Original Articles

Pakistani Media: Of floods, facts and fiction!! – by Saad Mansoor

Related article: What Pakistan did right in response to the massive floods in 2010 – by C. Christine Fair

The floods that wreaked havoc in the country were of Biblical proportions, however, they compare nothing to the propaganda unleashed upon the political ruling class of the current setup by the independent media.

To the average urban Pakistani, now it is high time that we do away with this ‘incompetent regime’ which has failed to deliver the masses. The civilian leaders are a paradigm of corruption and worse, simply disinterested.

Their conviction is only strengthened when their ever so sincere media relays pictures of their even braver saviors who have come around to rescue those caught in the calamity. How shall we ever repay them (may I suggest some more plots in DHA), bellow anchors invoking the guilt of the educated middle class, not unlike in manner to a chain message which predicts bad fortune and God’s wrath upon those who will not pass them along to at least ten people.

The media, print and electronic alike have plunged into a 24/7 mission to tarnish the image of the present government led by the Pakistan Peoples Party and as always feign ignorance and surprise when someone points it out. Obviously if you give arguments for your case the media would either censor it altogether or go into a mad uproar. All the channels would instantaneously come to the rescue of their fraternity despite their utter yellow journalistic attitudes and sensationalizing of issues.

President Zardari went on a trip to Europe and media had a blast criticizing him for ten days. The visit’s coverage clearly exceeded that of the floods on most channels and it was condemned across the board. But then, he came back and started visiting the flood affected areas. The opposition and anger started subsiding and soon the establishment had realized the folly of its campaign against Asif Ali Zardari. As it dawned on it that the real beneficiary of the event had become the Sharif brothers and even PM Gilani who were visiting the flood affected areas and taking personal part in the rescue efforts. Thus a new set of instructions were evidently dispatched to all the news channels.

The folly they realized was that it was imperative that people should lose faith in the entire political leadership. The campaign against PPP, was presenting PML-N as an alternative, hence more democracy and a sentiment to oust the government through the ballot box, be it mid-term or full term elections. This was unacceptable, as democratic traditions must be prevented from taking roots at all costs. The consistently held by-polls have done enough damage an ouster of government through election would have pulled the curtain of Martial Law Take 5 before it has been raised.

As if on cue, all footage of the Sharif brothers was taken off air. The pictures of Shahbaz Sharif touring the affected areas, suspending DCOs and admonishing officers while the senior Sharif made his way down the country were given a thumbs down. The PML-N joined PPP in being blamed for unpreparedness, lack of coordination and corruption previously unmatched. The media started questioning the credibility of government day and night, and than expressed amusement why the present government lacks credibility.

To them the present government is corrupt, but no proof is provided, except that international institutions say so. Transparency International’s ranking for the level of perceived corruption in Pakistan for years 2007,2008 and 2009 are 138, 134 and 139. The score hovering between 2.4 and 2.5 thus practically same as the previous regime, so what international organization is media getting its statistics from? Columnists and shamefully a few very esteemed ones have joined in calling for the appropriated national wealth to be returned by the politicians like Nawaz and Zardari who have assets of $ 1.4 and $1.8 billion respectively. No one knows where did the figures come from? They are certainly not on the list of Forbes billionaires, and their wealth statement does not say so, yet media slips in these figures continuously.

Through out the day private television channels are out on a crusade to malign the political setup. The first page of most newspapers talks about government’s lack of efforts. They blame the government for being unable to provide people with relief. The inadequacy of relief is a fact, what is fiction is that the reason for the inadequacy of relief is government’s slackness and ill-will. When the deputy speaker of the National Assembly spoke on a talk show that they had ten thousand tents in Dera Ismail Khan and require 37,000 more; the anchor delved into the usual drone about incapability of government.

The inadequacy of tents, food items and other amenities is that no country in the world has resources tied up in stocking tents for sheltering 20 million people. Hence, D.I.Khan got only 20% of tents it required because the tents in stock have to be distributed evenly across the affected areas.

Media fails to see any government efforts in the casualties in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa being over thousand, where as the death toll in more densely populated Punjab and Sindh being 105 and 44. Obviously the credit for that goes to the saviors of the nation not the politicians. Their eagerness to avoid any pictures of the elected representatives means that apart from talk shows and the advertisements the government officials can be barely seen in news. What good would Salman Taseer ensuring relief efforts in Punjab do? Or the pictures of Qaim Ali Shah convincing hundreds of farmers that their land would be safe and it has been ensured that the records are safe with the thappedars? Or Faisal Karim Kundi, Hina Rabbani Khar, Khursheed Shah, Zulfikar Mirza, Pervaiz Rasheed, Zulfikar Khosa and hundreds of other office bearers who are personally present in the flood hit areas.

Deprived of any footage of laid back ministers or partying political elites, a new round of allegations was launched. Reports that various dikes had been broken purposefully for saving the lands of eminent few. With the land of Bhuttos and Zardaris ie Larkano and Nawabshah inundated by floods they continue to report such stories.

The new darling of the channels to support their argument is the former Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Jamali. While his docility may have earned him a few nods of respect, his appearance on various talk shows and brutal distortion of facts could not be further from truth. He alleged and the media advocated how certain specific dikes were systematically cut so the farmlands of the Jhakranis and their corruption in the construction of Shahbaz Air Base can be can be saved. Obviously he was not asked that what did he do to curb such corruption when he became Prime Minister during the course of such construction, which please note was carried by the Americans themselves. Despite lack of proof or sense, Jamali sahab continues to appear on air disseminating false information among the general public.

The impact of media’s biased and falsified reporting of events is evident in the low local response to the PM Gilani as well as CM Shahbaz Sharif’s fund for flood victims. While the media continues to mold opinions in the living rooms of urban cadre, the distressed and affected can see for themselves who is present around them. An analyst once commented that the biggest problem of a dictator is that he does not have a constituency, sorry for the future aspirants the people of Muzaffargarh would vote for Jamshed Dasti again because he was with them in their time of need, so were Ijaz Jhakrani, Khursheed Shah and Faisal Karim Kundi.

While the politicians of the nation are beleaguered by the media, judiciary and establishment, they have done well to stay in their constituencies for all to see them present in person. The meeting of political leaders at all levels, the end to hostile statements in general and convening of the National Disaster Management Commission are all steps in the right direction. By declaring its allegiances openly the media has only imitated the Japanese at the Pearl Harbour, “they have won a great tactical victory and thereby lost a war.”

Tail piece: In yet another talk show a caller lamented the construction quality of bridges and roads destroyed (22 of 25 bridges in Swat were washed away), calling upon the Army to oversee the rebuilding and quality control. If only the poor soul knew that most of these bridges were in fact build by the NLC and FWO in the first place.

Originally Published at Green Goat’s Hide.

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  • Very interesting analysis. It’s sad that this sort of rebuttal doesn’t get any coverage in the Western media. All we hear is a summary of the opposition, saying “Don’t donate to the government, they are corrupt. Here’s a list of decent non-government organizations..”

  • According to the UN, 13.8 million people are affected due to the floods. It is said that the number of affected is greater than of the earthquake in 2005. After the destructive earthquake the response of the nation was exemplary. This time the media and other publishing institutions are not playing their role to awaken the nation and portraying the bitter situation of Pakistan. Even in such testing times one of the most famous private news channels worked on its personal agenda and went on criticizing Zardari’s visit and government activities. I think the entire nation is well aware of the fact that Zardari’s visit was crucial for two major reasons, one to save Pakistan from Isolation and second to mobilize the world to do something practical for Pakistan. It is time for the media and all the nation to stand together and appeal the world to help Pakistan.

  • Pakistan’s floodridden lands are crying out for political change – but can Jamshed Dasti bring it?
    Jamshed Dasti, controversial 30-year-old upstart, says he will end feudalism, but others say he’s just an opportunist. In the second of a four-part series, Declan Walsh meets him


    Declan Walsh in Muzaffargarh
    guardian.co.uk, Sunday 3 October 2010 22.00 BST
    Article history

    Declan Walsh travels through Punjab where the swollen waters of the Indus river have devastated the breadbasket of Pakistan and the livelihoods it supports Link to this video
    As Jamshed Dasti, a brash young Pakistani politician, drives through the flood-devastated farmlands of southern Punjab, a crowd swarms around his gleaming black Jeep. Desperate faces press against the glass, begging for help. Dasti leaps out.

    It is chaotic. A blind woman assails him, touching his face and shouting her troubles. A mother drags him into a tent to see her sick son, who has no medicine. A turbaned old man yells abuse about the local landlord. An argument erupts. “You’re just a beggar!” one man yells at his neighbour. Dasti intervenes to make peace.

    Otherwise, though, he works the crowd like a veteran – squeezing countless hands, listening to complaints, making promises, slipping 1,000 rupee (£7.50) notes into palms. Then he steps back into the car and leans out of the door. “I am here to bring change,” he shouts above the din. The people burst into applause.

    Muzaffargarh in southern Punjab is Pakistan’s farming heartland, a fertile belt along the river Indus that produces a cornucopia of crops – wheat, rice and cotton, Pakistan’s main cash export. Now it is in crisis. Since floods devastated the area last month, the riverine economy has been decimated.

    The floods inundated rice fields just as they were to be harvested. In many places the cotton picking season, due to start this month, has been cancelled. Weddings, which normally follow the cotton harvest, are also off. “Nobody has the money to get married. Or the houses,” says one man.

    Dasti, a controversial 30-year-old political upstart, says this broken land is ready for political change. Muzaffargarh is dominated by several large landowning families, known as “feudals” in Pakistan. At the height of the floods, Dasti says, some feudals used their influence to divert the floodwaters away from selected lands, thereby inundating the poor. “They only care for themselves,” he says.

    It is a politically resonant charge that, in the aftermath of Pakistan’s worst floods in decades, could cause the poor to reject their rural overlords, Dasti believes. “The feudals have enslaved the people for generations,” he says. “I am here to set them free.”

    It is not likely to be so simple. Such accusations, which have also been made in Sindh, remain unproven and are mired in local rivalries. “Dasti is just an opportunist, an accidental politician. He only pretends to be poor,” says Ahmed Yar Hanjra, one of the feudals targeted by Dasti’s accusations.

    Many feudals lost their land, even their houses, to the swollen Indus waters. A judicial commission has been established to investigate the claims; a high court judge is due to start collecting evidence in Muzaffargarh tomorrow.

    What is certain, though, is that Dasti’s rhetoric is tapping into a powerful sense of disillusionment among hard-hit farming families. Not far from Hanjra’s house lies Chah Muslim Wallah, a 40-house village swamped by an overflowing irrigation canal. It now resembles a bizarre beach resort: the retreating waters left behind a deep layer of fine sand that covers the once-fertile land.

    The bewildered villagers, living in tents pitched on the sandy plain, are wondering what to do next. “We had rice under here, about to be harvested,” says one man, poking the sand with a stick. “At dawn, I was a wealthy man. At dusk I was the poorest person, with no house, no wheat – nothing,” laments another.

    The farmers say it could take several seasons to clear the sand and start farming again. In the meantime, they have no money or housing, just a couple of rope beds and cooking pots stowed inside the tents. Asked how he will survive, Riaz Hussain points a finger to the sky. “Allah,” he says.

    The villagers say they feel abandoned. Soldiers and revenue officials came to visit and take photos, an old woman says. Nobody returned. Only the mail service is working, but that brings bitter news. One man, standing near the ruins of his home, holds up a newly arrived electricity bill. “It’s like a joke,” he says.

    The villagers blame Hanjra, the local landowner, for manipulating the flow of water through the Taunsa barrage – a giant structure spanning the Indus two miles away – in order to save his lands, including a game reserve.

    Now, they say, they will vote for Dasti. “He is the friend of the poor,” says one. “We’ll give him a chance.”

    The son of a part-time wrestler, Dasti established his populist touch long before the floods. He set up a free bus service called the “Benazir bus”, after the late leader of his Pakistan People’s party. He has a reputation for listening to the woes of the poor, giving birth to his nickname, Rescue 15, after the local emergency hotline.

    Unlike most upper-class Pakistanis, he does not speak English, and says he lives with his mother in the mud house where he was born. “I don’t have the money to move out,” he says.

    And he is fearlessly irreverent towards authority. At one stop, an old man leans into his car to ask for his business card. “So that I can show it in case the police stop me,” says the man. “Screw the police,” replies Dasti.

    “Everyone’s after me,” he says later as he drives at an alarming speed down the rutted road, weaving between lumbering rainbow-coloured trucks. “The judiciary, the media, the establishment. But these people love me. They are praying for me.”

    The upstart is also shadowed by controversy. By his own admission he has faced 42 police prosecutions, including some for murder, six of which are outstanding. In 2001 he was jailed for 15 months. “It was a fake case and everyone knew it. The bigwigs pressured the police to prosecute me,” he says. Last March the supreme court disqualified Dasti from parliament for faking his degree – a legal requirement – although he was easily re-elected in the subsequent byelection. And for a poor politician he is mysteriously well funded. He borrows the shiny Jeep from a supporter, he said, while the 1,000-rupee handouts come from his parliamentary allowance.

    His accusations against the feudals have touched a raw nerve nationally as well as locally. The power of the landed elite is often cited as a major structural flaw in Pakistani politics – an imbalance that hinders education, social equality and good governance (there is no agricultural tax in Pakistan).

    In truth, though, the feudals’ influence has waned sharply in recent years. The rising force in politics is the urbanised elite represented by the opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, analysts say.

    Southern Punjab, however, is a bastion of the old order. Speaking at his large farmhouse, Ahmed Yar Hanjra, Dasti’s rival and a member of the provincial assembly, says his father and two uncles control about 2,500 acres of land between them. One uncle was elected to the Punjab assembly five times in the 1980s and 90s; another was the district mayor. He scorns Dasti: “He is a most corrupt man, he just pretends to stand up for the poor. We don’t consider him an equal to us.”

    Hanjra vehemently denies diverting the floodwaters to save his land. “Ninety-nine per cent of our land has also been flooded,” he says. He has thrown himself into relief efforts for the poor, he adds. But they are hard to satisfy. “In this area, if you give them again and again, they will still tell you they have nothing. They are not grateful.”

    According to Asad Sayeed, a Karachi-based analyst, the floods are already changing the face of rural Pakistan. Farmers have migrated to the big towns; some are likely to renege on their debts to landlords. Disputes over land boundaries, some violent, are likely.

    But whether the floods will change power structures, he says, depends on whether more populists like Dasti sprang up. But the conditions are right. “Whatever social change was taking place will now be accelerated as a result of the floods,” he says.

    Economic cost

    After inundating an area larger than England, the flood has crippled Pakistan’s agriculture, the heart of its teetering economy.

    The waters swept away 2.4m hectares (6m acres) of crops – fruit, wheat, cotton, rice – while 1.2 million large animals, such as cattle, below, and 6 million poultry have perished. In the cities, food prices have soared, raising already high inflation.

    And the floods wiped out the equivalentof 2m bales of cotton, a costly blow to the £12bn textile industry, which employs 10 million. The EU agreed in September to waive tariffs on Pakistani textiles, but only temporarily. Similar US measures have been blocked by politicians.

    The flood has one silver lining: with the soil enriched by the flooding, some areas expect a record harvest in spring.

    But there may not be enough labour. With so many homes destroyed, many people have left.


  • You are disgusted by Dasti, aren’t you? But in his constituency he is known as “15” as in Rescue 15 for paying a heed to the problems of his constituents immediately. I’m not defending this swine, but fact is that a society based entirely on patron-client relations creates a political environment based on patronage as well. Dasti answers the calls of his constituents, they elect him. Simple as that.

    Upstarts Chip Away at Power of Feudal Pakistani Landlords
    Published: August 28, 2010

    Jamshed Dasti, a lawmaker, drives a bus he donated to provide free transportation for his constituents in Muzzafargarh, Pakistan.

    MUZAFFARGARH, Pakistan — In Pakistan, where politics has long been a matter of pedigree, Jamshed Dasti is a mongrel. The scrappy son of an amateur wrestler, Mr. Dasti has clawed his way into Pakistan’s Parliament, beating the wealthy, landed families who have ruled here.

    In elite circles, Mr. Dasti is reviled as a thug, a small-time hustler with a fake college degree who represents the worst of Pakistan today. But here, he is hailed as a hero, living proof that in Pakistan, a poor man can get a seat at the rich men’s table.

    Mr. Dasti’s rise is part of a broad shift in political power in Pakistan. For generations, politics took place in the parlors of a handful of rich families, a Westernized elite that owned large tracts of land and sometimes even the people who worked it. But Pakistan is urbanizing fast, and powerful forces of change are chipping away at the landed aristocracy, known in Pakistan as the feudal class.

    The result is a changing political landscape more representative of Pakistani society, but far less predictable for the United States. Mr. Dasti, 32, speaks no English. His legislative record includes opposition to a sexual harassment bill. He has 35 criminal cases to his name and is from the country’s conservative heartland, where dislike of America runs deep.

    How this plays out is crucial to Pakistan’s future. The country’s fast-expanding, flood-weary population needs local government as never before, but with political power shifting and institutions stillborn, the state has never been less able to provide it.

    “You have scarcity arising everywhere,” said Ali Cheema, chairman of the economics department at the Lahore University of Management and Science. “Scarcity creates conflict. Conflict needs mediation. But the state is unable to do it.”

    In Mr. Dasti’s area, one of the hardest hit by the recent flooding, the state has all but disappeared. Not that it was ever very present. In the British colonial era, before Pakistan became a separate country, the state would show up a few times a month in the form of a representative from the Raj dispensing justice.

    Later, the local landowner took over. For years, feudal lords reigned supreme, serving as the police, the judge and the political leader. Plantations had jails, and political seats were practically owned by families.

    Instead of midwifing democracy, these aristocrats obstructed it, ignoring the needs of rural Pakistanis, half of whom are still landless and desperately poor more than 60 years after Pakistan became a state.

    But changes began to erode the aristocrats’ power. Cities sprouted, with jobs in construction and industry. Large-scale farms eclipsed old-fashioned plantations. Vast hereditary lands splintered among generations of sons, and many aristocratic families left the country for cities, living beyond their means off sales of their remaining lands. Mobile labor has also reduced dependence on aristocratic families.

    In Punjab, the country’s most populous province, and its most economically advanced, the number of national lawmakers from feudal families shrank to 25 percent in 2008 from 42 percent in 1970, according to a count conducted by Mubashir Hassan, a former finance minister, and The New York Times.

    “Feudals are a dying breed,” said S. Akbar Zaidi, a Karachi-based fellow with the Carnegie Foundation. “They have no power outside the walls of their castles.”

    Mr. Dasti, a young, impulsive man with a troubled past, is much like the new Pakistan he represents. He is one of seven siblings born to illiterate parents. Despite his claims of finishing college, he never earned a degree, something his political opponents used against him in court this spring. One of the 35 criminal cases against him is for murder, a charge he said was leveled by his political opponents. Detractors accuse him of blackmailing rich people in a job at a newspaper. He said he was writing exposés.

    “I have more enemies than numbers of hairs in my head,” he said, bouncing down a road in a borrowed truck. “They don’t like my style, and I don’t like theirs.”

    Whatever the case, he is deeply appealing to Pakistanis, who have chosen him over feudal lords for political seats several times. Local residents call him Rescue One-Five, a reference to an emergency hot line number and his feverish work habits. Constituents clutching dirty plastic bags of documents flock to his small office for help, and he scribbles out notes for them on his Parliament letterhead like a doctor in a field hospital.

    “The new faces have to work much harder because their survival depends on it,” said Sohail Warraich, chief political correspondent for Geo TV. “If they lose an election, they’re finished.”

    He wields his lower-class background like a weapon, exhorting local residents to oppose the rich elite and the mafias of landlords, bureaucrats and other petty power brokers who support them.

    “This was not an election,” he shouted at a sweaty crowd, referring to a race he won against an aristocrat in May. “This was a fight between the poor and the rich, between the public and the powerful classes.”

    Graffiti nearby said: “Give us electricity and we’ll give you a vote.”

    Lineage alone is no longer a winning strategy. Ahmed Mehmoud, an aristocrat in South Punjab, lost both Parliament seats he contested in 2008 and had to settle for a provincial assembly seat.

    “The seats are no longer so safe,” said Nusrat Javed, a journalist who is an expert on politics in Punjab. “You can’t survive as a mere feudal anymore.”

    Mr. Mehmoud, 48, is a wealthy man of leisure, who spends more time relaxing in his house — a pink replica of a Rajasthani palace with a hand-carved facade — than on his job as a lawmaker. Sometimes he talks to his constituents, but more often he watches them go by from the window of his speedy, white Hummer.

    For years, people voted for him anyway, partly out of habit. His ancestors were considered to be distant relatives of the Prophet Muhammad, which inspires awe and respect. But more important, his constituents were tied to him economically. His family owned the land they worked and often their houses. His carpet has a worn patch where generations of peasants sat in supplication.

    But now, said Shama Andleep, a local voter: “On election day, people are asking questions. People are calculating: how much has he done for us?”

    Private television stations, which exploded onto the scene eight years ago, have also had an effect. Khusro Bakhtyar, a landowner in the area, said the women who were baking bread in his house were so affected by the coverage of the 2007 death of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto that they voted for her party, not his.

    The changes have steered Pakistan into uncharted territory, and the effect for the United States is unclear. Unlike Mr. Mehmoud, who is unabashedly pro-American, newcomers like Mr. Dasti are more skeptical. Mr. Dasti opposes the American drone program that is used to attack militants in Pakistan, but he is not as virulently anti-American as many in his country.

    The changes also leave room for Islamists. In the neighboring district of Dera Ghazi Khan, a hard-line mullah, Hafiz Abdul Karim, came within a few thousand votes in 2008 of unseating Farooq Leghari, a former president of Pakistan. His weapon? Efficient, Islamist campaign workers and free water pumps.

    So far, Islamists have not tapped popular frustration in a systematic way at the ballot box, and the military, the country’s oldest, strongest institution, would probably put down any broader uprising, analysts say.

    But the floods and the misery they have brought have raised the stakes.

    “If you don’t give the common man justice, there will be more terrorism and even bloody revolution,” Mr. Dasti said. “This is the need of the hour.”



  • Resettling the Indus (Part 2)
    APR 25TH
    Jamshed Dasti, elected twice in the space of 2 years, I was told, had visited flood-affected areas on numerous occasions. The surprising part was not that the MNA had showed up, which was in itself commendable, but that villagers who we met were so effusive in their praise of a man they had not even voted for in the by-election. His humble background and his near-meteoric rise in the political system (from union councilor to MNA in just under 9 years) has intrigued analysts and researchers, and on the other hand, his use of a fake degree coupled with his thuggish outlook, captured the imagination of the urban middle class for a completely different set of reasons.

    As a commoner, he, in one skewed sense, symbolizes the innate middle class desire of having a non-elite parliament. A parliament that would, because of its class proximity to a wider segment of society, be more responsive and accountable.

    Despite ticking this particular box, Jamshed Dasti is still a much-derided figure, largely as a consequence of the ‘fraud’ he committed.

    Even if urbanites manage to look beyond the degree rhetoric, and that in itself is rare, his popularity is often dismissed as nothing more than the sentiment of a peasant’s imagination. You see, the peasant, no matter what he does, is simply acting on the pulses of a much inferior brain. When he used to vote for Ghulam Mustafa Khar or Nawabzada Iftikhar Ahmed Khan, he was being a pliant serf. When he decided to get rid of him by voting for a commoner, he was being swayed by the vagaries of emotive populism.

    It seems that no matter what a village dweller does, he neither has the capacity to think rationally (in the modern urban sense), and neither does he exercise any manner of control over his mind, body, or environment.

    There were two examples, from my trip to Muzaffargarh confirming that out of all widely held perceptions in our urban landscape, nothing is as outdated and static as the one just mentioned.

    The first was related to a villager’s analysis of the exercise of power, especially in his own context. Right after the floods wreaked havoc in the district, Jamshed Dasti visited nearly every basti in his constituency and promised that he would try his level best to obtain utility bill relief for flood affected areas. MEPCO, on the other hand, was in no mood to agree to Dasti’s demands. I asked the villager if he was unhappy at the false promises the MNA had made, to which he simply answered that Dasti wanted to help us, he even visited the MEPCO office several times, but the hakoomat wouldn’t let him.

    ‘But isn’t Dasti part of the hakoomat?’

    ‘Bhai, Dasti is a political worker. The real hakim is the officer. When he wants things done, they get done. When he wants to drag his feet, nothing in the world can move him.’

    The difference between state and government is something that requires a degree of awareness that most people I know don’t even possess. The locus of power, especially in areas where social capital is dispersed amongst several groups, will always lie with the bureaucracy and other non-representative authorities. The fact that a villager could quite clearly see that his representative was being blocked by the state apparatus certainly goes a long way in addressing the accusation of illiterate irrationality so often thrown his way.

    The second example was related to the response of small-scale farmers across the country in the aftermath of the flood. Sometime in October, when in normal circumstances wheat crop plantation would be in full swing, the Food and Agriculture Organization announced that Pakistan could face severe food scarcity in the summer months. Their assumption was that the government and the humanitarian community would be unable to clear sufficient acreage in time for plantation.

    About two weeks ago, the federal government announced that a 25 million ton bumper crop was expected in the next month.
    The illiterate, irrational farmer, upon hearing of a higher wheat support price, set about clearing the fields himself. As late as end November, reports were coming in that farmers were still carrying out late rabi cropping using a variety of fertilizer and seed combinations. Beyond simple agriculture practice, the money received from the first tranche of the Watan Cards, as well as the BISP, was utilized to purchase both seed and fertilizer stock as well as pay off agriculture rent (theka).

    As a combination of these two factors, wheat area under cultivation saw an increase of nearly 2 percent from last year, despite the fact that water was still standing in many parts of South Punjab and Sindh as late as December.

    Simpletons across the country, through nothing less than a complete understanding of markets, agriculture, and their socio-political position in society, both as individuals, and as a member of larger collectives, have ensured that we urbanites have food on our tables in the coming months. The level of self-awareness now found in villages and small towns across the country is neither stuck in the 19th century, nor is it the product of ‘rural irrationality’. It is this dynamic and projected self-awareness that has sent Jamshed Dasti to the National Assembly, and I have little doubt, given the continuation of the democratic process, that it will assert itself even more strongly in the coming years.

    Originally published in Pakistan Today on 25/04/2011

    This syndicated post originally appeared at http://recycled-thought.blogspot.com/2011/04/resettling-indus-part-2.html on 25 April 2011

  • Jamshed Dasti, a popular Pakistan People’s Party parliamentarian, known in Muzaffargarah as Rescue 1122 for his close contact with the public, revealed that powerful men in the Punjab government illegally breached the Taunsa Barrage and the Abbas Wala embankment in order to save their fields. The floodwaters were diverted toward his district. He directly blamed the Punjab’s ruling party elites – the Khosa, Hinjaran and Syed families for diverting the floodwaters. Experts in water management seconded his allegation against the Punjab’s Irrigation Department and a few individuals.

    Although the Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif visited all the flood-hit districts in his helicopter in order to express his sympathy with the people, he did not land at the Taunsa Barrage to inspect the 25,000 acres of land belonging to the Irrigation Department and illegally occupied by his close aides. Jamshed Dasti queried: What prompt action did Sharif take against the Irrigation Department officials posted at Taunsa for their negligence? It took three days for the flood water from Chashma Barrage to reach Taunsa Barrage.

    There are about 25,000 acres of Irrigation Department land, called “pound area,” on the Right Marginal Bond (RMB). To save the Taunsa Barrage as well as the populated areas of Muzaffargarh and Dera Ghazi Khan during a flood, the Irrigation Department built pounds and spurs on the RMB to mitigate the force of water flow. When the government purchased this land, it allowed the previous owners to cultivate it at their own risk. In case of flood, the water was to be diverted to the pound area, and subsequently to the Indus, to minimize damage.

    However, the big landlords who cultivated cotton crops on the Irrigation Department on the RMB lands also set up, on the left embankment, a jungle for hunting deer and pigs in their leisure time. This illegally erected left embankment of Indus River also became a source of honey, and therefore a productive area.

    But with the connivance of Irrigation Department officials who were posted at the barrage in early August, this area was not flooded and the water entered Taunsa. The Abbas Wala embankment was breached on the Left Marginal Bond (LMB) and sent the floodwaters towards Muzaffargarh. Dasti showed this breach.

    Punjab Irrigation Secretary Malik Rab Nawaz, who denied the voices of local people and Jamshed Dasti‘s allegation, stated that “The floodwaters entered the main linked canal between Indus River and Chanab River and it breached at 11 places, which inundated many villages in Muzaffargarh.” However, he did admit corruption at some level in the department, saying that might have played “a minor role” in the devastation.


  • Jamshed Dasti is young ,only 30 years old,articulate,charming,people flock to see him,he is promising change to the way the political system is run in Pakistan,which everyone knows is not working for them.
    He has been quoted as saying “I am here to bring change,” He shakes hands,he listens to complaints and people believe him.
    He has promised to end feudalism which simply defined is “Any system that resembles the one used in the middle ages, where the people provided labour and military service to a lord in return for the use of his land. A form of contractual servitude.”This is the Pakistani way
    Now since the terrible floods this feudal system has caused a major outcry from the people. The article at the link stated ” Dasti is saying some feudals used their influence to divert the floodwaters away from selected lands, thereby inundating the poor. “They only care for themselves,”
    Well ,can he bring the change the Pakistani people want and need and be their Barack Obama or is he as some speculate just an opportunist or upstart?


  • Absolutely Abdul, I read that too.

    But since he was a non-feud from PPP the media failed to point it out. Though I must say he needs to be put on leash after his recent comments against Mukhtaran Mai.

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