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The immediate agenda to get Pakistan out of this mess

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This may sound a bit drastic to many interested parties and vested interests and some may say I have gone out of my mind, but the fact is that Pakistan and its critical institutions have collapsed and it is now time for a major, immediate, almost earthshaking, political and administrative renovation effort, to get back control before everything spins out of hand. This major effort would need input and agreement of everyone, whether within or even slightly outside the strict ambit of the constitution and whether someone likes it or not. Legal or judicial approval has to be and will be quickly obtained for this effort. This has to be done quickly as the military launches a decisive operation against the terrorists, now in close coordination with the US/Nato help, definitely inviting a severe blow back from terrorists all round the country. Politicians who know or have been given hints and desperate political forces have already launched what they think would be a decisive strike against the existing inefficient and collapsing political set up. Once these forces get unleashed, the steering wheels would get jammed and there would be no going back. The collapse that I am talking about is at various levels and these include:

  •   Non-existent civilian control, direction, vision and responsibility on matters of national importance and survival, including national security, safety and protection of the people and safety of vital institutions, installations and organisations.
  •   Failure of parliament, federal and provincial governments to inspire confidence and give hope in the present supposedly democratic system, elected though it may be but dysfunctional as it is.
  •  Lack of leadership by giving confidence and assurance to the people that this leadership can handle and protect national, regional and international geo-political and strategic interests of the country.
  •   Failure to provide for the day to day lives of the people, their present, their future, their economy, education, health or whatever. The sense of despair has aggravated beyond limits.
  •   Failure of governments, political parties and organisations to take a high moral ground by taking control and accepting responsibility or carrying out any accountability at any level, be it for failure to perform their duty or for financial loot and plunder, in the past or the present.
  •   There is not one case when anyone in authority has taken responsibility for any big or small blunder or lapse whether while running the government, managing the economy or providing security.
  •  Failure of government and politicians to frame policies without keeping personal vested interests in mind. Every party, big or small has been showing lack of leadership and confidence, taking major and minor U-Turns and demonstrating a lack of wisdom, vision and authority. Except blaming others there is nothing common in uttered words and deeds and acts of omission and commission.
  •  Every major economic initiative has back-fired, including the hundreds of billions spent, almost wasted, on load shedding, circular debt, inflation, oil and gas prices, exports and remittances. At best the economy is drifting, big claims and fiddling with the figures apart.
  •  All government successes claimed have been in borrowing billions of dollars and signing long-term projects, which may end up in smoke if all other prerequisites like physical and economic security, infrastructure development and uninterrupted flow of goods and services, are not guaranteed. No one is in a position to do that.
  •  The military has been bogged down, unnecessarily on external, internal and even political fronts, pitched against the terrorists and the politicians lately, weakening its confidence and resolve at worst and confusing it at best. This is not a good sign for a major war against local and foreign terrorists that is about to be waged.
  •  With no one to lead, or take control or accept responsibility, the country is spiralling towards internal and social anarchy leading eventually to be declared a failed state.
  • So what to do in such a mess. Here are some suggestions that are being discussed and debated in drawing rooms but many agree the time for action on these lines has come:
  •  An immediate declaration of national emergency is needed, administrative and constitutional as well as on security and economic fronts.
  •  Security and running of all key installations must be handed over to the army including airports, seaports, sensitive buildings like Parliament etc so that the verbal diarrhoea on the media exchanging blame and responsibility for failures can be avoided.
  •  Parliament should be suspended for six months to a year.
  •  Cabinet must be dissolved and a 10 to 12-member Emergency Council be set up, with honest, competent civilians (politicians or technocrats or both), representing each province and the centre, the judiciary and the army.
  • This Council should hire competent, honest and experienced/tested people to run the affairs of key institutions and installations without political influence or favouritism. Short and Medium Term tasks should be given and strictly monitored. Those not up to the mark must be quickly replaced.
  •  Provinces should be handed over to similar Emergency Councils, with clean politicians, judges, technocrats and generals on the same pattern as the centre.
  • The first task given to them should be to fight the terrorists and run the affairs through a clean, effective and transparent administration, with zero tolerance for corruption, past or present.
  • All unnecessary and juicy mega projects must be scrapped or put on hold until the country settles down on the internal war front.
  • The media should be told to understand the needs of the national emergency and cooperate.
  • Politicians should be told to take a back seat for a while.

This agenda will, as obviously expected, be described by many as a recipe for a military takeover. In fact what is needed is not a takeover but implementation of this agenda to prevent a military takeover. Muscle and push to implement it must come from supporting political parties, the civil society, a responsible media, an understanding judiciary and a military not having political ambitions.The firepower to help this national agenda get on the track should be provided by the army, using force at times, if need be. The alternate to this will ultimately be a ruthless military intervention which no one will like. So better take a bitter pill now than face an invasive surgery soon.   Article written by Shaheen Sehbai and published in “The News” on 13th June 2014

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