A YEAR WASTED

By Brig Samson S Sharaf

In an article published on 2 January 2013 titled, ‘Resolutions every Pakistani must make’ it was emphasised that willing people can brave the most trying circumstances through emotions, aspirations, dedication and surges of national character and morale to propel a nations to pinnacles of greatness. 2013 being an election year was deemed to be the year of the people provided they made or were allowed to exercise the right choices.

Pakistan is a country lost in wilderness since creation. It suffers from a range of cancers that evade piecemeal treatment. There is no one cause that addressed would put the country on the path to prosperity. The entire politic body is infected with immune maladies that warrant to be attacked on a broad front. These afflictions are distorted history, ideological contradictions, socio-economic disparities, law and order, and a manipulative democracy. As the year ends, Pakistan remains a derelict ship lost in the high seas with a diversity of lethal cargo. In a way, it is this nuisance that helps sustain elites that have benefited most. In the past, democracy claimed its sweet revenge from the state in that it promoted personal gratification of elites and not the people it claims to serve. Most, it ate into the state. In my view, 2013 could have been the year of change.

In fact, numerous events, compromises, lingering doubts and unresolved questions not addressed before August 1947 haunt Pakistan even today. As in the past when some of the most effective leaders of the independence movement were disgraced, Pakistan’s politic body rejects progressive and nationalist leaders. This proves that the consequences of making Pakistan had not been deliberated and analysed threadbare. Hence as time passed, many leaders and people kept falling away till Pakistan was divided in 1971. Those who remain are political stragglers who have no value for the present ruling classes. Pakistan still faces crises of frontiers and ethnic vulnerability.

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The first victims of this regurgitation were the Bengali leaders who actually floated the idea of a separate homeland for Muslims. Prominent amongst them were Sher e Bengal Abdul Kasem Fazlul Huq who after a ‘love-hate’ relationship with the League, drafted and presented the Lahore Resolution and Jogendra Nath Mandal, the first law minister of Pakistan. Others included Choudhury Khaliquzzaman of UP, GM Syed of Sindh, Joshua Fazal Din of Punjab and the entire progressive group that helped ignite the Kashmir Movement but were labelled as traitors in Rawalpindi Conspiracy. The disgraceful treatment of Sher e Bengal, GM Syed and Faiz Group meant that there was no place in Pakistan for those who dared to dissent with the narrative being framed by the establishment.

There is no doubt that Pakistan lost its spirit and direction after the death of Qaid E Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The West Pakistani politicians in connivance with the military, religious right and bureaucracy swiftly alienated the actual vanguard of the Pakistan Movement to sedition and anti-state activities. The political compulsions of states that acceded to Pakistan due to geographical proximity were ignored and the instruments of accession flouted to suit the new narrative. The purpose was to promote an ideology that could work as a bulwark for containment strategy to serve the masters and not the people. As time passed, the interests of these groups grew within their anchors situated abroad.

1949 onwards, these elites marginalised the freedom leaders and proceeded towards inventive nationalism. This disconnect over time has grown in enormity and does not conform to the aspirations of the people. The intention was the creation of a class with unabated nuisance value to evolve a new narrative based on national security, ideology and a vague idea of Pan Islamism. Consequently, a new genre of ultra-patriots has been created who believe in this falsification and can go to any length in defending it.

The first resolution therefore in the above cited article was that every Pakistan must read the true and unadulterated history of Pakistan movement. Though events leading to the execution of Abdul Qadir Molla in Bangladesh, did lead to some debates in Pakistan, the intent was patchy and nefarious. Opinion makers of Pakistan failed in any effort to correct history. As far as the establishment and its propaganda are concerned, the rant of Trojans and traitors continues.  Metaphorically, Pakistan has failed to move beyond Allama Muhammad Iqbal’s Pan Islamism to Faiz Ahmad Faiz’ Nationalism. The ultra-religious right in diverse forms and manifestations will continue to be the major custodians of this narrative that displaced stalwarts of Pakistan Movement.

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The second resolution was to put the country before the self and work with dedication in whatever sphere we belong. The idea was that instead of being critical of others, if each Pakistani puts his house in order, the effect would be rippling and conflagrate to the whole country. Professional honesty, tax remittances, individual character, austerity and increase in outputs would lead to a broad spectrum conservation and create more space for national growth. Unfortunately, hyperinflation, heavy governmental borrowing from the private sector, reactive energy policy and failure to control mega cartels like Pakistan State Oil represents a Trojan ready to engulf any individual efforts.

The third resolution was to build more bridges than walls. Yet opinion makers in politicians, media and organisations ensured that more walls were built to ensure that their adversary dries up from inside. Militancy, violence and crimes were the major beneficiary of this apathy. A stage reached where some political parties openly empathised with the militants, declared them martyrs and succeeded in putting firewalls before counter terrorism efforts that in any case lack national direction. The cruellest cut was the singular design by some media houses to disgrace and malign the armed forces of Pakistan for acting as a state within a state and killing millions of Bengalis in former East Pakistan. For a change, it was the Indian media that sounded more favourable towards the armed forces of Pakistan. The Civil-Military debate in the media and research organisations was unnecessarily negative and prolonged. It goes without doubt that the present media debate against the military is part of a well thought plan that opaqueness of General Retired Kayani inadvertently helped sustain. This approach of stamping a mouse when there is a tiger at the door will be destructive.

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In contrast, no solid efforts were made to address the economic issues that squarely fall on the shoulders of the civilian establishment. Devaluation, dwindling reserves and rising debts ensured that Pakistan’s economy remains on weak tenterhooks. While the dollar spending rich became rich each day, the poverty index has taken a deeper plunge.  Energy crises went from bad to worse, exports plummeted at the cost of imports, rupee became worthless, unemployment grew and civic amenities vanished.  The issues of law, order and terrorism still reckon imaginative counter measures.

The fourth and fifth resolutions pertained to turning out in high numbers and casting votes for a change. Though the people did turn up, their mandate was seriously corrupted by a compliant lower judiciary, gerrymandering and massive rigging. Barring a few ornamental cases, most election petitions were shoved into the black hole of election tribunals. The use of alternatives for magnetic inks, duplicate ballot papers, bogus voting and rejected thumb impressions belie the presence of secret hands. As a result, the people of Pakistan were denied a change through ballot. NADRA has become a ping pong between the ECP and Ministry of Interior.  Does this mean that the establishment with bad policies ensures that the road map to Pakistan’s instability is pursued relentlessly?

In the short term Pakistan’s two major issues are economic and terrorism. Both are not being addressed. Do we need Iqbal’s tempest to set our emotions alive and storm the symbols of power?

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