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Accountability

The caretaker scorecard

The immediate period after the Presidential Proclamation dissolving the National Assembly (NA) and the consequential dismissal of the Benazir Government has been of some confusion. Toppling of a government needs meticulous planning or there are bound to be mixed signals, in his book on “How to stage a coup de etat”, Emil Luttwak states even conventional “coup de etats” must cater for a period of uncertainty and ambivalence. The subsequent need to dissolve the Provincial Assemblies could have ended up in a legal quagmire unless due process of law took in the Wattoo aberration in respect of the Punjab Assembly. While the Presidential action did exercise some haste in sending Benazir’s corrupt coterie packing, by inference that lack of planning also absolves President Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari of intrigue and conspiracy charges being laid at his doorstep by the lady who can do no wrong.

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The caretaker scorecard

The immediate period after the Presidential Proclamation dissolving the National Assembly (NA) and the consequential dismissal of the Benazir Government has been of some confusion. Toppling of a government needs meticulous planning or there are bound to be mixed signals, in his book on “How to stage a coup de etat”, Emil Luttwak states even conventional “coup de etats” must cater for a period of uncertainty and ambivalence. The subsequent need to dissolve the Provincial Assemblies could have ended up in a legal quagmire unless due process of law took in the Wattoo aberration in respect of the Punjab Assembly. While the Presidential action did exercise some haste in sending Benazir’s corrupt coterie packing, by inference that lack of planning also absolves President Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari of intrigue and conspiracy charges being laid at his doorstep by the lady who can do no wrong.

For some time now, people of all caste and creed representing a wide spectrum of opinion have not only been exhorting the President to do his constitutional duty to rid us of the odd couple that was holding this country in extra-constitutional thrall, but have also been rendering all sorts of advice as to how to apply the “coup de grace”. Now that the President has done the right thing by this nation, a whole slate of bleeding hearts are busy second-guessing his actions. No doubt this debate has been force-multiplied by some appointments among the Caretakers that could have been avoided or for that matter, better slotted. Sindh needs a complete revamp, his credibility in tatters Syed Kamaluddin Azfar must be sent out to pasture alongwith the Caretaker CM Mumtaz Bhutto, not only the original architect behind the language disturbances in 1972 that led to the ethnic Sindh-new Sindhi divide but the initiator of other controversies which strike at the heart of Pakistan’s federal character. Instead of bringing the Sindhis, old and new, together, Mumtaz Bhutto further polarises the issues. The Mohajir community does not have any confidence in him, for that matter neither do most other Pakistanis. One can live with the controversial Khwaja Tariq Rahim but in Sindh the President must not reinforce failure, he must correct the aberration of Mumtaz Bhutto’s appointment before the situation is further compounded. However, we live in a region haunted by the ghost of Chanakhya, “the enemy of an enemy is a friend”, and one can understand why the President remains apprehensive in trusting the nation’s destinies to those whom we can label as genuinely “neutral” people. As a once-upon-a-time PPP insider, he must know that the last Caretaker regime of Moeen Qureshi may have been sound on economics but while giving lot of lip-service to neutrality they were biased almost overwhelmingly towards Ms Benazir. As things stand today, the country is riven with debate as to whether elections or accountability should come first. Having seen the treasury looted and themselves beggared, no doubt the populace is baying for blood but there is nothing more important for this country than to revive the democratic process in the time period given in the Constitution. The accountability process being necessarily a long drawn out affair, the electoral process has to take precedence in order to ensure the credibility of constitutional authority and continuity thereof. By contesting the grounds for their dismissal by the President before the Supreme Court (SC), the Benazir Government may have inadvertently provided the grounds for some individual accountability to start at the apex court of the land. However, that accountability must not take precedence over the accountability at the polls, we must not give her a chance to put the electoral verdict in doubt by her non-participation. On two counts alone, any court in the world should find the former PM and her husband culpable of gross violation of the Constitution, it may also cost the odd couple a lot of friends. Benazir’s extraordinary reaction in the National Assembly to the March 20 SC judgment was broadcast a number of times by Rana Shaikh’s TV, an obnoxious and shameful harangue that poured contempt on the rule of law as well as the respected superior judiciary who have to interpret it. There has never been such gross disrespect for judiciary in the country’s history, defence of such calumny would seek to convert the rule of law into the law of the jungle.

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The lady needs help, badly

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, “Schizophrenia” is a term used by psychiatrists for a group of severe mental disorders that generally have in common disturbances of feeling, thought and relations to the outside world. Various theories of the origin of schizophrenic disorder have centered on anatomical, biochemical, psychological, social, genetic and environmental causes -— the reaction resulting from faulty adjustments to a variety of underlying conditions that may be either physical or psychological, or both. The “hebephrenic type” is characterized mainly by shallow and inappropriate emotional responses, foolish or bizarre behaviour, false beliefs (delusions) and false perceptions (hallucinations) while the “paranoid type” is characterized primarily by unrealistic, illogical thinking, with alternate delusions of persecution or of grandeur, and is often accompanied by hallucinations. “Megalomania” is an element of paranoia, this affliction seems to be fairly common in the Bhutto family.

Ms Benazir’s Dr. Strangelove-type behaviour pattern, characterized by inflections of pitch in speech pattern, her facial expressions and general demeanour as she launches herself into a fantasy world of “conspiracies” involving anybody who runs afoul of her is alarming. A western diplomat described a recent Press Conference as “Benazir in Cuckoo-land”. There are mitigating circumstances for her marked schizophrenic behaviour. For the last 30 years of her life, she has undergone one trauma after the other, starting with her late father’s atrocious behaviour towards her mother, Nusrat Bhutto, a confirmed manic-depressive who was treated by the late Dr Shadi Khan in the “Mother and Child Clinic” in Karachi in 1973 because of a nervous breakdown on her husband’s continuing affair with Ms Husna Ahad, a lady who later became her father’s third (and most influential) wife. This was a father whom Ms Benazir adored and who in turn doted on her almost in exclusion to his other children. The Gen Zia midnight coup of July 5, 1977 was another shock in her collection of mental landmarks, the Bhutto family was herded into the middle of the lawn of the PM’s House in Rawalpindi until it was totally secured. Those in the immediate charge of the operations well remember the then young woman plaintively inquiring whether “they would all be killed”. The next horrific event of traumatic shock must certainly be the unfortunate hanging of her father in 1979, an event that would unsettle much more resilient mortals. Her periods of imprisonment, most of it in solitary, was followed by the drugs-related mysterious death of her youngest brother, Shahnawaz purportedly at the hands of his Afghan wife in the early 80s. When her government was dismissed in August 1990 by Presidential fiat, she must have had another shock but probably she was braced for it because she always expected it from the forbidding presence of President Ghulam Ishaq. Her brother Murtaza’s violent death at the hands of her police in an “encounter” must have also been a profound shock, worse was to follow as the crowds that used to idolize her in Larkana spontaneously blamed her husband for her brother’s murder and refused to allow her or her close political aides near his funeral. Her mother, is in a state of advanced dementia, having lost all three grown males of her immediate family who can blame her ? Coupled with the constant reports, true or false, about her husband’s peccadilloes, the almost universal belief that he ordered her brother’s murder, must have been doubly traumatic. It was fairly common knowledge that brother and husband hated each other.

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Ms Benazir’s government Transition period

While it is considered good form in western democracies to give any new government coming to power a honeymoon period of at least 100 days, the compulsions of the November 13 Presidential elections will probably eliminate that possibility. This is rather unfortunate as it takes time for the new incumbents to settle down into the business of running the day-to-day affairs of the country and it is not fair not to be given a transition period in which to structure one’s “A Team”. Furthermore, despite its commanding lead of NA seats, the Ms Benazir Regime has to tread with care in the formulation of its executive authority and enunciation of its policies on various issues because of the swing vote that the minority groupings seem to command in all the Assemblies.

The first and foremost concern of the Government of Pakistan (GOP) should be the economy of Pakistan. Essentially Pakistan has been in a transition stage because of the wide-ranging liberal economic reforms enacted by the Nawaz Sharif regime. As bureaucratic obstacles came tumbling down and the Pakistani Rupee came close to free convertibility, the Establishment dug its heels in and slowed down the process by various subterfuges and stratagems. At the same time, the privatisation process did not go along the accepted Thatcher-model of “letting a hundred flowers bloom” with respect to proliferation of shareholding among the general public. Already vulnerable because of the transitional status, the economy was hit with the worst floods in the century in September/October 1992 causing extensive damage as well as diverting precious time and resources. The “Long March” followed in November 1992 and then after a brief hiatus, the sustained political crisis of 1993 that saw three changes of government including the present one. The economic state had become uncertain by the time the last Caretaker Administration took over. Changing from over-centralization to the other extreme in liberal economic mores require a stable economic environment over an extended period, economic emancipation can only be achieved by way of increased investment which becomes shy in an unsettled state. Because of increasing development expenditures, there is an increasing of deficits in the face of decreasing revenues. Nawaz Sharif may have been politically destabilized by the process initiated against him, simultaneously the country went into a state of economic limbo. What the Caretaker Government inherited was not the result of bad economic management or policies but the cumulative effect of a government paralysed by political and bureaucratic action over an extended period of time. According to the Caretaker Administration that handed over charge to the elected Bhutto government, their action in devaluation and raising of prices has put the economy on the road to a very sound footing. This will have to be confirmed by Mr. V.A. Jafarey, the Advisor to the PM on Economic Affairs, who is not an innovator in the class of Senator Sartaj Aziz but is well respected as a sound fiscal manager.

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The constitutional process

By insisting that Pakistan is not facing a serious social, political and economic crisis, the government is losing the “credibility battle”. Except for the propaganda disseminated by the government media, everyone else seems to agree with the Opposition that we are indeed in the throes of a series of tumultuous events that may lead us into a state of anarchy. We normally turn to the Army to drag us back from such an abyss, very well knowing that once the military takes power they automatically assume responsibility and it is then easy, once their usefulness is over, for motivated interest to tar and feather them for their “Bonapartist” tendencies. Luckily for us, a new found sophistication among the military hierarchy as well as the absence of cabal similar to that of the trio of three-star intriguers who manipulated events and pushed poor Gen Waheed into an ill-suited role as mediator in 1993, has ensured that the Army has stayed publicly out of the political fray. On the other hand the military hierarchy’s resolve seems to have quietly stiffened up the spine of both the President and the Supreme Court (SC), taking care not to influence them towards any particular direction or end but giving them the necessary confidence to do what they are supposed to do, to separate right from wrong. With that necessary constitutional check and balance in place as in any democracy, any Government, including conceivably Ms Benazir’s one, may function responsibly toward the populace as is their fundamental duty under the Constitution. There is much truth in the dictum about “absolute power” corrupting absolutely. The division of authority between the President, the PM (and as such the executive) and the judiciary has always been delineated but never really adhered to, resulting that at any one time, depending upon the personality and the opportunity, either the President or the PM has exercised more authority, with a more or less subservient judiciary toeing the government’s line. Whenever the friction has become pronounced, the Army has come into the fray at least thrice with direct physical intervention and a number of times before 1958 and after 1988 indirectly by throwing its rather healthy weight behind one or the other, depending upon its preference for the personalities involved.

Ostensibly this present constitutional crisis started on the morning of March 20, 1996 when the SC, in a unanimous judgment, one honourable judge being absent, held (in sum) that the attempt of the present PPP regime to pack the judicial courts with “pliable individuals” was not constitutionally correct. It must be said in PPP’s defence that before them other regimes were also guilty of the same, maybe not in so blatant a fashion. Because of a coincidental separate legal process that required the judiciary to be separated from the executive by March 23, 1996, the battle was entered into in earnest. In acts reminiscent of Hitler’s Germany in the early 1930s, the SC was intimidated, harassed, cajoled and subjected to adverse propaganda by the state-controlled media, most of it focused on the person of the Chief Justice. Having neutralized the Air Force and the Navy by having pliable men of straw to head their hierarchy, the PPP regime had tried in similar fashion to install one of their favourites in the Army and failed. Ironically had they done so, they would have been in real dire straits by now, given that particular gentleman’s penchant for back-stabbing his mentor in time of crisis. In actual fact the present constitutional crisis started on Dec 12, 1995, when the President, duly fortified by the advice of the outgoing COAS Gen Waheed, made his own judgment about the selection of the new COAS based on professionalism, merit and seniority. That President Farooq Leghari could take such a far reaching decision on his own in keeping with his conscience was a crossroad of sorts in the previously unequal relationship between the President and the PM, therefore Dec 12, 1995 rather than March 20, 1996 can be said to be the benchmark in the road downhill for this government. Tantrums notwithstanding, the failure of the PM to coerce the President into rubber-stamping such a major decision gave heart to those who thought the President was only a ceremonial prop for the Bhutto clan. Other than late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, people forget that the PPP had platonic beginnings, being formed as a pure ideological party by such honourable men with misguided socialist vision but with honesty and interesting of purpose as J.A.Rahim, Dr Mubashar Hasan, Meraj Khalid, Shaikh Rashid, Mairaj Mohammad Khan, etc. This once great party that was in the forefront in the fight against corruption and deprivation has now been reduced to a “wagon circle” mentality of defending its leaders from charges of corruption, mostly from whom they have deprived, the masses. Its plight can be measured. Things started to unravel much faster in 1996 in every sector of governance, the prime being the economy where pride of place in its being brought to its knees was not only gross mismanagement by an inept team but rampant corruption at the highest level.

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Horse Trading

One of South Asia’s problems is the ridiculous claim that our democracy is moulded according to the “genius of the people” while in actual fact it is an imperfect electoral exercise that is copied from western models with very little relevance to the local environment. This type of democracy bedevils good governance, particularly because the low rate of literacy provides opportunity for a high rate of malfeasance. The voters in India having given a mixed verdict, parties and individuals in a “hung Parliament” have been engaged in compromising ethical principles in the scramble to acquire the seat of power. The commonly used term for this ambiguous post-electoral exercise is “horse-trading” and except in Sri Lanka, which delivered a complete mandate for change, things are the same in Pakistan, Nepal, India and in the near future will most probably be the same in Bangladesh. With every passing election, the verdict of the electorate is increasingly being blatantly corrupted, with a commensurate loss of public confidence in the electoral process. The crossing of the ideological floor is not confined to post-election power plays only, candidates and parties now search for each other pre-election to determine the best electoral winning combination. One begins to wonder whether a commitment to any party line can survive serving the motivated interests of one’s personal self, materially more important than ideology.

A hung Parliament sets in motion forces that are morally repugnant to the exercise of the free vote. To attain a majority Atal Behari Vajpayee’s BJP government is now engaged in a scramble to influence smaller parties and individuals, who on their part want a binding commitment from the would-be suitors for their special interests or more directly, money and lots of it. This democratic farce of “horse-trading”, is not confined to India or South Asia but is a common practice in most third world countries. Accountability, which is at the heart of the democratic process, is lost at the very outset when stepping into the governance mode. Having violated ethical principles and compromised on election promises to accommodate potential allies in reaching for power, the incumbents are ill-suited as responsible mentors of any exercise in accountability. The result is that increasingly governments rely on the rewards of corruption for survival. In some countries it has become a socially acceptable thing to be blatantly corrupt i.e. the Marcos Syndrome where the rulers brazenly flaunt illegal wealth knowing that a significant part of the gullible public will keep on believing their denials about corruption. Faced with retribution in various forms if they do not conform, senior government functionaries are now finding it more profitable to join in with the loot, some even falling over themselves to ingratiate themselves with the political rulers by teaching them how to increase their looting of the public till while carefully skirting around the laws of the land. A democracy without accountability is akin to dictatorship, a dictatorship that does not compromise on nepotism and corruption would then logically be better than such a democracy. Given that dictatorship almost never accepts accountability about itself, the whole thing slides into a Catch-22 situation.

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Recurring Song, Fresh Singer

Confirming widespread speculation, cricketing hero turned social worker and philanthropist, Imran Khan finally took the plunge into politics in Pakistan. Addressing a crowded Press Conference in the historic city of Lahore a few days after the bomb blast that destroyed the OPD of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital (SKMT), he launched a political movement Tehrik-i-Insaf (Movement for Justice), ostensibly to change the much-disfigured face of Pakistan politics. Most nations face a moral crisis of sorts in varying degree, blatant nepotism and corruption has made our particular descent rather precipitous to a level once associated with the so-called “banana republics” of Latin and South America. With the track record of our political parties rather bleak and without moral authority as a check, excess has reached new heights. With the Opposition repeatedly failing to mount a credible challenge to stem the decay of the fabric of the nation, Imran Khan’s advent into politics thus fills a vacuum of sorts. We are in such desperate straits that any person or organization willing and able (with his/her eyes open) to take us out of this morass is more than welcome to try.

By opting for a movement instead of a political party, Imran wisely stays above the political fray in pursuit of a greater cause than narrow political ambitions in simply chasing after political office. Despite appropriate public pronouncements, his appearance on the political scene has not been well received by either side of the political spectrum. If the bomb was a crude warning delivered by the “more loyal than the Queen” Brigade on the Becket pattern of “who will rid me of this mad priest?”, it had the opposite effect. In an actual exercise of adult franchise, analysts say he would wean away more votes from PML (N) than PPP, for the moment his campaign against various wrongs will help PML (N) put enormous pressure on the incumbent PPP Government. Riven with avarice and greed, the soul of our political parties is encapsulated in the ever increasing outrageous demands of our Parliamentarians, taking us deeper into an economic black hole. Desperate to cling to office, principles of ethical governments have been compromised by successive incumbents lacking the moral strength to take a tough stand. The theoretical touchstone for advancement in a merit-based society is competition, here it is a farcical sop meant as a palliative for the masses since only a privileged few with connections take prized appointments irrespective of performance. The latest example are the 60 cadet pilots chosen for PIA, notwithstanding the fact that flying passengers is a discipline where it is fatal to compromise on skill and experience. Some people do advance in the face of the prevalent norm (a la Gen Jahangir Karamat, the present COAS) but these are exceptions, in his case not only because of sheer merit but because the “court favourite” was too horrible an alternative for the public (and the Army) to stomach. Merit is not only a disqualifier it is also suspect in an environment where the few with merit who do rise find themselves on the receiving end of jealousy and suspicion, being perceived as a threat by those who have risen on the nepotism-route and refuse to accept that success can be possible without favouritism and/or manipulation. Quotas in Pakistan are meant to protect the rights of the minority, instead they are flagrantly misused to perpetuate the dominance of a privileged elite and their clientele, an extension of the feudal system into democracy. The vast majority within Parliament are a privileged elite of tax-exempt feudals who have the effrontery to impose legislation to tax the not-so influential salaried class and the self-employed. Unless this feudal gridlock on the country’s spine is broken, this country is doomed. The major objective of contriving to position the wrong people in the right places is to checkmate any opposition in the wholesale looting of the public till at will, corruption being the Siamese twin of nepotism. Dr Mahbubul Haq, former Finance Minister in Junejo’s cabinet and world technocrat, estimated annual loss to the national exchequer due to corruption conservatively at Rs.40 billion in 1988, today it could be well over Rs.100 billion. A decade or so ago one had to pay a bribe to get something wrong done, now in utter contempt of the law even something that is right can only get done by greasing the right palms. Ill-gotten wealth was kept hidden in overseas accounts, now it is flouted openly and proudly in luxury trappings by the nouveau rich. The silent majority may not be corrupt but compromise their self-respect to pay homage at the feet of those in power, institutionalizing corruption by making it socially acceptable to be corrupt. Those who abrogate their right as citizens (and functionaries) to voice their protest in the “see no evil, hear no evil and do no evil” syndrome are a pathetic lot beneath contempt. Wearing blinkers behind the flimsy fig-leaf of “Constitutional obligations” does not make them any less culpable, their fawning empathy makes them as much guilty as those whom it helps to loot this nation.

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The “Willing” Crowd

As is usual for this time of the year, a number of Pakistani expatriates settled abroad are visiting Pakistan, among them former Caretaker PM Moeen Qureshi (MQ), potential Prime Minister Shahid Javed Burki, former Finance Minister Dr. Mahbubul Haq, etc, (the last named is believed to be returning home to settle in Pakistan permanently). Whether by coincidence or design, they seem to visit Pakistan every time there is some sort of a political or economic crisis in the country. In keeping with past practice, they are doing their usual well-organised rounds of speaking on various platforms, meeting the civil and military hierarchy as well as a cross-section of the people who matter in the Opposition and the Establishment. Dutifully, the print media is effusive about the “pearls of wisdom” that emanate from these economic intellectuals about the measures to be taken to “save” the economy and turn it around so as to provide for a glorious future for the people of Pakistan. Gifted with the gab, having years of experience to back their known brilliance and academic achievements, their solutions still are very much in line, except occasionally perhaps for Dr. Mahbubul Haq, with the known prescriptions of the IMF and the World Bank, the institutions they served faithfully over the years. Dr. Haq has a penchant for human resource development as an agenda of one point, except for him the other two have scant experience in the running of Third World Governments on a day-to-day basis till called to serve, as in the case of MQ as Caretaker PM.

As much as one respects Mr. Moeen Qureshi (MQ) for his outstanding performance as a Pakistani in reaching almost the top slot in a world finance institution despite the BCCI tag on Pakistanis as far as financial credibility is concerned, his ready acceptance of the IMF conditions in August 1993 despite the fact that the Mian Nawaz Sharif Government had initialled a draft in April 1993 having much easier terms, is the raison d’etre for our economic morass today. As the successor elected Government, Ms Benazir was obliged to accept the stiff IMF conditions which certainly gave immediate resuscitation to an economy ailing because of civil strife, but which strait-jacketed her flexibility to manoeuvre in the coming months and years, resulting in economic doldrums as we broke through every danger indicator on the economic path, particularly deficit financing in the past year. If MQ had spent more time in Pakistan, he would have been perhaps more inclined to stiffen up Pakistani resistance to the IMF conditions that were not pragmatic or conducive to the prevailing economic environment. With the opening up of the economy, there was a necessity for increased documentation, but slowly and gradually so as not to “disturb the natives and make them restless”. The second issue one takes with MQ is about shedding crocodile tears for the Muhajir community. Today’s law and order problem in Karachi is not of MQ’s creation but the basically unstable political structure presently in Pakistan is because the MQM did not take part in the National Assembly elections in 1993 when MQ was Caretaker PM and it was his duty to ensure every citizen got due representation at the national level and was not psychologically cast out of the national mainstream. What did MQ do then to redress the MQM’s grievances that in effect changed the entire political balance in Pakistani politics? And which 26 months later remains an insoluble sore point in the list of MQM’s demands? As far as corruption is concerned, at least 1 or 2 of his own ministers made use of their office for personal benefit during the 90 days or so of his Care-taking, why does he not denounce them publicly as he seems to be asking others to do? Or does charity begin at home?

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The Sahibaan Enigma

Speaking at his brother’s residence soon after arrival from the USA, former Caretaker PM, Moeen Qureshi said that keeping in view the political and economic challenges confronting the country as well as the internal and external problems all segments of the society should give up confrontation and evolve national consensus. MQ said that the law and order situation in Pakistan was deteriorating and until the problem was resolved the country could not develop. While declaring himself as “not a supporter of Martial Law” since democracy was restored in the country after a long struggle, MQ said that during general elections in the country he had insisted on the formation of a national government as according to the results of the elections, both the largest political parties of the country had won equal votes. The former PM said that as per democratic spirit an in-house change could be made in the country as a national government was the need of the time. During this Press Conference, he was flanked by the Minister for Information during his tenure, Mr. Nisar Memon, the long serving IBM Chief in Pakistan. Thankfully, other members of the American Business Council (ABC) and the Overseas Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who made up a fair segment of his Caretaker Cabinet, were not present as then it would look very much as the kick-off of a selection campaign by this expatriate Pakistani to become PM of another “national” government.

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System Failure?

A low-key but intense national debate has been initiated because of the comments of some foreign observers expressing doubt about Pakistan’s survival as an entity. In the immortal paraphrased words of Mark Twain, “rumours of our demise may have been greatly exaggerated”, a cursory analysis does show that the “doom and gloom” clouds are much more dense in Karachi, even among sincere, dedicated citizens, than up-country. In the face of continued insecure environment for the city’s citizens, this is not surprising. The creeping anxiety in the psyche of the intellectuals and the entrepreneurs should ring alarm bells for those who are genuinely interested in the continued sovereignty and integrity of the country.

An extremely bright, young ISI major in the then East Pakistan in November 1990 gave his visiting boss from Islamabad a presentation in Dhaka as to what was likely to happen if events continued to follow an uncertain and erratic course. He ended his detailed submission by commenting that those who strongly believed in a united Pakistan felt very insecure as they would be left in the lurch if the worst came to pass. Having said his piece with courage, the field officer waited with bated breath for pearls of wisdom to emanate from the great man. It was not long in forthcoming, “if you are feeling scared, let me shift you and your family to West Pakistan”. That astonished young man, who later rose to high military rank in Bangladesh, decided in sheer frustration at that point of time that despite his personal convictions about the survival of Pakistan, his ethnic background left him no choice but to go with the growing synergy among the masses in then East Pakistan for a separate country. Whereas the intent of the individual was to bring into focus the strategic relevance of the times, his boss, whose appointment and vision thereof should have taken in the measure of the situation, reduced the implications to that of a petty individual requirement. Of such faux pas by the high and mighty is secession born! Today if you go to Islamabad and aspire to get the attention of those who matter in between office routine, afternoon nap, golf, riding and/or tennis and before the usual evening reception (i.e. business as usual), the answer to your repeated entreaties to please focus on Karachi in supersession to everything else is, “shift your family to Islamabad!” When you pester them repeatedly in the hope that maybe your persistence would break through their veneer of calm, the telephone operator (or bearer or whoever) has a repeated message for you, “Sahib has just left for a reception”. If this was confined to one person one would dismiss it as an aberration, unfortunately the exasperation with the bearer of bad tidings about Karachi is universal in Islamabad. While the country was burning in 1970-71, the leadership was out to an extended lunch, no wonder our world collapsed around us. Such is the irony of fate that when it did collapse, all those who had gone from pillar to post predicting dire straits unless remedial measures were taken, immediately became “traitors” for having stated the obvious. Twenty-five years later this is the same labelling for those who now dare to talk (and write) about growing Mohajir alienation from the Pakistan mainstream. The tragedy is that now almost, all except some myopic parochial diehards (with what goes for brains in their shoes), accept that gross mistakes across the whole spectrum were committed in the East Pakistan, dereliction of the norms of leadership and statecraft being directly responsible for the disaster.

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