The Review - 9th October 2011

Page 1

Sunday, 09 October, 2011

While the short-term power crisis may have been averted, the deeper crisis faced by the power sector threatens to shut-down the economy Nauman Tasleem

The existing scenario

Existing Average Demand Shortfall Capacity Production


6500 MW


6000-6500 MW

Independent Power Producers

More than 6500 MW

Rental Power Plants

500 MW


Around 20,000 10,500 MW 16500 MW 6000 MW According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan

Punjab’s Power Rebellion The Machiavellian PPP government faces a unique form of resistance over the power crisis: a discontented, aggrieved, rebellious and forgetful Punjab

seriously, opting instead for the ostrich approach, preferring instead to focus all attention on its own petty squabbles. Instead of taking concrete and long-term measures, it, unsurprisingly, went for the least sensible and most expensive solution of them all - Rental Power Plants (RPP). As if this wasn’t enough, the government subsequently faced allegations of corruption regarding deals with the RPPs. The government paid Rs. 20 billion to eight RPPs in return for which the RPPs were to produce 1,200MW of electricity. They actually ended up producing only160 MW, a paltry 13% of the promised amount! Compounding this disastrous deal, the policymakers refused to address pressing problems such as nonpayment of debt by the provinces and government departments and massive theft and mismanagement which could have ameliorated the situation.

Short-term remedies

It is imperative that the federal government recover outstanding dues from provinces like Sindh which has defaulted on up to Rs 38 billion, as well as from government departments which owe at least Rs. 200 billion in power payments. These amounts could be used to clear the outstanding dues of IPPs and oil companies. The fuel shortage must be immediately tackled and a policy of re-shuffling priorities is absolutely essential. If gas from other sources could be redirected to power plants instead, then it would help bridge the shortfall and allow some breathing space to the choked up sector. The government would do well to divert gas from the domestic sector, Continued on page 8

Hashim bin Rashid

see page 8

2 Qadri’s conviction: A collective indictment 6 Musa’s rock with the hole and the roof

ith the country teetering on the brink of plunging into complete darkness, the Federal Finance Ministry pulled a rabbit and hurriedly issued Rs.11 billion to the Ministry of Power for the purposes of clearing debt, shoring up oil supplies and increasing electricity generation. This payment temporarily put paid to the outages. 16 hours of urban outages were reduced to 4. But it shows the nature of the crisis is structural. There are deeper issues at the heart of the Pakistan Electric Power Company (PEPCO) that show no signs of being abated. The Finance Ministry handout was tantamount to applying bandaid to an oozing wound. Amidst a spiraling circular debt, the Rs 11 billion issued is Rs 100 billion less than what is owed to power generation companies.While the immediate crisis has been averted, a power collapse of catastrophic proportions looms. It is quite apparent from these figures that the problem doesn’t lie with the capacity of production. One principle predicament is the fuel shortage. And then

of course, we have the enduring issue of circular debt. Currently, the debt owed to PEPCO and other power generation companies has crossed the Rs. 350 billion mark. There is a conspicuous absence of any comprehensive government plan to reduce this staggering amount of debt. At the onset of September 2011, nine power generation companies including Atlas Power, Attock Gen, Halmore Power, Liberty Power Tech, Nishat Chunian, Nishat Power, Orient Power, Saif Power and Sapphire Electric Company served notices to the power purchase agencies on account of non-payment of their dues. The government gave repeated assurances to the companies, promising the clearance of Rs. 8.5 billion capacity payments before September 29, around Rs. 400 million in daily charges and a major chunk of other dues by October 14. Predictably enough, these promises were not met and the country faced the worst outages in its history as the power shortfall soared above the 7,000MW mark. After coming to power in 2008, the current government’s Minister for Power at the time, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, made elaborate vows to end load shedding by December 2010 but succeeded only in bungling matters even further. The government, in its three and half years, failed to take the electricity crisis

the review Illustrated & Designed by Babur Saghir

Power problems: A way out?

Qadri’s conviction:

A collective indictment To those who continue to venerate Qadri, all we can really do is point out the blatant falsehoods and contradictions that riddle the path of this entire blasphemy debacle By Hashim bin Rashid


here is something very sobering about Mumtaz Qadri’s death sentence. It is the indictment of a sentiment, of a moral position, of a people’s understanding of their faith. It is a proclamation, by the State, that this moral position is wrong. It is sobering because it is an indictment that is true. There is a set of us that consider people opposed to our own faiths as senseless, as irrational, as non-beings. That is not true. In all senses, those who stand against Mumtaz Qadri’s indictment, who venerate him as a living saint, who declare themselves ready to sacrifice themselves for him, are humans. And it is this that is troubling, most troubling, and most sobering, when we attempt to absorb the death sentence, as a collective, given to Mumtaz Qadri. The death sentence has been awarded to a form of social thought, a popular, feared and State-sanctioned ideal. Some consider it a cause to celebrate. The celebration takes root in the belief that it is possible for the State to dispense justice. To them, I would say there is more that enough reason to hold off on cutting the cake. Some consider it a cause to condemn. To them, I can only attempt to offer some of their contradictions and maybe attempt to critique some of the arguments they put forth. But I have serious doubts that those protesting on the streets, however few, have any tolerance left for listening.

From the fields of Itanwali

Sunday, 09 October, 2011

While they stood at The Mall, Lahore uttering naats and tributes to their Prophet, threatening vehicle drivers with violence, chanting slogans proclaiming their ready-ness to die for him, I stood thinking about how ignorant they were of the details of the petty squabble that had sparked this entire ‘save the blasphemy laws’ campaign. In a falsa field in Itanwali, over 70 kilometres away from Lahore, a group of Muslim women and a cleric (who proclaims Muslims

cannot share plates w i t h Christians) accused a Christian woman, Aasia, of offending t h e Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). At the village, the people I spoke to, quite frankly admitted that the entire subject was

political and manufactured, but no one was ready to testify so in court. The court testimony itself, something never read by those protesting, offers a plethora of contradictions: six different witnesses identify six different locations where Aasia reportedly admitted her guilt. The District and Sessions Court gives her a death sentence in October 2010. A year from then, in October 2011, an Anti-Terrorism Court gives a death sentence to MumtazQadri, the assassin of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer. In summary, a governor, a minorities minister have been assassinated, and no judge is willing to take up the Aasia case appeal. Again, a campaign to venerate the assassin has begun to sprout. The current protests are negligible. On the first day, not more than 1500 protestors were seen country-wide. But it is the ability of madrassa-educated protestors to hold the government machinery hostage over the issue of the blasphemy law, no matter what their number, that is worrying.

Modern States and Religious Law The modern state and its obsession with codified laws had the unfortunate effect of stifling the rich legal tradition already present in societies. This meant a denial of the multiple sources of jurisprudential thought already present in Islamic fiqh. A “death warrant” was issued against all alternate jurisprudences. And thus a contest was given birth to – where, hoping to avoid a violent death, carriers of other jurisprudences began to struggle to be codified within State Law. When Pakistan was created the Objectives Resolution 1948 gave legitimacy to the struggle to preserve Islamic jurisprudential thought by codification within the new Pakistan Penal Code. And it is through the convoluted process this struggle produced that the radicalization of religious juridical thought we see manifested within our laws took place. And it is within this that one needs to place how the Blasphemy Law entered the PPC during the Zia era. And how the debate around the punishment for blasphemy, w a s

resolved through a petition before the court, by Ismail Qureshi. Once codified in law, the story of Ilam Din was also adopted by the State. Streets were named after him, his grave developed into a tomb, and second grade textbooks were adorned with his story. The Pakistani state quite readily accepted the Ilam Din narrative, since it fell neatly into the Two-Nation theory matrix and allowed children to imagine the radicalised Hindu. To some it may appear, the judgment to sentence Mumtaz Qadri appears a rejection by the state of Ilam Din too. However, it is a slippery slope to tread. The Ilam Din story itself is beset with a different set of contradictions to the Mumtaz Qadri story. I suppose a comparison here can offer more insight.

How Ilam Din differs The Ilam Din case, situated in 1929, is an interesting moment. In fact the entire corpus of religious defamation cases during the 1920s in northern British India is fascinating. In a tense communal climate at least three books were being tried before the court through Article 295, “inciting the feelings of a class.” Before the court, defence and prosecution lawyers would bring scholars and historical Muslims texts, having accepted its authority to offer a stable verdict over the truth of the texts. The Ilam Din incident itself contains so much falsehood in its narration that one does not know where to begin. One: the myth of Ilam Din having accepted the murder before the court is false. The case record shows the only place where Ilam Din admitted to killing Hindu publisher Rajpal was the Zimni report, legally inadmissible under normal circumstances. The entire legal record and court proceedings are based on his denial. Barrister Muhammad Ali Jinnah defends Ilam Din on the basis of his claim to innocence. And in certain ways it is here where Mumtaz Qadri differs from being an Ilam Din incarnate. Qadri has no trouble accepting that he killed Taseer. It is, in fact, his next argument to the court that is most astonishing, in which he claims the murder was a position

sanctioned by Pakistani law. Before the court, he is reported to have submitted 40 pages of references to claim, “anyone who commits a blasphemous act or supports a blasphemer or doubted the punishment for a blasphemer was death or tried to abolish t h e

sentence, was liable to death,” a statement that is now preserved in court record. That argument is also the basis for his legal defence. The defence lawyer called the courts’ execution order “unprecedented.” Assuming the defence lawyer’s intelligence and awareness of the Ilam Din case, he is acknowledging that the legal context of both trials was different. The two incidents are by no means replicas. Qadri’s case operates in a legal context where the punishment for an offence to Prophet Muhummad is sanctioned by the State as death. To the defence, it is only a case of seeking legal sanction for an individual to do what the State already considers itself legitimate in doing. The defence of MumtazQadri, differs from Ilam Din’s defence, in so far as it in fact bases itself upon Qadri’s admission of guilt. Of course, there is a second stream of arguments which can imply Taseer falls outside the ambit of the Blasphemy law. His ‘crime’ was that he “blasphemed against the Blasphemy laws.” However, this does not factor in when the Sunni Ittehad Council brings together 500 clerics to proclaim a fatwa declaring the court judgment to hang Qadri un-Islamic, or for the cleric who led Taseer’s funeral to fear for his life, or for a Rs. 5 million bounty to be placed on the judge who sentenced Qadri.

Beset by contradictions When I began work on the Ilam Din case, I never expected a falsehood at the centre of the case that had the potential of de-centering the entire case. It is similar when working on the Aasia and Qadri cases. The contradictions that beset them are too obvious, too plain, to think that someone could ignore them, if they just scratch the surface of the subjects. But no scratching of the surface has been done amongst those who matter in this debate: religious clerics and the common populace. Amongst these, there is the part where, a few friends of mine, found a number of fatwa by the founders of the Barelvifiqh which both opened the possibility of a retraction of an insult to the prophet and exonerated non-Muslims from the punishment. There is the part where, the same set of friends, had Ismail Qureshi, who filed the 1991 reference to the Federal Shariat Court, admit he had not checked the secondary references he had quoted in his reference to the FSC. There is the part where, the Aasia Bibi case, is beset by contradictions including the on-record statements of the accusers that it was an Islamic position not to share plates with a Christian and a reference to six separate locations by six separate witnesses as to where Aasia Bibi was when the confession, on which she was convicted, took place. There is the part where, no judge is willing to hear the Aasia Bibi case, and the judge who sentenced Qadri has a Rs. 5 million bounty put on his head. None of these contradictions has changed anything substantively in the discourse around the blasphemy laws in Pakistan. And the only solution appears that a point comes when those claiming to be venerating the personalities that they esteem will need to decide that these personalities have a value beyond petty worldly contestations. At that point, any faithful person claiming to be offended by a particular utterance and urging retribution, shall be told by another equally faithful person, “Do you think he who you respect can be disrespected?”

A first hand account of Occupation D.C. Drawing inspiration from the Tahrir Square protests in Egypt, this wave of American protests in vehemently denouncing corporate influence in the US and calling for a pro-people approach to replace the current pro-profit one By Ben S. Johnson “As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.” – Online statement released by the organizers of the protests


ctober 2nd, 2011- The rain poured down, lashing against their faces and the biting cold numbed their hands. Yet they sat on the ground, a filth covered old man with a thick beard and missing teeth; a boy with clean cut hair, a young man in a sporty overcoat; a middle aged activist with a weary face and dozens more. There was a sense of hope as this ragged band of protestors stood in McPherson square today. The

protestors have come to show their solidarity with their comrades in New York City who have occupied Wall Street. The protestors in New York have been arrested en masse. On October 1st, 700 of the protestors were corralled and the detained, without warning, by the New York Police Department. Yet this has not deterred people from flocking to McPherson square to stand in solidarity. In fact they have been emboldened by the fact that recently the Wall Street protests peaked at 14,000 participants and that 70 cities nation wide have joined in the occupation of the United States’ economic and political centers. Yet, the issue they are protesting, as well as the method employed, needs further probing. That there is deepseated discontent in the country is out of the question. The protesters claim to represent 99 percent of the country, a whopping majority, yet one that is dismally under represented in the U.S. political system. Unemployment has skyrocketed to around ten percent

in recent months. The impending fear of lay-offs looms large upon the populace and finding a job has never been more difficult. It’s also important to note the steady incline in the foreclosure rate. Yet with all this, the richest in America have received tax cuts and exuberant bonuses. This expression of injustice rings true here in D.C. and as the protesters gather there is a common thread of anger at corporations and corporate influence

in the U.S. political system. One of the organizers Micah Bales stated, while the group has no formal goals yet, “We are really fed up with the way corporations have been let loose to govern this country instead of the people.” Micah had said that another one of the other concerns the protestors is that of corporate personhood. This concern was also raised by Chris Morgan, a member of the out reach committee, felt that they need to raise more awareness on this issue. Mr. Morgan also briefly mentioned the groups plan to do so. Mr. Morgan stated, “Major media is a dying art, we are on all new and social media outlets.” The groups have been running a large social media campaign which is a testament to their dedication. Yet the unorganized nature of the demonstrations raises questions about the sustainability of this movement and whether it poses any serious challenge to the system. Despite their dedication and spirit the protestors seem to be lacking a

unified goal and clear demands. This allows for opponents to write of the protests as many were prone to do at first. However, surprisingly, rather than stemming with time, the momentum of the movements seems to have picked up with a steady flow of people joining the ranks of those already present. The cause has garnered a lot of support as is evident from the attitudes of those present. A young man named Brandon mentioned that he used to protest a lot, but fell out of doing so. Yet he said he felt motivated to come to this movement as “It’s definitely a worthwhile cause and worth fighting for.” There is a steadfast belief among the protestors that what they’re doing is undeniably right. Adele Bimbai, the chairperson of the outreach committee, stated. “We’re on the right side of history - momentum is on our side, so is change; this society is long over do for change.” On Sunday, twenty-five of the protesters decided to take over the street, they marched out into the middle of traffic and proceeded, with fists raised in the air, to march on the

W h i t e House. Chants of “Show me what democracy looks like, this is what democracy looks like!”, “Hey! Ho! Corporate greed has got to go!” and “Whose streets? Our streets!” echoed across K street. On their way they received approving nods from valets, doormen, and other common people, as well as supportive honks from bus and cab drivers. They walked back to their base and were welcomed by handshakes and congratulatory pats on their backs. This a clear indication of the dissatisfaction that has been brewing largely due to the exponential growth of CEO’s and Wall Street executive’s salary, while salaries of the middle and working class remain relatively static. That this tension is reaching a boiling point is evident. People have had enough and this can be seen in the street demonstrations. Even with all its flaws and the gigantic odds it faces, the movement, nonetheless, gives many people hope. The 99%; students, homeless, musicians, poets, workers, are finally taking a stand and sending a resounding message to the government and corporations that enough is enough.

Following in George Hay

Hayward, the 19th century explorer is barely known to people, both in his native country – England – and in the co to make him remodel his own life entirely. Tim Hannigan, more than two hundred years later, retraces the route Ge literary high definition By Natasha Shahid Kunwar

Designed by Sana Ahmed

“And then, at very short notice, came a completely unexpected chance to join my father for a month in the high mountains of northern Pakistan. It would never, ever have occurred to me to go to such a place – mainly because it was so far from the sea. I knew nothing of south Asian history, had only the vaguest notions about Islam and had never even heard of the Hindu Kush. But now here I was, bouncing around in the back of a stripped-down jeep, waving to village children in the stony fields and heading into the mountains along the same road that the explorer George Hayward took on his own final, fateful journey – though of course, I had never heard of him.” – Chapter No2, “Into the Wild”


his was Tim Hannigan in 1999 – an eighteen-yearsold son of a traveler and photographer father, ex-apprentice of master chefs,

dreaming of a future in Australia and Hawaii that he would never have. Twelve years later, at thirty, he releases “Murder on the Hindu Kush – George Hayward and the Great Game”, a 250-paged biography of a fellow countryman who lost his life on the very same Hindu Kush he hadn’t even heard of back on his first visit to Pakistan. Hannigan had, since then, spent most of his life in the research of the region as well as that of Hayward’s life, both on foot and in written records – it had, it seems, become his passion. Talk about having a life changing experience. And, gladly for keen readers, the passion of the act reflects only too well in his maiden book. A travelogue cum intimate history, Hannigan in his work follows his subject like a novelist follows its protagonist. From his Yorkshire childhood to his times in the army of the British Raj and his final travels, the biographer has redrawn Hayward’s life with such detail that disproves the notion that there is a lack of information available on the

life of the late British adventurer. The last two years of his subject’s life, as well as his death, however, get the lion’s share of our biographer’s story. To top it off, all this is admirably set in the-then global context, the context of what is now known as the “Great Game” between the Russian and British Empires – the two biggest global powers of times’ struggle for imperial supremacy in Asia. After having left his commission in the British army in 1865, George Hayward goes back homeward and reaches his native England by 1868. Characterized by an unquenchable thirst to

A travelogue cum intimate history, Hannigan in his work follows his subject like a novelist follows its protagonist. From his Yorkshire childhood to his times in the army of the British Raj and his final travels, the biographer has redrawn Hayward’s life with such detail that disproves the notion that there is a lack of information available on the life of the late British adventurer

A history replete with anecdotes

Through a detailed study of original sources, Tunzelmann intelligently and imaginatively weaves together a marvellous book with just the right mix of historical facts and literary appeal By Aamir Riaz

04 - 05

Sunday, 09 October, 2011


nconventional methods of history writing are on the rise. While court historians still take up a lot of space in book shelves, there have emerged a talented few who have managed to successfully swim against the tide. Alex Von Tunzelman, age 34, is one such writer who stands apart from her predecessors and contemporaries. She has a tendency of picking up events and incidents, and using her incisive insight to turn it into something wholly unique. Her book currently under review is Indian Summer: The secret history of the end of an Empire. While refraining from organizing her book thematically, she has also chosen not to write history in the usual chronological order. She homes in on ordinary incidents, treating them masterfully, offering unique angles to the story. The minute and seemingly insignificant detail has been culled from the records about Partition and woven into the larger narrative. One such incident, as narrated by her: ”It was 11.59pm; date; 14 August 1947 and Jawaharlal was anxiously waiting being pronounced the First Prime Minister of the newly created state, India. As the clock struck, the reverential mood in the hall was broken by an unexpected bang from the back. The dignitaries jerked their heads around to the source of the thud. It turned out that a devoted Hindu member of the assembly was blowing into a conch shell – an invocation of the gods. Journalist Mildred Talbot was present at that moment and relayed that ‘when I happened to spot Nehru just as he was turning away, he was trying to hide a smile by covering

The author provides a fresh perspective to the Partition of India by compiling several small and often overlooked incidents and anecdotes in an imaginative and skillful way

his mouth with his hand’”. A n o t h e r incident: “It was 11.55 pm the same day. Mountbatten was sitting in his study alone, thinking to himself, as he recollected later, ‘For still a few minutes I am the most powerful man on the earth.’ At 11.58 he signed the last order as Governor General of British India in which he gave the title of Highness to Australian wife of Nawab of Palanpur.” The act epitomized the character of Mountbatten, and also that of the Nawabs. Through these ordinary yet important incidents you can imagine the tone and tenor of the rest of the book. We are inundated with material on the Partition, yet Tunzelmann is shrewd enough to find her way through this veritable deluge creatively. She also writes about a phone call Jawaharlal attended just few hours before the ceremony. This phone call was from Lahore, his mother’s home town and a place where he had spent much of his childhood. It was in the midst of being torn apart by sectarian clashes. Through such incidents, one is invited to access just a few of the numerous unexplored perspectives on the cataclysmic period around the Partition. Perhaps the most interesting story in this book is the transformation of the Battenberg family of Germany into the Mountbattens of England. It recounts how Britain’s supernationalism compelled the Battenberg family to shed their German identity

not only in England but also in Russia and other countries. In his recent book ‘On China’, the former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, himself a German by origin, also wrote about the rise of Germany at the beginning of the twentieth century. According to Kissinger, the First World I ndian Summer: War was meant to destroy The secret history of the end of an Empire Germany as a world power. When Britain declared by Alex Von Tunzelman Germany an enemy, some Pages: 402; Price: Rs750/serious questions regarding Available at Readings the loyalties of high officials of German origin came to H.H. Asquith wrote cheerfully to his the fore. No doubt, some forces, as confidante Venetia Stanley that our usual used it in their petty interest. poor blue-eyed Germans will have to “The elder prince Louis of Battenberg go”. was removed from his position as On July 17, 1917 a mass rethe First Sea Lord… By October 1914 branding of royalty was ordered Britain was at war with Germany and by George V. Prince Alexander of there were far too many Germans in Battenberg became the Marquess of high places… The First Lord of the Carisbrooke, Prince Alexander of Teck Admiralty, Winston Churchill, agreed became the Earl of Athlone; Adolphus, to throw one of their most senior Duke of Teck became the Marquess military experts onto the pyre at the of Cambridge and the unemployed beginning of the war, because his Prince Louis of Battenberg became name was foreign. The Prime Minister


yward’s footsteps

ountry of his death – Pakistan. But his life did inspire one man enough eorge Hayward took up the Himalayas – and presents the man to us in

Murder in the Hindu Kush Published by: The History Press Pages: 254; Price: 18.99 Pounds explore the unknown, he meets with the vice-president of the Royal Geographic

Louis Mountbatten Marquess of Milford Haven. A forcible change of identity, that too in a country which declared itself to be the mother of all democracies, betrays a deeply hypocritical stance and sheds light on the extent of anti-German sentiment in twentieth century Britain. The book has quite a few anecdotes about Gandhi, his disobedient four sons, especially his wife Kamla and son Harri Lal who embraced Islam, the countless affairs of Edwina Mountbatten before her last and most famous one with Jawaharlal Nehru, the sheer good luck that befell Mountbatten when his childhood friend became the King, the politics in power circles, Jinnah and Moti Lal’s reservations regarding Gandhi and his Satyagraha, Mountbatten as a reluctant German, the Poona Pact, schedule castes and the reservations of Dr B.R Ambedkar, the transfer of power and the issue of Kashmir. On the nature of the relationship between Jawaharlal and Edwina, their intimate liaison and the transformation of Edwina from a socialite to a social worker has been graphically described. When Edwina died in 1960, Nehru did not appear to be in grief – but that was a carefully constructed facade. The history and politics of South Asia is a complex matter indeed, which needs more attention especially by young South Asian researchers. Tunzelman’s book is an essential read because of her defiance of traditional historiography. Through a detailed study of original sources, Tunzelmann intelligently and imaginatively weaves together a marvellous book with just the right mix of historical facts and literary appeal.

Aamir Riaz is a Lahore-based editor and researcher

Society, Sir Henry Rawlinson to arrange for the finances of his trip to the Himalayas, where he had sought to explore the Pamirs. Finances and equipment granted, Hayward excitedly sets out on his great adventure. The best – and the worst – was yet to come. Having had his attempt to approach his target via Chitral declined, Hayward takes the route via Ladakh and from there on to Kashgaria. Here, he is held by King Yakub Beg of Kashgaria and is not allowed to proceed any further. In a belated attempt in 1869, Hayward surges upwards and reaches as far as Gilgit but, again, has to stop in his tracks. In a third – and, subsequently, final – effort in 1870, Hayward reaches as near the Oxus River as Darkot, where his luck runs out and he is brutally murdered on the 18th of July that year – the murder that makes the title of our book. All these two years, Hayward survived a number of house arrests and conspiracies from strangers and fellow countrymen alike, but his final fate lay at the wrong end of the great British-

By Syed Afsar Sajid


miscellany of three recently published books in Urdu forms the subject of this review. Khutbate-Qadiriya (AlFatah Al-Rabbani) comprises an Urdu version of the sermons, discourses and sayings of Hazrat Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani (RA). Prof Dr Muhammad Ashraf Kamal has lately brought out two books; one, a critical biography of the renowned Urdu scholar and critic Hafiz Mehmood Shirani, and the second, a collection of his verse in Urdu.


Hazrat Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani (RA) – (470-561 AH) (1077-1166 AD) – has been for centuries one of the most celebrated divines and mystic saints of Islam, and was also the eponymous founder of the Qadiria Sufi order. His sermons and writings deal with both the fundamentals of Islam and the mystical experience of Sufism. The preface to the original translated version of the Khutbat dates back to the year 1904. The book contains 62 khutbas – steeped in divine wisdom and spirituality – spread over some 508 pages besides another 116 pages covering the speeches and sayings of the great saint including his last words. Mian Sadiq Mehboob, an architect by profession, has done well to publish the book for the spiritual inspiration and enlightenment of the readers.

Hafiz Mehmood Shirani

The book is a presentation of Muqtadira Qaumi Zaban, Pakistan as a part of the series of its publications commemorating the pioneers (bunyad guzar)/celebrities (mashaheer) of the

Russian tussle for Central Asia. A brave soldier and a braver adventurer, it was but his ill-luck that saw him “fallen among the Thieves”: ‘O glorious Life, Who dwellest in earth and sun, I have lived, I praise and adore Thee.’ A sword swept. Over the pass the voices one by one Faded, and the hill slept.’ So goes the famous poem, “He Fell among the Thieves”, of Sir Henry Newbolt penned down for none but our fallen hero himself. Tributes and testimonials aside, there still remains but one question: who killed George Hayward? For sure he was caught in the space between the advancing British and Russian Empires at the wrong time, but who was the pawn that the chess masters used to achieve the desired result and why? Was it his envious fellow British traveler Robert Shaw? Or was it newly powerful Yakub Beg, the self-proclaimed King of Kashgaria? Was it an angered local acquaintance, Mir Wali, or perhaps the British-backed Maharaja of Kashmir? Or was it the man at the back of it all – Henry Rawlinson, the vice president of the Royal Geographic Society, himself? The mystery remains. And our biographer has a theory that is not to be missed.

language and literature of Urdu. Hafiz Mehmood Shirani was a trend-setter in Urdu research and criticism. As a linguist too, he stood aloft amongst his predecessors, peers and successors. Dr. Muhammad Ashraf Kamal, himself a promising research scholar of Urdu, has authored this book on the person and achievements of Hafiz Shirani. Noted poet and writer Iftikhar Arif has commended the attempt in his foreword to the book which comprises three chapters (besides the bibliography) on his biography, work and services to Urdu. It is an authentic compilation drawing on a wide range of resource material, collated, compressed and narrated in a lucid, racy style affording a good read to students and interested readers alike.

Koi Tairay Jaisa Nahi

It is the fourth verse collection (comprising some 60 ghazals) of Muhammad Ashraf Kamal published in the year 2010 after Phool Rastay (1992), Dhoop Ka Shaher (1995) and Tujhey Daikha Hai Jab Say (2007). The genre of ghazal in Urdu is traditionally associated with a passionate expression of amorous feelings (gham-e-janan) peripherally resounding a poet’s personal grievances

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1. Our Lady of Alice Bhatti by Mohammad Hanif 2. The Collaborator by Mirza Waheed 3. New York to Dallas by J. D. Robb 4. Aleph by Paulo Coehlo 5. A Song of Ice and Fire Series by George R. R. Martin 6. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen 7. 44 Charles Street by Danielle Steel 8. Leela’s Book by Alice Albinia 9. Whatever It Is, I Don’t Like It by Howard Jacobson 10. Kill Alex Cross by James Patterson


1. The Black Banners: Inside the Hunt for Al-Qaeda by Ali H. Soufan 2. Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11 by Syed Saleem Shahzad 3. Conversations with Myself by Nelson Mandela 4. Pathfinders: The Golden Age of Arabic Science by Jim Al-Khalili 5. The Battle of Roses: Siachen Glacier by Harish Kapadia 6. The 9/11 Wars by Jason Burke 7. The Lost Empire of Atlantis: History’s Greatest Mystery Revealed by Gavin Menzies 8. The State of Islam: Culture and Cold War Politics in Pakistan by Saadia Toor 9. Pakistan: A Hard Country by Anatol Lieven 10. The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins


1. The Tracy Beaker Trilogy by Jacqueline Wilson 2. Pig Heart Boy by Malorie Blackman 3. The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan 4. White Crow by Marcus Sedgwick 5. Merlin: The Death of Arthur by Jason Loborik 6. Aftershock by Mark Walden 7. Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey 8. Fallen by Lauren Kate 9. Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code by Eoin Colfer 10. Diary of Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

and griefs rooted in the prevailing socio-moral disharmonies (gham-edauran). The artistic expanse of ghazal has withstood the fluidity of all kinds of spatial and chronological variations ever since its inception as a poetic form. Viewed in this context Ashraf Kamal’s ghazal carries a distinct spontaneity of expression on some fresh themes and subjects – this is also observed by Dr Wazir Agha in the flap of the book. The rhyming schemes (bahrs) too, appropriate to the mood and mode of each piece, speak for the skill of the poet. Generally free from cliché, his verse is apt to please as well as move the reader out of the routine. By the by, an M.A. thesis on this book is in progress at NUML, Islamabad. Some verses from the collection are being cited here to afford a taste of Ashraf Kamal’s poetry to the reader:

Hafiz Mehmood Shirani Author: Dr Muhammad Ashraf Kamal Publisher: Muqtadira Qaumi Zaban, Pakistan Pages: 159; Price: Rs. 130/-

Mae darya kay kinaray aaina soorat khara hun/Magar pani may taira aks bahta ja raha hai Shab gazeedon ki tarah uth khara hoga naey fitnay laikar/Raat bhar bhook ka ehsas kahan chaein say sonay daiga Mae aisay hath apnay paas rakh kar kya karunga/Agar woh mairay hathon ki lakiron may nahi hai Mae aasaani say kaisay doob sakta hun/Samandar ko bahut kuch sochna hoga Milna tra aasaan hai, na tha aur na hoga/Hathon ki lakiron ka yeh jaal aur hi kuch hai Sab say alag hai rasta sab say juda shinakht/Khud ko kisi hujoom may khonay nahi diya

Koi Tairay Jaisa Nahi Author: Muhammad Ashraf Kamal Publisher: Misal Publishers, Rahim Centre, Aminpur Bazaar, Faisalabad Pages: 128; Price: Rs. 160/-

Khutbat-e-Qadiria (Al-Fatah Al-Rabbani) Translator: Maulana Ashiq Elahi Meeruti Compiler: Mian Sadiq Mehboob Publisher: Mehboob & Associates, Canal Road, 3-Km, Jallo More, Lahore Pages: 624; Price: Rs.400/-

Gurg Dath after an overnight fall of rain

Baloch sensibility evidently made it irreverential for the holy rock to be left in its pristine condition

By Salman Rashid


or the tenth time did Rehmat Khan Buzdar try to convince me that hospitality was not such a bad thing after all. And for the tenth time I returned that it was not such a hot idea to slaughter a sheep for a vegetarian and if he and his lot kept at killing their flocks the way they were doing it their tribal name of Buzdar (buz for goat and dar for owner or keeper) would soon be a misnomer. I said hospitality could just as easily be a nicely done dish of vegetables or lentils. But that, he argued, would not become Baloch hospitality. Then he told me the story. There was once a Baloch of kind heart and generous spirit whose door was forever open to all comers. It was a rare mealtime that the man ate by himself; always there would be a passing traveller pausing to partake of whatever the man’s hearth could offer. But not so the man’s wife. A shrewish woman of niggardly disposition, she ceaselessly lamented the drain the hospitality caused on their larder and the trouble it caused her. No amount of cajoling blunted her verbal offensives. One day as she stood by her door she saw two men approach. Withdrawing, she informed her husband of what she looked upon as trouble. Later that evening when her man asked for the company to be fed, she refused. She

gave him just enough food for one person saying he could either eat it himself or feed his visitors and the matter was left at that. The following morning as she looked out of the door she saw three persons walking down the path into the wilderness. Mystified, she asked her husband how food just about enough for one person could have sated him and his three guests. He said it was not for her to worry her head about these matters, but the woman persisted. At length the man relented. There were not three guests but one, he said. It was the guest’s naseeb she had seen as the second person the evening before. For no man, said the generous Baloch, comes to this world without his naseeb – his lot as predestined by his Lord. As he walks the long and lonely road upon the Lord’s good earth, he is, as indeed are all mortals, kept company by his naseeb. What he eats and drinks, what he earns or loses, his pleasure and grief, are all as they have been laid down for him in advance. Not a jot more nor less than his naseeb is what he will get for that is what the Lord has ordained. And so the visitor partook of whatever had been predestined as his naseeb. For him that day the Lord had decreed just half a meal and that was what he got. What then of the third man that left in the morning with the guest and his naseeb, the woman asked. ‘The ways of the Lord are strange, simple woman,’ said the man. ‘A calamity was awaiting in our humble home to strike when its time was come. The hospitality that you offered, albeit begrudgingly, has won us merit with the Almighty Lord. We are delivered of that mishap. The third person you saw leaving our home with the guest was misfortune.’ Rehmat Khan regarded me with

his bloodshot eyes. ‘The story of the generous man and his stingy wife may just be a story and no more. But it does have a point,’ he said. ‘From that day on the woman was redeemed, so the story goes. Not only did she never resent a guest, she became as willing and liberal a provider as her husband.’ That has always been the way of the Baloch and no amount of slaughtering of goats for the pleasure of the weary traveller will lessen the size of his herd, said Rehmat Khan. When one fetes a wayfarer it is not long after that one finds oneself on the lonely road and in need of comfort and hospitality. Then, shading his eyes against the westering sun, he pointed to a bunch of houses barely visible at the bottom of the hill and said that was where his brother was awaiting us with more hospitality. I shuddered: two days of Baloch generosity and I was sick of the sight of roast lamb. Raheal Siddiqui, my civil servant friend in Dera Ghazi Khan, had invited me to Bail Pathar and ‘stories to sate your thirst for stories.’ Lying northwest of town at exactly sixty kilometres as the black eagle flies, this peak is part of the chain of Suleman peaks and troughs that rises at Fort Munro and culminates in the great massif of Takht e Suleman on the apex between Balochistan and Pukhtunkhwa. At 2328 metres (7636 feet) Bail Pathar is the highest point in Punjab and Raheal said it would be worth my while to boast one day that I had climbed the highest mountain in the province. But like all the

best laid plans of mice and men ours to depart from D.G Khan before dawn was thwarted. With only two hours of sleep the night before, I slept through the journey on the metalled road. Even the jolting off-road ride did not rouse me until Raheal shook me awake at Gurg Dath – Wolf Pass. Rains of the past week had put a trickle of water at the bottom of the normally dry ravine beyond which was the settlement of Dada Musa Koh – Ancestor Musa’s Boulder. The local chieftain pounced upon us with breakfast, the second one that day – the first having been fed us by Raheal’s wife because of our delayed departure from the city. Over roast chicken and lamb and endless cups of sweet tea they told us of that Buzdar ancestor called Musa, a much favoured man of God. But there were others as well and one day Musa got arguing with two friends over who possessed the most miraculous powers. To demonstrate one of them raised up his staff to a bird flying high overhead and brought it tumbling down; the other sat astride a boulder and went riding off into the hills. Dada Musa took up his muzzleloader and pressing it against a boulder ran it through and through. The rock with the hole was now a shrine and Musa of the clan Buzdar, buried several miles away to the north, was a much venerated saint for the entire clan. Of the other two, the birdman was named Duzak also a Buzdar while the boulder rider was a Laghari called Mirak. The magical boulder sits in the graveyard of Kabir in Laghari country to the southwest and the bird was probably eaten up by the three for there is no bird-like rock to be flaunted. For some inexplicable reason both Duzak and Mirak were not viewed with the same reverence as Granddad Musa. But far away the Laghari miracle worker would surely be holding his own fairly well among his fellow clansmen. To each clan its own saint.

Pictures by the Author

the review Sunday, 09 October, 2011

06 - 07

Musa’s rock with the hole and the roof

Musa’s rock was there all right with the hole running through its upper part nearly three metres across. I was invited to look through it and I half expected to be told if I viewed scenes from paradise I was forgiven and if not, hellfire was to be my everlasting lot. Nothing of the sort, however and I was spared the lifelong dread of the inferno. Once in the open, the rock now had a roof above it. Baloch sensibility evidently made it irreverential for the holy rock to be left in its pristine condition. The man showing me around solemnly touched the stone and ran his hands over his beard. Then he

Commodifying education and did not persist for very long. I suppose envious neighbours who thought they deserved to have cut the tree themselves but were afraid to do so had had enough of the stone throwing. The nightly bombardment, however, did not keep the man from getting a second wife. Nor too did it get in the way of the fathering of a dozen and a half children – nine of either sex. Horses do not have handle bars or steering wheels and for the life of me I can never figure out reins. On past outings Raheal has attempted to get me on a horse but with little luck. This time he pointed out the intense dry heat and the hour-long hike to the house of Haji Sherbet Khan. I asked for a horse with handle bars and Raheal and his team took off along the pony trail. My two guides led me straight across the narrow valley to a ridge. We climbed up and down the other side into a desiccated gulley. Then up again and suddenly I lost my legs. I wanted to call out to my guides to wait, but something kept me trudging along until they thankfully stopped under an acacia tree. We walked across a scrubcovered landscape with the heat rising in shimmering waves until gun shots shattered the silence. My guides said Sherbet Khan was welcoming Raheal and his entourage. Fifteen minutes later when we entered the cool darkness of the good Haji’s guest room, they were already laying out the food – roast lamb again. And we had stuffed ourselves only an hour and a half earlier! I told Raheal I wasn’t walking anymore and needed a horse that would have to be led. He ragged me good-naturedly about the great dream I was dreaming of an expedition across the frozen wastes of the central Karakorums and being unable to go less than half a dozen kilometres without fagging out. As he spoke I thought of whinging about the enervating heat in my defense. But even before I could open my mouth I had drifted off into deep, dreamless sleep. It was just as well that I was no district officer and having no decorum to keep was able to catch up on much needed sleep through the meal. When we were ready to leave they brought out Dada Musa’s famous gun that had run through the boulder. It was in a colourful and fancy wrap that they said someone had gifted upon his return from Dubai. I presumed

An unseen Almighty God is all right, but it was more reassuring to have something material like Granddad Musa’s rock to worship as well. For the Baloch, Musa is the hearer and fulfiller of entreaties who answers prayers for sons raised them up in orison and his lips moved silently. An unseen Almighty God is all right, but it was more reassuring to have something material like Granddad Musa’s rock to worship as well. For the Baloch, Musa is the hearer and fulfiller of entreaties who answers prayers for sons. The gnarled old peelu tree by the cubicle housing the rock is festooned with a few hundred colourful rags containing the first shaving of newborn sons acquired in response to supplicating at the rock. We were introduced to Nawab Khan of the Border Military Police (BMP). With handlebar moustache and sly grin, his claim to fame was the shooting of a leopard many years ago. Convinced that he had done a great and heroic act worthy of adulation and perhaps a monetary gift as well, he skinned the animal and betook himself with the pelt to the Deputy Commissioner’s office at D.G Khan. Now the DC of that time was a man of good sense and judgment who told our man he ought to be imprisoned not rewarded for killing what was perhaps the last leopard of the Suleman Mountains. He came away perplexed and in all these years Nawab Khan has not been able to understand the DC, a right proper gentleman of the first class called Tasneem Noorani. Nawab Khan’s mischief somehow has an antienvironmental hint to it. There was in the neighbourhood an ancient tree reputed to be the abode of evil spirits that would possess anyone who attempted to cut it down. And so the man went off with his axe to kill the tree and fashion a plough from the timber. Not long afterwards the implement fell to pieces and friends and neighbours tried to persuade Nawab Khan that the djinns were culpable and that he ought to do something to make amends. He wasn’t convinced and shortly after that his house was periodically bombarded with stones. He said the bombardment would only be at night

this event of financial betterment would be taken to have been impossible without Granddad Musa’s sanction. Hence, the gift. Gingerly they removed the cover and all present came up to touch and kiss the holy gun. It was an old fashioned jazail matchlock with a finely worked barrel a metre and a quarter long. Together with its curved butt it was just over a metre and a half in length. The piece of string that fired the charge was still attached to it and the entire mechanism worked. The keeper of the holy weapon boasted it was a full one thousand years old. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that was balderdash for firearms did not reach our part of the world until about the end of the 16th century. In my younger days I might have felt silly being led on a tired old nag. But the desire to perform foolish heroics having left me years ago I sat contentedly in the saddle trying as best as I could to keep myself awake as the man led my horse. Beyond a dry canyon we began the steady climb to the pond of Jaghani. The horses were watered before we resumed. The Acacia modesta was soon interspersed with wild olive and Raheal said we had reached 2000 metres above the sea – that gave us another three hundred metres to go. Just before sunset we reached another pond evocatively named Gokh Talab – gokh in Balochi being the lower part of the skull just above the nape. It was said that having left the foot of the hill our little caravan had now reached the bottom of the skull just below the crest. The crest was however some distance away. With the sun behind the western ridge, the heat gave way to welcome cool and Raheal and I gave up our horses to walk the rest of the way. It was in pitch dark that we reached the encampment at Sahib Talab. Rehmat Khan who holds charge of the Bail Pathar BMP post under the eastern shadow of the hill had organised a right festival for us. A blue and orange canopy was flapping madly in the forty knot gale and scores of men were all over the place. I don’t know how he did it, but he had even brought up a dozen charpoys. There were no prizes for guessing what was for dinner and when we brought out the bag of okra that Raheal had very thoughtfully packed for both of us, Rehmat Khan pleaded it be held until breakfast. It would take too long to cook, he said. Moreover, the roast lamb he had prepared for us might fail to make the desired impact. And this was only day one. More was to follow. –Salman Rashid, rated as the best in the country, is a travel writer and photographer who has travelled all around Pakistan and written about his journeys.

The private education sector seems to have transformed into a social rat race, where a pursuit of profit and status are gradually replacing the pursuit of knowledge By Maham Niazi


s I enter the aesthetically adorned hallway and my eyes get accustomed to the subdued lighting, faint tunes of classical music fill my ears. Somewhat baffled by the ambience, I reconfirm my location. And without a doubt, I’m at my intended premises. I am here for a job interview at a prestigious private school in Lahore. The decor puts the reception at par with those of up market restaurants and hotels or customer offices of big corporate firms. While I wait for my turn, I sit and mull over how the world seems to have changed in the past decade. I compare my surroundings to my own school that built its foundations on sound academics accompanied by traditional values and a stark set up. No inspiring murals adorned the reception, no soothing music floated through the air, there were no chic hostesses to give parents guided tours of the plush campus and students and parents were not given the status of privileged customers. Students knew they had to work hard and stick to ground rules to succeed academically and to avoid getting into trouble. And while this recent trend is not something I identify with, I am not judgemental of the motives and acts of the school owners and administrators, for these are modern institutions catering to the demands of the financially affluent, socially competitive, prestige conscious, brand savvy top chunk of Pakistan’s social strata. Although education has always been considered an asset that enlightens and empowers those who seek it, amongst the image conscious higher income circles of the country, it has now become a potent differentiator between the average and the top notch. What’s tragic is, it is not the content or learning that education brings which is the sought after product. Rather it is the name and prestige of the schools and universities which sells like hot cakes. Traditionally, the choice of schools and colleges depended solely on the quality of its education and capability of its faculty. Today, this factor only helps eliminate the totally unacceptable choices. The real deciding factors now include the social reputation of schools in high society, the ‘rich and famous’ ratings of their owners, the posh ambience of their premises and increasingly, the number of co-curricular activities offered by the schools (often at the expense of academic quality). What’s more is, the ill focused approach guiding choices in the education sector is two pronged. It’s not only schools that are raising the bar in competitive image boosters such as colossal campuses and heavily IT based teaching styles (for which a number of teachers lack appropriate training), parents are also bluntly putting their social preferences above the educational requirements of their children. A mother, herself working at a private school tells me her children are enrolled at a different private school. When I asked why she didn’t prefer her school for her children as well, she did not hesitate in saying “When you choose to live in Lahore, you have to maintain your social image. What would I tell my friends and family if I chose this school over the one my children are going to? I agree the education is better

over here, but my children’s school has the key advantage. Its name sells.” The only victims in this system of flawed preferences then are the students. While parents choose to send them to certain schools boasting of more sought after names, focus on academic quality takes a back seat. The number of students taking tuitions to attain satisfactory grades has risen to unprecedented levels. Sadly, this reality is also becoming completely acceptable in society. No longer are schools expected to single-handedly groom and prepare students for external examinations. The tuition circuit is alive and buzzing for the majority who can afford extra classes. The various stakeholders in the education business are each eating off of each other’s poor choices. And those unable to pay for the high expenses that drive these interdependencies are forced to step down to lower rungs of the social ladder. The focus of education has moved away from true learning in recent times. Paradoxically the current education system in Pakistan is still producing outstanding results especially in O and A level examinations. Many students boast of straight As and an ever-increasing number of speciality subjects. While the international requirement for most universities is a mere six subjects in O levels, the highly ambitious young lot tries going the extra mile and beating the previous year’s record holders with heaps and piles of school work, tuitions as well as individual and groups study sessions to get through way more than 10 subjects (current record in my knowledge is a boy from Taxila with 28 As in O levels). Yet many students still do not have a sense of direction by the time they leave school. Instead of moving on to specialised areas, they are dabbling in subjects from all kinds of disciplines. Their yardstick for success is the number of As they score. A grade ten student tells me she does not like the subjects she is studying in her O levels. She wants to be a lawyer but is studying science. The reason? Her parents forced her to take these subjects and regardless of her interest she wants to score A star in all courses. And so children growing up in a system with expectations that reward scores and the number of A grades rather than personal growth will end up setting themselves with misguided targets. Over time, their perceptions become entrenched with social norms that grant superiority to the number of grades they obtain, the name of the institutions they are associated with, the social networks such schools and universities guarantee (for students as well as parents) and most of all, the perpetuation of a deep rooted social divide. While the race to achieve the highest grades and the most number of subjects may account for some form of learning, the true aims of education are lost somewhere along the way. The future of thousands of children then is a product of misguided decision making, baseless expectations and myopic cost benefit analyses on part of the parents. The benefits of this new social reality to sellers of modern education keep growing in leaps and bounds. And so, in the highly competitive education business, the sellers keep polishing their image with glossy packaging while the customers continue to use the services as brands in their portfolio of status symbols. While the never ending social race goes on and on, the quest for knowledge remains forgotten as a passé pursuit.


Sunday, 09 October, 2011

Punjab’s Power Rebellion Hashim bin Rashid

subsided. No one in Punjab got the pleasure of being in a power protest led by their Chief Minister.

he Chief Minister of Punjab has decided to lead protests against the power crisis, and he has not been branded a traitor yet. It has been a long time coming. Plagued by the dengue virus outbreak, appearing quite disheveled at times, the Chief Minister had been speaking of “power discrimination” at meetings of the Council of Common Interest. He even made a point of writing an article on the subject in which he put the blame squarely on the federal government for discriminating against Punjab and not allowing two 900 MW power projects. However, he chose not to speak of the greater crisis that had been plaguing the conglomerate of power generators, distributors and transmitters that works under the broader umbrella of PEPCO. Power has not been produced to its full potential for a good few years now. A structural crisis has been plaguing the power sector: each subsidiary is in debt of the other and the government’s been playing the role of providing bailouts. The power sector has a circular debt of over Rs .350 billion and owes Pakistan State Oil (PSO) Rs 110 billion. So when, in chorus, PSO refused to supply, IPPs refused to supply and Gencos refused to supply, resulting in the supply falling 8,000MW below the demand, the Chief Minister of Punjab was finally ready to raise his war cry. “People must take to the streets. The government has failed,” he proclaimed. In an impressive achievement, the PPP government has, for the first time in Pakistan’s history, succeeded in making upper Punjab raise the “marginalisation” cry. But Punjab and its Chief Minister seem to have conveniently forgotten their own role in creating the structural crisis.

The greater context: PML-N and the IMF


While a legitimate part of the blame does fall on the PPP government, the graver structural problem plaguing the power sector, circular debt, not lack of power generation capacity, traces itself back to the year 1990 when Nawaz invited the IMF to ‘improve’ the efficiency of WAPDA and Pakistan Railways

Punjab’s self-righteous ire

With the Chief Minister’s own son leading protestors in Punjab’s heartland, Lahore, surrounded by traders carrying slogans against President Zardari, the Chief Minister’s brother, his parties’ chief and a former prime minister, brought together party members for a meeting, after which he, too, seconded the war cry. Upper Punjab, their constituency, was marked by violent protests. Gujranwala, Lahore, Faisalabad, Sargodha, Kasur and Jhang, on a decreasing scale, took to the streets. Notably though, half his province, in the south, seemed to have nothing to do with the protests, albeit faced with the same levels of outage. The Chief Minister publicly proclaimed, “We recognise the people’s right to protest,” and (for the banter value of it), dissuaded protestors from violence. Observers could only marvel at the about turn the Chief Minister seemed to have taken. This was the same Chief Minister who was known for dealing with protests with an iron hand. Protests such as those against the displacement of the Kot Lakhpat fruit market in Lahore. But this Chief Minister had a change of heart and was all set to lead the protests. However, before he could take to the streets, the power supply was restored. The Prime Minister had paid off Rs.11 billion debt to two independent power companies and Rs. 9 billion had been paid to PSO. The outages were back to an acceptable amount. The protests and rioting

There was a strange-ness about this story as it unfolded before us. Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif giving a rallying call for protests against the federal government for the excessive outages. His brother, and PML-N chief, Nawaz Sharif seconding the cry and deciding to protest to “topple the government.” But one must not let PML-N get carried away with its self-righteous anger. While a legitimate part of the blame does fall on the PPP government, the graver structural problem plaguing the power sector, circular debt, not lack of power generation capacity, traces itself back to the year 1990 and the first Nawaz Sharif government. Nawaz invited the IMF to ‘improve’ the efficiency of WAPDA and Pakistan Railways. The Railways tale we shall not speak of here. The tale of WAPDA and the power sector however does need recounting. The IMF asked WAPDA to “restructure” itself to establish “autonomous corporations” to, purportedly, enhance performance ability. Subsequently, WAPDA was “unbundled,” using an old Chicago school catchphrase, into separate generation, transmission and distribution companies. Thus power generation companies (Gencos) became separate from distribution companies (Discos). It is within this separation that the roots of the circular debt crisis lie: a debt that is said to stand at over Rs. 350 billion. This excludes the Rs. 25 billion paid to IPPs last month, or, the Rs 9 billion released to Pakistan State Oil out of Rs 110 billion owed. While the PML-N can argue it was not in power during the period in which the crisis gradually built up, it was responsible for creating the structure in which, DISCOs are indebted to GENCOs who are indebted to IPPs who are indebted to PSO. Yes, it is that confusing, but, no, it is quite simple if one gets one’s head around the idea that each “autonomous company” the IMF formed would be a client to the other, and thus owe debts to the other. The very need for a re-structuring of WAPDA itself drew from perennial gap between expenditures and intakes which necessitated the need to subsidise WAPDA every year. Given this fact, the circular debt crisis could easily have been predicted. WAPDA was always collecting less than the actual cost per unit. For the system to function, DISCOs would have to collect from the end customer at a profit. This was never going to happen, the IMF program was bound to fail since it was out of touch with reality, but the then PML-N government accepted the re-structuring. The same PML-N government in 1996 played the politics of vengeance Shahbaz accuses the PPP of playing today when it announced a power surplus and took IPPs to task for it. If one understands the structural cause of the power crisis as the circular debt crisis, as I suggest we do, then the PML-N government is just as responsible, if not more, for the current power debacle.

A structural crisis

So when the PML-N hurls accusations at the PPP government, it is only playing its own Machiavellian card in the hopes of toppling it. And while it may be able to deliver on some promises to start power projects, as the adoption of the Punjab Power Generation Policy 2006 suggests, PML-N led Punjab is mostly ready to move to provincial power generation without offering a solution to the structural problem which it unleashed on the national power sector in 1990. In fact, if there is one positive, it is that the PPP has resisted more so-called structural reform calls on the energy sector from the IMF. However, the power sector in Pakistan remains delicately balanced, very delicately. This is certainly not the first time Gencos, IPPs and PSO have refused to supply, but it is the first time they have decided to do so together. And no amount of sloganeering from the Sharifs of Punjab is about to mitigate a crisis which is partly their doing.

Power problems: A way out? From title page

fertilizers and the CNG sector towards gas power producers. While the installed capacity of thermal based plants is around 6,000MW, it is currently producing only 1,200MW due to lack of availability of fuel. Additionally, the government must also adopt consistent energy conservation plans instead of the sporadic and half-hearted attempts it is currently making. Although inconvenient, the two-day weekly holiday and early closure of markets could save at least 700-800MW. The provincial governments (chiefly Punjab and Sindh) kick up a ruckus every time the central government attempts to implement these plans. The traders in Punjab, with the tacit support of the provincial government, have been the most vociferous opponents of the two-day weeked but they, and the higher-ups of both provinces, must be made to understand that such moves can no longer be circumvented as the crisis has now reached dangerous levels. Furthermore, the government should undertake a firm crackdown on electricity theft and the line losses of distribution companies (DISCOs). The province of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa and Sindh top the list in the matter of line losses due of electricity theft.According to PEPCO in 2010-11, line losses of nine DISCOs are between 9.8 percent and 40.7 percent. Lahore Electric Supply Company (LESCO) line loses on average are 13.3 percent. The average line losses in Gujranwala Electric Supply Company were 12 percent. In Faisalabad Electric Supply Company it was 11.2 percent. In Islamabad Electric Supply Company (IESCO) line losses were 9.8 percent. Multan Electric Supply Company (MEPCO) faced 18.2 percent line losses. Similarly, Quetta Electric Supply Company (QEPCO) line losses were 20.8 percent. Line losses at Peshawar and Tribal Electric Supply Companies averaged 35.2 percent. Hyderabad Electric Supply Company (HESCO) line losses were 27.2 percent. Sindh Electric Power Company (SEPCO), the most inefficient company with average line losses of 41 percent. Former Managing Director of PEPCO Munawar Baseer is of the opinion that even if only five percent of the line losses were reduced, it would have ended up saving Rs 40 billion. While talking to Pakistan Today, he said that short-term steps should be adopted immediately, without further ado. He said that during his tenure, one of the measures he had proposed to the finance ministry was the deduction of the debt of the provinces at source. Explaining this further he said, the federal government would just deduct the amount from the monthly installments of the provinces instead of futilely waiting for the provinces to re-pay them.

Long-term solution

At the very heart of this power crisis lies the fact that 65% of our electricity generation is fuel-dependent. It is imperative that we rid ourselves of this dependency and explore alternative sources else the cost of electricity production will continue to rise exponentially. This existing dependency on fuel just isn’t sustainable anymore as the price of oil in the international market is rapidly climbing, and the gas reservoirs in the country, fast depleting. If the price of oil in the international market crosses US$ 150 per barrel, then the consumers would have to face a massive hike in electricity prices. Currently, the price of oil in international market is hovering below US$80 per barrel but in the past it has crossed the US$ 150 mark. If such a scenario unfolds in future, which is more a question of ‘when’ than ‘if’; consumers will have to pay a whopping Rs. 20 per unit price. The policymakers must simultaneously look towards constructing dams and producing electricity from hydel sources, which is the cheapest option on the table right now. According to the 2009-10 National Electric Power Authority (NEPRA) report, a number of projects have been initiated but are still either in the planning stages or in the early stages of execution, and require at least another five years before they are able to contribute to electricity production. The hydel projects in the public sector include the 960 MW NeelumJhelum, 1,350 MW Tarbela 4th Extension, 4,500 MW Diamer-Bhasha Dam and 740 MW Munda Dam Projects. In the private sector, these include the 740 MW Karot Hydro, 840 MW Suki Kinari, 150 MW Star Hydro and 1,100 MW Kohala Projects. The government must also look towards the Thar coal reserves, something it should have done ages ago. According to Munawar Baseer , a Thar Coal project was proposed in 2008. Had the project been put into play in 2008, by 2015 it would have started production but instead the government delayed the project and criminally wasted three precious years. “Now, if the coal projects are started then we won’t have coal-based production before 2018”, he lamented.