Salmaan Taseer’s daughter tweeted saying she and her husband had built a school in Pakistan and wanted to name it after her father but had been advised against doing so as it would endanger the lives of the children studying in that school. She went on to tweet “how helpless Pakistan makes you feel”.
It makes one wonder. Why are we so helpless? Why don’t we feel safe in our own home? What has happened to Pakistan that makes a daughter fear reprisal for naming a school after her father?
We talk so much of Jinnah’s Pakistan and all that was promised. After all, a school is a place of learning. Education has been one of our lowest priorities and the situation became so untenable that the private sector stepped in and today, in one form or another, and at the behest of provincial governments, the private sector carries a large chunk of the burden of educating Pakistan.
Well the promised land was lost in the course of military interregnums, the most recent of which was General Musharraf’s. For most of Pakistan’s existence and, in particular, from 1977 to the present time, it has been in the hands of one force. The armed forces have been in complete control of our foreign and domestic policy, of everything from foreign affairs to education. Most importantly, they have exercised control over political forces. They placed their own priorities over Pakistan’s, nurtured jihadi groups, created alternatives to alternatives and today, they say Pakistan has been checkmated.
What do they mean checkmated? Is it that they find themselves cornered? Pushed to a place where they cannot defend their own institutions. It must be all those golf courses, housing schemes, businesses and other interests that keep them occupied. Cornered and at the same time ensuring the complete vilification of political forces, so much so that civilian political forces spend their tenures under siege and constant attack. Allegations of corruption and incompetence are used to manipulate not just politicians but also the voter. Which is not to say that our politicians are not corrupt and incompetent, they may very well be, but corruption and incompetence does not run this country in civvies.
From 1988 to 1999, Pakistan had four elections and four short-lived democratically elected governments. In 1999, General Musharraf took over and after September 9, 2001 he went from pariah to ally when he, like General Zia before him, signed up to fight in the so-called war on terror. And the question to ask now is what happened between 1999 and 2008 that made Pakistan a place where terrorists felt comfortable and quite at home. None of the 9/11 bombers may have been Pakistani but the masterminds certainly felt comfortable enough to make this their home.
We keep asking, how Osama bin Laden would have been living under our noses for the past five years. The real question to ask is, given the fact that the genesis for every terror plot in the world seems to be in Pakistan, and given the fact that we have suffered the most attacks and causalities in this war on terror, why is it that Osama bin Laden felt comfortable and, dare I say it, secure enough to make Pakistan his home. Not Afghanistan or Yemen, or any other place but Pakistan. What and who gave him and undoubtedly many more like him that sense of security?
Where do we look for answers, who do we turn to? Whose fault is it?
The politicians? No, they have never had the control nor the freedom to formulate and implement policy let alone be in charge. Afghanistan? No, they aren’t running the country. India? Israel? In the need to maintain our Islamic identity and corresponding raison d’étre we are taught to see them as our ideological enemies but they aren’t running it either. The United States of America? The one we love to blame the most but be fair and look around, no, it’s not them. The Taliban? They may be destructive but they are not running the country. The fault lies with the military. It has made and executed policy to the detriment of the country and today, it must accept the blame.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 27th, 2011.
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