The State Must Go Weeding

Ali Abbas, PTH’s new author has contributed this thoughtful  piece with a sanguine conclusion – “This burden of existence lies on the state’s shoulders, whether we like it or not”

For all its shortcomings and its stunted political development, the Pakistani state has been faced with multiple challenges over the last ten years. Each of these challenges have highlighted its weaknesses, wrenched out a response and provided a vital prod in the ‘right’ direction.

After the takeover of government, Musharraf’s media reforms not only brought national focus on the lack of an independent media in the country, but triggered a decade of development for the media industry which has been unprecedented in the history of the country. A maturing of this phenomenon is the criticism that this free media is now receiving on issues ranging from reporting ethos to nonpartisanship, vital input in the feedback loop which is a pre-requisite for improvement. In 2007, the Lawyers Movement in turn focused our attention on the previous impotence of the judiciary, its previous acquiescence of the orders of military dictators, and its own weaknesses in the light of its role in maintaining the authoritarian status quo and its frail support of democracy. In Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, the nation hailed the torch-bearer of a powerful and independent judiciary which could play a more effective role in maintaining democratic checks and balances on the legislative and the executive. Even though we were placing our absolute trust again in persons instead of offices, in personalities instead of institutions, the nation finally appeared to have crossed a significant obstacle to stability. It is now that the nation looks towards the mounds of pending cases, and the provision – or the lack of – speedy justice to the masses that a dialectic has been initiated which we can only hope will lead to the development and maturing of the judiciary as an institution.

The water debate has brought inter-provincial harmony and dialogue into debate, the 2005 and the 2008 earthquakes state capacity, Wikileaks, the government’s credibility, the Mumbai attacks Pakistan’s foreign policy. This decade and especially the latter half of it has provided generously to the recorders of Pakistan’s history. However, with the devastating floods of the past few weeks and the ensuing scramble for rescue and relief efforts, all of Pakistan’s historical frailties and the negatives of its neurotic identity have been brought into sharp relief. The uniquely broad geographical coverage of this disaster has brought the problem to the doorstep of every Pakistani – man, woman and child. In the current unstable socio-political scenario where political, sectarian and ethnic murder has become a norm and economic and political stability appear to be far-fetched objectives, this calamity has the left Pakistan teetering on the edge; Pakistan has to come good on the questions historically asked of it, one and all if there is any semblance of prosperity and unity to be dreamt of in the aftermath of this disaster. Five aspects of state failure require immediate addressing if the repercussions of this disaster are to be contained.

Firstly, having stumbled initially in the art of foreign policy with the President making a remarkably apathetic international tour as the floodwaters set in, Pakistan has done well to bring the United Nations and other key players including the United States, Britain and Saudi Arabia on board. In recent days, with the United Nations playing the vanguard role in rallying for international donations and funds for alleviating the conditions of the affectees of the flood in Pakistan, we have seen a rapid gain of momentum, with international donations having reached US $ 490 million, with an additional US $325 million being pledged for the cause. Secondly, contracted state capacity has further suffered, given the fact that floods of this magnitude would have been problematic for even the most powerful states to absorb. Without a non-existent civil defence mechanism in place, the government has once again had to rely on the military apparatus and civil society to come forward and provide in physical and human resources for rescue and relief efforts. However, the current democracy in its infancy must be given the benefit of the doubt, together with constructive criticism. Yet, the government must now take every possible action to do, and also appear to do its hundred percent. Lest the despairing population lose further hope and habitually look elsewhere for respite, in paternalistic structures such as the military for example. Thirdly, the setting up of the National Oversight Disaster Management Council is a unique and positive step in the direction of augmenting the tattered credibility of the Pakistani state, touted as one of the most corrupt in the world. However, it is essential that the Council be given the adequate mandate, powers and authority to place the requisite checks and balances on both national and international aid disbursement.

Fourthly, Pakistan’s weakened federation where regionalism has begun to play an increasingly significant role must look to protect both national and provincial interests, a balancing role which provides equitable relief to all provinces and shares the burden of sacrifice equally amongst them. This however, will not be possible without active debate, something which had recently come under the attention of the government in the backdrop of the dams issue and the incapacity of the Council of Common Interests. In such a dire situation, provincial relationships will dictate the future of all state endeavors and antagonism will trigger a further recourse to regionalism, and an eventual, tacit as well as overty, separation from the whole. Fifthly, once the floodwaters recede and the efforts move into rehabilitation and reconstruction, time must not be squandered. Together with providing social and physical infrastructure for the affectees, the state through the judiciary must ensure that space is not provided to corruption and crime. If the Lawyers Movement held any value, it must reveal itself now, before the people of the land begin to take the delivery of justice into their own hands, as they wrongly did in Sialkot.

The current government must pull up its socks, tighten its own belt, reach past its leisurely stroll and get ready for its longest hike. This burden of existence lies on the state’s shoulders, whether we like it or not.

6 Comments

Filed under Politics, state

6 responses to “The State Must Go Weeding

  1. This writeup, in between the lines, is a clarion and ad hoc wistful call for “chalta-Haey”, don’t rock the (sinking) boat.

    These unprecedented bloods are qehr and e-zaab (God’s own Punisxhment” against evil at the top.
    Yet our leaders stay in Royal Suites and bill their Savile Row tailoring bills to their hotels. Over $200 BILLIONS have been corruptly and artfully (albeit wicKKKedly) siphoned-off (and money-laundered to overseas/offshore black money/tax havens) since the Grave Fall of Dacca 1971.
    Dammit, in Pakistan media is not free – – it is owned and manipulated by 3 and half media barons. The press barons have deep-pockets and have emerged a poly-Billionaires due to plots, pelfs, patronage, more-plots, politics, privileges perquisites, peccadilloes, and pull-AO-Zarda-Re.

    I have the same queasy, uncomfortable ‘feeling’ now that I had when I paid a visit to Dacca in 1969.

    May God Bless Pakistan (except its Exploitors and Khayens .. who should be publically hanged after affording them Lie Detection Tests + fair trials and immaculate rights of Appeal before indepent/impartial judiciary). I have seen (and objected onthespot) judges being abused and assaulted in open Court.

    Let us call a spade a shovel and speak up. The legal profession does not treat advocacy as a noble calling. The noble “profession” has been brutalized and scavenged by Liars and Lawyers Both (L.L.Bs) who pocKKKet huge fees and then abuse it brutally. Mark my words: 99.9 per cent of huge legal fees are being collected by 00.01 advocates in Pakistan. Human Rights is showbizZZZZZZZZ folr collecting NGO-funds anmd folrex Awards and straightening one’s own owls. Very incredible!

    “Vakil” actually is high Name of God. It means facilitator of JUSTICE.

    I thank ((that I am “extra” – – in the sense of very-very – – ordinary lawyer)) God that my spouse did not owe banks and back taxes even a paisa (what to speak of $10 Millions of eighties money) , so i did not have to migrate to Canada for fifteen years as a defense inbetweenity. Memories of our public are short (5-6 months)

    It has become pinching situation and our intelligensia better wakey-wakey.

  2. Yes! There are numerous typos in the above epistle although I tried to proof read it . Please calibrate the typos as genuine iqbal geoffrey artworks meant (err…) solely for your souls.

    Readers may virtually treat their reality laughs as my belie-it-or-not law-faw-faws.

  3. Raza Raja

    A very good article which while pointing out what needs to be done acknowledges the right developments which have taken place. Yes it is true that media is vulgar but an independent and vulgar media is much better than a state subservient media. This has to be seen in historical context not immediate context. Lawyers movement have brought in so called “reactionary’ judiciary but it also established independence of judiciary. Once independence is established, the judges will keep on rotating. In future you may have liberal minded judges also. But independence from executive was a must.
    So the directionis right and the onus is now on the state as rightfully pointed by the author

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  5. Indeed a very thoughtful narrative of the sets of events and happenings in the last years. I appreciate the young and talented writer for his refreshing ideas and unending optimism.
    We have a great potential for resolving our issues through dialogue and the process shall continue at every aspect.
    In the last few years we have that we have dealt many issues with maturity as we have observed consensus on interprovincial issues, the constitutional reforms and the most important on war against the monsters.
    We have observed self criticism on many issues as the recent Sialkot tragedy, we have gone through a self critique and mostly the critique was dealt sensibly except in a few quarters.
    We have lawyers movement for a cause, whether we agree or not, and when the same lawyers have shown biases towards their fellows, we had a criticism over it, these all are showing the process of discussion, debate, conflicts and resolves, leading us to a more optimistic picture.

  6. Ali Abbas

    Ali Abbas, the author of this article, has summarized the situation well. However, he has made the same mistake of placing the military apparatus as separate from the government, when technically it is the servant of the State and in any country, it is the duty of the military to step in and provide relief. It has been more than adequately paid to do this and should not be using its “independant” media to portray itself as different.
    Secondly, the constitutional head of State, Gillani was in Pakistan. Furthermore, one can see why Zardari, as per his own words and press releases, had to continue with his trip to the UK. Without improving the relations between the two countries, one wonders if the UK would have paid the equivalent of $40 million. Even at the beginning during Zardari’s trip, UK was the highest donor and while our mentally-challenged media and opposition does not want foreign aid and wants all this money to be routed to them and the Taliban, the 20 million affectees would welcome this aid.
    Also, the lawyer’s movement really had lukewarm support outside Lahore and Northern Punjab. One is not referring to the violence on May 12 by the MQM on ANP and PPP workers but the general lack of interest in the 3 other provinces wrt the current CJP. That movement was flawed and we need to realize that nothing good can come from referring to it.
    Civil society/media/judiciary and the army needs to realize that using this disaster to score political points is not going to get us anywhere. We all need to pitch in and help out. Instead of threatening to take the Government down, we need to re-engage and show them the way to get us out of this.