How do you stay optimistic about the prospects of your country when the naked truth paints a dark picture? Is living in a make-believe world the true mark of love and loyalty or acknowledging your failures and faults with the object of stimulating change? An argument vociferously made by our ‘patriots’ is that the world paints Pakistan as a terrible place because we are too critical of ourselves. Can one really continue to sell a bad product even if the marketing campaign is swell?
How do you correct a wrong without first acknowledging it? How do you begin acknowledging wrongs in an environment where the hardened belief is that it is not the doing of a wrong but its acceptance that spreads the contagion of disgrace?
When did we become a people who have lost their ability to distinguish between an objective reality and the admission of it? Should we be concerned more about the harmful consequences of wrongs directly affecting our surroundings and us, or by the shame of others finding out about it?
Let’s flag some random unconnected events.
How do you correct a wrong without first acknowledging it?
Two Pakistani Christians are burnt like pieces of coal in the brick kiln they worked at by fellow villagers after accusations of blasphemy were levelled against them from the bully pulpit of the local mosque. Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has taken ‘strict’ notice of the incident, as he did after the Gojra riots that claimed the lives of eight Pakistani Christians and the Joseph Colony attack in Lahore where 150 houses and two churches were torched (incidents also triggered by allegations of blasphemy).
Anjali Kumari Meghwar, a 12-year-old Pakistani Hindu child was reportedly abducted, forcibly converted to Islam and then married off to one Riaz Sial last week. According to a report released by the Movement for Solidarity and Peace earlier this year, almost 1,000 Christian and Hindu women are forced to convert and marry Muslim men in Pakistan each year. Bottom line? Whether it’s due to religion, gender or economic class, if you are part of the vulnerable segment of this society, you are damned.
Sixty Pakistanis lost their lives and 100 others were injured in a suicide attack at Wagah last week. Three indigenous terror outfits claimed credit for the attack. Did our state get riled up? Yes, because Pentagon noted in a report to the US Congress that, “Afghan- and Indian-focused militants continue to operate from Pakistan territory to the detriment of Afghan and regional stability,” and that “Pakistan uses these proxy forces to hedge against the loss of influence in Afghanistan and to counter India’s superior military”.
Are we angry because this is utter falsehood and our state can never conceive of employing jihadi proxies to pursue national security interests? Are we angry because the report notes that India is militarily superior? Or that it doesn’t note that India might be promoting insurgency in Balochistan? Or are we angry because even if true, the US being a ‘friend’ and all, ought not to have called us out on this (especially as the original jihadi project was jointly conceived by Pakistan and the US)?
Short of weaving grand conspiracy theories, how does one rationalise all our neighbours (friends and foes) viewing Pakistan as a problem and a source of terror? Can we claim with absolute confidence that our state has decommissioned its jihadi proxies for good and is no longer hobnobbing with religion-inspired terror groups at any level?
Are there any signs that our national security mindset now stands transformed and has conclusively decided that cultivating jihadi proxies poses a threat to Pakistani citizens?
What about our justice system? Has it risen from the ashes and begun meting out justice to ordinary folk? Our conviction rate in the innumerable terror attacks across Pakistan remains abysmal. But we are making progress. Gullu Butt, the infamous baton-wielding vandal from the Model Town tragedy has been swiftly slapped with an 11-year sentence by an anti-terror court. Do we care if there is no progress toward affixing responsibility for the loss of 14 precious lives? The ghastly tragedy needed a scapegoat. Butt is the chosen one.
In 2012, the Supreme Court declared in a public interest case that the Safe City Project for Islamabad was awarded in breach of PPRA Rules. It ordered the government to initiate the procurement process afresh in a transparent manner and directed NAB to initiate proceedings against officials responsible for the illegal award. In March 2014, the PML-N government signed a revised agreement with the same Chinese company without tender. According to PPRA the government has sought no exemption for the revived project. Life moves on.
During the PPP regime the Supreme Court declared a number of executive appointments void over allegations of nepotism, including the heads of Ogra, FBR, SECP and NAB. In the Khawaja Asif case the court ordered the establishment of a high-powered selection commission for making key executive appointments transparently. This commission has now been rendered dysfunctional and key statutory offices are being managed by the PML-N regime on acting-charge basis in breach of the law. Can one rationalise application of divergent legal standards to successive regimes?
The HEC has issued a warning to all universities across Pakistan, “to remain very vigilant and forestall any activity that in any manner challenges the ideology and principles of Pakistan and/or perspective of the government of Pakistan thereof”. The YouTube ban has also whetted the government’s appetite. According to Facebook, the government has been requesting it to block access not only to blasphemous content but also to that involving “criticism of the state”. Can one conceive a threat more dangerous than dissenting voices and new ideas?
Whether it is our politicos, military, judiciary, bureaucracy or empowered societal classes, our power elites share no sense of urgency to review the thinking (or lack thereof) that has pushed Pakistan to the edge. What these elites fail to recognise is that while ‘Go Nawaz Go’ might sound like a chant against Nawaz Sharif alone, it is a call for rebellion against all beneficiaries of our prevailing debauched system.