Just as feared?
Ironically, frequent signs that the government continues to be behind the curve on crucial capacity building matters regarding CPEC are no longer surprising, but they are still shocking. The latest news report about the planning ministry being clueless about the human resource assessment, for example, ought to have sounded alarm bells in Islamabad. Yet it, too, drew little save the usual “game changer” and “higher than mountains, deeper than oceans” rhetoric. Considering how things have gone so far, the confidence could imply one of two things.
One, the government has indeed, as its champions say, cooked up an ambitious plan involving sweeping bureaucratic reforms and HR expansion and is keeping it close to the chest for political mileage. Or two, it really hasn’t budged on too many prerequisites, especially long term things like HR and reforms, and charges about its obsession with energy projects alone (to bag the next election) are true. But since bureaucratic reforms were torpedoed by the babu lobby itself, it’s difficult to see what a secret plan might achieve now. Also, with both the planning ministry and CPEC project director’s office unaware about the number of breakdown of the so-called employment bonanza, the secret HR thing seems a little far-fetched too.
Granted, energy is crucial to industry, etc, and will win immediate votes, as opposed to medium to long term social overhead capital concerns. But ignoring the building blocks of the project will compromise its viability sooner than later. It has already become controversial, to say the least, and the Chinese have been unhappy for a while now. So far HR holes that Pakistan cannot plug have been handled through imported labour from China. If that continues, the employment opportunities that the government claims will not materialise. And the political cost, needless to say, would be just as great as the financial loss. That nobody in government knows how many engineers, IT experts, architects, etc, will be employed with and through CPEC is indeed startling. There seems some truth to concerns, after all, that the make or break moment might already be at hand. The government needs to appreciate these concerns and address them befo
Challenging the writ of the legislature
Clergy’s absurd demands
Reports about heinous crimes committed against women continue to appear in the national media. Yesterday’s papers carried the story of a newly married woman whose in-laws shaved her head before sending her back to her parents because she had brought insufficient dowry. The atrocities have however failed to change the clerics’ misogynistic outlook. Out of sync with times and out of touch with ground realities, they continue to issue edicts rejecting the admissibility of DNA tests as primary evidence in rape cases, demanding removal of legal restrictions on second marriage, supporting child marriage and demanding abolition of co-education.
JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman has rejected the Protection of Women Against Violence Bill which was passed by Punjab Assembly through due process of law. Declaring the law to be in violation of the teachings of Islam, he demands its repeal. Fazlur Rehman has convened a meeting of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, an alliance of religious parties which many had given up as dead, to formulate an action plan.
Fazlur Rehman is challenging the most basic tenet of democracy i.e., the exclusive authority of the elected legislature to frame laws for the country. What he is demanding is a veto power for the clergy in matters of legislation, thus subjugating the will of the masses exercised through their elected representatives to the whims of an unelected and self-opinionated body of clerics who have already divided the Muslim community into scores of sects. Knowing that they cannot impose their distorted version of Islam on the people through democratic means, the TTP and IS take recourse to terrorist attacks to subjugate governments. What Fazlur Rehman is trying to do is no different. He wants to enforce a narrow version of Islam unacceptable to the vast majority by whipping up mass hysteria leading to anarchy and social unrest. What the government needs to do is to take a firm stand against the reactionary clerics. Any attempt at appeasement would only whet their appetite for power, leading to more unacceptable demands.