A nation abandoned

Published: May 11, 2012
The writer is a senior journalist and works for DawnNews

The writer is a senior journalist and works for DawnNews

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.

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Reader Comments (52)

  • Noor
    May 11, 2012 - 10:20PM

    Sad but true … may God have mercy on us :(


  • Kanwal
    May 11, 2012 - 10:31PM

    Looks an exact depiction to me. If we dont wake up now, we are dead forever.


  • ali tipu
    May 11, 2012 - 11:19PM

    desperate times tallat. These are extremely desperate times. Everywhere i see, i see poverty,fear and anarchy in pakistan. A country deviod of law, justice, security. A state that as you have rightly pointed out turned its back towards its citizens and cant even hear their plight. Is this what we had got this country for to be ruled by sharifs, zardaris and their children?Recommend

  • nrmr44
    May 11, 2012 - 11:27PM

    …… depression, demoralization, defeatism, despair, …… free rides on a nice down-staircase! Is that the best this writer can serve his readership? Yesterday’s piece by Ejaz Haider is raging optimism by contrast! It should be music to my Indian ears, but I cannot cheer.
    Unless Pakistan is actively seeking destruction it had better summon up some defiance!
    I am beginning to think that it might be true, after all, that the Pakistan Army is more powerful than the Indian. It’s managed the complete defeat of a nation of almost 200m people!
    May I suggest a mental reset to 14 Aug 1947, recapture the old ideals, and start off afresh – this time in the right direction?
    Misguided as it was, even the fighting Pakistan looked infinitely better!


  • Fahad
    May 11, 2012 - 11:29PM

    You are the only person Sir specially from electronic media point of view, without any buttering and taking sides, who represents things impartially and show it just like an ordinary Pakistani would perceive things and would see realities of his/her surrounding. Our whole national fabric (including both the ruler and the ruled) is damaged and seems like beyond repair, there are so many reasons and issues, even thinking about them makes one’s head spin and reviving and overhauling them is a distant illusion and dream. We needs a certain minimum level of basic humanity, which at the current moment majority of us are lacking. Citizenship, vigilance, nationality, fundamental rights, freedom, constitutionalism, balanced and independent state pillars and slogans of free, just and open society is another thing.


  • Kaspar
    May 11, 2012 - 11:34PM

    This is the logical result of the kind of leadership we succeed in electing, either wilfully or through default. Eighty per cent of the crises we are facing stem from the sins and errors of omission and commission of the corrupt and insensitive leadership, the rest from their misguided notion that if they are ‘elected’ they have the right to stay till the end of the term, irrespective of their performance in office.
    This gang is interested only in its own survivial in office, so that it can make hay while the sun shines.


  • jahandad
    May 11, 2012 - 11:35PM

    Facts are hard to accept, but its a real story,thanks Talat Hussain ,,,,,but you fell short for finding some solution’s , hope you write on revolutionary ideas and solutions to current situation,,,how can we change the current desperate crises and bring some hopes to the nation,,,we cannot expect change from current faces ,so then who?,,who? will change this situation,,,,i think MEDIA PLUS COMMON MAN,,,,,,real change with commoners in Parliament and,all baghairat ,looters and country sellers brought to justice ,,,PLEASE ADD SOLUTIONS,,,,,,Recommend

  • Abbas ZA
    May 11, 2012 - 11:51PM

    You have enough day dreamers and islamists who live in denial. How many? Just go to the blog” shutup clinton” and you will know why hope of normal life in Pakistan is so little!!! When society has significant section who support the faults of religious fundamentalists-you have little chance of survival. Add to that the inherent arrogance of religious affiliation and questioning the world- not just USA or neighbours.


  • waqar
    May 11, 2012 - 11:55PM

    People themselves are to blame for this.it cannot change untill there is an inqlab or atleast people use their right of vote correctly.


  • Babloo
    May 12, 2012 - 12:03AM

    An orphan nation , orphaned by the guardians themselves.


  • ashar
    May 12, 2012 - 12:05AM

    Do you see any government in Pakistan, Dear Talat. I don’t. There is a president, a convicted prime minister, a bunch of incapable ministers, Governors and all are extremely busy in everything other than governing the country. Priority counts.


  • ashok
    May 12, 2012 - 12:29AM

    Reduce the influnce of Military and Mullahs.

    Encourage honesty and fairness in private and public lives.

    Confistate all weapons and put non-state actors/lashkars out of business as soon as ppossible.

    Increase budget for the development and education by reducing bloated military budget and provide free secular education without twisted and hateful history to the new generation to develop tolerant society and gain real skills to compete in the global world.

    Have friendly relations with India and Afghanistan and say good buy to ideas like Kashmir and stretegic depth.

    Seek forgiveness from the people of Bangladesh for the crimes committed against the humanity in 1971.


  • Rana Shabbir
    May 12, 2012 - 12:37AM

    Sad but ESTABLISHMENT is the real reason of this total collapse! Wrong foreign policy. Head on confrontation with West.


  • Umer
    May 12, 2012 - 12:55AM

    battle the government is fighting with
    the judiciary

    This phrase would have been more suitable for Pervaiz Musharaf government and when the SC was actually attacked by a group. PPP on the other hand is being victimised in a one sided battle against it by the black coats.


  • elementary
    May 12, 2012 - 1:10AM

    Irony is that people of rural sindh/southern Punjab who have been kept starved,illetrate and superstitious for this very purpose are all ready to vote these very monsters back into power yet again!!.


  • Seema
    May 12, 2012 - 1:42AM

    Talat LOL,I didnt know Musharruf’s time was so good, there was no problem in getting passports, NICs and other documents. Attack on Aaj TV was not real, In Karachi Bhatta khori and snatching of mobiles, robberies, Poliical opponent were safe, in interior sindh MQM and alliance,provided them shelter, Food in abundance,Shindhis were given employment, no dekoit ever robbed in Sindh, That was the time when no anchor dared to point finger at terrorist organization whose time, peace prevailed in Sindh, I know in Punjab, nothing went wrong neither today, they cant do wrong,, there is no poverty, with sasti Roti, Southern, Northern Punjab are as developed as Lahore, This govt is very bad, it should not give other provinces their due share, first it should fulfill the requirements of Punjab, if any leader dare to ask kill that Bas** like Bugti, If they dare to blast Pipelines, kill these terrorists, No Aafia and others were sold to Americans, to bring prosperity,

    You said govt is at war with judiciary, yes govt stormed the supreme court like 90s, judges were removed,and jailed, and Angle like judges never try to bully govt, there is no sou motto to challenge executive authority, During restoration movement CJP promised all missing ppl will return home, and CJP punished the culprits case is over and all missing returned to their families. Bravo commentator. Yet he is no Bias.
    ET other side should be heard.


  • Sunil
    May 12, 2012 - 1:51AM

    Rebuild the university at Taxila. And print those books again. There might still be light…Recommend

  • Imran
    May 12, 2012 - 2:00AM

    “The nation that will insist upon drawing a broad line of demarcation between the fighting man and the thinking man is liable to find its fighting done by fools and its thinking by cowards.”

    ― William Francis Butler


  • Basit Khan
    May 12, 2012 - 3:30AM


    Blockquote> 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.Blockquote


    So this is Our War ? Right ? Why do you & your colleagues then cry foul when these very Taliban are hit by drones, or when a demand for Do More is made by the world at large ?


  • V L Rao
    May 12, 2012 - 6:57AM

    The simple fact is the government has no money. Most all of it is spent on the army and defence and the army of civil servants. Add the cost of interest, and one wonders whether the Government has any money at all.


  • Rukhshan Haroon
    May 12, 2012 - 7:06AM

    hey everybody, we are a group of students from Lahore Grammar School, and have made this video on our country to eradicate corruption in Pakistan for our Movie Making Competition. The link is given below. It was made in a hurry so please don’t complain about technical faults. Do watch it and for feedback you can comment on the video:D

    “Hum Aik Hain”


    Pakistan ZINDABAD!


  • T
    May 12, 2012 - 7:52AM

    Hello Mr. Talat,

    Your observations and eloquence in presenting the case about the complete collapse of the writ of the state is admirable at best. Everyone knows what’s wrong with out country. An ordinary citizen like me looks up to people like you to come up with solutions to our problems. It is for these abilities of yours that you get the privilege of an audience in the first place. I would rather spend time reading about the solutions to our problems rather than listening/reading about all that is wrong about our country. Hope you get time out to read this.


  • mrk
    May 12, 2012 - 7:54AM

    Why do we forget this when we are preparing for elections or when some of us leap forward to defend the most corrupt amongst us? It’s true that all Pak govt’s have defrauded the nation one way or another. But it is also true that the damage of the last 4 years – doubling the 60 years of public debt, visible decline in living standards of not only lower but middle-class Pakistanis, diversion from real issues, stomping the legal system after running a campaign for an independent judiciary, a economy that has screeched to a hault, etc etc is unmatched even in our tamultuous history. Make no mistake about it, one more mistake in throwing out the current lot and it’s over for our lifetime. The appologists, be they so called left-wing or rightwing, will continue to highjack the discussion poisoning the nation into oblivion with their half-baked theories.
    There is a dire need for regrouping – regroup or perish.


  • mr. righty rightist
    May 12, 2012 - 10:24AM

    Indians should rejoice at the current state of Pakistan.

    When Indian Muslims see what Pakistanis have done for themselves, they will realize how lucky they are to have stayed back in India.

    Also, Indian Muslims will soon realize, Muslims are generally incapable of anything good and also of governing themselves.


  • ijazmir
    May 12, 2012 - 10:30AM

    No Comments,Mr Talat you and the rest of Pakistanis voted for this Government now Hur Chupo. Do not compliant.


  • Shyam
    May 12, 2012 - 11:31AM

    One thing that never surprises to amuse me is the way common Pakistanis blame everyone but themselves for the predicament they are in. It is always India/US/war on terror/Israel/Saudis/Pakistani government/Pakistani army which is at fault. For years common pakistanis have been donating to the charities which cause terror in other countries. They don’t pay taxes. Support the warped textbooks which instill hate into their children. Have been celebrating when 9/11 happened. Applauding the army on their atrocities on East Bengal pre 1971 war. Support blasphemy law. Showering rose petals on murderers. But now when its time to face the consequences, its always someone other fault. Maybe its time to introspect


  • waqas
    May 12, 2012 - 11:48AM

    you have summed up very well. we are in desperate condition but let me tell you don’t be surprised if PPP still managed to get votes next time. long live democracy


  • M Khan
    May 12, 2012 - 12:22PM

    very true… very sad indeed… Pakistan ka Allah hee hafiz.


  • Ansari
    May 12, 2012 - 12:47PM

    And still, they want people to give more time to DEMOCRACY. I wonder how many decades of this kind of governance will make people realise that DEMOCRACY is not going to help our cause. The only system that can bring back us on track is KHILAFAH.


  • PK
    May 12, 2012 - 3:25PM

    I blame anchors so called pseudo intellects who advocated democracy in media in 2007-08. Anchors increased uncertainty in this country. oops or should i say hippocracy :P for this country and look what we the public got from democracy rising inflation, weakening rupee, load-shedding, killings etc. I miss Gen Musharraf’s times. I pray and wish Musharraf well!


  • Mazen
    May 12, 2012 - 3:36PM

    Every citizen living in this country named Pakistan has been despair, indifferent and apathetic regarding the future of this country. The writer has rightly pointed out plethora of problems inflicted this country since the last two decades. But the only thing that still gives people of this country a sigh of relief is a glimmer of hope. This ray of hope is still not expilicit but the resilient nature of this country’s people has kept this unfortunate rather horrendous lolling country. The bond and trust between the state and the people of Pakistan has been witnessing a downward slide. But the indifferent attitude of the elite of this country is just mind-boggling. These so-called millionaires are accumulating and transferring this country’s wealth with impunity. Young ones and competent professionals of this country are making other much more prosperous countries their homelands causing braindrain. And rightly so, after so much of hard word and finance, these professionals demand hefty if nor reasonable salaries to make their living more comfortable,unfortunately, this country has nothing to offer them. In short, there is only one thing that compels us living in this country and that is a glimmer of hope for a better life.


  • Kumar
    May 12, 2012 - 3:41PM

    Things aren’t exactly sailing smooth in our own country. Also have we asked for forgiveness for the the Golden Temple massacre? mass graves in Kashmir?


  • Jat
    May 12, 2012 - 4:52PM

    Such a long article – the author could have just said “failed state”. India should prepare for the inevitable and strengthen the border fences as well as mine the border. We are in no position to take them back.


  • Prabhjyot Singh Madan
    May 12, 2012 - 5:07PM

    Feudals governing the land of my ancestors. It is 15th century there. Thank youRecommend

  • Prabhjyot Singh Madan
    May 12, 2012 - 5:22PM

    I respect your concern for wrongs of 1984, but we have evolve as a nation. The head of congress asked for forgiveness, its done. We are proud Indians and minorities are safe here. Take care


  • May 12, 2012 - 5:27PM

    just give the country over to the mullahs and let them completely destroy it…. it seems the elephant in the room mullahism is not being tackled at all


  • Vijay K
    May 12, 2012 - 6:16PM

    Mr Talat HUssain, everyone knows the problems. Lets hear some good analysis and answers to the problems.
    @mr. righty rightist: Your remark is in bad taste. If you are indeed an Indian, which I doubt, then shame on you. The Hindu idea of good governance was the caste system, which has kept India in the dark for 3000 years. So dont give me this Hindu-Muslim crap. Islam has literally been a God send for the disfranchised lower caste Hindus. Have the courage to face the facts.


  • joy
    May 12, 2012 - 6:29PM

    first I read about Mr Gilani's response to the Gallup Poll about the no. of Pakistanis wanting to leave their country....and now this article......where has Pakistan gone wrong?
    I am worried as an Indian coz we dont want any instability in our neighbourhood...

  • S.Murthy
    May 12, 2012 - 6:37PM

    The article reveals the truth and it should carry weight since it comes from within the country and not from a foreigner. Unless there is real introspection and serious policy review, the country’s economic slide will continue unabated. Let the people realize that the enemies of Pakistan are within not outside.


  • Musthaq Ahmed
    May 12, 2012 - 6:40PM

    @ali tipu:
    Were they the only rulers during past sixty years ? Why so much love for army ? Why tell a lie under the pretext of lamenting over truth ?


  • Musthaq Ahmed
    May 12, 2012 - 6:41PM

    And no army and no army at all !


  • Surya
    May 12, 2012 - 7:32PM

    @Prabhjyot Singh Madan:
    Don’t bother about Kumar. I’ve read his other comments..just another guy with fake identity..

    That said, most Indian’s would like to see a democratically elected government calling the shots on all aspects of governance that will provide stability to that nation..Unstable Pakistan is not in India’s long term interest..They need to focus on China for the long term..


  • nrmr44
    May 12, 2012 - 7:48PM

    @mr. righty rightist:
    who is this idiot?


  • Vijay K
    May 12, 2012 - 8:08PM

    @mr. righty rightist: Sir,
    I’m not sure if you are a Pakistani being sarcastic, or an intellectually challenged Indian. I hope it is the former, otherwise that comment isn’t funny.


  • Haider
    May 12, 2012 - 9:22PM

    One cannot be more right about Pakistan. This chaotic sit in the country compels us to think whether this is the kind of democracy we need in out country. Can we compare ourself with the modern democracies or can we follow the same pattern of democracy which is being practiced by the advanced countries. I think we have to engineer our democratic system where the vote of an educated person and an illetrate person are not equal. Where election commission is independant and where a common man can also take part in the poles without spending huge money. The situation of the country is really poor, however, there is still a ray of hope in the form of indep judiciary and free media. The sane voices like that of Mr. Talat Mehmood are working, though slowly and people like us are getting aware of our political masters.


  • Amit
    May 12, 2012 - 9:57PM

    @ kumar . Nice to read your comment but this time you are very liberal.


  • gp65
    May 12, 2012 - 10:06PM

    @mr. righty rightist: “Also, Indian Muslims will soon realize, Muslims are generally incapable of anything good and also of governing themselves.”

    I don’t think this is true. Examples are Indonesia, Turkey, Malaysia who are well governed. Even within India plenty of Muslims have proven themselves to be not just India’s best but world class.

    Your statement about being glad to stay back in Indi is probably true. But I cannot agree with rest of your post which seems just as biased and bigoted as many Pakistanis can be.


  • Ali S
    May 13, 2012 - 8:26PM

    I am one of those people whose grandparents were landowners in India, they left everything behind and moved to Karachi in the ’50s with dreams of living in a better, prosperous nation. And this is what it’s come to. Makes me want to cry… :(


  • kaalchakra
    May 13, 2012 - 9:44PM

    Ali S.

    Please don’t be disheartened. Your grandparents’ move benefited everyone. They, and you, got to live as free Muslims, without Hindu oppression, as Islam guides. That is far more valuable than any material ‘joys’ of this world which mean little in afterlife.


  • Surya
    May 14, 2012 - 6:43PM

    LOL..Computers & Internet are also “material joys” of this world..so why don’t u forgo them..if your statement about “got to live as free Muslims, without Hindu oppression” is true, then people like Ali S wouldn’t be lamenting here..Keep your 2 cents worth with you..when people are losing everything religion becomes meaningless to them..

    Finally, take a flight to India and do some reality check by inviting Indian Muslims to Pakistan..i’ll bet my last dollar that you’ll find no takers..


  • Cynical
    May 15, 2012 - 2:02AM


    I can understand your misplaced confidence in Indian muslims’ sense of belonging to the Indian nation.But I suspect if that’s the reality.

    Given an opportunity (with cost of repatriation, a fair price for their holdings etc.) many Muslims from India would like to migrate to Pakistan, the land their forefathers have dreamt and worked for.


  • Surya
    May 15, 2012 - 7:03PM

    I live in Singapore. Even here muslims from India call themselves Indian Muslim (Indian muslim food are all over singapore)..Though Malays are also muslims, Indian muslims identifies and acts more as Indian community..Unlike in India (based on your logic) they don’t have that compulsion to do so..This is fundamental problem with you Pakistanis..Just bcoz they’re muslim doesn’t mean everyone think like Pakistanis..FYI, 650 pakistanis who came to India during commonwealth games never returned back..we have more than 10 million illegal Bangladeshis (so much that they altered the demography of Assam state)..So much for Muslim ummah..

    If you strongly believe in what you said, why don’t your government run a migration program just like Isreal does..Lol..Hindus are migrating from Pakistan not the other way (read tribune article)..Lol..


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