Independence Day 1947, 63 years ago, was fraught with violent birth-pangs, death and destruction. So it was in the beginning and here we are today beset by violence, and by death and destruction, having along the way willfully shed half the country.
But that day in 1947 was different — hope there was in bundles. Today, hope has fled. Since 1948, all who have ruled, have contributed through their greed, corru ption and incompetence to the Pakistan which now stands tottering. Mass disregard for the environment — illegal and cruel deforestation, haphazard substandard development, and decades of provincial wrangling over the necessity of dams have ably aided the forces of nature, thus the present result of the massive floods is the death of some 2,000 people and the displacement and misery of an unknown number, as figures vary between six to 15 million.
So what is there to celebrate? Tonight the roads of our cities and towns will be infested by flag-waving mindless youths on silencer-less motorbikes, tearing up and down, ‘celebrating’ they really not know what. Equally mindless messages of congratulations to the nation (for having against all odds managed to exist?) are issued by the spokespersons of this government which has admitted that the flood situation is way beyond its control.
Donors sought for the empty national coffers, both national and international suffer from fatigue — Pakistan is forever, even at the best of times, begging for money, money which is given and just disappears into a variety of national pockets. The people of Pakistan do not trust their rag-tag government and the world, which is more knowledgeable, trusts it even less.
In 1947, we had a head of state who relinquished his status as head of his political party, today we have a head of state who lords it over a government largely made up of constitutionally unsuitable individuals who would be hard pushed to manage a village well hand pump, let alone a country, merely because he heads his own political party from which his so-called power flows. The head of state has just proved to be a total PR disaster at home and abroad — at home his presence has no relevance to the betterment of any situation, so he might as well move his HQ to Vanuatu. What is most disturbing about him is the grin which, like the Cheshire cat, seems to have a life of its own, and is totally and always misplaced.
Once again, the country finds itself with a government that is subservient to its army, and deservedly so the army has redeemed itself as the only institution of the country which actually delivers. And this under a chief who has come to us as part of the old 2007 ‘deal’ drawn up by a down and out Pervez Musharraf and his American and European allies, a deal which by default also delivered unto us our head of state. It was done, and it has held — for how long it will hold is an unknown quantity.
Terrorism has not abated with the floods, it continues on its own merry way, helped along by the government’s helplessness and irresponsibility. The army cannot entirely shed its old Taliban ties, quite naturally, and we have talk of talks with the ‘good’ Taliban, who just a few days ago in an Afghan province publicly flogged a 48-year-old pregnant woman 200 times and then shot her, and last week murdered eight foreign and two Afghan members of a medical assistance team who were providing care to their compatriots.
So all in all, quite frankly, what is there to celebrate? Independence? Has this country, with its begging-bowl, ever truly known it?
Published in The Express Tribune, August 14th, 2010.