now and then for prisoners taking policemen hostage or using other means to register their protest against subhuman treatment i.e. overcrowded jails, barbaric torture, alleged extortion from the prisoners , unhygienic living conditions, jail hospitals lacking requisite facilities, inadequate quality of food, jailers receiving bribe from their relatives, prisoners not being presented before the court when due and lacunas in the provision of legal aid to the deserving prisoners.

Although one is in consensus that these prisoners are alleged or convicted murderers, kidnappers, rapists or involved in other heinous crimes. But in today’s world the term served in jail should be reformatory i.e. to make prisoners responsible and useful citizens of the society after their release from jail rather than serve a purpose to unleash the rebel inside to avenge what they had to suffer in jail which was a little more than what they deserved, results of which would be no less than a catastrophe for the society.

Internationally , a prisoner or a detainee has a right to be protected by authorities in the case of assault or rape, right to Medical Treatment ,right to freedom of expression, reading materials, and communication ,right to express concern with the prison’s standard of living, right to a court of law with regards to prison authorities ,right to freedom of religion ,right to access to a court of law, right to drink safe water, right to get treated as same as everyone else and right to food and clothing.

Nevertheless, there is light at the end of the tunnel with steps taken to develop technical or vocational skills among the prisoners and the initiation of Rs.300 million Jail reform program by the sindh government are the right steps towards transforming these Guantanamo like prisons into reformatory centers, as they say better late than never.

Posted @ teeth.com.pk/blog

Democracy is NOT the best revenge

June 30, 2010

Much awaited UN commission’s report on Benazir Bhutto’s assassination was published last month. It is now binding upon the government to pursue the investigation of this case with greater zeal.

Many term the assassination of Benazir Bhutto as a conspiracy to break the country hence letting the real culprits and perpetrators roam around freely means giving them another chance to try and execute their plans which might result in more catastrophic consequences this time around.

Amongst thousands of others, the four graves at Ghari khuda baksh, demand justice. Merely chanting the slogan Democracy is the best revenge wont help.

Posted @ chowrangi.com