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Showing posts from July, 2009

Rafay Alam: Great thinking on urban issues!

"Slums, however, are not the problem. Every developing city has at least one. Slums are not indicators of poverty so much as they are indicators of the failure of city fathers to estimate the future needs of their city. Slums are, in fact, places of great human and commercial activity. It's just that don't have the same water, sewage, electricity utilities, and space, found in places like a Defence housing colony. If it weren't for the slums, our cities wouldn't have the people that make, for instance, Karachi the commercial capital of the country. (The same is true of the slum populations and economies of Lagos, Mumbai, Calcutta, Sao Paulo or any other thriving third world city.)
No, slums are not the problem. What is the problem is the fact that our cities are not being planned for the future. Our cities are being planned to favour the elite and to favour foreign investment. They are designed with thoughts of London or New York in mind. They are designed and plan…

The long Azaan!

I thought a part of “enlightened moderation” was regulating the moulvi’s use of the loudspeaker. But he seems to be increasingly empowered to abuse the loudspeaker.Contrary to the teachings of Islam, there is now not one time for Azan or prayer. Each moulvi is waiting for the other to finish before saying his Azan. The result is that each morning our neighbourhood has Azans for 45 minutes. Is this not sacrilege? Should there not be one call for a prayer?Not every moulvi is a good muezzin, yet each chooses to yell into a mike that is full volume.I thought that the tradition was for the person with the best voice to call for prayer.An Azan by a moulvi who has no talent for it and into a distorted loud amplifier really takes away from the beauty of the Azan. And to keep on hearing it being repeated over and over again for 45 minutes cannot be in keeping the teachings of our beloved religion.In many Muslim countries that I have been to the rule is that in each neighbourhood there will be …

Raza Rumi is spot on on AID

"Thus far, there is little evidence to suggest that the US assistance has been pipe lined through meaningful and constructive engagement with the elected representatives who despite their lack of experience, unfamiliarity with development jargon and history of corruption are better placed than the usual suspects. The big, fat contracts currently floating in the development marketplace are scary to look at for more of the same has been undertaken in the past by other multilateral and bilateral saviours of Pakistan. Billions of dollars poured in after 2001 to improve Pakistan's governance and at the end of the day it has been civil action movements that have made noticeable impact on the governance culture. Similarly, massive injections of aid in the agricultural sector have been made with little or no results. There is no question that the drafting of strategies and roadmaps is vital for us. But there is absolutely no point in letting consultants write fancy documents what the…

Mosharaf Zaidi says it well

"One of the things it needs is a serious conversation about education that contextualizes philanthropy as a useful demonstration of the realm of possible, rather than as a replacement for the state. Philanthropy can contribute to the conversation by helping Pakistanis acknowledge that an overwhelming majority of Pakistani teachers are unqualified to teach, and cannot be fired. That democratic MNAs, MPAs, Senators, and Ministers have helped teachers get their jobs. That the Supreme Court will invariably help them keep those jobs. That the World Bank building new schools for incapable and disincentivized teachers—much like putting stale wine in fancy new bottles—will simply not do the trick. That the Ministry of Education with no reason to exist other than to keep its officers and naib qasids (and drivers and clerks) employed, has no capacity to think. That the provincial departments of education, with the best civil service officers busy getting Masters and PhD degrees, are bereft…

Civil Service Reform---Please do it Right!

Minister Hina Khar reiterated the government’s commitment to do a Civil Service Reform (CSR) by December 2009. I am concerned like other reforms the government might botch this up too. So let us all write our thoughts on what kind of reform we are expecting to set up a standard for the government. Here are my ideas.Let us begin by recognizing that civil service comprises the bulk of the executive and affects all aspects of society. The configuration of the civil service for a new society in a new century should be of serious interest to all. Consequently this reform should not be done in back rooms by the bureaucracy who are to be affected with at best some donor aid. Reform should be developed through a process such as an independent commission comprised of (or backed up by) serious technical skills, intellectual firepower and certainly some fresh faces. The commission must do open consultation with civil society and many segments of society. Donor input if any should be subjecte…

Failure of Democracy and lack of Intellectual Thought

Is our democracy working?

The writers of our constitution merely copied Westminster paying little heed to the need for developing further checks and balances to allow the democratic institutions to evolve and take root.

Remember England has a system that is fully in motion having evolved over centuries. We, on the other hand, have to start a new system.

As any mechanical engineer will be able to tell our learned controllers of thought, the laws of motion tell us that starting up a system is harder than maintaining the momentum of a system that is already running.

We have to jump start the democratic system and then try to warm up the engine so that it will maintain its momentum. As our friendly mechanical engineer will tell us, this requires considerable power and careful monitoring.

You cannot just turn the ignition of election once and have a perfectly working system. Other safeguards and perhaps continuous and rapid ignition thrusts may be required. For example, might not quick, ann…

The Grundnorm

“A constitution is only as good as the people and culture behind it!”--anonymous

My friends Akmal Husain and Ejaz Haider have both in their columns in the Daily Times invoked the Grundnorm a legal concept from one of the thinkers of the now famous Austrian School that gave us so many important ideas last century. The contrast in the views of the 2, is interesting, informative and worthy of much contemplation.

A staunch democrat, Ejaz interprets the grundnorm to be the constitution and argues against arbitrary changes in it: “That basic normative framework, among other things, flows from, and is sustained by, the Constitution….This is why it is so problematic to accept Constitutional amendments dictated by external actors or flowing from the barrel of the gun….”

More philosophically, Akmal asks a very interesting question: “The question that needs to be examined is why both exogenous interventions as well as endogenous changes in the constitution have repeatedly been deployed to change t…

Mr CM Tear Down that Wall!

“Tear down this wall!” was the famous challenge from United States President Ronald Reagan to Soviet leader Gorbachev to destroy the Berlin Wall on June 12, 1987.This challenge will be remembered through history as a cry for freedom The wall was built by the totalitarian Soviet Union to prevent East Germans from moving freely to the west. We all remember the many wall crossings and defections that characterized the wall and its prevention of freedom.Instead of heeding the cry of freedom, the Punjab Government has walled itself off from the people. Government Officers Residences (GOR) which sits in the heart of Lahore– occupying about a square mile of city center–is a colonial legacy which is badly in need of abolition. The Empire needed to giver residences and perks to bring Englishmen to rule the country. They had built palaces for themselves on the outskirts of Lahore. The city has grown and now GOR is bang in its middle. You would have thought that Independent Pakistan would have q…