“Is there an inch of ground in any Muslim country today where one can stand up and speak a word of truth without fear? If there is, then I am an applicant for that piece of land, because that is where I would like to be buried in silence.” Altaf Gauhar

By Humayun Gauhar

“Say what is true, although it may be bitter and displeasing to people,” said Muhammad the Messenger of God.

On July 5, 1977, Altaf Gauhar asked in a speech in London: “Is there an inch of ground in any Muslim country today where one can stand up and speak a word of truth without fear? If there is, then I am an applicant for that piece of land, because that is where I would like to be buried in silence.” He would have been glad to see that 34 years on and spaces to speak the truth have been won inch-by-inch.

Today one asks: “Is there an inch of ground anywhere in Pakistan where there is even a semblance of governance?” There is not even bad governance, only absence of governance, free-for-all. What we see is a pantomime of ‘government-government’ being played by juveniles and mafias camouflaged as politicians, political parties and intelligence agencies local and foreign. Having carved out the land between them, they are wreaking havoc. There is a very thin veneer of civilization that separates humans from animals. That veneer has peeled off and we have entered the animal kingdom. Our rulers, though, have no such problem, for they belong to the vegetable kingdom.

Governance? Tell me: “Is there an inch of ground in the Muslim world today where one can see real Islam in action?” What we see is rituals and exhibitionism self-righteously wearing religiosity on its sleeve like a medal, Islam’s spirit absent, the objectives of God unknown. All said and done, the buck stops with the people for taking the clerics’ word as gospel truth, following false messiahs and waiting on others to take them out of their predicament. Like the man who murdered his parents and blamed all and sundry for misleading him, then appealing to the court for mercy on grounds that he is an orphan.

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Termites eat a structure from within. Until that last bite, it remains standing, creating the illusion of wellbeing. Comes the last bite and it collapses. The illusion evaporates. That is the condition of the state’s superstructure, the constitution, and the most important substructure that it spawns, the political system. One more bite, another push, one gust, and they will all come tumbling down.

There is total disconnect. Pakistan’s ruling elite is disconnected from the frustrations of its people and their aspirations, living in a fake reality, unaware of the norms of its Faith. By accident of birth they believe in God as a matter of form while believing that Washington is the source of power and fountainhead of salvation.

“Russia – a country in which things that just don’t happen, happen,” said Peter the Great. It applied to the Russia of then. It applies to Pakistan of now.

What say you about a state where the three branches of government are in disconnect, working (if you can call it ‘working’) not in tandem but at cross-purposes or not at all? You call it a dysfunctional state. When, according to this newspaper, the chief justice says that, “…the judiciary could intervene if the government failed to protect the lives of people…” you know that something is very wrong. (The word ‘intervene’ is most unfortunate in the context of our history of interventions). When the US Senate and House of Representatives, Republicans and Democrats, Congress and the White House were at loggerheads over passing a bill to enhance the debt ceiling, could the US Supreme Court have said that if they failed to find a way out of the crisis, “the judiciary could intervene”? It would have been laughed out of court. When a government fails to protect its people you go back to the people, for they are the final court. The Supreme Court can certainly take notice, give advice, pass judgment and ask the executive to rectify any of its unconstitutional actions (which the executive usually does not and which is one reason for the disconnect), but it is not a ‘Parliament of Last Resort’. The Supreme Court certainly cannot order the prime minister or parliament to call elections. It’s like the health secretary saying that if the government cannot provide adequate medical care to the people, the doctors could intervene. Ridiculous. When they don’t even understand democratic processes, how can they be expected to know their own domains?

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The parliament is supposed, amongst other things, to act as a check and balance against executive excesses. It does not for it cannot, the majority at the mercy of leaders of the ruling coalition. It’s nothing more than a rubber stamp.

Predator drones take off from airbases we have given America to bomb and wantonly kill our innocent people and the ‘government’ raises not a finger, only impotent cries. Why? Because it is not really our government, it is theirs. We dutifully give 7,000 visas to US assassin contractors who are running amok in our country. The Abbotabad caper and then the Mehran Base attack caught our military napping. We have a chief minister saying a degree is a degree no matter if it is real or fake. The presidency has hijacked the executive’s functions and neither parliament nor the judiciary sees any unconstitutionality in it. Doctors are on strike. There is no water, no gas, no electricity, no security, no justice, no jobs, no nothing. Anyone can do what he wants so long as he has influence, money, power and guns. Pakistan presents a picture of pathos.

Winston Churchill would also have said of today’s Pakistan: “A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”

We have total disconnect with US short-term objectives for Pakistan that no amount of perception management can manage. We will not allow our nuclear arsenal to be tethered, distance ourselves from China, make peace with India without an acceptable Kashmir solution, let India get a military foothold in Afghanistan and no longer be America’s ally in its ‘War on Terror’ on its terms. What Pakistan’s short-term objectives are isn’t clear. Our relationship is at its nadir.

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The UK-US view is that Pakistan’s survival depends on the choices it makes in the next 12 months. Makes the wrong choices and its curtains. Not that easy, for regional conflagration at the very least would definitely follow and global terrorism would take a quantum leap.

China’s need for energy resources could lead it to stop the desperate US-NATO grab of Middle Eastern oilfields that is underway. Pakistan and its Karakorum Highway would definitely come into the equation. That could spell great destruction, even if China succeeds.

Yes, Pakistan must take the right decisions, and soon, else our structures will collapse. New structures do not rise immediately; the rubble can lie there for long. What are the chances that we will take the right decisions? Given the quality of our ruling class, from zero to zilch, unless the people wake up and act. At the risk of sounding simplistic, we should go back to our real ‘Objectives Resolution’, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s entire speech of August 11, 1947. The solution is there. We only have to implement it.

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