Posted by: ourvoicestogether | February 11, 2008

Elections May Further Add To Pakistan’s Troubles

Beyond all the unscrupulous and the blatant butchery that has characterized modern-day Pakistan, the nation goes to polls on February 18, 2008 to elect perhaps another stupendously fallacious group of public representatives and provide President Musharraf with a further opportunity to boost about ‘democratization’ of this astoundingly weakening polity.

What has shaped up to be a horrible example of a notoriously ambitious chain of events orchestrated by powers that be in that country, Pakistan today finds itself standing on the edge of precipice.

I am often asked, ‘what is wrong with Pakistan?’ I have thought long and hard about it and the only answer that I can come up with is that it is not a question of what is wrong with Pakistan but the issue is that there is nothing right with Pakistan and, therefore, the very premise of looking at things in a subtly optimistic manner could itself be an exercise in futility. The obnoxiously rickety structures are so ‘legitimately recognized’ that thinking on the lines of reforming that country is perhaps that worst possible idea in the world!

Here’s how I see Pakistan to be at this stage of its life:

  • Hub of terrorist activity: Every Tom, Dick and Harry of the terrorist world is somehow linked to Pakistan. What has turned to be a sophisticatedly organized activity that has changed the very face of a society that was, for all intents and purposes, a pretty steady, if not a very cool, culture until, at least the 1970s.

Thanks to the mard-e-momin, the great ‘merchant of death’, Zia-ul-Haq, the Arabs and a few other force structures, Pakistan was turned into a slaughterhouse in the name of religion back in the decade of the 80s. Since then there has been no looking back. The fact that the world was somewhat late in taking notice of the madarrsahs, the talibans, the lashkars, the sahabas and the like, did not help much. Pakistan’s integrity, as a nation, was majorly compromised the day state brutality was legitimized in the name of Islamic Shariah.

  • Corrupt leadership: There is not even one stable, sober statesman that one can pinpoint in the sorrowfully miserable history of Pakistan who stood up and tried to turn the tide and stop the rot. Zulfi Bhutto could qualify to be one but the guy was so full of himself that he sacrificed the eastern wing of the country just to have things his own way!

Musharraf showed promise in the beginning until he decided to go political. He did introduce some positive changes in the laws by getting rid of the foolhardy Shariah laws and took steps for economic reform. However, as time went by, his ambition to stay in power until the last day of his life, made him manipulate and pollute the already richly contaminated system. His self-embracing style of governance has not only eliminated any hopes or chances of a new and progressive leadership to take over the reigns of power, it has also resulted in anarchy and a downward trend of fortunes for the entire nation of almost 160 million individuals. Musharraf presents an example of someone who suffers from classic symptoms of narcissism.

Politicians are like leeches. Loads of money, power to subdue their subjects, no accountability, the ability to loot and plunder the public exchequer is all they want and strive for. In the process, on a countless number of occasions, just to gain and stay in power, they have managed to strike deals with the armed forces and hence kept the people’s interests on the sidelines.

  • Haves and have nots: At least 70 percent of Pakistan is rural and by rural I mean no roads, no schools for children, no dispensaries, and a complete absence of the basic amenities of life in a vast majority of areas. People still have to walk miles just to get drinking water in villages and small towns. Money is scarce, scarce enough that folks have to skip meals just to make ends meet. Jobs are not many and the available ones are hard to get – nepotism plays a huge role in every sphere of life.

The haves, of course, have everything their own way. They live the way they want to, wield power and are bound by no rules or laws. They have in the past and continue to squeeze whatever is left in a shrunken resource base.

Good governance is direly needed but is nowhere to be found. A lot is often said about the economic and technological development that has taken place in Musharraf’s time. However, what is often not mentioned is that Pakistan suffers from chronic issues related to power generation, so much so that a majority of areas of the country, on average, go without electricity for up to 12 hours a day!

  • The Pakistan army: Perhaps the most power-hungry outfit in the world! Corrupt to the core and lacking in vision, the Pakistan army has horrendously plundered and pummeled any or all prospects, if they ever existed, of a democratic setup ever being established. What has transpired is an ‘up in the air’ system that is fragile and intrinsically defective and that has innumerable and irreparable flaws. Military interventions are a fashion with the generals ready to jump in at the drop of a hat.

The army has basically adopted two key approaches to justify their presence in the political life of Pakistan. One, that it is the sole institution in the country qualified enough to safeguard national interests and sovereignty.

Two, Pakistan is an Islamic country and hence it is the responsibility of the armed forces to protect and safeguard Islam.

My question is: Is faith such a clumsy ‘object’ that it needs institutional protection? Are the followers of the faith so dangerously skeptical of their respective abilities to comply with its tenets that they like being watched over by the wolves in the khakis?

This forced ‘faith association’ has provided the military with a license to club issues like jihad, nuclearization, border conflict(s) with India, extremism and basically anything that justifies their presence on the scene. In turn, the public at large has been brainwashed enough to accept the subsequent military takeovers and prolonged periods of governance.

In effect, a responsible political culture has failed to evolve, thanks to this thumping vis-à-vis national interests and Islam.

  • A non-diverse country: Pakistan is placid and dull when it comes to diversity, a non-heterogeneous composition of people who have lived together for centuries and have little or no ability to teach respect and tolerance or pass on virtues and healthy traditions. There is a lack of exchange of values and ideas that are so essential to create an atmosphere conducive to development of confidence and security of mind.
  • An utterly failed constitutional infrastructure: Starting from an impotent bicameral legislature down to a useless, waste of grey matter executive, and, of course, a truly devastated judiciary, Pakistan is run by the writ of a dictator who makes and breaks laws as and when he wishes. Musharraf’s demeanors since the past, at least, a couple of years have proven beyond doubt that constitution means nothing to him.
  • Foreign Policy: For some odd reason, some nut somewhere in the Pakistani power structure sometime back got convinced that the country can take over Afghanistan, Kashmir and perhaps India as well! This somewhat sickening philosophy provided an opportunity to all and sundry to get ‘oriented’ toward a frightening trend that Pakistan’s diplomatic as well as military-intelligence agencies are capable to ‘go for the gold’! Needless to say, most of Pakistan’s neighbors area never too happy with Islamabad’s ‘game plan’.
  • Human rights: Whereas the rest of the world may be done and over with slavery, yet, believe it not, it is still alive and kicking in Pakistan! This ‘institution’ is so well entrenched in the dynamics of the national character that I don’t hear even the most diehard critics mention anything about it anymore.

Moreover, the feudals rule over vast tracks of land in the rural areas and maintain peasants that are not paid in cash but just enough grains to feed their families. These ‘slaves’ are not allowed to attend schools and every effort is made to make them stay away from the enlightening influences of the modern world.

Worst still, people in the rural areas dump their children in the madrassahs where the imams chain them and make them learn Islam in the most horrifyingly parochial fashion. It is from these areas that the taliban grow out of. It is from these areas where all types and kinds of jihadis appear who worship the Osamas, the Zahwaris and the like as demigods.

At the state level, torture is rampant. Due to an absence of a strong system of justice, the principle of might is right is prevalent. The real criminals are never brought to book and it is always the weak and the poor that get targeted.

Religious minorities, be it Muslim or non-Muslim, have a minuscule chance to survive in a rather hostile environment. The country has, over the years, turned into an insanely Sunnized state where being a follower of any other faith is a stigma and a non-recommended phenomenon.

I know many Pakistan supporters will not like what I have mentioned above. And I am not even looking for any ‘certification’ from any one individual or institution to ‘legitimize’ my thoughts. These observations are a consequence of years of experience that I, as an ordinary onlooker, felt and sensed each and every day of my life.

It is said that elections in third world countries always bring nations a step closer to freedom and democracy; I say, under the given circumstances and a spiteful president, the forthcoming elections in Pakistan will perhaps hasten the process of disintegration. It is a sad commentary on the state of affairs but when nations lose their creativity, the power of imagination, the will to change and, most of all, are slammed in the corner by reckless rulers, the end is never too far away.

It’s a catch-22 situation. Pakistan is an important country in the present context of international political mechanism. The Washington Post recently quoted a senior US intelligence official saying, “The Pakistanis are at the very steep part of the learning curve. The military leadership sees the importance of getting it right. But they are dealing with a very battle-hardened adversary (the extremists).”

With all its ugliness and an unpleasant set of deformities and disabilities, Pakistan is a mesmerized country and needs big-time fixing. It’ll be interesting to monitor how things progress in the coming few days. It remains to be seen how Musharraf plays his cards. Will he let elections happen without any further delay? Will he let them take place peacefully? Will he try to ‘doctor’ the results? Will he let the process go on even if his cronies are unable to make an impact in the elections?

Pakistan is a complex web of intrigues. It is not easy to understand/disentangle the internal forces that dictate the running of the country. After 60 years of ‘no luck and mostly failure’ history, it is extremely tough to predict a positive future. If the elections are allowed to go ahead, the next few days and weeks could turn out to be the most critical in Pakistan’s history.

–Ahson Saeed Hasan

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Responses

  1. A very indepth and a factual assessment of state of affairs prevalent in Pakistan.


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