Tag Archives: security

NGOs and development in Pakistan

An interesting article on Pakistan has been posted at Global Dashboard (a knowledge hub for issues in international affairs and foreign policy) by Seth Kaplan “Why do some countries have so few NGOs?“, a policy consultant on state instability, governance and development based in New York. The thesis of it is as follows:

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are significant for service delivery to the poor, they hold governments accountable and are a positive impact on development. However, in Pakistan there is a very small number of NGOs, and as thus development Pakistan has suffered. Additionally respectable think tanks, and independent monitoring organizations (IMOs) are also few and far between.

Kaplan goes on to say that this lack of independent organizations extend to politics with political parties structures on kinship ties. However philanthropic contributions are huge (1% of GDP) but “a relatively small share of this money is going to build institutions that contribute to state building and social development. The poor may be gaining adequate relief from destitution—the streets of Pakistan have far fewer beggars than India—in ways that did little to change the situations.”

Firstly, the blame according to Kaplan falls on the Pakistani society dominated by kinship relationship that distrusts externally developed institutions. Secondly, institutions are not run by consensus but by cults of personality.

The arguments are not without merits but Kaplan forgets some of the subtleties of the cases of India and Bangladesh that have a proliferation of NGOs. Most NGOs start off providing a specific serves in a specific policy areas and this hold true for India and Bangladesh as well. In India much of the drive behind NGOs and independent service delivery is entrepreneurship and a good business environment. In Pakistan the economic environment is too complex to such NGO growth. It is not kinship and ethnic ties that doesn’t let NGOs proliferate, its taxation, security, terrorism, inflation, transportation costs, road infrastructures etc., that make wide scale operations too risky or too costly. With many NGOs in Pakistan trying to works as self sustaining non-profit organizations, much of the activity is constrained because of economic reasons rather than the frailty of trust networks.

Kaplans second point on institutions being hijacked by the people who are running them is also flawed because assuming NGOs to be independent ventures, initially NGOs are the effort of a few people but there is no evidence to suggest that these people are corrupt or grossly inefficient. Personal power in government institutions is a different matter and it is too much of a generalization to bunch NGOs with all other institutions and say that these are run on personal agendas.

Kaplan’s broad-brushed analysis then jumps to the weakness of civil society being weak and only advocating specific issues. But is that not how civil society and lobbying groups work?

Accepting that Pakistan has fewer NGOs, can we even say that NGO’s cause development? NGOs are small scale service provides where the state cannot reach, they fill in the gaps in development and give signals to the state and civil society highlighting vulnerabilities. Development has always been the job of the state. The weakness of civil society advocacy and participation is key to this. NGOs do have a role in this, however the case of Pakistan is different from that of Bangladesh and India. We have vast networks of charity based on societal trust (that Kaplan says is weak in Pakistan). Even NGOs like SOS Children’s Villages and CARE in Pakistan operate on these donations. Just because Pakistan does not have an NGO titan like Grameen, does not mean that philanthropy and non-state service delivery are not present. Additionally there is a large growing criticism of microfinance and its actual impact on development due to high interest rates and defaults with loans. The problem with too many NGOs is that the governments starts relying on these NGOs for development, and this is not a sustainable solution for long term economic and social development and it de-links civils society from the state.

Rather than just looking at the number of NGOs in Pakistan as a problem, a better question would be to see how significant NGOs actually are for development in Pakistn and what are the conditions that are inhibiting development as compared to India and Bangladesh? NGOs is probably not the answer.

Pakistan Policy Group 2012. 


Pedestrian pain

Published at Pak Tea House today. 

On Monday (17th Oct) a girl was shot dead on the overhead bridge on Jail Road. The young girl was a student at Kinnaird College, it is said that she was studying computer science at the FA level (makes her 17 yeas old). The circumstances are unclear, but there is speculation that it was a jilted lover who shot her and then shot himself.

I mean to write this not to try to understand the crime or the sad state of mind of the girl or boy in question. But the problem that needs to be addressed is the safety of students on the roads, especially female students. This notorious bridge has been the cause for much distress for female students in the past as many well-mannered Lahori bachelors are found loitering here. The teasing and catcalls are nothing new for the girls and they would rather risk the rabid traffic of Jail Road and cross the massive street than be subjected to the natural talents of these gentlemen.

In this regard complaints have been made to the police but to no avail. These bridges are a safety hazard for not just the KC-ites. There are seven overhead bridges situated right in front of some of the city’s largest universities. There are two overhead bridges at Jail Road, in front of Kinnaird College (KC) and Lahore College for Women University (LCWU), one in front of the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (UVAS), another near the Queen Mary College Lahore, while three overhead bridges are on the Canal in the University of the Punjab New Campus.

LCWU chief proctor Surayya Ahmad told The Express Tribune that at least two students had even been mugged on the LCWU bridge (June, 2011). The KC Jail Road bridge also features in many horror stories, from muggings and girls being pushed around to random proposals and harassment. The Express Tribune reports that an officer at Shadman police station, which has jurisdiction over the bridge, said that they had last received a harassment complaints from Kinnaird a while ago, but before police got to the scene, the boys had fled. He said that Shadman police were very busy and couldn’t spare any personnel to deploy at the bridge.

“The overheard bridge in front of my university has given me sleepless nights as the life of my staff and students is not safe because of it,” said LCWU Vice Chancellor Professor Dr Bushra Mateen back in 2009 (Daily Times). It was then the view of the city police that it was the responsibility of the administration of the institutions to provide adequate security to their students and they should hire security personnel for the purpose, even though they were “trying their best”. But the need is clear and has been so for some years. If the police knows these bridges are trouble spots why not station an officer there during college time or at least have a regular patrol. Why wait for someone to get hurt/shot/murdered?

(I am visiting faculty at KC these days, so this is kind of a big deal for me and my students, most of whom have to take public transport)

A walled world keeping 86% of us out

Today in class we got talking about the Hobbsian state creating and how it creates deterrence politics… that the purpose of the state is to constrain violence, and thus the state becomes a legitimate wielder of power to cause violence. And this of course is the classical definition of the state, that the state is a legitimate monopoly over violence (Max Weber).

Thus territorial lines are drawn to keep violence out and we chest thump our sovereignty and applaud our militaries. And this is not just an extreme right position. Liberals and on left and right create and support policies and practice propose security to discipline and order the state and thus laws are used as instruments for the government and not the people. In fact this is Michel Foucault’s view of the French Physiocrats of the 18th century who laid the foundation for economic change and discontent right before the French Revolution… a time when International Relations was still a toddler. Today, it is an impulsive youth whose most publicized arguments keep giving us slap-on-the-face reasons for why the world is the way it is.

Development and progress thus are not going to happen without security, and  thus those best at this race, keep ‘us’ out. And well they have the sovereignty (common to liberals and realists)/rights (common to liberalism)/capability (neo-realists especially) to do so.

Got this image from http://i.imgur.com/Fqw2e.jpg

The militarization of aid in Afghanistan

Published in the Friday Times, July 9th, 2010

Saadia Gardezi

The concern for the future of Afghanistan will first and foremost be security, without which reconstruction and development will be difficult

After failed operations of the US forces in Marja this February, it is clear that the Taliban are still a formidable foe. The war has lasted nearly a decade without US military success making it clear that a political solution will have to be constructed, with an attempt at reconciliation between militant insurgents and the Kabul government. The concern for the future of Afghanistan will first and foremost be security, without which reconstruction and development will be difficult.

It is reasonable to consider, that with the much critiqued announcement of the deadline, militants will lay low for until July 2011, and insurgency against the Kabul government will begin anew as the troops withdraw. It is also safe to assume that UN agencies and international NGOs will also start packing up as they anticipate the removal of the US security umbrella. Continue reading The militarization of aid in Afghanistan