Archive for the ‘Marvi Memon’ Category
I resigned because I didn’t want to be part of a government which had trampled over my maroora’s (people) rights. On the day that we had to vote on the budget, I had to make it clear that, unlike many others, I wasn’t going to give my vote of confidence to this government.
I am glad I did what I did because my conscience is clear. I did not become my party’s forward block nor sat in the assemblies where my people’s issues continued to be trampled upon. My resignation letter was self-explanatory.
My future strategy needs to be shared so that we can rid of the prevailing despondency and show people that there is a way forward out of this mess. A mess created by the potpourri of political actors who have been acting in their vested interests and playing musical chairs. By now it’s clear that most parties have given a lease of life to this government by voting for the budget and are thus a part of the problem and not the solution. Deliverance cannot come from any of them but, in fact, can come by rejecting them through the ballot because they have all been tried and tested. In fact, they need to be rejected through mid-term elections so that deliverance from despotic governance can come quickly.
How will the deliverance occur? When all patriotic, experienced politicians, political workers and youth create a much-needed collective leadership and rally for change. There is a need for many such movements because Pakistan is large and has many localised issues which need to be solved fast by like-minded patriots.
The message of these movements needs to be this: It’s time for a change because Pakistan has suffered plenty and cannot sustain economic hemorrhage any further. It’s time for people to voice their discontentment and rally around solid leadership. It’s time for people to reject old politicians who only win due to their fear tactics, and stand by honest ones.
In essence, its time for the youth to adopt issues of the poor as their own rather than standing aloof and disinterested. It’s time for them to work towards mass moblisation. It’s time for rural and urban areas to see that their issues can only be resolved when a unified approach is taken. It’s time for professionals to analyse the reasons for Pakistan’s hemorrhaging and plan for an alternative government by setting up a shadow cabinet that the country so badly needs. It’s time for businessmen to contribute to such a movement. It’s time for the legal community to continue to contribute to justice by fighting cases for free as part of this movement. It’s time for the media to continue to highlight the difference between new and old politics.
We all have our specific roles. The movement’s success is not possible without a collective approach — an approach that joins sects, religions, provinces and peoples with a cohesive manifesto.
Perhaps this is the reason I have decided not to join a political party as yet because this movement requires much work. The answer to which is the right political party to join will become clearer when all are tested on real issues in the battlefield.
Call it a movement for political reform, for revolution; call it a pied piper for justice, it’s a process. It is a hard, long, painful process of cleansing the evil out of the political system. It’s a question of not compromising on the right policies. It’s a question of building consensus on the correct policies across the national divides. It’s a question of spreading hope. The goal is a just, developed, moderate Pakistan where there is a focus on good governance, national security, climate change, economic revival and nationalism. That is the only plan that will save us.
Published in The Express Tribune
There is tremendous pressure on nuclear Pakistan to deliver as a developing state and to not become, as many think, a failed state. If it doesn’t deliver, then what has happened in Egypt could well happen here. The government needs to truly govern for its people and be able to provide the services that citizens would expect any government to.
When I meet people in villages, I find that many are under the wrong impression that if some member of parliament has initiated a development scheme in their area, they are indebted to that MP for life and must also vote for him. The fact of the matter is that it is the right of every citizen to be provided such amenities and services. And for this, taxes are collected by the state.
Unfortunately in Pakistan, many constituencies are developed only on the basis of whether or not they voted for a particular party — usually the one that is in government. And if they did not, then, more often than not, they get left out of development schemes. This politicisation of development has to end. Every Pakistani needs a school, a basic health unit, access to clean drinking water, gas, electricity, roads and so on.
The whole concept of MNAs and MPAs being given funds for carrying out development work in their constituencies needs to end. For instance, I recently investigated the state of my own development schemes and, much to my dismay, found that, in most instances, they are incomplete (sometimes less than half the work has been completed) and shoddy building material has been used.
When I meet these people, I try to explain to them that they wouldn’t need to scream for basics and be living a life of squalor if their leaders were sincere. And the sense I get of how the people feel as a result of these exchanges is that they know that their national wealth is being squandered and looted and they are fed up. But they don’t know how to revolt against this corruption, and they also don’t know who will lead them.
For this, they need to be able to distinguish between sincere leadership and those who simply use the votes of the electorate for their own material interests and gain. To prevent this from happening, development funds should not be given to MPs directly. A separate mechanism should be devised, which ensures that they are used in a transparent manner. And if there is any embezzlement, then those who squander them should be held accountable and made to reimburse the national exchequer.
Published in The Express Tribune
As Libya joins Egypt, there is continued talk of revolution and a need for change in Pakistan — ironically, from all those sitting in the power corridors. Whilst traditional politicians might want change to increase their power, the new breed of politicians and the populace want change because they feel Pakistan has a dysfunctional democracy. A democracy where rules are not followed. It is clear that if rules were followed, there would be wealth creation, development and justice for all. It seems that all this hue and cry is for a semblance of functionality of an existing parliamentary democracy versus an overthrow of the same.
Amidst the day-to-day protests and power games of traditional politicians, we are losing sight of the bigger picture. Whilst there is much talk of revolution, there is not enough talk on what needs fixing and how. There needs to be a clear realisation of which state functions need immediate improvement in order to get Pakistan out of the failed states list. These have been eloquently listed by the authors of Fixing Failed States, Ashraf Ghani and Clare Lockhart. The book says that lawmaking is a crucial function of the state. The more clear, transparent and equal the rules are, the better the governance will be. The more internationally tuned the rules, the more globally acceptable the state. The second is that the state needs to establish legitimate control over the use of violence. The third is that administrative control needs to be managed by government professionals who are accountable to the citizenry and recruited transparently.
Sound management of public finances, through which efficient collection and allocation of resources among contending priorities is done, is also a requirement. Another point stresses on the importance of investment in human capital, terming it the key towards the formation of a middle class. The sixth point states that creation of citizenship rights through social policies is critical to stability and prosperity. Citizens must have mutual rights and obligations. Another point adds that provision of adequate infrastructure services is necessary, especially to avoid spatial inequalities and areas of exclusion. Market integration is only possible when infrastructure is seamless. The book also stresses on the formation of markets and the creation of an enabling environment for the market. It says further that management of public assets should be utilised for the collective good as opposed to benefitting only a handful of people. Another factor is that effective public borrowing and not extending public borrowing limits is an important indicator of fiscal strength, domestically and internationally.
When Pakistan can manage all the above tasks in an efficient and coordinated way, then the failed state status can be avoided and the sovereignty gap filled. The change that we are chasing, the revolution that we are dreaming of, needs for all these state functions to work seamlessly for the people. The fix-it team needs to just get this list right in order to deliver a developed Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune
Do we have any idea how many protests are taking place in Pakistan these days? Probably no one does, because no one is keeping track. The frustration amongst the general public is increasing because these protests mean bloodshed.
Typically, in a protest, political parties participate for a few minutes, pose for pictures and that’s that. They are thus not a real threat to the government. It is only when a political person decides to bear the tear gas and sit with the protestors for a long time that they become a nuisance for the government. This gets media attention, getting the protesters some real advantage.
It is only at this point that accusations of politicisation from the government start getting levelled.
The protesters would not be on the streets if their elected representatives were raising their concerns in parliament. After all, votes of these very protesters got them elected to parliament. Therefore, the more the number of protests that are held, the more obvious is parliamentary failure. When issues are discussed on the streets and not in parliament, then parliament’s utility and supremacy is certainly under doubt.
On February 27, legal proceedings in all lower courts of Sindh were suspended because judicial officials in a court in Malir went missing. The Sindh Professors and Lecturers Association was also protesting throughout the month of February for promotions and other concerns. Faculty members of universities in Sindh protested against the decision of the Sindh governor to fix what they said were unjust medical allowances. On February 4, union council secretaries protested against the transfer of 20 secretaries to Karachi from Larkana. The employees of Shah Abdul Latif University have been protesting for their just remunerations since January to date. Also, in January, around 11,000 doctors who have been denied promotions in Sindh protested, as did the Pakistan Veterinary Medical Association, representing 2,000 jobless doctors. On January 7, the Hyderabad Action committee and villagers protested against their land being sold at throwaway prices by the government, who claimed ‘qabza’ on their lands.
This shows that if Sindh government employees are mostly protesting against their own government, the Sindh government is hardly being productive. None of these concerns is worrying the government, simply because its incompetence is keeping it well-occupied.
It is high time that civil society noticed these worrying trends. Parliament’s utility as well as the executive’s governance is under serious doubt, since they are turning a blind eye to all these protests.
Published in The Express Tribune
Recently, I submitted a constitutional petition in the Peshawar High Court challenging Article 63 A (1) (b) of the 18th Amendment. This article defines disqualification of parliamentarians when they vote or abstain from voting in the House, contrary to any direction issued by the Parliamentary Party on election of the prime minister or the chief minister, on a vote of confidence, or on a money or constitutional bill.
The argument in the petition states that this Article, in effect, breaches guaranteed fundamental rights, violates representative government and is in violation of Article 4, 14, 17, 19, 25, 55, 63(2), 66, 95, 127.
The 14th Amendment in 1997 inserted Article 63-A, which accepted disqualification when there is violation of party constitution, code of conduct or declared policies. Through Article 62 A (2), it gave powers to the disciplinary committee of the party to decide the matter. This provision was deleted via the Legal Framework Order (LFO) of 2002, giving dictatorial powers to the party head and also imposing unreasonable restrictions on freedom of speech of members. The same was continued by the 18th Amendment.
The LFO strengthened the anti-floor crossing Article which was maintained in the 18th Amendment. However, the deletion of Article 17 (4) of the LFO 2002 in the 18th Amendment proved to be anti-democratic; in that it overlooked the possibility of parties not holding internal elections. The post-18th Amendment Article 63-A (1) b was counter-productive for democratic legislation because it insisted on “any direction issued by the parliamentary party” versus the more democratic concept of party policy as determined by the entire party. The omission of a party disciplinary committee from the said Article was a further regression from earlier legislation on the same.
This Article also violated the principle that a member had a right to complete his tenure in the Assembly unless it was lawfully terminated. Any legislation which could be used as an instrument by a party head or political party to cut short a tenure of a member on pretext of violation of his direction would prima facie be regarded as a violation of fundamental rights.
The constitutional committee members misled the rest of parliament into signing off on certain anti-democratic Articles. There are many issues on which I, as a parliamentarian, could have strong individual views. These views, if at any point compromised, could reduce my position to that of a puppet of the party versus being a representative of my people. So if parliament is making anti-democratic laws then these need to be checked. An MP’s duty is to the people and, as a consequence, to his or her party — not the other way around.
Published in The Express Tribune
Who is a terrorist? A leader like Mohtarma Shaheed Benazir Bhutto who blocked the Punjab-Sindh border at Kamoo Shaheed many years back, for three hours against the Kalabagh Dam project, and then had to face the wrath of dictatorial forces via false criminal cases? Or a parliamentarian who blocked the same spot for 22 hours on March 23, 2011 for the implementation of Supreme Court orders of minimum wage and regularisation for the frontline MDG force of lady health workers (LHW)? Or those VIPs who actually block Supreme Court orders?
The point is, do bureaucrats being used by the corrupt in power not realise they will face God’s wrath for spreading false cases, and that soon these corrupt forces will be out of their ruling palaces?
I blocked the border at the invitation of, and alongside, thousands of LHWs at two in the morning on March 23 after having failed to get implemented Supreme Court orders and government promises with regard to the salaries of Lady Health Workers, made to the Assembly in June 2010. And for that, I am now a terrorist and so are these vaccinators who keep our mothers and children safe from all lethal diseases.
It has been alleged that as a result of the protest, two individuals died. These accusations are far from the truth. All emergency cases were given safe passage by the lady health workers’ special driver team assigned for this purpose. And I am a witness to that. When the media demanded to see the bodies of the two people allegedly killed, the bodies could not be produced and this has been duly reported. Ambulances intercepted in the blockade by the media clearly showed pillows stuffed under white sheets, made to look like dead bodies.
The real terrorists are, in fact, those who deny poor professionals their salaries whilst they themselves are enjoying the good life with the stolen wealth of taxpayers. The real terrorists are those who loot the country’s wealth via development funds. They are those who appease extremists for fear of losing their government seats; who misuse international donations meant for the health of Pakistanis; who live VIP lives off taxpayers’ funds; and who looted, beat up and tear-gassed women fighting for their constitutional rights that day in Kamoo Shaheed. Perhaps one day, there will be laws in Pakistan which will declare all such people terrorists and then the police will not waste its time chasing innocent women instead of hardened criminals.
The so-called democratic government is so knee-deep in minting money that it ends up subjecting all peaceful protesters on the roads of Pakistan, such as teachers, doctors, nurses and LHWs, to terrorism. It is high time the wrath of the common man reaches the palaces of the looters rather than the huts of the victims.
Published in The Express Tribune,
In 2009 the government proposed a faulty bill on cybercrime legislation namely, The Prevention of Electronic Crime Ordinance (PECO). My colleague in the National Assembly, Anusha Rehman, and I opposed its passing in the Information Technology Standing Committee in 2009, and proposed certain critical amendments to make the bill, human rights and international convention compliant.
Unfortunately, those recommendations were not taken up and an attempt to pass it on the floor of the house was made soon afterwards. When we successfully blocked those efforts, the prime minister decided to form a select committee of the National Assembly to deal with the issue. We were encouraged to think that the voice of reason had worked and government had decided to review the faulty legislation, which would have made Pakistan an international pariah and a police state. However, we were purposefully not included in that select committee, which to date has produced no legislation and is responsible for Pakistan not having cyber crime legislation.
Recently, I attended a conference on cyber crime in Colombo, organised by the Council of Europe. It became clear that we had taken the correct stand and had PECO been passed in its current format, many incidents of human rights abuse and failed prosecutions would have ensued.
Here are a few examples of possible abuse scenarios (all names are hypothetical) presented to us by experts under the current legislation: 1. Ahmed is a professor in a university. His computer gets infected with a virus overnight which results in spam being generated from his computer. Under the present law, an investigation officer can arrest him with a warrant, seize his computer and the university’s main server. If the spam is received in the computers of a bank, or post office, or any government’s office, Ahmed can be arrested without warrant for a non-bailable offence. 2. Mr Ali is a politician. His opponent lodges a false FIR that he received an email from Mr Ali asking the opponent to join in a public rally that will cause damage to public property. Mr Ali can be charged with cyber terrorism and can be arrested without a warrant for a non-bailable offence. His computer along with all the information and data can be seized by the FIA without a warrant. Later, at the police station, his computer can be ‘infected’ by a dishonest investigation officer to make it appear as if Mr Ali is involved in cyber crimes. There is no protection in the law currently against such fabricated electronic evidence. And the offence is non-bailable.
The government should immediately reconstitute that select committee so that the legislation can be made internationally compliant with regard to standards on data protection and privacy. It should conduct executive capacity-building in terms of law-enforcement training and it should set up a parliamentary regional advisory group and an international cyber crime task force.
Published in The Express Tribune
We take for granted that certain corrupt practices and injustices are ingrained in our system and will never be eliminated, so we let them be. As a nation, we all witness or hear about many injustices through our media, but we don’t react strongly enough. A few of us react, but that reaction is so little and so late that the systemic faults remain.
Society as a whole does not react. If it were to react with enough pressure, the issue would not only be resolved immediately but would also not occur again. Vibrant societies keep their governments on track. They do not wait for ineffective parliaments to continue debating issues indefinitely. Vibrant societies keep a check on the parliament and the executive by forcing them to fix issues. They realise that relying on a parliament that plays by the elitist standards of ‘you cover my corruption and I will cover yours’, is not the way forward.
There is a lot of talk of looking at the Middle East, and how the people there have awoken. The issue in Pakistan is that we are told we have a functional parliamentary democracy and thus the Middle Eastern awakening won’t happen here. There is a false sense of hope that, since parliament exists, there is space to let the steam off. Whilst this is technically true, it is, in fact, very misleading. A parliament which protects the interests of the corrupt across political parties cannot give justice.
What will it take for people to come out on the roads? In January, when I stood with lady health workers outside the Governor House in Karachi, I saw 300 women fighting for their rights, accompanied by the faithful Pakistani media. As I sat with them, I thought about how they served their country, but when their salaries were not paid, nobody showed up in their support. Had the people of Karachi joined these workers, their issue could have been resolved.
The conclusion is that in Pakistan only the directly affected come out on the streets. Were civil society to join them, and share their pain, their struggle would be far more productive.
I have taken part in a lot of protests in my three years in politics. They have been painfully slow at getting the desired results. I often reflect on the small number of people who turned up at these protests. Even in the long march from Quetta to Islamabad, which was meant to address the issue of government employees emoluments, only a fraction of the affected people showed up to protest.
Why doesn’t a greater majority turn up to protest on the streets? Perhaps because we have become used to living in the midst of injustice. Perhaps because we have become used to our fate not changing. We need to believe that a fellow Pakistani’s pain is our pain and we need to react jointly. Only unity gets results. What will it take for you to react? When injustice strikes at your own doorstep?