The Spectre called Pakistan

Published: October 31, 2014
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The writer is an Islamabad-based TV journalist and tweets @FarrukhKPitafi

The writer is an Islamabad-based TV journalist and tweets @FarrukhKPitafi

Tim Burton directed a beautiful movie based on Daniel Wallace’s 1998 novel, Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions. The movie retains the novel’s original name and is splendid. It is a son’s quest to reconcile the tall tales told by his father throughout his life to the grim realities of life. And while other stories may have only a grain of truth in them, one story does check out. Edward Bloom, the father, most definitely stumbles upon the beautiful town of Spectre, “the best kept secret in the state of Alabama”, which no one ever leaves, while exploring a shortcut. The town is heartwarmingly cosy and lush. When Bloom returns to the town after years, it is shown to have regressed to the general state of disrepair. We are told that after he left during his first visit, a new road brought the outside world to Spectre and with it banks, liens and debt. Bankruptcy had destroyed the best kept secret in Alabama.

This corrosion, ladies and gentlemen, is all but natural when the innocence of a small town, or for that matter, even a country, is waylaid by the premature desire to grow up at once. And this is exactly what happened to the sweet little country. If someone who visited Pakistan at its very inception were to visit it now, after this long interval, he would be utterly heartbroken. Back then, the country had no money, no nukes, no cricket World Cup winners. But it had innocent dreams. Now it has many of those things but hardly any dream. The desire to prematurely punch above its weight and that to bring an overnight change has ruined the 67 years of evolution. Today, what Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri say sounds fancy, revolutionary at times. But guess what. It did every time an attempt was made, most often successful, to thwart the democratic journey and replace it with a stopgap arrangement. And yet, our failure to succeed is primarily down to the untimely, rude and prolonged interruptions of that journey. Every time the plant grows to a promising height, dissatisfied with the lack of fruits, you chop it down leaving the land barren for years and after that, you start afresh. And then you complain that you have no fruits.

Messrs Khan and Qadri’s philosophy would have had far more impact had we not known the context of their recent venture. Most of you can connect the dots easily enough. And yet, if you choose not to, it is your lookout. This piece is, however, meant for those who want to see even if they don’t possess a 20/20 foresight.

While we can go on for hours about mistakes committed by both sides across the civil military divide, no benefit will come out of it. Let us realise that owing to our rough, often daunting historical experience and scuffles in the region, we are a security state. Your enemies often keep you under pressure to force you to make wrong choices. India, since day one, did that and we obliged. Today, our security concerns dwarf all other concerns. And this can easily change.

Our biggest problem is the Napoleon complex. This complex usually afflicts men with shorter statures. But we are no dwarves, we are kids. Before we master the world, we need to master ourselves. Tell me, has anyone ever found a shortcut to cheat the forces of natural physical growth? No. You simply cannot defy the laws of biology. Nor can you cheat the rules of evolution. In order to progress, then, we need to look inwards, to our sustainable development and growth. We need patience for the democratic process. But it doesn’t say we can’t have reform at the same time. We have a thriving judiciary, media and a civil society. They can help multitask.

Meanwhile, on the security front, first thing to do is to harden all our borders. Border disputes can wait till we have grown strong enough to demand our due. We need a very strong conventional force too, to watch our borders and to fight the menace of terror. But we also need across the board civil-military-judicial-media consensus on an agenda for the next 10 years. That coupled with democracy can solve everything else once we bury the hatchet.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 1st, 2014.

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Reader Comments (15)

  • Parvez
    Nov 1, 2014 - 1:08AM

    Nicely said…….I would think that for any system to work productively a mechanism of checks and balances is needed. That is the essence of a democratic system but we have developed a one sided system that delivers only for the few and the parliament is simply ‘ window dressing ‘ as it is a serious beneficiary of this warped system………what the Imran Khan episode has done it to force a ‘ check and balance ‘ of sorts, on this one sided system. The important point is that those in government and parliament SHOULD learn some lessons from this……but sadly they are too satiated with greed to understand this simple reality.

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  • shouvik mukherjee
    Nov 1, 2014 - 1:19AM

    As long you do not separate mosque and state, you can chase the democracy dream but will remain a theocracy. Take a look at all your so called Islamic countries.
    With the exception of Turkey, can you even call any one close to a true democracy.

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  • Zaida
    Nov 1, 2014 - 6:30AM

    “Security states” seldom become true democracies of their own volition. It is the nature of that system to yield to dictators. For Pakistan to become a democracy (not merely by name), it has to transition from being a security state. That, is almost impossible – given that most of the nation’s strategic decisions are at the hands of the security agencies. Pakistan needs a Gorbachev in the establishment who will force this transition from within. But somehow, I can’t see that happening. He will be unseated well before he even makes an attempt.

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  • ModiFied
    Nov 1, 2014 - 10:45AM

    “India, since day one, did that and we obliged. “
    What did India do ? India entered Kashmir only after Pakistan sent the lashkars and Maharaja acceded to India. Since that day it is Pakistan who has been poking her nose not only in India but in Afghanistan and Iran as well. As you rightly said, Pakistan was keen to punch beyond her weight too early in her life.

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  • Feroz
    Nov 1, 2014 - 11:10AM

    This is a wonderful piece and would rank among the best by the author. Everything is of relevance to the context, acknowledging that short cuts may not lead us to the destination. The idea of nationhood and what it really means with reference to the welfare of citizens, needs further debate within civil society at large. Kudos !

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  • Hammurabi
    Nov 1, 2014 - 11:31AM

    One of the former Presidents of Singapore was asked to help Pakistan to learn from Singapore experience. He replied”I cant do anything with a nation which believes that real life starts after death”

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  • Menon
    Nov 1, 2014 - 5:55PM

    Let us realise that owing to our rough, often daunting historical experience and scuffles in the region, we are a security state. Your enemies often keep you under pressure to force you to make wrong choices. India, since day one, did that and we obliged. Today, our security concerns dwarf all other concerns. And this can easily change.

    While your observation is correct, you failed to ask truthful questions. May be it is due to the history your were taught.

    How many times in the past 67 years India has attacked Pakistan or started war? None.

    Until Pakistan gets rid of the above mentality, revise the text books and teach real history, you always will be a dwarf, punching above the line and the line gets higher and higher.

    It is time for Pakistan to recognize the old attitude would not get you anywhere, the world has moved on and you have now regional advantage any longer. All you have to look at is the aid flowing into Pakistan, it has hit almost zero.

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  • Dr Majid Kifayatullah
    Nov 1, 2014 - 6:17PM

    “If someone who visited Pakistan at its very inception were to visit it now, after this long interval, he would be utterly heartbroken. Back then, the country had no money, no nukes, no cricket World Cup winners. But it had innocent dreams. Now it has many of those things but hardly any dream. “

    This describes succinctly the present psyche of Pakistan. We need a national dream like the American Dream or the Chinese Dream which motivates us to build up our benighted land. A dream which is inclusive. A dream where the land is free of hate, corruption and crime. A dream where every humble person can achieve his dreams with honest hard work. A country where you do not have to migrate to achieve your dreams.

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  • Salim Alvi
    Nov 1, 2014 - 8:25PM

    @ModiFied:
    In your response to the author:
    “Since that day it is Pakistan who has been poking her nose not only in India but in Afghanistan and Iran as well.”

    Not only its Asian neighbors but also other Asian powers such as Soviet Union, remember U-2 flights from Peshawar?

    Pakistan is Anglo’s creation sustained by Barbarian’s oil money. Oil & drugs sustains Pakistan. It is ironic that West Punjabis who did not not stand up to barbaric marauding rapists such as Turks, Arabs and their cultural were called martial race by Angloes. Such diffident people need to fake their martialness and do this poking business. “Fake it till you get it” for Lahori elite means deaths and disease for poor AllahRakhi’s brainwashed Kasabi kids.

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  • Sexton Blake
    Nov 1, 2014 - 11:50PM

    I think too many Pakistani’s have been watching too many American movies, which show a non-existent way-of-life. If people could go back 50 years to the US and compare it to today they would certainly be upset. Infrastructures crumbling, high unemployment, high taxes if you are luck enough to get a job, about a hundred million on food stamps, permanent war footing, dismal future prospects for the young, unaffordable medical facilities, elderly people doing it tough. Admittedly, at least the bottom half of all sub-continent countries are doing it even tougher, However, it bothers me the way everybody appears to go out of their way to denigrate Pakistan. About 500 million Indians do not have adequate bathroom facilities, and I could outline dreadful statistics about the UK, Australia and other countries. Farrukh Pitafi is correct in what he wrote, but he could just as well have been writing about most of the worlds governments who appear to have developed alarming disabilities in regard to adequately running their countries. Unfortunately for the sub-continent population India and Pakistan, who started off at a much lower economic level, have allowed themselves to become embroiled in ridiculous hostilities with each other, and therefore have to pay out for huge military costs, approximately10,000 million Indian rupees per day.

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  • Freeman
    Nov 1, 2014 - 11:53PM

    @ModiFied: Well, punching above one’s weight is a good thing as long as it is the right thing, such as building one’s economy. educating all its citizens, providing conditions for all its citizens to excel and be productive, separating state matters from purely personal ones (e.g.no hudood laws and no faith-based governance), and inculcating rule and respect for law.

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  • Tyggar
    Nov 2, 2014 - 11:11AM

    Pakistan is a country that perennially tries to punch its neighbours fists with its face

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  • Moon
    Nov 2, 2014 - 6:36PM

    Every country in the world make manouvers to protect its interests. We talk about western interest, chinese interests etc etc and it all seem legitimate even when it involves attacking countries for oil. But if muslim civilization talk about its interests just like western civilization its potrayed as “evil political Islam’ etc. Or if a country like Pakistan try to prptect its interests its called ‘security state’ etc. Indians cant digest that a much smaller country stood against their unfair dominance.

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  • Yasin
    Nov 3, 2014 - 12:40AM

    @Salim Alvi

    You are awesome man. I am now familiar with your earlier post and with your grasp of history of the subcontinent. Keep enlightening us.

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  • Moon
    Nov 3, 2014 - 2:14PM

    @ Yasin

    Well the west Punjabis did stood upto the Alexander the great Raja Porous was west Punjabi. I dont agree with Martial Race theory though otherwise italians would have performed best in second world war and the reality is opposite.

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