Category Archives: SR Writes

When General Musharraf introduced the Local Government Ordinance in 2001, it was considered controversial to start with. The old LGO as it was known, was lumbered with structural, conceptual and poor delivery problems even though it was protected by the constitution in Article 268. One criticism leveled against it was that given the fraught experience of resource-sharing between federating units in Pakistan, no decentralization plan could afford to ignore the issue of devolving power, like the concurrent legislative list, to the provinces before considering fiscally feasible administrative units at the local level. Yet that is precisely what the NRB’s 2000 Devolution Plan did. Instead of devolving power in three tiers, by moving power down the provincial line and reducing the load of federal ministries, power was shared directly between the President and the elected local officials. The immediate beneficiary of a formula in which elected officials were held responsible to…

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DAWN   Thursday, June 16, 2005   By Sherry Rehman   ONE of the issues that surfaces every year for budget-makers in Pakistan is the search for fiscal space. This year the trillion-plus budget continues to be squeezed on both sides by two large, seemingly fixed liabilities: debt servicing and defence spending. Despite defence absorbing more than a quarter of the national wealth, the subject, unlike debt servicing, has become inured from public debate and exempt from any parliamentary accountability.   A milestone, in fact, was crossed this year in the National Assembly as the young finance minister of state chose to ignore the inexplicable escalation in the defence budget and shied away from even mentioning the actual figure. Given the constant talk of transparency and good governance emanating from the government, it is not just surprising but shocking that the defence budget in Pakistan remains above public scrutiny as…

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Democratising the Dialogue   Over the last two years, South Asian integration has become the flavour of the decade among security gurus from and about the region. Last month the Indian Delhi Policy Group run by Radha Kumar and Kanti Bajpai had sponsored a week long multi-city experts’ workshop to deliberate on modes of conflict management and resolution in New Delhi, Assam and Srinagar. Last week, the South Asian Free Media Association launched its second major parliamentarians’ jamboree on a larger scale in salubrious Bhurban. Both exercises were qualitatively different in focus and size, but both demonstrated the delegates’ interest in pushing forward the peace process between India and Pakistan. Some of the assumptions that came out of the deliberations of both conferences were based on new thinking in the post September 11 strategic environment, while others were rooted in a history of Indo-Pak conflict. The most positive affirmation that…

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Sherry Rehman   March 2005   Islamabad   “Media is a double-edged sword. It can be a frightful weapon of violence also when it propagates messages of intolerance or disinformation that manipulate public sentiment. The inevitable manipulation of the media in war situations leads to greater polarization and fuels mistrust between populations in conflict”[1].   The Media in Kashmir; An Introduction   The media has been instrumental in shaping opinions in conflict zones in ways that have both democratized and skewed informed decision-making. Kashmir is no exception. Governments increasingly use the media for shaping policies and manufacturing consent, while the public continues to rely on the media for a range of different needs, from the reinforcement of nationalist dogma, for refracting centrist views or for independent reporting of the news.   The twentieth century has witnessed escalated conflicts on ethno-political, geo-political, and socio-religious faultlines, with estimates suggesting that 110 million…

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Dawn, Jan 13, 2005   By Sherry Rehman,   There comes a time in every nation’s history when its citizens have to face the mirror of its collective conscience. The first entitlement we owe ourselves is the right to survival and recourse to justice. Yet what haunts half of the country’s population today is that many of us are still regarded as chattel, vulnerable to attack or murder as the mediaeval repositories of family, clan or tribal honour.   At least for some of us, it is a moment of great shame that in the 21st century we still countenance among our midst the gruesome and repugnant practise of  killing, maiming, and injuring women in some misplaced concept of honour. What makes matters worse is that after the passage of a largely toothless new bill against such crimes, the national media is told by the government that now honour killing…

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Sherry Rehman   For the first time in twenty-five years, the National Assembly has been heatedly debating the Hudood Ordinances for the last three weeks on every Private Member’s Day. The five criminal laws remain stubbornly on the statute books despite the much-repeated promises of General Pervez Musharraf that they should be done away with. But while the General ran a virtual ordinance factory during his three-year tenure as Chief Executive, and even promulgated ordinances after the NA was elected, he chose not to repeal these laws. Given that the government has the numbers to do away with the ordinance, which the two PPP governments did not have during their fragmented tenures, it has come as a shock to many that now when the Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians has actually challenged these laws by tabling a bill that includes their repeal, the government has opposed it on entirely spurious grounds…

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Sherry Rehman   For the first time in twenty-five years, the National Assembly has been heatedly debating the Hudood Ordinances for the last three weeks on every Private Member’s Day. The five criminal laws remain stubbornly on the statute books despite the much-repeated promises of General Pervez Musharraf that they should be done away with. But while the General ran a virtual ordinance factory during his three-year tenure as Chief Executive, and even promulgated ordinances after the NA was elected, he chose not to repeal these laws. Given that the government has the numbers to do away with the ordinance, which the two PPP governments did not have during their fragmented tenures, it has come as a shock to many that now when the Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians has actually challenged these laws by tabling a bill that includes their repeal, the government has opposed it on entirely spurious grounds…

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By Sherry Rehman   The bedrock of the democratic process is premised on a fair and free election by which the will of the people is ascertained through a nation-wide poll. If a democratic state cannot administer a transparent election under which there is a basic consensus by all stakeholders, then it fails in its first duty to the people it seeks to hold sovereign. In the history of Pakistan’s chequered experience with democracy, only the epochal 1971 election has been held as free and fair. In India, however, the democratic process has taken a different trajectory, which has allowed its institutions to slowly develop their independence and credibility by strengthening each other. In this entire process of evolution over 57 years, Indian democracy has relied on its courts, its Election Commission and its military to play by the rules as established by its Constitution .Politicians and political parties have…

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The Nation, 26 May 2003   By Sherry Rehman   “History is the most dangerous product ever concocted by the chemistry of the intellect. It inebriates nations, saddles them with false memories, keeps their old sores running, torments them when they not at rest, and induces in them megalomania and the mania of persecution.”   Paul Valery    [Reflections on the World Today]   Every time a window of opportunity opens to make peace between India and Pakistan it is as if one-fifth of humanity holds their collective breath. The current thaw looks like another one of these moments. As one of the parliamentarians who recently crossed over the Wagah border for a five-day yatra of New Delhi on the invitation of the Pakistan-India Peace Forum, I was privileged to bear witness to a rich skein of opinions and discourse on the subject.   What did we see and hear…

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