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Thinking aloud: Obituary for a nation but not quite

Mahboob Qadir


The writer is a retired Brigadier. He has extensive experience in dealing with UN matters related to strategic policy on countering violent extremism.

 After witnessing disgusting monkey tricks and mockery of the democracy during HamzaShahbaz’s re- election as CM Punjab and afterwards  one has finally arrived at the painful conclusion which I had kept pushing down since long. But before that lets examine the main enabling factors which together ripened this bitter harvest.

In the perceptual domain after the untimely demise of the Qaide Azam subsequent leaderships singularly failed to create a lasting concept of a  Pakistani nationhood. Rather they kept playing ethnic cards to capture power and consolidate their political following as the federation was either too authoritarian, prejudiced, negligent even outright disinterested or unfair.An example is the unforgivable disinterest shown towards Gilgit Baltistan whose people were left suspended as non citizens but part of Pakistan since Independence till granted half a provincial status only a few years ago.The irony is that GB were the only people who fought and won freedom from Dogra Raj and by their own free will acceded to the state of Pakistan.Such people should have been given seats in the front row, not made to wait outside the celebration marquee.Yet if we have to blame anyone for the sad state of our nationhood, blame ourselves first.

Similarly how do you expect Balochis to mainstream when natural gas discovered in early 50’s was every where in the country except in the province and its capital Quetta where it was provided in 1984 that too liquified not piped.Such insensitivity does not endear but estrange which it has.Before the passage of 18th Amendent how much interest did the Center show in the progress and prosperity of Balochistan ?One will be amazed at the thoughtlessness and willful neglect practiced for decades then.Political and economic space left open in Balochistan was occupied by dissenters,proxies and ethnicity peddlers .Where as economy was claimed mainly by smugglers, drug cartels and feudal sponsors.The benevolent state was nowhere to be seen.Occasional shabby attempts to establish writ of the state without the essential benevolence and credible intent to set up grass roots level participatory system failed miserably.

Another unscrupulous  maneuver in the same domain  was to capture state power by gradually but imperceptibly nudging out those who spearheaded the Pakistan Movement that is Bengalis,Sindhis and Urdu speaking migrants from India. Deceitful  elite capture was complete after break away of East Pakistan and total estrangement of GM Syed in Sindh and  mentally agile Urdu speaking mohajirs mainly in Karachi , which has regrettably come to stay.This patriotic trio knew the value of freedom, were politically more mobile which made them question and resist power machinations ,thus were considered nettlesome and slowly painted from anti state to security risk.That made them look inwards and parochial and with that the process of disintegration of the country began to gather volume.Those who have unfortunately monopolized state power in Pakistan since were the ones who hardly took part in the Independence Movement or for that matter in the War of Independence 1857.This in geographic terms would mean territories northwest of River Sutlej to the Hindu Kush Mountains.

We have lived and literally thrived in our spending madness on borrowed money since decades and still had wrong notions of power and leadership in the region and Muslim world.It does not happen that way but none of our successive leaders ever realized or regretted the perpetuating disgrace or felt a pang of conscience at this ignominy.

We went on with the lavish colonial trappings and set up fantasies of luxury and plenty for those who followed.Lavish and expansive state structures, sprawling official residences. vulgarly expensive official cars in flotilla of dozens for senior state appointments, legions of hangars on accompanying PM and his ministers abroad even on haj on state expense, billions  spent on advertisements of fake projects and immense pilferage of treasury through development funds to party MNAs and MPAs.The list is long but the point one is trying to make is the environment is more like the time of Sirajud Daulah’s treasonous defeat  at the Battle of Plassey and the great loot at his MurshadAbad  treasury thereafter while Mir Sadiq smiled.

None without exception in power in our country ever had the heart and will to stop similar criminal plunder of our state resources. Instead they stuffed their own duffle bags,bought expensive properties and deposited looted money in safe havens abroad.Despite this we peddled the falsehood of a sovereign, self respecting nuclear power, a power which ironically has been placed fourth in the global list likely to default in the near future.IMF doling out a few billion dollars makes us smile with joy instead of hang our head in shame.What a pity that a highly gifted country with a very hardworking people has been brought to its knees by incompetent and petty leaders.History would hardly have seen shallower men in such numbers than what we have.

Our politico-social brew is a toxic mix of rogue politics, doctored history, polarized religion ,substandard education , dissolved morals and over rated self worth.Into this two more factors entered pinion riding.It was the Army and the mullah.Army first tasted the political power when late Field Marshal Ayub was made the Defence Minister as sitting Army Chief. That was the original sin which paved the way for subsequent Army take overs.Ill effects were many but two stood out in the perceptual domain; Army became the custodian and final arbiter of patriotism and along the way picked up the defense of the country’s ideological frontiers in addition to physical one.Both self assigned roles were beyond the military mandate and gave birth to GHQ interventions in almost every sphere of national life and state policy. Overlooking the fact that ideological frontier is the common duty of the political leaderships, academia, intelligentsia ,pulpit and every other opinion forming forum in the country not just the Army. Being sole keeper of patriotism per se made Army’s definition of nationalism become paramount and thus restricted its acceptance to a very limited circle disastrously excluding a large mass of country men from participation and ownership.It has had multiple side effects on the already foggy concept of nationhood.Soldier’s entry into political turf has resulted into military’s intrusiveness and the civil sector looking upto him for help and arbitration; both intrinsically faulty motivations.By and by the Military has come to acquire a seamless autonomy making mostly its own decisions about national affairs.This tends to create drift in the system, dysfunction and confusion.

The mullah was formally inducted into corridors of power mainly in the times of late Gen Zia as the Afghan war of resistance aka jihad raged in that country. This was perhaps the most momentous decision which has shaken the very foundation of our country and faith as the mullah captured the opaque official narrative of Pakistani nation and began to remodel it in every sect’s
own particular dogma and fashion.Our socio-sectarian fabric was thus torn apart and ground fertilized for transplanting Shia –Sunni conflict of Iran/KSA variety .We have now militias of religious political parties and sectarian brutes like JUI(F) and TLP strut around as political workers.What a terrible mess of our society and faith.

This brief review of the state of the nation pushes one to the conclusion that the entire state system has to be remodeled to make the country viable or else the ship is already sinking in any case.The vultures have started to fly in and perch on the leafless branches of the bald trees around anticipating a feast as the prey might tumble over and falls.

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