Our haunting demons

By Ardeshir Cowasjee  | Dawn | 13 Dec, 2009

 This title is taken from a Dec 5 New York Times column by Sabrina Tavernise discussing the national state of denial coupled with schizophrenia which makes it difficult for the world to come to terms with Pakistan.

As for this present regime, it is not repressive, it is not a dictatorship, it is not a democracy. Well, what is it? A hotchpotch concocted out of a wickedly mutilated and ravaged constitution of which few can make sense. It is something that the United States, in its finite wisdom, decided suits its ultimate aim for control of this corner of the globe — as President Barack Obama more or less put it — at a cost affordable to the US and in place for as long as it serves the US national interest — no permanent friends, no permanent enemies (President George Washington). So, until the cost becomes prohibitive and the US national interest wanes, we are stuck with what we have.

Having put behind us a string of obsessions that have gripped the nation, one being the Kerry-Lugar Bill, we are now in the throes of thrashing out the NRO issue. Hafiz Pirzada, once our law minister and now representing Dr Mubashar Hasan in his petition before the Supreme Court, aptly put it when addressing the media after he had wound up his arguments on Thursday — the NRO is an agreement between two parties, brokered by a third, totally in the interests of the two parties and adamantly against Pakistan’s national interest. It is legislation (if it can be called so) that is unconstitutional, amoral and unlawful in itself. It has polarised the nation into one small camp, the PPP-Zardari, versus The Rest.

The rebirth of the judiciary came about out of a movement spearheaded by what is known as ‘civil society’ (now dormant) supported by certain politicians, not those of the PPP-Z. It is now up to the honourable judges of the Supreme Court to issue orders as to how constitutionally, lawfully and morally the two-party agreement will be dealt with.

Many e-mailers have written in complaining that I dwell on environmental matters whilst the country is falling apart and the rights of the humans who inhabit it are being negated day by day.

Granted, murder and mayhem are abundantly spread from the north down to as southern a point as Multan, people are dying and suffering from the hands-off attitude of this government, but the environment is now a matter of concern to the world powers meeting in Copenhagen to attempt to somehow resolve the problems posed by mankind to the wellbeing of the planet.

If discussing the environment in Pakistan is irrational to some, in the larger global sense it has relevance. And, should we not try to save what little is left?

Having said that this government is not repressive, neither is it in control. We must not forget the travails of my friend Kamran (Mickey) Shafi who was the other day targeted by those strange bodies known as ‘the agencies’ because he chose to air his views as to the proper place the army and its offshoots should occupy in the national scheme of things. One hopes for his sake that the hounds have been called off permanently.

As Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh whimsically recently remarked it is difficult to work out with whom one should talk and deal in Pakistan.

This government makes great pretence that it is in charge and directs the military in so far as its operations are concerned. But we know otherwise.

It is entirely up to the desires of the US as to how the army should deploy itself and move. Despite the fact that the US lauds our army for the progress it has made and is making in the war against the terrorism that haunts us, there are elements in the US who distrust the army’s commitment.

They do not forget the role played by the army in the raising, training and arming of the Taliban last century and that they once were the country’s ‘strategic assets’. It is an ‘on the one hand and on the other’ attitude which is unlikely to dissipate for as long as the AfPak issue exists. The army is paying dearly for its participation in fighting our war against the ‘strategic assets’ turned terrorists, but not as dearly as the poor and deprived of the bazaars and markets of the NWFP and Punjab.

Balochistan has its share of particular troubles fuelled by the national policy pursued towards that province from the early 1970s. The much lauded ‘package’ seems not to have found favour with the hard-liners who see through its rather vague and somewhat procrastinating proposals.

That Sindh has so far escaped the fury of the Taliban is largely attributed to the hold of the MQM in the urban centres (apparently all to do with financing) — rather on the lines of ‘set a thief to catch a thief’. Whatever be the fact on the ground, this province is holding its breath — will it last?

Meanwhile, governance is at a standstill. The party of the people is far too wrapped up in its own games and aims and has abdicated all interest in the resolution of the homegrown dire problems that plague the once beloved awam.

There is no hope that the day-to-day problems involving the rights of human beings, their education and health deprivations, the ongoing inflation and lack of development will in any way be resolved unless the top layer undergoes a radical change, however it is brought about. To use the stale cliché, a fish rots from the head down, and that is exactly our situation at this sorry point in time.

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