May issue 2009

By | Editorial | Opinion | Published 15 years ago

Why do we go on the offensive each time someone remarks that Pakistan is sliding into anarchy, that it is collapsing and that it is a failing state?

The headlines emanating from various parts of the country are not exactly reassuring. They are forbidding, if anything. The army is fighting a tough battle to wrest Swat, Buner and Dir from the militants, who are extending their writ slowly, but surely.  Balochistan is in a state of turmoil as furious Baloch nationalists demand independence, nothing less. Karachi sits on a powder keg as tensions between the Pakhtuns and the Mohajirs mount, with each accusing the other of inciting ethnic tension.

The most frightening aspect of this disturbingly volatile scenario is that the power-wielders of Islamabad are either totally clueless or blissfully naive. Their repeated assertions — we’re well-equipped to meet any eventuality, we’ll give a huge development package to our Baloch brothers, we’ll deal with the trouble-makers with an iron hand — do not cut any ice with the public. Not anymore.

People are indignant with this government for its lack of vision and direction and, above all, inaction — except when it comes to adding to their own bloated ministerial ranks (The latest additions are the interior adviser-turned-minister and the ports and shipping adviser-turned-minister).

As for those in the opposition, they are only interested in scoring political points and blaming it all on the US, Israel, India or whoever comes in their way.  There is no censure of those who are turning their guns on innocent citizens, occupying their properties, selling off their valuables and extorting money. Even the Sikhs, who have been living in FATA for decades now, have not been spared. And their treatment of women, as everyone is well aware of by now, is abominable.

To explain away all these brutalities as acts of retaliation against the prevalent injustices of the system, is to bestow the Taliban with a dignity they do not deserve.

Yes, there is a lot that is wrong in the Pakistani state, but the Taliban, with their medieval scriptures and absurd notions of right and wrong, are not about to set it right.

That should rightfully be the government’s job.  But this government, unfortunately, has got to be the most ineffectual in the country’s history.  It is high on rhetoric and low on game plan. Simply announcing development packages and setting up peace committees and reconciliation commissions, without addressing the root cause of the festering problems, is not going to resolve the manifold problems of this country.

Take Karachi, for instance. This economic hub of Pakistan has been boiling over with ethnic tension and gang wars for some time now. Whether or not it harbours the Taliban, it has most certainly harboured criminal mafias — and is awash with arms.  One fails to understand the MQM’s opposition to Karachi’s de-weaponisation and ANP’s opposition to the registration of fresh arrivals from the north, if this can help resolve the mounting problems.

Perhaps PPP’s Islamuddin Sheikh had a point when, in a TV talk show, he remarked that all political parties needed to withdraw their support to the criminal mafias operating in the city.

For starters, can he persuade his party member Nabil Gabol to rearrest all the ‘Dakaits’  in his constituency, Lyari — reportedly the hub of guns, drugs and crime — so that its residents can rest easy. Action against the Pappus and Guddus of Lyari must follow next.

Gang wars and ethnic strife could only pave the way for the Taliban to make inroads — if they haven’t already -into what is touted as the mini-Pakistan.

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