Feburary issue 2006

By | Editorial | Opinion | Published 18 years ago

On how many fronts will the Pakistan Army fight? That is the question on everyone’s lips. More troubling than the question is the fact that all its fronts are within, not outside the country.

The ‘war against terror,’ a euphemism to beat all euphemisms is being fought in our backyard and the toll it is taking in human lives and a sense of national solidarity is mounting all the time. The latest outrage and one that caps previous ones was a strike in Bajaur Agency on 13 January, meant to target the elusive Ayman Al-Zawahiri, that resulted in the death of 13 innocent men, women and children.

To add insult to injury, the government failed to mount a convincing protest against the outrage, with Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz proceeding on cue to the United States, seemingly oblivious of the gravity of the situation.

The smouldering embers of conflict in Balochistan went up in flames. Opting for a policy of direct confrontation rather than negotiation, the government closed in on Nawab Bugti’s stronghold at the same time that incidents of sabotage and direct attacks on security forces became an everyday occurrence.

Perhaps sensing one crisis too many in the making, the hitherto circumspect Nawaz Sharif came out loud and clear at a public meeting in London, sending out clear signals that the roundabout of politics in Pakistan was gearing up for another spin.

The debate on the Kalabagh Dam flared up and fizzled out as it is wont to do. Red herrings can be useful, but this one has been used once too often, to distract attention from the real and pressing problems that face the country. Rather than climbing aboard the big dam bandwagon, the relevant government agencies need to mount a concerted drive to promote water conservation and limit the losses caused by an unwieldy and ineffective distribution system.

Meanwhile, our policy planners continued to gloat over rising macro-economic indicators and the human development index went from bad to worse. In a country where education and health facilities are abysmal, a growing percentage of the population lives below the poverty line and one in four rural households does not have access to drinking water, 225 million rupees were drawn from public funds to give Karachi a dubious distinction: it now has, by some accounts, the second highest fountain in the world. Did I hear someone say let them eat cake?

Rehana Hakim is one of the core team of journalists that helped start Newsline. She has been the editor-in-chief since 1996.