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Archive for July, 1989

Steering a perilous course

According to BBC’s Mark Tully, Rajiv Gandhi got off the aircraft in Islamabad in an “imperious, jocular mood” and why shouldn’t he? In the face of the Indian occupation of Sri Lanka, the economic blockade of Nepal and the brow-beating of Bangladesh, his visit to Pakistan conferred on him a legality of sorts for all his actions, fostering a feeling of insecurity among a majority of the Pakistani populace, multiplied by genuine confusion over our immediate and long-term political objectives. For the first time in our history, the people of Kashmir seem to be alienated from the government in Islamabad.

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Moral standards

The political leadership of any country must be individually and collectively imbued with a strong sense of purpose and must live (and die) with the courage of their convictions, to the extent of publicly stamping out malfeasance within their own ranks. Activists within the political parties most keep their own leadership in check. One of the recurring claims made by the accused in their defence at the Nuremberg Trials post-World War 2 was that they were only obeying orders emanating from the highest authority. Representing the creme de la creme of Nazi Germany, their submissions were struck down on the premise that they should not have become party to any such actions that they knew to be universally and morally wrong. Being senior military and civilian officers the judges held that their duty was to the state rather to any individual and they were duty bound to oppose any instructions, especially those that were repugnant to society, this opposition to be registered at the very least by simply resigning rather than carry them out. Given a war situation and when fighting for one’s country where does one draw a line, when any refusal or opposition to orders carries a short shrift? On the other hand, it is also true that if some in the higher echelons had shown guts instead of outright and grovelling sycophancy, some of the worst excesses could have been avoided. Only people with extraordinary courage of conviction can stand up and be counted during wartime. Edmunde Burke had said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”.

The same standards cannot be applied down the line to lower state functionaries who, except for the most obvious criminal instructions, cannot start debating the issues, this would result in the functions of government to grind to a complete halt. Similarly, institutions like the Defence Services that depend upon absolute obedience to orders given cannot afford the luxury of having individuals down the line protest orders except those that are totally inhuman. In the course of one’s duties during wartime, unarmed civilians may come in the way, their injuries or deaths is a hard fact of life. There are many instances of soldiers having gone with their conscience however, showing outstanding bravery in standing up for humanity, even at the peril of their lives — and their honour.

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Business and security

The business community in Pakistan is beset with many problems, none of them as alarming as the rapid deterioration of the law and order situation in the whole of Sindh. While we used to kidnappings and hold-ups on TV and the movies or read about in Sicily or Sardinia (or even the interior of Sindh) it has now become an ugly reality in Karachi. The rash of lawlessness has exposed the inadequate security cover provided by the beleaguered law enforcement agencies (LEAs), who besides being stretched thin on the ground are woefully ill-equipped, their multifarious roles taking a demanding toll on their present capabilities. Out-gunned and even out-numbered at critical junctures, the security forces have been left gasping for breath. This is not their fault, it is just fashionable to lay all the blame at their doorstep. Over the years, paucity of funds has kept their manpower/equipment wish-lists from being granted, result is that Kalashnikovs and drugs proliferation has led us to complete domination by forces of lawlessness and disorder.

With the business community up in arms over the failure of the LEAs to ensure their protection, the economic climate has seriously been undermined. Mr Aitzaz Ahsan, Federal Minister for Interior, loquacious as ever, has been doing the rounds of Karachi recently, assuaging the genuine fears of the business community, stunned over the recent escalation of kidnappings over the past few weeks. With the LEAs unable to cope with emergency after emergency and each sector of the community demanding undivided attention, there has been a massive flight of capital and wealthy individuals to safer havens. While money taking wings is always a sore point it is replaceable, not so the entrepreneurial skills which once lost can be catastrophic for the economy. Having had a never-ending brain drain, the exodus of economic talent cannot be endured for long. It is time to address the situation with firmness.

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SAARC degenerates into hypocrisy

The Third World (an euphemism created by THE ECONOMIST) came about essentially by the disintegration of colonial rule, as the shackles of imperialism were cast aside, new nations emerged on the world scene. Individual freedoms did not bring economic freedom to these under-developed nations and even the former masters (with all their existing industrialisation) were forced into regrouping along economic lines on regional basis with a more or less common ideology thrown in as a qualifying factor. If the non-communist nations of Europe came together as the European Common Market (ECM), the communists led by the USSR formed the COMECON. This was followed by the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) comprising Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Philippines besides other informal regional groupings.

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