Urdu Conference will begin tomorrow without writers from India

The ninth edition of the International Urdu Conference hosted by the Arts Council of Pakistan Karachi will be held from Dec 1 to Dec 4, announced the council’s Ahmed Shah at a press conference on Tuesday.

Every year Indian writers and poets attend the moot, lending it variety. This time round, owing to the tensions on the Pakistan-India border, they will not be seen reading their papers or taking part in different sessions as panelists.

Talking about the non-availability of Indian writers and poets, Mr Shah said he did not believe in dividing literature on the basis of religion. He said Indian writers (Gulzar, Gopichand Narang etc) had contributed substantially to Urdu literature but, these days, Indian writers were afraid of visiting Pakistan fearing they’d be treated badly on their return to India.

However, he said, he would try and have some of the writers get connected to the conference via video or audio link.

Mr Shah said Urdu scholar from countries such as the United States, Germany, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Finland and Egypt would participate in the conference. From within Pakistan, he said, almost all renowned writers and poets had been invited.

Speaking on the marked feature of this year’s event Mr Shah said literature buffs would get to see and hear distinguished writer Mirza Athar Baig for the first time. Then there was a special session on Faiz, he said.

Apart from that, he said, the role of cultural institutions in the country and the role of regional languages would be discussed during the four-day moot.

He said keeping with the theme of the event, a theatre group would present Mushtaq Ahmed Yousufi’s story ‘Haveli’. He said before the final session of the conference writer Anwar Maqsood would entertain the audience with a piece titled ‘Khuda Hafiz’.


CDWP okays seven projects worth Rs36bn

ISLAMABAD: The Central Development Working Party on Tuesday cleared a total of seven development projects at an estimated cost of Rs36 billion including a Rs22 billion programme for child immunisation in the three provinces – Sindh , Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

The meeting of the CDWP was presided over by Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal and attended by representatives of the provincial governments and federal ministries concerned.

It took up a total of seven projects of Rs36bn including foreign exchange component (FEC) of Rs5.56bn. Of all, the CDWP recommended four projects worth Rs30bn to the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) for formal approval after clearing them on technical and financial basis. As such, it approved three projects with a cumulative estimated cost of Rs6bn.

Under the rules, CDWP can approve development projects of up to Rs3bn of estimated cost at its own and refer larger projects to Ecnec led by the federal finance minister while clearing technicalities.

The meeting prioritised health sector by taking up five health projects worth Rs22.7bn.

The projects in the immunisation series that were recommended to Ecnec for approval included Sindh Immunisation Support Programme (SISP) worth Rs8bn and an expanded programme on immunisation in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa worth Rs6.6bn with FEC of Rs1.4bn.

A Rs7.3bn project of expanded programme on immunisation of children in Balochistan with FEC of Rs2.8bn was also sent to Ecnec for approval. All the three immunisation projects aim to prevent children from nine diseases including childhood tuberculosis, poliomyelitis , diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis-B, haemophilus influenza , measles and pneumonia.

The meeting approved establishment of unit for shredding, sterilisation and disposal of medical waste of Pakistan Institute of Medical Science (PIMS) Islamabad with cost of Rs199 million in principle and directed to rationalise the scope of the project.

The CDWP also approved establishment of children hospital at Bhawalpur (Phase 1) with an estimated cost of Rs519m. Under first phase, a 235-bed hospital will be established which will help reduce the current load of children per bed in the Bahwalpur division.

The meeting also cleared a Reverse Osmosis Sea Water Treatment plant for Gwadar city with an estimated cost of Rs5.071bn .The project aims to meet the future demand of 14 million gallons per day by 2020. The shortage of clean water supply is one of the key challenges of the under-construction port city.

It also cleared 7th STG (secondary transmission and grid stations) project of worth Rs8.572bn with FEC of Rs1.362bn. The project aims to provide adequate facilities for reliable and stable supply of electrical power to meet with the growing demand of domestic, commercial, industrial and agricultural customers of GEPCO.

The CDWP also approved three position papers including extension of right bank outfall drain from Sehwan to sea (RBOD -2) with cost Rs61.9bn , Balochistan effluent disposal into RBOD of worth Rs10.8bn and lower Indus right bank irrigation and drainage project (LIRBP) stage-1 of worth Rs17.5bn.

Pakistan fined for slow over-rate in second Test as well

Pakistan has been fined for maintaining a slow over-rate against New Zealand during the second Test in Hamilton which ended on Tuesday.

Richie Richardson of the Elite Panel of ICC Match Referees imposed the fine after Azhar Ali’s side was ruled to be five overs short of its target when time allowances were taken into consideration.

In accordance with Article 2.5.1 of the ICC Code of Conduct for Players and Player Support Personnel, which relates to minor over-rate offences, players are fined 10 per cent of their match fees for every over their side fails to bowl in the allotted time, with the captain fined double that amount.

According to this law, Azhar has been fined 100pc of his match fee, while his players have been fined 50pc of their match fees.

Azhar pleaded guilty to the offence and accepted the proposed sanction, so there was no need for a formal hearing.

The charge was laid by on-field umpires Sundaram Ravi and Simon Fry and third umpire Ian Gould and fourth official Shaun Haig.

Previously, Pakistan Test captain Misbah-ul-Haq was suspended for one Test and fined 40pc of his match fee, whereas other players were fined 20pc of their match fee, for maintaining a slow over-rate during the first Test against New Zealand in Christchurch.

Big blunders behind botched US-led strike in Syria in September: inquiry

US military investigation has concluded that a series of ‘unintentional human errors’ led to a coalition air strike on September 17 that killed fighters aligned with the Syrian regime instead of the Islamic State militants they were targeting.

The incident, which Moscow said killed more than 60 Syrian soldiers, sparked a controversy and prompted an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting as tensions between Russia and the United States spiked.

Brigadier General Richard Coe, who led the investigation, told reporters at the Pentagon via a conference call on Tuesday that the major errors ranged from a basic mis-identification of targets to “group think” during intelligence development and even a communications blunder on a hotline with Russia.

But Coe also defended the coalition personnel involved, saying they were “good people trying to do the right thing.”

“These people get it right far more often than not, but this time they came up short,” said Coe.

The investigation threw light on the difficult ─ and dangerous ─ work of developing targets for coalition air strikes against Islamic State in parts of Iraq and Syria where the US does not have forces on the ground or reliable informants within the population to ensure its intelligence is sound.

“The US-led coalition mistook Syrian-aligned forces for Islamic State fighters in part because they were not wearing traditional uniforms,” said Coe.

An early mistake ─ misidentifying a vehicle as belonging to Islamic State ─ coloured intelligence that came later when it drove into a larger fighting position near Deir al-Zor airport.

But Coe acknowledged that major red flags were missed. One analyst saw a tank moving around and even typed into a network chat room that “what we are looking at can’t possibly be ISIL,” said Coe, using an acronym for Islamic State.

The mistakes continued even after the strike began.Moscow had reached out repeatedly through a hotline to the US-led coalition, trying to inform them that they were striking Syrian regime targets instead of Islamic State.

But the designated US military point-of-contact was unavailable for 27 minutes. In those 27 minutes, 15 of the strikes took place against what the U.S.-led coalition believed were Islamic State fighters.

“This was obviously a missed opportunity to be able to limit the damage of the mistake,” said Coe, adding that the strikes would have continued had the Russians not called and eventually passed along their information.

The strikes included aircraft from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Denmark which dropped 34 precision-guided weapons and fired 380 rounds of 30-millimetre ammunition.

Even before the strike took place, the coalition made a big mistake ─ it initially contacted the Russians to inform them that aircraft would be near Deir al-Zor, but gave the wrong coordinates for the strike.

“Of course we don’t know for sure, but it is possible had we passed the right location to the Russians, they would have had the opportunity to warn us before the first strike even started,” Coe maintained.

Of civil and military relations

AS the baton has now passed to Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, there is no shortage of free advice consisting of dos’ and don’ts for the new army chief. While some exhort him to follow in the footsteps of his hyperactive and populist predecessor, others offer a word of caution for him to avoid the pitfalls and demand a change in course. All eyes are now focused on the new chief as the era of Gen Raheel Sharif comes to a close.

Indeed, expectations are unrealistically high. But this is not surprising in a country where the position of army chief is considered the most powerful. Even a smooth transition in the army leadership holds high political significance.

Predictably, the prime minister once again picked a dark horse for the coveted post. It is obvious that the choice of Gen Bajwa was based more on political considerations than the order of seniority or merit, though there is no question about his professionalism and experience. Probably the thinking behind the decision was to have someone who was amenable to civilian authority.

An increasing role in internal security has led to greater involvement of the military in political matters.

One can hardly dispute the contention given the perpetual tensions between the two state institutions. Yes, individuals matter, but past experience shows that ultimately it is the institution that prevails irrespective of who is in command.

It is the third time Nawaz Sharif has appointed the army chief. Each time he has chosen an officer who is lower down the list. Yet his relations with the military leadership have never been tension-free. The confrontation with the generals cost him his second government.

It is not just about the imbalance of power that has allowed the military to dominate foreign and national security policies but also the power tussle that often threatens to destabilise the democratic system. This sword of Damocles kept hanging over the Sharif government over the last three years

Gen Bajwa has the reputation of an easygoing officer but a tough professional. However, given the inherent complexities, there is little hope of him being pliable. It is quite simplistic to think that the sources of tension would simply go away with the transition in the army leadership. There is not only a need for understanding the historical context of the divide but also what is required to tilt the balance of power towards the civilian authorities.

One cannot agree more with Raza Rabbani, the Senate chairman, that the civil-military divide is the gravest challenge for the democratic process in the country. He may also be right that the centre of gravity of power must be shifted from Rawalpindi to Islamabad. But there is still no clarity on the causes of this imbalance. In the absence of any clear understanding of the issue, the call for civilian supremacy has become merely political rhetoric that every political party uses without offering any solution.

Although the civilian government now enjoys much greater political space the military remains a veritable political force and every move, even the mere hint of it, has reverberations in Islamabad. Its increasing role in internal security has led to greater involvement of the military in political matters, and has widened the civil-military trust gap. The difference over implementation of the National Action Plan has also been a source of tension between the civil and military leadership. There is no indication that the military’s institutional views on the matter will change with a new man at the helm.

Given the gravity of the internal security challenges and the inability of civilian security agencies to deal with them, the government’s reliance on the military has increased. The army’s involvement has particularly increased with the rising security requirements to protect CPEC projects and the difficult law and order situation in Balochistan.

Meanwhile, the counter-insurgency campaign in the tribal areas is far from over despite the military successes achieved in North Waziristan. A large number of troops are still involved in combing and holding operations in almost all seven Fata agencies.

It is not enough to clear the area of insurgents, but also to sustain peace and establish a functional administration in the territories devastated by a decade of fighting. Rehabilitation and repatriation of the displaced population too remains the main responsibility of the army, with the civilian authorities staying in the background as they do on other issues. Keeping troops in the region is indeed a long-term matter.

Given its geostrategic situation and its long involvement in the regional conflicts besides the three wars against its arch-rival India has turned Pakistan into a national security state giving the military a predominant role in installing a national security paradigm even when it is not directly ruling the country.

A major problem is that neither the government nor the military is willing to accept the modern concept of national security and continue to still see it as a purely military matter. In today’s world, national security encompasses a broad range of facets that include economic, food and environmental security.

Notwithstanding the rhetoric, there is no indication of the state changing its narrow approach. With the growing tension with India and continuing instability in Afghanistan, the national security policy will remain the sole domain of the military establishment. A civilian government bereft of any vision can hardly be expected to even attempt to take charge.

Another major area of contention is the military’s control over various spectrum of foreign policy. This situation is also not likely to change though there is some indication that unlike his predecessor Gen Bajwa may not be that interested in high-profile visits to world capitals. Again, it is the absence of a clear policy guidance from the civilian authorities that has left a vacuum to be filled by the military.

For sure, the change of army command may give some breathing space to the Sharif government as it confronts several political challenges. But there is no indication of any significant shift in the existing civil-military imbalance.

The writer is an author and journalist.



Twitter: @hidhussain