Israel’s strategic holocaust

Posted by FS On Saturday, 30 November 2013 0 comments

Mahmoud Khousa was 13 when he died. He was killed last November by an Israeli drone-fired missile on the last day of Operation Pillar of Defence, an eight-day Israeli military offensive on the Gaza Strip. More than 30 Palestinian children were killed. Yet one year on, despite well-documented evidence of war crimes and serious violations of international humanitarian law, there has been no accountability and no justice for Mahmoud’s family.
Israel’s military policy toward Gaza is one of deterrence. Just last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking to the Israeli military Gaza division and marking the one-year anniversary of the assault, declared, “Deterrence is achieved by the enemy’s knowing that we will not tolerate attacks on our communities and our soldiers, and that we will respond in great strength.” The “great strength” that Mr. Netanyahu refers to is also known as disproportionate force.
Since 2006, the Israeli military has sought to achieve “deterrence” by implementing something known as the “Dahiya doctrine,” or “the application of disproportionate force and the causing of great damage and destruction to civilian property and infrastructure, as well as suffering to civilian populations.” It derives its name from the Hezbollah-controlled neighbourhood of Dahiya in Beirut, which Israeli forces leveled in the summer of 2006 during its assault on Lebanon. Following Operation Cast Lead in December 2008 to January 2009, which resulted in the death of over 350 children, the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict found Israeli practices consistent with this doctrine.
The eight days of Operation Pillar of Defence were characterised by disproportionate force directed atgovernment and civilian infrastructure, residential neighbourhoods, and, in the case of Mahmoud, individual civilians. According to B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organisation, 167 Palestinians diedduring the offensive, with 80 percent of uninvolved fatalities occurring in the last four days of the operation. In the deadliest single attack, 10 members of the al-Dalou family, including five children ages 1 to 14, were killed in an air strike that levelled the family home, according to evidence collected by Defence for Children International Palestine.
During the November offensive, the Israeli military relied heavily on unmanned aerial vehicles or drones to carry out many of the reported 1,235 strikes on the Gaza Strip. Israeli aerial drones are equipped with advanced sensors and cameras that “provide a clear image in real time of people on the ground, day and night,” according to Human Rights Watch. Rather than being indiscriminate, “Israeli strikes are conducted in a precise and surgical manner,” according to an Israeli military spokesperson statement issued during the attacks.
On November 21, 2012, Mahmoud Khousa was a victim of that precision in the street outside his home in Gaza City. Around 2 pm, he left his home to buy a pencil for his sister in a nearby shop. While walking in the street, which was reportedly calm with no military activity, he was targeted and killed by a drone-fired missile.
While both Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza unlawfully targeted civilians during the offensive, the use of drones in attacks on civilians, particularly children, is extremely troublesome. Israeli authorities boast that drones enable them “to carry out the most precise surgical strikes,” which suggests that Mahmoud was intentionally targeted and killed by an Israeli soldier that would have been able to seethat he was a child, according to Amnesty International.
Since the outbreak of the second intifada in 2000, more than 1,000 children have been killed as a result of repeated Israeli military offensives on Gaza. The current regime of collective punishment implemented through a six-year-old blockade, targeted assassinations and regular military offensives all but guarantees the situation for Gaza’s children will continue to deteriorate.
In a context where systemic impunity is the status quo, the need for justice and accountability is urgent. One year on from Operation Pillar of Defence, there has been no independent, impartial investigation into Mahmoud’s killing or any of the other civilian deaths.

On a cold autumn day, people waited for long hours at the airport to welcome the men behind the deal. Senior government officials, members of parliament and most importantly, a large crowd of ordinary Iranians were among those welcoming home Iran’s nuclear negotiating team. It was an “enriched welcome”, as one Iranian described it cheerfully.
Iranians had been closely, and nervously, following the Geneva talks over the past couple of weeks, with high expectations for positive results. They were hopeful that with the gradual lifting of the crippling international sanctions, the economy would improve and so would their living conditions.
As the officials were in line to congratulate Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and his team, hundreds of cheering crowds, carrying flowers and Iranian flags, chanted slogans: “Welcome back, hero diplomat”, “Peace be upon Mohammad, the honour of the nation is back”, “No war, no sanctions, no insult, no surrender”, “Long live Khamenei, long live Rouhani”.
While Zarif received a hero’s welcome at the airport, a newspaper report said that he had become a champion online, with his Facebook post informing his nearly 700,000 followers that a deal had been struck, receiving some 165,000 likes.
Support from higher up
Shortly after the news broke, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in a message addressed to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said the historic deal would “open new horizons”. He also thanked Khamenei for his support and guidance, and praised the Iranian nation’s support for his administration. “Undoubtedly, this breakthrough is the result of God’s blessings, the Leader’s guidelines and unwavering support of the Iranian nation,” he said.
Rouhani hailed the “recognition of Tehran’s right to enrich uranium by the world powers” as one of the achievements of the deal. Khamenei in response, hailed the nuclear deal sealed between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – US, Russia, China, UK, France – plus Germany. He thanked Iran’s negotiating team, describing their achievement as “praiseworthy”.
 Interestingly, however, Basij commander Mohammad Reza Naqdi was not very optimistic: “Except for solving the problem of money circulation in international banks and the question of Iran’s oil sales, our other economic problems would not be resolved by negotiations.”
One conservative MP, Ahmad Tavakoli sounded optimistic. He said that one great wall that has been taken down is the P5+1 bowing down to Iran’s uranium enrichment right.
Several conservative outlets, however, focused on the impediments in the way of implementing the accord, saying the United States was “untrustworthy”. Reports of people’s expression of joy were reported mostly by reformist and moderate newspapers. “This is Iran. Everyone is happy,” the reformist Etemad [Pr] said in a report from cities across the country, as well as social media networks, while highlighting that many people had stayed awake through the night into Sunday morning to hear the good news.
Ghanoon daily said in an editorial column that the nuclear deal, clinched after long years of crisis, brought special joy to the people and had a positive impact on the market.
The Persian daily Iran [Pr], the mouthpiece of the government, hailed Rouhani administration’s record with this front page headline: “Overcoming the 10-year crisis in 100 days.”
Mixed reactions
Among the nearly two dozen media outlets, conservative Kayhan and Vatan-e Emrooz papers adopted a more critical tone.
Kayhan [Pr] said the agreement had already been breached by “untrustworthy” Washington, pointing to US Secretary of State John Kerry’s assertion that nowhere in the deal is Iran’s so-called “right to enrichment” recognised.
It also echoed remarks by Iran’s supreme leader, thanking the nuclear negotiators for not bowing to “the excessive demands” of Western powers.
The headline run by Vatan-e Emrooz [Pr] read: “Zarif insists, Kerry denies”, in reference to whether Iran’s right to enrichment was stipulated in the accord.
In a press conference in Geneva after the deal was announced, Zarif insisted, “people should stop threatening to use force because that option is no longer on the table”, and the agreement recognises the “inalienable right” of Iran to be able to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes.
Kerry shot back minutes later, “This first step does not say that Iran has a right to enrichment.”
A senior Obama administration official backed up Kerry’s comments, saying flatly, “The document does not say anything about recognising the right to enrich uranium. We do not recognise their right to enrich uranium.”
The way forward
The nuclear deal is a positive first step, but will undoubtedly have critics in Iran, the US, Europe and the Middle East. We can expect even louder voices of opposition from all sides, to this accord in the coming days and weeks.
After this diplomatic victory, Iranians are now waiting to see if this agreement would have a positive impact on the economy and consequently their lives. Will it reduce inflation, unemployment and high commodity prices, and give breathing space to the lower and middle income classes?
Iranians hope that the government of “hope and prudence” will make this happen, albeit at a slower pace than they had hoped.
The Geneva talks were an historic turn for Iran’s diplomatic efforts which, after an arduous period of negotiations, were successful thanks to the skill of Iran’s negotiating team.
What remains to be done over the next six months of probation is for both sides to remain faithful to their commitments, refrain from propaganda warfare, and not yield to outside pressures in their attempts to bring this process to fruition. And let’s not forget that it always takes two to tango, or in this case, seven!

Re-mapping the Middle East

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The agreement to resolve the Iranian nuclear programme could rewrite the political map of the Middle East and North Africa, as well as strengthen the US pivot to Asia. It could also reintegrate Iran into the international community as a legitimate regional power.
IF ALL goes well, the preliminary agreement between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia – plus Germany, would ensure the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme and ultimately reintegrate it into the international community. In doing so, it would not only remove the threat of a debilitating war with Iran and prevent a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and North Africa but also return the Islamic republic to the centre stage of the region’s geo-politics.
It would force regional powers such as Israel and Saudi Arabia to focus on their most immediate issues rather than use the Iranian threat as a distraction, while offering the US the opportunity to revert to its stated policy of pivoting from Europe and the Middle East to Asia.
Complex panacea
To be sure, a resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue is not a panacea for the vast array of social, political, economic, ethnic, national and sectarian problems in the Middle East and North Africa. Political and social unrest, boiling popular discontent with discredited regimes and identity politics are likely to dominate developments in the region for years to come.
Nonetheless, Iran’s return to the international community is likely to provide the incentive for it to constructively contribute to ending the bitter civil war in Syria, breaking the stalemate in fragile Lebanon where the Shiite militia Hezbollah plays a dominant role, and furthering efforts to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians. That would also take some of the sting out of the region’s dangerous slide into sectarian Sunni-Shiite conflict.
All of that would reduce the number of fires in the Middle East and North Africa that the Obama administration has been seeking to control and that have prevented it from following through on its intended re-focus on Asia.
Countering US policy
A resolution of the nuclear issue offers Iran far more than the ultimate lifting of crippling international sanctions. Iran has over the last decade been able to effectively counter US policy in the Middle East and North Africa through its support of Hezbollah which is the single most powerful grouping in Lebanon; Hamas, the Islamist Palestinian faction in Gaza; its aid to the embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad; backing of restive Shiite minorities in the oil-rich Gulf states and Iraq; and ensuring that the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki looks as much toward Tehran as it does to Washington.
Iran’s incentive to become more cooperative is the fact that resolution of the nuclear issue would involve acknowledgement of the Islamic republic as a legitimate regional power, one of seven regional players – alongside Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Pakistan – that have the ability or economic, military and technological strength to project power. It would also allow Iran to capitalise on geostrategic gains it has made despite its international isolation.
Iran is likely to be further motivated by an easing and ultimate lifting of the sanctions that will allow it to address boiling domestic social and economic discontent. President Hassan Rouhani’s election earlier this year has for now replaced that powder keg with high expectations that his more moderate policies would ease the heavy economic price Iran was paying for its nuclear programme. This is despite many Iranians feeling disappointed that Iran will reap only US$7 billion in benefits from the freshly concluded agreement in the coming six months. The $7 billion serve, however, as an incentive for Iran to come to a comprehensive and final agreement on its nuclear programme.
From spoiler into a constructive player
What worries opponents of the nuclear deal like Israel and Saudi Arabia most is the potential transformation of Iran from a game spoiler into a constructive player. The nuclear deal removes the Islamic republic as the foremost perceived threat to the national security of Israel and Saudi Arabia. For Israel, this risks peace with the Palestinians reclaiming its position at the top of the agenda, making it more difficult for the Israelis to evade the painful steps needed to end a conflict that is nearing its centennial anniversary.
For Saudi Arabia, it complicates its efforts to fuel regional sectarianism, deflect calls for equitable treatment of its Shiite minority as well as for greater transparency and accountability, and establish itself as the region’s unrivalled leader.
Nowhere is that likely to be more evident than in Iranian policy towards Syria. Contrary to perception and what Saudi Arabia and its allies would like the world to believe, Iranian-Syrian relations are not based on sectarianaffinity but on common interests stemming from international isolation. That reality changes as Iran rejoins the international community.
For the US, a deal means evading at least for now the threat of another Middle East war with potentially catastrophic consequences and enlisting Iran in addressing the region’s problems. That creates space for it to focus on long term goals in Asia.
However, in removing Iran as a regional lightning rod, the US is likely to be forced to clearly define a Middle East policy that balances short term national security with the reality of years of regional volatility and unrest to come that could redraw some national borders and is likely to involve messy political and social transitions, following the toppling in recent years of autocrats in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen and the civil war in Syria.
By James M. Dorsey

James M. Dorsey is a Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University. He is also co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog and a forthcoming book with the same title.

Pakistan’s Dilemma: Choosing Justice or Lawlessness

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Innocent victims of drone strikes wait in vain for humanity to choose justice over lawlessness.
Ashraf, like his father, makes clay-pots for a paltry living in his village in North Waziristan. He has wrinkled skin, sun-scorched hands, and perpetually moist eyes; at least ever since his wife and two children were killed in a drone strike last year. Last week, during a discussion on the illegality of drone attacks, I had the opportunity to sit across the table from him.
Having listened to my initial discourse on the US’ obligations under international law and Pakistan’s responsibility to protect the constitutional rights of its citizens, Ashraf interrupted, “Can you tell me which book of law, what constitutional article, I could have used to swat the drone that killed my family?”
The room went silent.
“There is no such thing as the ‘law’,” he continued, speaking to a small discussion group organised by members of the Lahore Bar Association, “Because if there were, both Obama and Sharif would be convicted for the murder of my family.”
Drone attacks are a reality in the modern “war on terror”. While they have been successful in killing some terror suspects, they have also – indisputedly – resulted in the loss of innocent lives. And as much as some of us wish otherwise, drone strikes are not ending anytime soon.
The nameless victims, of unknown culpability, are denied even the most basic tenants of natural justice: due-process of law, legal finding of fact, and right to a fair trial.
But was Ashraf correct in his assessment: Is law, either by design or desire, impotent in the face of the drone doctrine? What law, if any, governs the US drone policy? Can the law be used as a shield against them? Or are we just fooling ourselves with this rhetoric of legal contours?
Legality of strikes
The first issue requiring analysis is whether unilateral drone strikes by the US amount to a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty? In this regard, Article 2(4) of the UN Charter prohibits, “the threat or use of force” by one state against another.
Two exceptions, however, exist: If the host state consents; or, if the force is used in self-defence against an attack or imminent threat, and the host state is unwilling to take appropriate actions.
There is no confusion that, at least “officially”, the State of Pakistan does not consent to the use of drones. Also, having lost hundreds of soldiers in counter-terrorism operations, it cannot be claimed that Pakistan is “unwilling” to act against militants (even if such actions are deemed inadequate by the West).
Furthermore, at no point has the US demonstrated “imminent threat” that warrants any particular drone strike.
As a result, none of the exceptions of the UN charter are met, and the drone strikes unmistakably violate the sovereignty of Pakistan.
Even if the US rhetoric of acting in self-defence (during an armed conflict) were conceded, there would still be the minor inconvenience of complying with International Humanitarian Law (IHL). Specifically, the legality of drone strikes must be judged against the principles of “distinction” (between combatants and civilians) and “proportionality” (the quantum of force used).
Under IHL, force can only be used against “combatants” – individuals who “directly participate” in hostilities; mere membership in some armed group, or suspect behaviour, does not constitute direct participation. And even against combatants, only such force can be used as is (minimally) necessary to prevent further militancy.
Suspicious kill lists 
Applying these standards to drone strikes in Pakistan reveals palpable illegality. The US, according to its own claims, either uses the drones to target specific and known individuals on a “kill list”, or (more recently) carries out “signature strikes” – attacks on unidentified victims, whose appearance or behaviour seems suspicious.
Since the US has refused to disclose how a person is put on the kill list, or exactly what behaviour is “suspicious” enough to trigger a signature strike, there is absolutely no way of ensuring that only combatants are being targeted.
The nameless victims, of unknown culpability, are denied even the most basic tenants of natural justice: due-process of law, legal finding of fact, and right to a fair trial.
Also, with increasing reports of second missile strikes that target rescuers, there can be no dispute that the force used is far from being proportionate in nature.
Stripped of legal protection, and shrouded in a policy of non-disclosure, the US drone strikes are nothing more than a superpower violating another nation’s sovereignty and killing its people… simply because it can. In a sinister world of conflicting national interests, the drones set a deplorable precedent of target-killing, that can easily spill over to conflicts such as Israel and Palestine, and the Korean DMZ.
Ashraf, and others like him across forgotten corners of the world, have staked their lives on the promise that our humanity will choose justice over lawlessness.
On the receiving end of Hellfire missiles, are the (frequently innocent) people of Pakistan – citizens of a sovereign country who, while unable to find protection under international law, are still afforded their domestic constitutional rights.
Specifically, the State of Pakistan is constitutionally obligated to protect the life (Article 9) and dignity (Article 14) of every individual within its realm.
Toothless ruling?
Accordingly, in April, the Peshawar High Court declared drone strikes to be a violation of international law and fundamental rights and, inter alia, ordered the government to shoot-down any drones over Pakistani airspace, along with considering cutting-off  “all ties” with the US. While Pakistan has flirted with the idea of protesting against drones by blocking the NATO supply lines to Afghanistan, implementing the High Court decision is a tall order; one that the government, either out of fear or compulsion, seems unable to do.
And this impotence on the part of the government of Pakistan to protect its people, leaves the hapless inhabitants of North Waziristan at the appalling mercy of drone operators sitting in their cubicles in Virginia.
A dispassionate assessment would thus reveal that Ashraf was right: There is no law that could have prevented the murder of his family, and there is none that can now bring the perpetrators to account.
Being a superpower affords US the privilege to stretch the law whenever suitable, or ignore it altogether when needed, without any real consequence, except muted criticism from distant corners of an irrelevant world. And the feeble State of Pakistan can do nothing more than stretch out its bloodstained hand for more aid dollars.
Without threat of consequences, there is no reason, in logic or law, for the US to discontinue or even reassess its drone policy.
Appeal to their better nature
But the empire of law governs through its moral authority. Unlike Hellfire missiles, law has no explosives in its arsenal. Its fragile dominion is held together by the fidelity of those who choose to submit to its majesty… not because they have to, but because they are free not to.
Ashraf, and others like him across forgotten corners of the world, have staked their lives on the promise that our humanity will choose justice over lawlessness; that the embrace of our collective conscience will mend their broken lives. That the light of law will vanquish the darkness of their days.
At the moment, though, we – all of us – are failing them.
By Saad Rasool
Saad Rasool is a lawyer based in Lahore. He has a masters in Constitutional Law from Harvard Law School.


On rogue intelligence agencies

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For a while now, the premier intelligence agency of a nuclear armed state has been conducting itself in a dangerous manner. The agency has spent enormous amounts of money to carry out terrorist activities on foreign soil, destabilise democratic governments in an attempt to increase its spheres of influence, kidnap and torture civilians without due process, and has assassinated individuals deemed unfriendly.
This agency, for all intents and purposes, has gone rogue.
The country in question itself has a tarnished record. It constantly violates human rights and international laws, has been responsible for various wars which it has many times unilaterally initiated or instigated. It also has a history of financially and politically supporting dictatorial regimes.
The rogue agency in question, is the CIA. And the country in question, is the United States of America (USA).
The tools by which we determined that the agency has gone rogue have the ones used by the US to categorise other agencies.
The US used these tools, in their most famous example, to claim that the Pakistani-run intelligence agency ISI has gone rogue. To argue their point, they have cited the following two examples, among others.
First, the US claimed that the ISI cannot be reined in by its civilian governments; that it instead jealously guards its operations and even spies on its civilian government.
Secondly, the US went as far as to say that the ISI does not even answer to the Pakistani military. The US claimed that the operations of the ISI, like allegedly supporting the Taliban and other terrorist organisations, was contrary to public statements by the Pakistani military establishment.
The US has categorically stated that as such, the ISI had become a ‘state within a state’.
The allegations, for the most part, do ring true. And they are as true for the ISI as they are for the CIA (and now the ISI).
The CIA fit both these criterion and has demonstrated its independence from the American civilian government and military, when during several congressional hearings, it has repeatedly refused to hand over control of its international drone campaign, only relenting finally to a slow transition over the course of several years. The CIA carried out drone strikes, contrary to repeated assurances by the civilian government of America’s will to adhere to international laws. And all of this comes after decades-old history of military coups, terrorism, supporting non-democratic actors and most recently, spying on American allies.
The fact that this is happening in the world’s most powerful nuclear armed state is all the more worrying.


An Appraisal Of Pakistan’s Entertainment Industry

Posted by FS On Friday, 29 November 2013 9 comments

Pakistan’s entertainment industry has been on a continuous path of decline for the past few decades,barring some developments and hits every now and then. The strict censorship laws enforced under Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamization program dealt a deathly blow to the progressive and forward-looking artistic ethos of Lollywood,the term used to refer to Pakistan’s almost-dead cinema industry. Before Zia-ul-Haq’s regime came into power,Pakistan’s Lollywood was much better than India’s Bollywood –which is now the world’s second-largest entertainment industry after America’s Hollywood –and Pakistani actors such as Waheed Murad and Muhammad Ali were South Asian icons whose talents on-screen were respected even by giants such as Amitabh Bachchan,Rajesh Kapoor,Shatrugan Sinha,and other big names of India’s cinema industry. But the fact remains that for the last twenty years,Pakistan has yet to produce a box-office blockbuster like Syed Noor’s “Chooriyan”(bangles),the only hit that Pakistan’s current generation can even think of. Pakistan’s TV industry has only generated one hit TV serial,“Humsafar”or “Woh Humsafar Tha”,a show that became a hit not only at home,but with the Pakistani expatriate community abroad as well,which was hooked to episodes of the show uploaded on Youtube –its 23 episodes were broadcast by the Pakistani TV channel Hum TV.
Now,Pakistan’s entertainment industry –the TV industry in particular,known as the “silver screen”–is vehemently decrying “foreign influences”in TV shows run by Pakistani channels,claiming that such shows do not represent Pakistan’s culture and are having a detrimental impact on the local TV show industry. The label of “foreign influences”is not ascribed to Indian TV shows and soap operas –a country which refuses to allow even Pakistani news channels to be broadcast on its airwaves –but to Turkish TV shows whose Urdu-dubbed versions have started becoming hit series in Pakistan since “Ishq-e-Mamnoo”(Aşk-ı-Memnu in Turkish) was broadcast by Urdu1 channel,and became the 9-o-clock necessity for many Pakistanis all over the country last year. The irony is that Turkish TV shows with a quasi-European outlook –women wearing mini-skirts,and the consumption of alcohol being displayed as a part of normal life –is considered a foreign influence that does not conform to Pakistani culture,whereas Indian TV shows –which show scenes of idol-worship,heavy use of Sanskrit and Marathi language instead of Urdu or even Punjabi and,in certain cases,depict racist and communalist tendencies against Muslims to be the right thing to do –do not fall into the same category for Pakistan’s current TV show performers (who may or may not be considered icons and legends) like Samina Ahmad,Usman Peerzada,Firdos Jamal,Maria Wasti,Ghulam Muhiuddin,Shaukat Ali,Sardar Kamran,Irfan Mughal and Rashid Mahmood,who came out on the streets to protest what they called “foreign influences”in December 2012.
The broadcasting of the dubbed version of Turkey’s “Aşk-ı-Memnu”by Urdu1 as “Ishq-e-Mamnoo”–the first instance of a Turkish TV show being shown in Pakistan,and the most watched of TV shows from that country thus far –cannot really be termed as cultural collaboration between Pakistan and Turkey’s entertainment industries:what really riled up Pakistan’s TV show industry was that the broadcasting of a dubbed TV serial cost much,much less than the production of a locally-shot and directed TV show with Pakistani actors and actresses,all of whom had to be paid along with the production staff (the dubbed TV shows only required payment to the people doing voice-overs,as well as the audio editing staff). Therefore,the costs of a dubbed TV show were much less than producing a home-grown TV show with a unique,local script,and when the former acquired more popularity than the latter,it was obvious that TV industry personalities came out on the streets to protect and save their own sources of income using the abovementioned (and clarified) claim of “foreign influences”and the distorted definition thereof.
The story of “Aşk-ı-Memnu”/”Ishq-e-Mamnoo”is based on a book written by Halit Ziya Uşaklıgil in 1899-1900,and was been converted into a TV series as early as 1975,which is considered to be the first miniseries on Turkish television. The current version was broadcast on Kanal D between 2008 and 2010. After “Ishq-e-Mamnoo”became a nationwide hit –and increased the popularity of Urdu1 TV channel as well as Turkish TV shows manifold –in Pakistan,many other Turkish TV shows have been dubbed and broadcast on Pakistani channels:“Noor”–a hit in Turkey as well as all over the Middle East –“Intikaam”,“Muhabbat”,“Bewafai”and “Mera Sultan”on Geo Kahani,“Fatima Gul:Janay Mera Kasoor Kya”,“Kuzey Guney”and “Feriha”on Urdu1,“Woh Ishq Jo Mamnoo Na Raha”on Express TV (among others) are the latest to follow suit. Urdu1 also experimented with dubbing a Spanish TV serial –which was titled “Ik Dhund Si Chaayi Hai”–to see if it would click with the Pakistani TV audience,but to no avail. Despite that,Urdu1 made Beren Saat (who plays the character “Bihter”in “Ishq-e-Mamnoo”,and was the main character in “Fatima Gul”,and now in Geo Kahani’s “Intikaam”) a celebrity in Pakistan:now they are broadcasting “Feriha”(starring Hazal Kaya,who is the main/title character of the show,and played the role of “Nihal”in “Ishq-e-Mamnoo”) on the 9-o-clock slot to cash in and maximize on their viewership thanks to “Ishq-e-Mamnoo”and its characters,and have even restarted broadcasting “Ishq-e-Mamnoo”on the 10-o-clock slot,right after “Feriha”. Not only Turkish female celebrities,but also male celebrities like Kıvanç Tatlıtuğ –the heartthrob who played the role of playboy “Behlul”in “Ishq-e-Mamnoo”,and stars in “Noor”,“Kuzey Guney”,and “Manahil Aur Khalil:Woh Ishq Jo Mamnoo Na Raha”–have become icons in Pakistan.
But only “Mera Sultan”–a dramatization based on the life of Sultan Suleman “The Magnificent”,the tenth emperor of the Turkish empire,and the politics and intrigue of his harem –is believed to have come even close to the kind of popularity enjoyed by “Ishq-e-Mamnoo”. The TV show was broadcast as “Muhteşem Yüzyıl”or “Magnificent Century”on Show TV,and then transferred to Star TV. Muhteşem Yüzyıl is currently in its fourth season. “Muhteşem Yüzyıl”is not only being dubbed and broadcast in Pakistan,but also in over 50 countries,and it is the focus of much sociopolitical controversy in Turkey as well as in Europe and other countries abroad:even people like the Turkish Prime Minister,along with MP Oktay Saral,are critical of the depiction of the historical figures in the show,claiming that the TV show is distorting and misrepresenting Turkish historical icons,casting them in a negative light (as Turkish PM Erdoğan said) which is not historically accurate;on the other hand,countries like Greece have decried the popularity of the drama serial in their homelands (because these countries were erstwhile enemies and adversaries of the Turkish empire and the Ottoman Sultanate) –Macedonia has gone so far as to ban the broadcast of this show by local TV and cable operators –as these nations and governments use the “foreign influences”argument to oppose the broadcasting of this Turkish TV show in their home countries,which (with historical accuracy,rightfully so) depicts the empire of Turkey in a very favourable light as a rising regional power that is in the process of territorial expansion,taking over or having already subdued or supplanted European monarchies,island kingdoms in the Mediterranean Sea and other nations bordering this Sea,Middle Eastern kingdoms and fiefdoms that existed at the time,and even Russia and Central Asia in its continuing (and successful) conquests in the east. Indeed,Sultan Suleman,the son of Sultan Selim and the tenth emperor of the Turkish empire,was a very successful ruler –perhaps one of the most successful and famous of the Turkish imperatorial dynasty,since he became known as “Suleman The Magnificent”by the West and as “Suleman the Lawgiver”(Suleman Kanuni) in the East - and was responsible for the establishment and expansion of the Turkish empire under his rule to a great extent. In his 46-year reign,Sultan Suleman personally led Ottoman armies in conquering the Christian strongholds of Belgrade,Rhodes,as well as most of Hungary before his conquests were checked at the Siege of Vienna in 1529. He annexed much of the Middle East in his conflict with the Safavids and large areas of North Africa as far west as Algeria. Under his rule,the Ottoman fleet dominated the seas from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea and through the Persian Gulf. Thus,it is only natural that nations and states that have historically and geopolitically been opposed to Turkey –the Ottoman empire,or the post-WWI Turkish republic –would not be too keen to have their local audiences see Turkish history in a favourable light (and their own histories as marred with political ineptitude and military inefficiency that eventually fell under Turkish rule if not Turkish domination,or became subjects of the Turkish/Ottoman empire in one way or another).
“Mera Sultan”brings Nebahat Çehre –playing the character of “Ayesha Hafsa Sultan”,the mother of Sultan Suleman and therefore known as “Valida-e-Sultan”,who was Miss Turkey in 1960 and played the role of “Bihter”s mother “Mrs. Firdous”in “Ishq-e-Mamnoo”–and Nur Fettahoğlu –who played the role of “Bihter”‘s sister “Peyker”in “Ishq-e-Mamnoo”,and plays the role of “Mah-e-Douran”,Sultan Suleman’s first wife and the mother of his first son Prince Mustafa,in “Mera Sultan”–back to the Pakistani TV screens. However,they are overshadowed by the performance of Halit Ergenç –a well-known Turkish TV and film celebrity who expertly takes on the role of the main character,Sultan Suleman,and has also played the role of Ataturk Mustafa Kemal Pasha in the film “Dersimiz:Atatürk”,among other star perfomances on the Turkish golden and silver screen –and Meryem Uzerli –who plays the role of “Alessandra”and later given the Muslim name “Hooram Sultan”after her conversion to Islam,her successful seduction of –and eventual marriage to –the Sultan.
The role of “Hooram Sultan”is a dramatization and characteristic portrayal of Roxelana,the real second wife of Sultan Suleman The Magnificent who was given the name “Hürrem Haseki Sultan”–which means the “hoor”or heavenly/angelic woman who belongs to the Sultan (though it is also believed that her Muslim name is derived from the Persian “Khurram”,meaning “the cheerful one”) –after her marriage to the Sultan and conversion to Islam,and was the first Empress in real Turkish history to wield actual political power that was previously the sole domain of the Emperor,and other males appointed by him to his court as Vazir’s (Ministers),Mushir’s (Advisors and later Field Marshals),Pasha’s (Generals),Effendi’s (Master or Esquire),Vali’s (governors) and Bey’s ,cheiftain,son of a Pasha,or a “Sir”) of the Sultanate. “Mera Sultan”focuses more on the family and the harem of the Sultan –and the struggles and intrigues therein,which give the women of the TV show a more important and focal role than the males in the show –rather than the politics,international strategy and war history of Sultan Suleman The Magnificent.
This is not to say that Turkish –or other foreign,including Indian –TV shows are the only form of entertainment being broadcast by Pakistani TV channels and watched by the Pakistani audience. Many local TV shows continue to be broadcast,while new TV serials are being produced and launched,meeting some standards of success. The comedy TV show “Bulbulay”that was shown by ARY Digital is a nationwide attraction –making Hina Dilpazeer (who plays the role of “Momo”) a well-known celebrity in Pakistan –and other TV soap operas such as “Mera Saeen”and “Zindagi Gulzaar Hai”can be considered locally-produced hit TV series that show various aspects of Pakistani life and society (especially the continuity of feudal power in one form or another). Shows like “Teri Rah Mein Rul Gayi Weh”could not register as much success as the abovementioned.
But TV shows are not the only part of Pakistan’s entertainment industry:while the visual dimension (both TV and cinema) of the industry continue to suffer because of lack of originality,investment,or even talent,the audio industry has definitely been on the rise since over a decade. After bands like “Vital Signs”and “Junoon”brough pop and rock home to Pakistan,developing unique versions of fusion music in the country,an underground rock culture was established and was firmly entrenched in Pakistani society at the turn of the 21st century. The TV channel “Indus Music”became the MTV of Pakistan,pioneering the development of the modern music industry,and broadcasting music videos of songs both old and new. Bands such as “Noori”and “Entity Paradigm”took the cue from their predecessors and held jam-packed,sold-out concerts in the early years of the last decade,and new bands such as “Jal”,“Call”and others came out with one-hit wonders and hit singles such as “Aadat”,“Jilawatan”,“Wujud”,and other songs. As the three-member band “Junoon”broke up,the two-member band “Strings”continued to perform at home and abroad,and even at political rallies as of late. After the passing of the vocal legend Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan,his nephew,Rahat Fateh Ali Khan,has been recognized as a vocal maestro and has a dedicated fan following around the world:he is regularly booked for concerts in India,Pakistan,Canada,the U.K. and the U.S.,and contributes lead vocals to many songs for Indian movies. Sadly,no Pakistani film has been able to acquire Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s unique and coveted services,who has only sung the new theme song for Urdu1′s re-broadcast of “Ishq-e-Mamnoo”.
“Jal”band’s Atif Aslam,and the solo artist Ali Zafar,have also made a niche for themselves in India’s film industry,contributing vocals and music to many songs. Ali Zafar has also appeared in the film “Terey Bin Laden”–based on the TV reporting of former Al Qaeda supremo Osama bin Laden,and how a news team discovers an Osama lookalike and then gets him to make statements which they record and broadcast –which was banned from cinemas in Pakistan despite the fact that a Pakistani actor starred as a main role character in the Indian-produced film;the Pakistani government feared backlash from terror groups and militant outfits which either operated under Al Qaeda command,or were allied to the transnational Islamic fundamentalist terrorist group (and out of respect for the international terrorist leader,who was known as “The Sheikh”,may have targeted Pakistani cinemas with bomb blasts or other attacks had the film been screened here). While other Indian films with Indian actors and actresses continue to be screened in Pakistani cinemas,“Terey Bin Laden”has yet to be screened in such a manner.
Veena Malik,who also acquired small roles in some Indian films,became the focus of controversy for her acting and performance in Indian film songs (known as “item songs”,which are packaged and sold on the explicit or subtle display of female sexuality) –her most stinging controversy was a cover story by FHM India magazine,which contained almost-nude pictures (still a taboo in Pakistan,and an unthinkable venture for any Pakistani actress or female model to undertake,especially because of established conservative and rising extremist tendencies at home) of her:while she denied that she had posed nude for the magazine,the latter stuck by their story and published proof that she had. Nevertheless,for better or for worse,Veena Malik –who started out as the hostess of Geo TV’s comedy/satire program “Hum Sab Umeed Say Hain”–also became a celebrity in Pakistan,and later appeared on the Indian reality TV show “Bigg Boss”,for which she was also criticized (in an interview on a Pakistani news channel,she was criticized by a cleric for her actions on the show and for her alleged relations with an Indian actor,but she aggressively shot back in her defense and countered the cleric with criticism of her own –making that particular interview of that particular TV news show a widely-watched episode,and a phenomenon that was used and re-used by many who looked to popularize the open criticism of clerics as well as the novel initiative undertaken by Veena in the “ways and means”available to counter the rising power of clerics in Pakistan).
As the impact of terrorist activities increased in Pakistan,concerts not only became harder to arrange,but rising taxes on entertainment also transformed concerts into less of a lucrative and profitable venture than they were half a decade ago –it is believed that the new government in Pakistan has also introduced a tax amount to lakhs of Rupees on EACH SINGLE episode of a foreign/non-Pakistani TV show that is broadcast by a TV channel in Pakistan! Despite that,the music industry in Pakistan did not fizzle out like the cinematic or TV industry:Coca Cola,the international beverage giant,sponsored a series of live studio recordings that were later broadcast as “Coke Studio”–each episode of a season was a song performed either by an established/well-known band or vocalist/musician/performer,or by an up-and-coming/rising star in the music industry (usually a vocalist,like Bilal Khan),or by a mixture of different bands or vocalists. Almost all icons of the Pakistani music industry,belonging to all kinds of genres,participated in “Coke Studio”:from Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Abidah Parveen to Noori and EP,from Arif Lohar and Meesha Shafi to soloists/vocalists from classical/folk genres as well as bands from modern (pop/rock/fusion) genres. The episodes and seasons of “Coke Studio”became instant hits in Pakistan,whether they created/produced new songs or developed reprisals or “covers”(newer versions) of older songs that were hits of the yesteryears in Pakistan. While “Coke Studio”offered an opportunity to existing Pakistani musicians and bands to showcase their talent again and perform for the Pakistani audience at large –without fear of bomb blasts or terror attacks against such “immoral and un-Islamic”activities –it also introduced new musical talent in the country,like the Chakwal Group –a quintet of five vocalists –among others. Since the “episodes”of “Coke Studio”would usually range from three to five minutes,many channels were able to broadcast them –especially the “Coke Studio”versions of the songs that became hits after their release. “Coke Studio”also recorded behind-the-scenes interviews of the performers,the elements of the “Coke Studio”band,and the music production and recording team(s). Owing to the success of “Coke Studio”,the coffee brand “Nescafe”is also coming up with its own attempt to put some life and insert some energy into Pakistan’s music industry in a similar fashion,by currently recording the first season of “Nescafe Basement”according to sources and TV advertisments. The “Coke Studio”project and outputs were not only a hit in Pakistan:they were also noticed in India,which developed a similar audio-visual TV series called “The Dewarists”,focusing on collaboration between musicians from different backgrounds and genres to create new songs or to create new covers of old songs.
While the music industry of Pakistan shows the most promise among all the components of the country’s entertainment industry,more and more foreign TV shows –whether Turkish,or Indian,or from other countries –are being shown at home as the local TV industry fails to get a boost from any element of production,or from the TV show viewers in Pakistan who still watch dubbed versions of Turkish TV shows more than they would watch Pakistani TV shows. The cinematic industry –despite the release of some recent hits like “Bhai Log”in the past few years –seems dead and non-resuscitable when compared to Bollywood (which has completely overtaken Pakistani cinemas and home viewers,who watch bootleg versions of Indian movies on computer-operated channels run by cable operators) or to Hollywood,which has recently released a Warner Brothers’production called “Waar”,produced by Rohail Lashari and starring Pakistani film star Shaan (full name Shaan Shahid). Despite the fact that the movie is recorded in Urdu language,it remains an open discussion as to whether “Waar”is a Pakistani film,or an American film with a Pakistani cast and crew that was produced by a leading U.S. film production house –one of the biggest and oldest at that. Since “Waar”deals with the problem of extremism,terrorism and militancy in Pakistan,its release was delayed by a few years despite the fact that production and editing on the film was complete –the same thing happened with the American movie “G.I. Joe 3″,whose intro sequence was about Pakistani nuclear weapons being stolen by either the “G.I. Joe”s or the villain “Cobra”teams,and so,the film was not screened in Pakistan,despite its global popularity and spectacular ratings at the U.S. box office. Similarly,the indie film “Slackistan”,which received mixed views from audiences and somewhat unfavourable views from critics,was banned from cinema release by the Censor Board in 2011 (even though it propelled Aisha Linnea Akhtar’s career as a model for linen wear and as an actress for advertisments so far).
But the fact remains that state sensitivity and censorship is the least important (or effective,as “Waar”WAS eventually released in Pakistan,and “G.I. Joe 3″can be downloaded in the country through torrents and in spite a continuing ban on Youtube) of the impediments faced by the cinematic and TV entertainment industry. Lack or absence of investment is perhaps the biggest problem that the cinema industry faces,and this problem of raising capital is also being seen when it comes to producing TV shows. Original scripts are hard to find or develop,especially for cinema,while it is easier to develop and execute scripts for three-day theater plays (in English,in Urdu,or in multilingual format) than to do the same for Pakistani TV shows. Talent is also an issue,since the cinema industry contains the same faces that it has for the past 20 years –in a slight contrast (and show of improvement),the TV industry has brought around new faces in the last 10 years and also in the last 5 years. Shamoon Abbasi is perhaps a singular success story in Pakistan,who ascended from the Pakistani TV screens to a role in the film “Waar”alongside veteran actor Shaan. Perhaps the biggest issue facing the Pakistani cinema industry is lack of modern technology,since films are recorded and edited using obsolete equipment even today,while Hollywood and even Bollywood have developed the capacity to create sci-fi movies with 3d sequences and other state-of-the-art production elements of the modern cinematic age. When production sequences of “The Matrix”movies wowed audiences around the world,Hollywood turned yet another page in its history of technological leadership in entertainment with the release of the movie “Avatar”in 2009,which was shot completely in 3d format,and took four years for the veteran award-winning director Steven Spielberg to direct and produce. “Inception”is another movie that shows how far Hollywood has come in terms of showing movies with a sci-fi aspect,with multidimensional recording and display sequences and –most importantly –with originality in the development and execution of a movie script.
In March 2011,it was reported that a production house in Pakistan was coming up with Pakistan’s first real sci-fi movie (even though “Shanee”was released in 1989),called “Kolachi”,which was supposedly based on the end of times and nuclear holocaust or nuclear winter in Karachi,and was apparently shot in that city too –originally slated to be released in 2012 (which was incidentally assumed by many people and cultures to be the year of the apocalypse) “Kolachi”has yet to see the light of day,or even report any progress as to how far it has come and when it will be released. Even as liberal arts students in BNU and Indus Valley learn graphic designing and other advanced computer-based skills that would make them important if not indispensable assets in taking the Pakistani film industry to the next level,introducing modern techniques and applying latest,state-of-the-art tools in film production,Pakistani cinema houses and film production companies –which have themselves become victims of neglect,and have fallen into such a state of disrepair and despair that they seem powerless to get out of it and rescue their own selves and their source of livelihood –have yet to take notice of this growing local,in-house capacity in Pakistan,which is not just based on trial and error,experience and application,but is taught and studied in an academic sense at the university level by undergraduate and graduate students.
Overall,it seems that a lack of coordination and an absence of the will to introduce a systemic change –on part of the government or its agencies that look after the entertainment industry and the development and progression of local,indigenous culture;or on the part of the private sector,the film production houses,the producers and directors,the writers,the actors and actresses,even the cinema-house owners –has kept the Pakistani cinema industry in the state it has been in for the past couple of decades. One hopes that,by commission or omission,the TV industry does not fall victim to the same problems,and that the music industry –which has exported itself to more lucrative markets in India and elsewhere –can continue to thrive and boom in Pakistan:in the end,somehow,maybe the music industry can rescue the film industry if not the TV industry,by making the same contributions to Pakistani cinema that they do to Indian cinema. But that is not likely,because it is foolish to expect any sort of national service from people who work,operate and provide their services to the highest bidder in terms of pay and salaries,perks and privileges,and –most importantly,in terms of every aspect of the entertainment industry –recognition of talent.

Pakistan’s Regulatory Framework Doesn’t Work!

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Under the Musharraf regime,starting from 2002 onwards (after elections to the national and provincial assemblies were held),many new regulatory bodies and mechanisms were set up at the federal level so as to allow greater and more efficient government oversight of various economic,social,and even political spheres of life. These regulatory frameworks –whether set up as a result of negotiations or demands by international donor agencies or not –were designed to bring the state of Pakistan into the 21st century,because after the misgovernance and wholescale corruption witnessed in the 1990′s –the “decade of democracy”as it is known –both the state and the government had lost its credibility in the eyes of the general public. The best example of that is the small tax base and even lower tax collection figures that the then-Central Bureau of Revenue (now Federal Bureau of Revenue) showed in its yearly public statements –the people of Pakistan,especially the small taxpayers,did not trust the government or the state of Pakistan with their money;they did not believe that the state was adequately or effectively providing them the services that it ought to –or that their tax rupees guaranteed them;and instead of paying tax,most taxpayers (and other entities) chose to bribe employees of the government and the state in order to get any kind of work done. Even the Finance Minister of Pakistan acknowledged in 2009 that more than Rs. 500 billion worth of tax revenue was either lost (that is,not recovered by the authorities) or not properly accounted for by the tax administration and the CBR/FBR authorities. This “leakage”or hole of exorbitant proportions became a huge controversy in the Public Accounts Committee –then headed by the Leader of the Opposition,who later resigned when leakages in tax collection to the tune of the same amount continued in subsequent years.
As a result of the Pakistani state’s “modernization”after 2002,many regulatory bodies were established:the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) was created to regulate the flow of natural resources from refineries and production factories to petrol pumps and eventually the ultimate consumer;the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) was created to provide an overarching body that would regulate power tarriffs,electricity distribution among the provinces and in various cities and districts,and ensure that different electricity supply corporations (LESCO,IESCO,KESC,etc.) were operating within the rules and regulations set forth for them (and ultimately,with the public interest in mind);the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) was created to regulate the mushroom growth in electronic media,television channels,radio stations,and eventually the internet and social media –but the growing power of news media outlets practically disemboweled and emasculated this national body. However,other regulatory authorities are also not performing up to the mark,and there are various reasons for each of the bodies as to why they are not able to carry out their roles and responsibilities effectively so as to benefit the people of Pakistan.
While the PEMRA is now well-known to be scared of crossing any news media outlet,especially after the restoration of the independent judiciary under Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry –who believes that freedom of the media means continuing to report without any boundaries,and present opinions as “information”and “fact”,and report irresponsibly and in a biased manner whenever asked to do so by their corporate overlords (who pay their salaries,their executives’salaries,and for air-time on television advertisments),other regulatory authorities are no less effective. In fact,they are huge,burgeoning bureaucratic entities under the auspices of the Cabinet Division that continue to exact a toll on the taxpayers through the federal budget because they have to pay the exorbitant salaries of Directors,Joint Directors,Executive Directors,Senior Executive Directors,Members and Chairmen of these authorities.
It would not be wrong to say that these regulatory authorities –which are actually supposed to regulate different economic and bureaucratic entities while holding public interest supreme –are in fact beholden to corporate interests and to senior political figures when it comes to the due discharge of their functions. If Pakistan’s electronic media –especially news channels –was responsible and unbiased enough to report on the public interest (which it claims to do,but in fact only reports its own opinions so as to promote the interests of its various corporate backers) it would note how many illegal (as the Supreme Court had declared it so) CNG licenses were issued at the behest of political pressure on former OGRA chairman Tauqeer Sadiq –who was only caught after the Supreme Court was informed that the former chairman had amassed over Rs. 80 billion in the outright “sale”of these licenses,instead of having the licencees go through the regular channels and inspection procedures before the licenses were issued. Since OGRA regulates all downstream natural resource activity,it has recently started harassing petrol pump stations and owners and OMCs (oil marketing companies,like Shell,Chevron,PSO,etc.) with its new “Enforcement”department,even though the powers vested in the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources’Oil department and Gas department (each headed by a Director General with over thirty years of experience in both the private and public sector,as well as scientific knowledge and background of the specific natural resource in question) have not been transferred to OGRA. Some media outlets finally figured out which senior political personality Tauqeer Sadiq was related to when he was made chairman of OGRA (and heavily recommended by this personality to the then-Prime Minister,who belonged to the same political party). But media investigations or public inquiries by the government or the superior judiciary into the widespread net of corruption and harassment established by the underlings at OGRA –starting from the Joint Executive Director level all the way up to the Member level,often with the willing,unwitting or forced support of their subordinates –have yet to even start,much less see the light of day. The problem also lies in the fact that any complain regarding OGRA is filed with the regulatory authority itself:the Federal Ombudsman or the National Accountability Bureau (long defunct and dysfunctional because it is considered “Musharraf’s tool to terrorize politicians”who are now in power) does not look into either complaints made regarding OGRA,or the massive corruption (in terms of rupees as well as misuse of state power and authority) that OGRA employees are engaged in even to this day!
The NEPRA is another big pink elephant in the room that nobody talks about:if this organization was performing its tasks and functions appropriately,rather than enjoying the exorbitant,“market-competitive”salaries (not to mention perks and privileges,and ensured pensions) that were being given to its employees for NO services rendered,then Pakistan would have accurately projected –and even made preparations and contingency plans –for the electricity dimension of the energy crisis that it is now facing. Given,NEPRA is only responsible for the electricity sector,which is only a part of Pakistan’s nearly-destroyed energy sector (with long lines for CNG whenever it is available,low gas pressure on the stove,and other energy resource problems faced by consumers and the general public at home),but the most serious facet of the energy crisis was –and is –exhibited by the long and often unannounced electricity outages (or “loadshedding”,as the term has now become known throughout the nation) which result in unnecessary pain and planning to the home consumer,which borders on psychological trauma. The economy has also suffered immensely because of consistent electricity outages,rendering large factories useless and putting hundreds if not thousands of daily-wage labourers out of work. Those factories which have developed workarounds –like petrol-powered or gas-powered generators –have had to see increased costs in operations,or received notices from the government saying that they cannot use gas for generating electricity in their factories. This has led to a mass exodus of industries and factories from Pakistan to other countries which are also facing energy crises,but have effective mechanisms in place so as to ensure that the industrial and manufacturing sector bears little to no brunt of the “loadshedding”or of interruptions in power/electricity supply. While the employees of NEPRA continued to earn their salaries for every month in the past decade,the divergence between electricity demand and electricity supply grew slowly and steadily,until it reached a point where cities would receive electricity for less than one-thirds of a day,and rural areas for only a few hours every day. Despite a renewed focus (by the government,not NEPRA) towards energy conservation,power generation (including the controversial Rental Power Projects or RPPs),and scheduled timings of power outages or “loadshedding”,the seasonal variation of Pakistan’s electricity shortfall lies anywhere between 4,000MW to 6,000MW. Politicians who love to dwell in the past raise the issue of Kalabagh dam –of support for it or opposition towards it –claiming that had the large dam been constructed,Pakistan would not have been facing the electricity problems it is facing today. And as for Thar coal and the vast amounts of coal discovered in that area –and government claims that the coal will be used for energy creation and electricity generation –any viable or concrete step to that effect has yet to be taken,and when it does,it will not bear fruit before four or five years of hard work and meticulous attention to the details of any Thar coal-related project that will serve the public interest and turn the electricity shortfall into an electricity surplus.
So what should the government do with the regulatory agencies that have fallen into its lap,which have failed to modernize the state or offer a chance for more effective governance,and which have failed to protect and promote public interest while they only protect corrupt bureaucrats and promote their exorbitant salaries and state-provided perks and privileges? Should the government do away with these federal regulatory mechanisms altogether,and let the provinces develop their own regulatory bodies –since major powers have been devolved to the provinces under the 18th Amendment –or should the government overhaul each and every single one of these regulatory authorities and revise their rules and regulations,their modes of operation,and most importantly,shuffle their staff in terms of merit and competency while kicking out those who have abused their powers and those who have no experience or reason for being in their posts?
According to the simplest definition of democracy,it is a government “for the people,by the people,of the people”,but in more than 60 years of independent governance,Pakistan’s state has yet to shake off its post-colonial tendencies,outlook and persona. In the 21st century,a modern democratic government is elected by the people,and is formed of people who belong to –or are from –those who elect them,and finally,the modern democratic government works for the people,the general public;it works day and night for their benefit,for their progress and prosperity,and to ensure a better future for the people who elected them (as well as those who did NOT elect them),their children,and their children’s children. The government is not just a name or an entity:it is a large mechanism,a framework in itself which –if deemed illegitimate by the people it governs –has no right to exist in the first place,paving way for a revolution (violent or otherwise) as the Arab Spring has shown.

    Only time will tell whether the rulers of Pakistan –those who govern Pakistan,those who are in the government of Pakistan –realize what a modern democracy is made of,what their electors want,and how to choose and progress on a path which would be a veritable means of achieving an end where the people of Pakistan enjoy prosperity,justice and peace. Because without prosperity and justice,there can be no peace…