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Archive for May, 1992

The army in Sindh

That the forces of disorder have created a state of insurrection in the Province of Sindh is an established fact. That the Army would be eventually used to restore the rule of law was also never in question, what is the moot point is whether the Army may not be already too late to rectify the situation. Part of the problem has arisen from the fact that political leaders have lacked courage in taking tough decisions because they were reluctant to upset the political apple-cart, part of the delay has been because the army hierarchy have been understandably hesitant to deal with the situation till the political process had clearly failed and instead of being hamstrung by diverse and vested political requirements they would be free to implement the rule of law in Sindh. Normally Aid to Civil Power is taken to mean that the jurisdiction of civil administration remains paramount, in this case the army has been (very correctly) holding out that there should be no interference by Civil Power once the cleansing process had commenced. Given that the law enforcing agencies and judicial process have been hopelessly compromised in Sindh (relatively in relation to other Provinces) due to corruption, intimidation, vested interest, etc the army hierarchy did not want that having arrested the recalcitrants for criminal prosecution, their efforts would be frustrated at that altar.

The breakdown of law and order has been total, in this cauldron of crime one finds that Indian-trained separatists have been jostling for notice with plain dacoits and kidnappers. After the MRD movement of 1983, armed confrontation with law enforcement agencies (LEAs), previously unthinkable in Sindh, has become increasingly frequent. In vast rural areas of the interior, the law of the jungle has now encroached into civilized society. To complement the erosion of humanity, the major cities of Sindh have also turned into a jungle held to ransom by the lawless.

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Walking a Tight-Rope

Universal opinion has variously labelled Orientals as excitable or patient, given their economic circumstances South Asians have much to be excited against, yet year after year they receive the bad news in their respective Annual Budgets with what can only be described as studied calm. One supposes that having braced oneself for the worst, the lowered quantum of bad news is taken conversely (or perversely) as good news. In the respect of economic circumstances, the lot of the average Pakistani is better than that of his/her less fortunate neighbours. For this dubious pleasure, credit cannot be claimed by any mortal, Divine Providence having made Pakistan self-sufficient (or almost so) in the main human-requirement areas of food, shelter and clothing. Every successive Annual Budget has managed to increasingly cramp the lifestyle of the average Pakistani but in all fairness this is much more due to external circumstances than due to domestic inadequacies. Our problem stems from a singular lack of applying imagination to the concept of Revenue gathering coupled with the necessity for wholesale reform of the system. The Federal Budget remains mostly the same, making the poor poorer and encompassing a greater number of the hapless middle class into the “poor” category, it does manage to make a small coterie of rich people much richer. The worst hit are the better-life aspirants of the wretched middle class, already bearing the awesome burden of increasing inflationary pressures on hearth and home. While life goes on and the average Pakistani learns to be stoic, the rulers must not become complacent that the streets will never resort to wide-scale protest, to quote John Dryden, “Beware the Fury of the Patient Man”, unquote.

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National consensus

Modern technology ensures that the ravages of war are seen in real-time on the TV screens, the media bringing the carnage and devastation into our homes on a daily basis. The wholesale destruction of urban areas, interspersed with the gory sight of the dead and wounded, defies adequate description but symbolizes the utter bankruptcy of internecine conflict on religious and/or ethnic grounds, exposing the narrow-mindedness of mankind at its petty and callous worst. Whenever reason fails, mindless slaughter is a natural end result, the origin of conflict deep-rooted in the greed and ambition of a few selfish individuals rather than in the psyche of the mass population which would like nothing better than to be allowed to live in peace and harmony. It does not matter whether it is Los Angeles, Sarajevo, Dushanbe, Kabul or Hyderabad, the facade of civilization in the form of structures can be rebuilt from the ashes but when civilized human beings behave like animals, will the soul of civilization be able to survive the onslaught? The entire responsibility for avoiding apocalypse thus devolves on the intelligentsia, in particular the political leadership.

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Pakistan-Afghanistan nexus

Over the past few years geo-political events have moved at dizzying speed, outpacing the aspirations of even the most optimist among the right wing. Communism is in total disarray except in the Peoples Republic of China where it is alive and well because of the practice of it, economically at least, in a more pragmatic form. The Chinese are seemingly prepared to give up ideological control gradually and to speed up reforms such as meant to make the economy market-oriented. The once-vaunted Soviet Bloc now seems to be another one of history’s more unbelievable aberrations, its brand of socialism a living testimony to the bankruptcy of centralized control of the economy. The only real tragedy is that the people of the former COMECON countries, not much different from us, have descended from an exalted state of being the pampered citizens (at least on paper) of a Superpower to suffering the pangs of hunger and deprivation of a majority of the poverty-stricken Third World. Socialism may have been given a bad name by injudicious application, by itself the social benefits to the masses cannot be ignored, all the major countries of the so-named capitalist world practice socialistic policies where necessary, albeit a lot more pragmatically.

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