STRAIGHT TALK

Last Wednesday, we celebrated the 137th birthday of Quaid-e-Azam, the Father of this Nation, together with the birthday of Jesus Christ, the founder of the Christian faith, with the traditional holiday and celebrations.

While on Tuesday, 24th December, we had the Chelum of Hazrat Imam Hussain (R.A), with a virtual shutdown of Karachi, with suspension of mobile phones and the blockage of major roads with ugly containers, due to the fear of attacks by terrorists and religious fanatics on the Chelum procession.

And next week, we shall be seeing the last day of 2013 and the first of 2014, which the world will celebrate with the traditional spectacular fireworks and singing and dancing in the streets, while Karachi, the once City of Lights and laughter, will once again be under a virtual lockdown after sunset, the major roads will be blocked and people will be advised to stay at home and not to celebrate the New Year, because as per our tradition, there is nothing to celebrate.

Such is the misfortune of Pakistan, which was founded by the Quaid, with a vision of a progressive and tolerant Muslim state, which could proudly stand on the world stage with the League of Nations.

The Quaid’s vision was based on his first speech to the nation, in which he had declared: “You are free to go to your temples, your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed - that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”

Islam, like other religions in the world, teaches us to be tolerant, honest and avoid violence, but instead, we have a divided country that has been distorted and disfigured by extremists and bigots, where Muslims are butchering brother Muslims.

Dr. Stephen P Cohen, a Senior Fellow at the Washington DC-based think tank, is considered as the ‘Dean of the Pakistan experts’ and is known as one of the world’s most trusted authorities on Pakistan military and its relationship with the civilian governments.

In his recently edited new book, “The future of Pakistan”, he does not look at Pakistan of yesterday or today, but of the day after tomorrow and examines the factors which will influence the future of this country.

Some of his conclusions on Pakistan are as follows: “The country is regarded as an epicenter of terrorism. It was once held as the most moderate of the Islamic states, but now it seems to be embracing extremists and their dysfunctional violent ideas. Pakistan is not on the verge of collapse, as many predict, as the military will ensure that the state will not do so, but it may yet happen if the economy collapses, but there is no military solution for the problem”.

He adds: “The breakdown of law and order, the decline of the economy, as well as a dysfunctional civilian-military relationship, etc., indicate that change seems to be in the wind”.

“Pakistan is muddling through, but change and transformation are coming, while Pakistani governments have been cowardly in dealing with those who oppose modernity and are trying to push the country back to the seventh century”.

Referring to Gen. Musharraf, Dr. Stephen writes: “General Pervez Musharraf fooled himself and everyone else and lacked toughness and tried to please everyone. He was not capable of leading Pakistan’s liberal transformation, although he personally held a liberal vision of the future. However, the army can’t govern the country effectively, but it won’t let others govern it either”. Dr. Stephen reflects the perception the world has of us, especially Uncle Sam, as during Gen. Musharraf’s time, Pakistan was accused of “sleeping with the enemy”, due to which we lost our trust and credibility with the Americans, who openly accused us of a double policy. 

The Nawaz Sharif’s government has been at the helm of the country for almost 7 months and the honeymoon is now over. By now, the government should be firmly in the saddle, in command of the situation and taking positive and visible steps to rectify some of the many serious problems facing the country, but up to now, it has failed to do so.

The people of Pakistan are frustrated and confused to such an extent, that many well settled citizens, with thriving businesses, are leaving the country because they fear for the safety of their families. And a stage has come where, the very people who shouted “Go Musharraf Go” in the streets ten years ago, are now shouting, "We want Musharraf Back -   Musharraf Zindabaad!”.

No doubt, it is an uphill task for Nawaz Sharif and his government to win back the trust and restore the credibility of the country with the world and the confidence of the ordinary Pakistani.

Besides the usual humdrum problems of running this dysfunctional, divided nation, we have the thorny issue of the drone attacks and the blockage of the NATO containers by PTI, in order to compel the USA in abandoning the strikes. But up to now, the US has refused to stop the attacks and in retaliation, has threatened to stop our much needed aid.

Therefore, what the PM must do is, appoint a clear headed Foreign Affairs advisor, who is a pragmatic man of sound understanding and a highly qualified Finance Advisor who is an economist and is well focused on the problems and issues at home.

The PML-N government must get its act together and start delivering on some of the promises they had made during the elections, failing which, our children will be forced to leave this land of the Pak and Pure and move to safer countries.  

Finally, I would like to add an extract of “A letter to Pakistan” by Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, in which she writes, “As we enter the New Year, I would like to put to each and every Pak-istani, can you be sure that what Pakistan is today and the direction in which it is heading, will attract the love and warmth from my children and my grandchildren, as it does from me and my generation? I urge you to dedicate 2014 to creating a Pakistan that we can all be proud of”.

I too would like to appeal to all Pakistanis, to put aside their differences and work as one and establish a nation that our future generations can be proud of.

Wishing you all a safe and prosperous New Year.   

 n Email: trust@helplinetrust.org