Khurshid Akhtar Khan The world is a dangerous place to live in, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who do not want to do anything about it. The words of Albert Einstein, nearly a century ago, fit like a glove to our present times. Violence and a variety of dangers have been integral elements of human lives ever since Cain overcome by anger, jealousy and greed, put his brother Abel to death, and these weaknesses led to destruction, territorial and religious wars since the earliest times. Societies evolved from the barbaric era into the developed civilisation by making concerted efforts to minimise the causes and effects of these weaknesses. Successive governments in our short history have lacked such a determination and the courage to confront the divisions in our social structure and resolve the fundamental grievances that haunt us to this day. The ideology behind the creation of a new Pakistani nation has been allowed to be muddled with confusion. The nation is still grappling with finding a consensus on a system of governance that would serve the people and is impregnable beyond the reach of adventurers. We have been unable to cultivate an orderly, equitable and law-abiding society filled with passionate nationalism. We have transformed our strategic regional location, human and material resource potential from distinct advantages into liabilities, and our friends into foes as a consequence of intermittent acts of dj vu. Our relations remain hostile with two adjoining neighbours India and Afghanistan, and less than cordial with Iran that has lost us tremendous opportunities of regional trade that could yield better dividends than seeking the elusive American and European Union trade concessions. Our mineral wealth remains unexploited due to political uncertainties. Pakistan today is among the least developed in Southeast Asia, traversing a downhill path on all accounts, rife with internal dissent, broken down law and order, rampant corruption and little value for human life. Less than 40 percent of our people are literate. One-third of our population is living below the poverty level and rising at an alarming rate of 2.6 percent per annum, two-fifth have no access to drinking water, health or education. Our fiscal deficit and bank borrowing are on sharp incline, inflation at more than 14 percent, unemployment soaring and economic management is non-serious. The public considers our foreign policies to be against our national interests that have necessitated disproportionately enhanced expenditure on defence that could be utilised more productively on the welfare and uplift of the common people. The province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA are infested with militants, and Balochistan is in the grip of insurgencies. The infighting between various groups in Karachi resulting in target and indiscriminate killings and rising crime has turned our commercial hub into a war zone. The writ of the government on the people and state affairs is nowhere to be seen. The confidence of all sections of the society has eroded in the capability of the state to provide protection to life and property or the hope for a brighter future. This desperation has made our populace, the underprivileged in particular, susceptible to indoctrination into a wave of fundamentalism that has grown consistently during the last three decades. Young people with parents living in abject poverty are attracted to madrassas for religious education where they are provided free meals and lodging. The number of these seminaries progressed geometrically during the decade of Zia regime, financed mostly by Zakat funds and by foreign donors for furthering their own interests. A few were picked by the intelligence agencies that were trained into jihadi outfits, which turned into rogue elements when abandoned by the patrons. With no means of living and expertise other than their military training, particular mindset, access to arms and ignorance of the progress in the outside world, they were brainwashed into committing atrocities, as a service to religion and converted into a formidable mercenary army. Small-scale periodic sectarian and political violence have always existed in our midst, engineered to coerce weak governments into submission to politically-motivated demands or to change the course of politics. Three of our Prime Ministers, one President and one Governor and numerous others have met with violent death. The current wave of violence is ostensibly a political resistance combating the American occupation of Afghanistan that has its origins from our social and economic dilemma. Suicide attacks have been directed against fellow citizens, as a reprisal to our government that has allied with the American aggressor and is by inference construed an enemy of its own people. The United States of America is the sole superpower and the leader of the developed West that is predominantly of Christian faith. Despite their claims of secularism, the West considers the Islamic civilisation as the only stumbling block in its quest to impose western values universally. Even a liberal nation like Turkey is not accepted in the fold of the European common market due to the cultural and religious heritage of its people and its past history of being a world power. The US deems any Islamic nation with an independent outlook to be a challenge and threat to its supremacy and its civilisation that must be brought down. The bogey of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism is used as a justification to spread hatred against all Muslims in campaigns by their powerful media, economic sanctions are applied and weaker nations are invaded, all through the financial institutions and the United Nations that the US controls. The Obama administration has set a deadline of gradual troop withdrawal from Afghanistan commencing mid of this year. The Democrats have already lost control of Congress and desperately need to produce some result before July that could be sold to the American public, as some kind of a victory in order to have any chance of retrieving its dwindling public support in the polls next year. The Pentagon considers a military operation to attack the Taliban sanctuaries in North Waziristan, key to that success for which Admiral Mike Mullen has been pressing and US Vice President Joe Biden who recently made a flying visit to Islamabad to persuade the Army Chief and President Zardari into compliance. Such a resolution is not likely to be approved by Parliament due to adverse public opinion. Our military is already outstretched and opening this front will force the militants to spread deep into settled areas and escalate suicide attacks. This is a dangerous situation. Our government rendered ineffective by various pressures of the coalition partners and disconnected with the common people, is in an unenviable position. The civilians need the American sponsored funds to save the economy from imminent bankruptcy. The armed forces will be incapacitated without the American weapons and equipment. If the public opinion is followed the sources will be denied and the NATO forces may enter the Pakistan territory that will be an act of war. If we succumb to the US pressure, the country will become more ungovernable. To be or not to be is the question that this government has brought upon itself. The writer is an engineer and an entrepreneur. Email: k.a.k786@hotmail.com