Sunday, March 19, 2017

President Trump in the Midst of Crises

 March 19, 2017

By Saeed Qureshi

President Donlad Trump’s advent in the political arena from an entirely non-political and business background and winning the presidency of the United States is a unique phenomenon. Lately he has owed this brilliant achievement to his Tweeting obsession.  Yet strangely he is engulfed in a massive tsunami and colossal plethora of crises, scandals and controversies. Following the oath taking on February 2 this year, he has already stashed away 59 days out of the first 100 day in office. He is left with 49 days from today onwards to set the things rights. Thus, far president Trump has signed 17 executive orders and 12 memoranda some of which are either challenged or repudiated both by the people and the government agencies. 

The cardinal truth is that Donald Trump is a sincere person but his temperament is not. He is an economic wizard and mostly he has not been politically correct or earnest. Compromise, conciliations or bending backwards are not part of his political strategy or mindset. He excels and relishes in rebukes, retaliations and spurring non-issues as big issues. Once he takes a stand whether right or wrong, he sticks to it no matter what could be the ground realities and consequences.

Even a novice and nincompoop politician would not antagonize the press and judiciary. Yet he went aggressively in denouncing both the media and the judiciary because they differed with his executive orders and projections. United States is truly a democratic state where press, judiciary and other institutions play their roles honestly and truthfully although in Media there are always pro and anti-establishment views. But that is what is required of the media in any country.

Some of these executive orders have become highly controversial and subject to the scrutiny of the senate and the house. The replacement of Obamacare (known as Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), is already being opposed on countrywide scale through long marches and even otherwise. Of late there is some compromise demonstrated by president himself and his advisors to retain some provisions of the Obamacare in the original draft of their healthcare plan. The Trump administration is deliberating on replacement of Obamacare with the "World's Greatest Healthcare Plan of 2017". This plan has been sponsored by Pete Sessions; the current chairman of the House Rules Committee.  According to Reuter’s report, “Republicans remain deeply divided over their U.S. healthcare overhaul, which is Trump's first major legislative initiative and aims to fulfill his campaign pledge to repeal and replace the healthcare program (known as Obamacare) of his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama.”

The cabinet appointments have become controversial. Trump’s National Security Advisor Retired Army Lieutenant General, Michael T. Flynn had to resign for misleading key government’s top officials, media and the people about the nature of his telecommunication contacts with the Russian diplomats. Flynn remained as the National Security Advisor just for 24 days which is the shortest in the history of the office.

President Trump’s appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions had to step aside from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for president of the United States. Attorney General Jeff Sessions came under intense scrutiny after reports surfaced that he had contacts with Russian government officials during the 2016 Presidential election. Neil Gorsuch the newly appointed judge on the supreme court panel will have to go through a grueling session tomorrow (at the Capitol Hill for his confirmation hearings)

Trump’s tweeted allegation of wiretapping of the Trump Tower against his predecessor Barack Obama should have been a non-issue and could even be baseless as being commonly believed. This allegation has put Trump in a tight corner because it is not a small allegation. It is a manifestation of distrust about his successor president Obama. Apparently, nothing could be far-fetched that this allegation which has already been refuted by FBI and other concerned agencies as hollow of truth. It is being conjectured that president Trump hurled this charge to deflect the public attention from other controversial issues

The downslide of president Trump’s package of reforms started with the Immigration Executive Order banning immigrants from 7 Islamic countries which later was reduced to six countries. That put the judiciary and the president face to face with each. Judiciary came to the rescue of the crowds of stranded immigrants on the American airports. Mercifully A federal judge in Seattle James Robart moved to rescue thousands of stranded individuals and families by placing a nationwide block on Trump’s week-old executive order. Despite that, president trump intends to fight back in favor of his immigration ban though by making some minor changes.

The other controversial issues that have surfaced are president Trump’s personal business relations with Russians especially president Putin. His family’s business and the involvement of -president Trump in that is yet another sticking point that might come to fore in due course of time.

Despite transferring his business to his sons and even wife, the questions would be raised if he is still influencing the business in favor of their family and partners. The sex scandals related to president Trump are still on the back burner. But if the affected women pursue such cases there might be another judicial fight to rescue himself from these true or untrue accusations

The most outstanding issue is the hacking of 2016 presidential elections. God forbid if behind the door links of cohorts of the president and even himself are proved then one could imagine the serious consequences emanating from such an outcome. The hacking of the 2016 elections mostly blamed on Russian hackers in favor president Trump is the trickiest issue that could tilt either way.

While wishing president Trump well and his continuation in the prestigious office of the president of United States, one would doubt that all the cases or allegations against him would prove to be false and he can continue with his road map of strengthening America in all respects. In the meantime, let us watch as to what happens to this legal and constitutional battling that might continue for quite some time.  Finally, he should not depend too much on tweeting. This is mostly the pastime of the young generation and should not be overly used to convey political matters and decisions, all the more for the president of a mighty country.  

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Lawrence College Ghora Gali in the Hindsight-Part 2

A Chapter from my upcoming Book: I was Born at Taxila

March 12, 2017
By Saeed Qureshi
Lawrence College is one of the illustrious and the most prestigious residential educational institutions in the sub-continent. The other such educational institutions are Petaro Military College in Punjab, Sarai Aalamgir College in Jhelum Punjab, Petaro in Sindh province and Cadet College at Hasan Abdal near the capital of Pakistan Islamabad.
Lawrence College at Ghora Gali is a place some ten miles short of actual city of Murree and isolated in the maze of thick forests for which one had to traverse an ascending serpentine road on foot. There was another bus stop before the actual stop of Bansra Gali. It was Ghora Gali. Although the college carries the name of Ghora Gali, in effect it is built along the Bansra Gali road which branches off from the main highway between Islamabad and the Murree Hills.
The distance between Ghora Gali and Bansra Gali should be about 6 miles. Being totally unaware of the environment and the real destination. On my first visit for the initial interview I mistakenly alighted at Ghora Gali and went into a forest rest house that was quite far my actual destination. There I was told by someone about location of the Lawrence college. Then I came to know that I had landed at a wrong place.
There was another detour from behind the hills of Bansra Gali than ran through the Murree Brewery buildings destroyed during the 1947 partition fiasco. It was situated between Ghora Gali and Bansra Gali. The burned building still looked silhouetted along the slopes of the ridge. It was steep climb up for about two hours. When one would reach the precincts of the Famous College it would be first the senior school that he or she would see before him. Murree Brewery was later recommissioned and is ever since making Beer which is called “Murree Brewery Beer”.
Lawrence College was one of most sought after educational institutions for the parents for a variety of reasons. It offered serene, healthy and unpolluted atmosphere to the residents. It was panoramic and resplendent with natural beauty. It was isolated from the din and noise of the cities. It was residential and was established in the finest traditions of the British educational systems.
Since 1860 to the present year 2017(157 years) there have been 29 principals of the college. The college is run on the military pattern with houses to be commanded by each house master. The Principal is the head of the institution. Administratively the college is controlled by a Board of Governors. The Governor of the Punjab is the Chairman of the Board of Governors. There is also an executive committee whose chairman is the GOC of the 12th infantry division stationed at the city of Murree.
The college is divided into three sections. Each section is called school and has a separate head, self-contained buildings and a separate geographical entity. Since the whole building network and structures are built on the slope of the mountain ridge, these are in separation physical locations. On top is the junior school that is headed by a female principal. The Preparatory school is in the middle and is run by a headmaster.
The senior section which is situated in the lowest part of the mountain is a much larger building It is also headed by a headmaster. On top is the principal whose office at the senior school section. The classes at the junior school are from I to IV. This section caters for the age group 5 ½ to 9 ½ years and is headed by a Headmistress. In my time, there were 12 mistresses and 4 matrons. It prepares boys for the Preparatory School.
The classes in preparatory school are from V to VII. This section caters for the age group 9 ½ to 12 ½ years and is headed by a Headmaster. There were 8 Masters and 2 Mistresses and Matrons when I served there. At the end of class VII Promotion Examination the students pass out to go into the Senior School, Organization of house system forms the basis of all curricular and extra-curricular activities. The boys develop house affiliation and have a keen sense of competition.
Houses have independent common rooms. They have their organized excursions and inter-house competitions in sports, academics, debates, social activities and plays. The four houses that came into being in 1920 were named after the most distinguished principals. Their names are Witwhick, Wright, Peake, and Walker. In 1973 these names changed to Babar, Iqbal, Tipu and Jinnah that remained in vogue until 2010 when again the previous names were restored. its name was changed to Pine Hills College in 1973, Ghora Gali College in 1979 and then back to Lawrence College Ghora Gali Murree in 1986.
The teaching staff is provided free accommodation within the precincts of the college. Those who cannot cook at home can eat at the Staff Club. The Staff Club provides indoor and outdoor facilities such as snooker and bridge game and tennis courts. Each school has its own catering system with a banquet hall where the students assemble three times in a day: in the morning for breakfast, noon time for lunch and in the evening for dinner. 
The school bus would take the staff members to Murree each weekend for shopping and for a free time to sip tea or eat out at the restaurants. This trek which is all steep ascension for about 6 miles is surrounded by lush green pine hill trees on both sides and replete with breath taking natural beauty. The return downward journey is also steep.
Like most of the houses in Murree Hills the houses, the barracks and rooms, are erected from the wooden planks. There were some houses also made from bricks and stones and offered to the senior teachers. The main buildings are all in the original shape and look majestic and imposing and remind one of the colonial grandeur of the British monarchy and height of glory. There is a specious convention hall for holding functions from banquets to literary events such as Mushaira and debates.
Countless alumnae of Lawrence college attained distinctions and fame in their respective fields later in life.  Some of these luminaries are Gen. Shamim Alam Khan, Lt. Gen. Khan, Zafarullah (former Prime Minister), Khan, Mumtaz Bhutto, Aftab Sherpao, Shahid,Sarfraz Bugatti,Gulgee, Ikram and Ayaz Amir.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Michael Flynn followed by Jeff Sessions

March 4, 2017

By Saeed Qureshi

It is a soothing news that the U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has decided to “step aside from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for president of the United States”. He made this announcement at a hastily called news conference held at the Justice Department today.  Attorney General Jeff Sessions came under intense scrutiny after reports surfaced that he had contacts with Russian government officials during the 2016 Presidential election.

Session’s main problem is that he is alleged to have met with Russian senior officials and the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in United States during the 2016 elections. It is basically an issue of ethics, truthfulness and integrity that in the first instance why Sessions kept this meeting secret.

Secondly in response to the questions by the press reporters and the other competent authorities, he denied of having any meetings with the Russian diplomats. Then he further changed his stance by pleading that these were harmless contacts and that the security of United States was not compromised during those backdoor parleys.

The relevant questions that come to a layman’s mind are the following:

Did he meet the Russian ambassador during the 2016 presidential elections?

When did he meet?

why did he meet him?

What was discussed?

Has that meeting impacted upon the national interest of United States or the 2016 elections?

Why did he hide earlier that he didn’t meet the Russian ambassador until it was disclosed by the Washington Post?

What can be the implications for him for hiding a high-level meeting with the ambassador of an enemy country and later acknowledging it when it came out?

Meeting clandestinely, with Russians and all the more with diplomats raises many questions as Russia is not a friend or strategic ally of United States. This event also has embarrassed the new administration under president Donlad Trump. Already Trump administration is faced with a host of crises. President’s tongue lashing has been very severe and hard against the media as well the judiciary. The media plays its role objectively, irrespective whether the people in the power corridors were pleased or annoyed.

The American press and for that matter media in any society plays the vital role in highlighting the achievements and drawbacks of the state institutions. Therefore, it acts as a watchdog to safeguard the democratic and constitutional fabric of the society as well as conduct of the rulers, state employees and state institutions.

President Trump’s denunciation of the media as “dishonest” and “enemy of the people” are highly toxic and overly distasteful verdicts about the press and the journalists.

Session’s controversy was preceded by another similar incident involving Trump’s National Security Advisor Retired Army Lieutenant General, Michael T. Flynn. Flynn had to resign for misleading key government’s top officials, media and the people about the nature of his telecommunication contacts with the Russian diplomats. Flynn remained as the National Security Advisor just for 24 days which is the shortest in the history of the office.

Flynn has been replaced by Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster as his new National Security Adviser. President made this announcement today at his Mar-a-Lago getaway in Palm Beach, Fla., where he had been interviewing candidates to replace Flynn.   

While president Trump’s policy announcements, promulgated through the executive orders have either remained unfulfilled or viewed as impracticable, the issue of secret meetings of the two top ranking members of his cabinet is exceedingly serious and fraught with dire fallout.  It might turn to be an “Achilles Heel” for the present administration in case the charge is proved that somehow Russia was involved in the hacking of the 2016 elections in support of Donlad Trump and against his democratic rival Madam Hillary Clinton.

The American press both print and Media have joined hands in painting a totally negative image and unsuitable temperament of Trump as the president of the United States of America. He is under constant scathing censure of the press except Fox Television Channel which favors a radical right leaning administration including the incumbent one, no matter how dysfunctional those could be.

It ought to be an utmost and crucial urgency for president Donald Trump and his administration as well as the retinue of advisors and cabinet members to reset their sails of governance. Instead of embarking upon the path of belligerency and confrontation and vitriolic rebuttals, they should be moderate, sober and accommodating and rather discrete in lowering and softening their headstrong outbursts and uncalled-for rebukes and retaliations.

American Press has seldom been against or critical of any government or individuals unless there are valid reasons and grounds for that. If a leader calls the media as “dishonest” and “enemy of the people”, then he or she cannot expect bouquets of flowers in return.

The press can be rebuked or contradicted when there is a need to correct news reports or editorials or opinion columns. Yet to characterize media and journalists as an assemblage of dishonest people is certainly neither wise nor factual. It is the right and role of the press to criticize and analyze what they believe was right or wrong for the people and the country. But the stigmas of enmity and dishonesty is exceedingly lethal and insidious insinuation.

As far the Russian involvement in manipulating the 2016 American presidential elections is concerned, it would be indeed in the best national interest as well as for the clearance of Trump administration from this blame is to order a high-level probe.  That would help clear the mystery of the backdoor role of the Russians in connivance with the Trump and his associates in winning the 2016 elections. Tagged with this is also the issue of role of the American individuals or groups involved in that yet to be resolved rigmarole.  

The details of the alleged Russian involvement in American elections and even president Trump’s personal links with Russian are yet to become public and be clarified. But if the insinuation proves right then it could be quite embarrassing for the incumbent administration of United States and personally for president Donald Trump

Thursday, March 2, 2017

More Provinces in Pakistan

February 24, 2017

By Saeed Qureshi

Pakistan must have as many more provinces as possible. The existing four provinces are like four states within a state. These four big administrative units create regional and provincial friction bordering on hatred. Ever since the creation of Pakistan, one of the overriding hurdles in the way of coveted national cohesion and unity are these administrative elephantine units that vie and remain at loggerheads with each other. With a separate language of each province, the four separate nationalities look conspicuously distinct. Besides it creates communication barriers between the people with less or no knowledge of the national language Urdu.
The fruits of devolution of powers are universally known for balanced and effective development of both rural and urban areas of a country on one side and the backward and advanced areas on the other. In big units as we have in Pakistan, the major chunks of allocation of funds go to those cities or towns where the politicians or the members of the parliament come from.
Even otherwise in Pakistan, the rural development has remained mostly neglected as most of the funds are spent in the urban settlements. For better utilization of resources and quick development, more provinces should be created. The long-standing demands for decentralization of power should be actually fulfilled by transferring more powers to the provinces and from provinces to the local bodies.
Through 18th amendment passed by National Assembly of Pakistan on April 8, 2010, the president (then Asif Ali Zardari) relinquished a significant part of presidential powers willingly and transferred them to parliament and the office of the prime minister. Yet the provinces were not empowered enough nor creation of more provinces was considered.
Unfortunately, due to rampant corruption and lack of effective accountability, the funds are misused and misappropriated. The development projects sometimes, exist on the paper only. The quality of work on building roads and other projects in Pakistan is woefully inferior. The oversight and strict compliance of codes and regulations are, more often than not, violated and breached with connivance of the bureaucracy and government officials.
The scams, scandals, nepotism and favoritism play a dominant role in awarding contracts, permits and lucrative licenses to the friends, and kith of the party members, bureaucrats, feudal lords and politicians. Such blatant favoritism is shown also to those who grease the palms of the members of the officialdom, bureaucracy and the parliament members. The social and civic development remains largely confined to the big cities or to the areas of the influential individuals. The people have to travel all the way to the provincial capitals to meet the provincial assembly members at a big financial cost and time.
Even after 60 years of its existence, Pakistan is devoid of highways between major cities and an efficient railway system. The people suffer from poor, inadequate or deficient civic utilities. The political chaos takes it pernicious toll on the quality of life. The paramount goals of sustained water and power supply, solid waste disposal, provision of health, education, orderly traffic and good transportation that are components of good city management and a smooth civic life, have remained woefully unrealized. The quality of life in Pakistan is abysmally low.
Bangladesh (that separated from the West Pakistan in 1971), despite being much smaller in area (56000 sq. miles to 340000 sq. miles of Pakistan), has 6 provinces and 64 districts. Bangladesh has a system of distribution of resources and funds for development that is much transparent, grass root and effective than Pakistan because the money is spread over more administrative units and therefore is spent on a vast area. India has 28 provinces and 610 districts. In comparison Pakistan has four big federating units and only 127 districts.
It would be a breakthrough, giant and milestone step forward if the present four provinces are partitioned into smaller provinces. The inhabitants of the new provinces would benefit in the following manner:


  1. They won’t look up to the provincial capitals and the politicians sitting there to send them the funds.
  2. With the decentralization and devolution of powers, the people of smaller units can make their own decisions locally and undertake the development and progress that they deem suitable.
  3. It would create more sense of participation by people because of more provincial governments and political freedom.
More provinces will lessen the prevailing acrimony and mutual apprehensions and tension among the four existing provinces. It would readily assuage the sense of deprivation and discrimination nursed by the smaller provinces against the big province which in this case is Punjab.
At present provinces of Balochistan, Sindh, KP (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), harbor a host of grievances against Punjab for taking more share of funds to the undue use of water as well as because of the army whose bulk comes from Punjab. Punjab is the target of complaints and grudge of other provinces for being a privileged province as was West Pakistan compared to the former East Pakistan.
East Pakistan’s cessation (for Bengalis independence) could have been averted if the Eastern wing of Pakistan had been fairly and equitably treated. Similar kind of threat and danger of disintegration looms over Pakistan now and which can be averted or removed if more provinces are carved out of the existing ones.
The creation of more provinces would meet demands of many regions with common language and ethnic bonds for giving them a status of a province.  For instance, the creation of the Saraiki and Hazara provinces are the long-standing demand of the people of these areas. The population of Hazara region wants to separate from the Pushto speaking parts of PK because their language is Pahari, a dialect mix of Pushto and Punjabi.
Saraiki speaking people want to have a separate province because they look different from both Sindh and Punjab as for their language and culture is concerned. The FATA (the federally administered tribal areas) can be converted into a separate province. The valleys of Chitral, Swat, Hunza, and Dir each can also be given separate status of provinces.
Considerations such as common folklore, common language or dialect, common ethnic and cultural milieu and administrative efficiency should be kept in view with regard to the creation of more provinces. As earlier pointed out, the increase in the number of provinces would help alleviate the inter-provincial friction that so apparently exists now between the four provinces.
As enshrined in the constitution of Pakistan, it is time to give the promised autonomy to the provinces. While the provincial autonomy is a persistent demand and is the constitutional right of the provinces, the powers in the concurrent list that are due to provinces should be transferred to is indeed a priority issue which the sooner is resolved, the better it would be for the harmonious relationship between provinces and federation on one hand and between the federating units on the other.
Once the question of creation of more provinces and transfer of the promised powers to the provinces is addressed, the stability of Pakistan can be guaranteed. Otherwise the clash of interests would keep the center and provinces in mutual bickering and feuding. The break-away feelings and insurgency that is going on in Balochistan can be nailed and quelled, once and for all, if the constitutional obligation of devolution of powers to provinces is fulfilled.
There can be a quid-pro-quo in sharing powers with the provinces. But essentially as is the practice and custom in other federations around the world, most of the powers must reside with the constituent geographical units. United States of America is one country where such a remarkable model for division of powers is in vogue. The states (provinces) are almost independent in running their local governments even to the extent of having direct commercial and business deals with other countries. This model can be followed in Pakistan as far as possible.
The provincial autonomy once given would relieve the center of the bureaucratic over-lordship. The function of the center would be to make policy decisions and with the coordination of the provinces implement these. The shifting of most of the ministries to the provincial domain would alleviate enormous administrative and financial load on the center.
As such it is also in the interest of the center to go ahead with the settlement of the lingering question of provincial autonomy (already partly given) which together with the creation of more provinces would catapult the much-coveted paradigm of good governance in Pakistan. Such a landmark decision would undoubtedly put Pakistan on the road to economic prosperity and socio- political stability.