Pakistan: TREADING THE BRINK
By Brig Samson S Sharaf
Pakistan’s Governance method during the past 10 years has acquired a propensity to walk the steep edge notwithstanding sharp precipices and blind curves. Because a tree rots from the top, the trend is pronounced at the levels of Federal and Provincial Governance, establishment, judiciary, political parties and the cluster of Non State Actors ranging from terrorists to criminals, mafias and speculators. Yet this adhoc or anarchist style least serves the purpose of state aggrandizement that continues to weaken from within. Are the underlying motives to deny the other, possible space, self preservation and prolong the status quo for narrow self centered interests the logical explanation?
Pakistan’s governance style has a mix of all the above since ‘Democracy as Best Revenge’ became the cardinal slogan of the ruling elites. Ever since, National Power has been systematically eroded in terms of infra structure, economic policies and social splintering. The list of this malaise is long and unending from billions of rupees lost daily in corruption and inefficiency, energy, CNG, IPPs, tax evasions, communications, transportation, policing, investments, industries, lower judiciary crises, inflation and stagflation.
The Rule of Law is only against the weak and God fearing. Much of the state structure has been devolved without national debates and viable back up policies. The two largest political coalitions have rendered the Province of Balochistan and city of Karachi into killing fields where the lives of its citizens are not protected and law enforcement agencies operate only in reactionary mode. This lawlessness compelled the Supreme Court of Pakistan to step into the void and declare that the entire constitutional mechanism in Balochistan has failed and the constituencies in Karachi need to be delineated. Though some spin wizards may term these interventions as pressure tactics of the ghostly establishment, the ground situation is as clear as crystal. The propagated themes meander within the existential perceptions, truths and half truths to create an image of reality.
As an aggregate, what is wasted in terms of National Power should send shudders down the spines of state managers and citizens. It does not, because the former work spinelessly against the national interests of a country that mothers them and the latter fed with false images are too preoccupied with day to day survival.
In terms of geography being the most stable element of power, Balochistan is under siege of separatists for over seven years now. These separatists are a few thousand supported by foreign sponsors and given publicity magnifying their presence manifold. The provincial administration is locked in the chores of their own merry and money making corrupting the entire system from top to bottom. Ethnic cleansings of Punjabis, Hazara and Pashtuns has new nadirs and people are fleeing. Yet the edifice of Balochistan is being built around reached the romantic notion of a greater Balochistan in which the Baloch of Iran and Afghanistan have shown no inclination. Externally, it has served as a viable proxy against Pakistan to discredit and weaken the country.
Geologically, Pakistan is blessed with per capita natural resources that eclipse any country of the world. The Copper- Tetyan Belt running from Chitral-Swat through Waziristan to Balochistan is one of the longest and biggest deposits of Copper, Gold and affiliated minerals in the world. Sub soil water geysers in Balochistan can produce electricity for hundreds of years feeding the national grid. Oil and gas fields though explored lie capped for unknown reasons. The Thar coal amongst the biggest deposits in the world lie neglected. Gemstones including diamonds and semi precious stones lie unexplored at the mercy of corrupt mineral development corporations. Why such neglect when the state is in crises?
Imaginative agricultural policies and developments are discouraged in favour of overseas corporate interests preventing Pakistan from realizing its true agricultural potential. Local automotive industries are discouraged by incriminating policies. Cotton and Textiles, the biggest GNP earners of Pakistan are systematically starved and edged out of business through the energy policies. The power generation has slowly been shifted from an economically hydel and steam generation to the imported and expensive crude oil. The entire telecommunication sector is controlled by foreign companies implying that we pay in dollars for every call and internet connection that we make. Home grown production capabilities have long been replaced by import based consumerism.
If whitening of black money was indeed a national priority, it should have been done in 2008 to ease the burden of circular debt crises; or to discourage the heavy domestic borrowing from banks in 2011-12, or its conversion overseas into dollars and remittance back home to boost forex reserves; or as direct foreign investments. The intention indeed is to whiten the huge sea of corruption against a trivial levy and giving a surge to the already high inflation, consumerism and windfall.
Sociologically, the people of Pakistan have been reduced to nothingness. Despite democracy, the ruling elites deny them a say in policies. Most political parties have drenched them in narrow self serving propaganda and slogans that least keeps the interests of the state alive. As a recent trend, NGOs and foreign funded organizations have crept in to carry out attrition of the civil society and frame themes and images against the notion of nationalism. The people of Pakistan are caught between the intolerant agenda of terrorists, an undetermined agenda of religious parties, ethnicity, parochialism and dictates of clans, feudal lords and self serving political parties. Most, there is a dearth and absence of charismatic and honest leadership capable of setting hearts to fire in the name of patriotism and national development and bringing the focus back to the country. Pakistan’s power edifice right now lacks ‘the fleeting opportunity of national character and morale’
In the absence of a cohesive and synergized, National Counter Terrorism Policy, Enforcement and Persecution, the law enforcement agencies continue to fight their lonely war at a huge cost in backdrop of a death waltz played in the corridors of higher direction of conflict. As a result, criminals apprehended in combat situations invariably go scot free before a judiciary operating on peace time procedures. Similarly, local administration of urban violence ridden centers are not trained, organized and equipped to deal with the unending wave of urban terrorism.
It is mind boggling that given the general perception that the military controls the national policy making, why an all encompassing policy with a credible civilian and judicial overhang remains elusive? Why has the government been hesitant to introduce legislations that strengthen its counter terrorism efforts? The answer can again be found in the memo-gate scandal that has gone off the headlines, intrusive Kerry Lugar Bill and proliferation of foreign presence through aids and grants. Any counter terrorism legislation extends the writ of armed forces and law enforcement agencies beyond the interests of outside powers and local political actors.
The present government living its twilight is about to hand over a very unstable political economy to the care takers. The buzzword is ‘neither play nor let others play’. How would the interim dispensation contend with the myriads of issues and yet conduct a free and fait election are questions to contend with?
As mentioned in the same pages many years ago, the ultimate targets are Punjab that contributes the major portion of the armed forces and where the perception of nationalism eclipses parochialism. A strong army still remains the guarantor of Pakistan’s nuclear capability and therefore the integrity of the country; the biggest challenge to crippling Pakistan.