Zahid Malik

Monday, June 21, 2010 – With the passage of every day despondency and frustration are on the rise across the country as events like sectarian killings in Karachi, target killings in Balochistan, bomb blasts, tortures, kidnappings and unchecked corruption are multiplying day in, day out. What is most shocking is that the poverty-related suicides are creeping pessimism about the very Federation itself. Effective steps that give signal to the people that the Government machinery is alive to these disturbing developments, are totally missing or at least not visible. I hate to project the views which, in any way, contribute further to this uncertainty because that will add to the mental worries of the already depressed people about the country and their future as well as the future of their children. I am also conscious of the fact that Pakistan Observer’s website, which has the highest number of visitations is keenly browsed both within the country and abroad, therefore, any dismal picture about the country will attract a lot of attention and credence at the international level.

It is a sin to create or add to the problems and mental anguish of the people but I think a stage has come where one has to call a spade a spade, and in fact the higher principles of objectivity in journalism also demand that one must draw the attention of the higher authorities that something is brewing up to bleed the country to the maximum and cause it enormous damage.

Before I comment upon the downslide of the country, let me state that I still pin a lot of hope on the Prime Minister, Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, who according to a Washington survey is the second most popular leader of Pakistan and I would say to him to explore a way-out.

I had a long one-to-one session with the Prime Minister on Thursday last and I was glad to note that he as the Chief Executive of Pakistan after having all the requisite powers to bring normalcy and reset country’s direction, has definite intention and plans to face the challenges and transform Pakistan into a forward-looking State of the Quaid. I have also noticed that the Prime Minister has transformed his entire team in the PM House into an outfit committed to perform. On top of these officials is Mohtarma Nargis Sethi, Principal Secretary to the PrimeMinister who is a great committed and dedicated lady with sterling qualities of head and heart and who spends more than 18 hours a day to discharge her official responsibilities. But it is understood that the Prime Minister whom I describe as a saviour of the system, cannot accomplish much unless and until all other players in the arena have the capacity to realize that the system is getting derailed.

I will not go into details to unveil the dangers to which I am privy as these are sensitive and confidential in nature, which I came to know through off the record conversations with some functionaries enjoying positions of immense responsibilities in the Federal or Provincial capitals. I will only enumerate some of the developments which are already being projected by the media very dutifully and I am just piecing together some of the recent developments that have serious implications, comment upon them and then ask a question from all concerned as to whether or not we have shut our eyes to the gathering storm hoping against hope that by doing so it will pass off without inflicting any harm to us.

The first and atop of these worrisome developments is the situation in Karachi which they are attempting to turn it into a so-called sectarian battlefield. It has all the potentials of spillover to other parts of the country if not curbed with iron hand. Earlier too in the 60s and 70s, such incidents took place and highly inflammatory foreign published literature, mostly from India, was smuggled in and distributed to pit one sect against the other. However, as and when sectarian incidents took place, there were interventions by the Ulema from all schools of thought and Committees for sectarian harmony were formed. The then Governments too immediately took action and got together all the prominent religious leaders and officials at the Governor House to take stock of the situation and pacify the sentiments of the masses. But now sadly no genuine initiative is visible.

From my point of view sectarian clashes are a sure shortcut of national suicide. Lahore attacks against Qadianis’ places of worship were part of the sinister designs to inflame religious sentiments and this particular incident drew worldwide attention and condemnation as Ahmadis have a vast network in major international capitals. Here I may take the liberty of a brief deviation and I may mention that in Bangladesh, similar India-originated literature is being distributed detailing the so-called atrocities by the Pakistani Army against the Bengalis. Almost every month one sees a new book being displayed in Dhaka book-shops recalling imaginary gruesome incidents to keep alive the anti-Pakistan sentiments in Bangladesh. However, there are no rebuttals from Pakistan.

Secondly, the disturbing scenario is the situation in Balochistan, where the continuation of violence and target killings, after regular intervals, indicate that neither the Government’s counter-insurgency strategy nor the political initiatives have so far borne any fruits. Only last week, several government offices were attacked and some of them set on fire in Khuzdar and Turbat during a strike against the killing of two activists of Balochistan Students Organization. A senior leader of a religious party in the Province revealed to me that the Chief Minister was enjoying his perks and privileges but was least bothered about the prevailing deteriorating law and order situation. Estranged Baloch leaders have scant respect for the Chief Minister and are less interested to meet him. It was after the failure of the Chief Minister that Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani had to take the initiative and met elderly Baloch leader Sardar Attaullah Mengal at his residence in Karachi. Incidentally, I was in Karachi on that very day and noticed that Karachites were very appreciative of Mr. Gilani’s reconciliatory initiative. I think there is a need to make a distinction between the real political forces in the Province and those working to advance foreign agenda, so that the people are fully informed of the designs of the enemies and their agents and there is no reaction when action is taken against enemies of the country.

Thirdly, keeping in view the supreme national interests there is a need for closer coordination among the State institutions but apparently there is a lack of required harmony and it looks as if these are pitted against each other. Not only that there is an element of distrust among these institutions with growing perception that one institution is being upped against the other with the result that focus is concentrated on asserting supremacy over one another. It is only due to lack of genuine cooperation and due support to each other that the people are in a state of agony and the country is bleeding. This phenomenon has greatly alienated the people and they are totally fed up with the myopic and shortsighted objectives.

Fourthly, the evil of monstrous corruption is sapping the very vitality of the country. May I say categorically that for the first time in the history of Pakistan, corruption has crept so deeply and is widespread in the body politics of Pakistan that the situation is like that of a hapless cancer patient who is in a third terminal stage of the incurable disease. In every public dealing Department, people cannot get their routine work done unless and until they pay handsome graft to the officials concerned. It is because of corruption that concerns are being expressed about transparent utilization of assistance being provided by the United States under the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Bill. To ensure transparency the United States is planning to set up a separate Audit Office in Islamabad to keep a check over utilization of the huge financial aid being given to the country. It may be noted that influential US Senator John Kerry had recently written a letter to President Obama’s Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke raising concerns over Pakistan’s intentions regarding the use of massive aid being given to the country. He expressed fears of a major portion of the fund ending up in accounts of the corrupt elite of Pakistan. Every Pakistani is ashamed of such statements but none has the courage to deny these as corruption is rampant which is the major root cause of our economic downslide.

I have personal knowledge that some other donor countries too, including the one with whom we have strategic relations, now prefer to route their aid through NGOs and UN Agencies in Pakistan instead of government channels as they have lost faith in our system. Our major national institutions like Pakistan Steel Mills and others are being given huge bailout packages as a result of corrupt practices and employment of depraved and inefficient heads who are believed to be having links with the top. I am afraid that these huge bailouts too would also go down the drain.

Fifthly, our last national ailment relates to fast weakening, rather crumbling, system of governance. Different institutions particularly concerned with law and order are collapsing and people are losing trust in them. Police is sadly being projected as an Agency promoting crimes. The perception in the society is that crimes are taking place with the connivance of police officials in their respective areas. The police has become helpless and ineffective because once upon a time this very efficient institution has been politicized and there is too much arm-twisting interference from the high-ups of all sorts. It is because of this definite perception that people have started taking law into their own hands and are sorting out the issues themselves. There had been quite a few incidents when dacoits were beaten up and then burnt before the arrival of police. Some police stations too had been set on fire by the angry mobs. The worst was a confrontation between FC and Police in Lahore a couple of weeks back when officials of each force tried to show its might and supremacy over the other. No action has yet been taken against the senior officers behind this incident. The intolerance in the society has reached to such an extent that even people associated with the noblest professions like doctors and lawyers are thrashing journalists, judges and government functionaries including civilian security forces.

How come a large number of weapons, ammunition and drugs were recovered from a jail while in some other prisons too there had been revolts by the inmates against the attitude of the staff deployed there. One cannot limitlessly go on pointing out the failures of each and every Department in the Government but some of the above points are enough to indicate that nothing is moving on the right path in this country of the Quaid.

It is in this perspective that some critics are describing some top functionaries, whom they expect to take corrective measures, as part of the problem. According to these critics, expecting corrective steps from them is futile as they visibly lack capacity or will or they are acting according to the guidelines of those who helped them occupy these higher positions. Thus the prevalent situation has given birth to despondency and what has further added to this situation is an apparent lack of concern of the rulers who appear to be totally insensitive.

In conclusion, I may emphasize that it is extremely dangerous if people lose faith in the future of the country. If the normal system doesn’t deliver, interventions and revolutions become inevitable. Are you dear rulers totally deaf and dumb?

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