1947 was a turbulent year that witnessed mass exodus of millions of people, who left generations of loved ones and their worldly material possessions behind to re-establish homes in a land they had never seen before. Innumerable faced grave atrocities on the way and hundreds of thousands failed to escape the wrath of revengeful gangs only to be brutally massacred. Many scars were too deep ever to be filled. The untold personal sacrifices and losses were calmly borne without any complaints, as the dream of a new independent nation was coming true that promised a bright future for the Muslims of the subcontinent and all others who chose to live there. Since then, we have been a land of missed opportunities and futile adventures.
The firebrand Z.A. Bhutto, who had worked as a catalyst to deny majority rule, turned into a healer. He managed to negotiate the release of prisoners through the Simla Agreement. He had the vision to put together an Islamic block and to collect heads of all Muslim states for an Islamic Summit in Lahore - truly historic and a rare feat that, perhaps, will never be duplicated. He laid the foundation of developing nuclear capability that eventually cost him his life.
In early 80s, we took it upon ourselves to side with the Americans to drive out the Soviets out of Afghanistan. The American money brought considerable industrialisation in the country, while making a few individuals very rich. It also solemnised the Islamic jihad of which we remain the notable victims. The architect of the Afghan jihad, President General Ziaul Haq, was sacrificed in a plane crash for unknown reasons, along with the American Ambassador and several top generals.
The immaculately executed 2001 aircraft ramming of the World Trade Centre by hijacked aircrafts once again placed Pakistan in a position of active involvement as a pawn in international strategic manoeuvres. Like all previous episodes, this one was also bungled with an intensity that has left us rudderless, penniless and friendless. We lent our land routes, air space, logistics, armed forces and our sovereignty to the Americans. In return, we earned threats and coercion instead of gratitude. Our own people turned against each other in fierce inhuman hostilities. Our population lives in perpetual fears of terrorism. The whole country is in a state of civil war with various factions fighting armed battles to hold territories of a ruined country. What sort of entrepreneur could be persuaded to invest in a climate of hooliganism and lawlessness?
The persistent jihads have forced emigration from the northern areas towards the south - the main hub being Karachi, a cosmopolitan city of 20 million people with inadequate facilities and infrastructure. The mass scale settlement of Afghan and Pathan refugees has had a negative impact on the culture and social order of the areas. To elbow their way into procuring a slice of the large economic pie, armed groups have sprung up in Karachi with the backing of political parties that control the government. These are involved in all kinds of extortion, labour racketeering, drug trafficking, corruption of public officials, infiltration of illegitimate businesses, kidnapping for ransom and murders. The law enforcement agencies do not have the resources or knowledge to combat organised crime, particularly when the state machinery is at their disposal. The police forces are usually partners in the crime who intimidate all witnesses.
The present government has not been able to turn any of the events to its advantage, despite its claim of being a grass roots party. It has been unable to build a good social network by assimilating all. Instead, it has fanned divisions by calling for provinces based on language and by playing the so-called Sindh card more often than not. It has not even attempted to bring the lowest out of poverty by providing the basics - roti, kapra and makaan famously promised under the PPP manifesto. The rapid population growth has increased consumer demands that have not been met. The pace of change is painfully slow in all fields like transportation and communication that are sources of generating activity.
We are once again showing signs of committing Hara-kiri by challenging a superpower, whereas we lack the capacity even to contain our own. Imran Khan, the Defence Council and Maulana Fazalur Rehman are playing a dangerous game by their irresponsible calls for antagonising the Americans. We opened our roads to the Nato forces when they launched an attack on our neighbouring Muslim country. Does it make sense to demand blocking the Americans now when they are retreating after 12 years? When did logic ever rule our lives?
n The writer is an engineer and an entrepreneur.