By Khan. Hussan Zia
Many eminent individuals have of late been expressing fear and apprehension in foreboding terms about Pakistan’s future. They mention corruption, over-population, increasing poverty and sinking economy as the main issues and conclude that people are turning to religion and extremism as a way of escape. The inference is that those at the helm of affairs, apart from being corrupt, are inept and need to be shown the door before it is too late and things reach a stage where orderly redemption becomes difficult. The inevitable question that crops up is who is going to bell the cat? While there is general consensus that the situation is worrisome, the proposed solutions are not always clear or practical.
Perhaps as force of habit, references are made to what some of the Indians have said about Pakistan even when we know that good feelings between the two countries are an ephemeral affair and when Manmohan Singh refers to these he merely states the obvious. It is the same when M. J Akbar writes an obituary for Pakistan. The Indians have been indulging in such wishful thinking since before day one. In his book, Nehru: The Making of India (p. 405), M. J. Akbar himself quotes a letter written by Nehru to K. P. S Menon, India’s representative in China, on 29th April 1947 in which he stated that partition was going to be temporary and India would be one country again. What any Indian thinks or wishes for has little bearing on the existing situation in Pakistan.
There is also the presumption that without the so-called US economic aid Pakistan’s economy may not survive which is open to question. Facts do not support this contention.Dr. Ishrat Hussain, ex- Vice President World Bank and Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan had written a piece in The Dawn of 16th April 2008. Its conclusion read in part “the pundits in the US who believe that they can use the leverage of USofficial aid to paralyze Pakistan’s economy are sadly mistaken as they have an exaggerated sense of the importance of these official flows. ——-This analysis explodes the popularly held myth that Pakistan is so dependent on foreign assistance for its economic survival that pulling the plug would force it to yield under this pressure. These sages and their followers in Pakistan are well advised to seriously reconsider their basic premise.” It would be safe to assume that given his background Dr. Ishrat Hussain knows a thing or two about such matters.
Almost all of Pakistan’s current economic difficulties can be traced to a single source —- the most ill-advised war imposed on the country by the Musharraf regime.According to published figures the country has so far spent $68 billion from its own resources on this hideous venture and there is no end in sight. To put it in perspective, ten new Tarbela-sized dams could have been built with this amount that would have staved off famine, floods and power shortages for decades to come, if not forever. It is well within our means and there is nothing that stops us from putting an end to this madness. If the US and NATO are prepared to fight on endlessly, they have a different aim and means at their disposal. We are not obliged to go along with what they do at our peril. It is cause for great worry when there is so little movement in the concerned quarters to pull our chestnuts out of the Afghan fire.
Other areas of concern include rampant corruption, mismanagement and disregard for the law. These are not new in themselves but the scale witnessed presently is unprecedented. The Supreme Court, while hearing a suo motu case on 27th September 2010, questioned the State Bank of Pakistan on Rs 256 billion worth of bank loans to prominent political and business figures that it had waived until 2009. Only Rs 30 billion of these pertained to Benazir and Nawaz Sharif’s times in office while almost all of the rest were written off after the military coup in 1999. There are no less than ninety-six ministers in the federal cabinet as against fourteen each in the US and China. Each minister costs Rs 160 million a year to maintain and his perks include fifty thousand units of gratis electricity, one hundred thousand rupees worth of free phone calls every month and forty-five VIP air travel tickets every year. This when the economy is teetering on the verge of bankruptcy and a third of the population lives below the poverty line.
Given the number of convictions and criminal cases that had been in progress against so many members of the present dispensation they could never have come into power on their own steam. It was made possible through a deal struck by the military regime, with the involvement of foreign powers, in which thousands of court cases were withdrawn under the so-called National Reconciliation Order. In the ensuing elections hundreds of candidates with faked degrees assumed office illegally. Considering the circumstances, it would be naïve in the extreme to expect that such people would willingly put their own future in jeopardy for the sake of the country or act against the interest of the powers on which they depend for their survival.
Even though the Supreme Court has ruled the NRO unconstitutional, implementation of the decision is in the hands of the very people who are affected by it the most. The same is true for cases involving disqualification of Senators, MNAs and MPAs with faked degrees. It should come as no surprise then that so little progress has been made on these fronts. When it comes to flouting the law of the land and court decisions Musharraf was no different but he got away with it because he was backed by the military. The situation is much more tenuous now and has been tolerated thus far mainly due to apathy on the part of the people.
Any dispensation that owes its good fortune to external powers, pays little heed to the laws of the land and is in it only for its own benefit cannot be good for country or the people. We have reached the stage where national security is being threatened from within. Such situations should not be allowed to persist nor should the armed forces remain indifferent.Bluff, bluster and lavishing gifts on activist organizations like the lawyers and the press associations, using public funds, may postpone the inevitable for a short while. Left unattended, sooner or later the pot is bound to boil over.
If this were allowed to happen there is no telling how things will turn out. We have examples of other countries that give some indication and Iran comes to mind first. In the absence of any other viable alternative to the Shah people turned to the mullas. The results are well known. Institutions of state including the armed forces disintegrated. More than thirty years have passed and Iran has not yet recovered. When change becomes inevitable it is infinitely better that it should happen in an orderly fashion and not by enraged leaderless people taking to the streets.
Since the law and courts’ decisions have been prevented from taking their course and a public uprising is not in the national interest an alternative has to be found. A military coup is, if anything, even less desirable. Since the army played a determining role in putting the present lot into power, in the process, it also assumed responsibility for their actions. It is a trust that cannot be disavowed. The country is hemorrhaging because of the war the onus for which also rests with the army for Musharraf was backed and supported by it. A solution has to be found quickly and, like it or not, the ball rests in the army’s court. There are many constitutional ways of bringing about desired results short of a coup, provided there is a will. Doing nothing is no longer an option.
The writer is the author of the booksMuslims and the West: A Muslim Perspective and Pakistan: Roots, Perspective and Genesis.