For over two decades the interested or concerned or contributing world has maintained that Pakistan is a weak state and that its various succeeding governments are successfully making it weaker still. Its disastrous, awam-unfriendly economy, continually battered and exacerbated by a series of corrupt, inept, verging on the criminal leaders is at the root of most of its problems.
Despite its poverty, the country spends more and more of the hundreds of millions of dollars on weapons, or castle-in-the-air projects at which the current government is an out-and-out expert, rather than on some cohesive form of education and development. No government has any concept of cost-saving — its concern is its own pockets and grandiose, usually unneeded, projects aimed at self glorification. Way back in the year 2000, an American think tank paper told us and the world: “Pakistan is pursuing a path that is likely to be disastrous in the long run, allowing a culture of violence to take root.”
Well, it has, all over and at all levels. Forget about mosquito bites such as that famous cleric from Canada who has been around in politics for more years than he should — in a sensible land — of survived. He is another ruddy castle in the air and only a weak and tottering government of nonentities would have reacted in the manner to which we have just been subjected. In a country which boasts a substantial nuclear arsenal (which has cost heaven knows how much), if the leadership cannot sensibly deal with an irritating mosquito, how on earth will it tackle the Taliban and their groupies? The political leadership won’t — it is leaving it all up to the most unified, well-armed, disciplined force in the country.
That the prime minister has deigned to visit (or as the press love to put it, ‘graced’) Peshawar with his presence, and then Bannu, is quite remarkable. We are surprised, such is what we take the mettle of the man to now be. But not earlier — oh no, at the start there were lots of castles in the air about a reformed and wiser Nawaz Sharif (my foot!). He was to be the shining knight who in his third coming would magically banish potential failure, established weakness, economic woes, and all the rest of it. Not a bit as it has turned out and the castle builders are admitting — Mian Sahib, like the leopard, has retained his spots. His unrealistic and unpolitic stance in the case of Pervez Musharraf is a perfect case in point — as are all the highways, over and underpasses, monuments and the thoughtless nonsense that characterises his government and that of the talented brother.
Worse is the hideous mix of corruption and cronyism, and the allowance of a self-serving interpretation of faith mixed with tribalism, which is drowning any attempts at tolerance and magnanimity, which a few tortured souls try to preach. Under the watch of the prime minister’s constituency of Lahore, the capital of his brother’s realm, in a village named Satrah, a 17-year-old girl and her 31-year-old husband were lured back to the wife’s home and her father bound them up and then slit both their throats with a scythe (detailed story in The New York Times of June 28). This is just one example of what is done each day by the ignorant, bigoted, violent mass of the population to their kith and kin, totally ignored by leaderships who have no will nor intent to drag their citizens out of their stone-age suffocating caverns. That we have amidst us politicians who brag about burying women alive and maintaining ‘traditions’ is the stuff of nightmares.
And we continue on, while the latest leader assures us (almost pleading with us or ‘them’) that if he is allowed to continue on and complete his five years, paradise will be ours. Fine and dandy it all is — have a hefty Iftar and dream on happily.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 5th, 2014.