At a fork in the road

Not long ago, Pakistan, the Islamic Republic had been strong enough, its government, army, people, and institutions tough enough to explode their nuclear device in the teeth of opposition from the world’s sole surviving superpower, and to survive a succession of bloody and disastrous battles. In the ensuing years, something happened that sapped that strength so that in the span of a few hours, while the guardians of our frontiers slumbered away, the myth of Pakistan’s independence was shattered.
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SHATTERING THE MYTH OF INDEPENDENCE

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by Roedad Khan

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There is a saying in China that “you should not only focus on your head when you have a headache because the real reason for your headache could be your foot”.

The debacle of May 2 was an incredible spectacle. What caused it? How, people wondered, had it come about? What were the terrible weaknesses and defects that had brought the country to such a low and pitiful state?

Not long ago, the Republic had been strong enough, its government, army, people, and institutions tough enough to explode their nuclear device in the teeth of opposition from the world’s sole surviving superpower, and to survive a succession of bloody and disastrous battles. In the ensuing years, something happened that sapped that strength so that in the span of a few hours, while the guardians of our frontiers slumbered away, the myth of Pakistan’s independence was shattered.

Pakistan, possessing one of the finest armies in the world, lay prostrate, leaving the country dazed and totally demoralised. How had we fallen to this state? What were the reasons for the lack of military response? What were the reasons for the political and moral collapse leading to the debacle?

Who is to blame for the May 2 debacle in Abbottabad? The army? But an army can rarely be stronger than the country it serves. How strong was Pakistan on the eve of the ordeal it was about to undergo? People had been watching with increasing apprehension the country go downhill, its strength gradually sapped by dissension and divisions, by an incomprehensible blindness in foreign, domestic and military policy, by the ineptness of its corrupt leaders, and by a feeling of growing confusion, hopelessness and cynicism among the people. No wonder, trust in institutions was at historic lows.

Today Pakistan is in a state of permanent crisis. Its shaky parliamentary system is bungling along rudderless, invoking deep concern among a bewildered citizenry with its political shenanigans. Its foreign policy is in ruins and the domestic quarrels are more venomous than ever. The government avoids tackling urgent problems, its ministers complacently certain that it would not be they but their successors who would have to shoulder the burden of resolving them. They find it easier to stand still, to stand pat, do as little as possible, displease as few as possible, and mint as much money as possible in the shortest possible time.

Sixty-three years after independence, Pakistan has a dysfunctional, lop-sided, hybrid political system composed of incongruous elements, a president facing corruption charges at home and abroad, scared of his own people – a non-sovereign rubber-stamp parliament, and a weak, ineffective corrupt prime minister. The opposition languishes in torpid impotence. The regime has forfeited popular support and is seen as the playground for corrupt, self-serving politicians whose primary concern is to loot and plunder this country.

Parliament, the so-called embodiment of the will of the people, a sleepy, drowsy body, is fake, overpaid, and underemployed, and is becoming more and more odious and stupid. It is deaf and blind to the anguished cries rising from the slums of Pakistan. Quite a few members of this august body are fake degree-holders. They concealed the truth, misrepresented their qualifications and managed to enter the parliament through shameless, blatant lies and deceitful means. Instead of masquerading as chosen representatives of the people, they should all be tried and sent to prison.

Pakistan will be Pakistan again as soon as we have swept away this scum, and there will be no Pakistani who will not cry with joy when that happens.

The army has lately begun to realise that it has been led into an absurd war, a meaningless war, a war against its own people, a war which has cost it thousands of precious lives, a war that is not theirs and has been imposed on them.

The Pakistan Army is suffering from sclerosis in the high command, from a wave of pacifism in the country, and from an utter confusion in parliament and the government. Top generals are clinging to their posts long after superannuation. The Pakistan army, like the French army, on the eve of World War II, is being run by Methuselahs, beholden to a corrupt president owing everything to Washington. Meanwhile, the people of Pakistan had been put to sleep with a pleasant dream based on a false sense of security. Now reality has hit them.

Today Pakistan, a thinly disguised civilian dictatorship, is a paradise for gangsters, swindlers, smugglers, tax evaders, fake degree-holders and so on and so forth – all the dregs of humanity. People openly talk about the corruption, indiscretions, follies and vulgarities of President Zardari, a parvenu, his corruption and avarice gargantuan, his ambition overweening, whom fate has so rashly planted in the presidency. He will stop at nothing to keep his lock on power. It seems that in the death throes of his regime, he will take Pakistan with him.

It is hard to exaggerate the baleful impact of Zardari’s rule: the oligarch and the mafia who have stolen every asset of any value, the inflation that has ruined the middle class and the poor, the corruption that has corroded all values and humiliated every decent citizen; and the insecurities that have filled everyone with fear and anxiety.

The present leadership is taking Pakistan to a perilous place. Terror is the order of the day. Pakistan is experiencing the warning tremors of a mega political and economic earthquake. We have President Zardari. And little hope and no cash. This is a particularly perilous time for Pakistan to have a president who is facing corruption charges at home and abroad and whose moral authority is in shreds. At a time when the country is at war, President Zardari, the Supreme Commander, spends almost his entire existence in the confines of a bunker – his macabre domicile which he seldom leaves these days. He is more concerned about protecting himself and his ill-gotten wealth rather than protecting the country or the people of Pakistan.

The Pakistan army is a people’s army, in the sense that it belongs to the people of Pakistan who take a jealous and proprietary interest in it. It is not so much an arm of the executive branch of the government as it is an arm of the people of Pakistan. It is the only shield we have against foreign aggression. In the absence of authentic institutions, it is the only glue which is keeping the federation together. Don’t weaken it. All efforts by enemies of Pakistan to alienate it from the people must be frustrated. Individuals are expendable. Institutions are not.

By all means, reform the army and the ISI. But why only the army and why only the ISI? Why leave out corrupt political institutions and thoroughly corrupt holders of public office at the summit of power? One thing is certain. For anything to change in this country, everything has to change. What this country needs today is a mighty but bloodless revolution.

Today the nation is clearly at a fork in the road. We can follow the line of least resistance, turn a blind eye to all that Zardari is doing, and continue to follow the road that has led us where we are today. Or we can choose the other road. We don’t need pitchforks and guns. If parliament is unable or unwilling to respond to public demands, people will, perforce, take the issue to the parliament of the streets, as they have done in the past.

The writer is a former federal secretary. Email: roedad@comsats.net.pk

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13 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This is what happens to a nation that is so overcome by hatred and intolerance that it sells its soul and sovereignty in exchange of a few billions of dollars.

  2. The army should not be weakened as a military power. It should be weakened as a POLITICAL and ECONOMIC power.

    Politics is best left to politicians who will get voted out.
    Economy is best left to private enterprise.

    Here are the demands we should make of both the army and the civilian govt.

    Minimal credible defense against external threats
    Maximum security from internal threats of terrorism, crime & violence
    Jobs & Prosperity for the common man
    Outlaw automatic weapons, eradicate the post-soviet gun culture.
    Improved revenue collection of the rich and the filthy rich, start with Zardari, Sharif and generals and most of the parliamentarians!
    Universal Education for our greatest assets: our children
    Army stop behaving like a state within a state
    ISI stop behaving like a state within a state within an army
    Army be brought under the control and jurisdiction of the civilian government just like every other professional army in the world.
    Dissolve or control the rogue elements of the ISI; We don’t need 10,000 agents, train and employ 9,000 good teachers instead.

    Remove terrorist organizations from Pakistani soil
    Disassociate the state from any organization that engages in terrorists acts
    Cease taking aid from other countries by improving our own economy
    Cut costs & Pay back our national debt
    Liquidate mansions ‘belonging’ to generals, ministers et al and give funds to the families of soldiers killed or wounded in action
    Return funds looted from the treasury by our ‘leaders’
    Disengage from the ill-conceived strategic depth theory. Any invader of Pakistan would face not just the army but 180 million Pakistanis.
    Help stabilize Afghanistan so that the Afghan refugees in Pakistan can return to their homeland
    Reverse and roll back the ill-conceived policies of General Zia in all spheres of Pakistani society
    Protect minorities; While you’re at it, protect the majority!
    Improve the quality of drinking water
    Provide dependable electricity to our homes and businesses. (That is what other countries do)
    Reroute aid from Saudi and UAE to public projects instead of madrassahs
    Provide an alternative to Madrassahs for the country’s poor
    Never engage in improper behavior in the people’s name (like in East Pakistan)
    Don’t worry about India, worry about internal security; what is nuclear deterrence for?
    Keep the army out of foreign policy affairs; That is not army’s role
    Return Pakistan to highest per capita income in South Asia
    Promote an entente between Saudi Arabia and Iran for the greater interest of the muslim world
    Eradicate so called “Islamic” terrorists; Support Kashmir on the more than sufficient moral and legal grounds.
    Keep the army out of Cricket administration; surely this is not a military function
    Army stop using India as a bogey to maintain unjustified authority over national affairs
    Serve and Protect the people OR we will vote you out
    Behave like public servants
    The best defense in the modern era is national prosperity
    Strengthen OIC
    Reroute funding for Wahabism to Ihtejaadism.
    Let people pray as they wish per Jinnah’s vision
    Build some dams already

    • Thanks for your very candid comment to this post. I have jotted down a separate note on this subject, which am shortly going to put up on pages of this site.

  3. Wait wait .I am comming ! to impliment your imaginations .Musarraf can only hold the challenge and that is why he is commng back to deal the current pressure on the country ,
    In recent months, there
    has been increasing
    American pressure on
    the Pakistani military to
    go all out against the
    network that
    policymakers in
    Washington term the
    “deadliest on the planet
    earth”. hold the challenge and that is why he is commng back to deal the current pressure on the country ,
    In recent months, there
    has been increasing
    American pressure on
    the Pakistani military to
    go all out against the
    network that
    policymakers in
    Washington term the
    “deadliest on the planet
    earth”.

  4. Tewari, you are my favorite.

  5. @ reformisni , thanks .I know that there are a number of muslims who think that there is an urgen need of total elemination of hardliners in Pakistan .

    • Hard line Muslims, that is the extremists having Muslim names, those single track shenanigans, the Khawarij of today, of course need to be eliminated from the soil of Pakistan. The scourge created by Uncle Sam, financed and abetted by Saudi monarchs needs to be eliminated but what about the hard line Hindutva extremists. including that great apostle of Hindutvadis, Nirendra Modi?

  6. Dr. Nayyar . Do’nt try to shadow the genral tendency of the muslim society in Pakistan with occasional out brust of Hindus against the muslims for their anti hindu act .We in India will ultimatly find the solution of Ayodhaya issue ,Dr. Nayyar . Do’nt try to shadow the genral tendency of the muslim society in Pakistan with occasional out brust of Hindus against the muslims for their anti hindu act .We in India will ultimatly find the solution of Ayodhaya issue ,

  7. Dear Anil, Your comment sounds like a worn out disc that goes on repeating the same words, same sounds again and again [Ha ha].
    You say I should not compare Muslim extremists with the ones who have Hindu names, in other words a ‘Big Brother’ mindset that dictates: if its extremism in saffron garb, its all noble. Suggest you better read this post by an Indian Muslim Abdus Salaam. Its titled Muslim Ghettos and Indian Civil Liberties. Here is the link http://abdusalaam.blogspot.com/2008/07/muslim-ghettos-and-indian-civil.html

  8. Dr Nayyar , I read the suggested article. Now I will request you to go through the comments on the article and then only tell me your view . I thiok you people have to learn a lot about india ane Hndus ,

  9. […] star has arisen 4. Years that the locust hath eaten 5. Between Hope and Fear [2 of 2] 6. At a fork in the road 7. Revolution’s domino effect 8. Supreme Court – The only Ray of Hope 9. Cry, The […]


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