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Show me a young Conservative and I'll show you someone with no heart. Show me an old Liberal and I'll show you someone with no brains. –Winston Churchill

commenT Friday, 16 August, 2013

in the crooked line of duty burden of expectations: our poor law enforcers

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iran’s mounting malaise inept policies, religious pressure add to poverty, poor health and cross-border challenges

JAmSHEEd K CHOKSy

H

ASSAN Rouhani took charge of Iran with its socioeconomic safety nets unravelling, thanks to deleterious policies exacerbated by tightened sanctions from the West. Addressing the parliament on July 14, while presidentelect, he acknowledged that the nuclear impasse is far from the only factor transforming the Islamic Republic of Iran negatively with impact on other countries. Iran’s challenges pose severe consequences at home and abroad. Sanctions worsen existing problems even as the internet offers Iran widening access to the world beyond. Wealthy or poor, young or old, healthy or ill, Iranians must struggle with restrictions on what they wear, hear, say and with who they interact. Yet more than 30 percent of Iranians have access to satellite television and 61 percent to the internet, circumventing government constraints on communications with the rest of the world. Thus Iranians are well aware that living standards are much higher in the Gulf countries to their south. They see European and North American nations providing not only a comfortable life but socio-political liberties as well. Iranians have responded with small, futile gestures, ranging from pumping up the volume of banned music or beating up the enforcers of religious orthopraxy, and there was the populist uprising of 2009. But these are not their only responses. Another reaction is to flee the country. Indeed, Iran remains the largest long-term source of asylum seekers in Turkey and Canada – straining those nations’ welfare resources. Iran’s economy and politics are stressful. Mehr News Agency reports that 60 percent of Iranians are overweight and many suffer from preventable diseases such as high blood pressure and osteoporosis. Iran’s fertility rate, already on a downward trend in 2000, has now plummeted by 70 percent as 40 percent of young adults opt to remain single and many others defer marriage until their 30s or elect to have small families. Iran’s fertility rate is 1.64 births per woman, reports the World Bank, and, as a result, Iran’s hitherto youthful population has begun skewing

toward the elderly who comprise 37 percent of citizens, bringing with it mounting burdens for the domestic health network. The result has been a steady outflow of Iranians seeking residence in countries with better healthcare like Britain and Canada. Tehran responded in August 2012 by scrapping family-planning programs and diverting those funds to encourage larger families, with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei calling upon women to have more children. But rather than increasing birthrates, official and religious pressure may only put more stress on women and lead to their abjuring motherhood even further. In 2011, 35 percent of Iranian students were reported to have dropped out from school, with many assuming there’s little career value to be gained from an ideologically-driven educational system. Even individuals who make it into the university system find few opportunities to participate in global knowledge networks. Likewise, socioeconomically advantageous synergies are cut off by gender segregation in public universities and stifled thereafter in public workplaces. Indeed, by Rouhani’s own admission, up to 5 million graduates are unemployed. Many search for better opportunities outside Iran, triggering a brain drain that compounds the country’s other negative transitions while adding to the skilled-worker pools of Asian countries like Pakistan (up to 120,000 Iranians) and Malaysia (estimated at 100,000 Iranians) in addition to those of the EU and North America. Yet all those nations are facing economic retrenchment, so the arrival of welleducated Iranians is not always well received. An estimated 60 percent of Iranian workers have slipped below the poverty line, up 40 percent from a decade ago; unemployment has risen to 24 percent overall and to 67 percent among women. Even the employed find their earnings devoured by inflation, which rose 200 percent between 2009 and 2012, and now deflates buying power by another 45 percent; by housing costs, up 220 percent over the past eight years. Food prices have spiked 57 percent over the past year. Growth dropped to zero this year according to the Iranian parliament’s budget committee. The International Monetary Fund forecasts economic expansion for the nation ranking third in oil and second in gas reserves at only 1 percent for 2014. As a direct consequence, Iran’s imports are slipping – by 33 percent or US $3 billion with Persian Gulf countries in 2012, for example – negatively affecting neighbouring economies. Due to the socioeconomic hardships, at least 26 percent of marriages in Tehran end in divorce; nationwide the rate is 14 percent, modest compared to western nations but high when compared to pre-revolutionary Iran. In a panic, clerics pushed through parliament a bill in 2009 legalizing concomitant second marriages by men. They even instituted a “No Divorce Day” to encourage marital fidelity. Nonetheless, prostitution – estimated in 2000 by Tehran’s Cultural Foundation as having

risen by 635 percent among high school students since the late 1990s – continues unabated as more enter the sex trade in their early teens, according to Health Ministry officials. Again, Iran’s internal problem is swiftly spilling over as webs of human trafficking link it to Pakistan, India, the Emirates, Central Asian Republics, Turkey and France. In January, Iranian officials estimated at least 2.4 percent of the population of 75 million was addicted to narcotics. The number of drug abusers rises by over 100,000 annually and they consume 5 tons of controlled substances each day in the capital city of Tehran and more elsewhere in the country. Most narcotics come across borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan, gripping those nations in a losing battle against poppy growth. Moreover although nearly 450 tons of illegal drugs like opium and heroin were seized and destroyed by Iran’s authorities in 2012 many times that volume flows through the country onward to Europe and North America – adding to the West’s substance abuse problems as well. Under pressure to reform not just foreign but also domestic policies, thereby “reducing the people’s suffering and paving the way for progress,” Rouhani has called for change. He urges Supreme Leader Khamenei and other clerics and politicians to understand that: “A strong government does not mean one which limits the lives of people.” The Tehran stock exchange reached new highs and the Iranian currency regained 30 percent of its value against the US dollar because the financial sector hopes Rouhani will succeed in his quest to give the society much-needed positive boosts. Yet former reformist President Mohammad Khatami sought change between 1997 and 2005 and recently-departed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wanted it, too, during his second term from 2009 to 2013. Neither chief executive made headway against the ideologues who hold final sway over Iran’s national and international policies. Iranian politicians conveniently blame mismanagement by those ex-presidents for the nation’s internal problems. Fundamentalist ayatollahs attribute the problems to lax morals as well. And both groups utilize the nuclear dispute with the West as an expedient means of rallying the nation together in the face of decline. Worse of all, unfortunately for Iran and the world, setting aside ideology to resolve domestic issues and their spill over into foreign affairs is not regarded as essential by Supreme Leader Khamenei and others of his persuasion. So, a worst case scenario could result in Iran resembling North Korea by responding to internal socioeconomic disintegration with externally-directed aggression, even nuclear threats. The writer is professor of Iranian Studies and chairman of the Department of Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University. He also serves on the US National Council on the Humanities overseeing the National Endowment for the Humanities.

013 has not been kind to our poor law enforcement agencies. Be it the Rangers or the local police, there has been much hubbub from various circles about their inefficiency. Some might even go as far as to say they’ve been incessantly targeted unfairly by the general masses. We cannot expect the police to be able to solve all our problems now, can we? It was refreshing to see them being praised around Eid for taking up their luAvuT zAHId posts even though terror threats loomed the country. Terrorism is indeed a grand problem, one which needs a thorough response. In a heroic effort to thwart the D I Khan jailbreak the police forces, in consensus with the jail authorities, ensured that the army was kept out of the intelligence loop. Most people don’t understand what possible reason they would have to do this, except if you look at it closely you’ll find that they were only trying to safeguard democracy. The army does sweep in and take control of far too many situations for the country’s comfort. By doing this they ensured that the jailbreak was handled in a manner which would keep the army at bay. The Taliban aren’t an easy foe to fight, however, which led to problems within the D I Khan attacks. We cannot expect the policemen to be able to handle such a situation especially since the Taliban and other terrorist groups stem from within the Pakistani soil. Would it not be wrong to attack another Pakistani? The Taliban also extended their well wishes to the police and prison employees for their efforts to keep the brotherhood of the Pakistani people intact. Who says we have problems with unity? We could all learn from the police. It’s troubling when people start asking questions about the Elite force which is trained to handle such problems. Even though the police have it covered (with their dire lack of training and equipment, along with morals and loyalty) many have often asked why the Elite force isn’t used as often in terrorist threats. Well, for starters, one of the primary jobs that those guys have to perform is making sure all VIP movements stay safe. With their proper equipment and brilliant training, the Elite force has been doing its job ridiculously well. So why fix it when it’s not broken? Pushing the Elite force to protect the people instead of the politicians will only do one thing: deliver a grand blow to democracy, for how will you run a democratic state unless you have leaders who can forward the people’s agenda? It is for the greater good that the Elite force must remain where it is! People who’ve been criticising the police for the Okara incident also need to be set straight. Fine, the police may have crossed a line by getting a father and son to sodomise each other, but who are we to judge? If a woman is raped you can’t pronounce the poor chap guilty unless she finds four witnesses to corroborate her story, heck even DNA evidence doesn’t work. Then why is it that because two men were involved and it was the police that we’re hell bent on pronouncing them guilty of sexual deviance. Do the father and son have four witnesses? The double standards in the country are atrocious! Pakistanis know not what to do except complain about everything. And of course we have the businessmen in Karachi who need police-like powers for their guards. In the face of extortion, robbery and other threats the industrialists claim they need better protection. But thankfully they blame the Rangers just as much as they blame the police for the security failures – so there’s some objectivity there. Jameel Yousuf, former Citizen Police Liaison Committee Chief, even offered a better solution: pay the police to hire more men for security, the police would be able to do a better job if they had more people, surely. In this case it’s the Rangers who get the heat more than anyone else. How is it their fault that they were installed into a chaotic city like Karachi though? Even the MQM can’t keep the peace even though it’s repeatedly tried with protests which shut the entire city down. If the MQM fails, then who are we to look towards the Rangers to succeed? The Rangers have been doing their job well. They shoot on sight and fight with the ferocity of a lion. But sometimes when the lion is hunting it ends up killing other animals even though it doesn’t want to – like a taxi driver. If it weren’t for the suo motu case they wouldn’t even have to bat an eyelid before moving onto their more important duties. The Chief Justice himself admitted during the case that the Rangers can only stop and search people. Well, if they can’t shoot people then how did those people die? It’s obviously just Zionist propaganda. And seriously, first they’re told they can’t shoot people then they’re blamed for the rising crime – they shot a guy in 2011 in front of a camera after proving he was a thief and people went berserk. What are they expected to do exactly? Play ludo with suspicious people instead? At this point I believe we should let the police and other law enforcement personnel have a breather. Only recently did our police force lose a member of their own: an imported sniffer dog who was bought for Rs2.2 million and died three days after it arrived because of the poor quality food it was given. It was a great loss, one the forces obviously have not yet recovered from. We cannot blame them for their poor performance; we should only blame ourselves for expecting oh so much from them. The writer is a journalist based in Lahore. She can be emailed at luavut@gmail.com. She tweets @luavut

Isb 16 08 2013 layout 1  
Isb 16 08 2013 layout 1  
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