Pakistan is in a state of deep crisis. The top-end of this crisis is reflected in the won’t-do-would-die battle the government is fighting with the judiciary. A sliver of the top-end is also visible in the persistent and unresolved foreign and defence challenges that are all too obvious given the signals coming from Washington that an OBL-like operation might be on the cards against al Qaeda number two Ayman al Zawahiri. But the bottom-end of the crisis is just as dangerous and this relates to the chronic issue of governance whose absence is becoming more striking and deadly by the day.
The people of Pakistan increasingly find their lives at the mercy of circumstances or events, which because of the lack of any system, cannot be regulated for predictable outcomes. Health, education, infrastructure, policing, dispensation of justice at the local level, provision of items of daily use, food prices, job opportunities — you name any activity that an ordinary citizen has to carry out and you would be struck by the complete absence of any policy that aims to facilitate that activity or add value to it. Put simply, Pakistanis are operating independent of any governance model. This is called non-governance, which is worse than bad or poor governance because this implies that the state and the government have abandoned the citizens and have no interest in their welfare.
To get a sense of this abandonment, you need to read the news coming in from the districts of the country or the reports from local correspondents that are often badly written and are unable to capture the reality fully. Or you have to be a victim yourself. Otherwise, you can easily overlook how the state has let go of the basic task of looking after its citizens. Try entering a police station to register an FIR for a stolen motorbike. Or attempt to get a passport made. Or try finding basic medical care in a far-flung hospital or medicines in a basic health unit. Hop on to public transport to reach your destination on time. Or try doing anything that makes life worth living and you will confront an abyss of neglect, an endless wasteland where there is no policy that is designed for your comfort.
At times, when this abandonment becomes complete in the sense that it breaks even the procedural bond between the state and the citizen or between the public and the government, the result takes the shape of, say, the ongoing electricity crisis that has turned the nation into an emotional wreck. Those who wonder as to why an energy problem that has supposedly been on the official cards for years, has not been solved and why must they be subjected to the pain and torture of living in the Stone Age, forget the basic reality: that the energy crisis has NOT been on the official cards. Just like basic education, public health, law and order and other such matters that have NOT been on official cards. The government, specifically, and the state generally, are NOT interested in these issues.
A similar example of the fallout that occurs as a result of the state and the government turning their backs on the unmistakable and visible melting away of the lives of the people, comes from Fata. The wounded land of the Pashtun continues to bleed profusely and it is business as usual. The Taliban militants chop off the heads of soldiers and it is business as usual. They shoot down an assistant political agent in his office and nobody is bothered. They ambush, kill, kidnap, murder, terrorise vast neighbourhoods, break into jails and release hundreds of inmates and nothing happens.
And nothing will happen because the state and the government do not want — and it increasingly looks as if they cannot, even if they ever wanted to try — to take charge and perform their fundamental duty of orderly management of national life. So in a way, an ordinary Pakistani is no better than a scared animal in a dark jungle, where fear is the lord of the realm and the feeling of being alone and lost the only two permanent companions.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2012.