“We only have ourselves to blame for the current situation”, a member of the Afghan aristocracy ruefully admitted recently to a close friend, in the privacy of his tranquil garden, in central Kabul. “If we hadn’t run away and left the fate of the country in the hands of illiterate farmers, when the communists arrived, none of this would be happening now. Our country and our people would not continue to suffer as they do. It is entirely our fault”.
Afghanistan, a country engaged in bloody turmoil for the last 33 years, was once a sovereign nation with a thriving agricultural backbone and a promising future in progressive terms but which is now, financially and to a large extent morally, bankrupt. Heavily dependent on foreign handouts, foreign troops, foreign reconstruction programmes, foreign investment and foreign exploitation, the country is a basketcase; systematically being stripped of its assets by profit-hungry power-brokers with absolutely no concern for the ‘hearts and minds’ of the deprived populace. Basic commodities including food are imported at a tremendous cost, as is — thanks to a river water-sharing agreement with Iran — a certain amount of bottled water sourced from an Afghan river flowing in to Iran whose processed water is then sold back, at a profit of course. The country, with or without the ongoing Taliban insurgency, is on its knees and unless something miraculous happens, it could very well enter its death throes — a situation which would unleash tremendous repercussions throughout adjoining regions including, right here in Pakistan, where many, not all, of its problems are replicated.
Unlike Afghanistan, the impending downfall of Pakistan is not rooted in Communist intervention but in an entire range of suicidal tendencies: the majority of the educated elite have long since left these shores and vast numbers of people, educated and otherwise, are increasingly desperate to join them. Our agriculture, thanks to mismanagement and the vagaries of climate change, is fast becoming a thing of the past. Our industries are being crippled by an escalating lack of power, educational standards are rapidly decreasing, rampant corruption rules the roots, the rich get richer at the cost of a shrinking middle-class, the swelling ranks of the various shades of so-called Taliban create bloody mayhem at every opportunity and our valiant army is bogged down on all fronts. All is definitely not as it should be in this ‘Land of the Pure’.
Those in a position to recognise the warning bells, emanating from across our western and northwestern border, however, appear doggedly determined to ignore the lessons so clearly evident from the Afghan imbroglio, choosing to bury their heads in their bank accounts and illicit safety deposit boxes yet perfectly prepared, at any given moment, to hurriedly abandon the sinking ship like the rats they are — leaving those with less, if any, resources to battle it out as best they can.
With the writing so clearly on the wall and in capital letters at that, it is to be hoped that someone, somewhere will grab the reigns of initiative and reverse the impending Pakistani implosion, before we too, disappear down the same sinkhole as the one currently feasting on Afghanistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 23rd, 2011.
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