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Archive for December, 1991

State of the world

Almost twelve years to the day, the Soviet Union used the flimsiest of pretexts to walk into Afghanistan. Flush with triumphs of its surrogates in Angola and Ethiopia, Afghanistan seemed to be an easy acquisition, formalizing the East European-type satellite status, a convenient staging post in the age-old Czarist dream of secure routes to the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. Three years of Jimmy Carter’s indecisive Presidency had convinced the Soviets that after its Vietnam experience and the self-deprecation syndrome thereof, the US had become a paper tiger that would not involve itself in another adventure on the Asian mainland. The strong are invariably contemptuous about weakness, furthermore the Soviets did not have any qualms or apprehensions about internal dissent or conscientious objections. The USSR’s planners were right in the sense that the Americans did stay away physically from the internecine civil strife that erupted but welcomed the opportunity for a tit-for-tat proxy war against its Superpower rivals. The US pragmatically funnelled money, material and moral help through the Pakistani conduit to all comers among the Afghan guerilla factions, anyone who could take reasonable potshots at the Soviets and their Afghan clients.


The rumour bazaar

Over the past three years or so, this country has been beset by rumours, the frequency and intent now reaching conspiracy levels. Unfortunately for the psyche of this nation, the first major rumour of this present cycle, the demise of the late President on 17 Aug 1988, became all too true after a few short hours of growing apprehension and repressed excitement, depending upon the side of the political divide one belonged. Within a week thereafter, an unfounded rumour swept the country that the then Commander of the strategically 10 Corps, Lt Gen Imranullah, had staged a coup. Coming soon after the earlier rumour had been proven as a fact, this falsehood had to be officially stamped down.

Despite repeated protestations to the contrary, Gen (Retd) Mirza Aslam Beg, the former COAS, was widely expected to topple the government before retirement. The fact of Aug 17, 1988, when he could have done so without much ado cut no ice with friends or detractors alike. Expected to fade silently into the twilight, the launching of Foundation for National Security and Defence (FRIENDS) has set off another bagful of speculations as to Gen Beg’s ultimate intentions. The saving grace is that vested interests are now apprehensive that he is busy organising an intellectual putsch preceding a political role in the future, a possibility which is, incidentally, an individual’s right in a democracy.


Law and order — the Sindh syndrome

The warning signals about Sindh have been quite apparent for some time but one must have a comprehensive and learned analysis embracing the social, political and economic factors tracing the origins of the law and order problem in Pakistan in general and Sindh in particular. Unfortunately intellectuals from both sides of the spectrum tend to project parochial viewpoints that may be counter-productive in seeking practical long-lasting solutions for a very human problem. The approach must be more even-handed and compromising, keeping in mind the existing realities, the wide-ranging fall-out of the ethnic strife can only be assuaged in a comprehensive, multi-faceted solution.

There are two aspects of the law and order situation, the urban and the rural problem, manifesting itself in political terrorism and criminal activities in the urban areas, the order of malfeasance being reversed in the rural areas, criminal activity being far ahead of political terrorism. Unfortunately, political terrorism and criminal activities are now submerged with each other as the militants among the political activists decide that there is profit to be generated from outright crime and conversely, the dacoits having decided that their misdemeanours would be seen in a romantic light if they associate political activism with their shenanigans. The net result has disappearance of the fine line between crime and democratic aspirations, leading to anarchy, a state of insurrection exists in the rural areas.


The last of the Mohicans!

The Pakistan Movement was conceived, created and brought to successful conclusion by the Muslim masses of South Asia, ably led by a dedicated group of politicians, the momentum carried forward by the youthful exuberance of Muslim students throughout undivided India. Many eminent personalities contributed to the creation of Pakistan as the first sovereign, independent entity on ideological basis in the world. Ultimately, it was the indomitable will of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and his powers of negotiation that the finest experiment in nationhood in its time came into being.

The discipline of service and the lack of real intention to buck the system reduced the pro-rata participation of our educated class, whether in the civilian bureaucracy, the military or the landowner gentry category, considerably less than the visible street power displayed by the nameless masses. Yet to govern a new nation one had to depend upon the educated elite, the civil servants who had very efficiently served their British masters. The process of selection by the British had ensured that the best and the brightest came into the civilian administrative cadre, unswerving loyalty to the Crown was the most redeeming feature. The majority of these hard-working and dedicated public servants have contributed tremendously to continuity in State administration and national development since 1947, the quality gradually tapering off over the years. The early death of the Quaid-e-Azam put unfortunate administrative strain on the Quaid-e-Millat Liaquat Ali Khan Shaheed. Increasingly he had to include bureaucrats in the Federal Cabinet itself to sustain smooth governance of a diverse country, the two halves of which were separated by a hostile India. His assassination in 1951 created a vacuum in which the civilian administrative cadre quickly established themselves as uncontested rulers.


Bridging the great divide

The political debate between the parties has degenerated into a personal slanging match that is increasingly an anathema to the continuation of democracy in Pakistan. While this is the norm of street politics at the ward level, the highest reaches of the land are not sacrosanct anymore from this ill-conceived out-pouring of vituperation. The polarisation between the Bhutto ladies and Jam Sadiq has gone down to such frustrating levels that there has to be an intercession by allied forces on either sides to cool tempers down.

With Ghulam Ishaq Khan giving a clean bill of health to Nawaz Sharif, the Opposition’s attempt to meet the President to request for the PM’s ouster was stillborn. This was hardly surprising. The PDA’s main constituent party is the PPP and it is the PPP which is under siege in Sindh by Jam Sadiq Ali, himself a former PPP person. His pointman in harassing the PPP happens to be the President’s son-in-law. The PPP cannot rid itself of the Al-Zulfikar branding, a fair amount of their youthful extremists did join that terrorist organisation during the early days of the Zia regime. This became a natural entity for corporate takeover by the Research and Analytical Wing (RAW), an organisation created by our friendly neighbour, India, to keep the rest of the countries of South Asia in a state of permanent instability. Unfortunately for the idealists of Al-Zulfikar, their ambitions to destabilize non-PPP Pakistani regimes coincided with RAW objectives only partly, RAW own aim being the destabilizing (and eventual Balkan-ization) of Pakistan, whatever the regime. The Pakistan Armed Forces have severely restricted India’s bid for hegemony in the South Asia. Other than the Bhutto family, which conceivably had understandable reasons, the PPP hierarchy may have reluctantly blessed Al-Zulfikar during the early days of their exile out in the political cold, no sane politician will countenance terrorism. While some PPP leaders may show signs of erratic behaviour from time to time, the PPP remains a national party with potent capability in its leadership. The lack of a clear statement in absolute disassociation and continuing terrorism has given Jam Sadiq the ammunition to keep blasting away at the foundations of PPP. This situation was further aggravated during the Jam’s medical absence in UK when “rumours about his demise were greatly exaggerated”. Other than being in exceedingly bad taste, one could hardly expect Jam to be amused or remain indifferent to this display of venom. Third World populace respond to a peculiar brand of democracy, they tend to desert in droves the departed, whether retired or demised, unless they are reminded at some length as to who carries the big stick. Given the excuse by a spate of terrorist incidents, the Jam has reacted predictably to rid himself of his favourite demons by wide-scale arrests of the PPP rank and file in Sindh. The PPP responded by being defiant in Sindh Province, the strike called on Saturday last being a moderate failure in the interior and a total disaster in the major civilian centres, about par for the political course in Sindh!