Talks with AfghanTaliban

Time to talk to Taliban
TAHIR ALI

Business Recorder (February 06 2010)
The new initiative by Afghan president Hamid Karzai to woo moderate Taliban insurgents and leaders, who are ready to shun militancy and are not part of al Qaeda, into the political process in return for money, jobs, protection, and amnesty may not succeed for various reasons. Karzai said that those who joined the Taliban were also children of Afghanistan.

However, US General Stanley McChrystal recently suggested that hard-line Taliban, who are part of al Qaeda or other terror groups, would not be accepted in the scheme and they would obviously be killed or captured. The US, Britain, Canada, Germany and Japan have voiced support for the plan and a negotiated peace with the Taliban.

Karzai also hopes Saudi King Abdullah will play a role in Afghanistan peace process. He asked all neighbours, particularly Pakistan, to support his peace and reconciliation endeavours. It is a replay of a similar strategy used in Iraq that produced significant results. But analysts are sceptical of any positive outcome from the new overture. No doubt it will generate debate and discussion but may produce little or no result to help restore peace to the war-torn Afghanistan.

Afghan leaders have demanded that the Taliban forswear violence and their association with al Qaeda before talks start. For their part, the Taliban have demanded that the Americans and other foreign forces leave the country first. Both are poles apart, how could negotiations succeed in this situation.

What do Taliban and other fighter groups say? Taliban have out-rightly rejected the offer for a dialogue and demanded withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan. “The new offer is aimed at extending the invasion of Afghanistan by occupying forces. It is just a waste of time,” the statement attributed to the Taliban Leadership Council said. Taliban’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said they could not be bought by money and bounties. The only political solution is that the foreign forces and the Afghan government surrender to them.

Gulbaddin Hekmatyar, former Afghan premier and chief of the Hezb-e-Islami, the biggest party after Taliban in Afghanistan, wants withdrawal of foreign troops without any preconditions. “All the foreign forces must leave Afghanistan unconditionally. A permanent cease-fire must be enforced. All prisoners from all sides must be freed. An interim administration must take charge for one year,” said a Hekmatyar’s spokesman.

Issues American occupation of Afghanistan is the principal cause of the problem. As long as this occupation continues, resistance to it will invariably go on. To hope for peace without the withdrawal of foreign troops from the Pushtoon belt will be an illusion and wishful thinking.

A Pak-Afghan Jirga was held in the Afghan capital Kabul from 9th to 12th August 2007. I remember when I dubbed it a futile activity in one of my articles in a local daily, I was harshly criticised by a Peshawar-based writer of being ignorant, unrealistic and unaware of the worth of that activity. But my observations were later substantiated by increase in the number of attacks and failure of the process.

The Afghans are independent by nature and they have had fought the Mughals, the Sikhs, the British, the former USSR and will never welcome the new occupiers. As long as the US forces are there, there can’t be any peace there. But the plan doesn’t address this core issue altogether. With the US not showing any signs of an imminent pull-out from the war-torn country, any hope for the success of this mechanism may only be just a wishful thinking. This process will come out to be a fruitless exercise and wastage of time.

America, its allies and the Karzai ‘government’ want to divide and weaken the Taliban-led struggle. British foreign secretary David Miliband has also publicly stated that the aim of the Western countries was to divide the Taliban and overcome their resistance. The coalition only wishes a respite in attacks against the coalition forces there. It hopes that opposition to its presence will either subside or disappear in future. It wants peace but on the basis of its own terms and desires. Will the Taliban or Hikmatyar agree to it? They, as we all know, have their preconditions to enter into a meaningful dialogue.

America always seeks to divert attention from their attack and occupation to the resultant resistance and “terrorism” but completely neglect the mother of all ills – the US occupation of Afghanistan. According to Richard Holbrook, the overwhelming majority of these people are not ideological supporters of Mullah Omar and al Qaeda.

But that majority of fighters are not ideological fighters doesn’t mean that they are supporters of Hamid Karzai and the US occupation forces. The plan is based on the premise that Taliban gives their foot-soldiers higher salaries than the Afghan government can afford to pay its forces. This is unproven and misplaced, because most Afghan Taliban fighters and their families live in miserable conditions. Most are motivated by a desire to martyrdom or independence of their land. If the plan is considered in this backdrop, then the whole premise of buying off the Taliban is unsound and doomed to fail.

The size of the Nato-led force in Afghanistan will rise to 150,000 by year-end. But the surge alone will not ensure victory for them there. A political strategy will be needed but for that the huge gap between the opposing views of Taliban and the US will have to be reconciled. It necessitates a mediator or arbiter between the two.

But an arbiter usually starts work on the mutual request or at least upon the consent of the parties concerned. Again, an arbiter should be a neutral person or body of people respected by all parties and given authority. This is called “Waak” in Pushto. Has any ‘Waak’ been given to a third party or arbiter? As far as I know, no such thing has come forward so far.

Saudi Arabia has been asked for help for its respect among the Muslims. But its foreign minister, Saud al-Faisal, says his country will take part in Afghan peace efforts only if the Taliban expel bin Laden and sever ties with militant networks. Will Taliban promise for that? They are yet to respond.

Though Karzai believes Pakistan can bring the Taliban to the negotiation table, there are indications that Pakistan has no worthwhile influence over the Taliban. Its influence over the Afghan Taliban and credibility has been on the decline ever since it joined the US war on terror. They didn’t accept Pakistan’s request to hand over Osama to the US; they rejected its persuasion to avoid the Bamiyan debacle; they didn’t deliver wanted Pakistanis hiding there and the like. Even now Pakistan will have little influence over them to motivate them to dialogue.

Chances The fact that Taliban and Hikmatyar are in no mood to support and join the process is sufficient not to associate any big hope with it. Both Taliban and Hikmatyar have made their support conditional with the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan. And we know there is no such thing on the agenda.

Though some fighters would certainly stop fighting in return for favours, the majority would continue resisting the foreign forces and the temptations. Fighting is likely to continue in Afghanistan for the time being and a purely military victory is unlikely in Afghanistan.

Analysts say the removal of the men from the list is not likely to persuade other Taliban to abandon the fight as all five were relatively low-level leaders or had already deserted the Taliban. The US would have to show restraint and avoid dangerous actions that can make negotiations impossible or halt the process if it started at all. General amnesty will have to be given.

The US and Obama are desperate to win the war. Obama want a face saving gesture. Will the Taliban and other fighter groups give him that? Obama for sure is trying to win a war that no invader from Alexander the Great to Soviet Russia could win. Afghanistan still remains a safehaven for al Qaeda recruits despite nine years of war there.

A bitter pill

A bitter pill

By Tahir Ali

(The News, 19-04-09)

The global pharmaceutical industry has crossed over $700 billion and is on the rise. Similarly, the Pakistani pharmaceutical industry too is witnessing a surge. Sales of medicines in the country in 2008 were recorded at Rs105.86 billion, showing an increase of 18 percent over the preceding year. Of these, multinational pharmaceutical companies (MPCs) accounted for 49.98 percent of sales, pocketing Rs52 billion and showing a growth of 13 percent over 2007. On the other hand, the share of local pharmaceutical companies (LPCs) grew by 24 percent in 2008, and they pocketed over Rs53 billion.

Among the market leaders for the year, a Pakistani company is at the sixth number while another is at the tenth number. Twelve of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies are MPCs, while nine of 12 leading pharmaceutical products are marketed by them. Though the share of local industry has improved over the years, the country’s drug exports have not increased proportionately. Pakistan exports medicines to 29 countries. According to latest figures, the country’s total drug exports, growing by 23 percent annually, have increased to $128 million. The Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) plans to increase drug exports to $500 from the current $100 million by 2013.

Medicines can be either research-based patent drugs or generic brands. The former are costlier and are marketed by MPCs, while the latter are cheap and are marketed by LPCs. Branded generics account for an estimated 75 percent of prescriptions in terms of unit-wise sales in Pakistan. MPCs control the market in terms of patent rights. Interestingly, no LPC has patent rights over any of the medicines used in Pakistan. It may be reminded that companies that originate research and production of any medicine are given property rights over the products for 10 to 15 years. Other companies cannot repack and market these medicines in a given market during that period. After the expiry of the said period, other interested companies may produce same generic medicines but they have to sell them at much lower prices.

There are 692 pharmaceutical companies (though some put the figure as high as 1,000) in Pakistan. These include manufacturers, importers and promoters. Of these, 405 are registered / licensed drug manufacturers, including 28 MPCs. The rest are drug importing / promoting companies, most of which are local. Almost all the local companies are repacking and formulating industries that are dependent on the import of raw materials from abroad.

There are 60 pharmaceutical companies in the NWFP. Of these, 35 are located in Hayatabad, Peshawar, followed by 15 in the industrial estate of Gadoon, Swabi. The rest are scattered in other parts of the province. The province’s population, about 25 million, is 14 percent of Pakistan’s total population. However, the provincial share in the country’s total drug sales is as high as 25 percent and it is further increasing. In short, the NWFP has a huge market for medicines. Most of the people from the tribal and northern areas, as well as from the Pakhtun belt of Afghanistan, come to Peshawar for treatment. According to a rough estimate, medicines worth millions of rupees are traded daily in Peshawar’s Dubgari Garden’s medicine market, the biggest drug centre in the country.

However, the local pharmaceutical industry feels alienated. Several pharmacists told this scribe that MPCs are unduly facilitated and patronised, while local companies are discriminated against. “Though at least 70 percent Pakistanis use locally manufactured medicines, the government treats LPCs unjustly; we are offered half the price paid to MPCs on the grounds that our standard is low. Can the government allow a multinational to charge more for oil than the Pakistan State Oil (PSO), which is also a local company? Certainly not, so why this injustice is being done to the pharmaceutical industry?” a pharmacist asks.

The local pharmaceutical industry is against selective application of prices; it is for uniform rates across the board, because the labour, contents and raw materials are the same for both LPCs and MPCS. They also suggest leader-price-concept, which means that if an industry is allowed to sell a medicine, say, for Rs10, all companies making that item should be allowed to do the same. The price of a capsule of 250mg of Cephradine, for example, varies between Rs6.5 to Rs12 per capsule – the latter being sanctioned for an MPC. The local pharmaceutical industry wants this anomaly to be done away with, and stresses that prices should not be different for different companies.

According to Mumtazuddin, deputy chief executive of a local pharmaceutical company, there is an imbalance not only between market prices of MPCs and LPCs, but also between different companies of the latter type. “There must be price rationalisation between local and foreign companies. Intra-local companies’ price rationalisation is also needed. There should be balance between all. There should be standard criteria for price fixation. Quality control system, standard of production machinery, cleanliness, packing, experience of the company, cost of production, prices of raw materials and other things should be considered while fixing prices for a certain product. Ten percent differentiation between prices of different companies is justifiable, but it should not be left at the will of drug inspectors,” he stresses.

Mumtaz further says the cost of production had increased manifold due to costly power and gas tariffs. “Prices of all commodities have increased two to three hundred percent in the last couple of years. The prices of petrochemicals were stable until 2006. After that, the rupee devalued, thus packaging prices increased. Moreover, power rates went up, and cost of production and inflation also increased, during this period. As a result, now the cost of production exceeds the allowed retail prices, but the Ministry of Health (MoH) would not reschedule the prices. In fact, it has not done so since 2001. Therefore, we demand that the prices of medicines should be increased by at least 50 percent.”

It is pertinent to mention here that after the government declined to accept repeated demands for increase in the prices of medicines, pharmaceutical companies increased their prices by up to 143 percent in February. Now the matter is in the court. Market sources say the government recently accepted the demand and increased the prices of certain medicines. A dealer told this scribe that the price of 400mg Evian capsules has been increased to Rs440, from the old price of Rs225.

Before 1996, the Pakistani government controlled only life-saving medicines, but the second Benazir government opted for control of all medicines, a decision over which there is still widespread resentment. “The governments of India and Bangladesh control prices of 74 and 114 medicines, respectively. The Pakistani government should control only the life-saving medicines, and the rest should be left to the market forces of demand and supply,” a pharmacist says.

The pharmaceutical sector in Pakistan is strictly regulated. However, against common perception, drug cost in medical care accounts for only 15-20 percent, while the rest is incurred on consultation, laboratory services, imaging facilities and hospital costs. This means almost 80 percent of the health sector remains unregulated. Pharmacists believe that prices invariably come down when there is open competition in the market. Famotidine, for example, was sold at Rs29 per tablet 25 years ago, but now due to open competition its price has come down to less than Rs3 a tablet.

The PPMA wants an agreement with the government on a framework of policy implementation regarding for how long a policy and prices would be operative. “A long-term policy is badly needed, because arbitrary decisions and changes in policies spoil the confidence of investors. Moreover, the government should provide constitutional cover to the adopted policy,” suggests Zahid Saeed, chairperson of the PPMA.

Lack of official patronage for research and development, refresher courses for pharmacists, and interaction and exchange between the public and private sectors is also causing harm to the pharmaceutical sector. The MoH should include the PPMA in the formulation of the health policy, as well as involve it in related decision making. Support of the Ministry of Commerce, Federal Board of Revenue and the Planning Commission are also important for the sector.

Health is a provincial subject under the constitution. Thus, local pharmaceutical industry representatives demand of the government to immediately hand over the sector to the provincial government. “Currently, the MoH is overburdened. Matters such as price fixation and review, registration of companies and drugs and their renewal, and drug manufacturing license and its renewal are all handled by the ministry. As people from the entire country converge on the MoH, this causes delay. The authorisation of the provincial health department for these issues will not only lessen the MoH’s workload, but will also help in developing the pharmaceutical industry,” Mumtaz says.

The lengthy and complicated official procedure for drug license registration should be made easy, and unnecessary investigations about income of the prospective and intending industrialists should be avoided. Because medicines are highly sensitive to temperatures, storage facilities should be improved and air-conditioners installed at all pharmacies to avoid any loss to the efficacy of medicines. Illegal smuggling of medicines should be stopped forthwith and the trade should be regulated. The government should also slash duty on basic raw and packaging materials, build basic raw material manufacturing units, and ensure power availability or allow import of gas generators.

(Email: tahir_ali1971@yahoo.com)

Gur’s Sweet solution

Sweet solutions

By Tahir Ali

(The News, 7-02-10)

As many farmers have started using their sugarcane to make gur instead of sugar, the practice does not bode well for sugar millers in FATA. Some sugar mills in the frontier, especially those in central districts, have closed or have stopped crushing sugarcane much before schedule. While sugar mills in Dera Ismail Khan and other southern districts of the province are operating, most of them in Peshawar, Charsadda, and Mardan, have been closed for good or have stopped crushing because they have already consumed their stock of sugarcane. Frontier Sugar Mills and Khazana Sugar Mills in Mardan, for instance, are already closed while the Premier Sugar Mills in Mardan — reportedly the biggest sugar mill in Asia — has also stopped crushing.

A high-ranking official of a big sugar mill in the area, on the condition of anonymity, says increased sugarcane price is the biggest problem, “Farmers are demanding high prices for their sugarcane which is simply not viable for us. We are giving them more than the official purchase price but they insist for more and are not bringing sugarcane to the mills. We cannot run our mills in this situation.”

The official rate of 40kg of sugarcane is Rs130 locally as compared to Rs100 last year. Despite this price, there is limited sugarcane supply to mills because the gur mafia purchases the standing crop at Rs180-200 to make gur from it. Farmers either sell their crop to them or opt for making gur from sugarcane.

General Secretary Pakistan Sugar Mills Association, K Ali Qazalbash, claims farmers were offered between Rs140-200 per 40kg of sugarcane on different stations. But they demanded more than that which was simply not affordable for the millers. That was why several mills were closed down,” he says adding, “Seven out of 82 sugar mills were located in FATA. I cannot say exactly how many of these are closed nation-wide. But one thing I know for sure that sugar millers in FATA are faced with the problem of reduced supply of sugarcane as farmers prefer making gur from their crop. They prefer it because it fetches them more income as more gur can be produced from a given quantity of sugarcane than sugar,” he adds.

“Gur prices have gone up considerably and the commodity is being traded at around Rs80-100 per kg these days. It was cheaper than sugar two years back. But no one is questioning and investigating the issue. It is ironical that gur price is being determined by market forces while sugar prices have been determined by administrative decision,” complains Qazalbash. According to Qazalbash, sugar prices are going up internationally. Sugar prices must be around Rs60-65 per kg,” he argues.

There is no tax on the gur trade. The previous government had levied a fixed tax on gur ganees which was latter withdrawn after facing opposition from farmers. The Pakistan Sugar Mills Association NWFP chapter has been asking for a ban on the export of gur and for a 15 percent sales tax on gur industry. “Gur exporters earn huge chunks of money from exports to Afghanistan and Central Asian Republics (CARs) where it is used in wine-making and other items. Why has its export been allowed when there is shortage of sugar in the domestic market and the government spends billions on its imports?” says Qazalbash.

Haji Niamat Shah, Senior Vice President of Anjuman-e-Kashtkaran NWFP, however, says mills were offering prices of Rs150 to Rs175 per 50kg for different categories of sugarcanes as against official rate of Rs130 per 40kg. “Farmers are not bringing their produce to mills because they can earn more from gur-making. The result is that sugar mills have stopped crushing before schedule. It means revenue loss to the government, joblessness, and shortage of sugar in the market.”

On the suggestion to impose taxes on the gur sector, Shah says that the demand is unjust and would affect the already overburdened 85 percent poor farmers, “Instead, farmers should be offered incentives for bringing their sugarcane to the mills. For this purpose, the government should announce a relief package and a rebate in taxes for NWFP sugar industry which in turn would increase sugarcane prices for farmers. This would revive farmers’ declining interest in bringing sugarcane to the mills.”

Growing an estimated one million hectares of sugarcane annually, Pakistan is the 5th largest sugarcane producer of the world. Gur and seed consume an estimated one third of the produce. According to an estimate, 1.5 million tonnes of gur is annually produced in Pakistan. Some even claim the yield is two million tonnes. In 1996-97, it was estimated that 32 percent of the sugarcane crop was diverted for the production of an estimated 1.4 million tonnes of gur.

Gur prices have gone up sharply this year. The price of two purs of gur, weighing 160 kg, is between Rs9500 to Rs12500 as against Rs4500 to Rs5000 last year. In 1996, an average retail gur price was 14 rupees. Currently, it is Rs60-80 for different varieties.

Farmer can hardly be expected to take their yield to mills when they can earn double the amount by opting for gur. Sardar Ali, a farmer says an acre of sugarcane yields 600 maunds of sugarcane, “The farmer gets a maximum of Rs100,000 if he takes it to a sugar mill. But his net income will be around 50-55 thousand rupees after deduction of all of his expenditures. Conversely, it can produce 40 purs. With the current rate, these purs can fetch him over Rs200,000 and his net income may be over Rs100,000.”

The government has failed to implement the decision of the Supreme Court (SC) to provide sugar at Rs40 a kilo to domestic consumers. In a move that revealed its helplessness vis-à-vis the powerful sugar barons, the government raised its price to Rs45 per kg from Rs38. It also failed to stem steep rise in its prices in the open market. Sugar prices have surged to Rs70 a kilo.

According to reports, the government is mulling a crackdown against sugar mills for selling the commodity at higher price. However, it may be reminded that when the government launched a crackdown on sugar mills last year, following the SC directive to ensure availability of sugar, the commodity disappeared from the market and its price almost doubled in a matter of days.

Pakistanis consume 26kg of sugar per person annually. According to the Ministry of Industries and Production figures, around 170 million require about 4.4 million tonnes against the expected production of 3.1 million tonnes this year. If we reduce sugar consumption by one kg per person in a year, it can save 200,000 tonnes of sugar and Rs650 million with the current international price of the commodity. The government should encourage sugar-beet. The Competition Commission should also investigate and pursue allegations of cartels in sugar industry.

Marble resouces in Pakistan

Unused treasures

By Tahir Ali

(The News, 25-10-09)

Pakistan, especially NWFP, possesses huge marble reservoirs. The promotion and development of marble industry could bring prosperity and development for the country.

But industrialists and officials from Pakistan Stone Development Company (Pasdec) and small & medium enterprises development authority (Smeda) say that the sector suffers from several maladies.

“The marble industry is suffering from load-shedding, low voltage, law and order problem, use of outdated quarrying techniques, inconsistent supplies of raw material, lack of proper infrastructure, lack of value addition and absence of public-private cooperation/coordination,” they point out.

According to an official of Pasdec, that oversees the marble sector, Pakistan has approximately 300 billion tons of marble reserves scattered mainly in NWFP, the tribal belt and Balochistan.

“Around 98 percent of these reserves are believed to be in NWFP and FATA. Of late, work at several marble sites was stopped due to militancy in the area. Explorations in tribal-belt would be started once the security situation improved there and the figures could further improve. Much of the potential however hitherto remains to be exploited,” said the official.

He said nearly 30 kinds of marble were found in the province and the adjoining tribal belt. “The most famous of these are Ziarat marble, super-white, off-white, Badal, Zebra, pink, Nowshera, Jet-black, Bampokha and golden marble,” he added.

Swat, Buner, Chitral, Kohistan, Mardan, Hazara, Nowshera and Kohat divisions are high potential areas for quality marble in the province. Mohmand, Khyber, Bajaur, Orakzai and Kurram Agencies from Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have huge marble reservoirs.

In the next 15 years, Pasdec plans to upgrade 14 quarries, develop 20 marble cities and 2000 marble factories and establish 20 training centres of mosaic, inlays and stone masonry across the country.

Model quarries are being set up according to the best international practices for extracting stone and employing latest technology. Marble Cities are being established in the vicinity of mines all over Pakistan.

The Ministry of Industries has opened a machinery pool at the newly established marble city Risalpur with the help of Pasdec.

According to Shahid R Khan, former chairman all Pakistan marble industries association (APMIA), the marble city will have a common facility and training centres (CFTCs) for training local managers, workforce and technicians to cut square dimension blocks into slabs, then polish and cut them to size on the state of the art machinery. The centres will be run by both local and International experts. “CFTCs will also have a Mosaic Development Center to provide industrial training in marble mosaic, handicrafts and inlays from industrial waste. The common facility will provide cutting, polishing and sizing services as well on reasonable rates to private entrepreneurs. There would also be an industrial park on the site,” he said.

“It is heartening to see that the government has realised the need to develop the marble and granite sector on modern and scientific lines, which would collect huge amount of foreign reserves from international market,” said Khan.

He recalled there were only six marble factories when he started work in the marble sector in 1990. “Now, we have around 1700 of them in NWFP and FATA that provide 0.1 million direct and another 0.6 million indirect jobs to people. The sector generates an estimated millions of revenue annually for the government. We are gradually modernising the sector with support from the government. We know only dimension stone and square blocks have an international market and we are developing on those lines,” he said.

The official said that marble miners should stop method of blasting and get the latest machinery on rental basis for extracting marble. Standard wastage in the world is 45 percent for the marble sector. In Pakistan, he noted, blasting destroys 85 percent marble in mining. Wire-cutting-technology would be provided to the miners on rental basis to avoid wastage of marble.

The global trade in marble and granite was estimated at $45 billion a year. But marble exports from Pakistan were only about $33 million last year.

Pakistan offers big investment opportunities in mining, value addition and manpower development in the sector. Recent reports suggest that Saudi Arabia is interested in Pakistani marble to build its new cities with an expenditure of around $260 billion. Italy and other countries, it is learnt, want barter trade of their marble machinery & technology in exchange for the Pakistani marble. All this shows great investment potential in Pakistan’s marble and granite sector.

When this scribe expressed apprehension that Italy might market the marble products made from Pakistani marble, Shahid Khan said we should not be worried on this front and expand our trade with Italy for our benefit.

Khan, who is also a member of board of directors of Pasdec, said the marble reserves in Pakistan were enough to relieve it of its external and internal debts. “Experts even think that only Balochistan’s marble reserves would suffice for the purpose. On a recent visit to Turkey, I found that a single Turkish company exported marble products of about $48 million. It filled with me remorse on our own exports,” he said.

“The industry has huge potential in export sector. We want to increase exports up to $300 millions in coming years on our own. Exports could even touch one billions dollars if sustained efforts are made. The government and private sector would have to do streamline supply of raw materials as well as address the inability to cater to high volume orders from abroad,” Khan said.

Pasdec is committed to make the sector globally competitive and socially responsible dimension stone industry by ensuring extraction of “square blocks” through modern techniques. “This strategy will transform this industry in to a globally competitive industry and an engine of economic growth for the country. We hope to increase exports to $2.5 billion through the steps by the year 2016,” said a Pasdec official.

Khan said the government should open a mineral development bank for the sector. He said we intend to utilise the marble powder for building blocks if facilitated. “We also would be developing the mosaic marble industry in the province. Very beautiful pieces can be prepared from what once were considered waste of marble,” he said.

But insurgency and military operation in part of NWFP and FATA have dealt blows to the sector like other businesses.

Shamsul Wahab, President Marble Manufacturer Association Buner said that around 500 marble factories in Buner were closed in May making 0.2 million people jobless.

“Several factories and marble blocks were destroyed by shelling. Due to frequent curfews, supplying raw material and transportation of marble was impossible for months. We incurred billions of loss due to them. Now prolonged load-shedding, low voltage and non-availability of live ammunition used in blasting at marble sites are harming us,” he said adding that half of marble factories were still closed.

Mardan has the biggest public-income generating marble cluster of the province. According to Mohammad Younis, President of Marble Association, it generates revenue of around Rs 200 annually in income tax, royalty, GST, FED and power and gas bills.

“Most of the marble factories in the Small Industrial Estate Mardan (SIEM) are unfortunately working on 50 percent of their installed capacity. Hours of load-shedding and low voltage have compelled us to work only in one shift. This has reduced production as well as caused joblessness,” Younis said.

He lamented that around 75 percent of the industrialists time was consumed by the ten different types of departments he had to deal with for his business. How they could develop their industries in this back drop, he asked.

“The government must improve the power infrastructure, water, sewerage and road networks. It should ensure soft loans to the potential investors to enable them get modern quarrying machinery. It should also help establish training centres for workforce and a safe and healthy environment,” said Saleem Khan, a marble dealer.

Smeda, Pasdec, the ministry of industries and private sector should join hands to explore more marble sites, develop marble industry on modern lines and open marble processing units in areas where the treasures are located. This will help bring the transportation cost down, create job opportunities for locals and would develop most of these backward areas.

tahir_katlang@yahoo.com

Raising agricultural budget

Raising agricultural budget in KP

By Tahir Ali

(DAWN Monday, 14 Jun, 2010)

As Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is expected to receive huge funds from the federal divisible pool next fiscal year, farmers hope that the provincial government will provide sufficient funds and start a rigorous programme for the uplift of agriculture.

Agriculture has traditionally received insufficient funds ranging from one to two per cent of the provincial annual development plan despite the fact that it accounts for over 20 per cent of provincial gross domestic product, provides employment to 45 per cent of the total labour force and about 80 per cent of the population is dependent on it for survival.

A high official in the agriculture department said he was happy with the size of agricultural development budget, but he did not reveal the exact allocation. Agriculture was allocated Rs800 million in outgoing fiscal year’s core provincial ADP of Rs32 billion. This year it is likely to be around Rs1 billion out of an expected Rs45 billion ADP.

“The government will ensure both quantitative and qualitative expansion of different sub-sectors of agriculture such as increasing per acre yield, land development, bringing more land under cultivation and developing the livestock sector and horticulture and so on,” he said.

The total outlay of the KP’s budget for 2010-11 is expected to be around Rs300 billion as compared to Rs214 billion last year. After about 80 per cent increase in its federal receipts due to the historic NFC award that increased its share, KP will receive about Rs160 billion this fiscal as compared to Rs90 billion in the outgoing fiscal. It will also receive Rs25 billion as net hydro profits. So its net receipts will come to about Rs200bn that would further increase in coming years.

While there will be no shortage of finances, what is required is a commitment on the part of the government departments to develop agriculture through efficient management and utilisation of available resources.

Ihsanullah Khan, president of the KP Chamber of Agriculture, said high prices of the various agricultural inputs, power and oil have made it extremely difficult for farmers to do farming. Farmers need cheap inputs more than any thing else. If not, agriculture would suffer tremendously in the province.

Farmers needed incentives. Subsidies on the agricultural machinery and accessories must be given and increased,” he said. Nimat Shah Vice-President of Anjuman-e-Kashtkaran KP said

“Agriculture budget must reflect the ground realities. The province often faced financial crunch in the past. Sufficient funds should be allocated to facilitate farmers increase per acre yield and acreage of important crops, bring more land cultivation and augment the storage capacity for vegetables, grains, crops and fruits. All this require that at least five per cent of the net hydro profit arrears should be earmarked for agricultural development. The agriculture budget should now account for over five per cent of ADP which should be gradually increased to 10 per cent.”

KP has low per acre yield in wheat. The provision of quality seed is a requisite for improving the yield. “The budget should also have some allocation for developing seeds locally. Until that is done, high yielding seed varieties must be imported. Also, easy and timely availability of seeds and other inputs should also be arranged through improved distribution network. Abiana is double than in Punjab, it should be reduced,” he added.

The KP’s agriculture policy is targeting food security and poverty alleviation. But it is hardly possible with the existing low per acre yield, meagre acreage, inability of farmers to modernise farming.

KP has not been able to fully exploit its huge water potential due to insufficient budgetary allocations, shortage of water reservoirs and lack of physical infrastructure.

KP and the tribal belt have 25 million acres of land. Only 6.7 million acres of it is cultivable. But irrigated land is only 2.27MA while around 4.4MA still await irrigation facility. KP is a food deficient province.

To grow more food, it needs to bring more land under cultivation. But cultivable area forms just thirty percent of the total cultivable land in KP.

“Model Farm Services Centres (MFSC) are serving the farmers well. But financial constraints and poor membership numbers have restricted their efficacy. The government should give at least Rs10 million to each MFSC for purchase of inputs and machinery. More MFSCs would have to be opened besides increasing their members,” said a farmer.

KP usually gets meagre share in agriculture credit. The government should allocate Rs2-3 billion for interest free loans for farmers and SRSP’s services should be utilised for distribution of loan facility.

Khwaja Muhammad Khan Hoti’s interview

Khwaja Mohammad Khan Hoti: “Oppositionist by nature”

By Tahir Ali

(The News January 2009)

Nawabzada Khawaja Muhammad Khan Hoti was born in Mardan on 1st January 1955. He belongs to the Yousafzai tribe of Pakhtoons. He has passed Bachelor of Arts from Sindh University.

He belongs to an influential political family. His father Nawabzada Mohammad Umar Khan Hoti was chief of Hoti. His grand father (Late) Nawab Sir Muhammad Akbar Khan Hoti was a big landlord and prominent political figure of NWFP. His maternal grand father Brig. Sir Nawab Muhammad Shah Jehan Khan (Late) was the ruler of Dir State. He is the son in law of (Late) Nawabzada Abdul Ghafoor Khan Hoti Ex-Governor NWFP, Federal Minister and Central Pakistan Muslim League Leader and has a son Umar Farooq Hoti – who recently created stir in Mardan when he joined PML (N) – and four daughters.

KMH joined politics in 1979 as member of Mardan municipality. He joined the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in 1987, became the General Secretary of its NWFP Chapter in 1998. One year later, he became the President of PPP NWFP.

In1988 he became the advisor, and in 1989, the special assistant to the Chief Minister NWFP. Later, he was appointed Provincial Minister for Tourism for a short period. He also served as provincial Minister for Education from 1993-1996.

Due to differences with Chairperson of PPP in 2004, he left the party as provincial president and later on, resigned from its basic membership. In 2006, he joined ANP and was appointed as its Central Vice President of ANP. He won National Assembly seat in Feb. 2008 and was given the portfolio of Federal Minister for Social Welfare & Special Education in April 2008. Now-a-days, he is Federal Minister for Narcotics Control.

He is locally known as Baba-e-Rozgar and he says cannot help without providing jobs to the poor and needy. He is famous for his candid remarks. He is a public figure and feels like amongst the common man. This is why he is locally very popular.

TNS talked to him recently. Excerpts follow

The News on Sunday: You remained very close to Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. How did you find her during your interaction with her?

Khwaja Mohammad Khan Hoti: The truth is that BB was a leader with an unmatched political acumen. She was an international leader and was Pakistan’s cherished identity abroad. She was an asset to the country. Pakistan and Pakistanis have lost too much in her departure to Hereafter. She was a high calibre lady born and nurtured in a great political family- the Bhutto family- and tutored by one of the greatest leaders this country ever produced- Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Shaheed. She had her peculiar qualities and was truly benazir (matchless). She always took informed and well thought out decisions in her political career.

She had sagacity more than her any other contemporary. She would anticipate the future course of actions and would prepare her responses how to deal with them. I remember when I contacted her right after the 9/11; she was profoundly sad and said that it was a step that would have dangerous repercussions for the Muslims the world over and especially Pakistan. The events in the aftermath just testified to what she had anticipated on the very day of the terrorist attack.

She had that outstanding ability to recognise the potentials workers and how to take them along with her. She was mardum shanas (good judge of people) and would deal with people according to their worth and capabilities.

I personally miss her a lot. She held me in high esteem. You remember I was the PPP’s provincial president for NWFP. Once, in Dubai, when interviews for the aspirants of party tickets were being held before elections, I had a brawl with her on the issue of awarding party ticket to a person for elections. BB stressed that her nomination be endorsed which in my view was not suited to the prospects of the party. I objected to it. Difference of opinion took ugly terms and I walked out of the meeting saying that if our advice was not to be ignored, we had nothing to do there and told her that she should take the decisions herself and get these communicated to us which would be endorsed. Feeling disgusted, I went to the City Centre and was preparing to depart for Pakistan. Soon afterwards, she called for me. When I reached there, she smiled and said, “Hoti sahib! I agree to your suggestion because I have confidence in your political acumen.” Then she said that as I was angry with her that day, she would take us to lunch -which she very rarely did. On another occasion, when after a party’s public meeting in Lahore, there was a discussion as to the number of participants. Some said they numbered 20 thousands and others put the attendance at 30,000. When BB heard all of them, she asked me to give my analysis, and told those present that my assessment would be right as I always spoke the truth. I told them they all exaggerated and that actually the strength was five to six thousand. BB approved of my estimation.

TNS: Despite the fact that there is a powerful PPP government in the centre and four provinces, the death of BB is yet to be investigated. How do you look at the delay? And also who do you think to be behind her death?

KMH: I think her death should be promptly investigated. There have been many untraced killings in Pakistan and let’s hope that her case doesn’t add to these blind cases. Who ever that killed her has succeeded to strike the nation and the country hard. I don’t know as to whether local or foreign people or groups are to blame for her death but it’s our duty to expose her killers and bring them to justice as soon as possible.

TNS: People say the present PPP regime is violating her legacy and the party is being haphazardly run. Do you agree?

KMH: Since I am not in the PPP I cannot say for sure as to how the party is being run after her. I think only a party insider can be exactly aware of the things and feeling there. I am not in a position to say as to what changes have taken place since President Zardari became the party chief.

TNS: You had differences with her. Could you explain as to why did you desert the PPP in early 1990s?

KMH: Now as she is no more physically amongst us I don’t want to go into details about this matter. I have buried this hatchet.

TNS: Your son Umer Farooq Hoti recently joined Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz). Did you suggest this step? People say you are also to join the party soon?

KMH: Yes my son has joined the PML (N). He had some serious differences with local leadership which I think were not dealt rightly by the local chapter of the party. Perhaps Farooq thought that he would have more vistas open to him there in PML (N) and that he could serve the people well if he joined it. So he took the decision on his own. You know he is my only son. If I cannot make him happy, I simply have no right to compel him on this front and thereby displease him. Then he is an adult and knows his interest well. But as far I am concerned, I am in the ANP. Asfandyar Wali Khan is my leader. He is like a brother and very dear to me. He is a respectable and knowledgeable man and knows politics well.

If my son is in a party other than mine, this has been done by others in the past and is seen even today. Wasn’t Asfandyar’s grand-father Bacha Khan a veteran of Congress while the latter’s elder brother Dr Khan sahib was in the Unionist party before independence? Aren’t the two brothers from Laki Marwat – Saleem Saifullah and Anwar Saifullah – in the PML and PPP respectively? I would also like to draw your attention to the past. You know I was inducted into politics by my uncle Abdul Ghafoor Khan Hoti, former NWFP Governor who was a PML stalwart. He wanted me to join PML and would argue with me. But I joined the PPP in 1987 instead.

TNS: But don’t you have differences with, and difficulties in, the ANP?

KMH: We do have been facing some difficulties but I think they are the products of local conspiracies against us. I want to make it crystal clear to all plotters that ministerial or party slots have no significance in my eyes. These come and go. My family has always been the lucky one in this connection. In my case especially, I have worked on too many important slots in different governments. I have made commitments to people in my constituency- You know I am locally known as Baba-e- Rozgar (Father of jobs) because I believe in service and try to provide jobs to the needy. I am proud of my reputation and feel happy that I am not known as Baba-e- corruption which someone else is. Ministries may seem attractive only to those who make money out of them. I have never indulged in corruption and have always met my personal and political expenses by selling my ancestral property. The confidence, support and service of the people are dearer to me. I am not ready to compromise on Pakistan and the rights of the people of Mardan. The moment I realised I won’t be able to fulfil the promises I made with the people, I will resign and go to the people again to apprise them of the situation. I believe in transparency and always consult my constituency on whatever step I take. That will be my last day in office. Also, I am an oppositionist by nature. I feel like being with the people who oppose an incumbent regime.

TNS: How do you look at the performances of central or NWFP government so far?

KMH: I think there are some problems to face, ranging from law and order to financial crunch to external threats to political tensions. The governments are trying to solve the problems. The question is what after them? Who else has the panacea for these ills?  I believe the Pakistani nation is ready to confront all these hardships with courage and patience. The people, unfortunately, are not being taken into confidence. The sooner it is done, the better. I think we need an overall surgery of our policies. These must be brought in tune with the people’s wishes.

TNS: During your election campaign, you would chastise the US policy vis-à-vis Pakistan and Muslims. What about that now?

KMH: Pakistan is a declared non NATO ally of the US. Bilateral relations are meant for the benefit of both the countries. We’ll try our best to rid the world of terrorism. But we have our limits and cannot and must not exceed them to have our own polity jeopardised for them. We may be prima facie divided, we may belong to divergent groups and parties but we are united in that we are not ready to compromise on our sovereignty and national honour. For us Pakistan comes first and other things follow it. It is somewhat a universal truth that we have embraced as a nation. While Pakistan would do whatever it could to eradicate extremism and terrorism, it also expects rational thinking from its other allies. The present stereotyped tendency of putting all the blames of each and very thing on Pakistan will have to be avoided. It will only create problems and will serve no purpose for the coalition. If President Bush has been attacked by shoes, it is not a work of Pakistan’s making. The US will have to change its policy from aggression to peaceful dialogue with its opponents. It will have to bring a shift in its policies towards the Islamic world. When you support the killers of Palestinians, you will have to face indignation from the whole Muslim Ummah. While successive Pakistani governments are also to blame for the scourge, much of the terrorism in the world today is a reaction to US policies. If you also look at the huge anti-war rallies worldwide, you can see that the US has lost the war for hearts and minds. The American people need to know the truth. The US will have to think as to why it is being looked as an anti-Islam/Muslim power. The US must forthwith shun its militant approach, befriend the nations and avoid subjugating them.

And look at the respective attitude of India. It also accuses us of being supportive to terrorism. It ignores that Pakistan is itself a target of terrorists. If terrorists from India or Iraq target Pakistan, does it give us a license to attack these countries? Certainly not. It would have to forgo this mentality of accusation and threats. If it continues to charge Pakistan of whatever ugly takes place there, we also have questions regarding its role. When Pakistan overlooks the Indian intrigues against Pakistan or the disproportionately large presence of Indian consulates in Afghanistan, India should also reciprocate the same gestures.

TNS: You remained in the political arena for quite a time now. Based on your experience, what are the three main problems the Pakistani political system is faced with?

KMH: We considerably lack tolerance. Be that leaders or workers, they all try to benefit at the expense of others. They see their party colleagues not as brothers and friends but as rivals who must be sidelined and maligned to minimise their own prospects. Look when some vested interests in the ANP conspired against us in Mardan, my son was compelled to join the PML (N). This practice goes on unabated at all levels-local, provincial and national- in the country. Politics should not be turned into personal enmity which is a common sight through out Pakistan.

Another malady with our political system in my view is that promises are made but are mostly violated. Commitments are fulfilled the least. Because the promises are not intended to be pursued, mostly unrealistic commitments are made with the people. The public is not taken into confidence by the leaders if there are any hurdles and problems in the realisation of promises and objectives. This causes public resentment and disenchantment with the politicians.

The third drawback in our system to me is that there is too much experimentation in every department. Policies are made, changed and replaced. Projects are started, then lethargy engulfs those who run it and at last these are shelved for ever. Very handsome policies are prepared but these always await implementation. This lethargy has dealt us severe blows through out our history.

TNS: where does Pakistan stand today in Narcotics-trade?

KMH: There are at present an estimated 600,000 drug addicts in Pakistan. It accounts for a little over 2 % of the world’s Narcotics business. Afghanistan now a days is world’s biggest supplier of Narcotics- around 7800 hectors of poppy cultivation has been estimated there. The international drug mafia has changed its focus from Pakistan and is now taking drugs to Europe on some other routes in Iran, Turkmenistan and Bangkok.

And one interesting information, Holland of late has legalised the use of Charas (cannabis) in its country.

TNS: How can the drug trafficking be stopped or minimised?

KMH:  China and Saudi Arabia award death penalties to drug traffickers but even then people take drugs there. Narco mafia is very powerful and spread over the globe. It is very difficult to eliminate the business altogether. But we will have to continue our efforts for a drug-free world. We may not be able to eradicate the trade entirely but will decrease it for sure. As Pakistan is concerned, it faces many constraints. The narcotics’ department is yet to have its own building. It has a total budget of Rs.120 million which much too less than actually needed- as against it, the social welfare department’s budget when I was its minister recently was Rs.9000 million. The department has a workforce of three thousand employees that supervise border areas spread over thousands km- according to an estimate every official looks after an area of 10km to ensure that drug peddling doesn’t take place. Is it possible for him? As against it Iran has a total anti narcotics force of 35000 while Turkmenistan has 25000 personnel for the purpose. Also their pays are ridiculously small- while they are astonishingly expected to deal fairly with the narcotics-trade worth millions, and often billions, of rupees and have to contend with the resourceful drug mafia which is ever ready to invest on them. They deserve to be remunerated well. More incentives must be given to them and to the informers that risk their lives against the dangerous and powerful drug barons. We also need X-ray machines. Small dealers should also be arrested but it is the drug barons that would have to be given special attention- after all the small peddlers get it only form them to pass on to consumers. We also need to have more narcotics police stations around the country. Again, the importance of having more hospitals for drug addicts cannot be exaggerated- I am happy to announce that the present regime has envisaged to open a few narcotics police stations and Benazir Hospitals for drug addicts in the country.

Muhammad Azam Khan Hoti’s interview

Muhammad Azam Khan Hoti: a hard-core nationalist

BY Tahir Ali

(The News, December,2008)

Muhammad Azam Khan Hoti was born on 27 April, 1946 in a respectable and renowned political family of Mardan. He received his early education in Risalpur and later studied at the Aitchison College Lahore. He graduated from the Degree College Nowshera. After his graduation, Azam Hoti decided to join the Pakistan Army and was commissioned in1967 therein. He became a Captain in the Armoured Corps of the Pakistan Army and also took part in the 1971 Indo-Pak war. Thereafter, he sought retirement from Army on account of his domestic needs.

Azam’s passion to ameliorate the quality of life of the people of his area led him to join the National Awami Party (NAP) in 1972. He served the NAP and later the Awami National Party (ANP) actively after NAP was banned. He also remained in exile for several years. He has been a member of the ANP’s central and provincial executive committees and also led Nangialai Pakhtoon (ANP’s youth wing). Azam assumed more significance after his son, Amir Haider Hoti, became the Chief Minister of NWFP this year.

Azam was twice elected as an MNA from Mardan in 1990 and 1997 on ANP ticket and was twice made the Federal Minister for Communications in the Nawaz Sharif cabinets in 1991 and 1997. In March 1994, he was elected as a member of the Senate of Pakistan. He remained a member of different Senate Standing Committees.

He has close family ties with famous Pakhtoon nationalist leader Abdul Ghafar Khan Alias Bacha Khan. His sister Begum Naseem Wali was married to Late Abdul Wali Khan. So, ANP’s chief Asfandyar Wali Khan is his nephew from this aspect.

He has a loving nature and is widely known as a patient listener and astute speaker. The News on Sunday interviewed him recently. Excerpts follow.

The News on Sunday: You in ANP have always been campaigning for provincial autonomy. You have played a role for this purpose. Can you explain for our readers as to what do you mean by the term provincial autonomy?

Azam Khan Hoti: There is a very simple answer to this question. Provincial autonomy is not merely a matter of administrative powers. It, in our view, means our control over our own resources. We say that all our provincial resources- whether water, minerals, gas, forests, and the electricity produced here or anything else- should be left and handed over to the province. We think of provincial autonomy as financial autonomy. It is what we mean by the term provincial autonomy.

TNS: Our constitution has three power-lists-federal, provincial and concurrent ones. Are you satisfied with the constitutional mechanism in this regard?

AKH: The federal list specifies the domain of the federal organs while the provincial one narrates the areas where provinces work on their own. The concurrent list enumerates the combined domains of the two. At the time of constitution-making, a verbal promise was made that the concurrent list would be abolished within ten years for the empowerment of provinces but that too was not fulfilled as Zia imposed martial law and the constitution was suspended. But even the abolition of the concurrent list won’t suffice because that too falls short of what we think is necessary to give financial autonomy to the provinces; it touches minor issues such as the taking or withdrawing of certain departments from or to the provinces. We want complete control over our provincial resources.

TNS: Some people stress that all provinces should have equal representation in the lower chamber of parliament, the National Assembly. What are your views on that?

AKH: The Senate of Pakistan is there with equal representation for the provinces. But the problem is that it doesn’t have financial powers. Most of the powers are at present vested in the National Assembly where Punjab enjoys an absolute 64% majority and the three smaller provinces cannot compete with that majority even if they get together. So, either the Senate should be given financial powers or ‘they’ decide that each province would be handed over the control of all of its resources. If this is done, the problem will be solved.

TNS: Do you subscribe to the view that at present there is Punjab’s hegemony on our national scene? Also what do you think of apprehensions by certain quarters that we are heading fast towards East-Pakistan-like situation?

AKH: Indeed there is one. When all constitutional and legal paths are blocked, things then invariably go that way. This is why it is better to solve the problem through legal and constitutional means. Failure to do so results in disappointment. We should see as to why there is so much disillusionment in Baluchistan and why did the Baluchs take up arms? They were compelled to take up guns because their problems were not solved through legal and constitutional means and instead their leaders were started being killed. Law and constitution are the primary paths to resolve differences. But for these, you always need sensitivity and realisation within the federation. Unless there is a realisation that for the integrity and solidarity of federation of Pakistan each federating unit including Punjab has to be given its rights, the problem will be there. It’s not a matter of majority or largeness of area, it is only of sensitivity. If Punjab and Sind can have full authority on their wheat, cotton, and rice-crops and gas, why can’t Pukhtoonkhwa have on its forests, mineral and water resources? While hydro-power generation stations are located here, our province has been denied its due share. Many parts of Baluchistan still wait for gas facility which is supplied from there to most parts of the country. It is this lack of equity and justice that spoils things. I think the time has come where we have to decide that if we desire to save the federation, then the smaller federating units will have to be satisfied. Or else it would be very difficult to safeguard the federation of Pakistan, especially in the prevailing situation. The sooner this is done, the better for the country. Any delay in this connection will result in more and more problems for the federation.

TNS: How should the financial resources be distributed amongst the federating units, whether on the basis of population or income…?

AKH: (Interrupting) I have already said that each province has the right to own and control the resources found there. Baluchistan should be given the possession of gas. Sind and Punjab should also be given control of their provincial resources. But we also expect that we will be handed over the ownership of our various resources.

TNS: Let us now turn to the problem of militancy in tribal built of the country. What do you think helped produce the crisis: is it a result of the internal power-politics or are the alleged local extremist tendencies to blame or whether foreign hand is involved as you recently blamed the trouble on some foreign states?

AKH: Did religion come in 1980 which caused extremism? Why was there no extremism before that? Were there any Kalashnikov, RPG or rocket launchers ever seen in Pakistan before that? The truth is this all is the handiwork of our hands. All this is the result of our policies. We brought this ‘Fasad’ to Pakistan ourselves. In 80s, we jumped into a war that Russia and USA fought for their interests but we declared we were waging a Jihad. On the behest of the US, Zia took up the cause. US dollars and Jihadi forces were there to assist him. He facilitated, armed and enticed the ‘mujahideen’- imported from Algeria to Philippines- to fight for America in the name of Islam. And when ‘their’ priorities changed that Jihad became a Fasad overnight. We have kick-started the trouble ourselves. Weren’t Pakistan, religion, and mosque there before that? Wouldn’t people offer prayers and keep fasts before that? Did anyone take up gun? But then we gave them guns and pushed them to fight the Russians for American interests. And now when American priorities have changed and Russia is no more in the middle, we are pitted against those very people who were once created by the US.

TNS: Are there any foreign hands involved in the current uprising?

AKH: From the very outset, it was a foreign war. It was a war for the interests of the USA. Now there are many hands involved. God knows as to who and who is coming. All who try to destabilise or wish that, have jumped in-some may have nuclear problem, others may have border issue while others may have any other conflict with Pakistan. I think all of them are involved. It’s a free-style wrestling. No one knows in precision as to who’s fighting and for whom. Even many of those who fight in tribal areas have little knowledge as to why, for whom and with whose money and weaponry they are fighting. You know the rockets that hit my house in October were Russia-manufactured but Russia had stopped their production in 1967. The question is where did they come from into the hands of the miscreants? They may have arrived here either from Afghanistan or from where they were supplied by the Russians. After all we ourselves are to blame. Had we not taken part in that war for US interests, there wouldn’t have been any Fasad now.

TNS: But I am afraid only lamenting our past policies in this regard would be of no use. Some steps would have to be taken to solve the problem. What political steps do you suggest?

AKH: : Look! What is the present situation? Alqaeda, Usama and extremists from Algeria to Philippines were imported by the US. They were neither created by Pakistan nor Afghanistan. It was at best a problem between Pakistan and Afghanistan or an internal issue of the latter. What the Chechens, Arabs, Libyans and Egyptians had to do in it? They were brought here to use them. Now when the priorities have changed, they have been declared enemies. And then the real Taliban are there with Mullah Umar in Afghanistan. Where these Pakistani Taliban have come from? They were created by us then.

TNS: Who’s supporting the extremists at present from abroad? You had accused Mosad, India–?

AKH: (Interrupting) I think all those who want to destabilise Pakistan are involved.

TNS: What is the solution to this predicament?

AKH: The solution is that the insurgents realise that they are destroying their own country and shedding the blood of their own brothers. They should surrender arms and enter into a dialogue with the government. If they think that they would be able to solve problems through arms, they should know that never throughout history have problems been solved through arms. And it’s not that their bodies are made up of iron while only those of others are of flesh. They are just like other humans. And what has happened of late? Haven’t lashkars been formed against them in Bajaur, Mamoond, Buner, Dir and Kurram agency? The insurgents should know that while they are in thousands, the people come to crores. Never in history has any political movement succeeded without popular support, leave alone any militant one. So we ask them: come on! enter the political and electoral process. If you want the law of Shariah, go and seek popular votes on the issue like we do- When MMA was voted to power, wasn’t its mandate accepted by all? You know it was allowed to rule for full five years while we remained in the opposition during that period. If people support your manifesto, that there should be Talibanisation in the country, you are welcome to run the affairs of the country according to your mandate. The mandate should be respected. But you cannot be allowed to impose your will through the power of gun as it only entails lawlessness, killings, chaos and anarchy.

TNS: Which has always been done by the Army in Pakistan?

AKH: Army has done but it has not said that I’ll bring a system forcefully and will kill you. There have been dictators here like Musharraf who overran an elected government. There has been this kind of adventurism which we have opposed.

Again, one cannot deny the fact that all these kinds of Fitnas have always emerged during military rules in the country. Ayub aggravated the situation. When Yahya Khan came half of Pakistan went away. When Zia came, he started the ‘Jihad’and destabilised Afghanistan and Pakhtoons. When General Musharraf came, he made it into a ‘fasad’.  Never has Pakistan undergone damages like this in any civilian, democratic, political and elected governments throughout its history. Dictatorships have had always harmed the country which unfortunately all the time got backing from certain unprincipled politicians who do so for their personal interests. Gen Ayub was supported by Convention Muslim league, Zia by official Muslim league while Musharraf was backed by Muslim league Q.

The situation in tribal areas now is very alarming. It is not a problem of militancy; rather it’s pure insurgency. It’s an attack on the territorial integrity and solidarity of Pakistan. It’s an attack on the writ of the government. It’s a very serious problem.

TNS: What constitutional steps need to be taken to deal with the FATA problem?

AKH: You see FATA was there even in British period before the establishment of Pakistan. No cases of theft were ever reported then. No enmity-related murder remained untraced. There was no law and order problem in the area. No single fire was shot against its people from Pakistan’s soil. There was a status-quo and a system in the tribal built that worked. When that system was disturbed and the people were given guns in their hand and allowed to go wherever they wanted and shoot whoever they wished, this was bound to happen.

Don’t ‘they’ know where these militants are? Maulana Fazlullah has not come to the fore today. He has been there since long. You media men go and interview him which means he’s there but ‘they’ are still unable to trace him. This is all a predicament of our own making.

TNS: Don’t you think that tribal areas should be merged into the province?

AKH: Why not. It should of course be made a part of the province. There are tribal builts both in Punjab and Baluchistan but they are merged into the settled areas and are under the writ of the respective provincial governments.

We must remember that the British had introduced this mechanism for their ease. They divided pukhtoons by drawing the Durand-line and created differences between Pukhtoons on the two sides as well. Not only that, it created Afghanistan, Yaghistan, provincial and federal tribal areas. The British did so to disperse Pukhtoons and to impede their mutual links because they were afraid of their power and resilience. Never forget that the pukhtoons had ruled the subcontinent and the area from Bay of Bengal to the Amu River, including Kashmir, for over twelve hundred years. It was but natural for the British to try to weaken and control the Pakhtoons who could be a threat to them. It’s a known history. But what’s wrong with us.

Coming back to your question, political parties must be allowed to function in tribal areas. Whenever political parties and figures are given free access in these areas, things will automatically improve. At present, mainstream secular political parties are banned in FATA while Mullahs and religious parties are allowed to continue with their work there freely.

And look at the irony of the situation that while the FATA MNAs are elected to sit in the parliament that has come into being under the constitution of Pakistan, they are beyond the realm of that constitution. They take part in constitution making and legislations but are themselves exempted from those laws and are governed by the FCR. Isn’t it a contradiction in itself? What I mean is that the constitution should be extended to FATA; the areas should be made a part of the province; political parties should be allowed to establish their networks there; the tribal built should be given due attention and shares in developmental projects like settled areas; education, employment, health facilities and communication infrastructures should be given top priorities. It is only through more awareness, dialogue and development that you can hope we could successfully cope with this problem. Gun, violence and terrorism will only aggravate the situation.

TNS: Do you accept the view that there is a difference of opinion between the provincial and federal governments on how to tackle the insurgency. The ANP-led provincial government inked a pact with the TTP. But it was disowned by the advisor on interior Rehman Malik?

AKH: No. He later backtracked on his statement and the situation got cleared. We had signed a treaty with them and released Maulana Sufi Mohammad from prison. Mind you, he was in jail for more than seven years, during the five-year term of MMA government as well who didn’t free him despite the fact that he belonged to their ranks. Though he is still campaigning for what he wanted before his incarceration- the enforcement of Islamic laws- he’s doing it peacefully and hasn’t taken up arms for the purpose. The treaty was signed but it was violated. The writ of the government was challenged and the government was compelled to start the operation. It is untenable that on one hand treaty is signed and on the other militancy and insurgency is carried on while on its part the administration strictly follows the pact. The pact was broken by them, not by us.

TNS: ANP has all along been talking of non-violence. It had opposed the operation and war as an alien war. But now it says it is our war. Isn’t it a contradiction?

AKH: We still stand by our stand. We didn’t start the war. We didn’t initiate hostilities. Infact the war has been imposed on us. If we had initiated the hostilities we would have been guilty of violence. Non-violence doesn’t mean that you let someone kill you. when we are attacked, we have the right to defend ourselves.

TNS: This is precisely what Musharraf would say to validate his policy. Then what is the difference between you and him?

AKH: Musharraf said so after 2001. He didn’t talk like that before that. Before that ministers from both the countries would visit each other. When America changed its policy, Musharraf also followed suit. But we have been saying that from day one. The war has been imposed on us. We are being specifically targeted though the ANP has joined a provincial coalition government of which PPP is also a part. They want to fight with ANP. We still urge them to lay down arms, join the political setup, work in the masses and seek their support. If the electorate backs your agenda, you’re welcome to enforce your manifesto. No Muslim can oppose the law of Shariah but it has to be brought through the public mandate. Mullah sahib took a mandate on the issue but didn’t bring it.

The recent insurgency is not a problem confined to the provincial government. The territorial integrity and solidarity of Pakistan is at stake. The national fabric will suffer if the situation worsens any more. But then it was bound to happen. The war was bound to enter the tribal built from Afghanistan to ultimately spread to settled areas. The wrong policies of the past 28 years were bound to result in a situation like this.

TNS: Your critics say you are following a proactive policy rather than a defensive one. In this connection, they point to a decision regarding the resuscitation of ANP’s youth wing ‘Nangiali Pakhtoon’ in a meeting headed by Asfandyar a few months back. Your comments please.

AKH: It‘s wrong to say that. Infact we had decided to organise our party in that meeting. We are still trying to do it but it is meant only for our defence. We have never said we are at war with ‘them’. Have you ever noticed any lashkar from the ANP going to the tribal built to fight the insurgents? We would have been guilty only if we had utilised our party against them. It is quite the opposite. They come and attack us. We are only for our defence and peace.

TNS: ANP had promised of giving pen and book to Pakhtoon children but your critics say you have given guns in their hands by enticing them to tribal lashkars? How do you reconcile the two?

AKH: We still hold on to our stand. We want to see pens and books in the hands of our youth and would do whatever possible to do that. But this can only be possible if the militants lay down their arms.

TNS: Do you see any possibility that the insurgency will grow fainter in the near future?

AKH: Let us not be pessimistic. We should carry on with our struggles for resolving the issue. If there is sincerity and truthfulness, our endeavours shall succeed at last. Of course, you cannot do without peace and dialogue. So, peaceful endeavours should never be given up. The use of force is and should be the last option. It is being used because the other side dislikes peace. If they surrender their guns and want to hold talks, they would be welcomed.

TNS: The use of force, you said, is the last option but critics say it has become the first choice for the government?

AKH: The government started the operation under compulsion because the other side violated the agreement. We all know Maulana Falullah initially agreed to the pact but when Baitullah rejected it he also withdrew his support. You know there was peace for three months following the treaty. As per the agreement, prisoners, including Maulan Sufi Mohammad, were freed; Fazlullah’s complex at Mamdheri was declared an Islamic university; compensation had begun.

TNS: It has been observed that the two sides are suspicious of each other’s intentions. How can this lack of confidence be removed?

AKH: Mutual confidence can be easily created if vested interests get out of the way. The activist at the tale-end surely doesn’t know as to from where he is being funded and supplied. He sees and knows only the next hand but is ignorant of the many other elements involved in the supply chain. His commitment to, and sincerity with, the cause of Islam is being exploited by the vested interests.

TNS: What other steps do you propose to tackle the insurgency?

AKH: There should be two aspects of our strategy-long term and short term. The long term strategy includes adopting what we have been saying all these years: wind up the hurdles between Pakhtoons and allow the moderate political parties access into tribal areas just as Mullahs enjoy there. In the ongoing situation, we should however, give priority to the short term strategy, which is, that dialogue, development and other legal steps should be embraced. We should also resolve that if militants lay down their guns but are still attacked, we should side by them in that eventuality. First they should surrender their guns, then law, constitution, dialogue, development will be resorted to solve the problem slowly and gradually.

TNS: Where do you stand on the issue of renaming the NWFP?

AKH: In principle, the PPP agrees with the ANP that the name of the province be changed. But it requires a constitutional amendment to alter the name since it is written in the constitution of Pakistan. And for a constitutional amendment you need a 2/3rd majority in parliament. When we reach that stage, we will see to it that it is ensured. As far us, we already have been calling it Pakhtoonkhwa. And now we are grateful that even President Asif Ali Zardari has called it Pakhtoonkhwa. Mahmood Khan Achakzai and many others also share our view.

TNS: Critics say that renaming of the province is a non-issue and won’t solve the people’s problems related to water, power, health and education. How do you respond?

AKH: Have these problems been tackled when the name is NWFP? It’s a separate issue altogether. It’s an issue of identity. It was north western frontier province in the true sense of the word when the British were there. Now every province of Pakistan is a frontier province-one is eastern frontier province, the other is south western and the next is south eastern province. So, I don’t think NWFP is any name at all.

TNS: The NWFP is faced with an acute power and wheat-flour crises. Your opponents say the ANP and wheat-flour crisis are identical twins. What do you say?

AKH: It’s just a coincidence. I think the preceding caretaker government is to blame for the Atta crisis. They should have planned and sorted out the strategy for procurement and import of wheat which they didn’t. That is why the problem was inherited by the elected government. Our province doesn’t produce wheat sufficient for our needs. As provinces are not authorised to import wheat, we look towards Punjab and federal governments for our requirements. But even Punjab is faced with a wheat shortage and has to import wheat to feed its population. Lately, the ban on the supply of wheat by the Punjab government multiplied the crisis. Punjab government cited the alleged smuggling to Afghanistan and tribal areas as reasons for slapping the ban- but mind you, Pak-Afghan border is a loose border stretched upto fourteen hundred miles; it has always been very difficult to control movement across it even if we’ll allocate one million soldiers to the task; as long as the smuggling is there, the problem will be there. So there was a gap between demand and supply which exacerbated the problem. And now when supply-quota has been enhanced, the situation has eased out, although the greedy profiteers, who smuggled Atta to Afghanistan, have earned a lot of money. The fact is that the Pakistani planners prepare our food-estimates only for the four provinces but they overlook the reality that Pakistan has to feed the 20million people in tribal areas and as many in Afghanistan as well. So we’ll have to plan in advance to be able to supply atta to the population as per its demand.

TNS: What factors do you think contributed to the power crisis in the country?

AKH: The Musharraf administration has displayed a criminal negligence in this regard. It didn’t add up a single unit in the national grid in its eight years’ tenure while the population has increased about 40%. When demand increases and supply remains the same, there will certainly be a crisis and there is one. Again, the nature is also unkind to us as there is less water in our rivers. And while President Ayub had sold the rights of three rivers Sutlej, Beas and Ravi to India, the latter has built the Baglihar dam over Chenab and is planning another three. I think next wars will be fought only over water and grain.

TNS: It was being hoped that as ANP enjoyed pleasant relations with Hamid Karzai and India, there would be some relief on the two fronts with ANP coming into power. What are your views on that?

AKH: Haimd Karzai has some grievances. He is faced with an uprising and he thinks that insurgents enter into Afghanistan from tribal areas. India has its own problem with Pakistan on Kashmir. Where is ANP in this equation? ANP always asked for peaceful relations with neighbours and still abides by it. If we had friendly relations with our neighbours, there would have been problems with neither India nor Afghanistan like we don’t have with China. You are right, ANP could have served as a bridge but there are many anti-ANP forces that tried to create hurdles in its way.

TNS: Could you identify these forces please?

AKH: These forces are against the stability of Pakistan and peace in the region. They block the way of forces that could bring stability in the region. See! When we can have good relations with Iran and China, why can’t we have ones with India and Afghanistan? You stop interference in Afghanistan and stop infiltration of armed people into its territory from tribal built, relations will automatically improve. And if Afghanistan severs its relations with us even after that, it will be at fault. The fault lies primarily with us. And if we won’t do it ourselves, Afghanistan is now in the hands of the US and NATO forces and they will safeguard their interests at all costs. After all they haven’t come here to go back; they are here for Central Asia’s oil and gas reservoirs and will stay for long unless their interests are fulfilled. When we as their friends will not do what they say, they will do it themselves.

TNS: When Musharraf joined the coalition, ANP supported him along with PML Q and by default USA. Why did you take that decision?

AKH: Had the US troops not come to Afghanistan and expelled Usama and his men from there, Afghanistan would have ‘Arabanised’ within the next ten years. Arabs may be otherwise very good people but if they were there, half of pakhtoon nation would have been Arabs by now which was not acceptable to us. We Pakhtoons are not ready to compromise on our caste and identity which were endangered. Since Pakistan didn’t want to expel him nor could any other power ensure his ouster, we just thanked the US for this precise reason. We had said that Afghanistan should be left to fashion its affairs without any foreign interference. And say even now you keep your hands away and let Afghanis decide their future themselves.

TNS: You mean US and NATO troops should get out of there?

AKH: The US won’t leave unless and until Afghanistan achieves self-rule.

TNS: Don’t you think that the militancy/insurgency in the region is directly related to American presence here?

AKH: It was tied with it in the past too, with the difference that then they would fire there. But they have started doing it here now. And you look at the respective role of the religious parties. You know they had waged a holy war against the USSR. One is reminded of a picture of Qazi sahib having a Pistol tied to himself. But he doesn’t go for Jihad now; even he can’t talk of it. Can he now declare a Jihad against the US forces? The fact is he can go to war for America but not against it.

TNS: People say Musharaf has gone but his policies are still being followed. How do you respond?

AKH: No, this government has inherited the militancy problem from Musharraf. It will take some time and strategy to get out of the situation. It is unthinkable that the present regime can/will follow his policies, but it is caught up in the middle. What can it do and where can it go? The situation is not of its own making; it’s a Musharraf legacy.

TNS: What party-portfolio do you hold at present? Also, Mardan doesn’t have any representation in ANP’s central and provincial positions after Amir Haider Hoti bequeathed his Deputy General Secretaryship and became NWFP CM?

AKH:Yes there is none but it doesn’t matter. I have had neither hold nor have been given any slot in party; I never have sought one nor seek at present. We are all like a family and care the least for these things. We are all equal and respect each other. We are all activists of ANP working under a programme and leadership. There is no problem whatsoever of this sort in ANP.

TNS: There is a perception regarding ANP that it always has been looking for foreign support. For example, both USSR and now USA are accused of genocide of Pakhtoons but ANP kept mum on their actions. How do you react?

AKH: ANP has neither supported one nor the other. Regarding the 80’s war, ANP leaders had said that it was not a Jihad and was a war for the interests of USA and USSR while Pakhtoons were being crushed. And now, we say the foreign forces are making the Pakhtoons fight against each other to destroy them and to destabilise Pakistan. We have our own politics and programme. We neither look towards this side nor that side.

TNS: Would you like to share your future plans with us? Where would you prefer to go in case of any eventuality?

AKH: Politics is a merciless phenomenon. It doesn’t have a heart in its chest that beats. In it, a friend of today may well be an enemy of tomorrow and vice-versa. It’s very difficult to predict it.

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