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Extremism in universities

Editorial July 17, 2017

THE alleged mastermind of 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was a


graduate of an American university, while Omar Saeed Shaikh,
convicted of Daniel Pearls murder, studied at the London School of
Economics. Clearly, secular, even elite, education is no guarantee
against radical ideologies. In Pakistan, however, the stereotype of the
militant madressah-educated or illiterate and coming from an
impoverished background remained intact for a considerable time.
Indeed, it was largely applicable to the earlier generation of militants.
But with the conviction of Saad Aziz a graduate of one of Pakistans
top business schools for the Safoora Goth massacre and rights
activist Sabeen Mahmuds murder, it is obvious that the militant
landscape in Pakistan has evolved considerably. Last week in Karachi,
the Sindh polices Counter-Terrorism Department organised a seminar
titled Growing radicalisation in educational institutions, in which
academicians from around 40 public and private universities called for
a coordinated policy to address this pressing issue. A number of
practical steps were proposed by the participants such as vigilance
committees, increased surveillance on campus and seminars to
sensitise faculty members and students.

An exchange of views between members of law enforcement who are


familiar with the minutiae of extremism in the country, and
educationists responsible for moulding the mindset of young people, is
a valuable exercise that shows proactive, long-term thinking. While
savage violence such as that carried out by Saad Aziz is an exception
thus far, there are umpteen indications of a radical mindset taking root
in Pakistans higher institutes of learning. The internet has made it even
easier for extremist elements to ensnare nave, impressionable young
people, including women. A case in point is Noreen Leghari, an MBBS
student from Hyderabad, who was arrested in April on suspicion of
being involved in terrorism; she later confessed she was to be used as a
suicide bomber. Aside from educational institutions, families too must
be made aware of the warning signs which indicate that their younger
generation is on the path to embracing a dangerous Manichaean
ideology.

Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2017

K-Electric tariff
Editorial July 17, 2017

THE pandemonium that broke out at a recent hearing held by Nepra to


decide on a review of its tariff for K-Electric will encourage those
already opposed to public hearings to further justify their stand against
consultation in such decisions. The noise and chaos that ensued when
workers of two political parties the PPP and the Jamaat-i-Islami
resorted to a shouting match led the chairman of the authority to
abruptly end the hearing after an hour, saying our legal requirement is
fulfilled. The two political parties have only themselves to blame:
whereas the law calls for a public hearing, its purpose is not to create
chaos but to hear the arguments and reasoning of those who are to be
affected by the decision under consideration. The participation of
political parties in such affairs should be welcomed, provided they have
the brains amongst them to present reasoned arguments, and not to
shout each other down. As it turned out, the pandemonium served no
purpose whatsoever, other than cutting the hearing short and denying
many others who may have had genuine arguments to make an
opportunity to be heard.

Nepra did the right thing to ignore the pandemonium. Now it must do
the right thing once again when deciding the tariff. And the right
decision is the one that puts the public interest ahead of the private
interests of the investor. K-Electrics present management has skilfully
presented its arguments in a way so as to argue that its interests are
the publics interest. Strictly speaking, whether or not the utility is able
to finance future investments under a given tariff regime is of no
interest to the consumer. It is a little disingenuous of private-sector
parties to argue that their future revenues somehow embody a public
interest. The tariff should indeed be performance-based, as the
management is arguing, and not contain guaranteed returns, since the
companys business includes distribution, and it should be incentivized
to raise efficiencies. That is where the revenues to pay for future
investments should come from. When deciding the matter, Nepra must
recall its role as the voice of the public interest, and keep that as its
fixed point in the determination. Whether the present investors can
offload their shares onto another purchaser under the new
determination, or future investments for system upgradation should
not be a matter to burden the public with.

Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2017

New Khyber operation


Editorial July 17, 2017

WITH the launch of Operation Khyber-4, the military will attempt to


address a long-standing problem that has evolved in an unexpected
way more recently. A fourth iteration of the same exercise may give
the impression of unfinished counter-insurgency operations, but the
Rajgal Valley, in the Tirah region of Khyber Agency, is a roughly 250-
square kilometre impenetrable zone. Earlier Khyber operations had
given security forces the control of peaks surrounding the valley and
from there, when militant activity was detected, it was possible to use
artillery or even aerial firepower. On the other side of the border,
across from Rajgal Valley, lies the militancy-infested eastern
Afghanistan, with familiar names such as Tora Bora and Achin. Anti-
Pakistan militant groups, such as the Mangal Bagh network Lashkar-i-
Islam, had found sanctuary in eastern Afghanistan and crossed over
into Pakistan through Rajgal Valley for terrorist operations here.

What appears to have changed is that the militancy dynamic in eastern


Afghanistan has shifted in favour of the militant Islamic State group; it
has elevated the danger that Pakistan faces through the Rajgal Valley
route. So now the military has freed up forces to take the fight to
militants inside the valley and, eventually, set up posts along the
border from where future militant movements can be interdicted. It
will be a tough fight and Pakistans brave soldiers will incur losses. Their
sacrifices for the long-term security of the country are the backbone of
the nations resolve. It remains to be seen if the Afghan government
will be able to provide some support to the Pakistani effort. What is
needed is a hammer-and-anvil approach that leaves the militants no
space to escape or operate. Pakistan has acted sensibly by informing
the Afghan government in advance of the operation, and bilateral
relations are not as openly rancorous as they were until recently.
Perhaps there will be space for some trust-building joint efforts along
the border.

There remains a fundamental reason for Pakistan and Afghanistan to


cooperate in this latest phase of a long war against militancy. The
Afghan security forces, assisted by American firepower and a
smattering of ground forces, have inflicted significant blows on the
fledgling IS network in Afghanistan. IS is a serious threat to Pakistan
too, hence the latest operation in Khyber. The new US administration,
which is expected to unveil a new, so-called South Asia strategy soon,
has made fighting IS the centrepiece of its security policy. Surely, all
sides can find a way to cooperate in the circumstances.

Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2017

Understanding CPEC
Shahid Kardar July 17, 2017

The writer is a former governor of the State Bank of Pakistan.


COMMON sense would suggest that investments under the CPEC
banner present an enviable opportunity for our economy to jump onto
a significantly higher growth path on a sustainable basis. Is this logic
and the envisaged gains valid allowing for the terms and conditions
governing these ventures and the capability of Pakistans economy to
exploit its potential?

The principal constraint in conducting a fair assessment of the latent


returns to our economy from CPEC is the general opaqueness of the
provisions driving these investments. Officialdom assures us that only a
part of the funds are being provided in the shape of loans (and at
affordable rates of interest). The rest of the financing is in the form of
investments in energy and does not carry debt liabilities.

It can be argued, with some justification, that beggars are not choosers
and these loans are on terms that are the best we could hope for under
present conditions. But, if indeed they are (although warped domestic
tax structures and distorted priorities make it difficult to raise and
allocate resources for such investments) why are the details not in the
public domain as is usual these days even in the case of a hitherto
secretive institution like the IMF?

The concessions showered on the Chinese have surely set a benchmark


other investors could demand.

Furthermore, how are the investments in the power sector logically


different from a debt-related commitment, considering that the
returns have been guaranteed by the government? What is the
practical difference between these categorisations? From the
information one has been able to glean, the guaranteed returns range
from 17 per cent to 20pc in dollar terms on the investment/equity in
the power sector (rising to more than 25pc if we add on all the
exemptions granted on customs duties, both federal and provincial
GSTs and other allied taxes).

Other special terms have also to be accorded. These include a three-


month cash escrow for the electricity generated; they will have the
right to suspend operations and still be paid if their payments are
delayed. Whereas in the case of existing IPPs the National Transmission
& Despatch Company can impose damages even if these units close
down on account of non-payment for an extended period. The
generous concessions (not available to domestic investors) showered
on the Chinese have surely set a benchmark that other investors could
validly demand.

These high guaranteed returns, complemented by our poor governance


of the energy sector, will keep the price of energy high, affecting
adversely the competitiveness of the economy in general and the
exporting sectors in particular.

The cost per megawatt of these coal-based power plants has also not
been shared to enable a comparison with international standards. This
is important because, as explained, the returns are a guaranteed
percentage of the equity, incentivising over-invoicing of imported
equipment, enabling not just the recovery of the investment upfront
but also furnishing a guaranteed return on this over-invoiced amount!

Another unknown is the cost per kilometre of road in highway projects.


Market sources also claim that barely 25pc of the work has been
outsourced to Pakistani engineering consultants and contractors. And
they are being paid around 40pc of the cost for these services that the
Chinese are being compensated for. Moreover, not only do they bring
their own cement and steel but also their own labour (even of the
unskilled variety on the plea that they speak Chinese); even paint
produced by a multinational based in Pakistan is bought from the office
of the same company in China.

In any case, as global experience tells us, connecting developed regions


with those that are relatively backward doesnt necessarily stimulate
sustainable growth in the latter. The connectivity may well make it
easier for capital and skills to flow to the more endowed regions
because of better opportunities.

For the Chinese, the benefits of improved connectivity of their province


of Xinjiang with the Gulf and beyond will come in the form of safe and
secure connectivity to suppliers of energy in the Middle East and
consumers in these and African markets.

What is uncertain is the impact that CPEC could have on our growth
rate, given our weak global competitiveness owing to our deformed tax
structure, poor governance and lack of skills. It limits our ability to
integrate into Chinese-driven value chains. A greater worry would be
the possible folding up of many of our businesses, not being
competitive. As things stand, without a competitive industrial (perhaps
even the agricultural sector), we may have to be content with, like the
good rentiers that we are, simply collecting toll taxes for our much-
marketed strategic location.

Much of the CPEC-related discussion is around projects. But for


achieving its objectives in a sustainable manner recurrent expenditure
on repairs and maintenance is critical; these affect the economys
efficiency. With large budget deficits and rigidity of expenditure, this
requirement will pose formidable challenges.

Finally, given the precarious health of our external sector (with the
current account deficit accumulating at a frightening billion dollars a
month and the import bill programmed to increase by an additional
$3bn by end 2018 on LNG/coal projects) and no visible signs of possible
improvement, we would, as night follows day, be negotiating a new
IMF programme, latest by the second half of 2018.

The outcomes of these deliberations could introduce an intriguing twist


to our strategic policies for the region as we seek funding to service our
debts and commitments under CPEC with a dreaded currency
mismatch resulting from most earnings in rupees servicing dollar
liabilities.

Lest we forget, the IMF has no currency of its own, nor does it manage
one. It essentially lends in US dollars which is also the currency for
discharging CPEC-related obligations. If political analysts are right in
asserting that the Americans are not happy with our Afghan and
regional policies and our attempts to get closer to the Chinese, will
their monopoly over their currency and their clout in the Fund provide
them a leverage beyond just a role in the finalisation of IMF
conditionalities?

The writer is a former governor of the State Bank of Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2017

Nature of US engagement in Afghanistan likely to be changed


Anwar IqbalUpdated July 17, 2017
WASHINGTON: US Defence Secretary James Mattis has confirmed that
the Trump administrations new strategy for Afghanistan will have a
regional context, including a Pakistan angle.

At a news briefing, Secretary Mattis indicated that the new strategy


could change the nature of US military engagement in Afghanistan.

Although media reports have suggested that the Trump administration


is working on a strategy that may redefine its relations with both
Pakistan and Afghanistan this marks the first time that a cabinet-
level US official has indicated that the review involves Pakistan as well.

Examine: Pakistans anxiety

Responding to a question about the new strategy having a Pakistan


angle, he said: Youre right to say that strategy is wrapping all that into
a regional context. He said that while media speculations about the
Trump administration sending close to 5,000 additional troops to
Afghanistan may turn out to be right, the new strategy also involves,
perhaps, changing somewhat what the troops on the ground are doing
right now.

Media reports claim that the review is in its final stages and the
administration could release it late this month, after sharing it with the
US Congress.
Secretary Mattis also said that Senator John McCain, who heads the
Senate Armed Services Committee, has a key role in formulating the
new US policy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Senator McCain is probably leading the effort to get us what we need


in here, up on the Hill [Congress], as is appropriate for him in his role as
the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, he said.

During a visit to the Pak-Afghan region earlier this month, Senator


McCain urged Pakistan to confront the Afghan Taliban or face the
consequences.

We have made it very clear that we expect they [Pakistan] will


cooperate with us, particularly against the Haqqani network and
against terrorist organisations, he said at a July 4 news briefing in
Kabul. If they dont change their behaviour, maybe we should change
our behaviour towards Pakistan as a nation.

Since then, Congress has adopted several measures binding US civil and
military assistance to Pakistan to the severing of its alleged links to the
Haqqani network. Some of these measures also require Pakistan to
prevent militants from using its soil for launching attacks into
neighbouring countries and to release Dr Shakil Afridi, who helped the
CIA trace Osama bin Laden at a compound in Abbottabad.

Secretary Mattis said the new strategy would align everything to


formulate a strong US response to militancy in Afghanistan.

President Donald Trumps national security adviser, Gen H.R.


McMaster, leads the team that is making the new policy and its
members are believed to have consulted both Pakistani and Afghan
officials on the issue.

The strategy and you know, what is the main effortand what is a
supporting effort. And in the supporting efforts is where you often find
the most nuance and, as a result, where you have to sort things out in
the interagency, said Secretary Mattis while explaining what was
causing the delay.

He also confirmed recent media reports that key Trump aides were
exploring the possibility of replacing US troops in Afghanistan with
private military contractors.

Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2017

A futile martyr?
Umair JavedJuly 17, 2017

The writer is a freelance columnist.


LAST week, the choice facing the prime minister was simple: fight or
flight. He chose to fight. Whats the logic behind picking a fight? The
first is the simple need to appear strong and marginally innocent.
Resigning at this stage will betray weakness, confirm perceptions of
guilt, and provide the opposition, and in particular Imran Khan, a
demonstrable victory. Nawaz Sharif going home on his accord under
public pressure and under the cloud of a damning report offers PTI the
chance to collect direct attribution and, subsequently, lots of political
capital.

The second reason for the fight is to take the victimhood or martyr
route. No ruling party leader will ever cite this as a reason, for largely
understandable reasons. Nevertheless, it does seem to be a popular
view among analysts. It helps provide a scholastic perspective, if you
will, on why the prime minister is stretching out his tenure in such
acrimonious circumstances.

Lets run with this logic for a second and assume it is part of the reason
for his stand. How does the ruling family intend for it to play out? The
prime minister faces disqualification through three possible routes. The
first is the court ruling on his character under Article 62/63 of the
Constitution. The second is on the basis of his role in an offshore
company in UAE thus a conviction for mis-declaration on his 2013
nomination papers. The third is a NAB reference in an asset-beyond-
means case and a conviction after trial and appeal. In all three
instances, the prime minister will be evicted from office based on the
JIT report.

Punjabi voters and middle-tier politicians are risk-averse and


conservative in their preferences.

Once this happens, the party will have greater room to weave a story
about victimisation, establishment conspiracy, and threats to
democracy. One can expect these cries to be tied to Pakistans
economy and an emergent narrative of how national development was
once again curtailed by a venal opposition. At a more subliminal level,
the dog-whistle idea of Punjabi voters being victimised for reposing
their faith in the PML-N will also rear its divisive head.

The hypothesized effect of this narrative is to generate sympathy with


voters, and local brokers, patrons, and wheeler-dealers in north and
central Punjab. Combined, these two regions return 100 seats to the
National Assembly. The PML-Ns path to returning as the largest party
once again is through these 100 seats, as is the PTIs path to de-seating
the incumbent.

On paper, the idea of rallying voters around a narrative of victimhood


sounds quite potent. Unfairness lies at the heart of ethno-nationalist
politics for both majority and minority communities across the world.
Whether it is white-working classes angered by coastal condescension
in America or upper-caste Hindus aggrieved by quotas and what they
call minority pandering in India, these emotions can help paper over
other divisions and can be channelled into large vote blocs for electoral
gain.
The bottom line is whether this could actually work in the political
economy and cultural parameters of north and central Punjab. Actual
evidence will only come once this plays out to its ultimate conclusion,
ie the 2018 election. Before this, we can draw clues from earlier
instances where Punjabi voters and mid-tier politicians were
confronted with a narrative of victimhood.

Following each of the three dismissals between 1988 and 1996, a large
section of voters in Punjab leaned away from the outgoing party the
victim and in favour of the party they thought was being supported
by the establishment. This was underscored by a growing trend
towards the PML-N in general, which manifested in the heavy mandate
of 1997.

In 2002, many senior and mid-tier politicians jumped ship and formed
the PML-Q. Nawaz Sharifs victimisation and eventual exile did nothing
to sway their sentiment. Voters split their loyalties between the PPP
(that seemed to be close to a deal with Gen Musharraf), and the PML-
Q, while the rudderless PML-N only retained a small but vocal segment
in urban seats around the GT Road belt.

In 2008, Benazirs tragic death was expected to unleash a wave of


sympathy and consolidate the anti-incumbent vote around the PPP.
The party did well in rural Punjab, but voters in peri-urban and urban
north and central Punjab gravitated towards a resurgent PML-N, which
seemed a safer choice with its leadership back at the helm. In fact, the
PPP performed marginally worse in 2008 in Punjab in terms of number
of votes than it had in 2002.

Finally, in 2013, persistent attacks by the Pakistani Taliban against the


PPP and a range of establishment manoeuvres were largely impotent in
generating any sympathy in Punjab, especially in the face of the partys
incompetence in government. Voters and ship-jumping politicians were
left with two choices: the uncertain excitement of Imran Khans
revolution, or the tried, tested, and conservative hands of the Sharifs.
They loudly and clearly chose the latter.
The headline story from the last three decades is that Punjabi voters
and middle-tier politicians are risk-averse and conservative in their
preferences. Emotional sways appear to work less than utilitarian
calculations of who has a better chance of maintaining stability. While
there is a segment of voters that carry a clear affinity for Nawaz Sharif,
their numbers are insufficient to return a sizable seat haul. The
majority will end up casting their votes through the logic of patronage,
connections and access.

The worst suited to compete in this context is a party without its leader
in play, heading into an election in an advanced state of uncertainty.
This is where the PML-N now finds itself. It may weave a narrative of
victimhood, but the historical odds of that narrative swaying voters are
low. Fight or flight, the party is now facing an electoral future looking
shakier than at any point in the past 15 years.

The writer is a freelance columnist.

umairjaved@lumsalumni.pk

Twitter: @umairjav

Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2017

Dearth (lack of options) of options


Huma YusufJuly 17, 2017

The writer is a freelance journalist.


MANY Pakistanis would have been surprised to hear the Iraqi
ambassador last week praising Pakistans role in fighting the militant
Islamic State group in Iraq. The news that Pakistan provided
intelligence, military medical assistance and ammunition to Iraq points
to our increasingly complex, and perpetually non-transparent,
entanglements in the Middle East. The ambassador also praised
Pakistans neutrality in the Middle East a position we espouse, but
which seems increasingly precarious.
The diplomatic stand-off between the Gulf states which seems to be
settling into a long estrangement will especially challenge Pakistans
position of neutrality. We have close ties with both Qatar and Saudi
Arabia: we receive LNG from one, oil from the other, and send our
migrant labour to both.

Our prime minister banked on the support of the Al Thanis during


Panamagate, while our military is seen as forging ever closer links with
the Saudis via former army chief Raheel Sharif in his new role as the
head of Saudi Arabias counterterrorism alliance.

Pakistan must maintain good relations with all the countries involved in
the Gulf dispute, yet a prolonged stand-off will only increase pressure
to pick sides. Our ability to resist such pressure is doubtful; while
parliament in 2015 voted against involvement in the Saudi-led
intervention in Yemen, there were reports that Pakistani security forces
were involved at the behest of Saudi Arabia in quelling Shia uprisings in
Bahrain in 2011.

It is unlikely our neutrality will survive strong-arm tactics.

Meanwhile, our decision sometime ago to expel teachers working at


schools in Pakistan that were allegedly linked to a major Turkish
opposition figure, Fethullah Gulen, at the request of President Recip
Tayyip Erdogan shows that we are not immune to kowtowing, no
matter what the implications for civil society or human rights may be.

It is unlikely that Pakistani neutrality can survive the strong-arm tactics


that Saudi Arabia and the UAE have deployed against Qatar at great
diplomatic and strategic expense. It is obvious that some of the charges
being levelled against Qatar could as easily be directed against Pakistan
in case we were to fall out of favour with the kingdom Qatars ties
with Iran; sponsorship of groups that Saudi Arabia perceives to be
terrorists; defence agreements with Turkey; patience for a vocal media
have been targeted.
Given the show of independence with Pakistans parliamentary vote on
Yemen and our medias increasing willingness to criticise Saudi policies
and the alleged sponsorship of violent extremist groups, it is not
inconceivable for Pakistan and its civilian institutions to face similar
pressure as Qatar in the future as Saudi Arabia further consolidates its
position or demands fealty in the context of regional stand-offs.

Tangentially, the Saudi and Emirati attitude towards Qatar also


complicates Pakistans relationship with the idea of sovereignty. We
have long championed ours, and decry any attempt to undermine it,
particularly in the form of US drone strikes or international interference
in our affairs.

But the hypocrisy of our attitude towards sovereignty is most often


evoked in the context of Afghanistan, where critics have long pointed
out that Pakistan can be accused of meddling in Kabuls affairs at the
expense of Afghan sovereignty.

Our failure to strongly condemn Riyadhs demands with regard to Doha


point to another scenario in which we have demonstrated a pick-and-
choose attitude towards national sovereignty.

Pakistan has long believed that it can navigate its way through Middle
Eastern conflict scenarios by playing a mediation role. But the Saudi
tack does not leave much room for mediation; with its coalition of the
UAE, Bahrain and Egypt and its aggressive list of demands, Riyadh
seems to have adopted an are you with us or against us approach
(doesnt that sound familiar? Remember how that worked out for
Pakistan vis--vis another ally and benefactor?)

If news reports are to be believed, Pakistan has already been asked by


the kingdom to pick sides despite our protestations at neutrality.

Unfortunately, neutrality is a privilege for those with independent


resources, independent foreign policies, and a clear set of national
priorities against which to benchmark any decision about bilateral and
regional relationships. We are indebted and beholden to the key
players in this dispute, leaving us with few options other than being co-
opted or coerced.

The growing precariousness of our fiscal position also means that we


will continue to see the Gulf states as benefactors, not to be crossed on
points of principle. Given the current political dynamics within our
country, pressure from Gulf allies to come on side could even influence
the fractious civilian-military balance within Pakistan, exacerbating
instability. In truth, Pakistans position is increasingly one of weakness
rather than neutrality.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

huma.yusuf@gmail.com

Twitter: @humayusuf

Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2017

Inmates or bosses?
Hajrah MumtazJuly 17, 2017
The writer is a member of staff.
GIVEN the countrys situation vis--vis militancy and violent extremism,
each instance of a perpetrator of terror or crime being arrested and
brought to justice is to be welcomed. There are unfortunately not
enough successes on this count, but one case that went differently, at
least initially, was that concerning a man called Shaikh Mohammad
Mumtaz and another named Mohammad Ahmed.

The Sindh police Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) arrested these


members of the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi four years ago, and they were
incarcerated (imprisoned) at the Central Prison Karachi facing charges
for the killings of more than 60 people. Unfortunately enough, the
course of justice was obstructed when a month ago they escaped from
the judicial complex inside the prison.
This, in and of itself, is distressing enough, although it ought to be
acknowledged that jailbreaks do occur in every part of the world,
especially in places where detention facilities are inadequate and the
criminals part of powerful groups, as in Pakistan. A perusal
(examination) of excerpts from the CTDs report of the inquiry into the
escape, though, could be referred to as entertaining were it not for the
grimness of the subject matter.

As reported by this newspaper recently, it seems that a number of


militants subscribing to banned organisations are virtually running
affairs at the prison where they are housed. They impose their will on
jail staff, who follow instructions out of either fear or incompetence.
Sources privy to the contents of the report said that what it exposes is
incidents of deliberate and systematic intimidation (pressure) on part
of certain prisoners towards the jail authorities.

Prisoners are acting as court clerks or helpers.

Thus it is that at the Central Prison Karachi in place is a virtual caste


system: detainees that can intimidate their wardens, such as members
of political parties or extremist outfits, are enjoying virtually every
privilege under the sun while all the others have to pay through their
nose for everything. Prisoners are acting as court clerks and helpers.
The system is so organised that certain prisoners with clout have been
made zimmedar or responsible for the administration of their
wards; as can be imagined, they behave like virtual dons, controlling
their networks outside the jail.

Such influential prisoners are at liberty to go to the court complex


whenever they want, even without any judicial summons. In fact, this is
precisely what the two LJ prisoners did: even though one of them did
not even have a court date, they went to the judicial complex, hid, cut
through the bars of a courtroom, and vanished. In a detail that almost
invites derision, the report concludes that their disappearance went
unreported till the next morning because even the simple and crucial
act of counting the prisoners has been outsourced to the prisoners
themselves.

It can be guessed that the situation in other prisons may not be too
different. Over the years, several instances have come up where well-
connected prisoners have been found to be in touch with or even
continuing to work with their outfits whilst technically under detention.
One wonders why, under such circumstances, then, Pakistans prisons
continue to hold any inmates at all, except for those that are powerless
to engineer escapes for being fry that is far too small.

The answer is found in the CTD report about the Karachi escape. It
muses:

So deeply has this become institutionalised that, in fact, one can


question whether there was any point in sending high-profile prisoners
to jail, because being in prison makes them safe from further
prosecution and allows them to continue with their activities without
fear of law enforcers.

As is quite clear from the circumstances that have prevailed for years,
militant, extremist and criminal outfits often manage to run rings
around law-enforcement agencies here, the impunity with they
operate only being bolstered when a new tool used by the law is
proved ineffectual, or when cases such as the one being discussed
come up.

Yet, spare a thought for the law enforcers, particularly the civilian ones
and especially the lower-ranking personnel that constitute the bulk.
First in the line of fire, they have little reason to believe that the
strength of the institutions they represent will be expended on their
behalf in their hour of need which, on the streets and in the
corridors of overcrowded prisons, is never very far. Further, in a
country where corruption at the highest ranks has for decades been an
open secret, how much incentive would there really be to remain
staunchly upright in the face of all temptations?
As a friend remarked regarding the CTD report, when in the country
generally it is quite obvious that lunatics are running the asylum, why
become fastidious over prisoners running the prisons?

The writer is a member of staff.

hajrahmumtaz@gmail.com

Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2017