By Humayun Gauhar
Though Pakistan is being buffeted by wind and wave and caught in an impending Perfect Triple Storm, the worst thing to be is pessimistic. Those with Faith never lose hope, knowing that God knows best. Descending into hopelessness makes crashing onto rocks and icebergs inevitable.
Conversely, over-optimism based on nothing but wishful thinking is equally dangerous. Get realistic and base your analysis on facts good and bad. Start thinking for God’s sake. Take superficial media and social gossip with a pinch of salt. Think for yourself and think things through, putting your illusions, delusions, wish lists and prejudices aside.
If it helps, remember that the fundamentals of the US, UK and Japanese economies are even worse than ours. Where they are better is less bad leadership. But if their economic decline continues, centrifugal forces in the first two will arise too. After all man, not nature makes states if man thinks that under this particular dispensation his lot will improve. When it stops improving the justification for the existence of the state evaporates and it collapses to morph into other state or states or merge with other existing ones. Sceptical? Remember the Soviet Union and East Europe?
We are not a rudderless ship without a steering wheel. Our problem is that our rudder is alien and thus doesn’t work for our ship. It only works for its owners and top managers who are all pirates so such a ship suits them just fine. The hapless passengers keep sacking and reemploying the helmsmen regularly in a zero sum game, not realizing that they come from the pirates who have hijacked their ship of state. But now the question arises: are pirates good enough to steer and navigate the ship out of this Triple Strom and to where? The pirates’ destination is different, passengers’ different. The pirates are products of the same nursery of colonized minds that are intent on protecting and fortifying the man-eating iniquitous status quo that kills the passengers but enriches the owners.
The Perfect Storm was a conjunction of two storms. The Super Perfect Storm is a conjunction of three storms: our local storm, the regional storm and the global storm. Within each storm are tornadoes – economic, political and social. Every state’s ship is being buffeted by huge storms and trying to navigate out in its own way. None seems to be succeeding. The storm is caused by shifts in global power leading to a New World Order. There are regional uprisings and freedom movements against local tyrants and foreign occupation and every country’s own political, economic and social turmoil. So please have some humility and understand that not everything is in Man’s control. Have the patience to ride out the storm as best as you can without crashing or sinking. That is the imperative.
You have participated in elections, no matter how flawed they were. The die is cast. Too late to cry over spilt milk. Recall Joseph Stalin: “It is enough the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.”
I am certain that this time rigging was not the handiwork of the army, the usual whipping boy for every political failure. But rigging there was. There is enough compelling evidence to repel any doubt. The question is, who could have done it? Such has our voting system become that rigging could only have been done at the level of the returning officers, particularly in the Punjab. The returning officers all come from the judiciary. Does that answer your question? Where’s suo moto? I wish the returning officers had two bottles each. Then we would have got suo moto with alacrity. Election tribunals are also the judiciary. The Election Commission comprises retired judges. The federal caretaker prime minister was a retired judge. Isn’t it about time that we stopped thinking that lawyers and judges can do everything and that they are the panacea to every problem? Get with it.
Now that the die is cast, settle down and reap the harvest remembering that as you sow so shall you reap. If the fruit of the harvest is bitter, cultivate and tend mother earth again. Water it with your tears. If that doesn’t work, colour it red with your blood. Again and again, till you get a sweet harvest. Keep tilling and toiling knowing that God helps only those who help themselves. Don’t lose faith by descending into hopelessness.
As every new moon is first sighted in the land of the swarthy Pathans of the fabled Khyber Pass whom the British are so enamoured with, the latest ‘New Pakistan’ first appeared there too when Imran Khan’s nominee became chief minister. He was welcomed by a US drone strike that reportedly killed a top Taliban commander.
When Pakistan broke in 1971 its new Chief Martial Law Administrator and President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto called the leftover state ‘New Pakistan’. He had lost the 1970 election to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Awami league and grabbed power after the majority had been denied the right to form government and ejected from the state. Thus ‘New Pakistan’ is not a good name to have for it conjures up bad memories for those of us who can remember. ‘New Pakistan’ broke the back of our urban industrial and services economy. Predation increased so much that now ‘Pakistani’ has become near extinct and should be placed on the endangered species list.
The truth is that nothing changes, the predatory pirate gangs remains the same, the prey the same. Change of pirates creates the illusion of change that only the shortsighted fall for. They are pirates after all.
Be positive, Humayun Gauhar. Miracles do happen. People learn, even pirates. Hope that the new pirates can at the very least save our ship from crashing, beaching or sinking. Then we will talk of destination. There are huge rocks and icebergs ahead, not one after another but all in a row. This is the time for ‘all hands on deck’, pirate and prey. One rock is the economy and the bankrupt treasury. There’s hardly any direct investment and a casino in Karachi called the stock exchange is up to its shenanigans, creating the impression of a return of confidence. Manufactured confidence evaporates in a second so ignore the stock market index.
The Global Pirates are taking their foot soldiers in Afghanistan out of harm’s way, but they don’t want to withdraw with their tail between their legs. Thus it becomes incumbent on our new governments to provide the stable environment for them to run away honourably. No harm in that. But it is a tall order when chances of stability get shattered by regularly US drone strikes. Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan were all set to negotiate with the Taliban but a Predator Drone scuttled that. This is not the way to either ensure an orderly withdrawal or enable our governments to provide stability. I sometimes think the Americans need to have their heads examined to determine who is more immature, them or us. Is killing Taliban commander Waliur Rahman more important or is stability and a safe withdrawal?
Once the Americans have gone Afghanistan will revert to type and descend into internecine warfare as it did after the Soviet withdrawal. It could make the turmoil in our tribal region even worse, for the Pathan is one nation, be they Afghan or Pakistani. This could be the right time to assimilate the tribal areas under Pakistani law.
Take no more largesse until, as Sartaj Aziz says, we have put at least some of our economic fundamentals in order. Else a new IMF programme will come under very strict and often inhuman conditions. Subsidies do make things worse. It’s like the pirates cooking the passengers’ flesh and then inviting them to dinner. But without a gradual withdrawal of subsidies the passengers will die anyway and the ship become a ghost ship. We first need to bite the bullet and lower our standards of living, starting from the top for the symbolism is very important. I will not be motivated to go without unless I know that my rulers are also going without. If not, I will start believing that I will only get light when the citadels of the great are in darkness. I will only be empowered when the citadels of pirates are stormed. Such things are sad but happen when the lava of anger and resentment born of deprivation boils over.