Never before has a nuclear state been invaded twice in the same month. But the most disappointing aspect of these invasions was not the loss of assets, but the loss of any sense of remorse, regret, shame or sorrow. Responses like “there had been no breach of security”, “they took advantage of the darkness” and “it was a failure of all the nations of the world”, reflect not just ineptitude and shamelessness but also deceptiveness and delusion — a refusal to acknowledge that Pakistan is finally at a full-blown war with itself.
Pakistan is often compared with a terminally ill patient in an ICU, whose attendants have either abandoned him or are engaged in pursuits that have nothing to do with his well-being. While it may be a sad and painful comparison, acknowledging the existence and nature of the disease is vital to any set of subsequent corrective actions. Unfortunately, those who make our vital decisions continue to live in a state of denial and are not willing to face harsh realities.
Even as the vital signs drop and the options truncate, Pakistan could still take a series of steps to change course. Insisting on delinquent behaviours and ignoring the real issues for the past several decades has left Pakistan with increasingly bitter and complex choices. The 40,000, or so, madrassas need to be closed down and replaced with regular schools that provide free (and good) education, food and books — not an easy task for a government whose own schooling system is rotten and dysfunctional. The ulemas and imams spreading hate, supporting militancy or issuing fatwas, of any sort, should be firmly taken to task. Pakistan needs a complete deweaponisation of all segments of society and all kinds of weapons (licensed or otherwise). A government that has encouraged private armies and militant gangs by issuing at least 83,679 arms licenses in the last three years will surely find it difficult to even begin a serious dialogue on this subject.
There is a need to ensure that every vehicle on the road is registered, has an approved number plate and can be traced to a legitimate owner. In Karachi alone, there are at least 5,000 illegal or stolen vehicles with fake or no number plates.
The irresistible addiction to foreign loans and their wasteful spending has produced a breed of leaders who are dependent, subservient and have sold out to foreign lenders. Saying no to all loans may, therefore, be the first step towards a healing process. The state must also shed its tendency to assume the responsibility for making laws that define what is Islamic and what is not. Pakistan is the only state in the world whose corrupt and fake degree-holding parliament decides who is a Muslim and who is not.
Pakistan needs to stop pampering its lawbreaking and tax-avoiding ruling elite, and shift the focus of all development to the well-being of its underprivileged classes. This could happen if the military were to be trimmed to become lean and efficient instead of fat and sloppy. A thinly-spread army, elements of which, according to the perception of many, may be supporting ‘jihadis’ is not in the interest of Pakistan or the rest of the world.
Pakistanis are rapidly beginning to realise that they are utterly unsafe in the hands of those who run the state and its security apparatus. Perhaps when the interests, residences and money of the rulers are in foreign lands, it is unreasonable to expect them to fight for the territory or the rights of the ordinary people. The present set of rulers will therefore make none of the changes suggested above and will only continue to do more of the same. It is hence time to demand a change of crew if Pakistan is to have a half-decent chance of recovery. Should not the president, the prime minister, the defence minister, the interior minister, the three service chiefs and the ISI chief, who have lost the trust of the people of Pakistan, be asked to resign? In a more civilised country this would have already happened — and that too, voluntarily.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 1st, 2011.