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Monday, June 29, 2009

Pakistan: The Crisis of Society and State


“The failed state”, “the rogue state”, “the epicenter of international terrorism” and “the most dangerous place in the world” are some of the epithets being used for the Pakistani state.

Suffering from deep malaise, the presently the Pakistani society is characterized by multiplicity of fissures. Its components – individuals and groups – are fast losing sense of belonging together. They hardly function in a coordinated manner.

The people have become despondent and their attitude towards the social problems varies from that of indifference, muted reaction, skepticism, frustration, anger to outright fatalism.

Most of the social institutions – including the system of education, religion, economy and government, that otherwise provide values and norms, define roles and regulate relationships in a society and fulfill fundamental human needs – have become dysfunctional or malfunctional.

The social institutions are failing in imparting a sense of purpose, producing sufficient goods and services and/or distributing what is available equitably, maintaining law and order, and providing necessary security cover to the members of the society.

Wild projections and conspiracy theories abound as to where is Pakistan heading.

In the backdrop of this grim scenario, the present endeavor purports to raise some of the burning questions that are responsible for creating despondency and resignation in the Pakistani society.

The foremost reasons for despair are the war-like situation in the north-western areas of the country, breakdown of law and order, extreme economic hardship, rising cost of living beyond the pale of shallow pockets of 90% of the people astronomically rising unemployment, worst kind of mismanaged energy sector, resulting in innumerable hardship and torture, rampant corruption presided over by a corrupt to the core political dispensation devoid of Leadership and resulting in heightened concerns about the ultimate outcome of what is going on all around.

The people are at a loss to understand the Taliban phenomenon and its transformation from a movement to establish peace and order, and implement some form of shari’ah in Afghanistan to a militant outfit that has allegedly become a threat to Pakistan’s national security, in the form of a hydra from nowhere.

There was a time when the Taliban of Afghanistan were eulogized as a pro-Pakistan force that would give strategic depth to Pakistan and stand shoulder to shoulder with Pakistan armed forces to defend the country in case of any Indian aggression.

The people are utterly confused and ask, ”how come the Taliban, yesterday’s mujahideen and allies, have become today’s terrorists and enemies of Pakistan?

How come Pakistan has wound up with a Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan”?

If the change has occurred because the Indians have penetrated the ranks of the So-called Taliban in Pakistan, why is the Pakistan government shy to put the blame squarely on India?

Is not eerie silence of the Pakistan government intriguing in the light of the fact that India never minces words in blaming Pakistan if any act of terrorism takes place on its soil?

If the Indians are using the territory of Afghanistan to foment trouble inside Pakistan, is it possible without the connivance of the United States?

And if this is happening right under the nose of the United States, what are the American motives and designs regarding Pakistan? Is the United States a friend or a foe?

Does the United States simply want to shift the theater of war to Pakistan to get heat off the coalition forces in Afghanistan or block China from reaching the Arabian Sea by destabilizing north-western Pakistan or its agenda goes beyond that?

Is the war in north-western Pakistan really Pakistan’s war or the United States has engaged the sixth largest army in the world by allowing or abetting the forces hostile to Pakistan to export a War in Pakistan?

Is the NATO waiting for the opportune moment and some day its forces intend to enter Pakistan? Is the United States after Pakistan’s nuclear assets?

Why do President Obama and the US officials have to repeatedly offer assurances that the United States does not have any sinister intentions? Is this not something fishy?

Does the United States want to bring Pakistan under the hegemony of India and make it play a second fiddle to that country?

Why was the understanding to offer transit route to India across Pakistani territory to Afghanistan reached in Washington? Whither Pakistan’s security and national interests?

What about those maps visualizing Pakistan’s disintegration and emergence of Greater Balochistan and Pakhtunistan and even ‘Islamic Emirate’?

Why is China conspicuously silent? Where are our Arab friends?

Is Pakistan’s leadership hand in gloves with the United States?

In today’s Pakistan, every individual with some knowledge of the current affairs poses the question: (God forbid) if something happens to Pakistan what is going to be ‘my future’ and the future of my family?

And when he thinks in terms of ‘my future’, he is in fact not referring to himself as a ‘Sindhi’, ‘Punjabi’, Pashto’, Baloch’, ‘Saraiki’ or ‘Mohajir’, as yet as a Pakistani.

What is devastatingly shocking is that a number of people long for disintegration of the country and visualize their future post-Pakistan.

Although the vested interests in the media played into the hands of foreign handlers of the TTP that facilitated or forced the launching of military operation. The people whole heartedly supported the Armed Forces of Pakistan. However, the people are also apprehensive about its long term consequences for the society and state.

Will the military action be a protracted affair sipping every pint of Pakistan’s energy or become a bleeding?

The capable armed forces of Pakistan, will be able to conduct a sustainable counter-insurgency operation, without honest, efficient and committed political dispensation?

Will the collateral damage remain within tolerable limit? What will be the ultimate humanitarian cost of the operation?

What is the guarantee of the security of Pakistan’s eastern borders except the American assurances? And if the United States is already conniving with or abetting India in destabilizing Pakistan’s north-western region, what is the worth of the American assurance?

Will the internally displaced persons return to their homes in near future? If they do not return to their former places, how is the state going to cater for them in the long term?

What type of social, economic and political pressures will build up if the majority of internally displaced persons settle down in Sindh, particularly Karachi, and Punjab?

How will the various Sindhi nationalist groups and the Mohajir Qoumi Movement react to or exploit their settlement in Sindh?

The military action in FATA led to the spread of Talibanization in the settled areas of NWFP and now one hears about the ‘Punjabi Taliban’. What if the ‘belly’ of Pakistan, mainly comprising central Punjab, gets radicalized?

The society is already plagued with the Shia-Sunni rift, what if it gets divided on the line of Deobandi and Barelvi maslaks/School?

There is no denying the fact that, what goes by the name of TTP, read Indian Sponsored and financed terrorists, are fomenting the Sunni-Shia and Sunni-Sunni sectarian specter.

At a time when Pakistan is confronted with the most serious threat to its existence since 1971, on finds complete rot all around.

On the economic front there is nothing to cheer about. Musharraf years’ growth of 5% to 7% in GDP was based on promotion of consumption and liberalization of credit facilities and, therefore, unsustainable.

The incidence of poverty has increased substantially. The rate of inflation is too high and unemployment is rampant. The gap between the haves and have-nots has widened to an extent where the society has lost its equilibrium. With bread selling at Rs. 6/- a piece there should be no surprise that the figures of suicide and crime are soaring to new heights.

The government’s failure to divert necessary resources to social sector is playing havoc with the lives of common people. Sufficient state funds are not available for education, health and transport services. Justice is beyond the reach of the poor. Electricity outages and gas shortages are giving thorough battering to the people.

These are some of the questions the people ask to, particularly the Political Leadership in the country, particularly, the so called opposition. Also those fence sitters and the ones out side the representative bodies. The intelligentsia, the Talk shows Analysts and columnists too ought to debate and answer.

The society is all ears for education, illumination and way forward, they know Pakistan is the best they have.

At this critical juncture, the leadership ruling the roost is totally devoid of any initiative, vision and capacity to steer the society and state out of the multi-dimensional crisis.

Instead of a charismatic leader who could electrify the masses with a sense of purpose and mission, one finds pigmies – notorious for their corrupt practices, insatiable greed and VIP culture – at the helm of the affairs.

Without a visible change at the top and a paradigm shift in the approach to the country’s multi-dimensional crisis the society and state are doomed or destined to languish in trauma.

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