What can we do to turn things around?

Published: July 24, 2011
The writer served as president of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 2006-7 and is chief executive of the MHG Group of Companies

The writer served as president of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 2006-7 and is chief executive of the MHG Group of Companies

Mike Mullen, the new CIA chief, recently made a very damaging remark and its intention couldn’t have been more obvious — to hit at the foundations of the only solid citadel in Pakistan, the ISI. It seems as if the Yankees are pointing their Star Wars-type weapons on Rawalpindi, while the population is hankering for some answers. As if playing to a well-scripted opera, the top brass of both America and Pakistan made sudden dashes to Washington and Islamabad, pretending that things are now going to get better. But the question remains that will that happen? Will one trip of the ISI chief to America bring the relationship back to what it was?

In the midst of all of this, it seems as if the man on top of the hill in Islamabad isn’t too bothered by all these happenings. Perhaps he is busy ensuring that no dirt gets splashed on him. As for the prime minister, he has been making statements of late which suggest that his government is interested in getting ties back with the US to what they were — but it is unclear who would take what he says seriously.

As for the city’s financial and commercial capital of Karachi, it is hostage to desperadoes and burning more often than not. And what does the centre do? It sends the interior minister who more often than not puts his foot in his mouth. Police morale is at its lowest ebb while the Rangers, financed by the hapless Sindh government, are nowhere to be seen. Law and order is next to non-existent and this has created immense despondency and dejection in the city’s business community. The situation is so bad that many do not even look forward to opening their shops and offices. Many have to face extortionists whom the law is unable to touch and in such a situation, which businessman is going to say ‘no’ to them? ‘Chits’ are still being sent by the extortionists, demanding protection money — on these ‘chits’ names, addresses and telephone numbers of recipients are listed.

To make matters worse, ongoing problems with the city’s power utility, KESC, seem to be never-ending and it is unable to resolve its quarrel with its laid-off workers. In short, Karachi has become a miserable victim of the turf war of land grabbers, gun-runners and drug mafia under the patronage of ethno-political parties and groups, with periodic target killings — the latter beginning and ending as if on cue. When things start settling down, an insensible senior member of the Sindh cabinet utters some insensitive remarks, ensuring that all hell breaks loose.

The rich are talking to immigration lawyers while the poor are contemplating ways to feed the hungry at home. Yes, this may sound like D-Day but only for those people who don’t want to see Pakistan survive. This kind of vicious and negative thinking can be thwarted if all Pakistanis decide to unite for a change. The citizens must pull the rug from under those who cannot bear the very thought of a developing nation armed with a nuclear arsenal. The question is, is this possible?

Revolutionary poet Habib Jalib was one of those who attempted to ignite this fire of patriotism and hope when he said: Utahain lakh deewarain tulooh mehr tau hoga/Yeh shab kay paasban kub tak na hum ko raasta dain ge.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th,  2011.

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Reader Comments (26)

  • Jul 24, 2011 - 10:22PM

    Mike Mullen isnt the new CIA chief, David Petraus is.

    ISI as the only solid citadel! We have truly hit rock bottom if that is what people like you think!


  • Sajida
    Jul 24, 2011 - 10:29PM

    The citizens could start by demanding Karachi’s governing formula be restored. A decentralized formula saved Istanbul.
    The Commissonerate system can be improved if it uses a decentralized form.
    There was a time in French history when elected governments were not allowed;but appointees ran the system. In Minnesota, the largest regional system in U.S. the Twin Cities Metro is run by government appointees.
    The problem with the old structure is that it uses an outdated structure. It is like saying we want to drive a car that needs to be cranked, not a modern vehicle! It also demeans Pakistanis and their government. PPP and parties that support old structures are actually demeaning themselves. Imagine them going to Turkey and talking with officials of their largest cities and describe how they are running the cities? The Turkish will feel like they are more sophisticated and the Pakistanis are pathetically backward.


  • faraz
    Jul 24, 2011 - 10:44PM

    ISI the only solid citadel? Interior ministry released official figures last week that 7485 blasts have occurred in the past decade!


    Jul 24, 2011 - 11:05PM

    strong textMy mistake. Erroneously I wrote CIA instead of Pentagon. Yes we have hit rock bottom. ISI-bashing originated from Pakistan by people who do not desire to see a prosperous Pakistan. Right now democracy is taking its revenge. Karachi is being made the target and this is evident from the killing fields of Karachi.The democracy lovers of Pakistan are the ones who have given democracy a bad name. The nation should unite behind GHQ and of course ISI


  • Pan Mat
    Jul 24, 2011 - 11:29PM

    The citizens must pull the rug from under those who cannot bear the very thought of a developing nation armed with a nuclear arsenal.

    Another conspiracy theorist? Even after all the analysis, authors prognosis is that outsiders are responsible for current state of affairs. I would like to say that there is light at the end of the tunnel.But the reality is that one cannot come with a right solution with an incorrect view of the problem.


  • Jul 25, 2011 - 3:33AM

    Mr Aziz, please spare us. Things in Karachi are far from ideal, but the military-industrialists nexus has contributed to the economic quagmire this country is in.The nation should unite behind the GHQ and ISI? They are state institutions, they already represent the people, what else do you want from us? You honestly think that singing praises of the ISI will magically make Pakistan prosperous? How will supporting the ISI magically bring peace to Karachi?


  • uk muslim
    Jul 25, 2011 - 4:18AM

    rubbish and laughable opinion.


  • we deserve it
    Jul 25, 2011 - 4:33AM

    we wanted democracy!.. now lets enjoy it..


  • Arindom
    Jul 25, 2011 - 8:15AM


    But why are you proposing more power to the already powerful (and unaccountable) Army and ISI?

    Isn’t it the opposite that needs to be done – bring the ISI and Army under firm civilian control?

    In fact, your article almost ends up proposing that the Military take over?


  • Nadeem
    Jul 25, 2011 - 9:24AM

    “The nation should unite behind GHQ and of course ISI” says the author without even blinking an eye about the fact that most of today’s problem – including the political pygmies he is complaining about – are the gift of GHQ and ISI. Altaf bhai, chaudhries of gujrat, nawaz sharif, zardari NRO-wala – which of these politicians does not owe his prominence to the army?


  • hassan
    Jul 25, 2011 - 9:25AM

    A precious insight I got from the article is that..”The rich are talking to immigration lawyers…”.
    This was always on the cards!

    Poor can line up in front of the Wagah-border and create a humanitarian crisis and thus force India to open up its borders for the poor, milling crowds of Pakistan.

    That would teach India a lesson who will never be able to recover from this ‘thousand thousand bleeds.’


  • Aristo
    Jul 25, 2011 - 11:02AM

    I believe its kind of a bit too late to invoke Habib Jalib. How about ISI and GHQ unite behind the people of Pakistan for a change, the only solid citadel are the people of Pak, if you know what I mean.


  • Timour
    Jul 25, 2011 - 11:24AM

    Nation should unite behind GHQ and ISI ?? Half the reason that we are in this sorry state is because of these two institutions…GHQ has ruled the country for over half its existence and ISI has contributed or more accurately actually created and supported a number of political parties the results of which we are reaping today.Pakistan would probably be much better off without these two. Also can’t get over your notions that people can’t seem to swallow or accept a developing nation with a bomb…I can’t think of anything positive the bomb has done for us except allow us to blackmail the world more efficently…

    Finally I can’t seem to figure out why people who have been taught from puberty to run into a hail of bullets and blow things up, paint trees and dig trenches are considered to be the epitome of intelligence and the only people who can lead us to glory…


  • pakmasti
    Jul 25, 2011 - 11:55AM

    our media needs to be more responsible instead of publishing such articles that demoralize people. Yes, we have issues (governance, political, economical), but every nation has issues. Instead of writing aggravating comments on our national issues..why can’t you write articles on providing solutions to such problems !!! Recommend

  • Subhash, India
    Jul 25, 2011 - 1:13PM

    To admit that ISI is the only stable organization in Pakistan is very damaging to Pakistan itself & the very purpose of writing the article is nullified.


  • Iram
    Jul 25, 2011 - 2:26PM

    We are at the point “when anything that can go wrong will go wrong” and when there is no system there is one system, survival. Now it depand to us, we can see “the sport” who will survive and who will finish or defend us including powerless (no matter at which level or scale it is possible)…Awaam don’t have single point to start revolution they are seeking someone to start but in actual no one is doing …it is collective matter..to unite at ONE plateform and strongly recommended “non violence”


  • Alsahdiq
    Jul 25, 2011 - 4:20PM

    Nothing has changed, nothing will change for the oppressed people of the world. Not until people, all people, take the courageous initiative to come to unite. It is true people make the most fatal mistake of looking towards their rulers to take this initiative. It has been a futile hope. It is a futile hope. Why do they not see that their rulers are under duress to keep them divided? Every soul is under direct command from the Lord to come to unite with fellow humans in order to solve all their social, economic and defense problems themselves through self help and self reliance. So why this most important matter is not uppermost in the minds of the people of the region. “Ruler and the Ruled” is sheer injustice. Injustice is lawlessness. Lawlessness breeds lawlessness and resultant violence and bloodshed.
    So, Oh’ people come together. Come together to eliminate all injustices. Come together to eliminate the unjust system of “Ruler and the Ruled”. This is the way, only way to the unity we all need most. This is also the only way to peace, peace, peace. No one will come to change our pathetic condition. We all have to do it ourself. Yes ourselves or else. Or else SLAVERY will remain our fate as it has been for centuries.


  • Jul 25, 2011 - 4:20PM

    @Pan Mat: Since you have spoken generally, what say we give you thirty days and after studying the situation, come up with a solution. Many thanx.


  • Timour
    Jul 25, 2011 - 5:41PM

    @ Pak Masti – Realizing there is a problem is the first step, right now we’ve basically blamed everyone and their mother for all our problems. Right now how can we look for solutions if we haven’t even identified the problem properly.

    If we can’t figure out whether our various issues (water, electricity, security, good governance, access to speedy justice) e.t.c are caused by “Unknown hidden hands” or our own mismangement how can solutions be proposed ??? I mean a doctor wont prescribe burnol for a stomach ache right ???

    Everytime there’s a suicide bombing…I hear half the people saying that this is because of America / Israel / RAW / Take your pick of any number of bogeymen because “Muslims don’t kill other Muslims”, and the other half saying that this is because of bad choices taken by the army by patronizing jihadis for over twenty years.

    I think what Pakistan needs to do is sit down stop and take a good hard look at its choices thus far, and that means decision makers, army and politicians and figure out why it is that we are at this sorry juncture i.e. a failed state begging at every forum for money and support and considered by the world in general as a blight. Once this introspection is done can a coherent strategy can be developed to fix things…right now no one agrees what the problem is and stifling dialogue and open discourse doesn’t help at all !!


  • Ishrat Salim
    Jul 25, 2011 - 7:29PM

    Reply to ALL comments….if problems are not pointed out…there will be no solutions.

    @ Arindom – our civilian govt hv proved to be incapable of running the affairs so on what basis it is recommended that the Army & ISI be put under them….first tell the civilians to put their present house in order & become strong enough (with the support of the people whose basic need are not being met ) only then they will be in a position to assert their authority over these institutions…
    @ Timor – pls go back to history…it is we the public & the politicians or the judiciary ( during last govt of PML N )who had invited the Army to takeover & the subsequent judiciary used the ” doctrine of necessity ” to justify their support to this institution…so we shud all share the blame for the mess.
    @ Nadeem – why did the mentioned politicians took the bait from this institutions…for their own self-interest.If they wud hv been a patriotic they shud all hv refused to join the band wagon of the corrupt politicians.
    @ Al Sahdiq…I agree with you…
    Mr Aziz…well done…keep writing, there will always be difference of opinion…your anxiety as a Pakistani is very understandable because Karachi is under tremendous pressure…that is what is part of the enemies agenda & we are all becoming a pawn in this chess game…intentionally or intentionally…but the poor are the ultimate sufferrer…may Allah swt save Pakistan…A`ameen.


  • Ali Turk
    Jul 25, 2011 - 8:07PM

    What a shallow article……………………….


  • Maulana Diesel
    Jul 25, 2011 - 9:40PM

    I agree with the author. All the anti-Pakistan voices on these comments need to know that we will do everything to negate their nefarious designs on our country. It is going to take a momentous effort on the part of the US and India to make pakistan grovel on its knees. They cannot even exert their will on hapless Libya.
    Pakistan is doing the right thing by creating closer ties with Iran and China. The US has clearly shown its intention that they are going to go after the Pakistani ISI and the Army. I understand that some Pakistanis have serious issues with the establishment but they cannot join hands with the US and India and become a party to the dismemberment of Pakistan.


  • saleem khan
    Jul 25, 2011 - 9:42PM

    Yes, this is so true about karachi. Thank God that I had realized and foreseen this in 1983,when I had decided to leave a country,which had given me everything since age 3 upon migration of my parents from India. Generations after Generations will make these kind of decisions. I do not feel bad if Rich are consulting immigration lawyers. Choosing a safe heaven to survive and look after the interests of your family is an individual right. In my humble view sincere honest pakistanis should enhance their knowledge and educate themselves as well as their kids so that each and every one can make an intelligent informed decision.
    Hopefully,this will bring out a new generation of sincere and patriotic Pakistanis,who will run the country as it should be run and as it was suppose to run after 1947 according to the principles of Mohammed Ali Jinnah . A secular state .Recommend

  • observer
    Jul 26, 2011 - 12:49PM

    The rich are talking to immigration lawyers while the poor are contemplating ways to feed the hungry at home.

    And if Gen Musharraf is a valid sample, then so are Generals. And if one follows Musharraf’s advice to Mukhtaran Mai, then so should hundreds of unfortunate women too.

    Yes, this may sound like D-Day but only for those people who don’t want to see Pakistan survive.

    ‘Pakistan’ ceased to exist in 1971. What we have now is West Pakistan masquerading as Pakistan.

    This kind of vicious and negative thinking can be thwarted if all Pakistanis decide to unite for a change.

    Including the ‘minorities’ and the constitutionally defined ‘non-muslims’.

    The citizens must pull the rug from under those who cannot bear the very thought of a developing nation armed with a nuclear arsenal.

    China is a ‘developing nation armed with a nuclear arsenal’ and so is India. How do we pull the ‘pull the rug from under those who cannot bear the very thought of a developing nation armed with a nuclear arsenal’.

    The question is, is this possible?

    The short answer is -NO.


  • P N Eswaran
    Jul 26, 2011 - 5:02PM

    This condition has already been thought about by our Indian writer M J Akbar. The comment that followed from one of the readers is “let me oil my gun”


  • Pan Mat
    Aug 3, 2011 - 5:13AM

    @Nazir Habib:

    It will only take 30 seconds to find the solution – follow these steps.
    Step-1 (responsibility): Assume that anything that goes wrong with Pakistan is fault of Pakistanis as a community

    Step-2 (accountability): If you are able to achieve step-1, look for people or institutions that have erred

    Step-3 (correction): think about remedial measures based on step-2

    Blaming things in US, India, Israel is easy but look how things have gone from bad to worse in last few years.


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