20 April 2024 09:03 AM



Pakistan At the Crossroads: This Could be Our Last Chance

I have been absent for some weeks because I fell in my tub after a shower and hurt both my knees rather badly, though there we no fractures. Pain doesn’t allow one to think.

Concerned friends and relatives reported to my wife in London that Humayun is not quite there; he waffles and takes time to come to the point. He even fell asleep during a television show. Actually, that is more because of boredom than mental absence, though I hasten to add that people like me are somewhat mad anyway. How many times can one talk about the Panama Leaks, the prime minister’s illness, our inability to respond adequately to America’s drone strikes and God knows what else? Best to get some much-needed sleep, even if it is one TV. Anyway, after reading this I will let my wife decide whether I have gone loopy or not.

I was and am rather upset that all this nonsense has distracted me from the spiritual articles I was writing that started with ‘Quest’ and later on life after death. I hope to get back to them after this one, unless another stupidity overtakes us, like the Nuclear Suppliers Group issue to which America holds us perpetually hostage.

Anyway, the social contract philosopher John Hobbs said that when the legislative ceases to function the government automatically stands dissolved. Our legislative has stopped functioning as a legislature and has fallen back on its old habit of being the Lucky Irani Circus. There’s a comedy show there every day, with defence minister Khwaja being the chief clown. How many of these bozos would you give a job to in the private sector?

As to the government, if you call this a government, then please stop bellyaching and rejoice. You asked for it, you got it. Now lump it.

It follows from Hobbs’ dictum, if the Constitution stops functioning and delivering basic needs to the people the State is in grave danger of dissolving. And that’s the real dilemma of Pakistan. Bad legislature, bad government, bad judiciary can all be resolved. Bad Constitution is quite another matter and to change it to a functioning one, you have to revisit your social contract and make a new Constitution based on your real social contract which, in our case, is Mr. Jinnah’s speech to Pakistan’s first Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947 and get rid of the ‘Objectives Resolution’. Easier said than done: it requires a people’s revolution in which every vestige of the old status quo is wiped. Do you see any such revolution in the offing or do you simply see yet another military coup forced by political malfeasance that will land us back behind square one?

If you have eyes you can see the State starting to dissolve. Peoples of many regions have started openly asking: “What has Pakistan given us?” More than half are malnourished. The highest number of out-of-school are in Pakistan. There is hardly any clean drinking water; correction: there is hardly any water, and even less electricity and natural gas. Food prices are rising by the day so that even people like me have to watch our kitchen budgets carefully. Would you believe, imported dog food from America costs less than human food and the former has more essential nutrients in it than the food we eat? Child labour is rampant. Sexual abuse of girls, boys and women is rampant. No point is complaining to the police because police itself are big rapists. ‘Honour’ killings’ of women is a daily occurrence.

The vast majority of our people are illiterate and uneducated – those who call themselves ‘educated’ are educated illiterates and they infest every nook and cranny of government particularly. Healthcare is famous for its incompetence and absence. Criminals of all kinds stalks the land day and night. Terrorism is the new force. Yet the VIP culture is rife without a blush: millions are needlessly wasted daily on our good and great.

The obduracy of the government has led Pakistan into a vacuum of governance. It now faces multi-layered crises. As if the Panama crisis was not enough, its pressure and bad eating habits felled the prime minister and he needed a second heart bypass surgery, which can be done in Pakistan too. How much did the operation and the entourage of relatives and stooges cost the people? It would be a good gesture if the prime minister paid for it all from one of his children’s Panama accounts.

‘Open heart’ surgery as the media is calling it is when the organ the heart is opened. When it is arterial bypass only the chest is opened. Veins are taken from legs or arms, inverted and surgically sewed to bypass the blockage in an artery. The vein is inverted because then it takes on the property of an artery in which blood flows only one-way: in a vein it flows both ways. Such is the way that the Creator places spare parts in our bodies. However, there are one set of arteries that can be used to bypass blocked arteries. We, even men, have two mammary arteries through which milk is supposed to flow and if they can be accessed they have the quality of not clogging. Men have them because every fetus starts off as female until I think in the fifth week the chromosome that turns it into male kicks in.

Anyway, open heart or open chest matters little. But it caused another example of the malfunctioning of the constitution when the chief executive of the country was not available to take vital decisions. Nawaz Sharif had to hold the meetings of the NEC and the cabinet for the budget via video link! Then he went under anesthesia which meant that he was absent for quite a while with no one at the helm. But no matter: our ship of state has no rudder so the presence or absence of a helmsman is irrelevant. Problem is, the Constitution has many Acts and 22 amendments, mostly plagiarized from the British India Act 1935 and irrelevant ones like Article 6 for High Treason, but it has no provision for an acting chief executive in case the prime minister is incapacitated. Result: the prime minister’s unqualified daughter is running the show along with other family members and a few cronies. What a country!

We needn’t have come to this sorry pass had the prime minister done the right thing and resigned after the Panama Leaks, as many heads of state and government did, and saved his country all this pain. But he is trying to buy time by pretending to formulate the Terms of Reference for the judicial commission that will probe his involvement in the Panama companies ostensibly owned by his children and the opposition is falling time. Why, when the proof is already there with the ICIJ journalists. He is trying to buy time so that the army chief retires by end November and he can have his own chosen one. He forgets that Generals Pervez Musharraf and Jahangir Karamat were his chosen army chiefs too. Every army chief is not Kiyani.

He is also waiting for mid-December when the incumbent Chief Justice of Pakistan retires, hoping that the new one may be Nawaz friendly. This is how this state of Pakistan is being run. Churchill must he chortling at our gangs of rascals, charlatans and freebooters looting the State and running into the ground like they did the first time in 1971.

When America does a drone strike on Pakistani territory the foreign office loses its voice because, truth to tell, there is no foreign minister. The prime minister holds the portfolio and is being assisted by two clapped out bureaucrats without authority. No wonder the foreign office is directionless and India has been able to run circles around it, more or less ensuring its membership of the NSG. But don’t thwart India is the dictum, our king loves its king.

Our official economic figures are a bouquet of lies. The truth is that we are borrowing some Rs 8 billion a day while our external debt has crossed $72 billion. Who will service the debt much less repay it? We are told to live in the hope that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will do wonders for Pakistan. When that happens we will see; meantime, the $46 billion earmarked for it is also debt, adding to our debt stock burden. This is what happens when you have a self-confessed money launderer as your finance minister – appointing the cat to guard your milk, what? How clever.