Monday, May 16, 2011

How to Build a New Pakistan

By Saeed Qureshi

There is a fast gathering impression that Pakistan is sliding down to the status of a failed state. Bad governance, corruption and dereliction of the leadership are some of the principle reasons outlined for the colossal decline and drift caving into the unity, strength and advancement of Pakistan.

The anti Soviet Union war in Afghanistan created such fanatic religious entities as Taliban and al-Qaida. Pakistan joined the decade long anti-soviet crusade. The Afghan war between the West led by the United States and former Soviet Union had its most ruinous fallout on Pakistan.

Later, United States started another war against her former fighting Islamic cadres namely Al-Qaida and Taliban. Pakistan also became a participant in that war. As such Taliban and al-Qaida let loose a punitive specter of terror and sabotage within Pakistan that continues unabated in the form of incessant suicide bombing and brazen killing sprees.

However there was also a redeeming dimension of anti- Soviet Union war for Pakistan. it provided a God given rare opportunity to Pakistan to put a stop to the centuries old ambition of the Russia empire under the dynastic rulers and then under the Bolshevik regime to bring under their domination the region that linked Russia to with the warm waters.

But Pakistan’s involvement did not stop after the defeat of the Soviet Union. The 9/11 incident once against catapulted Pakistan to the status of a most needed and trusted ally of the United states to fight the fanatic bands in Afghanistan and in the tribal regions and to eliminate and flush them out. Pakistan army is fighting that war for several years now killing the fanatic militants and in return being killed by them.

It was a kind of vicious trap in which Pakistan is still caught up and cannot break it or get out of that because America’s war on terror seems to be interminable. It is a kind of morass and abyss in which it is sinking with no hope for retrieving itself.

Pakistan army’s involvement against its own people in the tribal regions had its pernicious repercussions on Pakistan’s society in the form of suicide bombing, frequent bomb blast, arson and other unending sabotage incidents that have blown up the societal peace and stability that are so essential for the sustained onward march towards prosperity and progress.

The religious parties and radical Islamic groups that were dormant or weak in the past have been swelling and gaining strength and becoming more organized as to challenge the state and defy its writ in myriad ways. The religious outfits in conjunction with the outside cohorts are wreaking havoc within Pakistan crippling the economy, destroying the peace and instilling terror among the citizens.

These are both invisible and visible elements that retaliate to Pakistan’s alliance with the western countries and the army’s combat operations in the tribal regions against the Taliban. The drone attacks have filled the tribal population with deep hatred and fury not only against America and NATO but also against Pakistan for its complicity.

Since Taliban and other militants cannot harm the foreign occupation forces to a desirable extent, the scapegoat or the immediate victim is Pakistan that has to bear the major brunt of the punitive actions by the radical religious militants. Hence an unremitting mayhem and unabated loss of human lives and property, economic decline and stagnation goes on. Now these are the harsh facts and unpalatable ground realties that are commonly known.

Let us, therefore, earnestly ponder as to how this ballooning rot can be stemmed and Pakistan can be put back on a track of peace and stability. In a nutshell how a failing and degenerating Pakistan can be redeemed.

In the aftermath of the Abbottabad event, the reaction of the Pakistan’s parliament and the unanimous resolution to uphold the national dignity and sovereignty is a redeeming development. Also the armed forces’ resolve to retaliate in such situations is the first expression of Pakistan as a self respecting and honorable nation.

If such a course is persistently pursued, it can be hoped that the foreign inexorable pressure would relent and that might prove to be the first step towards national salvation from the foreign bondage and the end of fear psyche.

To embark upon a well charted and ensured course of redemption and halting the ongoing trends of disintegration and downturn, Pakistan needs to take a stock of the causes responsible for generating the feelings of despondency and burgeoning perception of its becoming a failed state. Pakistan will have to realign its priorities and strategies and forge conciliatory alliances with the hostile groups like Taliban.

It is necessary to back track from the military operations in the tribal regions all the more after the death of the Osama Ben Laden for which the NATO and the United States’ forces were deployed on a massive scale in Afghanistan. Pakistan on its own can keep hunting the terrorists and rogue elements that are against Pakistan but must end its mercenary role in its own lands and against its own people.

Pakistan should dispense its image of a mercenary or vassal state of the United States that dumps Pakistan when it is not needed any more. Pakistan has a very time tested sincere friend and supporter in China whose relationship with Pakistan is not based upon ulterior motives or self-aggrandizing interests or arm-twisting tactics.

If the United States follows her threats of cutting off Pakistan’s financial and military aid, then it should be deemed as a blessing in disguise. With the support and backing of China the possibility of United States attacking Pakistan’s nuclear assets does not look plausible. India cannot also harm Pakistan.

So Pakistan can choose the path of disengaging itself from the dictates of an overbearing power whose relations are purely motivated by their own designs and vested interests in complete disregard of the partners’ limitations. As long Pakistan serves with complete docility and as an apron string, they are happy. Their attitude towards Pakistan is, “Since we pay you for your services, you must deliver.”

The moment there is a minor lapse; they would forget the past achievements and turn apprehensive and an adversary. United States is a fastidious country that can turn back and starts talking revenge against sincere friends when the job is over or falls short of their expectations. Pakistan should not accept aid if it is tagged with dishonorable conditions and list of dictated jobs, given to a hireling.

Pakistan should enter into a new alliance with all brands of Taliban for a grand reconciliation and for stopping mutual revenge killing. In a quid pro arrangement, Pakistan should terminate its military onslaughts. In return Taliban should call off their suicide bombing and deadly terrorist attacks within Pakistan.

That arrangement can be made as most Taliban do not nurse any ill will against Pakistan. Taliban are the creation of Pakistan and with the time passage their worldview and orthodox beliefs can undergo change. With solicitation and as a consequence of the reconciliation dialogue they can move towards moderation.

Secondly, a national religious harmony conference should be convened. This conference should bring together all the groups and parties with diverse and divergent religious beliefs and shades of opinions. They should pledge that they would follow their religious traditions and obligation without aggression, violence, bickering or diatribe against the other sects within the ambit of Islam.

That should herald the religious harmony and freedom of worship in Pakistan without any ideological friction or attacks on each others’ religious places and vitriolic outbursts against their respective religious icons.

These religious entities should also commit that they would respect the law of the land and perform their religious or social obligations according to the constitution of Pakistan and within the framework of democracy and public interest.

The Pakistan government with the support of provincial leaders, the parliamentarians, the intelligentsia, intellectuals, politicians, the educationists, social reformers, and other cross section leaders and prominent figures such as labor leaders, NGOs, should hammer out a national unity and reconciliation strategy for addressing the regional and provincial tensions and complaints.

There can be a reconciliation commission that should initiate a fresh dialogue with all the provinces to bring the dissident groups with fissiparous inclinations into the national gridline. This national reconciliation should start from Baluchistan where a simmering insurgency is going on for decades by such anti-federation groups such as BLA BLF, BRA and BLUF.

These groups should be motivated to join the process of Grand National integration by redressing their grievances within the federation so that these breakaway movements aided by foreign inimical forces can be quashed.

The majority of the people of Baluchistan want to live within Pakistan and therefore those who want to break away are fringe groups. But in order to bury the conflicts and perpetual tug of war, it is imperative that such groups should join the mission of unity, integration and take part in the political process.

The third alliance or reconciliation milestone should be worked out between the ethnic groups both social and political such as the MQM and the Pathans on one hand and Jamat-i-Islami and MQM on the other. The racial and ethnic harmony is sin quo none for the solidarity, integrity and stability of Pakistan, particularly in Karachi which is a port and linchpin of economy.

In order to bring the much needed harmony, one giant step is inevitable. It is to remove the provincial grudge and rift between the provinces of Pakistan. For smaller provinces Punjab is a much reviled province. This impression must be erased as soon as possible.

As part of the watershed endeavor to alleviate sufferings of the smaller provinces and for their active participation in national affairs, it is vital to break the current four giant provinces into minimum 16 provinces.

The division of the current four elephantine provinces into smaller provinces would definitely dilute their mutual rivalry caused by the variance in their size and the grievance of getting more or less resources and funds.

That would also be a giant stride towards devolution of powers and decentralization of the big geographical areas. Thus a fairer, equitable and exclusive system for the utilization of their locally generated revenues from their natural resources and taxation could be brought into being.

People reel under extremely, degrading, abysmal, woeful and inhuman living conditions. The daily strings of power outrages and blackouts, the water shortage, the chaotic traffic, bad and narrow roads, the suffocating, noisy and smoke emitting public and private transport are making the people crazy and reckless.

The environmental pollution, the dark and dingy streets, meager landscaping, deficient and dirty public parks, no zoning regulations, giraffes and wall chalking all over give Pakistan an image of a highly backward, disorderly and filthy country.

There is no centralized drainage system in any city, no centralized flush system, and no decently maintained public toilets. The encroachments cover roads and footpaths, the animals are kept with the citizens in the lanes and streets. There are such countless other civic and environmental deformities that make Pakistan look like a primitive and ugly country still to be polished and municipally modernized.

The government seems to be visibly blurred as judged by their performance thus far, about the stupendous national maladies and their amelioration. Barring vague promises and meaningless rhetorical statements, they have not laid-out their policy and plans, as to how they would be cleaning these ‘Augean Stables’.

As such a civic revolution is indispensable to spruce up the towns, and cities and improving the living conditions of the citizens of Pakistan. One of the overriding reasons for the Pakistanis to come to the western societies is to benefit from the civic galore and public utilities that make lives so productive and free from hassle and irritants.

There is a contrast between the degrading and tormenting life of citizens in Pakistan and the rigors-free and comfortable living the citizens in west Europe and United States lead. If we can create a better civic and municipal system in our urban areas, our people may not opt to move out of Pakistan for green pastures or for neat and hazard-free environment.

Pakistan looks so shabby and decadent country to a person who comes out of the airport after visiting a foreign country. It is expressly urgent to upgrade the quality of live in Pakistan by unfurling a grand civic revolution to the extent that no one has the audacity to spit or urinate or throw garbage in open and even in their homes. Face lifting of Pakistan should be central to the civic revolution.

A revolutionary civic law and plan should be copied from the civilized and culturally advanced countries and implemented consistently and methodically without any laxity and with full force of law. The violators of civic laws, regulations and city codes must be fined and punished so as to forcibly attune them to respect law and comply with the civic regulations.

Likewise the traffic mess can also be addressed diligently by taking a cue from the systems of the civically advanced nations. Wider highways and abundant road network should be laid out all over Pakistan for easing the burgeoning traffic pressures and to cater for the fast, safe and smooth flow of the vehicles.

The shape and models of the public transport vehicles such as freight trucks and buses must be remodeled with less colorful engraving and gaudy paintings on them yet with more space and necessary features such as cooling and heating systems.

Let us now talk about the social and structural reforms and institutional improvements. The harried and harassed citizens must be liberated, from the bribe and corrupt practices of the officials and bureaucracy; the complicated and plentiful regulations, tough conditions, and similar bottlenecks.

The public departments and courts are most notorious for their slow, outdated and cumbersome procedures for issuing a driving license to a health certificate or a verdict from a court for vacation of forcibly grabbed land. The civil and criminal cases remain under trial for decades.

Look at the railways in Pakistan. It is a nightmare and trauma to travel by train in Pakistan. The trains are slow, invariably late, the compartments dirty and overloaded, the latrines dirty and stinking. The cooling or heating facilities are confined to first class bogies. The railway stations are populated by collies and vendors who pay hefty bribes to work at the platform.

The railway tracks mostly single tracks, are the same that were created by the British before 1947. The railway land is grabbed by powerful gangs and individuals. The engines and bogies have always been in short supply. The concept of fast trains in Pakistan seems to be a fairy tale and an unattainable fantasy.

Same is the picture of PIA, health and education sectors, Police, the taxation and revenue departments, the WAPDA, the banking system, the municipal organizations, hospitals, the courts. All these institutions suffer from bad governance and are infested with malfunctioning and flaws.

The underlying and perhaps the outstanding reason for malfunctioning and deficiencies with the entire governance system in Pakistan is that the institutions and departments are not modernized.

These are being run on the same obsolete and moribund patterns that were manual and prevalent during the British rule in India. Even the indispensable computerization or automation of these departments is yet to be done.

The staffs in most of the departments make entries and maintain records by writing with hand or by typing on the old typewriters. The ticket booking systems or payment of utility bills via Internet or online is a rare facility in Pakistan.

In offices, such practices such as late coming, eating and smoking on the work desk is in vogue. Invariably, the public needs are met with delays and upon payments of grafts. The government officials mostly are incorrigibly corrupt with tendencies of nepotism and favoritism. The poor workmanship entailing a building collapse or a road falling back in poor state is common in Pakistan.

In countless instances either the road, or school or certain project was never built but were shown in records. Corruption, lawlessness and theft of the public assets are a way of life in Pakistan. People steal power, and water in collusion with the custodians of these assets.

The police in Pakistan is the ugliest institution for its corruption, cruelty and dereliction in doing their jobs faithfully and honestly. Their uniforms, their trainings, their backgrounds, their way of dealing with crime is a saga of shocks and is utterly reprehensible. It has become a symbol of inefficiency and fear.

Instead of protecting the law and the citizens, the police personnel break the law and selectively apply it. They are a band of dirty villains striking fear in the minds of those who are innocent and cannot pay the bribes. However, for strong and wealthy they behave like the house kept pets with wagging tails.

The fault does not lie with the police cadres but with the society. The government and the environ in which they live and serve, put a nerve shattering burden on them by way of personal obligations, pressure from high ups, poor training and poor equipment.

The Pakistan’ society spurs an atmosphere than fosters nepotism and subservience. Even if a constable or officer wants to be dutiful, he cannot operate independently as there would be multiple pressures on him to finally join the other sleazy lot.

The government has to refurbish, modernize, and overhaul all the government departments and the bureaucratic regime so that these can serve the people with honesty, fairness and in accordance with the laid down rules as we can see in the advanced countries.

The institutions and departments both public and privates have to be rebuilt from a scratch, remodeled and recast to make them efficient, functional and responding to the people’s aspirations and the imperatives of a modern society. A commission can also be set up to modernize and transform the entire administrative set up in Pakistan for good governance.

Another crucial reform is to recover the illegal firearms and lethal weapons with zero tolerance. Heavy sentences should be awarded to those who possess the arms without any license. The country should be cleared of all the deadly weapons that have no registration and fact constitute main cause of violence and criminal activities.

For a socially liberated Pakistan where equality between citizens prevails, Pakistan has to abolish the culture of elitism, aristocracy, privilege classes including the abominable feudalism and local lords, Sardari (nobility) and similar exploitative and oppressive institutions that have enslaved their local people for centuries. Pakistan should be a state where no class or individual should be treated as divine and superior than others.

Finally, the executive and the legislature branches of state apparatus need to be tuned up for coming up to the expectations of the people of Pakistan. Mercifully, the role of both judiciary and media is above board and that offers a ray of hope and great consolation that all was not lost with the state of Pakistan.

We must keep in mind that democracy and economy flourish and prosper in an environment of peace, order, respect for and strict application of law, with unity, togetherness, patriotism and with a sense of belonging to one’s land.

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