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Pakistan: Boiling point

By By Chris Cork

June 14 2014

Daytime temperatures have consolidated in the high forties ahead of the monsoon in Bahawalpur and loadshedding, that wonderfully Pakistani euphemism for power cuts, is running at around 12 hours out of any twenty-four. Sometimes more. The power is never on long enough to fully charge the UPS system and the bills keep a-coming. Electricity in May cost my household a little over 20,000rps, and petrol for the generator 27,000rps. The bill as always was paid in time to gain the maximum discount and it never occurred to me, not once, to complain.

Neither, seemingly, have many millions of others bothered to complain despite their being served by a public utility in a way that in most other countries I know would have the populace battering down the gates of the electricity companies; and berating the politicians who failed to deliver on their promises. So far as I can determine by going back over reports from last year, the levels of public protest about the power crisis are lower than what they were a year ago. The crisis is obviously worse than it was in the past, yet the level of public anger is not at the point where tyres are being burned across the land. Boiling point as yet unreached.

Equally puzzling is the collective silence about the deterioration in the security environment virtually everywhere. Those places that are not under direct threat of attack, primarily by the Pakistan Taliban but it could be by any one of a number of extremist sectarian or nationalist groups – are watchful and tense, knowing it could be them at teatime today or lunchtime tomorrow. There are no mass protests at the endless waves of murders, the ‘lapses’ in security that allow the murders to happen or the regularly documented instances of police brutality, rape of adults and children both male and female or the pus-laced drip-drip of ‘honour killings.’

The state has effectively ceded control of the national narrative to a blood-boltered rainbow ofextremist groups. Wishful talk about splits appearing in the ranks of the TTP is just that – the boys in black will kiss and make up again and carry on where they left off before they were so rudely interrupted by the necessity of killing their close relatives. They have consistency and sustainability, and have now established beyond a doubt that the wider populace are not going to rise up against them – they are pushing at an open door.

Indeed, in the absence of a government that is either unwilling or unable to exercise its writ by maintaining law and order, it is all to easy to take over. And when we have politicians that declare that the Taliban will play nicey-nicey once the Americans have disappeared over the horizon and there will be Sharia Law for all but not, he said, enforced at the point of a gun then what are we all worried about?

The forensic dissection of how and why extremism came to dominate the national paradigm is a largely sterile exercise and needs to stop. Now. It is an exercise in determinedly looking backwards, and if ever the state needed eyes in the front of its head and not the back it is now. Yes the Taliban were in large part a CIA creation. Yes, General Zia set all sorts of dark hares running. Yes those wicked Amreekans have been stirring pots and twisting arms (which does not stop us accepting their aid money, of course.) All of that and so much more we already know in considerable detail. Reiterating it as if it was some sort of magic mantra that will somehow morph into the sunny uplands of functional secular democracy is delusional at best, collectively bonkers at worst.

There was a ‘high level meeting’ yesterday 10th June in Islamabad in which ’options’ were presented to the Prime Minister in terms of responses to Taliban attacks. Presumably these included offers to redecorate their kitchens for them, a regular supply of cut flowers for the lounge, free car-washes on demand, access to the very best hair stylists and regular holidays in the Maldives. Anybody feel like protesting? As I thought – deafening silence. Tootle-pip!

Originally published by Tribune Pakistan 

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