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Our own enemies

By Kamal Siddiqi
December 3 2012




One often wonders what ails our beloved country. While the rest of the world progresses in one direction, our country ‘advances’ in another. People will tell you that ten years back things were better. The country has regressed. From where it started off, we are but a shadow of our former selves. In the words of the late Ardeshir Cowasjee, philanthropist and columnist, each government in Pakistan is successively worse.

How do we break out of this vicious cycle? Sixty-odd years later, we are still debating whether democracy is the answer to our problems. That, too, at a time when we have extremists at our doorstep. Possibly, the first step towards reversing our fall is for Pakistanis to a have a dialogue with themselves. We cannot blame America and India for everything. That hidden hand we keep talking about is actually our own creation.

To wash away its own sins, much of our tax-chor business community (not multinationals) voluntarily pay money to extremist organisations in the name of Islam. Mainstream political parties court them for a few seats. Our intelligence agencies protect them and fund them. If we stop these three lifelines, most extremist entities will collapse.

But what do we do instead? We let these extremists kill and maim. Our government looks the other way when they spew their venom. They are behind many kidnappings and bank robberies. They stop buses and kill passengers. They target innocent people whose only crime is that they belong to a particular sect. They plant bombs, which kill Pakistanis not Westerners, whom they profess to be fighting against. They send suicide bombers into our markets, our places of worship and into our hotels and houses.

When we do catch terrorists, they are released soon after. There must be something wrong with the system when a person arrested for stealing spends decades in prison, while a terrorist responsible for killing hundreds is let off on bail within months of arrest. The judiciary blames the executive and vice versa. Many of those released go ahead and commit more terrorist actions.

There are some who say that so much is wrong with Pakistan today that it is difficult to figure out what to do. Almost two-thirds of our budget goes into protecting our country — but we are much more vulnerable now than ever before. Instead of protecting the borders, the protectors reconquer the country once every few years. They also nurture and support those elements that are attacking us from within.

Pakistan is possibly one of the few countries in the world where we have to be searched before going into a mosque. While praying, many have to look over their shoulders. What kind of life is this? Our security apparatus is more or less clueless about how to counter the terrorist threat. A handful of militants took the country hostage during Muharram.

Most Pakistanis don’t pay direct taxes. That’s because they don’t see their tax money going to use and also because they can get away by paying the taxman instead. Much of our government runs on aid and loans. Money is spent in all the wrong places. Law enforcement is doubled almost every year while public-sector education is starved for funds. Our health system has collapsed and much of our poor depend on private charities for support. But we are proud to be a nuclear power that also makes missiles on borrowed technology, which sometimes end up as debris from the skies.

Our leaders never protest suicide attacks but they go out on the roads to protest the drone attacks. Many of them have their families in the West but are happy to blame all our troubles on them. No one protests corruption and killings at home, but we protest against the US, against the Kalabagh dam and against the Rohingya killings.

In the summers, we have power riots, in the winters we are greeted with CNG lines. Mobile phones are shut off arbitrarily. Foreign investment dwindles. Our rupee falters. Many parts of Pakistan have become no-go areas. The country’s situation gets more and more depressing.

Is there hope? Yes, there is. But for us to move ahead we must have an honest dialogue with ourselves. We must learn to speak the truth and have the patience to hear everyone’s point of view. Let us make this happen.

Originally published by Tribune Pakistan

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