Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Whither Hope: Whither Civil Society!

Upright Opinion
October 6, 2010
Whither Hope: Whither Civil Society!
By Saeed Qureshi
Pakistan is a country where two young boys are lynched before a thrilled mob, where a law minister becomes law unto himself, where the custodians of law turn lawbreakers, where an eminent journalist is blindfolded, kidnapped, brutalized, and molested. It is a country where the rulers and the power wielders have no other penchant but to amass ill-gotten money. Should we still nurse a hope that this nation has a glorious destiny and a magnificent future?
Can we, by any stretch of imagination, console, cajole, or beguile ourselves that the flowering of a civil society is around the corner and sooner the people would bask in the modern comforts, enjoy a sublime life, and savor civil liberties.
While poor Pakistanis, majority being Muslims, suffer unspeakable indignities and stacks of miseries day and day out, their heathen and infidel counterparts in far off lands lead a style of life that can be rated as half of what one would find in the paradise: the eternal blissful abode. For those who die, and pass severe tests of morality and ideal conduct would be eligible to enter that idyllic place narrated to be symbolic of all the luxuries one can think of and whose enticing glimpses have been narrated in the scriptures.
Pakistan is in the midst of a multiplicity of crises and turmoils that make one wonder what ails this land so chronically and so endemically. Who is going to stem the burgeoning rot that is constantly caving into the foundations of Pakistan as a viable state? We are all struck with extreme despondency that aggravates as the time passes. I am rather stunned and mentally non-plused to witness the ugly row between the bar and the bench.
The most cherished and sublime form of government called democracy, has visited Pakistan after almost a decade of quasi-military rule. Yet the people are so much disgusted and upset with it that they yearn for the military to snatch the reins of the government again. All the political parties now in power must be forced to leave the power echelons for the conduct unworthy of the leadership that they were obligated to provide.
A nation is groping in darkness. People have been trying to find outlets in a maze of confusing routes and puzzling labyrinths of a mystifying jungle full of hazards and unforeseen dangers. The national unity has remained elusive all these 63 years of Pakistan’s existence as a sovereign and independent nation. The curse of linguistic malaise, the ethnic divide, the murderous sectarian fissures, and brazen toadyism by the rulers makes Pakistan a laughing stock and a stigmatized country around the world.
The lawyers and members of bar known to be an integral constituent of a civil society are horrifically out to undermine and wreck its integrity. Incredibly and shockingly, the police and lawyers are engaged in street brawls and inflicting injuries and indignities upon each other. A police contigent storms the courtrooms or the bar room and in return the roguish among the custodians of law beat them back with shoes and punches.
I would not vouch for the police onslaughts but I would shudder and condemn as strongly as I can the retaliation by the law graduates whose motto is to keep their calm and hold on to their sobriety and honorable stature. Woefully, in the latest street fights with the police, they not only dishonored their dignified profession but also came down to the level of a constable whose primarily job was to use force if the crowd turns rowdy. And this is what the lawyers deliberately did. If lawyers, instead of logic and argument, use force and vandalism to impose decisions then they are lost as honorable members of a civil society.
There are grave challenges to the very survival of Pakistan and the lawyers’ questionable conduct aggravates that frightening specter. While other dominant sections of society, the rulers, the feudal, the bureaucrats, the corporate heavyweights, the untouchable clergy are above law and accountability, the lawyers too are transforming themselves into a segment of blackmailers as they impose their decisions by roguish acts instead of pleading and through a civil movement. Thus, the accountability that is central for a responsible, lawful, and civilized conduct has been made an extinct commodity.
The president of Pakistan and all those who have piles of criminal cases pending against them, instead of fighting them out through judicial process, take shelter behind the immunities and other devious ploys. Thus, the Harris Steel mills bribery case, the NRO convicts or suspects, the Pakistan Steel Mills saga and similar other harrowing stories of loot and plunder are hushed up or their perpetrators go scot-free.
In the loan scandals, the influential robber barons, in collaboration and connivance with their managers, procure hefty loans from banks and financial institutions and get these written off later. The parasitical elite and aristocratic classes thrive on this windfall income. They wallow in public money and the people yearn for a morsel of bread. This stark contrast has been widening the gulf between the rich and poor.
The country is at the mercy of outlaws. The law and order is so precarious that this year in Karachi alone, 18 banks have been robbed and despite clear faces of the dacoits in the security cameras, very few offenders have been caught and punished so far. The street crimes are spiking by the day and people are being targeted due to ethnic or political vendettas or for money and precious valuables. Dacoits enter the houses freely, loot, and comfortably disappear.
The biggest threat is from Baluchistan where ethnic cleansing is going on. The ethnic liberation movements are on the rampage with the vicious motives to break that province from the rest of the country. The four provinces are like four gladiators vying each other for water, funds, and in blackmailing the federation.
The indolence, apathy, evasiveness, and indifference and rather inaction by the government runners is so manifest and write large as to defy any lavish description. All this mess and mayhem is being condoned and justified under the cover of democracy rather, exploitative, sham, and spurious democracy. In democracy, people have rights, obligations, and accountability. In this democracy, there are only sufferings, miseries, and no hope. A voter needs food and not solely pious platitudes and inane sermons about democracy.
The mammoth bribe scams and swindles, protection of the thieves of national exchequer and no respect for the judicial decorum, makes the democracy a good for nothing institution. The democracy in Pakistan is only in name and not on ground or in action, because it is being presided and overtaken by people who are bereft of any sense of propriety and sincere will to serve the country. They know they have no future in this country. So why should they care about the country’s future.
(The writer is a Dallas-based freelance journalist and a former diplomat writing mostly on International Affairs with specific focus on Pakistan and the United States)
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