Pakistan at the crossroads

Saeed Qureshi

Pakistan is in the grip of a pervasive panic and swelling tumult. The downtrodden sections of society are clamoring for a right to live. The poverty and despondency is writ large on the face of Pakistan and its inhabitants barring the resourceful. Prophets of doom and skeptics apart, the agonizing fact cannot be overlooked that the country is drifting to nowhere like a rudderless ship on a turbulent sea and is entirely at the mercy of fierce lashing winds. The shipwreck seems to be one of the dreadful eventualities. The poor Pakistan is in the hands of an inept and baffled leadership that appears to be totally paralyzed and incapable of effectively addressing even such basic problem as providing flour to the citizens at least for them to survive.
The incumbent PPP government was elected to power through a popular vote. Its cardinal slogan is Roti, Kapra aur Makan (food, clothing and housing). It was the same slogan on the crest of which the charismatic leader Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto demolished the military dictatorship and mobilized the people of Pakistan for a secure and better future in unprecedented turbulent times. Much water has flown under the bridges since his era and demise. The PPP of today is a mere aberration of yester years and its leaders only shadows of the past and unworthy inheritors of a great legacy based on the slogan that ‘Power belongs to the people’.
Their political outlook and demeanor is based on compromises and deals crafted for self preservation. It is precisely for this reason that its advent into power made no difference in terms of ameliorating the lot of the people of Pakistan. Rather the shape of things is worse and is fast deteriorating. The status quo is still there and is rather well entrenched than the past. The ministers in charge of multiple portfolios spew out vague promises about a splendid future .But in the next breath they, unabashedly, announce price hikes of the utilities and commodities of daily use, pushing the already bludgeoned people to the zone of torment. They seem to be having no idea as to what they were talking about and as to how their every announcement was reflective of the complete disregard for people’s woes. It is nothing short of rubbing salt on people’s wounds inflicted by escalating prices and breakdown of utilities and civic amenities. Corruption and rampant mismanagement stalk the nation building and public dealing departments. A ‘free for all’ situation is ballooning unhindered for thugs, looters, high way robbers, adulterers, burglars, rapists, killers, et el.
The Prime Minister and his retina of ministers are of the same brand and made of the same stuff who were associated with the previous regime of Pervez Musharraf and Shaukat Aziz. The only difference is that when they were out of power, they wore common man’s dress, and voraciously talked about people’s problems. Now they are attired in custom made western dresses, drive in slick cars and instead of their party workers, are escorted by courtiers, secret service bands and sycophants. The stage is the same: only the actors have changed. It is a sheer mockery of the revolution they would talk of day in and day out when they were out of power. They have violated and defiled their own mandate and charter. Their life style is as glamorous like scions of regal dynasties. Contrary to their earlier discourse they bank upon the military option to quell militancy either nationalist or religious. Indecision is their hallmark when it comes to the dragging issue of judges or forging durable coalition with other political partners. Balochistan is burning and is in the throws of a civil war or insurgency. So is the Fata belt that was never up in arms against the federation until Musharraf provoked them. The tribal imbroglio could have been arrested long time ago by integrating those areas politically and socially with the rest of Pakistan. A final decision about the Durand line can be effectively hammered out under the aegis of mighty US. This is possible because both Karazai and Pakistani leaders are protégés of America and by soliciting American good offices this chronic headache can be removed once and for all time. Thus those rugged and no-go type of zones called tribal belt would become accessible. Such type of resolution would end the cross border infiltration besides burying the hostility of six decades between the two neighbors. The terrorist bands in any from cannot stay in settled and integrated lands and these would cease to exist as safe sanctuaries for outlaws, terrorist and saboteurs. The present dispensation in Pakistan can perform a historic role by pleading with US to help accomplish this crucial task. The United States would be the biggest beneficiary of such a development. The tribal inhabitants would thereafter not only willingly support the anti- terror operations of both the governments across the borders but would themselves turn against Taliban and other dreadful outfits.
Same strategy can be applied with India to make Pakistan’s eastern border trouble free. Once Again American intermediary role can be greatly decisive and instrumental in finding an acceptable yet realistic solution of the thus far intractable and blood drenched issue of the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The most plausible resolution of this thorny issue is to convert the Line of Control into a permanent boundary between the two countries, albeit with acceptable modifications. It should be objectively admitted that neither India nor Pakistan can win this land with force. The holding of plebiscite seems to be a far cry as India would never agree to it no matter how long Pakistan and the Kashmiri harp on that tune. The conditions are entirely different now than what they were in the initial years of independence of India and Pakistan from the colonial yoke. There could have been a quid pro quo on taking Kashmir for Hyderabad but that rare opportunity was missed by our leaders. The Kashmiris should be allowed to move freely between the borders. If this happens, Pakistan’s economic burden would be reduced to a half. Maintaining a huge standing army to fight India would no more be necessary.
Subjects of permanent borders between Pakistan and Afghanistan on one side and Pakistan and India on the other can be broached. If Pakistan makes its case forcefully, America would also perceive the windfall advantages coming out of such landmark rapprochements for her. It is the test of the statesmanship of the present corps of PPP and the leaders of other political parties to take momentous decisions without being swayed by hollow, meaningless and emotional slogans of liberating Kashmir through a holy war. At home front a new Social Contract should be unfurled that must promise a socio- economic revolution for Pakistan. It should take care of every aspect of our national milieu: from the strict codes of cleaning the streets to running of the parliament. It should be entirely focused on the creation of s civil society. It should herald a clear break from the status quo. The social contract can be modeled on the good governance and welfare systems of the western countries without taking leave of our cultural and faith values. All available resources such as coal, water and optimum agricultural and industrial potential should be tapped to make Pakistan not only self-sufficient but a truly prosperous state. The absentee landlordism should be replaced by distribution of uncultivated lands to the landless peasants. All nation building institutions should be drastically overhauled to make their functioning transparent, public welfare oriented and efficient. Pakistan is at the crossroads. It is a defining moment for Pakistan. It is also a defining moment for her leaders both let the ongoing drift and decline to hasten and aggravate or to put Pakistan on the path of a massive recovery and stability. The stupendous challenge devolves on the political leadership both in power and in Opposition. Whether the perception of the failed state can be buried for good or lent more credence and momentum solely depends on our leaders.

Source: Pakistan Observer, 30/7/2008

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