Zahid Malik

Monday, July 19, 2010 – I am an optimist, nonetheless I feel my faith has been shaken a bit by a number of developments that took place during the last few weeks, to some extent, in the ability and capacity of the Government to smoothly steer the ship of the State. Some of them convey an impression as if we are living in a ruthless society where no law is applicable except the law of the jungle. If the Government ultimately fails to establish its writ then I am afraid people may rise and take the country into their own hands. I say this because there is no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves. An enlightened and satisfied citizenry is indispensable for the proper functioning of a Republic. Peace and stability is not possible unless the citizens feel that the Government of the day is alive to their problems and taking adequate measures to address them. It is, therefore, imperative that the nation ensures that there is the writ of the Government and rights of the citizens are being well looked after.

From the very outset, let me depict that I have selected this topic after observing a number of events in the length and breadth of the country that speak volumes for the extreme frustration among the masses as they see no light at the end of the tunnel. No one appears to be concerned at the incidents of lawlessness that we are witnessing all over and if this was allowed to go on unchecked it would adversely affect the people’s faith in the Government and maybe in the ongoing democratic process itself.

People’s trust in the Government and their unity are not an automatic act, which comes into being by itself as a consequence of circumstances and development. Unity among the people and resultantly among the Federating Units is only possible when people feel comfortable with each other and policies are devised by the Government in such a way that fruits of development reach every nook and corner of the country without any discrimination. Regrettably, that is not visible even if one puts a cursory look all around.

I would like to mention a few incidents having occurred in the last ten days that make one shudder as to what direction we are heading for. On 11th July, there were violent demonstrations on the Super Highway in Sindh against prolonged power outages, which resulted in the blockade of the highway for more than six hours, halting all traffic to and from the Punjab. Luckily, the blockade did not continue for longer hours in the scorching heat and stranded commuters heaved a sigh of relief as they proceeded to their destinations to interior Sindh, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa.

This worrisome episode reminds one of the repeated utterances by Sindh Home Minister, Zulfikar Mirza, who is a close buddy of the PPP Co-Chairperson. Addressing a public meeting in Karachi on the occasion of 43rd founding day of the PPP he had the audacity to announce that the Party would play the Sindh card with pride if needed and every one knows that this inter alia means to cut off Sindh from the rest of the country. After the tragic assassination of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto such statements were understandable but now they should be a cause of concern for all. When the media reacted over his uncalled-for comments, Mirza was not apologetic but repeated with more venom owning these statements.

Here, I would like to point out that India too plans to isolate Karachi and delink the entire Province whenever so required. In view of the Indian designs, we have to be very careful and take all the measures to keep our sea-lanes, roads and railway links open from Karachi to Khyber and Chamman. In a detailed one-to-one meeting some time back, when I raised the issue of Indian plans to cut off Karachi in case of any future Indo-Pak war, the Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Noman Bashir, conceded that the threat was there. That is why there are talks of further fine tuning and miniaturizing our nuclear deterrence so that whenever there is a threat from the enemy to cut off Karachi from the rest of the country, Pakistan at that time must have the required deterrence and means to hinder such attempts.

Anyhow, the incident of last Sunday is a very serious development and gives a loud message that people can take the law into their own hands if they so desired and thus they can do what India wanted in case of a war. The potential of blocking highways and rail links is there because mafias of all sorts which are well entrenched and armed to teeth exist there to do all that. I would say that the blockade of the highway was not an isolated incident but a routine type of daily occurrence as people in Balochistan also block roads over targeted killings of political workers and ordinary citizens. During agitation against the renaming of the NWFP as Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa, Karakoram Highway was blocked for about a week by the protestors without realizing that the commuters and truckers were suffering who had no role in the renaming of the Province.

On Monday last (July 12), a group of lawyers in Lahore went on a rampage, indulged in hooliganism and misbehaved with a Sessions Judge. That forced about 100 Civil and Additional Sessions Judges in the Provincial Capital and in Rawalpindi to stop hearing of the cases. The lawyers even pelted stones at the vehicles when the judges left the court premises and one female judge met with an accident when she tried to escape from the siege of the protesting lawyers. That was the height of lack of respect for the law of the land by those who are considered as protectors of law. Similar incidents also took place in the last few months in Faisalabad (where a Civil Judge was slapped by an Advocate) and Islamabad.

Cases of human rights violations, suicides and torture at the hands of Police, killings in courts, naked parades of women in far-flung areas forced by the influential and bomb blasts have become a routine affair, while unemployment and price hike have pushed the ordinary people to the wall. That is why the culture of defiance has engulfed the entire society. It is because of the apathy of the Government that in several cases people of the area nabbed dacoits and killed them on the spot as they expected no justice from the complicated legal process.

What all these incidents signify:

There is only one answer and that is total lack of faith and respect in the Government machinery, rule of law and the system. What is added to this is trust deficit in the Government that it has no capacity or will to take firm action against the violators of the law of the land.

When the writ of the State starts eroding, there is always the danger of widespread reaction and violence as the wronged and aggrieved start sorting out things on their own. If I am allowed, I may warn that this has started happening. If this trend goes on unchecked, people everywhere will have no choice but to rise and take the affairs of the country into their own hands.

I sincerely wish that this serious situation draws the attention of our leadership and they come out of their air-conditioned offices and attend to the problems of the masses rather than enjoying perks and privileges that they consider as their right after having been elected, somehow or the other, by the people.

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