Sultan M Hali
THESE are trying times for Pakistan. The country has been the target of massive terror attacks. It is only recently that the tables have been turned on the scourge of terrorism and the harbingers of this demonic trend are on the run. The recent visit of international sporting teams to Pakistan are a testament to the improved security situation. The economy, which had been shattered due to myopic policies and corruption, are now depicting signs of positivity and foreign direct investment (FDI) has reposed confidence. The Damocles of Sword of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is still hanging over Pakistan’s head. Energy shortage, which had plagued country for over a decade, is also being finally harnessed to provide relief to the masses. Law and order situation, which had gone totally berserk, are now portraying signs of improvement although sporadic occurrences of pedophiles targeting children and burglaries and breakins mar peace and harmony sought by the citizens.
The exterior manoeuvre, which had forced Pakistan into a corner and virtual isolation owing to near absence of a robust foreign policy is portraying better prospects but faux-pas like promising to attend the Kuala Lumpur Summit and later abstaining have hurt Pakistan’s image. External security is a major concern. The war on terror in Afghanistan had a massive spillover effect on Pakistan and continues to present challenges. Pakistan’s eastern neighbour India, which has postured with hostility and jingoism continues to threaten with dire consequences. India is being ruled by a repressive regime, which has extremist Hindutva as its guiding principle. In its bid to crush Indian Muslims, the Indian government first removed the Articles in its own Constitution, which provided Kashmir with autonomy, then forcibly annexed it into Indian Territory.
The Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir has been in a state of lockdown for almost 160 days. Its residents are besieged, harassed and molested. The people of Assam faced the National Registration of Citizens (NRC) which marginalized over a million Muslims, was followed by the draconian Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which has brutally put the Muslims to the stake. Narendra Modi’s repressive regime declares Muslims to be invaders and thereby, outsiders; concluding that thus, they have no place in India. This has become the core of Modi and his Bharat Janata Party (BJP), the ruling party’s inherently sectarian Hindutva policy designed mainly to demonize, de-humanize and dispossess Muslims that constitute 14% of India’s population.
Most Mughal emperors were also very inclusive rulers who treated their subjects equally, without religious bias. For example, Audrey Trushke, in her new book, Culture of Encounters: Sanskrit at the Mughal Court, documents that the Muslim rule in India – the Mughal period – was in fact, one of “tremendous cross-cultural respect and fertilization.” Trushke further argues that the Hindu/Muslim division in India was not a creation of the Muslim rulers but of the British. In sum, Modi’s blanket assertion and stigmatization of all Indian Muslims as invaders as evil is not only downright falsehood but malicious and an affront to the idea of India’s multi-ethnic, multi-religious nationhood. Resultantly, all of India is now in a state of chaos because of Modi’s extremist policies. Its economy has suffered, and protest riots are taking a heavy toll. In this milieu, there is a strong possibility that to divert the attention of its masses, India may opt for adventurism against Pakistan. In these circumstances, it is imperative that Pakistan’s Armed Forces maintain their vigil and prepare themselves to meet any onslaught from India. To make matters worse, political scenario in Pakistan became murky because the top leadership was taken to task for corruption. To hide their guilt and get reprieve for their party heads, the opposition parties virtually paralyzed the Government. The political conflict affected the economy as well as the state of wellbeing of the masses. It is heartening that the political parties have now come to terms in order to strengthen institutions of Pakistan.
Geo-politics surrounding Pakistan is extremely critical which does not require State to get involved in petty internal disputes, but to concentrate on a looming global disaster in the making from our western and eastern borders. Prominent anti-State activists are leaving no stone unturned to destabilize Pakistan in these critical times and support our enemy’s narrative. The consensus and joint efforts by mainstream political parties is being appreciated by the general public. This whole process is supportive of the argument that democracy is gaining strength in Pakistan, something which the enemies of Pakistan cannot digest easily. For sake of stability, prominent political parties have left behind petty issues and are in favour of strengthening Pakistan. The political strife was worsened because of judicial activism. However, for a change, the politicians have collectively saved day. This should be a lesson for our judiciary too to stop meddling in affairs of executive and concentrate on solving thousands of pending cases.
Positive indicators like the stock market’s rise, when other prominent markets in the world are seeing a decline supports the argument that Pakistan’s economy will increase in 2020 and onwards Insha Allah. Increase in FDI and Pakistan’s move from a consumer economy to manufacturing industry will definitely bring about economic stability, not only in Pakistan, but in the entire South Asian region. The masses must be provided the confidence that political unity is a must for stability. Differences if any should be debated in Parliament and resolved on the floor of the House to bring about harmony.
—The writer is retired PAF Group Captain and a TV talk show host.
Sultan M Hali