Monday, November 15, 2010

No to Undemocratic and Unconstitutional Change Move Jointly Towards Setting a National Agenda

No to Undemocratic and Unconstitutional Change

Move Jointly Towards Setting a National Agenda

We the media-persons from across the country having met at South Asian Free Media Association’s National Conference-IV on 6-7 November, 2010, at Islamabad, resolve to safeguard the democratic and constitutional setup, including freedom of expression and an independent judiciary, while respecting the will of the people and rejecting all kinds of machinations and conspiracies aimed at creating political chaos and bringing undemocratic and unconstitutional changes are:

a) Concerned about an all-sided institutional, financial and societal crises in a terrorism-ridden country reeling under the unprecedented havoc caused by the floods;

b) Alarmed at strategic and political uncertainty, reinforcing hopelessness and chaos, due to an ongoing power-struggle among various institutions of the state;

c) Take serious exception to the conspiracies and sinister moves to bring undemocratic and unconstitutional changes and overstepping of various institutions of the state, including a section of sensational media, going beyond their legitimate sphere, professional and ethical limits;

d) Dismayed by deteriorating quality of governance at various tiers of governance and across all institutions of the state;

e) Worried about a lack of inconsistency in eradicating terrorism and appalled by the insistence on keeping sanctuaries of terrorism as so-called “strategic assets” and not strictly stopping terrorists outfits from operating in various disguised forms;

f) Disturbed over the alienation, deprivation and sufferings of the Baloch people;

g) Perturbed over continuing inflation and hardships being faced by the common man, especially the people affected by the floods and terrorism;

h) Disappointed over not changing the media laws, especially the Information Law, PEMRA Law and Press Council Law;

i) Condemn killing, torture and victimization of working journalists by various state and non-state actors, non-implementation of Seventh Wage Board Award, retrenchment of media-persons and a lack of protection and insurance coverage for journalists reporting from conflict zones;

j) Reiterate our full faith in constitutional, democratic and representative system that ensures freedoms and fundamental rights, an independent judiciary, a free and responsible media and above all sovereignty of our people reflected through federal and provincial legislatures;

k) Emphasize the need for evolving a broadest national consensus among all stakeholders on major national issues, such as (a) terrorism, (b) economy (macro-economic policy, state corporations, taxation, non-development expenditure, energy, rehabilitation and reconstruction of flood and terrorism affected), (c) foreign policy, (d) national security and neighbors; crisis of Baluchistan and (e) transparent and accountable governance and across the board accountability;

We are of the considered view:

1. The future of the federation and our nation-state lies in democracy and continuation of constitutional, federal and democratic setup while submitting to the will of the people which is represented by the elected legislatures and governments responsible to them;

2. The state must retain its writ across the land without in any way allowing state or non-state actors to undermine it, nor must it allow any autonomous sanctuary undermining its sovereignty and international obligations;

3. All organs of the state and media must perform their functions in accordance with the letter and spirit of the 1973 Constitution, democratic norms and avoid transgressing their institutional limits while respecting the mandate of the people;

4. Both the state and society can face up to the challenges of natural calamities, terrorism, lawlessness, economic meltdown, poor-governance, human and physical security by reaching a national consensus on major policy issues.

5. Promoting the ideals set by the Charter of Democracy and building upon the good work done by the 18th Amendment, the major political parties and the stakeholders must agree on a national agenda on, at least, six major issues mentioned earlier;

6. A free media and an independent judiciary are sine qua non of democracy and they must safeguard it.

7. Peace within Pakistan and its neighborhood is the essential prerequisite of growth and prosperity and all inter-sate conflicts need to be resolved through peaceful means and regional cooperation must not be made hostage to bilateral disputes as envisaged by the SAARC process that should move towards a South Asian Union.

We call upon:

1. All organs of the state to work within the parameters of the constitution and frustrate any effort at change through undemocratic and unconstitutional means while remaining within their limits, respecting each others’ legitimate constitutional space, people’s mandate and ensuring independence of judiciary, a free media and a transparent and accountable governance;

2. All major political parties and stakeholders must sit together to evolve a National Agenda on (a) Terrorism, (b) Economy (macro-economic policy, state corporations, taxation, non-development expenditure, energy, rehabilitation and reconstruction of flood and terrorism affected), (c) Foreign Policy, (d) National Security and Neighbors; (e) Crisis of Balochistan, and (f) Transparent and Accountable Governance and Across the Board Accountability; (SAFMA’s proposals are attached)

3. All state and non-state actors, institutions, political parties, civil society and above all federating units must join their forces to take the country out of its current predicaments on short, mid, and long term bases for peace and prosperity within and without.

4. The state must extend its full writ to every nook corner of its territory while keeping its monopoly over means of coercion and letting any armed outfit operate from its soils against its own citizens and neighbors.

5. Pakistan and India, Pakistan and Afghanistan to resolve their differences through negotiations and jopintly fight against terrorism and stop interfering in each others internal matters. Composite dialogue with India must start without preconditions and SAFTA be implemented in letter and spirit. Visa regime must be liberalized to promote people to people contacts.

6. The government to continue to respect media freedom and the media should observe professional ethics, objectivity and neutrality while improving professional standards. The Draft Information Act proposed by SAFMA in collaboration with various stakeholders be adopted by the Parliament to empower people. The PEMRA Law be replaced by the Draft PEMRA Law and Press Council be formed as proposed by SAFMA. The government agencies should avoid temptation of selective use of advertisements or other tactics to pressurize one or other section of the media while discouraging monopolies. Clear social benchmarks may be set for awarding all advertisements under a corporate social responsibility law.

7. The implementation of Seventh Wage Board Award and formation of 8th and 9th Wage Board Awards. An end to illegal retrenchments of journalists. The murderers and journalists and those who harass the media persons must be brought to book. The journalists working in the conflict regions should be provided protection and insurance coverage. The correspondents working in the districts be given respectable wages and the press clubs capacity be built thought official grants from the district budgets.

Sensing the undemocratic and unconstitutional threats to democracy, SAFMA along with some leading journalists, intellectuals and civil society leaders, from the platform of Citizens for Democracy, called upon all the institutions and stakeholders to say no to any undemocratic and unconstitutional change while emphasizing the urgency to evolve a National Agenda to tackle all-sided crises of the sate. Some of the challenges, that pose a real threat to our existence as a people and a land, that is sacred to us, are as follow:

(1) A low-growth-high-poverty equilibrium with lowest tax-GDP, saving-GDP, investment-GDP and per-capita investment on the people with lowest social indicators in the developing world.

It requires a new paradigm of inclusive and sustainable growth and all out effort in every sphere of economy from the revitalization of high valued adding manufacturing, agricultural and servicing sectors, conservation, exploration and development of energy and water resources, human resource development and poverty eradication, withdrawal of subsidies and expansion of revenues by taxing both rural and urban rich, reprioritization of allocation of resources from military security to human security, drastic reformation or disposing of public sector corporations to get rid of financial hemorrhage, inclusion of the dispossessed peoples and the deprived backward regions into the mainstream of development and empowerment and opening up our eastern and western borders to revive traditional trade routes to become a hub of trans-regional trade and investment across South, Central and Western Asia.

(2) A parasitic national security state failing to enforce its writ and maintain peace within and without.

It must enforce its writ across every nook and corner of our land while keeping its monopoly over coercive means by completely eradicating non-state violent actors/militias threatening our existence/sovereignty and jeopardizing our relations with our neighbors and international community. The menace of terrorism has to be eradicated by all means and in every sphere that reproduce it. It calls for radical reversion of our failed security paradigms that nourished these grave-diggers of Pakistan’s otherwise moderate, tolerant and egalitarian and pluralist society.

(3) Marginalization of the Will and the Sovereignty of the People.

All organs of the state and all stakeholders must submit to the will and sovereignty of the people exercised by the elected representatives of the people, responsible to the final arbiters-- the peoples of all federating units. Civil-military relations must be redefined strictly in accordance with the letter and spirit of the 1973 Constitution and everything about the security establishment must be brought under the purview of our sovereign parliament. All institutions and organs of the state must keep in their lawful limits frustrating all machinations and efforts to destabilize democratic setup and rejecting any change through undemocratic and unconstitutional means.

(4) A flawed foreign and security paradigm promoting conflict in the neighborhood.

There is an urgent need to critically reappraise our foreign and national security polices that are beyond our national resources, repudiate peace both within and without, frustrate economic growth and prosperity and keep our people in the shackles of poverty. It requires, in particular, radical revision of our “India-centric”, “strategic-depth” (vis a vis Afghanistan) and “strategic-assets” (of our jihadis who are of nobody’s) types of strategic assumptions. The militaristic version of the national security, that failed to provide us internal and external security, must be replaced with an overarching vision of human security, thus, eradicating the causes behind the growth of suicide-bombers, violence and religious extremism; and a rational, smart and cost-effective defense backed by a credible deterrence.

(5) Crises of Governance.

Pakistan is faced with deep-rooted crises of governance from civilian administration to military establishment, financial sectors to fiscal spheres, generating revenues to transparent and accountable expenditure, delivery of cheap and easy justice and honest and law-abiding policing, respecting citizens’ fundamental rights regardless of gender, creed or ethnicity and empowering people, rewarding merit, entrepreneurship, innovation and competition while precluding unethical privileges, rent-seeking, bribery and fraud, respecting dissent and granting women and minorities equal privileges of equal citizens and devolving and de-concentrating power to the lower tiers of governance, all-sided and even-handed accountability of all through due process of law, access to and free flow of information and a transparent, accountable and efficient governance. It can’t be achieved by totalitarian or fascist regimes and barbaric means or by chasing the ghosts and shadows of the past corruption.

(6) Ethnic and sectarian tensions:

Despite granting provincial autonomy and some concessions to the smaller provinces, the federating units continue to suffer from alienation and nurse frustrations, such as Baluchistan. While progressively and radically devolving power from the Centre to the provinces and onward to the districts and ultimately to the grassroots level to empower our people, the federation and its powerful arms take affirmative steps to remove the grievances of smaller provinces, Baluchistan in particular. Baluchistan needs extraordinary accommodation and amelioration. There are ethnic tensions within the provinces that also need to be addressed by respecting pluralism at all levels to strengthen unity-in-diversity. On the other hand, sectarian cleavages are touring apart our social fabric that has been increasingly taking a violent turn since General Zia’s so-called “Islamization” and induction of jihadi and klashnikove culture. All sectarian and violent militias, their cover-up bodies, charities, sectarian seminaries preaching violence and producing hate materials must be prosecuted and banned. Instead of becoming a source of national unity, the sectarian forces that pollute the spiritual space have turned religion into a source of discord and disunity. A distinction has to be made between the state and religion and theology and education while respective the beliefs of the people that don’t hurt others’ beliefs and religious practices.

SAFMA Pakistan undertakes to initiate a public discourse on the above mentioned National Agenda and plans to convene a national conference to facilitate a broader consensus among the forces of civil society from the platform of Citizens for Democracy.

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