Pakistan is no stranger to crises. Many therefore believe that the current troubles will also blow over. The institutional debacle that has triggered the current mayhem, however, points in a different and ominous direction. A quick return to any semblance of normalcy is not on the cards. A survey of the administration and political landscape would leave no sane observer in any doubt that the country is on the edge of a precipice. Still reeling from the devastation of floods, the problem of rehabilitation and reconstruction is emerging as a challenge to the capacity and resources of the country.
Mismanagement of rescue and relief has left its indelible imprint on the psyche of the people. Close on the heels come the blasts in different cities that have taken a heavy toll of life, they are senseless massacres of innocent human beings that tarnish the image of the country. As if that is not enough, relentless target killings in Karachi haunt the country and the bewildered citizens of the mega city. But not to be left far behind are the aircraft that drop bombs on Kurram, Orakzai and Bara to take out suspected terrorists, in the process killing and wounding innocent civilians. US drones, operating from bases gifted to them in Pakistan, make their ugly appearance and mercilessly butcher civilians as if they were stray cattle.
But that is not enough; so the cricketers sell their souls for money to bring more “glory” to Pakistan. Why should the police be far behind! They become part of a gory and despicable spectacle of the lynching of two children in Sialkot. A rally is attacked and dozens are killed in Quetta — by whom, for what and why, we will never know. This is the picture that is emerging of a state that was ostensibly created to foster harmony, brotherhood and promote the virtues of pluralism and democracy.
The masses having been left in the lurch do not know what to do or whom to follow. With no alternate leadership or a system that can catch the attention of the people, there is despondency all over. It is as if clouds of total despair and helplessness have enveloped the whole country. What is not realised is that if prompt and institutionalised remedial measures are not adopted, the systems not changed, the guilty not held accountable, vital reforms not introduced, the present system will burst at the seams heralding the advent of anarchy and chaos. True, the US has an interest in ensuring that there is a modicum of stability in the country that would facilitate its own agenda in the region, but there are limitations to the US role in Pakistan. A system that is premised on continued US financial and military assistance is fundamentally flawed. It prolongs the agony.
Perhaps there is little time left to address the growing problem of lawlessness that is concomitant and illustrative of institutional collapse. The country needs desperately a leadership that has vision, courage and mass following to institute and implement reforms that would reflect the aspirations of the people on the one hand and ensure that Pakistan extricates itself from the morass of the so-called “war on terror” on the other. Only a fundamental restructuring of priorities can help. Half-hearted measures will not deliver.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 20th, 2010.
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