Thursday, January 15, 2015

Will military courts save us?

My article that appeared in The News today.  It can be accessed here

People criticising the military’s role in establishing military courts often forget the role of the other important institution – the government led by Mian Sahib. This is not to absolve the military of blame, but to highlight that, in this instance, the civvies share it. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Killing Enough

My article for The News. This appeared on January 10, 2015 and can be accessed here.

This is our moment of reckoning. Or it’s supposed to be. We had been waiting for this for such a long time now. The war that ends all wars. The ‘consensus’ that defeats all ideas. 

The more you think about it the more this consensus looks like a bear we have been trying to put to sleep. “Hush now, don’t question it.” Otherwise, the consensus will wake up and won’t look like one anymore. And it will run amok, destroying everything that we hold dear. Or the consensus looks like one big bomb – the bomb that blows all ideologies to smithereens. 

Sunday, August 03, 2014

A Turbulent Flight

My article for The News on Sunday. This appeared on August 3, 2014 and can be accessed here.
Although the government has once again decided to privatise Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), indecisiveness remains on the mode of its privatisation. Recently, the minister of state for privatisation, Muhammed Zubair, told BBC that it wasn’t yet confirmed whether the state would privatise 26 per cent or 51 per cent of the state-owned enterprise.
Before outlining the merits or otherwise of this decision, it is important to discuss what the lack of clarity regarding the mode of privatisation entails.
Essentially, the ministers has hinted at two different models of privatisation that have been in vogue in this country since the early 1990s. The 26 per cent formula awards four votes to each percentage point and hands over the day-to-day functioning and control of the Board of Directors to the company. The government still retains 76 per cent of the share in the enterprise, but has no say in the running of the business. The investor, however, is not free to dispose of the assets of the enterprise.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Where are they?

My article for The News on Sunday. This appeared on May 18th, 2014 and can be accessed here.

How do you account for the missing? How do we count a person who is missing? I have three brothers, one of them is not there anymore. He is not dead. He is missing. He is there, somewhere, but just not here.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Is privatisation and economic liberalisation the way forward?

Final part of my three part series against privatisation policy in Pakistan. This article appeared in The News on Sunday, December 8, 2013 ( The first two parts can be accessed here and here

Privatisation of DISCOs cannot work unless the government undertakes major restructuring of the power sector and offer lucrative contracts to the private owners. But before discussing that, let us consider our experience with pursuing economic liberalisation in the energy sector.
Power sector was liberalised in Pakistan in 1994. This is not necessarily an instance of privatisation but rather of liberalisation i.e. the state opened up a sector to private investors that had been hitherto under state control. Analysts (including myself) have traced the current crisis of the circular debt to the liberalisation of the sector in mid-1990s. What is more important is to understand how this liberalisation was carried out. Sure, the policy addressed the power shortages at that time but the investors were lured in ultimately by offering them extremely lucrative contracts that made investments virtually risk free. As usual, like in the rest of the developing world, all of this was done under the able guidance of various international financial institutions.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Privatising Khaki enterprises?

My article for the online magazine Viewpoint, Issue No. 180, December 6, 2013. The article can be accessed here.  

The advent of the right-wing PML-N government in Pakistan coincides with increased calls for privatization. Experts rush in to remind the government that privatization policies are a condition for aid and loans from international financial institutions (IFIs).Lest we forget, Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif also promised increased privatization during his election campaign. Over the last two decades these same experts have been ‘advising' all sorts of governments. Now they advise Nawaz Sharif to take a bold step and to go all the way to privatize state owned enterprises.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

The basis of historical evidence

Part II of the three part series against privatisation policy in Pakistan. The first part can be accessed here. Part II appeared in The News on Sunday on December 01, 2014 (
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government has listed some 31 state-owned enterprises (SOEs) for privatisation in the near future. There is no information available at the moment about the modalities of the process but, most likely, it will be along the lines of the procedure followed at the time of privatising Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) when the government technically only ‘partially’ privatised the SOE but gave up its control over the management of the company. This is how it works.
Government offers 26 per cent shares with management control in these companies to private investors and retains a maximum of 74 per cent shares with it. The management control is given by writing down in the contract that each 1 per cent of the privately owned share carries 4 votes (as opposed to 1 vote for each percentage point of the remaining 74 per cent) in the board of directors (BoD) of the privatised company. This way, the minority shareholder private company (or consortium) commands 104 votes in the BoD and hence also manages the daily and other affairs of the company.