It has certainly been an unmitigated time of horror, repulsion and despair for this nation. The mob justice being meted out in Karachi followed by a similar, mercifully failed, attempt at the same in Lahore has been a stark reflection of the depths of barbarity and despair to which society has sunk.
After waiting for decades to see effective and fair governance, promises of a better life fulfilled and basic decency, it is hardly surprising to find mobs taking justice into their own hands, venting all their rage through a barbaric violence and watching with a vengeance the burning of fellow human beings. The total lack of faith in the law enforcers has never been so chillingly reflected and it is ironic that all this has happened after Mr Suddle was sent to Karachi as the law enforcer par excellence. Seems his mission may have been more politically directed to rein in the MQM even as the streets of Karachi burnt. In any event, if this is not a spiralling into anarchy, then what is?
But then why blame the ordinary Pakistani who has witnessed the elites abandoning them when the going gets rough and creating safe havens for themselves abroad — only returning through scandalous deals and when the scent of power is strong. Worse still, they have had to see indifferent rulers themselves brutalise and physically violate the people when they rise against injustice and tyranny. Just a year ago, the officially sanctioned carnage in Karachi on May 12 took officially practiced brutalisation to new levels with a callousness that was reflected in the ugly celebrations of power the same day in Islamabad.
That is why from the urban centres of civil society elitism to the humble abodes of ordinary Pakistanis living their increasingly miserable lives in the rural areas and urban slums, the clarion call for justice and rule of law that was led by Chief Justice Iftikhar and the lawyers’ movement found an unquestioning resonance.
For the ordinary citizen who cannot hope for NROs and other such salvations, it is the higher judiciary that is the last hope for justice and protection against state tyranny. It was the support of the people that created a scenario whereby the government of the day increasingly lost credibility and forced the need for a new political dispensation which in turn had to begin with fair and free elections. Of course, the US sought to draw the parameters of this new dispensation and hence the deal since they saw the threat of the growing anti-US sentiment in Pakistan in the form of a less welcoming democratic political dispensation.
So when Mr Zardari expresses his gratitude to the US, UK and EU for pushing the country to democracy, that is not entirely correct. It was the street power of the lawyers’ movement and the upsurge of civil society in its support that forced the move towards a new democratic dispensation. However, it was certainly the US and its allies that pushed a particular democratic dispensation on to the country. That has been the negative aspect of the post-electoral scenario where the elected people are increasingly out of the loop as unelected returnees from overseas implement certain agendas — with the US ambassador, Ms Patterson, filling the role of a viceroy. What was left of our sovereignty post-9/11 has now been bargained away to the US. But perhaps the most galling aspect is the lies that are still being fed to the nation at large.
For instance, the US continues to kill our citizens indiscriminately through its missile and helicopter gunship attacks but we are either told there was no such attack — the presumption being we are all blind — or that the killings by the US were not “an attack”! This last claim was made by Haqqani, our new rep in the US, who declared in the face of clear evidence and US media reports to the contrary that “the US has not attacked Pakistan.” Then what were the missiles launched against the tribals’ in Bajaur — a gesture of love through “friendly” killings? Or is Bajaur not regarded as a part of Pakistan so that the attack cannot be regarded as an attack on Pakistani territory? At a time when others in the Muslim World are beginning to stand up to the US, why are our rulers so servile in their submission to US diktat?
There are lies, big and small, these days and they are being fed to the people as a daily diet. The British, in their usual games, now tell us that while the British officials at our airports can grab a Pakistani’s passport, it is not confiscation but mere retention! A forced retention can hardly be different from a confiscation and it is a shame on our successive governments for allowing the Brits this nonreciprocal authority in our own country. When I had raised this issue in an earlier column the Brit press person was miffed and gave out a bizarre and accusatory response. The latest news in this regard yet again substantiates by earlier contention that our rulers are merrily renouncing elements of the nation’s sovereignty to the US and UK.
Lies have become so endemic in the psyche of the ruling elites, regardless of who they may be, that in all probability they do not see it as an issue. Look at our prime minister declaring that the judicial issue was complicated because of the problem of “one seat, two chief justices”. This is just one of the deliberate confusions being created at the official level to continue keeping the judiciary under executive control, and are all ploys similar to the claim that the judges can only be restored through a constitutional measure — which immediately would be an expression of legitimacy for the actions of November 3 and beyond!
Meanwhile, people are facing a crisis of survival — again at the level of foodstuff it is certainly an artificially created one given the bumper wheat crops we have seen over the last few years. So where are these stocks? Are we deliberately being led to a situation where we are in such dire straits that the US can step in and demand exacting quid pro quos — as was done immediately post-9/11? Some of us had been critically writing about the extent to which the US was intruding on our sovereignty, but post the February elections, the intrusiveness seems to know no bounds.
Ironically, every time we move in the right direction ourselves in order to deal with the problem of violence and the tribals’ marginalisation the US ensures failure by military attacks on our territory. So we continue to sell lies to our people. But now the results of being fed on such lies over decades has created its own monster within our civil society. We do not need to look for Al Qaeda or other “militants”.
Our state has created a dehumanised population that has been terrorised and suppressed and has now unleashed its own terror within society. Today it is robbers who are facing mob “justice” through public burnings. Who will it be tomorrow? Everywhere violence has become more brutal — with the dispossessed either taking their own lives along with those of their children; or turning on to other citizens and reflecting an uncontrollable rage that needs satiation even beyond killing — as was witnessed in the unbearably hideous incident at an NDU residence in Islamabad where the mother and children were butchered and then burnt. Is the headiness of power so lethal that the whole nation can be sacrificed for self-satisfaction and revenge?
Tailpiece: Just to set the record straight, the US embassy had twice asked Riaz Khokhar when he was foreign secretary to remove me from the ISSI but they failed. I am told the General Hood expose put them into a hyper frenzy and this time they succeeded. But I had a good innings thanks to the talented and responsive research team of the ISSI.
The writer is a defence analyst. Email: email@example.com
Courtesy: The News, 21/5/2008