INSIGHT AND FORESIGHT

May 8, 2021

THE ROAD TO GRADUATED ANARCHY

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 5:28 am

Samson Simon Sharaf

US withdrawal from Afghanistan is not a peace move; the way various factions are mapped and placed means a prolonged conflict to keep AFPAK destabalised. USA will make selective use of its long-arm, keeping Pakistan engaged in hybrid zone of neither friend nor foe and work against a CPEC that confines Pakistan’s role to that of Egypt in Suez Canal.

In order to limit Pakistan’s outreach and independence, Pakistan is being trapped into a steep downward curve of bad governance spearheaded by 18th amendment and economic hitmen; some operating on behest of outside state and non-state actors and others for greed, loot and plunder. The new generation of Jinnah’s Khotay Sikkay (political turncoats) is alive and kicking. In the past three decades, they have wrested control of consumer markets like dairies, poultry, livestock, food grains and sugar. They control market elasticity and the government seems helpless. Some also control policies within the government and threaten with forty odd numbers. Worst the advisors and core of Prime Minister’s team continues to falter, pushing an otherwise honest and well-meaning prime minister into a corner.

Though violence in Afghanistan is usual, there is a surge of hostile activities in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. As indicated by deployments, hostile presence in Tora Bora range controlled by Da’esh, Al Qaida, ISIS and TTP indicate difficult times for Pakistan. The drumbeats of violence and low intensity conflict are getting louder.

Like their presence in Waziristan, post 9/11 till conclusion of Zarb e Azb, Afghan Taliban will play double game by turning a blind eye to the potpourri of Da’esh, ISIS and TTP. Terrorists of Baloch separatist will keep debouching from Kandahar Region creating trouble in Balochistan and parts of Sindh. As a consequence, Pakistan’s defensive posture will be forced to wheel to the West giving India more freedom of action in IOK and working boundary. Recent escalation at Samba was a tester and warning shot.  Pakistan has to hold back its friendship hand towards India.

Despite this danger and the recognisable threats, in Pakistan, it is business as usual. The country has yet to awaken to the impending realities. In western strategic appraisals, a steep downward trajectory in governance could result in lack of control and complete anarchy. The chequerboard is ready in all its forms and manifestations whose ultimate objective is outside intervention.  

The recent EU initiative in support of France is a mere show of cards. More stringent conditions could follow, that could melt Pakistan’s non sustainable economy on the turn of a switch. Just like the wage of sin is death, relying on IMF will haunt Pakistan in days to come. If the pyre rekindles, a new social contract may be the only option to stabilise politics.

Imperialist capitalism is exercising its vectors of direct control (SBP, IMF, WB, FATF, and WTO et al) leaving no options for thehapless masses, scourged by political market forces that have joined hands with the transnational system.  As Pakistan stabilises its major economic indices, these are but figures that can be swarmed any moment by circular debts, rising poverty, inflation, consumer prices and bad governance.

Corrupt cartels and cabals are busy squeezing their grip on a government paradoxically committed to anti-corruption while being unable to differentiate friend from foe. It appears that the closest advisors, movers & shakers render inadequate options to address the difficulties of the common man. Majority amongst them have conflict of interests.

pakbee.com

The PTI government is isolated from its diehard party cadres who in private express dissatisfaction. The party’s think tanks have no say in governance while those in power turn deaf ears.  There has been no meeting of the party’s CEC since it came to power, rendering it redundant and as hapless as the people of the country.

The diametrically opposite approach of the new finance minister is a charge sheet on the past three years of economic performance. Though the media hype puts more blame on the government than the many positives it deserves, it is evident that Graduated Anarchy is being orchestrated from within and outside.

The dangerous road to destruction has been carved and no one seems to care amongst the government, political parties, judiciary, media, NGOs and religious elements. The quest to eliminate each other is like a Royal Rumble with everyone at each other’s throat.

Oblivious to the scenario painted above, every political party is busy in make-break strategy; how to topple Punjab, how to pass a vote of no confidence or how to exploit the gang of forty odd politicians of opportunity (a relic of Republican Party tradition) to down the tenacious Imran Khan. They are least bothered by the larger national interests as long as they extract a pound of Imran Khan’s flesh. There are wheels within wheels within wheels.

No one knows who calls the shots; a so called independent judiciary whose decisions largely favour one political party, elements within bureaucracy, the government or the so called establishment?

In the past three years, Pakistan could have availed fleeting opportunities, but for the insulated character of the economic advisory team. Nothing has been done to agitate Pakistan’s biggest engine of GDP: Agriculture. Those placed at helm are traditionally exploiters of the system. CPEC has not transformed into an economic boon. Consumer markets controlled by political mafia are out of control. Circular debt in energy sector is a time bomb.

Whatever the case, the present government is under multi directional siege and forced to feel vulnerable. In power politics, vulnerability breeds instability, lack of cognition and hasty decision making.  When everything becomes ashes, what remains are losers.

With a floating invisible threat looming on the western border, it is time to devote concerted efforts towards grassroots economic stability, preclude political instability and give pause to the armed and civil armed forces to focus on future threats and devise plans.

Cartels and cabals, left unchecked will scuttle the best efforts towards equilibrium and judiciary will keep giving relief to plunderers of the country. Hence notwithstanding the ultimate result of this confrontation, the next pit stop is constitutional reforms through an absolute majority.

Unfortunately, as events indicate, the varying factions have drawn their swords openly and friends have stilettos up their sleeves, while the voices of sanity and reason rot in dungeons. If no decisive and positive actions are taken, Pakistan may follow an extremely unstable course. That will be a very dangerous day.

By the time the rumble ends, Pakistan would have lost three decades. Then who will gather the remains of the day and start carving a new destiny? 

Therefore, I would still bet on honest leadership at the helm, with elasticity to reverse bad decisions and inclusivity of party cadres for positive decision making. This is the only way out. All others will lead to unending instability.

Post Script

A serious reassessment in KSA has shown how it’s hubristic pursuit of glorious visions has plunged it in a den of wolves led by USA, France, UK and Israel; They set out to ensure regional isolation of the Arabs. The second was control of it’s oil resources. The third was a reshuffle of its political structures.

The raisin d’etre for this Western buildup is being made redundant by the Saudi embrace of the former enemy Iran. All former rivals have become potential allies. Syria, Iraq and then China and Russia. This is a strategic tectonic shift.

As a consequence the game to destabilize Pakistan the Pivot will intensify manifold.

April 26, 2021

A MILL IN STILL BIRTH WITH NO O2

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 6:01 am

The tragedy of Pakistan Steel

Pakistan Steel Mill can rightly be called a Still Birth; a wish that never was:

a case of chasing shadows: and a dream turned nightmare;

not because it was destiny

but for other factors like greed, inefficiency and disloyalty to the country. 

Samson Simon Sharaf

One immediate problem I confronted as Patron of Insaf Jafakash Workers Federations and President Insaf Labour Wing in 2020 was Pakistan Steel Mill. Incidentally, I headed the monitoring team at GHQ in 1999, that was largely assertive in profitably kick starting the mill. By 2004, Rs. 12 Billion principal debt and a deficit of Rs. 19 Billion were paid back, besides covering Rs. 9 Billion losses. Yes, a colossal figure of Rs. 40 Billion in 5 years. If we take 2006 as the zenith of Pakistan Steel Mill, it was only 14 years ago that it was alive and kicking. The sudden death in 2015 is a manipulated dynamic.

In view of the Covid 19 Environment I demanded through my CBA Labour Union to recommission the oxygen generation plant. The demand was also part of our Charter of Demands that ultimately stood rejected by the Steel Mill and Ministry of Industries. I also had a long inconclusive meeting with Advisor Razzak Dawood.

All efforts fell on deaf years as the government and bureaucracy had a pre conceived conviction to sell off this national asset. They were ignorant of the many Supreme Court decisions on the subject and whisked away current litigations in the apex court. Now the country direly needs oxygen and like India, Pakistan may not have enough resources to meet the rising demands created by new variants of Covid 19.

India is suffering an acute shortage despite all hospitals having their integral oxygen concentrator plants for ICUs. Unfortunately the demand in India has outstripped local production capacities. In Pakistan, most hospitals do not have integral oxygen production capability except Christian Hospital Taxila. God forbid, if the Oxygen demand in Pakistan rises, it will become a national emergency and Pakistan may have to rely on imports. Therefore I tweeted below:

I have had discussions with some segments of authorities on how to kick start the dead project that was closed in running state. I fear it may not be possible due to massive misappropriations, corruption of software, lack of inventories and positive will.

Despite misleading demarches by governments since 2008, a detailed analysis of events leads to the inevitable conclusion that the governmental cases of privatisation since 1998, rejected by Supreme Court in 2006 and again reaffirmed by the apex court in May 2012 point to a direction the government does not wish to pursue. The bottom line is to sell it.

No government since 2006 has shown the resolve to carry out in-depth investigations, ascertain how and why losses occurred, who is responsible for inefficiency and who should be made accountable? The ministry of law has not done its homework and MOI&P keeps passing unsubstantiated information to ECC and cabinet while losses accumulate. This evasion has checks in the many Supreme Court judgements and will not go unchecked.  

Post world war II, this was the most ambitious project of the country in public sector, conceived in 1947 that never took off since foundation stone in 1973 and inauguration in 1985. Intervening years are a sorry state of inefficiency, greed, rise of cartels and cabals that frequent corridors of power.  By 2015, when the oxygen plant was switched off, the mafia ensured it was dead. 

Why PPPP ensured the flagship project of its founder be cast into the death chamber is baffling. Closure of the Oxygen Plant in 2015 is explainable due to vested interests and linked to an LOI in March 2006 signed by Minister of Industries Mr. Jehanghir Khan Tareen to a shady consortium of an offshore company PSMC in Mauritius controlled by Mittal of India.

No government document can explain why this tragedy came to pass. The truth lies hidden in the desires to keep Pakistan underdeveloped, the political economy of dependence, corporate capitalism, economic hitmen and now ‘The Age of Surveillance Capitalism’ that has moved beyond sovereignty of nation-states where according to  Shoshana Zuboff, one vector belongs to the longer history of modernisation and centuries-long societal shift (nationalism) and opposing vector belongs to the decades long neo liberal economic paradigm to reverse, subdue, impede and even destroy the individual urge toward psychological self-determination and moral agency.

I doubt the Steel Mill Gurus will be willing to kick start the oxygen plant. Sometime after 2015, the software of the mill went suspiciously corrupt. All automated records and inventories gone! Then it was free for all to vandalise the project. Perhaps the government may have to commission an exclusive team from Ministry of science and Technology, SPD and POF to recommission the oxygen Plant.

The Prime Minister should appoint a JIT to investigate a) why Supreme Court Orders have been by passed and b) fix responsibility from 2006 onwards for losses, irregularities, steel import tariffs and financial frauds. Techno-forensic audit must be part of the task given to JIT.

Without satisfying the Supreme Court questions, the government can never sell this national asset.

Meanwhile resuscitate the Oxygen Plant and allow duty free import of Oxygen Concentrators.

Note: By writing this I am taking on Pakistan’s biggest Mafias, Cartels, Economic Hitmen and strongest lobbies that influence governments.

April 25, 2021

CHALLENGES FOR PTI

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 5:35 am

Samson Simon Sharaf

The Fighter

Despite all that is happening in the PTI Government and the party itself, I stand by my writing that, “PTIs internal dynamics are like tectonic plates cutting and crashing like nature’s equilibrium. Like the Himalayas, the party continues to evolve, grow and rise”. 

This is part of the rigours a new party governing through an unholy alliance of shoestring majority has to grow out of. Besieged by the pulls and pushes in this coalition, there are limitations to what the party can deliver according to its vision and purpose enunciated in its constitution and manifestos. The bright part is that it still enjoys absolute majority in KPK and GB. Punjab where it must deliver and fight to live another day is a shoestring like the centre and this is where the battle has to be fought.  

The recent onslaught is of the party’s own making. About 30 landlords, industrialist real estate tycoons and biradari politicians joined the party under Jehanghir Tareen in 2012. They are more interested in their self-centred desires than the vision of the party. Having handed control of party management to Jahangir Tareen and lion’s share in 2018 elections, the writing was always on the wall.

In addition there are about ten so called electable who joined the party before elections and won. Now they are reacting openly and challenging the party. They have the numbers that can grow to challenge Punjab and the Centre. This challenge has many constitutional pathways.

Unfortunately, this entire drama unfolds from Punjab’s feudal, industrial and Biradari elites backing a common purpose. Thse were clans who were not even loyal to Qaud E Azam. Punjab’s Chief Minister, a rank outsider has neither the insight nor the prowess to neutralise these powerful lobbies.

The first spring board is the legacy of the Republican Party that even ditched Qaid e Azam’s vision. This alliance keeps popping with opportunities.

Second came to being with the Economic Reforms Act of 1992. This created a nexus between the Industrialist and other elites in an environment where corruption, money laundering and inside trading became rampant. Industrialist who had suffered due to nationalisation got a new life.

The third scourge is the Non Party elections of 1985. A comprehensive study was carried out by IB to make the system effective. Officers who still control IB were then junior officers. Those who served IB and are now politicians know all tricks of the trade.

In retrospect and as I wrote in 2018, PTI was better off on the opposition benches. The so called establishment that purportedly backed him know the game of numbers but oblivious to the under currents within these elites. They ignored the lesson of history that such elites cooperate beyond ideological and party levels. Their material abundance is mutual and they scratch each other’s backs: a reason why PTI could not profit from many cases it contested against PMLN in the courts.

The ranks of these 40 odd or more belligerents are a non-cohesive splintered group. Some are allied with PMLN due to local politics, others to wrest control of Punjab in Faisalabad, Jhang, Kabirwala, Khanewal, Luddan and Vehari. There are separate groups vying for Multan, Bahawalpur, Rahimyar khan and Sadiqabad. Top it up woth industrialist and you come up with a mosaic of these carpetbaggers. Concurrently they are double triple connected to PMLN, PPP and the Baradari Lobbies. Within, they are also for each other’s throats. Seen in this context, Jehaghir Tareen becomes a less important factor but he neutralises it by links right up with PMLN and PPP through his Industrial and family connections. He can play very smart, as he has done ever since he joined politics.

The next budgetary session for the government in Punjab and Centre will be a test. If these numbers do not show up, the government ends with a minority and may need at least one large party to bail it. The obvious is PPP that also controls Sindh and has numbers in the Senate. If the opportunist Cuckoos vote against party policy, there will be crises of confidence and again PPP as a catalyst will emerge as a broker. Therefore, these elements will suck last blood from stones till the budgetary sessions. The government has time to engage, neutralise and pacify these lobbies.

It is unfortunate that PTI forgot to understand environments in which it was formed. Contextual understanding explains that whilst critics see a party at conflict within, it actually means evolution. Breaking fritters of a political culture plaguing Pakistan for over seven decades is onerous and challenging. With Imran Khan’s no nonsense attitude, a deep sense of right and ability to transform impossibilities, PTI was created to reboot Pakistan’s electoral landscape. Unfortunately in 2018, it became part of the malaise and hence the present crises.

From 2008 to 2013, PTI emerged as the biggest critic of the NRO sponsored governments. Imran Khan’s decision in 2009 to form a shadow government, appoint choicest spokespersons and reorganisation paid immediate dividends. The social media was suddenly abuzz. Party’s presence in media grew. Its membership swelled. Pakistanis not previously known for activism began to throng PTI Rallies. Within few months, crowds of few thousands swelled to millions.  A series of rallies from 2010 onwards resulted in a mammoth gathering at Lahore on 30 October 2011.

Come hordes of elitists who subsequently elbowed out the ideology! The most tragic compromise was that a larger principal of ‘celebrating the cultural and religious diversity into one Pakistani identity’ was sacrificed to cater to wishes of few.  It was a departure from Qaid e Azam Muhhamad Ali Jinnah’s 11 August speech whose original recording was incidentally unearthed by PTI for 30 October gathering?

For analysts, PTI numbers in 2018 elections still matter as popular votes that helped 40 or more odd birds of opportunity win seats. Whether these numbers swell in 2023 depends on how Imran Khan handles the latest challenges.

He has options and he must go down fighting sinking the titanic of opportunists’ elites. People will throng back to him.

April 1, 2021

بن موسم ملہار

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 5:07 am
Photography by Samson Simon Sharaf


Roznama Dunya
جمعرات 01 اپریل 2021ء
Samson Simon Sharaf

حالیہ چند دنوں میں حکومت کی طرف سے اٹھائے گئے اقدامات کے اثرات پاکستان کے مستقبل پر دہائیوں تک محسوس کئے جائیں گے۔
سوشل میڈیا نے حالیہ تبدیلیوں کے حوالے سے عام آدمی کو مخمصے میں ڈال دیا ہے۔ اس لیے ہماری آنے والی نسلیں ہی یہ فیصلہ کر پائیں گی کہ یہ تبدیلیاں حکومت وقت کا درست فیصلہ تھا یا غلط۔ حکومت کے سٹیٹ بینک آف پاکستان کو کلی طور پر ایک خودمختار ادارہ بنانے کے فیصلے پر تبصرہ کرنے کے لیے اس کے ماضی سے باخبر ہونا ازحد ضروری ہے۔ اس حوالے سے آئی ایم ایف کی سفارشات نے حکومتی فیصلے کو مزید متنازعہ بنا دیا ہے۔ اس حوالے سے میری کچھ ریٹائرڈ افسروں اور سٹیٹ بینک کے کچھ سابق گورنر صاحبان سے بات ہوئی۔ ان کی متفقہ رائے یہ تھی کہ سٹیٹ بینک کو تو پہلے ہی کافی حد تک خودمختاری حاصل تھی۔ مسئلہ بینک کی اعلیٰ انتظامیہ کا ہے کہ وہ اس خود مختاری کو کس حد تک استعمال کرنا جانتی ہے۔ ان کا اس بات پر بھی اتفاق تھا کہ کلی خودمختاری بھی بہتر انداز میں سسٹم میں رہتے ہوئے ہی استعمال کی جا سکتی ہے۔ ڈاکٹر اشفاق احمد جو 1999ء سے 2004ء تک پاکستان کی معیشت کو سنبھالتے رہے ہیں اور جو ڈالر کے مقابلے میں روپے کو مستحکم کرنے‘ قرضوں کی واپسی کے انتظامات کرنے کے علاوہ آئی ایم ایف سے مذاکرات کار کے فرائض بھی انجام دیتے رہے ہیں، جب ان سے اس حوالے سے بات ہوئی تو انہوں نے اس حکومتی اقدام کو نو آبادیاتی نظام کی طرف واپسی سے تعمیر کیا۔ اسی طرح یٰسین انور بھی سٹیٹ بینک کے گورنر کی حیثیت سے چین کے ساتھ مقامی تجارت کی پالیسی کے موجد ہیں۔ انہوں نے اس اقدام کو خودکشی قرار دیا ہے جبکہ زاہد رفیق جو فوریکس سے معاملہ کرتے رہے ہیں ان کا کہنا تھا کہ اس اقدام کے بعد اب سٹیٹ بینک ریاستی ادارہ نہیں رہا۔ ایسی حکومت جو پہلے ہی بہت سے خودمختار اور نیم خود مختار اداروں کے بگڑے معاملات سنبھالنے میں جتی ہوئی ہے، سٹیٹ بینک کی مکمل خودمختاری کے بعد اس کے لیے مزید مسائل پیدا ہوں گے۔ سٹیٹ بینک کی خودمختاری کے حوالے سے تکنیکی امور سے قطع نظر بھی اگر کوئی پاکستان کی سیاسی معیشت کا تجزیہ کرنا چاہے تو 1960ء کے بعد پاکستان کی مختلف ادوار کی کابینہ کے فیصلہ پر سر چکرا جاتا ہے۔ حکومت کا سٹیٹ بینک کی خودمختاری کا فیصلہ اس وقت سامنے آیا ہے جب حکومت کی بھارت کے ساتھ پرامن تعلقات کی خواہش اچانک میسر ہوئی ہے۔ اچانک فیصلہ بھی امریکہ کے ایما پر کیا گیا ہے کیونکہ امریکہ بھارت کو اپنے اندرونی خلفشار سے نکلنے کے لیے وقت دینا چاہتا ہے۔ ایک تاثر یہ بھی ہے کہ پاکستان کی امن کی خواہش اس وقت تک کارگر ثابت نہیں ہو سکتی جب تک پاکستان مقبوضہ کشمیر کے موجودہ سٹیٹس پر سمجھوتہ کرنے پر راضی نہیں ہوتا۔ چین پہلے ہی لداخ میں گھسا ہوا ہے۔ خطہ میں چین کی بالادستی پاکستان کے مفاد میں ہے کیونکہ بھارت کو اب دو محاذوں پر مزاحمت کا سامنا ہے۔ پاکستان کی امن کی ترجیح بھارت کو ایک محاذ سے نجات دلا سکتی ہے۔ اس کے علاوہ سی پیک پاکستان کے لیے سٹریٹجک اہمیت رکھنے کے ساتھ گیم چینجر کی حیثیت رکھتا ہے۔ پاکستان کا چین کی طرف جھکائو اور انحصار بڑھ رہا ہے اس نازک وقت میں حکومت کی امن کی خواہش کیا معنی رکھتی ہے؟ پاکستان کی اس سے بڑھ کر بے توقیری کیا ہو سکتی ہے کہ امریکہ پاکستان سے مقبوضہ کشمیر میں مثبت کردار ادا کرنے کا مطالبہ کرے جس کا مقصد ہے کہ کشمیر بارے عالمی قراردادوں کو مسترد کردیا جائے۔ شملہ معاہدہ کو دفن کر دیا جائے۔ یہاں تک کہ بھارت کے مقبوضہ کشمیر کے حوالے سے آرٹیکل 370 خاتمے کو جائز سمجھا جائے جو چین کے لیے بھی کسی صورت قابل قبول نہیں۔ مطالبات اس وقت کئے جا رہے ہیں جبکہ امریکہ نے سفارتی روایات کو بالائے طاق رکھتے ہوئے پاکستان کو ماحولیاتی کانفرنس میں بھی مدعو کرنا مناسب نہیں سمجھا۔ یہ تو عالمی منظر نامہ تھا‘ داخلی لحاظ سے دیکھا جائے تو سٹیٹ بینک کو خودمختاری دینے کا فیصلہ اس وقت سامنے آیا ہے جب پاکستان سٹیل ملز کی نجکاری حکومت کی ترجیحات میں سرفہرست ہے۔ تعجب کی بات تو یہ ہے کہ حکومت سٹیل ملز کی نجکاری کا کام اسی ٹیم کے سپرد کیا ہے جو 2004ء میں سابق صدر مشرف کے گرد حصار بنائے ہوئے تھی آج بھی یہ لوگ وزیراعظم عمران خان کے مشیروں کے گروپ میں موجود ہیں۔ یہاں یہ بات بھی قابل توجہ ہے کہ پاکستان سٹیل ملز اپنے آغاز کے بعد سے 1980ء سے نجکاری کی فہرست میں شامل چلی آ رہی ہے۔ حیرت کی بات تو یہ بھی ہے کہ 1998ء میں جب حکومت نے سٹیل ملز کو اونے پونے داموں بیچنے کی کوشش کی تو سپریم کورٹ نے2006ء میں مداخلت کی تھی۔ اسی طرح 2012ء میں عدالت کو مداخلت کرنا پڑی مگر 2006ء کے بعد کسی بھی حکومت نے اس حوالے سے نہ تو لوٹ مار میں ملوث عناصر کے خلاف تحقیقات کرنا مناسب سمجھا نہ ہی ذمہ داران کی نشان دہی ہو سکی۔ وزارت قانون نے اس حوالے سے کبھی بھی اپنا ہوم ورک نہ کیا اور معاملہ وزارت نجکاری کو بھیج دیا گیا جس نے غیر مصدقہ اطلاعات ای سی سی اور کابینہ کے آگے رکھ دیں۔ یہ اس نااہلی کی وجہ ہے کہ پاکستان سٹیل ملز مسلسل خسارے میں جا رہی ہے۔ اپنے قیام کے وقت سٹیل ملز کا پیداواری ہدف 1.1 ملین ٹن مقرر کیا گیا تھا بعد میں جسے ذوالفقار علی بھٹو نے 1973ء میں 2.2 ملین ٹن کر دیا۔ تکنیکی اعتبار سے دیکھا جائے تو پاکستان سٹیل ملز کا منصوبہ تاحال زیر تکمیل ہے۔ ایک ایسی کلی جو کبھی پھول نہ بن سکی۔ پاکستان سٹیل ملز کی نجکاری کے کرتا دھرتا ماضی میں جہانگیر ترین تھے۔ پرویز مشرف کابینہ میں وزیر تھے، ان کی طرف سے سٹیل ملز کی فروخت کے حوالے سے جو لیٹر آف انٹرسٹ آیا وہ اس کا تعلق آف شور کمپنی سے تھا۔ اس وقت سپریم کورٹ نے مداخلت کر کے یہ معاملہ ختم کردیا تھا۔ اس کے بعد ہونا تو یہ چاہیے تھا کہ اگر حکومت کو سٹیل ملز ہر حال میںفروخت ہی کرنا ہے تو سٹیل ملز کی نجکاری کے حوالے سے معاملات سپریم کورٹ کی ہدایات کی روشنی میں آگے بڑھائے جاتے کیونکہ اعلی ٰ ترین عدالت کے حکم کے بغیر نیلامی کا عمل شروع ہی نہیں کیا جاسکتا اور اس سے پہلے حکومت کو ہدایات کی روشنی میں تکنیکی فرانزک آڈٹ کروانا ہے مگر حکومت نے اس حوالے سے ابھی تک کوئی اقدامات نہیں کئے۔ اگر حکومت سٹیل ملز کی نجکاری چاہتی ہے تو پہلے عدالتی حکم کے مطابق فرانزک آڈٹ کے لیے جے آئی ٹی تشکیل دے۔ اسی طرح ماضی میں پی آئی اے بھی پاکستان کا قابل فخر ادارہ رہا ہے جس نے محدود وسائل میں تیز رفتار ترقی کی مگر 1980ء کے بعد یہ قومی ادارہ بھی سیاسی مداخلت اور سیاسی بھرتیوں کی وجہ سے تباہ ہوگیا۔ ورنہ یہی ادارہ تھا جس نے عالمی سروسز کے ذریعے دنیا میں اپنی پہچان بنانے کے علاوہ امریکہ اور فرانس میں ہوٹل بنائے مگر سیاسی مداخلت اور من پسند بھرتیوں کی وجہ سے پی آئی اے کی ترقی کا سفر تنزلی کی طرف گامزن ہوا اور پی آئی اے کے سائیڈ لائن کاروبار تو تباہ ہوئے ہی، خود قومی ایئر لائن بھی خسارے کی وجہ سے ملکی معیشت پر ناقابل برداشت بوجھ بن گئی۔ بدقسمتی سے ہماری حکومتوں کی پالیسیاں آئی ایم ایف کے ایجنڈے کے گرد گھومتی رہی ہیں اور حکومتوں کی کوشش بجٹ خسارے اور قرض کی ادائیگی کیلئے مزید قرض لینے تک ہی محدود رہیں۔ ہماری حکومت کی ہمیشہ ہی پہلی ترجیح مقامی انڈسٹری اور معیشت کی ترقی کی بجائے برآمدات بڑھانے تک ہی محدود رہی۔

March 31, 2021

CREATING SPRING IN AUTUMN

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 6:13 am
This oasis looking landscape is a deceptive parched desert in Nara Pakistan. Water is extremely bitter and nothing survives.
Photographed by Samson Simon Sharaf

Samson Simon Sharaf

Pure economics is mathematical and may look promising but when juxtaposed with political reverberations, results could be opposite. Statesmen have to cater for international obligations but not at the cost of welfare and aspirations of the people. The statesman has to function within these compelling contrasts.

My land is parched through neglect where rivers raging destruction pass. The streams have run dry because the land shifted and rivers were not harnessed. The once rich orchards were never pruned and don’t fruit. The flora and fauna died long ago; once jungles of concrete and asphalts twining like venomous serpents and grabbed lands blocked their flow. The foliage has drifted with howling winds that blow into the arid desert. The land of plenty and world’s biggest river system is parched, hostile and becoming inhabitable through infestation of vampires, leaches and pests that sucked its blood for decades.

These are recent events likely to affect the future of Pakistan for many decades to come. For a common man, sifting facts from illusions is difficult especially in presence of a hyperactive social media. Only posterity will determine whether Pakistan moved in the right direction? This article is of enduring significance and endeavors to visualize the future in backdrop of past and present.

State Bank of Pakistan

The anticipated bill for making State Bank of Pakistan fully autonomous is an initiative sans background checks. IMF suggestion makes it controversial. I questioned a few retired officials and governors of SBP. They all maintained that the Central Bank was sufficiently autonomous only if the top brass of the bank knew how to use it. They agreed there could be no full autonomy; rather only within the system.

Dr Ashfaq the architect of Pakistan’s economy from 1999 to 2004 that included an ‘out of box’ economic revival, debt retirement, stabilization of dollar and chief negotiator with IMF calls this the ‘arrival of the neo-colonial viceroy’.

Mr. Yasin Anwar the ex-Governor SBP and architect of many currency swaps with China calls it suicidal and lacking in depth imagination.

Zahid Rafiq, an ex-official dealing with forex opines that without oversight of Planning Commission, SBP will no more be a state institution. He critically recalls the inability of SBP to sterilise dollars. Rather it decided to maintain the parity. With the increase of FCA remittances Rs 1 Trillion windfall should have been easily absorbed in the State Sector through issue of Government securities at market rates to the holders. This would have appreciated the rupee; discouraged consumerism sponsored by banks and hedged national savings. Inevitably, the imports and therefore the value added exports would have become cheaper. The bank did the opposite.

With a government struggling to control already autonomous and semi-autonomous institutions, a fully autonomous SBP will become a major hitch.  Technical characteristics aside, for a person analysing Pakistan’s political economy and documenting Economic Hitmen since the 60’s, the cabinet decision needs in depth studies and review.

Peace Blitz

Pakistan has suddenly awoken from slumber to a Peace Blitz with India. As written earlier, this impromptu and out of tune quest for peace came at behest of USA albeit, providing breathing space to India. The perception handling of the Islamabad Peace Conference did not produce the desired effects implying that Pakistan was willing to compromise on the status of Kashmir; something China used the other way to attrite India in Ladakh. With Chinese dominance in Ladakh, a region shared with Pakistan, the future of a once two front dilemma for India that changed to a single front is once again receding to a two from engagement. With CPEC in high gear and Pakistan’s strategic tilt towards China evident, what was the need for such an ill-timed appeasement?

As insult to injury, without a second thought, USA wants Pakistan to play a constructive role in IOK. This means rejecting US Resolutions, Burying Simla Accord and ratifying India’s Annexation of Kashmir formalised through repeal of Article 370, something that China does not accept.  Unceremoniously, Pakistan has been excluded from the environmental conference.

What happens in Afghanistan is another issue best left to an exclusive commentary.

Privatisation

Pakistan Steel Mills is on the top list of privatisation. The present government continues to pursue the privatisation policy advanced by a group surrounding President Musharraf in 2004. Most are reincarnate part of the advisory group of Prime Minister.

The mill was forced into a still birth since the 80s. An analysis leads to the inevitable conclusion that the governmental cases of privatisation since 1998, rejected by Supreme Court in 2006 and again reaffirmed by the apex court in May 2012 do not support the views of privatisation gurus. Since 2006 no government has shown the resolve to carry out in-depth investigations, and affix responsibility for corruption and inefficiency. The ministry of law never did its homework and MOI&P passed on unsubstantiated information to ECC and cabinet. It is this inefficiency that accumulates losses.  The start-up of the mill was designed at 1.1 Million Tons per Year (MTPY) amended to 2.2 MTPY by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1973. Technically, the mill is still incomplete and under construction; a sapling and flower bud sown in a hostile environment.

One major architect of privatisation was Jehanghir Khan Tareen. As Miniser of MOI&P, he moved the first LOI for privatisation, at a time the mill had overshot into profits. This LOI was directly connected to shady offshore companies. The Supreme Court struck down this LOI but there was no follow up by government. Even if privatisation of Steel Mill is a preferred option, no privatisation can be carried out unless actions ordered by the apex courts from 2006-20012 are implemented. This includes a Techno-Forensics audit. Before we even contemplate privatisation, the government needs to appoint a JIT to conduct a techno-forensic audit.

PIA was a prestigious organisation built in reputation, services and efficiency over the years. Political interferences and corruption ruined the organisation from the 80s onwards. During good days it also developed side businesses like poultry, dairies, catering, engineering and hospitality. Rather than realign the organisation to old standards, the affiliated business are either dead or being offloaded tantamount to conceding defeat. This practice has to stop.

Kick-starting Local Economies

It is unfortunate the government policies have revolved around IMF, balance of payments, budgetary deficits and retiring loans. Emphasis has been on boosting exports. Though this is a commendable effort, kick starting ailing local economies has been completely ignored.  While the downstream agriculture industry had benefitted through subsidies, farmers suffer worst form of exploitation at hands of downstream industry and middlemen. The agriculture sector needs a complete review to make it profitable and exportable. The government has to break shackles of the fertilizer and agro-chemical industries and revert to natural agriculture that improves production, ecology, CO2 emissions and soil health. This is an ignored and no cost sector that needs immediate attention.

Energy Sector

The experiment of reorganising PSO in 2004 on advice of experts has not worked. Bifurcation of WAPDA had produces negative results and created independent cartels that manipulate pricing. Circular debt created by PSO is at all times a ticking time bomb.

Conclusion

The process of manipulating Pakistan’s economy began with the Economic Reforms Act of 1992. Ever since, hitmen effect has increased exponentially. Failure of SBP to stabilise and sterilise foreign exchange, abandonment of deletion programmes in auto sectors, PSO, distribution & transmission companies, steel, sugar, fertilizer, agro-chemical, cement and downstream industries have all played their negative role in filling personal coffers.

But there were and are men with broken hearts who do not slouch in defeat but fight back like warriors.

Late Dr Zafar Altaf always came up with novel ways to modernise agriculture. Despite producing a bumper season in 1999-2001, he was sacked. His project of Idara e Kissan (Halla Milk) was bludgeoned. The government destroyed his hybrid Canola and Cotton seed projects. His successor, Mr. Asif Sharif of Pakistan Qudarti Nizam e Kasht (PCNK natural agriculture) had unsuccessfully knocked every door but he continues lighting his lamp.

Mr. Usman Amin Uddin was the lone ranger fighting energy mafias in 2000s. Had he had his way Pakistan today would have been an energy exporting country. Despite his frail health, he continues his mission but who listens?

Dr. Ashfaq, the architect of Pakistan’s ‘out of box’ growth in 2000s, debt retirement and chief negotiator with IMF is abandoned on side-lines. Certainly his exclusion does not benefit Pakistan.

I also recall 2018 when Mr. Yasin Anwar the ex-Governor of SBP knocked every door in vain to get Pakistan a currency swap instead of an IMF plan in 2018. No one listened to him.

So where will the buck stop? Axing Nadeem Babar and Dr. Hafeez Sheikh is a good step. But it will have no effect till such time the complete group of sages who ill-advised President Musharraf and also mislead Prime Minister Imran Khan are not removed. To ensure a fast developing and self-sufficient Pakistan, they have to be held accountable.  

March 24, 2021

THE PEACE BLITZ

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 7:18 am

Samson Simon Sharaf

Indian Express reports back channel contacts between India and Pakistan. The report speculates that Indian National Security Adviser A. K. Doval may have held talks directly with the Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa? This backdrop enabled Director Generals of Military Operations to arrive at the February 25 joint statement for adherence to the ceasefire. They also agreed to discuss “core issues and concerns”. The notion of back channel itself is caustic within Pakistan. First, it undermines the foreign office and secondly creates discomfort within the policy making institutions. It is an envelope laced in poison.

According to The Diplomat, a new media report substantiated a recent claim that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) had midwifed the February 25 India-Pakistan ceasefire. Having abandoned Kashmir very recently, how come UAE has become so sensitive to issues of the region? It is now part of the US, Israel, Saudi and India nexus and what beholds it to Pakistan?  

Sushant Singh writing for Foreign Policy stated that the news about the cease-fire grabbed headlines.  Significant, that the two countries agreed to address each other’s core issues and concerns which have the propensity to disturb peace and lead to violence, clearly indicates the first step in a longer peace process. The announcement could not have emerged without weeks of back channel diplomatic work by the two governments, including the buy-in of the top political leaderships of both countries and of Pakistan’s powerful military leadership. In backdrop of Indo-Pakistan conflict, this sounds like a fait accompli and buy-in is difficult for anyone to digest.

On March 22, Bloomberg noted “the India-Pakistan cease-fire marked a milestone in secret talks brokered by the UAE that began months earlier, according to officials aware of the situation who asked not to be identified.” US State Department spokesman Ned Price dodged a question on what role the U.S. played in bringing the two sides besides urging Pakistan to play a constructive role in Afghanistan, Kashmir and other places. “Obviously Pakistan has an important role to play when it comes to Afghanistan and what takes place across its other border, so clearly, we will be paying close attention”. It is surprising that the US diplomat is asking Pakistan to play a constructive role in IOK.

Though apparently, USA is trying to convince that its plans of Asian Pivot have shifted to the Indo-Pacific Region, one needs to question its strategy of a Greater Middle East right into Central Asia. Is it so easy to dispense with the Asian Pivot extending from Africa to Israel, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Oman? To an extent, buying the US narrative of down grading CENTCOM is plausible with my oft repeated hypothesis that CENTOM is the anvil while Indo-Pacific command with India is the swinging hammer against Pakistani and Chinese interests.

In search for many questions that linger, it is clear that the new administration in USA has a pivotal role in the latest development. It is trying to reignite its template of old relationships with Pakistan. But the balance in the region is already shifted in favour of China. What can USA now offer that China cannot? Does USA assume that cajoling Pakistan and drawing it away from China will be easy? Will Pakistan be ready to compromise on core interests of China just to appease USA for advantages that are unknown and historically abusive?

As diplomatic demarches suggest, the objective pertains to a larger durable partnership with India and diminishing Pakistani role in Afghanistan. USA wants India to break away from the constant South Asian imbroglio and buy time for a temporary peace and settlement of the core issue of Kashmir later. Will it suit Pakistan to give time to India as part of the Indo-Pacific Quad to strengthen manifold and subsequently create a larger security situation.

To suggest that this diplomatic foray is to preserve and advance US interests in the region is not an understatement. In a sense, the latest development is resumption of the old normal; like re-baking old cookies.

In the interim, India through legislation has also changed the status of IOK through abrogation of Article 370 rejected both by China and Pakistan and dilution of Article 35A. Since the status of IOK in Indian Constitution is already changed (though technically still subject to Supreme Court interpretations), it would need two major amendments to proceed further. Before embarking on resolving many outstanding issues with Pakistan, India will first have to pass through its own legal and constitutional road blocks as also satisfy China on identical issues.  First, changing any status needs a constitutional amendment and secondly Articles 370 and 35A have to be restored. Linked with UN Resolutions of Kashmir, the roadmap to normalcy between India and Pakistan besides legal framework is vague.

There are reasons why India has shown this thaw. Having being humbled in Ladakh by China, regime change in USA and international pressure mounting on atrocities in IOK, India direly needed a pause to realign its policies with objectives and directions of its Indo-Pacific ally the USA.

In the past few years, the Cease Fire Agreement brokered by President Musharraf had been in place but violated. India needed to keep the front hot to barricade IOK and follow a policy to ultimately annexing the territory which it did. Terrorism was a hoax created over two incidents that still remain shrouded in mystery. India succeeded to exploit terrorism perceptions to its advantage and appease the West. Diplomatically isolated, Pakistan remained at the receiving end. Having endured the rigours and wilderness, what are the new extra ordinary prospects for Pakistan?

In diplomacy, contacts between countries never cease to exist. India and Pakistan still have High Commissions besides the hotlines between DGMOs, embassy neighbourhoods abroad and in UN. Most CBMs are still operative. Why such backdoor diplomacy, when doors on both sides were already open is a very intriguing question?

Crucial to this entire initiative is the future of Afghanistan. Will Afghan Taliban after the recently concluded quadrilateral talks in Russia be willing to step down from their hard earned stated position. In addition what will be India’s role there and would it halt interference in Pakistan through its proxies that include pro Indian Afghans, ISIS, D’aesh and BLA elements. Then on a lighter note, is USA willing to reimburse to Pakistan whatever it owes.

In this perspective, Pakistan as a minimalist state has to tread and broker cautiously, especially when such developments could impinge on its relations with China and the new found understanding with Iran. Most, it must resist compromising the aspirations of the people of IOK.

Pakistan needs to set its own house in order. IMF, IFI’s, Autonomy of State Bank of Pakistan, international arbitrations and unloading national assets are all strings of the same policy. These in no way help Pakistan in becoming self-reliant and self-sufficient. This poisoned umbilical cord needs to be cut for good.

Though the existing political turmoil eclipses hidden designs of this latest initiative, the consequences will be far reaching for future of Pakistan. The taste of pudding lies in eating it. I am unsure what the brew is all about?

March 11, 2021

طوفان سے آشنائی

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 4:44 am

جمعرات 11 مارچ 2021ء

سیمسن سائمن شرف

جب عمران خان نے انصاف ،خود انحصاری اور انسانیت کا نعرہ لگا کر اپنی پارٹی کی بنیاد رکھی اس وقت شاید ان کو خود اندازہ نہ تھاکہ انہوں نے کس قد رکٹھن اور بھاری کام ذمے لیا ہے۔ ان دنوں پاکستان میں ناانصافی کا راج تھا، انتخابات پر سے عام آدمی کا اعتماد اٹھ رہا تھا اور منتخب اراکین بکائو مال بن چکے تھے، عام آدمی کی مشکلات اپنی انتہا کو پہنچ چکی تھیں۔ ملک کی نظریاتی اور اخلاقی اقدار کی پامالی عروج پر تھی یہ 1996ء کے دن تھے۔

آج پاکستان جس قدر تیزی سے تنزلی کی طرف لڑھک رہا ہے وہ ہر کسی کے بخوبی علم میں ہے ۔عمران خان کرپشن سے تباہ حال نظام میں اصلاحات کے لئے ہاتھ پائوں مارنا شروع کرتے ہیں تو جن الیکٹ ایبلز کے سہارے ان کے اقتدار کی کرسی کھڑی ہے وہ بیک فائر کر جاتے ہیں۔ سدا بہار اور مفاد پرست سیاستدانوں کے ساتھ وہ کس حد تک سمجھوتہ کر سکتے ہیں جلد یا بدیر ان کو فیصلہ کرنا ہی پڑے گا۔

عمران خان کی فولادی شخصیت میں یہ صلاحیت بدرجہ اتم موجود ہے کہ وہ ایک کے بعد ایک بحران کا مقابلہ کر سکیں مگر آخر کب تک؟ عمران خان نے شفافیت، انصاف اور خوشحال پاکستان کا جو خواب عوام کو دکھایا اور جس منزل کو پانے کا وعدہ کیا تھا اس منزل کے راستے میں ان کو بدعنوان مفاد پرست اور ضمیر فروش عناصر کا سامنا ہے اور وہ ان سے لڑتے اور سمجھوتے کرتے اخلاقی اور اور نظریاتی منزل سے دور ہوتے جا رہے ہیں۔ اگر وہ مخالفن کے خلاف اسی طرز عمل کا مظاہرہ کرتے رہے تو ایسا کرنے سے وہ کرپٹ نظام اور مخالفین کی خواہشات کے مطابق ہی کام کر سکیں گے۔ اس وقت ضرورت اس امر کی ہے کہ وہ اس گندے کھیل پر قابو پائیں اور اس موقع کو اپنے اہداف کے حصول کے لئے استعمال کریں۔ اس نازک وقت میں ان کو نفع و نقصان سے بے نیاز ہو کر ڈٹ جانا چاہیے۔ اشرافیہ جس نے اس کرپٹ نظام کی آبیاری کی ہے آج پہلے سے کہیں زیادہ طاقتور بن کر سامنے آ چکی ہے۔ اس کی جڑیں اس نظام میں گہرائی تک پیوست ہیں اور اشرافیہ انتہائی ڈھٹائی اور بے شرمی سے جارحانہ انداز اپنائے ہوئے ہے۔ کرپٹ نظام کا نچوڑ پی ڈی ایم کی صورت میں سامنے آ چکا ہے۔ کئی دھائیوں سے عمران خان کرپٹ اشرافیہ سے نمٹنے میں خود کو بے بس محسوس کرتے آ رہے ہیں۔

وہ روسو ازم سے متاثر ہیں اور آج بھی اس بات پر ان کا پختہ یقین ہے کہ انسان آزاد پیدا ہوا ہے مگر اب شاید انہیں اس بات کا احساس ہو گیا ہو گا کہ وہ ملک کے وزیر اعظم ہوتے ہوئے بھی کس قدر بے بس اور زنجیروں میں جکڑے ہوئے ہیں۔ آخر ایسا کیوں ہے؟

امید ہے کہ اب انہیں اس بات کا اچھی طرح اندازہ ہو گیا ہو گا کہ 2011ء میں تحریک انصاف کی چھتری پر اڑ کر جھنڈ کے جھنڈ کیوں بیٹھ رہے تھے، ان کو الیکٹ ایبلز کی فلاسفی ازبر کیوں کروائی جا رہی تھی۔ الیکٹ ایبلز کی پارٹی میں جگہ بنانے کے لئے عمران خان نے اپنے وفادار اور اہل افراد تک کو نظر انداز ہی نہیں پارٹی سے بھی نکال باہر کیا ۔ نکالے جانے والوں میں ایسی قابل رشک شخصیات بھی تھیں جنہوں نے تحریک انصاف کی ریفارمز کا پہلے سو دن کا ایجنڈا تیار کیا تھا۔ اس بات کو ایک دھائی گزر چکی ہے مگر آج بھی دیر نہیں ہوئی یہ لوگ آج بھی موجود ہیں اور پارٹی سے دل و جان سے مخلص بھی ہیں ۔عمران خان کو مستقبل میں ان مخلص اور پارٹی سے وفادار لوگوں پر انحصار کرنا چاہیے ۔

آج عمران خان کو حکومت چلانے اورسسٹم چلانے میں جن مشکلات کا سامنا ہے اس سسٹم میں ایسے سرکاری افسروں کی بھر مار ہے جن کو گزشتہ تین دھائیوں میں بھرتی کیا گیا ۔ عمران حکومت کے ساتھ کام کرنے والے افسران کی اکثریت اشرافیہ کے مفادات کی محافظ ہے۔ بدعنوانی اور مفاد پرستی پر استوار اس سسٹم میں عمران خان کی حیثیت ایک اجنبی سے زیادہ نہیں۔ نظام میں موجود قانونی موشگافیوں اور ضرورت سے زیادہ قواعد و ضوابط کی وجہ سے موجودہ نظام میں انقلابی فکر کے لئے جگہ ہی نہیں۔ اس نظام میں رہتے ہوئے نظام میں اصلاحات لانا ممکن ہی نہیں کیونکہ جو ہاتھ کھلانے والا ہے وہ خود بھی کھانے والا ہے۔

اس وقت حکومتی صفوں میں ایسے افراد اور مشیر موجود ہیں جن کا بیانیہ ہی مفادات کے تضاد پر مبنی ہے۔ حکومتی مشیروں اور وزیروں میں سے کوئی بھی انصاف‘ خود انحصاری اور انسانیت کی بات نہیں کرتا۔ ان کا سارا زور اداروں سے ٹکرائو، حکومتی اثاثہ جات کی فروخت اور آئی ایم ایف کے اہداف کے مطابق کام کرنے تک محدود ہو کر رہ گیا ہے۔ان میں سے اکثریت کبھی کسی عوامی تحریک کا حصہ رہی نا انہوں نے کبھی احتجاجی تحریک میں حصہ لیا، نا ہی ان کو ملک سے غربت کے خاتمے اور مہنگائی کو کنٹرول کرنے کے لئے کوئی لائحہ عمل مرتب کرنے میں کوئی دلچسپی ہے۔ ان وزیروں مشیروں کے تو اپنے کارپوریٹ اہداف ہیں جو ان کی دولت میں اضافہ کر سکیں۔ یہ صنعت کار اور سرمایہ دار پاکستان کے لئے بنے ہی نہیں بلکہ ان کے اپنے اپنے مفادات ہیں، ان کے دھائیوں سے کھاتے کھلیں تو ٹیکس چوری ،قرضے معاف کروانے اور کارکن کے حقوق غصب کرنے کے معاملات سامنے آئیں گے۔ عمران خان کی مانگے تانگے کی اکثریت ان کے گلے کا ہار بننے کے بجائے پاکستان کی گردن کا پھندا بنتی جا رہی ہے۔ یہ اکثریت تو عمران خان کے لئے دھاتی ڈور سے کم نہیں جو بلیڈ کی طرح تیز ہے، یہ مفاد پرست اور موقع پرستوں کا ٹولہ کبھی کسی حکمران کا وفادار ہو ہی نہیں سکتا، یہ تو اپنے مفادات کے غلام ہیں. (جاری ہے)

March 9, 2021

IMRAN KHAN ‘RIDE THE WAVES’

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 10:19 am

Samson Simon Sharaf

When Imran Khan set out to organise his party on the slogans of Justice, Self Esteem and Humanity, little did he know the onerous mission he had embarked on. Injustice in Pakistan was prevalent and visible; ballot was fast losing the sense of personal worth and elected were up for horse trading. Common man’s miseries were aggravating endlessly. The country was tearing away from its ideological and ethical moorings. That was 1996.

How steep and far Pakistan has plunged into the dungeons in 2021 is for all to see. The system is well entrenched and Imran Khan’s planning of reforming the system with electable faces has backfired. With a shoestring majority banking on evergreen politicians and greed tempting some in his own cadres, perhaps this is as far he could compromise. Sooner than later, he will have to decide; go down fighting with his present policy or become a non conformist and resurrect himself.

 With his inherent nerves of tungsten carbide, he does have the ability to ward off one crisis after another; but for how long? With the rats, vultures and hyenas nibbling away, he is mired in an unending battle that drives him further away from his ideological and ethical pedestal. If he keeps reacting, the dream of the adversaries will be fulfilled.

It is imperative he controls and rides the waves of this dirty game and chooses his moment to bounce back. Time is critical as he could stand to lose gains.

Elites that nurtured this culture are now far more powerful, deeply entrenched, shamelessly and overtly aggressive. Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) is the epitome of this degeneration. Many decades hence, Prime Minister Imran Khan finds himself handicapped in dealing with these dishonest corrupt elites. He like Rousseau is still convinced that man is born free. But surely he realises that even as Prime Minister of Pakistan, he is everywhere in chains. Why is it so?

Hope he also has time to contemplate why all those cuckoos were swarming to his party in 2011 and inundating him with electable philosophies. To accommodate them he was willing to relegate his most loyal cadres, amongst them the enviable team of experts who prepared his 100 Days Reform Paper. A decade has passed but it is still not late. These are the diehard loyalists he must rely on in future.

The system is compromised and packed by civil servants recruited in the past three decades. Majority of these servants are indebted to elites that had self-serving objectives. In this game of self-consummation, Imran Khan is a rank outsider. Over legislation and over regulated mechanisms leave no room for a revolutionary approach. It is impossible to reform the system from within because ‘hands that feed are also the hands that eat’.

This uncompromising cadre is beefed by a compensatory team of advisors whose own businesses create a conflict of interest. They do not share the notion of Justice, Self Esteem and Humanity. Dismantling institutions, selling off state assets and adhering to IMF goal-posts is their only way of working. They have never been into the business of public movements, agitating grass roots, alleviating poverty and manipulating elastic pricing mechanisms for general benefit. They have their own corporate goals and that is what made them rich. The industrial giants and businesses they built were not for Pakistan but for their own fiefdoms. A peep into decades of their accounts will reveal evasion, write offs and ripping the workers of their monetary rights.

Imran Khan’s shoe string majority hangs like an albatross around Pakistan’s neck. Like the chemical twine of kites, it is razor sharp. These Cuckoos of opportunity have never been loyal to any ruler except their own greed and ambitions. They will go along as far as it benefits them; a ticking time bomb.

Pakistani politics are not based on National Interests. Historically, there has never been an approximation of these interests into National Power on a time continuum. Everything from politicians to establishment, operate on similar premises. Barring military security, the concept of economic, societal, political and democratic security is non-existent. Pakistan is like an animal with very strong front legs (Military and Nuclear) and very weak hind legs (All other elements of National Power), mired in a boggy pit. It can fight and fend off but not rise beyond; a slanted table wherein everything conglomerates towards the lower hind legs.

The Senate elections are a manifestation of the slippery and unreliable grounds that Imran Khan stands on. It is a reality check. The method was cruel, brash and intimidating. The way it reversed was ostentatious.

I was convinced that the threat was a crude form of messaging and shall pass away. Next step would be a redressal. So it was; and in the DRS Review, Imran Khan returned ‘178 Not Out’.

But since this nasty game has begun, there is likelihood it will be repeated with alacrity in diverse forms and manifestations. Chairman and Deputy Chairman of Senate are the next pit stops, followed by Punjab and others.

Imran Khan is under siege of hyenas, vultures and carpetbaggers not only in opposition but also within his own ranks and the system he leads. The fiasco and comedy of sorts has made him more popular and the poor seem ready to endure more misery only if he keeps challenging such threats and eliminates them. Crowd wisdom in Pakistan is worth a million theses.

Within the system are independent, autonomous and semi-autonomous organisations that instead of a higher national direction, exercise their interpretation of law, free will and discretion. Judiciary, NAB, Election Commission of Pakistan, Security and Exchange Commission and Competition Commission are to name a few. Then there are special commissions set up and answerable to the Cabinet. The cluttering of data and information is confusing, reducing the cabinets to approval machines.  Combined, they will maintain the snail pace causing more uncertainty.

Even before Pakistan conceded to the IMF intervention, I was of the view that it was avertable and only if we discover and tap our own potential. Like a child’s wish that never happened, and ever since Pakistan is trapped in the dynamics of fiscal balance, deficit, import-export ratios, balance of payments etc. The system in its entirety ensured that no grass root economic agitations took place.

So being a prisoner of the system and IMF is not likely to bring any relief to the growing poor masses on which Imran Khan depends. He will keep fighting these odds while his ideological goals will remain superseded. Local economies and any effort to agitate them will remain captive. Without conducive environments, this is how far the imaginative Ehsaas Programme can go; a drop in the caustic ocean.

Surprisingly, Pakistan under Imran Khan has done wonderfully in areas where no previous bureaucratic template existed. Ehssas and Covid-19 Management are worth mentioning. The contrast is visible and must be replicated.

Agriculture, the only short and long term guarantee of our survival was paid lip service. The promised Chinese (though debatable) agriculture revolution of corporatisation never happened. How can a country with 88 million people involved in rural areas and once the world best irrigation system be so negligent and lethargic. Pakistan’s small pockets of agriculture revolution are being celebrated and replicated world-wide but within the country, these are a voices in the wilderness.

It is time to take initiative and not wait for the pit stops framed by the opposition and other factors. Imran Khan must pre-empt and set his own goal posts. He must upset the carts in Chairman Senate Elections, consolidate his grip in majority regions of Punjab, and bring visible changes in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan, Islamabad Capital Territories and Balochistan. At the same time he must not ignore rural Sindh and Karachi. Finally he must present a people friendly budget. Having set the template, he should move for the kill. The people of Pakistan will be ready at his beck and call.

My last word, only unadulterated seed when sown will ‘sift grain from chaff’. Dispense the chaff and move on to the vision of Justice, Self Esteem and Humanity.

February 27, 2021

THE OVERCAST ON K2

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 11:34 am

Samson Simon Sharaf

“John Snorri saved my life twice. Telling the truth is the least I owe him in return”

Tomaz Rotar

The extreme sport of high altitude mountaineering despite its characteristic of testing human endurance to extremities has its peculiar appetite for controversies. Like all sports, it breeds its own intense competition and sometimes jealousies. I will narrate two incidents.

Despite the discovery of body and funeral of Günther Messner in 2005, some 35 years after his disappearance on Nanga Parbat, critics still blame his younger brother Reinhold Messner for abandoning him for his own summit glory. I met Reinhold Messner in a camp on Abruzzi Glacier in 1982. He told me exactly what was ultimately revealed from 2000-2005. Reinhold was vindicated by facts but does that stop conspiracy theorists from spinning new yarns?

Same year, the Sardar of my expedition to Gashebrum 1 (led by Sylvain Sudain) was Chacha Muhammad Hussain. He with Amir Mehdi in 1953 had carried the Austrian mountaineer Hermann Buhl on their backs to the base camp from slopes of Nanga Parbat. Even though I saw Chacha Muhammad Hussain’s porter book pasted with him carrying Buhl, I see no photo in any book. Despite a first this expedition was marred by controversies.

Hussain and Amir Mehdi were hired again by Italians for the first K2 summit in 1954. Italians Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli reached the summit of K2 denying Amir Mehdi and Walter Bonatti the opportunity. To protect Campagnoni’s legacy, Italians made fall guys out of Amir Mehdi (maimed for life) and Walter Bonatti for over fifty years. In 2004, reminiscences by Lacedelli prompted an investigation that resulted in formal recognition of Mehdi and Bonatti in K2’s first conquest; but not an apology.

The first winter ascent of K2 and the tragedy of John Snorri, Ali Sadpara and Juan Pablo Mohr is no exception and shall remain a subject of intense debate for years to come. Events around the winter expeditions to K2 in 2020-21 are being marred by controversies targeting the Nepalis and also suggesting that Sajid Sadpara the only surviving member is not telling the truth. Eager theorist are piecing together information from different climbers (some now dead) to build a mystery around the events, some even questioning if the Nepalese summited at all?

The leading exponent is Tomaz Rotar from Slovenia who claims to be the only credible eyewitness other than Sajid Sadpara (not credible) of the fateful events ahead of Camp 4 on 6 February 2021. In his dispatch in Slovenian language read by me in Urdu, English and French translations, he depicts Sajid as the last straggler towards Camp 4. He asserts that the nasty crevasse ahead of Camp 4 was never surmountable and most likely, climbers fell to death into it.

This is why he insists that it is time to tell the truth meaning that Sajid is hiding something. Taking a hint from him, others suggest they drifted towards the Cesen re-entrat to nibble up to bottle neck and perished. 

Some of his assertions are confusing.

He says, “However, John Snorri saved my life twice. Telling the truth is the least I owe him in return”.

Having declared so, he ignored his moral and ethical responsibility when he abandoned John Snorri at the crevasse and is now in an act of contrition by calling Sajid Sadpara a liar, a hallucinating individual and someone he refused to share his regulator with and the Nepalese daemons who never left a ladder behind he was looking for.

Again, why did he fail to convince Ali Sadpara and Juan Pablo Mohar who also flew into eternity with John Snorri? Very self-serving and selfish litany of betrayals.

A small summit conference was the least he could have done; maybe a few minutes delay at Camp 4.  After all, his oxygen was good and he had no intentions but to stop at the base camp which he did after a tea break in camp 3.

The reasons for not pushing the summit with Nepalese are straight forward.

John Snorri’s team was at Camp 2 and needed at least a night to sleep at Camp 3, ideally climb up to camp 4 and retreat to camp 3 for rest and then begin a summit push in the late hours. This meant summit on 17 January. Logically, they were in no position to join Nepalese.

Recall, when Mingma G’s team was fixing ropes to Camp 4 on 15 January, having completed the task, they retreated back to Camp 3 for rest and recuperation. Going straight from Camp 2 to the summit is superhuman, which John Snorri and his team avoided on 14 January only to be forced into by events on 4-5 January. Given the jumbling at Camp3, a very tragic risk indeed? 

Here is the sequence of events.

On 3 February, John Snorri’s team reached Camp 2 from base camp and slept there.

On 4 February, his team joined the long que of climbers (not in control of Dawa Sherpa and Arnold Coster), some going up making solo deals with Sherpas and others coming down due to cold, a typical circus.  

John Snorri team reached main camp 3 after collecting oxygen (placed by Sajid on 14 January) from Japanese Camp 3. Muhammad Ali Sadpara reached main Camp 3 at 6 PM while John Snorri and Sajid Sadpara reached around 8 PM. They voluntarily on humanitarian grounds shared their only tent with three climbers from SST. There was no recuperation and much needed sleep that night.

They set off again from Camp 3 the same night; John Snorri at 11:30 PM, Sajid Sadpara at 12 midnight and Muhammad Ali Sadpara at 2 AM 5 February. Sajid insists they followed the Nepalese route without any confusion till the team met at Camp 4 and the crevasse ahead of it.  There was no drifting towards the Cesen re-entrat as suggested by Angela Benavides.

Barring John Sonori’s team the long line of climbers including Tomaz Rotar and Juan Pablo Mohr were attempting at their own risk accompanied by porters they had made deals with. Juan Pablo Mohr remained a loner after his climbing partner Tamara Lunger turned back.

Tomaz Rotar also blames the SST for the lack of supplies and failure in information sharing. To remind readers, he was part of SST and obliged to obey orders of Dawa Sherpa and Arnold Coster. Yet he admits to the briefing by both on 1 February but citing no information on any particular obstacle, such as the crevasse. Even if Mingma G shared no information, Sona Sherpa from SST also made it to the summit on 16 January and was obliged to share information with his team. Lastly, if he was indeed member of SST team, why was he making deals for the summit with Temba Sherpa?

Sajid maintains they were briefed by the Nepalese including the new route to Camp 4 and the crevasse ahead of it.

This reminds me about the observation of Kraig Becker,

“There are also a growing number of individuals who have no business being on the mountain and threaten to turn the entire affair into a three-ring circus. Worse yet, their lack of experience could also lead to disaster on a mountain that is already known as one of the most deadly in the world. … That means that most climbers have little to no winter climbing experience whatsoever, yet they are attempting the hardest winter climb of them all. This is largely due to Seven Summits bringing a sizable commercial team, which consists of a substantial number of people who have no business being on K2 under the best of conditions, let alone in winter.”

After discussions with mountaineers who have climbed and endured K2, a common conclusion is that most teams were short of experienced hardy climbers needed to tackle a winter ascent of K2. The only experienced person at base camp was Muhammad Ali Sadpara with his winter ascent of Nanga Parbat.

Mingma’s group of 3 was too small to deal with K2 in winter. Cleverly, he was quick to form an all Nepalese team with assistance from Dawa Sherpa of SST and Nirmal Purja bringing the total to 10. It was also Mingma G who set the pitch from camp 3 onwards.

It was the responsibility of Dawa Sherpa the leader of SST and his deputy Arnold Coster to prevent such a polarisation from taking place. They must clarify why many SST climbers were abandoned by an all Nepal Team who pushed ahead on 15 January.

Seen in this context, John Snorri’s team may have decided to wait out the all Napalese summit and later follow the same route. Had SST exerted better command and control, discipline on free loaders and ensured logistics, a second ascent of K2 was possible in the window of 2-5 February as planned by the two leaders of SST. This turned out to be John Snorri’s plan too.

In Tomaz Rotars own words, “It consisted of going to Camp 1 on February 2, Camp 2 on February 3. Then on February 4, we were to proceed to Camp 3, rest, then continuing to the summit with no Camp 4. We had to somehow manage to top out and return, hopefully back to Camp 2, as early as possible on February 5, because the winds would increase progressively that day”.

Why this plan was not followed is for SST to answer.

Certainly, it ruined the bid of John Snorri’s team to summit K2 in winter, causing three deaths around the summit and one below Camp 3.

It is written in scriptures that some men are saved by their acts alone. Rest in Peace John Snorri, Muhammad Ali Sadpara and Juan Pablo Mohr for leaving your tents with those freezing in cold at Camp 3 and etching a selfless chapter in history of mountaineering.

February 23, 2021

CLEARING THE PLUME: K2 Winter: 2020-21

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 2:17 pm

The Story of Les Homme Extraordinaire

Dr Jon Kedrowski

Samson Simon Sharaf

On 5 February 2021 as John Snorri, Muhamad Ali Sadpara, Sajid Sadpara and Juan Pablo Mohr were challenging K2, a plume of cloud hung over the summit. As events unfolded, this plume became the dreaded K2 weather. With many contrasting and conflicting statements by those who returned from Camp 3 and 4 on that fateful night, and the fake news media, my effort is to clear the ‘Fog of War’, dig out facts and tell a story closest to reality. 

At a time when film maker Elia Shakaly was thinking of survival in Japanese Camp 3, his friends were foraying into the dangers of unknown. I do not wish this pyre to smolder anymore. It means a closure for the families who must know that their loved ones were Les Hommes Extraordinaire,  set out to accomplish something superhuman; for Pakistan and annals of high altitude mountaineering. I wish to identify that quest for a bit extra, a final push and the extra mile. Some make it, others don’t. But there is always one common denominator. These men and women are extra ordinary.

As a keen follower, my anxiety grew when John Snorri’s GPS went a bit erratic and then switched off at 7:15 AM on 5 February 2021. Hours of climbing lay ahead and they were getting late. The cloud overhang was getting menacing. Unlike the Nepal-10 joint expedition that reached the summit on 16 January 2021 at faster pace despite rope fixing, the slowness and complete blackout on information raised alarms. The gathering clouds observed from base camp ran chills in spines.

The earliest they could reach the summit was around 5 PM. This meant ‘touch and go’ followed by the long traverse across the Shoulder in race against the deteriorating weather. Knowing the mountains, this was a very big risk the four had undertaken and they needed every bit of good luck and prayers.  Cognizant that the window of opportunity was extremely narrow, I tweeted “Allah Khair” meaning God protect and be with them. I also prayed for the tenaciousness of human valor and a miracle.

But all was not well. Trackers were dead and sat phones switched off. Even Sajid who parted company at 12 noon due to oxygen malfunction returned to Camp 3. Anxious and worried, he dared the climb back towards Camp 4 to find nothing in extremely poor visibility. Dawa Sherpa who had the latest weather reports advised him to descend immediately to Base Camp which he did by midnight. From Bottleneck to the long wait at Camp 3, then up looking for headlamps in vain and back to base camp must have been a lonely, painful and arduous descent for the young college graduate whose expedition partners including his father were missing.  The cause of motivation and strive an extra bit was gone. With such demoralization, the feat that he descended alone, tired, broken and depressed is another superhuman effort.

Confronted by lack of information and electronic data, there are only two types of witnesses. First,  those including Tomaz Rotar, Sherpa Timbo and others who retreated from the crevasse ahead of Camp 4. Thereon, only Sajid Sadpara becomes crucial to dig the truth. He was with the group till 12 PM. His evidence fills many gaps and dispels many doubts. My conversations with him give an impression that back at camp 3, he was aware of dangers and the tragedy that could have befallen.

There is a question repeatedly raised. Why John Snorri’s team missed the summit push along with the Nepalese, when it was already a shared summit? Competition according to Sonorri, , Mingma G and  Nirmal Purja was intense. Snorri also carried the scars of an aborted expedition on K2 with Tomaz Rotor and Mingma G last season.

But despite the past experience, new friendships were made. John Snorri’s team had fixed ropes up to Camp 1 and extended to the Japanese Camp 3 and also delivered 700 meters of rope to Mingma G at camp 2, who fixed it a day later to Camp 4 at 7,600 meters and beyond. Nirmal Purja also carried 200 meters rope to be fixed enroute to the summit. Rope fixing was a shared effort.

According to Mingma G and validated by Sajid Sadpara, the weather at Camp 2 on 15 January made a push dangerous, while Camp 3 and above enjoyed a good weather window. The Nepalese decision to summit was impromptu and needed convincing from Mingma G because reports from Dawa Sherpa, Nirmal Purja and John Snorri contradicted him.

Nepalese led by Mingma G took the risk and succeeded. He personally fixed ropes 50 meters short of Camp 4 including a passage on a nearly vertical wall of ice and rock. Sajid confirms the presence of ropes on this route used by his team and Seven Summit climbers. This includes Tomaz Rotar who went up and down these ropes.

That Sajid Sadpara and Tomaz Rotor mention the presence of ropes in the crevasse 50 M ahead of Camp 4 towards Bottleneck dispels many doubts. The last point at which Sajid Sadpara saw his team using the fixed ropes was where the narrow near vertical rock gully opens up into a couloir. This is the place where the route turns sharply left and follows along the icefall and serac to the summit slope. He and Tomaz Rotor mention dense powder snow. This historically facilitates the ascent to summit.  Sajid remains convinced that his team made it to the summit and tragedy struck on the descent.

Alan Arnette

According to Sajid, John Snorri left Camp 3 at 11:30 PM on 4 February. Snorri’s GPS switched on at 23:58 PM at an altitude of 7379 meters. By 3:49 AM 6 February he was at 7961 meters. It can be inferred that between this location and 4:55 AM he was on the gradual descent towards the Bottleneck. That is when he came across a big crevasse between Camp 4 site and the Bottle neck, and met Tomaz Rotar who was already there along with Sherpa Timbo. Both turned back while Snorri waited alone for his team. Tomaz Rotor avoids timelines in his narration but the light he talks about is certainly the false or early dawn and not a moon that was in the fading quarter.

Sajid followed Snorri half an hour later while Ali Sadpara left at 2 AM 6 February. Ali and Sajid were confident they would catch up John Snorri before the Bottleneck which they did. Sajid confirms that he met Tomaz Rotor below Camp 4 and insists that at that time his father had not caught up with him. He also confirms that he was using oxygen and he mentioned his regulator problem to Tomaz Rotor. He also confirms he saw many stragglers from Seven Summits including Sherpas descending from Camp 4.

According to Sajid, already a summiteer on K2 in 2019, the landscape ahead of camp 4 was completely different. There had been heavy snow and a big crevasse about 2.5 meters had opened up 50 M ahead of Camp 4 site and the Bottleneck. Sajid confirms that the Nepalese briefed them about this crevasse at the base camp but it had since widened. This is where he came across Juan Pablo Mohr who was without oxygen on a solo climb like he did on five 8000 meter peaks in the past accompanied by Ali Sadpara on two (Lhotse and  Dhaulagiri). He describes him as a very good and technical climber. After reconnaissance in daylight, all four sprinted and jumped across the forbidding crevasse that had opened up after the fixing of rope by Nepalese; called ‘glacial crack’ by Tomaz Rotor. Time according to Sajid was 9-10 AM and the sun was warming up.

So how does one explain litany of ever compounding risks? Travelling light, they left everything including the only tent at Camp 3 occupied by 2 Nepali and one European climber. There were no sleeping bags. Only Juan Pablo was carrying some rope.

Mountaineers by temperament and nature of challenge live on the edge and take calculated risks. Sometimes it works and at others, it ends in tragedy. Maurice Wilson, George Mallory and Andrew Irvine tried but failed. Similarly, a long list of climbers took bigger risks and succeeded. It worked for Mingma G and Nepalese but not John Snorri and his partners.

Daring the edge is cognitive and cannot be measured. Emotionally and physiologically, the level of motivation of the four climbers was extremely high. They had shot up their adrenaline and conquered fear of unknown. They dared the edge. The mission of this four man team was ultimately ‘do or die’.

They had no plans of an emergency bivouac. Climb quickly and sprint to Camp 3 was their only option. Fraught with risks, the forbidding terrain and weather of K2 did not allow it to happen. It overtook them.

Valour accompanied by risks is part of an adventurer’s spirit. This time, the luck did not favour the brave.

As the clouds over this tragedy clear, let us salute these men whose luck ran out.  Let us leave the departed in Peace, and acknowledge the great things they did and endeavoured.

Rest in Eternal Peace.

Please note that Sajid Sadpara’s account is contradicted by Tomaz Rotor


Tamara Lunger

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