My democracy will not deliver
As if advertising a new maternity service, the President declared in his opening remarks in Washington, “my democracy will deliver”. The fact is that Pakistan has crossed the threshold where neither any one’s personal brand of democracy nor any general brand of dictatorship is likely to deliver any more. We cannot even hope to come out of what we have allowed ourselves to get into – without scars that shall define our being for a long time to come.
Pakistan faces three major problems. Its army is engaged in a massive war with a barbaric group of militants who are invading parts of the country and forcing the population to choose between getting butchered or adopting their perverted values of the pre-Islamic Jahiliya era. Our next major problem is the United States, our pro-terror partner in war against terrorism. The United States has succeeded in influencing and penetrating our leadership and converting them into bonded labour by selective application of ‘doles and drones’. Finally we have a colossal human tragedy as some 1.2 million people are deprived of their homes, jobs and dignity. They are forced to vacate their homes and go elsewhere to beg for shelter, food and survival. The scale, severity and complexity of these events is far greater in magnitude than most Pakistanis have even begun to realise. Regardless of what may be the final outcome of these events, Pakistan would have changed for ever. It will no longer be ‘business as usual’. There is much to suggest that it could implode and fragment, making it possible for Talibans, Americans and the world at large to choose the most desirable pieces of this dysfunctional state. There are also those who believe in miracles and suggest that if we agree to radically change the structure of our state and its elite, we still have a reasonable chance of becoming a more caring, just and people-friendly society. This however is no longer possible by symbolic candle light vigils, green flags, inviting the Imam-e-Kaaba or press club protests. The time for attacking the symptoms, and that too half heartedly is over.
The government of Pakistan reacted with shock and surprise, when President Obama made a very simple statement, “ the government of Pakistan does not seem to have the capacity to deliver basic services: schools, healthcare, rule of law and a judicial system that works for the majority of the people.’. This was no discovery and every sensible Pakistani had long been saying the same thing. Any state that only serves itself and its 2 percent elite through a system of mutual NROs and becomes completely irrelevant to the majority of its citizens is very likely to be replaced by alternate forces.
We are in the midst of a major war. Do the 100 odd ministers and advisors who flout the traffic rules in their unregistered bullet proof Prados give any signs that they represent a country at war… a country that is one of the poorest amongst the nations and whose leaders carry a begging bowl as an integral item of their daily dress code. Could this job not be done by ten good souls driving in plain Suzukis and stopping at every traffic light? Does the itinerary of our globe trotting President even remotely suggest that we are at war? As the country fights a painful war of survival, a profoundly inconsiderate President takes off on a ten day private visit hopping from one capital to another. Till March 2009, his visits had already cost a whopping 157.257 million rupees to the national exchequer.
The Chief Justice has been restored. The ordinary citizens are not really interested in how many ceremonial guards of honour does he receive every week. He has avoided touching the core issue of justice in Pakistan – the issue that no one is above the law and that NRO is an illegal document. He has not taken a suo moto notice of the killing of the three Baloch leaders. He has neither summoned President Musharraf for violating the constitution nor sacked the judges for taking oath on the PCO. So it is ‘justice as usual’ in Pakistan.
For sixty long years, Pakistan has been ruled by a state that is least concerned or interested in its ordinary citizens. It consists of and serves only the interests of a small, rich, wasteful, opulent, pampered and law-breaking elite. They pay few taxes and follow no rules. They are the new breed of well dressed militants. They carry unlicensed weapons, unregistered vehicles, private guards and often foreign passports. Even when 1.2 million Malakand refugees struggle for every morsel of bread, the lifestyle of this inconsiderate elite could not be altered by as little as a single bottle of mineral water. Unless this skewed and blatant disparity is considerably reduced and its pampered lawless elite is willing to be a part of a more just and equitable society, we should be well on our way to the US and the Taliban intended destination. If we do not reform this dysfunctional state right now, there will soon be no state to reform. The country, like its railway system needs major re-engineering. Those asking the passengers to instead recite holy verses have a prescription which is no different from the militants of Malakand.
The News, May 2009