‘150,811 Arm Licences Issued in past Three Years’
KARACHI, Sept 15: Sindh Home Minister Manzoor Hussain Wasan said on Thursday that over the past 10 years a total of 188,155 arm licences had been issued while since the creation of Pakistan till August 2011, a total of 899,386 licences had been issued.
Mr Wasan stated this while talking to a group of journalists in his office in the Sindh Secretariat when his attention was drawn towards the claim made by his predecessor Dr Zulfikar Mirza that during his period of over three years he had issued 300,000 arm licences to the people in the province after verification of their character by the police.
Mr Wasan told Dawn that under government rules there was no restriction on the number of firearm licences issued to people in a month.
The minister enjoyed the similar powers as the chief minister, who had the discretion of issuing unlimited arm licences, he added. However, he pointed out, it was the home secretary who could not issue more than 200 licences in a month.
He said that he had asked the home department to provide exact figures of the licences issued during the PPP government since 2008 till August 2011.
According to the record in the department, a total of 150,811 licences were issued during the present PPP government.
This total included the figures of those licences which were issued by the chief minister and the home secretary as well, Mr Wasan added.
“If you want exact figures of licences which were issued by the then home minister [Dr Mirza], they could be made available later, but according to a rough estimate, the figures could be around 100,000 or so,” Mr Wasan added.
Replying to the question as to the difference in the figures stated by Dr Mirza and him, he said: “You could refer your question to Mirza Sahib. As a home minister I can only provide the figures from the record available with the home department.”
Inside Zardari’s mind, the update
IT’S a deep, dark place but it’s still running the show, so down the rabbit hole we must go.
The arrogant Zardari will be grinning smugly. Sharif, the only political rival who matters, has been cleverly corralled into a small patch of Punjab.
The paranoid Zardari will be seeing shapes in the shadows. The boys in uniform are trying to recover their image down in Karachi, but is there more to it?
But it’s the cunning, ruthless, calculating Zardari that will be dominating. Believing the biggest prize of them all — the next general election — is within his grasp, he’ll be scheming and plotting and willing to do whatever it takes to win.
And he’ll be feeling pretty good about his chances.
He may just be right. Here’s why.
To steal an election, a civilian has to neutralise three players: the army, the main political rival and the outside powers. If two of those factors gang up against you, you’re good as gone.
Zardari thinks he can pull it off and clear a path to emulating ZAB in 1977. Once rivals and threats are neutralised, he plans to use money, patronage, fear and control of local administrations and the interim set-up to sweep to victory. It will be ugly, it will be nasty, it will be vintage Zardari, the man he’s skilfully hidden behind the avatar of Zardari the democrat the last three-and-a-half years.
Sharif has proved the easiest to marginalise. Ever the opportunist, Zardari has used history to his advantage — Sharif is fixated on October 1999 and the army is unsettled by the prospect of him coming to power — by playing on the mutual suspicion and dislike between Sharif and the army.
Power is what all politicians, big or small, crave. With Sharif looking like a loser — who has taken on the army so forcefully and come to power? — Zardari has become that much more attractive to the bit players and freelance politicians. Come campaign season, Zardari will accelerate the process of attracting winning candidates to the PPP honey pot, leaving Sharif more isolated than ever.
The army is a slightly trickier proposition.
When Zardari looks their way, he knows what he sees and they know he sees it. Many in the high command loathe him. They feel utter contempt for his utter disregard for matters of governance and the economy. Of course, they also fear that the awesome incompetence and plunder on the civilian side may shrink the army’s trough and imperil their privileges.
But they are trapped. The chief has taken an extension and Sharif gives them the willies: direct intervention isn’t really an option; the civilian alternative unpalatable.
Still, the high command does have some cards to play. When they don’t like the incumbent and they don’t like the alternative, they can always try and keep both weak.
It’s a favourite tactic from the oldest playbook in town: prop up the ones with few genuine electoral credentials to eat into the vote bank and seat count of the parties with serious electoral clout.
In Punjab, there’s the Imran Khan factor to peg back Sharif. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the ever-reliable Fazlur Rehman can help hold down the ANP and the PPP. In Balochistan, the brutal repression of the insurgents and their sympathisers could erode the appeal of the moderate nationalist parties. The convulsions in Karachi are helpfully reminding the people why they shouldn’t have faith in any politician.
So, paranoid Zardari may be wondering if the boys in uniform have quietly begun deploying their weapons against him. But he’s also the right amount of shrewd: ultimately, the boys would rather let Zardari play his electoral games than let Sharif in through the back door.
The outside powers, so crucial to the last election, brokering as they did the NRO and the return of BB and Sharif, aren’t likely to be much of a factor the next time round. Zardari had hoped the IFIs and the West would bail him out by bailing out the country, but they have baulked, tired of the transparent lies about economic reforms and fiscal responsibility.
Disillusioned and sceptical as they may be, though, there is no alternative to Zardari on their radars — and Zardari knows that.
Just to be sure, he still scares them about Sharif’s intentions. Foreign powers neutralised.
Threats and rivals thus defanged, Zardari is turning to the pièce de résistance of his rule: converting an accidental term into a monumental edifice to cunning, guile and opportunism by snatching a second term.
Less Caesar and more Iago, no trick or artifice will be below him. The piles of cash have been acquired; the interim set-up studied for loopholes; the presidential overhang will be deployed to full manipulative effect.
Scarier yet is what will come after the election victory is secured.
Zardari is about as much a democrat as Musharraf or ZAB. Having inverted the rules of divide and conquer — now, it’s the Punjabi-led establishment that is divided between the army and Sharif — Zardari will be master of all he surveys. No checks
and balances, no one to stop his pillaging and acquisition of pelf, no one to even try and arm-twist him into paying any attention to governance — he’s probably dancing a little jig already.
Only two things can stop him: Sharif, if he wises up and somehow stops the election from being stolen; the army, if it decides the costs of non-intervention are higher than the benefits of the status quo.
Oh Zardari is dancing that jig all right.
The writer is a member of staff.
By S. Akbar Zaidi
A LARGE majority of economists in Pakistan are completely irrelevant to issues related to Pakistan’s economy. This is not to deny that they are exceedingly well-trained or well-qualified. They have the finest degrees from the best universities in the world: the University of Chicago, Stanford, Cambridge and numerous others lower down the pecking order of merit.
These economists understand numerous theories of economics and probably still remember how to run sophisticated regressions, yet, they have little understanding of how Pakistan’s economy really works, and hence are irrelevant to Pakistan’s economic issues.
For economists who teach or do their own independent research, being irrelevant might matter little, but for those who are in the highest spheres of public policy, this unfamiliarity with basic issues in Pakistan’s economy, is criminal.
There are a number of reasons for their irrelevance. Having studied at the best universities in the world, from Nobel Laureates in many cases, several among Pakistan’s economists have learnt the general principles and rules of economics fairly thoroughly. However, economics is not simply an abstract science raised on very general universal principles which apply to all situations in all conditions. Much of what constitutes actually existing economics differs markedly in different settings and circumstances. Of course, many general principles of economics apply to many contexts, but many do not. Their theoretical understanding is not always relevant — and at times is counterproductive and counterintuitive — in the Pakistani context.
General theories and real-life understanding are two different spheres altogether, and may not always overlap. They have failed to translate their vast theoretical knowledge into local conditions and circumstances.
A second problem with those economists who have been appointed in high offices is that they have spent their learning and formative practical years not in Pakistan, but in international organisations such as the IMF, World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and suchlike. While this has allowed them to gain wide ‘international experience’, as their CVs show, they have been too far away, and for too long, from Pakistan. They fail to understand how the micro economies of Pakistan work, because neither have they studied them nor have they spent enough time getting their hands dirty in the actually existing
real-life economies of Pakistan.
Many of their suggestions based on their postings in other countries sound alien and downright comical when they start: ‘When I was posted in Singapore (or Sri Lanka or Saudi Arabia)….’ They simply do not know how Pakistan’s economy works.
Of course, they are well versed in the main statistics of Pakistan and they can list a number of broad key problems: low investment, low savings, low tax-to-GDP ratios, a balance of payments problem, high inflation and a host of other economic indicators and headline statistics. But this we know even non-economists can do pretty well.
Look at our print and electronic media. One can see a host of TV anchors, political experts and others holding forth on economic themes of which they do not have the simplest understanding. This is not very difficult. What is difficult is to explain how Pakistan’s economy runs, why it averts crises and collapse, in other words, ‘actually existing economics’.
For the last three years, one has become tired of the claim that Pakistan’s economy is in a crisis and now that it is about to collapse. This is utter nonsense of the highest order. The reason why journalists and economists repeat this mantra is because they do not step out of Islamabad, and top government economists only visit capitals around the world in meetings which achieve nothing.
They do not go to small towns and villages, or meet traders and associations who would tell them what the real issues are. And if any research by academic institutions and individuals on the actually existing economy is carried out, it is seldom evaluated or considered by government economists who deal only in headline data.
Despite the presence of exceedingly well-trained economists, the irony is that a number of non-economists have a far better understanding of Pakistan’s real-life economic issues, because they do research or consulting on these themes. Two who immediately come to mind are Arif Hasan and Shahid Kardar. One is an architect and urban planner and the other trained as a chartered accountant.
Through their research and extensive understanding of institutions, markets and what are called ‘ground realities’, they have a far better understanding of how Little Pakistan works. Importantly, unlike most other consultants, they make their work available in the public sphere for all to read.
Of course, there are others, some of them even economists, who undertake research in the field and understand how Pakistanis survive, live and thrive at times of supposed crises and collapse — Prof Mahmood Hasan Khan is a superb example — but those who have returned from the IMF, World Bank and the ADB after decades, ostensibly to serve Pakistan, need a basic course in Pakistan’s economics to be able to be effective and relevant.
While high theories from any discipline are essential for one’s learning and understanding, location, practical experience and local knowledge are critical as well, perhaps even more so. This is a general rule which applies to most of the social sciences, but particularly to economists who make public policy. Pakistani economists, especially those who devise public policy, and even those who write columns in newspapers, need to spend more time understanding how the actually existing, everyday economy really works. Only then will they be somewhat relevant.
The writer is a political economist.