They’re Breaking Pakistan
Protest in Pakistan against terror attack on Bacha Khan University
On returning home yesterday my dear darling wife asked, “Can you give me 500 rupees?”
“What happened to the 500 you had?” I asked, sure that she would say “I spent it”.
“I washed my shirt forgetting to take the money out. It got dissolved, the money, not the shirt.”
I laughed: “You too are a money launderer but of another kind, not the Ishaq Dar sort. Your shirt got laundered, the money got dissolved, nothing was whitened.” She quietly took a 500 note from my wallet and as an afterthought another. Tickled, I said, “At the rate we are going we are all in danger of being laundered and dissolved, not whitened.”You take money from my wallet but give me a lot in return so I don’t complain. Our government takes money from our wallets and gives us nothing in return, so we bellyache. I am happy to let you take as much as you like because at the end of the day its all yours, but the people don’t like giving any to governments that give them nothing in return.
Our governments are peddlers of doom and gloom; people like me are not. Government incompetence and criminality cause feelings of foreboding. People like me only have the gumption to declare it, that’s all. The majority prefers the head-in-the-sand approach for imaginary mental and emotional protection, preferring to live in delusions until they evaporate.
I wonder: have I been wasting my time by holding forth all my life? Has it made a lot of a difference? In less than a decade we have gone from bad to worse to the brink. Should I continue holding forth during whatever little is left of my life, playing the flute to donkeys, casting my pearls before swine, or should I stop wasting my time and yours and let the Swine Flu upon us become a pandemic? Some would smile and say “stop” but I will listen to my conscience.
Those with eyes can see that what is left of Pakistan after 1971 is in grave danger of dissolving. Historical anomalies aside, we have come to this pass for four reasons:
1. Non-delivery to the people.
2. The Constitution being made even more unwholesome with the 18th Amendment that castrated the federal government and gave power to even more inept provincial governments with multiple incapacities, the worst of which is total lack of principles and morality. At the same time it has reduced the army’s libido.
3. A law that makes it possible to whiten corrupt money by paying one percent tax, sending the message that it pays to be corrupt as long as it is big corruption.
4. The Sindh Assembly’s bill that the provincial prosecutor general and district prosecutors can withdraw cases against economic and militant terrorists, which makes a joke of our war against militant and economic terrorism. Thieves don’t catch thieves; they protect them. Now it is legal to steal and illegal to prosecute the terrorist and corrupt. If this is not declaring independence, what is? Treason thou art afoot.
When government’s intent is to protect corruption and criminality, is it not inviting anarchy and coup? Blood flows in anarchy and, I fear, will also flow in a coup this time if it comes. But if it comes to saving the country from collapse the army will be forced to act under its oath, even if it happens too late and only for appearances sake. Else there could be mutiny.
Letting Pakistan disintegrate is fraught with global danger.
1. It would accelerate regional centrifugal forces, especially in Afghanistan and northern India. Redrawing boundaries, collapse of states and emergence of new ones always seems fanciful until it happens. We have witnessed it many times in the last half century. But when it does happen every wiseacre says, “I told you so.”
2. Unstable Pakistan would enable terrorists to grab the entire State or parts of it or parcel it out in parts to different terror groups. We tend to forget that apart from the military the only other organized force are the terrorists. See what ISIS has done in Iraq and Syria: made a state of its own whether you like it or not. If I had told you this would happen only a couple of years ago, you would have declared me mad, as I’m sure many of you are thinking that Humayun has gone mad talking about disintegration. But I’ve seen 1971.Don’t forget that nature makes nations and countries; man makes and breaks states.
What can save Pakistan?
1. A popular uprising that upturns the status quo.
2. Those who are charged and paid to save Pakistan do their duty. But do they know how?
3. To those who think that only terrorists can hold it together, good luck.
As things stand there seems little chance of either a popular uprising or a coup. The army is part of the status quo and seems comfortable with it. A somnambulant people seem comfortable in a master-slave relationship, in love with their chains and cages. But you never know: just a small spark, a Tunisian fruit seller moment, can explode into anarchy that spills over onto the streets. But unlike Tunisia, we are not a nation, rived as we are with parochialism, each interested in his province, his neighbourhood, his neck of the wood, not realizing that if the entire wood catches fire and is burnt down his neighbourhood, his neck of the wood will be destroyed too, even if he declares his neck an independent wood.
We must understand that:
1. Yet another bumbling army intervention is the last thing we need because, as always, after a short-term cosmetic economic blip it falls flat on its face because all it knows is following the same old standard operating procedure – ‘legitimization’ by the Supreme Court, constitutional tinkering, sham ‘accountability’ with culprits finally let off with plea bargains and pardons, bending to US pressure followed by elections that will take Pakistan back to square one and the merry go round of destruction starts again. If this is the intent then it is better to let matters take their course and reach their natural conclusion. Perhaps the system will self-correct though there seems little likelihood of cancer curing itself. Or…I don’t want to say it.
2. The people and the military need to realize that western ‘democratic’ systems in the Third World don’t work because they don’t deliver. Our emphasis must be on multi-sectoral reforms that lead to workable democracy that delivers.
3. America also needs to understand that western democratic systems are a bad weapon and its mantra too has to change to multi-sectoral reforms that lead to workable democracy that delivers.
In a rising tide of unsustainable debt Pakistan’s mostly fake reserves are meaningless. Real growth is a third of what it ought to be. Joblessness is increasing as there is little direct investment and real economic growth is an illusion, outpaced by rising population. Agriculture, our backbone, is degenerating, stagnating, production falling. So is industry. Despite falling world oil prices, prices at the pump are not. Thus unemployment is rising. The government is like Bo Peep who lost her sheep, desperate to raise revenues but just cannot because people who are already paying indirect taxes on most everything don’t trust it. Our stock market is a casino. Transport is grinding to a halt. There is hardly any clean drinking water, gas or electricity. Education is tantamount to spreading ignorance. Medical care is cosmetic. Timely and affordable justice is absent. Parliaments are jokes, hostage to inept, corrupt and mentally challenged parliamentarians, executives and judges. Media are in the hands of charlatans, largely determining the agenda. Insecurity is rife. Non-delivery? People are getting nothing. Such a desperate situation pushes people towards terrorists. At least they get a salary there.
Terrorism is the only business thriving despite military operations to root it out because civilian governments and they army are not working in tandem. We saw that with a horrendous terrorist attack in a university last week that killed 122 people and on a security check post a day earlier that killed five. Yet our prime minister chose to remain in Davos to make a useless speech to claim that the back of terrorism had been broken and they were on the run. Make any excuses you like Mr. Nawaz Sharif, put whatever spin on it, that terrorists are reduced to attacking “soft targets”, no one believes you. You are bereft of all credibility. The Little Bo Peep look on your face betrays that you are totally lost, your moral compass broken.
Terrorists have not been wiped out yet because we fail to realize that the war against terrorism is won not only on the ground but also in minds. Terrorists have an ideology-based narrative even if it is satanic. It attracts the desperate. We have no narrative or counter narrative because we are confused of ideology. It repels the desperate. Thus we are faced with multiple failures in every sector.
A student of history will look upon this as a continuation of the fragmentation of British India to its old equilibrium of pre-colonial days. Fragmentation of a forcefully glued together Indian sub-continent started in 1947, then again in 1971. Pseudo democrats will say, “Here goes Humayun Gauhar again asking for another army usurper.” They don’t take time to work out that army usurpers are products of inept politicians who in turn are products of army usurpers. Political governments are usurpers themselves for grabbing power after rigging the ballot. It’s a comfortable symbiotic relationship, each a reflection of the other, each a usurper in his own fashion, each the same except in apparel. Actually, politicians who grab power after rigged elections are the greater usurper than an army general because they pretend to be democrats whereas they are actually the antithesis of democracy that eventually causes army usurpation. The pseudo would rather have incompetent politicians with bad intent ruling the country even if it causes collapse because they believe in the stupid dictum that the worst democracy is better than the best dictatorship, forgetting that bad democracy is another kind of dictatorship. At this rate they will find themselves being ruled neither by politician nor general but by terrorist.
I have been a proponent of letting the political process continue unhindered so that people learn and we finally arrive at a good outcome. But sadly the outcome looks dangerously like Balkanization. It’s happened after every world war as too the Cold War which was a world war. Why not after the ‘War on Terror’? This is the first time the West’s enemies have won. This is the first time the lead enemy is not European. This is the first time the enemy is from the Third World. This is the first time the enemy calls itself Muslim. Thus Muslims see it not as a ‘War on Terror’but a‘War against Islam’. What the world really needs is an intellectual and political war against state terrorism that begets non-state terrorism.
The map of the Muslim world drawn by European colonizers after the first two world wars is changing. In the line of fire are not just Iraq and Syria, but Saudi Arabia, Libya, Lebanon and now Turkey. Others could fall into the fray. It all depends on how strong they are within. Not military strength alone because all Muslim states put together are not as militarily strong as the Soviet Union was when it fell like a house of cards, but by having happy populations with huge stakes in their states that come only from delivery, not from a free for all melee of booty taking by the ruling classes. Countries that survive the destruction of historical forces have internal cohesion born of economic strength and independence, sovereignty intact. Without economic sovereignty they lose political and military sovereignty too and are reduced to bombast and bluster, firing words, not bullets. Iran is a case in point.