Infant at 70


    Comment by S.R.H. Hashmi

    Reading the article 'Young at 70' (October 10) by Lt Gen (Retd) Ghulam Mustafa, my first thought was that 'Infant at 70' would have been a more appropriate title and a true description of the actual state of affairs. While I do appreciate that it helps to have an optimistic outlook, just too much of it, based on rare aspects and ignoring the overwhelming ugliness could be lethal, as proved by our present state.

    Being old enough to have observed Pakistan right from the beginning, I can say that with the exception of savagery displayed at the time of partition by certain elements on both sides of the border, we Pakistanis, while religious, were a fairly moderate and tolerant people. However, instead of further improving the trend, Gen. Ziaul Haq and his likes have managed to introduce rising levels of extremism and intolerance and presently, we are known - not fully justifiably, but at the same time, not entirely without justification - as a nation of extremists and terrorists, with terrorism as our exportable product.

    And in other fields as well, leaving the early period and over time, we have decayed rather than progressed.

    One good thing that Pakistan inherited from the British era was an excellent civil service. And starting as a breadbasket for the whole of undivided India, and lacking industrial base, Pakistan soon managed to establish a reasonable industrial base due to the efforts of talented and dedicated civil servants. It was in the early days of Pakistan that PIDC, WAPDA, PIA etc were formed, with PIDC playing an exceptional role in the industrialization of the country. PIA operated with the slogan 'Great People to Fly With' and justified every word of it. In fact, this was PIA which helped establish the aviation industry in the Gulf, and see what a sorry state it is in now. Even our businessman former prime minister who took special interest and made tall claims of regenerating PIA by reorganizing it has only messed it up further by placing corrupt, inept persons in its key positions in order to help siphon off massive amounts of money. So much so that even a large A-310 PIA plane, in airworthy condition, was alleged to have been stolen.

    And education and health sectors, which actually make or break a nation, have gone down the drain in the government sector, and the vast majority of people are not enjoying even the basic healthcare facilities and a rising number of children forced to stay out of schools because of dismal conditions in the government sector and private-sector schooling being beyond their means.

    And as a symbol of greatness of Pakistanis, the writer has given certain examples. Let us discuss them one by one:

    1. We can communicate with other in every part of the country despite speaking different languages.
      Now, we may be able to talk to each other but that could be hardly be termed communication. The slogan Jaag Punjabi Jaag and dissatisfaction in Southern Punjab, separatist movements in Sindh and Balochistan once, clear division of Sindh into rural and urban hardly support writer's claim.

    2. We wear same dresses and we love the same kind of food.
      Well, dresses are mere packaging and together with eating same food, do not make a people great or small. The shocking thing is that there are reports of increasing percentage of people going below the poverty line, adults not have enough to eat and children suffering stunted mental and physical growth due to insufficient food intake, and vast numbers of them remaining out of school.

    3. The writer proudly claims: "Even if one quarter of our population enjoys bit of decent lifestyle , it makes a whopping fifty million"

    Now, according to writer's own figures, while fifty million Pakistanis enjoy a bit of decent lifestyle, three times of that: one hundred fifty million remain deprived and under-privileged. It is hardly something to be proud of.

    In a weak moment, the writer admitted

    "We might seem to be at one another’s throat continuously but slightest hint of external threat is sufficient to jell us together." Don’t have to go far to see this paradox. Recall the nation’s outrage when Donald Trump threatened Pakistan during his policy statement about this part of the world. Mind you, we were busy fighting one another about Panama case at that moment."

    Now, if we were fighting one another about Panama case - when in fact the whole nation should have been united against the astronomical corruption by our top leaders - and got united because of Donald Trump's threat - it only means that both our unity and disunity are based not on sound reasoning but results of an immature thought process. It only shows that like infants, we have a very short span of concentration.

    The writer presents as a good sign the fact that 'the same political dispensation continues unchanged --- and isn't in danger unless someone becomes reckless.

    Now, this is in quite in contrast to what the vast majority of Pakistanis, including knowledgeable circles feel and who have declared categorically that the present 'political dispensation' and Pakistan can not exist together. The Panama Papers issue and reports of rampant corruption by Sharifs and Zardaris, further reinforced by shocking disclosures made by Uzair Baloch only confirm this point.

    The writer is also being over-optimistic when he claims

    "Institutional framework enshrined in the Constitution is coming into play. Slowly but surely, the outline of the system designed in our Constitution has started taking shape."

    What we actually see is the frequent altering of the Constitution to meet the personal needs and greed of the ruling Mafias. Earlier on, Constitution was altered to undo the provision which restricted prime ministerial terms to two in order to help out Nawaz Sharif. And recently, Constituion has again been amended to allow Nawaz Sharif - who has been disqualified from holding membership of Assemblies because of not being Sadiq and Ameen - to continue to lead PML-N and to determine who will be allowed to contest elections, enter Assemblies and form government later. This is blatant disfiguring of the Constitution.

    And g=the government hastily introduced some repugnant legislation concerning Khatme Nubuwat issue and on widespread protests, reversed the legislation at even greater speed. And that shows how seriously the 'present dispensation' takes the Constitution.

    And the federal and provincial governments have systematically hacked down nearly all vital state institutions in order to facilitate and promote their corruption. In a recent move, the Peoples Party has legislated to bring the accountability process under the control of its corrupt provincial officials, thus seriously undermining the very indpendence of the accountability institution that need to be independent in order to be effective.

    And now, Nawaz Sharif's son-in-law Captain (retd) Safdar, perhaps on advice from Nawaz Sharif, and to gain cheap popularity, is spitting venom against Ahmadis. He declared:

    "These people [Ahmadis] are a threat to this country, its Constitution and ideology. This situation is heading towards a dangerous point." And going a step further, he said he wanted to bring a resolution in the National Assembly calling for a “ban on recruitment of Qadianis [Ahmadis] in the armed forces".

    Now, India was divided on the basis of two-nation theory but that does not mean Pakistan was meant for Muslims only. And speaking as a practising Sunni Muslim, I would say that Quaid-e-Azam had declared unequivocally that people of all regligions (iimplying atheists as well) were free to live in Pakistan as equal citizens enjoying equal rights.

    And as for his suggestion to ban the recruitment of Ahmadis in the armed forces, well, I would say that the biggest harm to Pakistan was done by some non-Ahmadi Muslim soldiers. This was Gen. Ayub whose mistreatment of Bengalis created circumstances for the separation of our eastern wing and it was his nominee General Yahya Khan who presided over the dismemberment of Pakistan, while Lt-Gen. Amir Abdullah Khan (Tiger) Niazi signed the surrender document in former East Pakistan thus bringing on us the ultimate shame of staging the largest surrender in the Muslim history and second only in the world history. And none these Generals was an Ahmadi. In fact, Ahmadi Maj-Gen. Akhtar Hussain Malik and his brother, Brigadier Abdul Ali Malik had fought bravely and made significant advances in Kashmir which were lost due to setbacks for the Pakistan army in outer Lahore and some other sectors.

    And coming back to the main topic, I must say that presently Pakistan is at the crossroads from which it can either embark on the path to recovery and progress or head straight into a disaster, resulting even in the dismemberment of whatever is left of Pakistan.

    Luckily for us, an accountability process is going on against Sharifs. In fact, it has to be enlarged to bring in Zardaris and other corrupt individuals as well.

    And there definitely seems to be a need for the formation of an interim, caretaker government which conducts some electoral reforms with the minimum being the clear interpretation of eligibility conditions for Assembly aspirants, and their strict application in order to keep out corrupt, habitual offenders which presently form the bulk of the political 'gentry' and to ensure that, through a free and fair election, honest people enter Assemblies, forming dedicated government and effective opposition later, which is about the only hope for the country. Sadiq and Ameen should be the basic criteria for Parliamentarians, but without religious connotations and keeping in mind that this remains basic qualification even in non-religious governments in the developed west where if a leader is found to have fallen short of that, he usually vacates the office instead of waiting to be shown the door and then crying at every forum 'Mujhay kiyon Nikala'.

    The writer praises the 'perseverance and resilience', which he calls the hallmark of our great people. The writer may have been slightly confused here and he might be mistaking excessive submissiveness and lack of courage to stand up for their rights as 'perseverance and resilience'. How else could one explain the low voter turnout in the recent NA-120 election, and Sharifs winning despite mountains of evidence against them?

    Let us hope that those who have powers to do so do not mind even going out of their way a bit to do what is best for Pakistan, and through transparent elections, give us an honest and dedicated group of Parliamentarians who put Pakistan on a path to progress, bring back looted wealth to reduce loan burden and over time, turn Pakistanis into a nation.