May is a cruel month for Pakistan. It reminds us of its twelfth day when the Chief Justice of Pakistan was forcefully debarred from entering the capital city of Karachi and when the roads leading to the airport were cluttered with containers. That day, the police was ordered to stand away as spectators just to watch the cold-blooded murder of innocent citizens and it was, indeed, the day when the lawyers were put to rude death by gleeful marauders.
These two May events tellingly reveal where we sit or stand today, in regard to our internal and external affairs.
I, therefore, found it laughable when a sweet and eloquent self-appointed (Indian) Ambassador of goodwill speaking to a Lahore audience cavalierly rejected the impression of Pakistan fast becoming a failing state and had the mocking audacity to call it a “model” state. Come, come MSA, a little restraint, just a little less of the art of flattery, please to disarm the avid listeners.
Can one see even a speck of good governance the way Balochistan has been neglected and left to burn itself out? Comes to mind, the mockery of tall statements and the bizarre title of Gilani’s move to do something for the benighted province - Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan. And what has it achieved? All that we see is more missing persons, more Hazaras bumped off, more settlers extinguished and more vital installations sabotaged. What Haqooq for Balochis if the Chief Minister seldom visits the seat of the government and following Gilani’s effrontery dares, defy the Supreme Court orders? So angry is the highest court of the country at the provincial administration and the breakdown of law and order there that it hesitated not, the other day, to warn of a declaration of emergency.
Nobody wants another martial law, but a way has to be found to reverse the gears leading to more disappearances, more loss of life and more of misery for the people.
Talking of misery with temperatures soaring by the day, there is no end to the prolonged loadshedding. When the people come out on the streets and politics hot’s up, a few billions are released to provide a fleeting relief, but no serious effort is made to address the horrendous problems.
After a false dawn, Karachi has lurched back into blazing fire. The Supreme Court, a few weeks ago, had taken up the matter and a High Court level Committee was set-up to monitor progress. But who cares. Least of all the government of Sindh run by an odd coalition of uneasy collaborators each with an agenda of its own. The latest twist of the knot is the jumping into the fray of the nationalist Sindhis. The way one of their reps and a MQM leader abused each other in a TV talk show two nights ago, is a dreadful pointer to the days to come. Amazing how the Federal Interior Minister hums and haws and juggles with balls in the air. Quite an accomplished juggler he is!
Does Mani Shankar really find such a performance commendable? Would such chicanery and failure to manage affairs be tolerated for so long in any reasonably well-run state?
We have a straight face Chief Executive, who wouldn’t bother if millions of poor and long-suffering Pakistanis leave the country. Why don’t they go away – our innocent chief administrator asks. Another sample of a “model” response to the grievances of the miserable people of Pakistan.
One has to concede that our dear country is a hard nut to crack. Crisis after crisis has thickened our hide. Making a hash of our parliamentary resolve, Washington drones, the other day, struck twice in 24 hours. Our new Foreign Office Spokesman (like a well-charged battery) condemned the attack strongly. We keep harping on an apology. At the Chicago Summit, the American President was not willing to even hold a meeting with our beaming head of the state.
A junior court suddenly imposes 33 years imprisonment on a Pakistani doctor, who served as a CIA henchman. Why 33 years, one may ask! Must we go out of the way to affront the most powerful country in the world? What kind of message are we sending abroad? Holding a beggar’s bowl in one hand and brandishing the sword with the other?
The wise Turk Prime Minister, during a recent visit, has asked our leaders to exercise restraint and balance. The problem in Pakistan is that executive power at the national level is concentrated in the hands of a tainted and increasingly a lawless leadership.
Corruption and possession of political and executive power make for a lethal mix.
When the highest courts are defied and norms of justice and fair play disregarded to serve personal and partisan interests (the latest instance is the NA Speaker’s ruling on the Supreme Court judgment), where to turn to for remedy and relief.
Can or will the people rise to take care of the evil-doers? Do we have in the opposition the will and the sagacity to mobilise people to mount a massive resistance? Do people and leaders know what they want and how a new order and a better system can be brought into play?
In the earlier times, the solution was quick and simple. The guardians of our frontiers would pick up the pieces and grab the helm. Hemmed in as they are, by constraints and compulsions, internal and external, and cognisant as they are of the formidable challenges of all sorts, rightly are they hesitant to move in. Good that they will not walk in. But the influence they wield could possibly be pressed into a meaningful service.
Let them keep away, but there is no harm in their extending a firm advice for early elections under a competent and upright Chief Election Commissioner.
As for a rapprochement with the Americans, the present approach which leans on the Foreign Minister and the Ambassador must be amplified by the commissioning of a high-powered body consisting of senior and accomplished politicians (S.M. Zafar, Mushahid Hussain and Waseem Sajjad), wise and experienced diplomats and journalists like Maleeha Lodhi and Tanvir Ahmad Khan, and one or two senior-most military officers to proceed to Washington (armed with a clearly spelt out brief, with options) and stay there till a fair and workable set of agreements is arrived at. We can no longer depend on Mr Zardari and his ministerial minions.
A new start and a fresh approach will yield positive results.
The writer is an ex-federal secretary and ambassador, and political and international relations analyst.