Monday, October 31, 2005

DEATH: Of death and its celebration

Once again we have to celebrate death. And because of its massive scale, it has to be a big celebration, as a Farsi phrase says. (“Marg-i anboh jashn darad.”)
When our greatest leader died in 1948, we started celebrating his anniversary on September 11. Ten years earlier, we started it on April 21 when our national poet died in 1938. In fact, we have always been celebrating death. Take our saints, who are closest to our people. The annual urs (anniversary) is always on the date of death. Our history books give dates of death for everybody but often put a question mark after the date of birth.
The reason is not our fascination with death. Actually, we know only dates of death for sure. We seldom know the accurate date of birth because, until a century or so ago, there was never any legal requirement to register a birth and parents did not care. (They had no reason to believe that their child would become somebody important some day.) So, the day of leaving this world was known with more certainty than the day of coming into it.
Some years ago, we decided that celebrating the birth of our heroes was more important than their death. So, the celebration (and the holidays) on the death anniversaries of Jinnah and Iqbal were shifted to their birth anniversaries.
After having stopped celebrating the death anniversary of our Quaid, September 11 gradually faded in our minds. Then the Americans hammered it into our brains. They also forced on us the way they write dates, at least in this case.
The British, our colonial masters, taught us to write the day and then the month, such as 11 September or 11/9. We obeyed but their rebel cousins across the Atlantic did not. They also added a knack for abbreviations. So, they had “September 11, 2001” and then turned it to just “9/11.”
Now, if we follow the American practice, we should remember not the “Earthquake of 2005” but simply the “Kashmir Quake 10/08.” Unfortunately, most of our people are not Americanized enough and will end up believing that the date was “10 August.” So, we shall have to make it “8/10.” That will also link it with “9/11” by deducting 1 from 9 and 1 from 11. “8/10” is also already familiar for us because it is a common way to indicate a quantity that is more or less 10.
But we shall not be able to keep up with the perennial American mourning. Death is a fact of life for us, simply the end of our journey that began with birth. Once we have buried the dead, treated the injured and provided shelter to the homeless, we shall return to normal life. Then “Kashmir Quake 8/10” will be only for the history books. We celebrate death as a change of phase, not as the end of the world.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

CURRENCY: Demonetization of five-rupee note is illegal

The demonetization of five-rupee currency notes by the State Bank is illegal and must be withdrawn immediately.
Look closely at any note of five to 1000 rupees. It bears a solemn commitment of the State Bank Governor that he will pay to the bearer on demand the face value of the note in rupees. The commitment does not say that it is valid up to a certain date. It does not say that the Governor may back out under certain conditions and refuse to pay the face value. And it also does not allow the Governor to change his mind whenever he wishes. It is a commitment for all times and without any conditions whatsoever.
The State Bank may withdraw from circulation any notes but it cannot fix any date for it. All that it can do is to ask the banks not to reissue any note that it wants to withdraw. The banks must continue to accept the withdrawn notes for payment or exchange whenever presented to them.
From practical point of view, the State Bank has not ensured that every single person in the country, as well as outside, is aware of the withdrawal of five-rupee note. Issuing a news release of a few lines is not enough at all. (It has not given even a single ad.) A single-column, three-line news in newspapers or a sentence in radio and television news bulletins by no means reaches the entire 150 million people of the country. The message does not reach everybody even in the cities, not to speak of the remote villages. The State Bank notification is not a law that everybody is supposed to know.
The consequence of the demonetization will be that the State Bank will be usurping, by its own calculation, literally billions of rupees of the citizens. It is depriving them of their money arbitrarily, something like a daylight robbery. Not even the Government can do it. No law gives this right to the State Bank. Why should a citizen lose his money simply because the State Bank has issued a notification?
After July 1, any person still holding a five-rupee note will have a perfect right under the law to sue the State Bank. Some lawyers may also file a class action suit, compelling the State Bank not only to pay the face value of the outstanding five-rupee currency notes but also damages for causing unnecessary harassment and worry.
Before it comes to that, the State Bank must ask all branches of all banks to continue to exchange the withdrawn five-rupee notes with other notes and then give these notes to it in the normal way.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

ELECTIONS: Democracy within walking distance

How can we ensure highest turnout of voters in elections? Simple. Set up polling stations within a walking distance.
For the 2002 elections, Election Commission set up 88,554 polling stations, with 164,377 polling booths. It intended to have about 150,000 polling stations, according to some press reports, but could not meet the target due to administrative and logistical problems.
The ideal figure of polling stations for the coming Local Government elections will be 215,000. For a total population of 150 millions, the average population per polling station will come to 700, giving a range of as low as 500 and as high as 1000. It will mean a very short distance for all voters. Every village will have at least one polling station to avoid travel to another village.
To save expenses, every polling station may have just one polling booth. If women do not want to vote with men at some places, they may vote in batches. It will not cause any delay because the number of voters per polling station will not be much.
The benefits of having 215,000 polling stations will be many:
a) The transport of voters is 60-80% of a candidate’s election expenses. It will be eliminated entirely as no voter will need any transport.
b) The voter turnout will increase tremendously as all of them, especially women and old people, will find it convenient to vote.
c) The counting of votes will take much less time because their number at every polling station will be very small.
d) By spending a little extra money on polling stations, the Government will effectively take the big money out of the elections.
If both the Government and the Election Commission commit themselves publicly and right now to having 215,000 polling stations, they will be ensuring highest voter turnout. The experience may be put to good use in 2007 general elections.
We talk of justice at the doorstep. Let us have democracy within walking distance.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

JUSTICE: How to expedite criminal cases

Here is a proposal to clear the huge number of pending criminal cases in lower courts and eliminate the long delays in their investigations. These are collectively the two major causes for delay in justice.
The criminal cases pending in the lower courts are far beyond the capacity of the present number of judges. Considering the costs of new buildings, furniture and fittings, court staff, office equipment and other expenses, the Government may never be able to provide enough new courts to clear the present backlog and avoid it in future. The delay in police investigation of criminal cases is another major cause for delay in justice.
To solve the two problems, we should create posts of Mobile Judges in every District. In principle, there may be a Mobile Judge in every Union area. There may be one judge for two or more Unions if the crime is low and more than one judge in a single Union with a high crime rate, especially in urban areas. A Mobile Judge must reside in his area of jurisdiction for easy access to the crime scenes.
The District Judge may allocate the present pending criminal cases of minor nature to the Mobile Judges for on the spot hearings. That will clear the backlog. In future, a Mobile Judge, on hearing about any new crime, will immediately visit the crime scene, inspect it and note his observations. Then he will hold an open court in the relevant Union Council office or some other neutral place. He will record statements of the complainant, the witnesses, the accused and all other relevant persons. He may complete the hearing of a case in a day or two. He can then move on to the next crime spot. He will not wait for the FIR of the police to start his work. Instead, he will get information about a crime from any source – the complainant or any other person. If the police has already arrested him, the judge may take the statement of any accused in the police station.
In cases involving maximum imprisonment of less than three years or a fine of Rs 100,000, the Mobile Judge will announce his judgment on the spot. He will then send the file to the District Judge to deal with appeals, if any. The police investigation may be necessary only if the Mobile Judge is unable to decide a case due to lack of sufficient evidence. He may hear the case again after receiving the police report.
In cases involving imprisonment of more than three years or a fine of more than Rs 100,000, the Mobile Judge will only send his investigation report to the District Judge, not pronounce a judgment. In such cases, he will also scrutinize the police investigation report to see that there are no lacunae and may require the police to meet the deficiencies.
The hearing of such a case in the district courts will start after the District Judge receives both the Mobile Judge report and the police challan. If there are discrepancies, the District Judge may ask them for clarification and resolution of differences. The preliminary proceedings having been already completed, the formal hearing of the case by a criminal judge will be easier and shorter.

Terms of service. The Mobile Judges will be selected from experienced local lawyers (who are qualified to be appointed as judges) or from retired judges. Newly recruited judges may also request to be appointed as Mobile Judges after serving for at least three to five years directly under the District Judge to have sufficient experience of the procedures. However, such a judge will have to resign his post as a permanent judge to be appointed as a Mobile Judge.
The appointment of a Mobile Judge will be on contract, renewable every three years. The Mobile Judge will be paid a lump sum that will cover everything, including his salary, house rent, all other allowances and facilities, lease payments for a vehicle, fuel and maintenance of the vehicle, salaries for his staff and TA/DA. As the judge will be always mobile, there will be no need for any courtroom for him. He may be transferred to any other place but only within the same district and only after completing at least five years at a place. There will be no transfer on complaints. If there are serious complaints of violating the law and procedure, showing deliberate bias, corruption or inefficiency, the District Judge may report to the High Court and recommend cancellation of his contract, rather than mere transfer.
The advantages of contract appointments will be as follows:
a) It will be easy to get rid of a Mobile Judge if he is inefficient or corrupt.
b) The Mobile Judge will hire and fire his own staff and be fully responsible for their performance and behavior.

The proposed arrangement will
a) clear the present backlog of pending criminal cases in the lower courts,
b) eliminate the accumulation of pending cases in future,
c) expedite hearing of cases involving minor crimes,
d) reduce the huge burden on the lower courts, and
e) cause a huge reduction in the cost of justice.

Monday, May 16, 2005

GOVT: What the UK election means for Pakistan

The U.K. election in early May provides the strongest possible case against the parliamentary system of government. As the results indicate, the system violates democratic principles, does not ensure a stable government, does not reflect the will of the majority and discriminates against the smaller parties. Let us see what happened:
a) Labor Party got 356 seats against 197 of the Conservative Party, though it got only 3% more votes. This travesty happened because of the principle of “first past the post.” The principle allows a candidate to be the winner if he gets more votes than the others, even if he is ahead of all other candidates by only a few votes. He is not required to represent the majority of the voters in the constituency.
b) Labor Party got 35.2% of the votes that were cast, compared with 32.3% for the Conservative Party and 22.0% for the Liberal Democratic Party. If every party had been given seats in proportion to its votes, either of the two major parties must have been forced to have a coalition with the other or with Liberal Democrats. It would have just not been possible for the Labor to have “the historic third term.”
c) Labor Party got 9,556,183 votes in total. That was only about 16% of the total population of U.K. With such a small share of votes, how can the party claim to be the representative of the whole country?
d) A very small party, Independent Kidderminster Hospital and Health Concern, won a seat in Parliament with just 18,739 votes. By contrast, several bigger parties, such as UK Independence Party (618,898), Green Party (257,758) and British National Party (192,850), did not get a single seat, despite getting far more votes. This was unfair to the voters, who supported these parties.
e) The votes cast were 61.3% of the total registered voters in the country. The Labor got 32.3% of these votes. That comes to a little more than 20% of the total registered votes. Therefore, the party does not represent the majority of even the registered voters, not to speak of the whole population.
f) The day after the election, Prime Minister Tony Blair came under pressure to resign. As his party’s majority came down from 161 to 67, it was considered his defeat. The news media, the opposition and even the Labor backbenchers called for his resignation. If he refuses to oblige, he will not have authority and credibility during his entire term. Under the parliamentary system, he does not have a fixed term. Therefore, he can be asked to resign any time. If he does not, he will always remain under cloud and will not be able to govern effectively despite having won the election. Nothing can be a worse handicap for a head of the government. By contrast, nobody doubts that President Bush will complete his full term, even though his election was very doubtful both times.
g) There is a very intriguing sidelight to the election. Just before the polling day, somebody explained on CNN that the bookies were using a majority of 67 seats as the basis for accepting bets. Any seat more or less will mean a gain or loss for the bets. The Labor got precisely that number! What does it mean?
i. Did the bookies know better than the politicians and the pollsters about the results?
ii. Were the elections “engineered” to suit the bookies?
iii. Should the bookies, not the voters, decide who should come into power?
If this is the situation in “the mother of parliamentary system,” it can only be worse in our country, even if we have angels to hold elections. No wonder, the parliamentary system prevails only in the former British colonies and only because of the slave mentality of their politicians.
We have suffered tremendously under the parliamentary system. There has always been a conflict between the head of the state (Governor General or President) and the head of the government (Prime Minister), with both trying to dominate each other. The Prime Minsiter has always been subject to blackmail by the MNAs of his own party. Most of the ministers have always been unsuitable for their jobs. Horse-trading has been the normal practice. No political party that came into power since 1988 got more than 10 million votes (in a country of 150 millions). Now, no party is able to get a majority on its own, condemning us forever to unstable coalitions.
The lessons for us are obvious:
a) We must have the presidential system, under which the President gets more than 50% of the votes in a direct election and serves for a single term of seven years. (He must have majority’s mandate and enough time to implement his policies, without worrying about re-election.)
b) The seats in National and Provincial Assemblies should be given to political parties in proportion to the votes that they get. (The parties should truly represent the people.)
The future of our country and the welfare of our people are far more important than sticking to a system that is a relic of the colonial rule and does not work even in the home country.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

KASHMIR: A solution of Kashmir issue

By Muhammad Abd al-Hameed

Unlike the common perception, Pakistan and India can go a long way towards solving the Kashmir issue without any changes in their stated positions. They only need coordination in taking certain steps in the part of the state that is under each side’s control.

The first step towards the solution of the issue will have to be the withdrawal of all military and paramilitary forces from the whole of the Jammu and Kashmir state. (I advocated it in early 1997 in my article, “A way out on Kashmir.”) The two countries can take this step on their own without any legal or political hurdles. India will be withdrawing forces from what it claims to be its own territory. Pakistan will be doing the same at the request of the Muzaffarabad-based Azad (Free) Government of Jammu and Kashmir, which controls the other side of the state that is legally not a part of Pakistan.

The withdrawal of military and paramilitary forces from both parts will have to be simultaneous. The U.N. military observers that are in the state to supervise the cease-fire that took place in 1949 under a U.N. Security Council resolution may monitor the withdrawal of forces. To meet the need, the Security Council may increase the number of observers. After the withdrawal, all U.N. observers may be moved from the Line of Control to the entry points of Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan and India to ensure that military or armed personnel from either country do not enter the state.

When the withdrawal starts, all sides will appeal to the militants in Jammu and Kashmir to surrender their arms and return to their homes. All of them should be given general amnesty. In any case, no cause will be left for them after the Indian armed forces leave the state.

Unilateral steps. After all military and paramilitary forces leave the whole of the state, Pakistan and India will take several steps simultaneously, but independently of each other, to remove internal tensions and create calmness. Again, there will be no difficulty because each side will be taking action in the territory already under its own control.

India will impose “the President’s rule,” under which the state government in Srinagar will be dissolved and the Governor will run the affairs. In addition, all political parties will be disbanded and all political activities will be banned, including processions and public meetings. Pakistan will take similar actions simultaneously in the territory under its control.

For the territory under its control, India will appoint a new Governor, who belongs to the state, has no political background and is respected by most people for his integrity, honesty and fairness. He will have a small group of technocrats as his non-political advisers to run the affairs for the next five years.

The administration on either side of the state will set up offices in both India and Pakistan to issue permits to persons or their children, who had to leave their homes at any time after August 1947, to return on production of evidence that they themselves, their parents or grandparents had been permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir.
The state government will, on priority basis,
a) rehabilitate persons and families that suffered violence,
b) pay compensation to the victims of violence and destruction,
c) revive business, industry and agriculture to create jobs,
d) resettle all persons and families who had to leave their homes,
e) repair electricity, roads, communications and other infrastructure,
f) improve health, education and other services.

Every adult person in either part of the state will be issued an identity card, with his name, name of father/husband, date of birth, identification mark on the body and the residential address. “Jammu and Kashmir” will be added at the end of the address. There will be no mention of any government on the card to avoid any legal complications.

The National Database and Registration Authority, or NADRA, is already issuing national identity cards to Pakistani citizens and has the necessary infrastructure in place with most sophisticated facilities. It may be asked to set up offices in all parts of Jammu and Kashmir to issue computerized identity cards. (India does not have a similarly elaborate system because it does not issue national identity cards to its citizens.)

The travel within Jammu and Kashmir will be free of any restrictions, with the Line of Control turned into a soft border. The only requirement will be to show the identity card as a proof that a person has not come from outside the state. The residents of all parts of Jammu and Kashmir will use the identity cards to travel to Pakistan or India. If a resident wants to travel to a third country, he will get a passport from authorities in Pakistan or India. Instead of indicating his nationality, his passport will merely show that the holder is a resident of Jammu and Kashmir.
To enter any part of the state or cross the Line of Control, the citizens of Pakistan and India will get permits from any of the state’s offices in each country. Easy entry of citizens of Pakistan and India as tourists will help revive the economy of the state. The nationals of all other countries arriving in Pakistan or India on valid passports will not need a permit to enter the state.

There will be a cooling-off period after the withdrawal of all military, paramilitary and armed personnel, with no political activity anywhere in Jammu and Kashmir. The local police will maintain the law and order. No side will allow any violence of any type. All efforts will be concentrated on rehabilitation and reconstruction, as the people pick up the thread of their lives. Tourists will start coming back, reviving the businesses that used to serve them. Pakistan and India will provide all possible assistance to the territory of the state under their control.

As a major step forward, India will withdraw all constitutional amendments, laws, rules and other steps taken against the letter and spirit of Article 370 of the Constitution of India that gives a special status to Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan will also withdraw all legal and other measures that it took against the letter and spirit of its original arrangement with the Azad Government of Jammu and Kashmir. In other words, Parliaments of both Pakistan and India will restore the autonomy of the state.

Joint Council. So far, as pointed out earlier, Pakistan and India will not need to change their stated positions. India may continue to claim that the whole of the state belongs to it while Pakistan may continue to demand a plebiscite in the whole of the state. Now they will need to collaborate with each other for a solution.

Under the original arrangement, India was supposed to control defense, foreign affairs, currency and telecommunications of the part of Jammu and Kashmir that came under its control. Similarly, Pakistan was responsible for these matters of Azad Kashmir.
Since each country considers the whole of Jammu and Kashmir as a single state, their present responsibilities to the respective areas under their control should logically extend to the whole of the state. For example, if India is responsible for the defense of the area at present under its control, it will have no objection to carrying out the same responsibility also for the area under the control of Pakistan. The same will apply to foreign affairs, currency and telecommunications. Similarly, Pakistan will also have no problem in extending its responsibilities to the whole of the state.

As a logical consequence, the two countries will form a Joint Council on Jammu and Kashmir for carrying out jointly their responsibilities on the four subjects. The Council will have two representatives each of the Governments of Pakistan and India. It will take all decisions with consensus. If a consensus is not possible, the members will refer the matter to their Governments for resolution.

There will be few problems for the Joint Council to resolve. There is no possibility of an attack from any other country neighboring Jammu and Kashmir. Even if an attack does take place, both Pakistan and India will respond collectively. Agreements for foreign investment or aid will need prior approval of the Joint Council.

The people of the state may use the currency of both countries. It will not cause any problem. Pakistani currency is already in wide use in Afghanistan and that of India in Nepal. Similarly, the state may have telecommunications links with both Pakistan and India. The imports and exports of the state will pass through either of the two countries. Both countries will provide financial and other assistance.

Election of a single Assembly. The real changes will start at the end of the five-year cooling period. Elections will be held for a single Assembly for the whole of Jammu and Kashmir. The database of identity cards with NADRA will provide the voter lists for the whole of the state. Work will start in both parts on the delimitation of constituencies for elections. The size of the constituencies will be uniform on both sides. Any person registered as a voter will be eligible to stand as a candidate.

The ban on political parties will continue to avoid bitterness, clashes and tensions that the existence of political parties inevitably causes. Every candidate will contest in his personal capacity and concentrate on the local issues and on his ability to represent his people. The ban on public meetings and processions will also continue, with only door-to-door canvassing allowed. The objective will be to avoid any political tensions in the state that may create law and order problems. While the local authorities hold the elections, the U.N. and other international observers will monitor the polling.

The Jammu and Kashmir Assembly will meet in Srinagar. It will elect a resident of the state as the new Governor. He will have to get the votes of two-thirds of the members of the Assembly from each side of the state. The Governments of Pakistan and India will endorse the election and accept the Governor as the representative of the whole of the state.

Since there will be no political parties in the Assembly, there will be no division of the house into the majority party and the opposition. The house will take decisions on all matters collectively. Consequently, there will no need for a Chief Minister and the Governor will also be the chief executive of the state.

Options. The newly elected Jammu and Kashmir Assembly will reflect the wishes of the people of the state. The members will represent their constituencies and will not be under the control of any political party, Pakistan, or India. The Assembly will integrate the two parts of the state and abolish the Line of Control.

It will also pass a resolution, demanding that Pakistan and India hold discussions to formulate options for the future status of Jammu and Kashmir. The possible options for the future status of the state may include:
a) accession to Pakistan or India,
b) continuation of joint control by Pakistan and India through the Joint Council for another five years,
c) U.N. mandate for five years.

The two countries will send their options jointly to the Assembly. The Assembly may approve any of the options with at least 2/3 majority or decide to hold a referendum in the state. Both Pakistan and India will accept whatever decision the Assembly takes.

An important point must not be ignored. If the Jammu and Kashmir state decides that it does not want to have any links with India, it will not be construed to mean the separation of a part of the country. The Government of India may maintain with justification that the state was not a part of the country to begin with when it got independence from the British. The state had not acceded to India by then, unlike all other states that formed a part of India. The accession was to be decided by the people of the state. If the people finally decided not to accede to India, it was their choice under the original arrangement. No other part of India could claim it as a precedent to separate from the country because that will be an attempt against the integrity of the country. Therefore, the resolution of the Kashmir issue will not have any effect on the integrity and internal political conditions of India.

October 30, 2004
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KASHMIR: A way out in Kashmir

July 9, 1997
In early June 1998, I circulated the following proposal on Kashmir. On June 28, The New York Times wrote an editorial, “The Kashmir Tinderbox,” supporting the main theme of my proposal. The following portion of the editorial is relevant:
“As proposed by independent experts, the first priority would be to end violence and begin disarming Kashmir rebels and Indian forces while Pakistan withdraws its support for the insurrection. Kashmir should itself move toward more autonomy, if not outright independence. Ultimately, some political relationship with both India and Pakistan could be negotiated along the lines of the recent agreement in Northern Ireland. Another essential ingredient would be a pullback by Indian and Pakistani forces on the border, a cease-fire and exchange of military information between the two countries.”

By Muhammad Abd al-Hameed

After the nuclear tests by India, and then Pakistan, the tension between the two countries has increased to a flashpoint. The Kashmir issue brought the two neighbors to war in the past and is the only one that can take them to a nuclear holocaust. The following proposal offers a way out to remove immediately the possibility of war between them without forcing either of them to change its position on the Kashmir issue. The final and permanent solution of the problem can wait for suitable conditions.

The Kashmir issue can be moved out of the way without actually reaching a “final settlement.”
Let us not get bogged down in the background of the issue. Books have been written on the partition plan for the British India, the accession of Jammu and Kashmir, the UN resolutions on plebiscite, the omissions and commissions of India and Pakistan over the years, and the sufferings of the Kashmiris themselves. But no analysis of the ifs and buts of history can change on its own the realities on the ground.

The main ground reality is that the Kashmir issue has blocked the way to peace and prosperity for Pakistan and India. With the two armies facing each other eyeball to eyeball across the cease-fire line, a war can start any time, even if only due to some misunderstanding or miscalculation, as it happened in 1965. Even if there is no likelihood of another war in the near future, the deployment of the armies in itself has already cost many times as much over the years. The financial burden is crushing both sides, made worse by the enormous logistical problems due to the difficult terrain of Kashmir.

The dilemma for the politicians. The politicians in both countries have been unable to move forward. Not because they don’t want to. They do want to save the large amounts being spent every year on the so-called defense. But they would love to have a plan that they can sell to their own people. So far, they have not been provided one. The best and the brightest brains in both countries and elsewhere have been concentrating either on the merits and justification of the stand taken by one side or, in a futile attempt, have been trying to find a common ground between the diametrically opposite points of view. Pakistan has been demanding that the UN resolutions on plebiscite in Kashmir be implemented, in the belief that it will ultimately lead to the accession of the state to it. India claims that the accession is no longer an open issue and, in fact, the whole of Jammu and Kashmir now belongs to it. Sometimes, however, India does show willingness to “give-and-take” along the cease-fire line but Pakistan sees no benefit in turning the status quo into a permanent settlement, even with some favorable adjustments. Then there are the Kashmiris, who may be having their own wishes.

Another ground reality, therefore, is that no head of a government in either country, however weak (like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, with a 20-party coalition) or strong (like President Pervez Musharraf, with no Parliament to question him), can survive if he abandons his country’s position that has been reiterated for decades.

Asking some basic questions. The positions on the subject are very rigid. Plebiscite, division along the cease-fire line, independence for the entire state, independence just for the valley with the rest going to either country, nothing is acceptable to all parties. Therefore, the exasperation of the would-be peacemakers is understandable. But one can always find a pass between two high mountains if one looks straight at the green plains ahead, instead of being awed by the peaks on either side.

We shall have a tantalizing view of the horizon if we ask a few basic questions. Why, to begin with, did the armies of India and Pakistan enter the state in the first place? India will explain that it wanted to stop Pakistan from taking over the rest of the state. Pakistan will say that it was the other way round. But both will agree that the two armies moved in after the issue had arisen. In other words, the deployment of armies did not create the basic issue of accession itself. It was a consequence, not the cause. Let us keep this very important point in mind as we go on.

The next question. Why have the armies of India and Pakistan been facing each other along the cease-fire line for half a century? Well, to maintain the status quo, to prevent the other side from advancing. After the First India-Pakistan War (1965), the two armies moved back to the original cease-fire-line while there were small changes after the Second War (1971). Since then, neither side has tried to change the status quo.

Fine. Let us now ask a follow-up question. If the army of one country is there on the cease-fire line only to defend against a possible attack from the other, what will happen if both armies are pulled out completely and simultaneously under the UN auspices? When the enemy will not be there, what will be the need for defense?

No need to change positions. If both armies are withdrawn from all parts of Jammu and Kashmir, will India and Pakistan change their stand on the status of the state? Why should they? (Remember that the deployment of armies was a consequence, not the cause of the basic issue?) Pakistan can continue to demand a plebiscite for the final solution. And India can go on claiming that the issue has already been settled and that its integrity and secularism are now tied with Kashmir.

The status quo on the cease-fire line will be maintained and neither side will have to surrender even a single square meter of territory under its control. The governments on both sides of the cease-fire line in Kashmir will continue to be in place, under whatever control is being exercised over them at present by India and Pakistan. As no movement of persons will be allowed across the cease-fire line, there will be no need for the army there. The local police should be able to maintain law and order. In other words, there will be absolutely no change in the present situation on either side.

How to ensure peace. What will be the guarantee that the status quo will not be disturbed in future? Good question. Here come the peacemakers. The UN observers have been there to monitor the cease-fire ever since it was enforced in 1949. Their number can be increased substantially to meet the need for effective observation. Pakistan and India may attach their own observers with the UN team to allay their own fears and suspicions about each other. The UN observers will not only supervise the entire cease-fire line but also the borders of the Jammu and Kashmir with India and Pakistan so that no army units move in, nor any kind of infiltration into the state takes place.

But we still cannot be absolutely sure. Suppose, one side does make a mischief. Of course, it will not be able to launch an attack across the cease-fire line because its army will not be there nor will it be allowed to enter the Jammu and Kashmir state. But it can certainly send trained and armed personnel to the other side to cause trouble. If the UN observers confirm any violation of the restrictions, the UN Security Council can, with firmness and swiftness, take two steps:
(a) All international flights and shipping services to and from the offending country will be banned immediately.
(b) All financial dealings with the rest of the world (such as letters of credit and remittances) will also be stopped.

The two steps can take effect within hours and should be enough to bring any would-be Saddam Husain in either country to his knees. (Some other punitive measures can also be taken for greater impact.) The people of Pakistan or India, unlike the Iraqis, will never be willing to suffer hardships indefinitely and tolerate a government that causes so much suffering to them for no visible gain. (Of course, there will be no ban – nor there can ever be -- on an attack against the other country across the present international border and a foolhardy, with daydreams of glory, can try his luck any time. If he is not afraid of the nuclear bombs on the other side, that is.)

The benefits of peace. The visible gain of the withdrawal of the two armies will be the prospects of peace and prosperity in the region. The end to the enormous waste of men, material and money in Jammu and Kashmir will be a great relief to each side. There will be a huge saving in defense expenditure, even if there may be no reduction in the present army deployments on the international border between the two countries.

Even a relative peace between Pakistan and India will be a great boon. Given the history of the Muslims and the Hindus in South Asia, the two countries will not become friends exactly but will no longer behave and deal with each other as enemies at war. Travel restrictions will be relaxed, with easier visas and end to the humiliation of reporting to the police ones entry, exit and every other move during a visit. Trade may not be free but it will be much more than at present, with even some joint ventures in the private sector. Films will still not be exchanged (though newspapers and magazines may be) but intellectual property rights will get reasonable protection. There will be no more acrimonious exchanges on Kashmir between the representatives of the two countries at international conferences. After the years of wars and constant tensions since the British left in 1947, Pakistan and India may have peace in the second half century of independence.

And the Kashmir issue itself? With the threat of war removed completely, there will be no longer any urgency. It may take its time before there is a “final settlement,” whatever that will mean then. Meanwhile, there will be no reason for Pakistan and India to go to war against each other and use the nuclear bombs.

July 9, 1997

ISLAM: Is imprisonment an Islamic punishment?

کیا قید کی سزا اسلامی ہے؟

کیا اسلامی قوانین کے تحت کسی جرم کی سزا قید ہو سکتی ہے؟ کیا قرآن مجید میں کہیں قید کی سزا کا ذکر ہی؟ کیا کسی بھی فقہ میں کسی جرم کی سزا کے طور پر کسی بھی مدت کے لیئے قید کی سزا تجویز کی گئی ہے؟ کیا رسول اﷲ اور ان کے بعد خلفائِ راشدین کے دور میں جیل موجود تھے؟
قرآن مجید میں جن سزائوں کا ذکر ہے ان میں کوڑے مارنا، ہاتھ کاٹنا، جرمانہ اور سر قلم کرنا شامل ہیں۔ اس کے علاوہ قصاص اور دیت کا بھی ذکر ہے۔ اگرچہ حضرت یوسف کے قصے میں ان کے قید خانے میں کئی سال تک رہنے کا ذکر ہے لیکن وہ اپنی رضامندی سے رہے، نہ کہ کسی قانون کے تحت جرم کی سزا کے طور پر۔ (اگر سزا ہوتی بھی تو ظاہر ہے اسلامی قوانین کے مطابق نہ ہوتی کیونکہ وہ تو اس وقت تھے ہی نہیں۔) اس کے علاوہ قید کی سزا کا ذکر کہیں نہیں ملتا۔ نافرمانی کی صورت میں عورت کو گھر میں بند رکھنے کا بھی حکم ہے، لیکن یہ نظر بندی کسی جرم پر قید کی سزا نہیں سمجھی جا سکتی۔
مسلم بادشاہوں کے دور میں قید خانے ضرور ہوتے تھے لیکن ان میں ان افراد کو رکھا جاتا، جن سے بادشاہ ناراض ہوتا یا جن سے بغاوت کا خطرہ ہوتا۔ چنانچہ یہ قید دراصل سیاسی مخالفوں کی نظربندی ہوتی اور اس کی کوئی مدت بھی مقرر نہ ہوتی۔ کسی قانون کی خلاف ورزی یا کسی جرم پر قاضی جو سزائیں دے سکتا تھا، ان میں قید شامل نہیں ہوتی تھی۔ میرے ناقص علم کے مطابق فقہ کی کتابوں میں جہاں ہر جرم اور اس کی سزا کی تفصیلات درج ہیں وہاں یہ نہیں لکھا گیا کہ کسی جرم پر مقررہ مدت کے لیئے قید کی سزا بھی دی جا سکتی ہے۔

سزا کی قسمیں
جنوبی ایشیا میں قید کی سزا انگریزوں کے بنائے ہوئے مجموعہ تعزیرات ہند (انڈین پینل کوڈ) 1860 کے ذریعے نافذ کی گئی۔ انگریزوں کے لیئے یہ کوئی غیرمعمولی بات نہیں تھی کیونکہ ان کے ملک میں یورپ کے دوسرے ملکوں کی طرح صدیوں سے قید کی سزا موجود تھی اور مختلف جرائم کے لیئے مختلف مدتیں مقرر تھیں۔ انہوں نے ملک بھر میں، بقول شخصے، جیلوں کا جال بچھا دیا، جہاں عداتوں سے قید کی سزا پانے والوں کو رکھا جانے لگا۔ ایک مفصل ہدائت نامہ (مینوئل) نافذ کیا گیا، جس میں جیل کے نظام اور قیدیوں کے بارے میں تفصیل سے ہدایات درج تھیں۔
338 مجموعہ تعزیرات پاکستان میں ترمیم کر کے 16ویں باب (دفعات 299 تا 338) کی جگہ نیا باب شامل کیا گیا تاکہ انسانی زندگی کے بارے میں جرائم کی سزائیں اسلامی تعلیمات کے مطابق کی جائیں۔ نئے باب میں نئی اصطلاحات کی تعریف بھی کی گئی۔ ان کے مطابق
ارش“ سے مراد اس باب میں متعین وہ معاوضہ ہے، جو اس باب کے تحت جرم کا نشانہ بننے والے یا اس کے” وارثوں کو دیا جائے گا۔
”ضَمان“ سے مراد وہ معاوضہ ہے جو عدالت طے کرے لیکن جو ارش کے تحت نہ آتا ہو۔
”دِیت“ وہ معاوضہ ہے جو دفعہ 323 کے تحت وارثوں کو دیا جائے گا۔ اس کا تعین جج قرآن و سنت کے مطابق اور مجرم اور اس کے جرم کا نشانہ بننے والے کے وارثوں کی مالی حیثیت کو سامنے رکھ کر کرے گا۔ یہ رقم 30,600 روپے یا 30 گرام چاندی کی حکومت کی طرف سے طے کردہ مالیت سے کم نہیں ہوگی۔
”قصاص“ سے مراد مجرم کو جسم کے اسی حصے پر ویسی ہی ضرب لگانا ہے، جیسی اس کے جرم کا نشانہ بننے والے کو لگائی گئی اور قتل عمد کی صورت میں موت کی سزا دینا ہے۔ یہ سزا جرم کا نشانہ بننے والے یا اس کے ولی کی مرضی سے دی جائے گی۔
”تعزیر“ سے مراد وہ سزا ہے جو قصاص، دیت، ارش اور ضمان کے تحت نہیں آتی۔
مجموعہ تعزیرات پاکستان کے تیسرے باب کی دفعہ 53 کے تحت مختلف جرائم پر یہ سزائیں دی جا سکتی تھیں: موت، عمر قید، قید محض، قید با مشقت، جائداد کی ضبطی اور جرمانہ۔ ترمیم کر کے ان میں قصاص، دیت، ارش، ضمان اور تعزیر کو بھی شامل کر لیا گیا۔
مجموعہئِ تعزیرات میں ترمیم کے تحت ہر قسم کی قید کی سزا کو تعزیر میں شامل کر لیا گیا۔ جن علما نے اس کی توثیق کی انہیں یقیناً علم ہوگا کہ قید کی سزا نہ قرآن مجید میں کہیں درج ہے اور نہ فقہ میں اس کا کہیں ذکر ہے۔ اس کے باوجود انہوں نے اسے قبول کر لیا۔ ہمارے حکمرانوں کی تو سوچ ہی یہی رہی ہے کہ جو نظام ورثے میں ملا ہے اس میں کوئی بنیادی تبدیلی نہ کی جائے تاکہ ان کی ”روشن خیالی“ پر حرف نہ آئے اور انہیں ”بنیاد پرست مسلمان“ نہ سمجھا جائے۔ ان کی ذہنی تربیت بھی اس طرح ہوتی ہے کہ وہ ہر معاملے میں یورپ اور امریکہ کی سوچ ہی کو سند سمجھتے ہیں، چاہے وہ واضح طور پر اسلامی تعلیمات کے خلاف ہی کیوں نہ ہو۔ چنانچہ انہوں نے سود کو ختم کرنے کی بجائے ”مارک اپ“ کے نام سے برقرار رکھا اور علما نے اس کی تائید کر دی، یہ جانتے ہوئے بھی کہ قرآن مجید میں ربا کو واضح طور پر حرام قرار دیا گیا ہے۔ لیکن اسلام کی تعلیمات کسی نظریہئِ ضرورت کے تابع نہیں ہو سکتیں۔ چنانچہ جس طرح سود کو بالکل ختم کرنے کی ضرورت ہے، اسی طرح قید کی سزا کو بھی تعزیرات میں سے نکالنا ضروری ہے۔
آئین کی دفعہ 2 میں اسلام کو ریاست کا دین کہا گیا ہے اور دفعہ 227 میں کہا گیا ہے کہ تمام موجودہ قوانین کو اسلامی تعلیمات کے مطابق بنایا جائے گا اور ان تعلیمات کے خلاف کوئی قانون نہیں بنایا جائے گا۔ چنانچہ قید کی سزا کو خلاف اسلام ہونے کی بنا پر تعزیرات میں سے حذف کرنا لازمی ہے۔ حیرت کی بات ہے کہ جو لوگ کوڑے مارنے اور ہاتھ کاٹنے کی سزائیں نافذ کرنے پر زور دیتے ہیں، وہ قید کے خلاف اسلام ہونے پر غور نہیں کرتے۔

قید کیوں نہیں؟
اسلام کی تعلیمات میں قید کی سزا کا ذکر کیوں نہیں ملتا؟ اس کی وجہ بالکل واضح ہے۔ اسلام دین فطرت ہے اور اس کی تعلیمات اور احکام میں ہر امر فطرت کے مطابق ہے۔ چنانچہ کوئی ایسی سزا مقرر نہیں کی گئی جو فطرت کے خلاف ہو۔ کوڑے مارنا، ہاتھ کاٹنا یا جرمانہ ایسی سزائیں ہیں، جن سے مجرم کو یقیناً تکلیف ہوتی ہے۔ اسے احساس ہوتا ہے کہ اس نے معاشرے یا اس کے کسی فرد کو جو نقصان پہنچایا اسے اس کی سزا دی گئی ہے۔ اس کی سزا سے دوسروں کو بھی عبرت ہوتی ہے کہ اگر وہ جرم کریں گے تو انہیں بھی اسی طرح سزا ملے گی۔ لیکن ان میں سے کوئی سزا بھی مجرم کی باقی زندگی پر حاوی نہیں ہوتی۔ دوسرے لفظوں میں، جرم کی سزا تو مل جاتی ہے لیکن مجرم باقی زندگی اپنی مرضی کے مطابق گزار سکتا ہے۔ اگر وہ اپنی اصلاح کر لے اور نیکی کا راستہ اپنا لے تو اپنی ذات اور اپنے معاشرے کو فائدہ پہنچا سکتا ہے۔ بقایا زندگی اس کی اپنی ہے اور وہ اسے پوری آزادی اور اپنی مرضی سے گزار سکتا ہے۔
اس کے برعکس، قید کی سزا مجرم سے اس کا وقت چھین لیتی ہے، جو اس کا سب سے قیمتی سرمایہ ہے۔ وہ جتنی بار چاہے توبہ کر لے، جتنی چاہے معافی مانگ لے، اسے وہ مدت جیل ہی میں گزارنی ہوتی ہے، جس کا تعین عدالت کر دے۔ وہ وقت جو وہ اپنی اور اپنے خاندان کی بہتری کے لیئے استعمال کر سکتا ہے اور جس سے معاشرے کو فائدہ پہنچا سکتا ہے وہ اسے جیل کی کوٹھڑی میں ہر صورت میں گزارنا ہوتا ہے۔
قید کی سزا اس وقت کہیں زیادہ ظالمانہ ہو جاتی ہے جب کسی ملزم کو بے قصور ہونے کے باوجود صرف اس لیئے سزا دے دی جاتی ہے کہ استغاثہ کے دلائل اور گواہوں کے بیانات نے عدالت کو قائل کر دیا تھا کہ جرم اسی نے کیا تھا۔ ایسی بہت سی مثالیں ملتی ہیں جب کسی کو بلاجواز سزا ملنے پر اپنی زندگی کا بہترین حصہ جیل میں گزارنا پڑا اور بعد میں اصل مجرم کوئی اور نکل آیا۔ ایسی صورت میں کیا کوئی بے قصور قیدی کے اس کھوئے ہوئے وقت کو واپس لا سکتا ہے جو جیل میں ضائع ہو گیا؟ کیا معاوضے کی کوئی بڑی سے بڑی رقم اس کے اس نقصان کی تلافی کر سکتی ہے جو جیل میں رہنے سے ہوا؟
دسمبر 2003 میں پشاور میں ایشیائی ترقیاتی بینک کے زیر اہتمام ایک سیمینار ہوا، جس میں معاشرے میں عدل کے مختلف پہلوئوں کے بارے میں غور کیا گیا۔ اس میں قانون دان، دین کے عالم، پولیس افسر، انسانی حقوق کے علمبردار اور دوسرے لوگ شریک تھے۔ میں نے اپنے لیکچر کے دوران سوال اٹھایا کہ کیا قید اسلامی سزا ہے؟ اس کے علاوہ کیا یہ انسانی حقوق کی سنگین خلاف ورزی نہیں کہ کسی کی زندگی کے کئی سال جیل میں ضائع کر دیئے جائیں؟ ایک بھی آواز اختلاف میں نہ آئی۔
اسلام کے مطابق معاشرے کو یہ حق ضرور ہے کہ وہ مجرم کوسزا دے۔ ہر دور میں جرم ہوتے رہے ہیں اور ان پر سزائیں بھی ملتی رہی ہیں۔ سزا دینے سے ایک طرف مجرم کو احساس ہوتا ہے کہ اس نے دوسروں کو نقصان پہنچا کر ان کی حق تلفی کی اور دوسری طرف دوسروں کو تنبیہ ہوتی ہے کہ اگر وہ جرم کریں گے تو انہیں بھی اسی طرح سزا دی جائے گی۔ لیکن معاشرے کو یہ حق ہرگز نہیں دیا گیا کہ وہ کسی کی زندگی کا کچھ حصہ اسے ضائع کرنے پر مجبور کرے۔ دوسرے لفظوں میں، معاشرے کو مجرم کو سزا دینے کا اختیار تو ہے لیکن اس کی زندگی کا وقت ضائع کرنے کا نہیں۔

قید ختم کرنے سے کیا ہوگا؟
جو نظام ہمارے ہاں ڈیڑھ سو سال سے چلا آ رہا ہے، اسے ختم کرنے سے بالکل نئی صورت حال پیدا ہو جائے گی اور اس کے پیش نظر کئی تبدیلیاں کرنی ہونگیں۔ سب سے پہلے تو ان تمام قوانین میں ترمیم کرنی ہوگی، جن میں کسی خلاف ورزی پر کسی نہ کسی مدت کی قید کی سزا مقرر ہے۔ اس کے بعد ہر جرم کی سزا ان سزائوں میں سے ایک ہوگی، جو اسلام کے مطابق ہیں۔
جیسا کہ قرآن مجید میں ہے، اسلامی نظام میں تین قسم کی سزائیں دی جا سکتی ہے۔ جن جرائم کی سزا خود اﷲ تعالی نے مقرر کی ہے، اس میں تو ظاہر ہے کوئی قانون تبدیلی نہیں کر سکتا۔ کوڑے لگائے جائیں گے، ہاتھ کاٹے جائیں گے، جرمانہ ہوگا یا سر قلم کر دیا جائے گا۔ جن جرائم کا قرآن مجید میں ذکر نہیں لیکن ہمارے قوانین میں موجود ہیں، انہیں تین گروپوں میں تقسیم کر کے متعلقہ گروپ کے لیئے مقرر سزا دی جا ئے گی۔
الف)۔ مالی فراڈ، ہیرا پھیری، غبن، خرد برد، دھوکہ دہی، جعل سازی، وعدہ خلافی، ناجائز قبضہ، جائداد کو نقصان، وغیرہ، چوری کی قسم میں شامل کیئے جا سکتے ہیں۔
ب)۔ انسانی جسم کو کسی طرح سے ضرر پہنچانے اور جنسی جرائم پر کوڑے لگائے جا سکتے ہیں، جن کی کم از کم یا زیادہ سے زیادہ تعداد قانون میں مقرر کی جا سکتی ہے۔
پ)۔ وہ جرائم جنہیں اس وقت قانون کے تحت سنگین سمجھا جاتا ہے، جیسے ڈاکہ، رہزنی، دہشت گردی، زنا بالجبر، منشیات فروشی، وغیرہ، انہیں قتل کی قسم میں شامل کیا جا سکتا ہے اور ان پر سر قلم کرنے کی سزا دی جا سکتی ہے۔ (البتہ قتل میں صرف قتل عمد شامل ہوگا، جو جان بوجھ کر کیا جاتا ہے۔ قتل خطا پر قصاص یا دیت کا اطلاق ہوگا، جیسے غلطی سے یا حادثاتی پر کسی کو ہلاک کر دینا۔) جن سنگین جرائم پر موت کی سزا دی جا سکتی ہے ان کے ساتھ متبادل کے طور پر قید کی سزا ختم کر دی جائے گی۔
عائد کیا گیا جرمانہ یا تو جرم کی زد میں آنے والوں کو بطور تلافی دے دیا جائے گا یا سرکاری خزانے میں جمع کرا دیا جائے گا۔ جرمانے سے مظلوم یا حکومت کا فائدہ ہوگا جبکہ مجرم کو جیل میں ڈالنے سے دونوں میں سے کسی کو کچھ حاصل نہیں ہوتا۔ بلکہ سرکار کو تو الٹا سالہا سال تک مجرم پر خرچہ کرنا پڑتا ہے جو آخرکار عوام سے ٹیکس کی شکل میں وصول کیا جاتا ہے۔ گویا جرم کی سزا معاشرے کو بھی بھگتنی پڑتی ہے۔
صدر ضیاءالحق کے دور میں چار حدود آرڈینینس نافذ کیئے گئے، جن میں وہ تمام سزائیں درج تھیں جو اسلامی فقہ کے مطابق دی جا سکتی ہیں۔ ان حدود میں قید شامل نہیں تھی۔

ملزم کیوں فرار نہیں ہوگا
آج اگر کسی کے خلاف کوئی مقدمہ درج ہو جائے تو عام طور پر وہ چھپ جاتا ہے یا فرار ہو جاتا ہے۔ اس دوران وہ کوشش کرتا ہے کہ ضمانت قبل از گرفتاری کرا لے۔ اس کے گرفتاری نہ دینے کی تین وجوہ ہوتی ہیں:
الف)۔ ملزم کو ڈر ہوتا ہے کہ پولیس اسے تھانے کی حوالات میں بند کر دے گی اور اس پر تشدد کر کے اقبال جرم کرانے کی کوشش کرے گی، چاہے وہ بے قصور ہی کیوں نہ ہو۔ اگر وہ تشدد سے بچنا چاہتا ہو تو اسے بھاری رشوت دینی پڑتی ہے۔ اگر جسمانی تشدد نہ ہو تو بھی حوالات کی حالت اتنی خراب ہوتی ہے کہ اس میں میں چند گھنٹے گزارنا بھی مشکل ہوتا ہے۔
ب)۔ کسی جج کے سامنے ضمانت کے لیئے پیش کرنے میں تاخیر کی صورت میں ملزم کو حوالات ہی میں رہنا پڑتا ہے۔ یہ تاخیر جج کی مصروفیت کی بنا پر کئی دن بلکہ کئی ہفتے کی بھی ہو سکتی ہے۔ پھر یہ بھی یقین نہیں ہوتا کہ عدالت ضمانت لے لے گی۔ عام طور پر عدالت پولیس کی ایک دو ہفتے کے لیئے ریمانڈ کی درخاست منظور کر لیتی ہے، جس دوران ملزم پولیس کی تحویل میں رہتا ہے اور اس سے پوچھ گچھ کی جاتی ہے۔ حقائق اگلوانے یا اقبال جرم کرانے کے لیئے تشدد بھی کیا جا سکتا ہے۔
پ)۔ اگر عدالت ضمانت کی درخاست منظور نہ کرے اور پولیس کو ریمانڈ بھی نہ دے تو ملزم کو جیل بھیج دیا جاتا ہے۔ اس کا مقصد ملزم کو پولیس کے تشدد سے بچانا ہوتا ہے۔ پولیس کو پوچھ گچھ کے لیئے ملزم سے جیل میں ملنا پڑتا ہے۔ لیکن جیل کے حالات بھی تھانے کی حوالات سے بہتر نہیں ہوتے۔
اگر ملزم کو یقین ہو کہ گرفتاری کے بعد اسے نہ تو حوالات میں بند کیا جائے گا اور نہ جیل بھیجا جائے گا بلکہ ضمانت لے کر چھوڑ دیا جائے گا تو وہ فرار ہونے کی کوشش کیوں کرے گا؟
عدالت میں حاضری یقینی بنانے کے لیئے ایک صورت تو ضمانت ہے۔ یہ ضمانت تھانیدار بھی لے سکتا ہے۔ اس وقت بھی اسے قانونی طور پر اختیار ہے کہ گرفتاری کے بعد بعض صورتوں میں ملزم کو اس کی ذاتی ضمانت پر رہا کر دے۔ یہ الگ بات ہے کہ وہ عام طور پر یہ اختیار استعمال نہیں کرتا اور اس ڈر کے مارے ضمانت کا فیصلہ عدالت پر چھوڑ دیتا ہے کہ کہیں مدعی فریق اس پر ملزم سے رشوت لینے کا الزام نہ لگا دے۔ یہ ضمانت عبوری ہوگی اور اس وقت تک رہے گی جب تک عدالت مقدمے کی پوری صورت حال کا جائزہ لے کر مستقل ضمانت نہیں لے لیتی۔
تھانیدار کو صرف یہ دیکھنا ہوگا کہ ملزم کے فرار کا کتنا امکان ہے۔ بہت سی صورتوں میں ایسے شریف اور مسکین افراد کے خلاف مقدمہ درج کرا دیا جاتا ہے، جن کے گھر چھوڑ جانے کا کوئی امکان نہیں ہوتا۔ ملازمت اور کاروبار کرنے والے بھی فرار ہونے کا نہیں سوچتے کیونکہ ان کے غائب ہو جانے سے ان کا اور ان کے گھر والوں کا بہت زیادہ نقصان ہو سکتا ہے۔ جب تھانیدار کو معلوم ہوگا کہ ملزم کے فرار ہونے کا امکان بہت کم ہے تو وہ ملزم کی ذاتی ضمانت موقع پر ہی لے سکتا ہے۔ اگر مزید اطمینان کرنا چاہے تو عزیزوں، رشتہ داروں میں سے بھی بعض کی ضمانت لے سکتا ہے۔ سنگین جرم کی صورت میں شخصی ضمانت کے ساتھ جائداد یا مال کی ضمانت بھی لی جا سکتی ہے۔ صرف عادی مجرموں کے فرار کا امکان ہوسکتا ہے لیکن وہ بھی زیادہ دن غائب نہیں رہ سکتے کیونکہ غیرحاضری سے انہیں کہیں زیادہ نقصان ہوگا، جیسا کہ آگے وضاحت کی جائے گی۔ تھانیدار کی لی ہوئی ضمانت عبوری ہوگی اور اس وقت تک رہے گی جب تک عدالت مقدمے کی پوری صورت حال کا جائزہ لے کر مستقل ضمانت نہیں لے لیتی۔ عدالت میں استغاثہ اور صفائی میں بحث اس پر نہیں ہوگی کہ ضمانت لی جانی چاہیئے یا نہیں کیونکہ ضمانت نہ لینے کا تو سوال ہی نہ ہوگا۔ بحث صرف اس پر ہوگی کہ جائداد یا مال کی صورت میں کتنی مالیت کی ضمانت مناسب ہوگی اور کیا ملزم کی اپنی ضمانت کے ساتھ مزید ضامن بھی ضروری ہونگے؟۔
کسی ملزم کے فرار کا امکان ایک اور طریقے سے مزید کم کیا جا سکتا ہے۔ اس وقت قانون یہ ہے کہ اگر ملزم مفرور ہو جائے تو اس کے خلاف مقدمے کی سماعت نہیں ہو سکتی۔ اسے بدل دیا جائے گا اور ملزم کی غیرحاضری میں بھی مقدمے کی سماعت ہوگی اور شہادتوں اور گواہیوں کی بنا پر سزا سنائی جا سکے گی۔ ملزم جب بھی گرفتار ہوگا، اسے سزا دے دی جائے گی۔ مقدمے کی سماعت بھی دوبارہ نہیں ہوگی کیونکہ ملزم نے غائب ہو کر خود ہی اپنی صفائی پیش کرنے کا موقع کھو دیا۔ جب ملزم کو معلوم ہوگا کہ حاضر رہنے کی صورت میں وہ مقدمے کی پیروی کر سکے گا اور پوری طرح اپنی صفائی دے سکے گا تو وہ غائب نہیں ہوگا۔ چنانچہ وہ تو تھانیدار کو دی گئی ضمانت کی بھی خلاف ورزی نہیں کرے گا کیونکہ اسے اس سے کچھ حاصل نہیں ہوگا۔ یوں وہ تمام مرحلے ختم ہو جائیں گے، جو صرف ضمانت کے لیئے طے کرنے پڑتے ہیں۔ ملزم کو وہ قید بھی نہیں کاٹنی پڑے گی جو صرف ضمانت کے انتظار میں ہوتی ہے اور جس کا جرم کی سزا سے کوئی تعلق نہیں ہوتا۔

ضمانت کے بعد تفتیش اور کاروائی
اس وقت حوالات میں ملزم اس لیئے بھی بند کیا جاتا ہے تاکہ تفتیش میں آسانی ہو۔ ضمانت کے بعد ملزم کے تعاون نہ کرنے کا خدشہ ہو سکتا ہے۔ اگر پولیس اس کے گھر جائے تو وہ چھپ سکتا ہے یا غائب ہو سکتا ہے۔ ظاہر ہے کہ پولیس بار بار گھر کے چکر نہیں لگا سکتی۔ اس کا حل یہ ہے کہ عدالت ملزم کو پابند کر دے کہ وہ ہر روز مقررہ وقت پر چند گھنٹوں کے لیئے گھر میں موجود رہے تاکہ اس دوران پولیس اس سے پوچھ گچھ کر سکے۔ مقررہ اوقات کے علاوہ بھی اگر ضرورت ہو تو پولیس ملزم کو ساتھ لے جا کر مقدمے سے متعلقہ ثبوت اور دستاویزیں، جہاں کہیں بھی ہوں، برامد کر سکے گی۔ اس طرح ملزم اپنی ملازمت یا اپنے کاروبار سے بھی غیر حاضر نہیں ہوگا اور تفتیش بھی جاری رہے گی۔ اگر ملزم تعاون نہ کرے تو پولیس عدالت سے درخاست کر سکتی ہے کہ اس کی ضمانت منسوخ کر دی جائے۔ منسوخی کی صورت میں ملزم کو مقدمے کی کاروائی پوری ہونے تک جیل میں نظر بند کر دیا جائے گا۔ چنانچہ اس کی اپنی بہتری اس میں ہوگی کہ پولیس سے پورا تعاون کرے۔
پولیس کی طرف سے تفتیش مکمل کرنے کے بعد چالان عدالت میں پیش کر دیا جائے گا۔ اس کے بعد مقدمے کی کاروائی شروع ہو گی۔ اس دوران ملزم ہر سماعت پر حاضر ہوگا۔ کاروائی مکمل ہو جانے کے بعد اسے یا تو سزا ہو جائے گی یا بری کر دیا جائے گا۔
بعض صورتیں البتہ ایسی ہونگیں، جن میں ملزم کو ضمانت لیئے بغیر حوالات یا جیل میں بند رکھنا ضروری ہوگا۔ اگر کسی پر دشمنی یا ذاتی عناد کی بنا پر قتل کرنے کا الزام ہو تو امکان ہے کہ وہ ان کو بھی قتل کرنے کی کوشش کرے گا جو اس کے پہلے حملے میں بچ گئے تھے یا جو موقع کے گواہ بن سکتے ہوں۔ اسی طرح زنا بالجبر کا ملزم بھی لڑکی یا عورت کو ہراساں کر سکتا ہے۔ ڈاکو یا عادی چور دوبارہ واردات کر سکتے ہیں۔ ایسے ملزم مقدمے کی کاروائی پوری ہونے تک جیل میں رہیں گے۔ اس کے بعد انہیں یا تو جرم کے مطابق سزا دے دی جائے گی یا بے قصور ثابت ہونے پر رہا کر دیا جائے گا۔ عدالتوں کو پابند کیا جا سکتا ہے کہ وہ سنگین جرائم کے مقدموں کی سماعت جلد از جلد کریں تاکہ جیل میں نظربندی کی مدت کم از کم ہو۔ چونکہ سنگین جرم، خاص طور پر وہ جن پر اس وقت قتل یا عمرقید کی سزا ہو سکتی ہے، بہت کم ہوتے ہیں، اس لیئے مقدمے کی سماعت تک جیل بھیجنے کی نوبت کبھی کبھار ہی آئے گی۔

سزا کے بعد فرار
فرض کریں کہ ملزم کو یقین ہو جاتا ہے کے اس کے خلاف مضبوط شہادتوں کی بنا پر اسے سزا ہو جائے گی۔ چنانچہ وہ فرار ہو سکتا ہے۔ اس سے بجائے اس کے بچنے کے سزا یقینی ہو جائے گی۔ قانون میں ترمیم کر دی جائے گی کہ اگر ملزم عدالت کی اجازت یا معقول جواز کے بغیر کسی پیشی پر حاضر نہ ہو تو سمجھا جائے گا کہ اس نے واقعی جرم کیا ہے اور اس کا فرار بذات خود کافی ثبوت ہے۔ یوں فیصلہ اس کے خلاف کر دیا جائے گا۔ چنانچہ غیر حاضری کا مطلب کاروائی کو طول دینا یا سزا سے بچنا نہیں بلکہ یقینی طور سزا بھگتنا ہوگا۔ جان بوجھ کر فرار ہونے کی بنا پر اسے سزا کے خلاف اپیل کرنے کا بھی حق نہیں ہوگا۔
فرض کیا کہ اس کے باوجود ملزم فرار ہو جاتا ہے۔ اس پر عدالت اسے مجرم قرار دے کر سزا سنا دے گی۔ سزا کا حکم تا حیات قابل عمل ہوگا۔ چنانچہ باقی زندگی کے دوران مجرم کسی وقت بھی پکڑا جائے تو سزا پر عمل کرایا جائے گا۔ سزایافتہ افراد کو مخبری ہونے پر ملک بھر میں کہیں سے بھی گرفتار کیا جا سکے گا۔ اس مقصد کے لیئے ہر ضلع کی پولیس کو باخبر کیا جا سکتا ہے۔ اس کا برا چاہنے والے قریبی لوگ بھی اس کے خلاف مخبری کر سکتے ہیں۔ مجرم جونہی اپنے گھر والوں یا عزیزوں اور دوستوں سے رابطہ کرے گا تو اس کا سراغ مل جائے گا۔ اس طرح وہ سزا سے صرف کچھ مدت کے لیئے ہی بچ سکے گا۔ اس سے کہیں بہتر ہوگا کہ ملزم سزا بھگت لے تاکہ نئے سرے سے زندگی شروع کر سکے۔
سزا سے بچنے کے لیئے مجرم ملک سے باہر جا سکتا ہے۔ بظاہر یہ ترکیب آسان نظر آتی ہے لیکن اس پر عمل کر کے وہ اپنے گھر والوں، رشتے داروں اور دوستوں سے ملنے کے لیئے کبھی نہیں لوٹ سکے گا۔ یہ بذات خود بہت بڑی سزا ہے۔ آج بھی جو لوگ مفرور ہو کر ملک سے باہر ہیں وہ آپ کو بتائیں گے کہ اس سے بڑی سزا نہیں ہو سکتی۔ وہ اجنبی دیس میں ہر وقت تڑپتے رہتے ہیں لیکن سکون نہیں ملتا۔ بظاہر آزاد ہونے کے باوجود انہیں جیل کی بند کوٹھڑی سے زیادہ سخت سزا ملتی رہتی ہے۔ (گھر والوں اور عزیزوں سے دوری اپنی مرضی سے ہو تو بھی بڑی تکلیف دہ ہوتی ہے۔) مفرور مجرم کو یہ دھڑکا بھی لگا رہے گا کہ ملک سے باہر بھی گرفتاری ہو سکتی ہے اور دوسرے ملکوں سے مجرموں کے تبادلے کے معاہدوں یا پولیس کے عالمی نظام، انٹرپول، کے تحت پتہ چلنے پر کسی بھی اسے واپس لایا جا سکتا ہے۔

فرار کا معاشرے کو فائدہ
اس وقت قید کی سزا ملنے کے بعد مجرم کو جیل میں رکھنے کا مقصد یہ ہوتا ہے کہ ایک طرف تو اسے اپنے کیئے پر سزا ملے اور دوسری طرف اس کے شر سے معاشرہ محفوظ رہے، جس میں اس کا گائوں یا محلہ اور اردگرد کی آبادی شامل ہے۔ مجرم کا ہمیشہ کے لیئے جلاوطن ہو جانا اس معاشرے کے لیئے راحت کا باعث ہوگا جہاں جرم کیا گیا۔ معاشرہ مجرم کے وجود سے پاک ہو جائے گا۔ اس طرح جرم کی سزا کا مقصد بھی پورا ہو جائے گا اور مجرم کی باقی زندگی کے مہینے اور سال بھی اس کے اپنے رہیں گے، جو بحیثیت انسان اس کا حق ہے۔ معاشرے کو یہ راحت تو مجرم کو عمر قید کی سزا سے بھی نہیں ملتی کیونکہ اسے کاٹ کر وہ پھر واپس آ سکتا ہے اور مجرمانہ زندگی کا آغاز کر سکتا ہے یا اپنے دشموں سے بدلے لے سکتا ہے۔ ملک سے فرار کی صورت میں بھی مجرم کو سزا ملے گی گو اس کی نوعیت جسمانی نہیں بلکہ ذہنی اور نفسیاتی ہوگی۔
قید کی سزا ختم کرنے سے بہت سی خرابیاں دور ہو جائیں گی۔ مقدمہ درج ہونے کے بعد حوالات یا جیل میں نظربندی، اس کے دوران تشدد اور ضمانت کے تکلیف دہ مرحلے ختم ہو جائیں گے۔ عدالتوں کی کاروائی بہت مختصر ہو جائے گی۔ قید اور اس کے دوران ہونے والا انسانیت سوز سلوک ختم ہو جائے گا۔ مجرموں کو سزا تو ملے گی لیکن ان کی زندگی کے باقی دن ضائع نہیں ہونگے۔ قیدیوں پر اٹھنے والے اخراجات ختم ہو جائیں گے۔ سب سے بڑی بات یہ کہ اسلامی نظام کا ایک نہائت روشن عملی نمونہ دنیا کے سامنے آئے گا۔

ستمبر 2004

PALESTINE: A way out in Palestine

Here is a plan that will resolve all of the major issues between the Arabs and the Jews, without requiring each side to make impossible compromises. Despite wars, atrocities and complications caused over the decades, a solution of the Palestine issue is possible even at this late stage.

New state. The starting point should be the creation a new state that will include the present territories of Israel, West Bank, Gaza and Jordan. There will be only two provinces, to be called “Israel” and “Jordan.” West Bank will become a part of Jordan, just as it was before the 1967 war. Gaza will be a part of Jordan for 10 years and then become a part of Israel due to the compulsion of its geographical location. In the meantime, its present residents will be encouraged to move to elsewhere in the province of Jordan.
The Golan Heights will be returned to Syria after it agrees to keep the territory demilitarized, like the Sinai, and signs a peace agreement with the new state. (It will have no good reason not to do so.)

The name. Unless the people agree on another one, the name of the new state may be “Palestine.” It has been the geographical name of the territory for centuries, without any religious or ethnic connotations. According to “Encyclopedia Britannica,” “The Arabs living in Palestine had never had a separate state. Until the establishment of Israel, the term Palestinian was used by Jews and foreigners to describe the inhabitants of Palestine, but it was rarely used by the Arabs themselves; mostly they saw themselves as part of the larger Arab or Muslim community.”
The formation of a new state would not be a novel idea. Even when the territory was partitioned, the intention was to keep the two parts close to each other. “Encyclopedia Britannica” says, “On August 31 [1947] a majority report of the UN Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) recommended the partition of the country into an Arab and a Jewish state, which, however, should retain an economic union. Jerusalem and its environs were to be international. These recommendations were substantially adopted by a two-thirds majority of the UN General Assembly in a resolution dated Nov. 29, 1947.”

Federation. The new state will be secular and a federation, with only minimum powers for the center, such as defense, foreign affairs, currency, banking and telecommunications. All other powers will go to the federating units, the provinces. To provide a permanent link between the provinces, the state will be a constitutional monarchy, headed by a member of the present royal family of Jordan that has been quite friendly to Israel. When the need arises, the federal cabinet will select the heir from the royal family. The majority of each Provincial Assembly will be required for the approval of a new monarch.
The federation will have a single house, National Assembly. It will have half of its members from Israel and half from Jordan. Every law will be passed by two-thirds of the total members, to ensure maximum support.
The Prime Minister will be alternately from each province and will serve for five years. The key ministries will also rotate between the two provinces. The federal cabinet will have half of the ministers from the province of Israel and half from the province of Jordan.
To avoid wrangling and intrigues, the Prime Minister will be directly elected by the entire country, rather than the National Assembly. He will have to get over 50% of the total votes cast in each province. This will ensure that the winning candidate will be a moderate and acceptable to the majority of the Jews and the Arabs. If no candidate gets over 50% votes, there will be a contest within a week between the two top candidates.

Provinces. The whole territory having become a single country, the boundaries of 1947 (in UN plan), pre-1967 and post-1967 will lose their present importance and may be ignored. The two provinces will set up a joint commission to study the present boundaries and redraw them to remove the difficulties of the people at the local level and give due regard to natural geographical divisions.
The executive head of a province will be a Governor, who will be elected by a direct vote for five years. Each Provincial Assembly will have the same number of members. The provinces will be free to legislate on religious, cultural and social matters. Jordan may make Islamic laws for the Muslims in the province but without affecting the Jews living there. Similarly, Israel may make religious laws for the Jews in its jurisdiction.
Each province will have its own police to maintain law and order.
While the federation will deal with international relations, the provinces may sign directly trade and investment agreements with other countries.
Arabic will be the official language of the province of Jordan and Hebrew that of Israel, while both will be the official languages of the federal government.
Friday will be the weekly public holiday in Jordan and Saturday in Israel while the federal government will have both days as weekly holidays. So will the private commercial organizations if they want to have a five-day week. Provinces may also do the same ultimately. The religious holidays of both Muslim and Jewish will be observed in both provinces.

Jerusalem. Jerusalem will be an international city, with every foreign visitor getting a 10-day visit visa on arrival. While a mayor elected by the direct vote of the entire population of the city will run the administration for a five-year term, the National Assembly will decide the policy matters with a two-third majority. The mayor will be alternately a Jew and an Arab.
Everybody will need the approval of the city administration to work, set up a business, purchase property or have permanent residence in Jerusalem. No new housing will be allowed and present population will be encouraged to move out of the city in order to open it up for the large number of visitors of all three religions that will be going there.

New capital. For the present, Tel Aviv and Amman will serve as joint federal capitals. However, a new site for the federal capital will be selected with the consensus of both Provincial Assemblies and construction will start there immediately. The new capital will have the offices of only the federal government. Its name will be a word common in Arabic and Hebrew.

Citizens. Every citizen will have a national identity card, showing his permanent place of residence, besides other data. He will be free to travel anywhere in the country but he will need the approval of the relevant provincial government to work, set up a business, purchase property or have permanent residence in its jurisdiction. That will control the migration of citizens and workers from one province to the other. The province of Israel will control the return of Arab refugees. All Arab refugees born before 1948 in what is now Israel will be allowed to return to their ancestral homes. (After 55 years, there will not be many of such refugees left.)
The Jews, who settled in the West Bank after 1967, will have to move out while the present residents of Gaza may be allowed to take their place in the settlements. The Israeli government may pay compensation to the Jewish settlers. It will also have to pay reasonable compensation to the Arab refugees and others, who were uprooted because of the Israeli actions before or after 1967. It will not be a financial burden because the reduction in defense expenditure will cover the expenditure.

Defense. The UN will guarantee the security and integrity of the new state from an attack by any country. The new state may also have bilateral defense agreements with the U.S. and other countries. Once its security is ensured, the new state will merge the present armed forces of Israel and Jordan and reduce the total to the minimum. It will destroy its nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction because it will not need them in future.

Benefits of the plan. When considered in its entirety, the plan proposes minimum changes in the present setup while it will solve all of the major problems between the Arabs and the Jews, viz.
a) Israel will continue to have its identity. Two examples are relevant. Holland is only a province but it is quite often synonymous with the name of the country, the Netherlands. Similarly, England is also a province but is usually considered synonymous with the United Kingdom. Therefore, Israel will continue to enjoy its present recognition.
b) The Jews in the U.S. and elsewhere will continue to do for the province of Israel whatever they want. The Jews in other countries will also be able to immigrate to the province of Israel as they have been doing for decades.
c) The Arab refugees, presently dispersed in many countries, will be able to return to the new province of Jordan, subject to the policy of the provincial government. That will be the end of the Arab refugee problem. The expatriate Arabs will be free to invest in the province of Jordan.
d) The residents of Israel will no longer have to worry about security threats. The end of the present Israeli occupation of the West Bank will remove the basic cause for organizations like Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The public support for them will also disappear because nobody will favor hostility against the Jews without a cause. The local police will take care of the remaining elements to ensure complete security for all.
e) The economic development will increase all over, as industries will be able to move to the most suitable locations that are closer to raw materials, cheaper labor and potential markets.
f) There will be no major changes in the internal affairs of Israel and Jordan. The present domestic policies in a province will continue as long as the other province is not affected.

December 25, 2003

Monday, April 18, 2005

PRIVATIZATION: An intriguing proposal for privatization of Pakistan Telecom Co

How the Government can start receiving immediately cash proceeds from the privatization of its telecommunication monopoly without waiting for a foreign strategic buyer

The privatization of Pakistan Telecommunication Co. Ltd (PTC) involves some very basic questions. The answers to these questions will lead to an alternative proposal that will not only expedite the process of privatization but will start bringing in proceeds almost immediately.

Some of the basic questions are:
a) Why does the Government want to privatize PTC in the first place?
b) Why should a foreign "strategic investor" be sought, and that too for only a small part of the total shares – not more than 26%? (Some related questions are: What will be the foreign buyer’s own interest and objective? What will be the likely conse­quences of the take-over by him? What will be its impact on the phone users?)
c) How to sell the Government shares not purchased by the foreign "strategic investor?" How can these shares be sold to the entire middle class in the country as a very safe and lucrative opportunity for investment?
d) How can the stock exchanges be saved from upheavals that the sale and purchase of the PTC shares often cause?
e) How can the national security interests be protected even after the privatiza­tion of PTC?
Let us take up the questions one by one and try to find their answers.

The objectives of privatization. There are two main reasons why the Gov­ernment wants to privatize Pakistan Telecommunication Co. Ltd. One objective is to make the PTC an efficient company so that it can not only meet the modern tele­communication needs of the country but also make the required investment on its own. There was some improvement after the Telephone and Telegraph Department was converted into Pakistan Telecommunication Corporation. But a bureaucratic set-up can not be turned into an efficient organization simply by giving it autonomy in some matters. Just as an elephant in the zoo will not walk away as a free animal even after its shackles are removed, the habits and the culture of the bureaucrats do not change even after they are told that they are now "autonomous" in their working.

The second objective of the Government is to get substantial funds through privatization to meet its own debt servicing obligations. The Government expects to get tens of billions of rupees with the sale of the PTC shares. Since such a huge amount may not be possible to get from our own businessmen or even through the domestic stock exchanges, the Government believes that it can do it only if some multinational corporation offers to buy its shares in the PTC (even if only a portion).

The consequences of hand-over to a foreigner buyer. What will be the con­sequences if shares are sold to a foreign strategic buyer and, at the same time, man­agement is handed over to him? It will depend on his own objectives. Obviously, the strategic investor will be primarily interested in making as much money as he can. And in as short a period as possible, before the PTC monopoly in basic telephone service is over. It is as simple as that. The interests of our country will not be his primary concern.

Savings not to be passed on to users. The foreign buyer will certainly make strenuous efforts to improve the operational efficiency of the PTC. He will not hesi­tate even in downsizing the present level of personnel as much as he can so that he gets the maximum output per employee. He will also reduce the company’s expenditure to the barest minimum level.

The improvements, however, will be entirely in his own interest. He will be extremely reluctant to pass on the benefits of efficiency and savings to the phone us­ers. And the Government will be hardly able to force him to reduce his rates and charges in the interest of the subscribers. (In fact, the PTC people are already telling their customers not to expect any "welfare or charity" from the company, even though it is still controlled by the Government.)

Higher rates for services. The foreign buyer will do his best to charge as much for the telecommunication services as possible in order to maximize his profit. If he is from a country which is a big world power, he will not hesitate in seeking his own government’s influence. (What the international investors in the independent power projects have been doing is a good example of what may happen.) Our Govern­ment will not be able to resist the pressures and will be compelled to allow increases in charges for phone calls and other services. In fact, it has already done so even though the foreign take-over of the PTC has yet to occur! The recent increase in the line rent and the phone installation charges provide a good example of the shape of things to come. (The Government was unable to resist external pressures to raise the rates of utilities like electricity and gas even though no foreign investors were in­volved.)

No new assets. The foreign buyer will not be interested in making any invest­ment that is not recovered with maximum profit before the end of the monopoly pe­riod. It takes years to expand the telecommunication infrastructure, such as construc­tion of new exchanges, laying of new cables, installation of new phone connections, and additions to net­work capacity. It will be obviously not in the foreign buyer’s interest to make long-term investments if the returns are to come after his monopoly period is over. New competitors, with better technologies and resources, will certainly reduce his rate of return.

No new long-term investment. The foreign buyer will be fully aware that the Pakistan Telecommunication Co. Ltd will have a monopoly on basic telephone ser­vice only till 2003, as provided in the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-organization) Act, of 1996. He can exploit his position to make maximum profit only during this period. After the monopoly period is over, others will jump in the field to compete against him and force him to lower his profits. Then the foreign buyer will find out that he can no longer make as much money as he did in the beginning. He will then reconsider his priorities and look for more profitable opportunities elsewhere in the world.

If the foreign buyer believes that he can make more money elsewhere after the end of his monopoly, he will not hesitate in making his move. And it will not be dif­ficult at all to do so. All that he will have to do will be to sell his shares to some in­terested party or unload them at the domestic stock exchanges. What will he leave behind? Nothing tangible at all. In other words, he will take his money and run!

The needs of the people. The phone users want some very basic improve­ments, and immediately:
a) They certainly expect better efficiency and service after the PTC is in pri­vate hands. And they want the savings in costs (most, if not all) to be passed on to them in the form of lower phone rates and charges.
b) They want a tremendous increase in the number of phones. (At present, there are just about two phones per 100 persons. In most developed countries, the figure is well over 50% of the population.)
c) They want improvement and expansion in the network so that phones are available also in villages, even if service in some areas has to be subsi­dized.
d) They want the same modern telecommunication services that users in more de­veloped countries enjoy.
The foreign buyer will be hardly inclined to "waste" his money on doing any of these things (not to speak of all), if he does not himself get the major benefit. Nor will be feel any compulsion to do so.

Risks to national security. Even though the Government has set up the Na­tional Telecommunication Corporation to meet its internal needs, it will still have to use the PTC network for all official calls going to non-government phones and vice versa. Then, all secrets are not in the government offices alone. Therefore, many threats to national security will inevitably come from the PTC network. The foreign buyer will have no reason to worry about it. He will not bother if the country’s tele­communication network is used by subversive elements. He will also not mind if the foreign enemies of the country tap the phone lines of important people to get access to secrets of all kinds and even blackmail the prominent citizens in key positions for their nefarious purposes. (He may even help them if it suits his interests.) The secu­rity of the entire telecommunication network is vital to protect the national interests. No wonder, the developed countries do not allow foreigners to take over their phone companies even when they decide to privatize.

A local buyer as an alternative. A local strategic buyer, if available, may have the same thinking as a foreigner and try to make as much money as he can. However, he has to live in this country and cannot afford to annoy the people and the Government beyond a certain limit. He can also be expected to have at least some consideration of the national interests. A local strategic buyer, therefore, would have been certainly preferable to a foreign one. But the purchase of even the specified minimum ratio (up to 26%) of the government shares, not to speak of all, will require a huge sum. And even the wealthiest local entrepreneur may not have that much money.

The local businessmen can, however, do it collectively if they
a) bring back their money in the safe havens abroad,
b) agree to join hands in taking over a large company like PTC,
c) hire professional management to run it properly, and
d) do not allow any one of them to dominate, if not oust, the others.
This, apparently, will be a tall order!

The third alternative. When selling to a foreign buyer is not in the national interest and a local counterpart is not available, what should be the way out? Go to the people, as the wise men say.
At present, the PTC has about three million phone users. Why not offer all of its re­maining shares to all of them? Collectively, they may have enough purchasing ca­pacity to buy all shares that are held by the Government at present. Of course, all will not get the same number of shares. Some of them may be able to buy only a small number of shares while others may be able to get big lots. How to do it?

An offer letter to all subscribers. Pakistan Telecommunication Co. Ltd may issue an offer for the sale of its shares to every one of its phone subscribers in the country. The letter, in Urdu, may explain the benefits of buying the PTC shares and the procedure for their purchase.
Special arrangement will be needed for the printing of the phone bills for the month during which the offer of shares is to be made. A letter from the PTC, offering the shares to every subscriber, may be printed by the computers immediately after a subscriber’s bill, bearing his phone number, name and address exactly as it appears on the bill. In other words, the offer letter will be a part of every phone bill be­fore the next bill is printed. Thus, the offer letter will be delivered to every subscriber along with the phone bill for the particular month.

At the bottom of the offer letter will be a form in which the subscriber will fill in the number of shares (in figures as well as words) that he wants to buy and enter the equivalent amount that he will pay. (The minimum number of shares to be purchased by a subscriber should be 100, worth Rs 1000 – 100 shares X Rs 10 per share – with no limit for the maximum purchase.) Then he will pay the total amount at any bank branch, post office or the PTC service center, within a specified period, say 60 days from the issue date of the offer. As a proof of payment, the subscriber will retain the counterfoil of the offer letter, duly stamped and signed by the bank, post office or the PTC service center.

The payments from the sale of shares will be deposited by the banks, Pakistan Post Office and the PTC directly with the State Bank towards the retirement of public debts because that is one of the primary objectives of the privatization.

Offer to be repeated. The PTC will offer its shares to the phone subscribers regularly, once a quarter or once in every six months. This will facilitate purchases by the small buyers, who do not have large idle funds and can buy shares from their savings only at intervals. PTC will also offer its shares, without any maximum limit, to every new subscriber when it issues a Demand Note to him for a new phone connec­tion. As a result, the paid-up capital of PTC will continue to grow while simultane­ously it will get additional interest-free funds to finance expansion and moderniza­tion. A great bonus, no doubt.

The PTC will issue a letter of allotment of shares to the subscribers immedi­ately after receiving their payments. The share certificates will be deposited with the Central Depositary Co. (It is already being done for the present shareholders so that the problems and risks of actual handling of share certificates are avoided.)

No premium on shares. The shares will be sold to the phone subscribers at face value and no premium will be charged. The reasoning is simple. The PTC is owned by the nation itself. The Government is only a representative of the people, or an attorney, so to speak, not the real owner. If the value of the PTC shares is more than its face value, it is because of the customers of the PTC. It is they whose pay­ments enable the PTC to earn a profit, which raises the value of the shares. There­fore, the Government, being only a manager of the PTC, cannot ask the nation – the real owner – to pay any premium on the shares.

Direct sale and purchase. The sale and purchase of shares will be only be­tween the PTC and its phone subscribers. If a subscriber wants to sell his shares, he will surrender his allotment letter against a receipt at the nearest PTC revenue office or service center. The PTC revenue office of the area, which issues monthly bills to the subscriber, will immediately give credit to the subscriber’s account for the total value of the surrendered shares, while sending the allotment letter to the PTC head office for cancellation. The credit amount will then be adjusted in the monthly phone bills of the subscriber.

This arrangement will have a great benefit. The subscriber will get his pay­ment for the shares while the PTC will not have to strain its cash reserves. (If the amount is too large to be adjusted within six months, keeping in view the average monthly phone bill, the PTC shall pay through a pay order or a bank draft, to be is­sued within 15 days.

Payment of dividends. The payment of dividends will also be through credit to the account of the subscriber-shareholder. As soon as the dividend is declared, whether interim or final, the amount will be credited directly to the accounts of all subscribers-shareholders. The great advantage of this arrangement will be that the PTC will not have to spend a huge amount on the preparation, issue and safe delivery of dividend vouchers to the subscribers. It will also save a similar amount on the payment of dividends through banks. The PTC will have to neither deduct this extra expenditure from the total dividend amount nor add to the company’s normal ex­penses. In either case, the subscribers will be the beneficiaries.

Benefits of being a phone user as well as a shareholder. The PTC’s sub­scribers will benefit in several ways as its shareholders:
a) They will get the entire profit that accrues to the PTC. And they will deserve it. After all, the profit will come from what they themselves pay to the PTC through their monthly phone bills.
b) They will get the benefit in the form of higher dividends in case of any savings due to improvements in the efficiency of the PTC operations and the reduction in its ex­penditure.
c) The ordinary phone services will improve tremendously because the sub­scribers will be also be the owners of the company. The employees of the PTC, therefore, will be much more attentive to their problems.
d) As the PTC network expands, more and more people will have phones and will at the same time become the shareholders of PTC. The new subscribers-shareholders too will have an attrac­tive opportunity to invest their savings.

Conclusion. On the whole, the implementation of this proposal will have the following main benefits:
a) The process of privatization can be started immediately. There will be no need to waste time in making any preparations.
b) The privatization will be done on "as is" basis, without any need for any detailed studies. Nor any structural changes will be required.
c) The PTC will have the widest possible ownership base, with no individual or group becoming the majority shareholder. As a result, there will be no pressures to increase profits at the cost of the phone users.
d) The capital base of the company will continue to expand, allowing it to have interest-free funds to invest in the expansion of its infrastructure. In other words, the expansion and its financing will occur simultaneously.
e) The middle class investors will get an opportunity for a very safe and profitable investment.
f) Despite the huge volume of the PTC shares, there will be no volatile effect on the stock exchanges because the shares will be sold and purchased directly by the PTC.
g) In a unique situation, the shareholders will also be the customers of the PTC and will be the direct beneficiaries of both lower costs and higher profits.
h) With the entire management being Pakistani, the security of the telecommu­nications and protection of national interests will be ensured.
i) The Government may retain a small minority share in order to benefit from the profitability of the PTC and keep the management from taking any steps that may be against the national interest.

The final way out. Despite very solid reasons and overwhelming benefits, the Government may still not be able to adopt the present proposal in full. The affairs of state, unfortunately, do not always follow the straight logical path. Pressures of all kinds come from vested interests, here or abroad, and cannot be always resisted suc­cessfully. Compromises have to be made because of unavoidable expediencies. Therefore, the Government may still not be able to abandon the plan to involve a for­eign strategic investor. But, in the national interest, it can certainly improve the con­ditions for the deal.

The prospective strategic investor is being offered up to 26% of the total shares. In addition to the payment for these shares, he may also be required to guar­antee that he will invest an equivalent amount within three years of taking over in the improvement and expansion of the physical infrastructure of the PTC. (The im­provements will include the construction of new telephone exchanges, the replace­ment of the worn-out equipment in present exchanges and the setting up of new net­works, etc.). In order to enhance his stake, the new investment in the physical assets will be from the investor’s own sources, not a loan taken on behalf of PTC.
Irrespective of when the foreign strategic investor takes over, the Government can offer right away its own shares to the phone subscribers, as suggested in this proposal, because there is no bar of any kind in implementing it immediately. (After all, it has to sell its own remaining shares even after a strategic foreign buyer does come along.) In fact, promptness will be in the Government’s own interest because proceeds in cash will start flowing in immediately and will help in meeting its short-term debt obligations.

Waiting in vain for a white knight. There is another and a very fundamental reason why the Government should not keep on waiting for a foreign strategic buyer. For several years now (since 1990), every successive Government has been waiting for him. But, like all one-sided love affairs, the ardent desires of the Government remained unre­quited. There has been no positive response, only false promises at the most. It may take some more time before the Government finally realizes that its pursuit of a for­eign prince charming is in vain.
Why a foreign strategic investor has not been com­ing forth? The reasons are not hard to find out. According to media reports and some other indications, the prospective strategic investors see many negative factors:
a) A proper and comprehensive evaluation of the PTC assets and liabilities is not available.
b) There are huge liabilities in the form of outstanding dues that PTC has been unable to recover from the influential defaulters.
c) The employee unions are strong enough to cause serious problems for the new management.
d) There are far too many employees to run the operations efficiently and eco­nomically.
e) The prospects for profitability are not rosy because the local phone call rates are too low for good profits.
f) The earnings from international calls, about half of PTC’s revenue, may soon evaporate due to (a) strong international pressures, especially from the US Fed­eral Communications Commission, to reduce the accounting rates, and (b) the shift­ing of normal phone calls to the Internet despite desperate attempts to prevent it.

The Government may continue to wait for a foreign strategic investor, if it has to, but it can start selling its shares to its own people without wasting any more time. (After all, the foreign buyer will pay, in any case, for not more than 26% of the shares.) Excluding the shares already sold, that will still leave more than half of the total. There is no reason not to start selling them right now.

March 03, 2003

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

LOCAL GOVT: Self-financing office complexes in all districts

As population increases, the functions of the government departments also increase. Consequently, the need for additional office space is felt in almost all districts. New offices are being set up in the districts which were creat­ed recently. The situation is, however, becoming critical in the old dis­tricts. Every available covered area is being used on ad hoc basis, causing great congestion and consequent loss in efficiency. It is proposed that a standard design be prepared for district office complex­es. The offices of all government departments should be accommo­dated in the complex.

Advantages. The proposed complex will have the following advan­tages:
a) great economy in building costs,
b) saving in providing common services, like water supply, severage, electricity, etc.
c) possibility of providing a telephone exchange to work as common inter­com for all departments, making all inter-department and intra depart­ment calls prompt, easy and free of cost.
d) possibility of providing common telecommunications facilities for all departments, like hotlines and fax,
e) much better coordination between various departments,
f) great savings in time and transport costs for official meetings,
g) great convenience for the public to get everything done at one place even if contact with different departments is required.

Main features. The standard design should have the following main features:
Land. Fortunately, the land available in almost all old district head­quar­ters is adequate to meet the increasing needs. The covered area met only the needs that were felt several decades ago, with abundant space left all around them.
Multi-storey. The main building should be designed for at least 10-15 floors, even if only one floor is needed for the present. The extra cost will be only for the foundations but the addition of new floors will be easy and cost very little, making it very economical in the long run.
Frame structure. All buildings in the complex should be designed with a frame structure. This will turn every floor into a one huge hall, which may then be partitioned and repartitioned into rooms of various sizes and shapes as and when the requirements change. The changes will be made by simply removing and rebuilding thin partition walls, without disturbing the roof or the floor.
Central airconditioning. The design of the complex should allow for cen­tral airconditioning even if it is not done immediately. The provision for ducting and space for the airconditioning units may be made while the instal­lation may be done when the resources permit.
Lifts. The design should provide for adequate number of lifts to meet the maximum requirements after all storeys have been built. Initially, only the number of required lifts may be installed.
Parking. The complex must have parking space several times more than the present needs in order to accommodate the additional vehicles of the departments and the public in future as economic development increases. Provision for underground parking of official vehicles will ensure their secu­rity against possibility of sabotage attacks.
Lock-ups. Secure lock-ups should be provided in the same building and preferably on the same floor on which the courts will be located. The pris­oners under trial may be kept there during the hearings. This will avoid the problems caused by transport of the accused to and from jail, including the possibility of their escape. The possibility of attacks on the accused by opponents during transport will also be eliminated.

Implementation. The first question that arises is that of finance. It will be extremely difficult to divert huge amounts for building the proposed complexes in all districts.
The Government, however, need not provide any funds as the entire project will be self-financed.

The Government may invite private companies to submit offers for the prepa­ration of design and then the construction of the proposed complexes. The offer should have the following major features:
a) The private party will form a company, known as Office Building Company, with the Government having only a minority share, not more than 30% in any case.
b) The land available at present at the district offices will be provided to the Company on lease, which will continue as long as the Company owns and maintains the complex.
c) The Company may give the ground and one or two upper floors on rent to private parties on rent provide it does not cause too much traf­fic, con­gestion and inconvenience for the government offices. The rent will be at market rates.
d) The rent for the space utilized by the Government will not be that of the local market but will be determined on a basis that gives a fair return to the Company on its investment.
e) The Government shall pay rent in lumpsum and directly to the Company for the space occupied by the offices of its various depart­ments. The departments will approach the Government if they need additional space and, if approved, the Government will ask the Company to provide the re­quired space if already available or arrange for the construction of additional floor(s).
f) The maintenance of the complex will be the responsibility of the Company in accordance with the agreed terms.
g) The Company will arrange for the required finance from its own sources. The Government may, if possible, provide some loan, which may be adjusted against payment of rent.

Phases. The project should be completed in phases. The Company may take up con­struction in about five or six districts at a time. This will help in avoiding many problems.
After the district complexes are complete, the Company can undertake the construction of similar complexes even at the tehsil/subdivision level.

This article was reformatted on July 27, 1996. Originally saved on May 26, 1990.

COMPUTING: How the wrong choice of a script for Urdu hindered use of computers

The path for the introduction of new technology is seldom smooth or short. For personal computing in Urdu, it was not only tortuous but also very long. The people, who were supposed to give the direction, themselves took a wrong turn. Rather than following the users of the other Arabic script languages, who had adopted a character-based version of the script, an attempt was made to apply the computer technology to a primarily ligature-based script, which was not worth the time, effort and money, even if ultimately achievable. In the process, about two decades were lost, huge waste of resources.

The problem caused by a ligature-based script is not unique to Pakistan. Many non-Latin languages face a similar problem because of their ligatures. These include the national languages of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and the Indian languages, particularly those related to Sanskrit. Their problem, however, is mitigated by the fact that the number of ligatures for these languages is only in hundreds, while it runs into thousands in case of Urdu. Consequently, the companies producing types for use in their hot-metal machines for commercial printing, like Linotype and Monotype, managed to design types for these languages but not for Urdu. Therefore, until recent years, Urdu was the only major language that depended entirely on calligraphists for composing text of books, magazines, and even daily newspapers. The publications in Arabic and Farsi still use calligraphists but only for titles, headlines and for special effects.

This paper aims at highlighting the problem that is hindering the use of computers for ligature-based scripts. UNICODE, accepted internationally, allows the allocation of a code each for every characters of every written language of the world. For compatibility and convenience, it is desirable that the script should also be character-based. There may be special needs, like as the use of ligatures like “ffi” and “fi” in English books for aesthetic reasons, but such exceptions do not cause any problem in computing.

It was ironical that all this happened in a country, which was one of the pioneers in the adoption of the personal computer. While many developing countries were merely talking and thinking about the use of personal computer, Pakistan took a lead in early 1980s by making its import free, both literally and figuratively. Those were the days of very restricted international trade, with no imports allowed unless specifically included in the list of importable items. Then there were heavy customs duties as a further discouragement. However, the import of personal computers was allowed without any restrictions. The customs duty was also waived completely soon afterwards and the exemption has continued since then, even during the times of financial crises. The Government has always treated the personal computer as an educational tool, not business equipment.

Besides personal computing, Pakistan was also far ahead of its neighbors in starting the use of Internet. BrainNet, a pioneer organization owned by three Alvi brothers, Shahid, Amjad and Basit, introduced email service in late 1980s and the Internet service in early 1990s. Other aggressive operators soon followed them. Internet is now available to three-fourth of the entire population. The connection charges are also coming down.

Naskh versus Nasta’lique. Ironically, the encouraging trend in the use of personal computers did not lead to similar growth in its use for Urdu. One reason, of course, was the widespread use of English as the language of government, business and education, a legacy of the British colonial rule. The main cause, however, has been the preference for the Nasta’lique form of the Arabic script for Urdu, which caused problems similar to those that the Chinese language faced, because it too uses thousands of ligatures.

Nasta’lique is similar in basic structure to Naskh, which is used for Arabic as well as other language that are written in the Arabic script, such as Farsi, Kurdish, Uighur (the language of the Turkic people of the Xinjiang region in China), and Jawi (in Malaysia and Indonesia). Naskh, ironically, is used also for all regional languages of Pakistan. (More about it a little later.) Naskh is taken as a representative of all other character-based type styles because it happens to be the most widely used for various purposes.

Nasta’lique was designed in Iran for Farsi in the early part of the Second Millennium, primarily to be different from Arabic because of historical rivalry. Since Farsi was the court language also of the Mughal rulers of India, Nasta’lique was the official script in the capital Delhi for centuries. It was also adopted for Urdu when the language emerged later as the lingua franca of India. Since calligraphy was the only way in those days to produce books, there was no problem until type was introduced in South Asia in late 18th century.

There was an opposite trend in the regions, which were far away from Delhi and hence remained practically independent of the central government there. In these areas, which were predominantly Muslim, the Arabic script was quite familiar because of the Holy Quran, which everybody learnt to read. Since Naskh was always used for the Holy Quran (even in the areas of the world where Nasta’lique was used for all other purposes), the familiarity of the script made it the obvious choice for the regional languages. Naskh was, therefore, the standard script even during the calligraphy days for Sindhi, Pashto, Balochi, Brahvi and Kashmiri.

Punjabi was the only exception because Farsi was the court language of the Punjab also as late as the mid-19th century even though the Sikh rulers were non-Muslims. The local Farsi tradition and the influence of the Urdu-speaking officials from the capital (Delhi), who accompanied the British rulers into the Punjab after the defeat of the Sikhs, combined to make Nasta’lique the standard script for the Punjabi language also.

For thousands of years, all writings in all languages were by hand. Using the freedom of creativity, the calligraphists applied their artistic and graphic capabilities and developed completely new scripts. They molded and modified individual letters of a script for aesthetic reasons, and created combinations of characters in the process that later came to be known as ligatures. The problem arose for the character-based scripts only after the invention of movable type. The ligatures, however, are not unique to Nasta’lique. The ligatures, such as “ff,” “ffi,” and “fi,” were used right from the beginning in the Latin script languages due to aesthetic reasons. However, these could be avoided if necessary. For example, the typewriters for Latin script never provided for ligatures due to technical limitations. Since the typewritten text was quite readable without the ligatures, the users learned to live with it. It was in printing that ligatures were considered necessary and had to be provided. Their number, however, was never large. On the other hand, every South Asian language with its own script always had the ligatures ever since mechanical type composing became available, with the number running into hundreds. But that is still a fraction of what is required for Nasta’lique! No wonder a typewriter could never be produced for it.

The introduction of typesetting. Nasta’lique has the same alphabetical characters and the variations in the shapes (initial, middle, final and independent) of various characters. The difference lies in the way the characters are placed on a base line. Naskh follows more or less the pattern of the Latin script, with one character following the other on the same base line. In Nasta’lique, some character shapes are placed vertically or in a slope to the preceding character. While a calligraphist could place these character shapes on a line quite easily, a personal computer could not, at least not in the early days.

The mechanical type composing machines replaced calligraphy during the 19th century for other Arabic script languages, using Naskh. There was a pressure even then from the traditionalists to use Nasta’lique for hand or mechanical typesetting but the technical limitations at that time were much worse than for the early personal computer. Therefore, Urdu did not fully convert to typesetting.

Several attempts were made to design a type font for Nasta’lique but the results were not acceptable. Therefore, Naskh was the only alternative if type was to be used. Interestingly, Naskh (in a modified form) was adopted in Iran itself, the birthplace of Nasta’lique. Except for Farsi, no language using the Arabic script had adopted Nasta’lique at any time, even before the invention of type. Hence, their switchover from calligraphy to type (and later to computer) was naturally smooth and prompt.

The resistance to the switchover to typesetting for Urdu got support also from the economic factor. A calligraphist was paid much less than a type compositor. Moreover, unlike mechanical composing, there was no investment required by a printer for using calligraphy. (A calligraphist, called katib in Urdu, learnt his trade on his own before seeking work.) As a result, most Urdu publishers reverted to calligraphy and the trend continued for several decades until 1980s.
However, despite higher costs, some publishers (especially Maktaba-i Jadeed and Urdu Science Board, both of Lahore) did use mechanical typesetting in Naskh for encyclopedias, major dictionaries and other larger reference works and quality books. They saw some overwhelming advantages, such as speedier input, easier corrections, better page design, faster space fitting. Most important was the perfect uniformity in output, which was extremely difficult to maintain while many calligraphists were doing the same book.

During late 1950s, in a first attempt to use mechanical typesetting for a newspaper, Lahore-based national Urdu daily, Nawa-i-Waqt, asked Linotype, the well-known manufacturer of typesetting equipment for newspapers, to create a font for it. Unfortunately, the designers of the type style attempted to come close to Nasta’lique and produced what was not very readable. It would have been much better if Linotype had modified for Urdu the common, and far more readable, Naskh font that was being used on its machines for the Arabic newspapers. The Nawa-i-Waqt readers, two-thirds of whom welcomed the use of type in a survey by the newspaper, complained about the poor readability of the type style. The creation of hot metal molds for another font would have been very expensive. As a result, the owner-editor of the newspaper, Hameed Nizami, had to abandon his pioneering effort. During 1970s, Mir Khalil-ur-Rehman, owner-publisher of the leading Karachi-based daily, Jang, started using Naskh phototypesetting equipment for some editorial matter to prepare his readers for a change. He would have switched over completely to Naskh in phases if Noori Nasta’lique had not emerged in the meantime. (More about it a little later.)

Early software for Urdu.
The personal computers in the early days had very limited processing power, memory and storage but still could handle the character-based Naskh. Therefore, several enthusiastic developers worked on software for Urdu word processing. No attempt was, however, made to modify the Arabic software for Urdu though adding the extra characters required could do it much more easily and economically.

There were three main reasons why this modification was not done. First reason was the lack of awareness. The companies, which had created the word processing software for Arabic, never realized the potential of the market for Urdu, which is spoken by more people than all speakers of Arabic put together. The Arabic market attracted great interest and investment also because of the oil boom in the region during that period. But the Arabic software engineers never realized that they could tap the huge Urdu market by doing nothing more than adding some extra characters to their font.

The second reason was the fixation, or rather infatuation, for Nasta’lique, mostly among the old people, who unfortunately were also the decision-makers. Therefore, the software developers tried to design a font as close to Nasta’lique as possible, even if it could not be the real thing due to severe technical limitations of the personal computer at that time. Since they did not use the Arabic software as the base, they had to do everything from the scratch. And, to make it worse, they all chose different paths. That made their programs incompatible with one another, making it impossible to save a file in one program and open it with another one. No organization or collective body tried coordination and standardization.

The third reason was the lack of sufficient investment, both by the government and by the private sector. As English continued to be the official language, at least at the highest levels, there was no compelling urgency to develop software for Urdu. The private sector, on the other hand, was not sure of adequate return when the government, which could be the largest single buyer, was not deeply involved, and large business companies were quite happy with English software whenever they decided to use personal computers in their offices.

Due to these reasons, the software developed for Urdu turned out to be barely adequate (especially when compared with the sophisticated packages for English), very expensive due to low sales and unattractive to users due to lack of compatibility among various packages.

Nasta’lique for phototypesetting. While the progress in the use of Urdu in personal computers was severely restricted, a major effort was made to make Nasta’lique available for photocomposing in commercial printing by Ahmad Jameel, an artist and later a leading printer of Karachi. (The following account of his product is taken from his interview, published in Karachi Urdu monthly, Science Digest, of 1983.)

In 1979, Ahmad Jameel saw a demonstration of the phototypesetting equipment for the Chinese language in an exhibition in Singapore. The manufacturer was Monotype Corporation, the British firm that had been making for about a hundred years mechanical typesetting equipment for many non-Latin script languages, especially of South Asia. The equipment was based on a patented technology that allowed perforation of a paper tape on a separate keyboard. The tape was then fed into a typecasting machine that produced every character individually. (Since the handling of individual characters was very difficult during a rush against deadlines, Linotype, another patented technology, was developed to produce column-wide solid lines of type to meet the needs of the newspaper industry.)

Monotype, with its vast experience in Arabic script languages, had maintained its hold on the market after phototypesetting technology began replacing the hot metal equipment in 1960s, using its typefaces of the earlier days in the new technology. To make Nasta’lique available was, however, still very difficult. The technology developed for the Chinese language was adequate for Nasta’lique also but there were not enough commercial prospects to justify the needed investment.

The basic requirement for producing a Nasta’lique font was the calligraphy on separate cards of all possible ligatures, which could be combined to produce words required for all types of work in Urdu. Ahmad Jameel offered to do the design work on ligatures on his own and at his own cost, leaving only scanning and subsequent steps to the firm’s engineers.

The task was so demanding and laborious that even the best Urdu calligraphists were either not capable or were not willing to do it. Consequently, helped by his artistic background, Jameel himself painstakingly did the calligraphy of 18,000 ligatures for his script, which he named “Noori Nasta’lique,” after his calligraphist and artist father, Noor Ahmad. The script was formally unveiled on December 6, 1980. Still, as experience showed, there were words for which no ligatures had been provided in the font. It was quite ironical that in such cases the machine was programmed to switch automatically to the Naskh script, proving the superiority of the character-based script. (The company kept on adding ligatures for new or missed words as the customers pointed out the omissions, especially in newspapers.)

Despite Jameel’s financial contribution, the investment of the company on the development work was so large that a single machine cost Rs 6,000,000, and that too CIF Karachi, before payment of any customs duties. (In comparison, a phototypesetting machine with Naskh for Urdu cost about one-fifth, even after payment of all duties and taxes.) Still there appeared on the scene an enthusiastic buyer for the Monotype machine. Mir Khalil-ur-Rehman, the founder and owner of the Jang Group of newspapers, was very keen to use the Noori Nasta’lique for the new edition from Lahore of his flagship “Jang” newspaper, started in October 1981. His experience at the Karachi edition had made him search for an alternative to the calligraphists, whom he considered no longer worth the money they were paid, nor able to meet the speed requirements of the modern newspaper production.

There were, however, few other takers of the expensive new technology. According to newspaper reports, the Government was persuaded to exempt the first 10 machines from customs duties and taxes and buy some machines for its own printing organizations. The tax-free machines were sold ultimately but there was no further demand.

A cheaper version. The demand for Nasta’lique at an affordable cost persuaded some young computer engineers to break the protection code of the Noori Nasta’lique and make the software available clandestinely on personal computers at a fraction of the price of the original. Monotype, faced with no further demand for its product, marketed a more affordable version but met with limited success.

When the personal computers practically took over the input work for typesetting, an Indian affiliate of Monotype developed a software package for Urdu, called “InPage,” which is marketed by Monotype and is used on its typesetting machines for output on film. Monotype, which has the copyright on Noori Nasta’lique font, allowed it to be incorporated into InPage. A “dongle” or hardware protection was added to prevent piracy. Its high price, however, tempted the hackers and a pirated version is now available at less than Rs 50.

InPage provides only the basic features of a word processing program. It pales before the sophisticated software for English, such as Microsoft Word, though its price is quite high (about US$350). While the firm will expect a substantial market to justify further investment on a major revision of the current version, the buyers will want a price that is in keeping with their own purchasing power. A customer in a developing country cannot afford to pay a price what may be justifiable in a country like the US. The dilemma may continue, with only some corporate users (like newspaper and magazine publishers) buying the authorized InPage, while others going for the pirated version.

Monotype, as a commercial organization, is naturally not happy over the situation. It may want to improve and promote the software but cannot make the required investment unless there are good prospects for a reasonable return. The position of other word processing packages for Urdu is about the same or worse. They face the same vicious circle: high price, low sales, small return on investment, low funds for further research and development.

Ahmad Jameel is probably the only relevant person who is not unhappy! He did not make any money to begin with. (In fact, he spent a lot of his own money on the project.) And the lack of substantial sales due to piracy does not offer better prospects for the future. But he is happy that his creation is serving the Urdu language. He said in a recent magazine interview that he was satisfied that his labor of love contributed to the use of Nasta’lique in Urdu publications.

The fall of Naskh. The dominance of Nasta’lique for Urdu would have ended but for a reversal caused by the impromptu action of the head of the government in 1984. Twenty years earlier, President Ayub Khan called a meeting of the experts and sought their opinion on making Naskh the official script. Ayub Khan himself was in its favor for three reasons:
a) As the country was entirely Muslim, every child learnt to read the Holy Qur’an. Since the holy book was always in Naskh, a child would have no difficulty in learning to read Urdu if it was also written in Naskh.
b) Since the regional languages were written in Naskh, the use of the same script would bring the national language closer to them.
c) The use of Naskh would create greater affinity with the Arab countries, which used the same script. (Pakistan International Airlines uses Naskh in its logo, causing a positive impact on the Arabs and other Muslims.)

The reasons, and that too coming from an army man, impressed the experts, as stated by Ishfaque Ahmad, a great writer and intellectual, and a participant of the meeting. The experts had their own reasons in favor of Naskh:
a) It allowed the addition of diacritical marks (zer, zabar, pesh), essential for correct pronunciation by children and newly literates;
b) It enabled the use of the more efficient and economical printing typesetting equipment, developed for Arabic and other languages;
c) It provided a variety of type styles for graphic designs, like other character-based fonts;
d) It could allow input of Urdu into the computers (which were mainly mainframes and minis at that time).

With the approval of the experts, the decision was taken to adopt Naskh for Urdu in all official uses. It applied also to all textbooks for schools and colleges. The decision, unfortunately, remained confined to the government. Its adoption was voluntary for the private sector. Since calligraphists were quite economical and available in abundance in those days, even the publishers of major newspapers did not purchase the phototypesetting equipment for Naskh. The same applied to publishers of magazines and books. And most calligraphists, who were trained only in Nasta’lique, were not willing to devote time and effort to learn and practice Naskh.

Consequently, while all children had their books only in Naskh, the readers of daily newspapers, magazines and general books saw only Nasta’lique. The Government did not realize the consequences of the dichotomy and allowed it to continue. Ultimately, the rising wages of the calligraphists and the falling prices of the phototypesetting equipment would have forced the private publishers to switch over to Naskh if the Noori Nasta’lique had not emerged in early 1980s – and another army man had not reversed the decision of his predecessor.

Gen. Zia-ul-Haq had great respect for teachers. In 1984, an old teacher complained to him that “the handwriting of children had deteriorated drastically after the adoption of Naskh for their textbooks.” For him there was no alternative to Nasta’lique and he suggested the reversal of Ayub Khan’s policy. (The teacher failed to realize that all languages written in the Arabic script had different styles for printing and handwriting, just as the Latin script languages do, and the children and others would evolve their own in due course of time.) With no ideas of his own, Gen. Zia promptly agreed. Without allowing a debate on the subject and consulting experts, he reintroduced Nasta’lique in all official uses, including textbooks.

The need to return to Naskh for use in computers is still pressing. At the same time, it is easier to meet it. Now, after years of development, Microsoft Windows XP and Office XP provide full support to Urdu in Naskh script. As a result, we can use the very advanced features of the software, for not only word processing but also database, spreadsheet, etc. The Urdu users can enjoy the same facilities that are available for English worldwide.

President Gen. Pervez Musharraf has brought about major reforms since he took over. He may undo the harm caused by the thoughtless reversal of policy and reintroduce Naskh as the official script for all purposes, including education, science and technology. The private sector may also be asked to switch over to Naskh. With the use of coputers, it should be only a matter of pressing a few keys.