Survival has been made difficult by successive military and civil regimes. The middle class has all but disappeared and there is an increasing gap between those who have and those who do not. The wretched and the poor are dispossessed to such an extent that they do not even have a consciousness of what they are dispossessed of; such is the scale of Pakistan’s tragic millions.
By Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal
As the two main political parties of Pakistan sharpen their teeth, dulled by greed and mutual bargaining, let it be said once again that it is too late to fool people; there have been noora kushtis one too many for people to take the current reciprocal diatribes anything but false. Let the lions of Punjab and Sindh be rest assured: they might be the only contenders in the ring, but those who watch them hopelessly cannot take their fight seriously. If the gallery is full, it is not because people are genuinely interested in their rotten politics; it is just because Pakistanis have not lost their hunger for superficial fun. Thus the entertainers can perform, but they must know that no one is taking them seriously.
Yet, even for fun, the performance of Nawaz Sharif, now on his first leg of tour in Azad Kashmir, is so poor that one cannot even be amused by it. As if one is listening to a broken record filled with self-pity, defeatism, self-constructed past glories, repeated apologies to the army (“I am not criticizing anyone”), repeated mention of what he thinks he achieved during his previous stints, and helpless pleas to be given a chance once again.
There is absolutely nothing solid that comes out of these speeches. There is no indication of any policy, foreign or domestic, that he will implement. There is no indication of how he would tackle huge problems of the country, such as power shortage, poverty, corruption, and so on. Nothing, in fact, except mere empty rhetoric filled with self-pity: my heart aches, my heart aches about Pakistan! Ache it may, but that is not what a politician is supposed to be telling his audience, gathered from here and there in busloads for the purpose of listening to him, who has controlled and contributed to one half of Pakistan’s political drama for a lifetime now.
Pity the nation which has nothing but these nauseating faces which have destroyed Pakistan through mismanagement and corruption for as long as one can remember. The ruling party has nothing different to offer. Now comfortably enjoying its secure position in the absence of any real opposition, it has no fear from anyone, at least not until the next general elections when unpredictable results may rock the boat. But until then, all is well. The Presidency has full grip on the party, the parliament, the senate and the sheepish elected members of the two houses. Those who could not stand the corruption and feudal control, have left and there is no immediate danger from any side. The smoothly oiled machinery is yielding what it was primed for.
The boss is happy as well, despite his little uproar over the May 2nd drama. Actually, Americans never had it so good: a political setup so fine tuned to the dictates of its wishes that it does not even need to send its emissaries on urgent missions, a military fully supportive of the idea of a long-term American presence in the region; a teeth-less judiciary which can make all the noise it wants to make but which cannot implement anything. Thus configured, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is rolling along at full speed toward its disastrous future: with every passing day adding to the miseries of its teaming millions, with no plan for curbing the increasing power deficit, hunger, lack of educational and health facilities, and poverty. Its politicians, with scant self-respect, sitting in the driver’s seat facing backwards, the engine rolling on its own on a steep incline, the whole train is destined to fall in some ravine.
Silence is better in these times of strife without an end, but one cannot remain silent when lives are taken out on regular basis through state violence. When children and women are killed in drone attacks and no one stands up for these devastating violations of Pakistan’s sovereignty. What future can there be for a nation for whom all the major decisions are made in another capital?
Pakistan’s foreign policy is made in Washington DC; its economic policy is determined in Brussels; even decisions about its educational institutions are made outside the country. All that the ruling party is interested in is an unending supply of lucrative deals and equally unending postings of its own cronies across the country.
One cannot find a ray of hope in this gloomy scenario. Carefully considered, the situation seems to be a direct result of lack of genuine leadership in Pakistan. This has been the case since 1948, a long and barren stretch of time which has shaped the present state of this country and which continues to shape its future. There is not even a process through which a new generation of leaders can come to the forefront. All avenues have been suffocated to death. The only possibility left for the country is a violent reawakening of masses through desperation, but even that scenario is only remotely possible since masses are struggling to merely survive.
Survival has been made difficult by successive military and civil regimes. The middle class has all but disappeared and there is an increasing gap between those who have and those who do not. The wretched and the poor are dispossessed to such an extent that they do not even have a consciousness of what they are dispossessed of; such is the scale of Pakistan’s tragic millions. There is not even a poet left to say, with dismay: this is not the dawn for which we had hoped for, as one from the previous generation was able to say. In the absence of even a poetic protest, one can only hope for miraculous resurrection and awakening, a possibility that keeps one’s hopes alive to some extent, even if it is not grounded in any rational consideration.