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Wake up Now ! جاگو ، جاگو ، جاگو

Wake up Pakistan ! Presently the Muslim societies are in a state of ideological confusion and flux. Materialism, terrorism,...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Fixing Pakistan is no rocket science- Views of Intellectuals, Politicians

“Secular Pakistan as Jinnah wanted,” says one Dawn reader. “Complete implementation of Islam; enough of man-made laws,” suggests another as an answer to the many problems Pakistan faces today.

A special report entitled Independence Day, distributed with today’s Dawn, is styled as a ‘Roundtable Conference’. Held on our pages, the moot comprises opinions solicited from leaders from across the national spectrum. Participants were asked the question: ‘What is wrong with Pakistan today and how do we fix it?’

“Pakistan’s problem is not extremism, poverty or unemployment but distribution of resources,” says Syed Faisal Sabzwari of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, whilst analyst and legislator, Ayaz Amir, wonders why we cannot “live and behave like a normal country”.

Mushahid Hussain of the PML-Q believes: “Fixing Pakistan is no rocket science,” and Naimatullah Khan of the JI says: “A change of leadership has become inevitable.”

Dr Mubashir Hasan, one of the founders of the Pakistan People’s Party, a former minister and now a peace activist, says that the “trust deficit is between the ruling elites” of India and Pakistan and not the people of the two countries. Artist and educationist Salima Hashmi assures us that the “creative force is alive and in good working order” in Pakistan. “The rest of the world can see it. But can we?” she asks.

While Asma Jahangir argues for reducing the role of religion in politics, Sherry Rehman points to the possible pitfalls of devolution of power to the provinces if the provinces fail to build capacity to exercise those powers or try to undo the consensus reached at the national level by rolling back on issues related to gender biases and minorities.

Senator Raza Rabbani, the head of the parliamentary committee which hammered out the Eighteenth Amendment, defends the move by calling it “A Pakistani renaissance”.

The Independence Day special report, thus, presents views expressed on the history and future of Pakistan by eminent Pakistanis from across the national spectrum: Baloch leader Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo, corporate head Asad Omar, religious scholar Mufti Munib-ur-Rehman, pop singer Shehzad Roy, rights activist Zohra Yusuf, political economist S. Akbar Zaidi, Street Theatre producer Madiha Gohar, and many more movers and shakers actively involved in shaping the national agenda.

Dawn readers, too, were asked the same question as was put to the opinion leaders. They responded overwhelmingly from across Pakistan and the diaspora via a survey run on the newspaper’s Internet Edition. Independence Day special also showcases some of these views for the benefit of the print edition readers.

The diversity of opinions expressed in the special report is a confirmation of Jinnah’s conviction that only a pluralistic society is the way forward.

Dr Mubashir Hasan

India and Pakistan have no option whatsoever but to cooperate with each other for the betterment of their people. The trust deficit is only between the ruling elites and is maintained to protect vested interest, here and there. There is no such deficit between the people of the two countries.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s planned visit to Pakistan is very welcome. In the foreign ministers’ talks last month the best thing they could have achieved but failed was a relaxation in the visa regime. Liberalise the movement of people to reduce the much doubted trust deficit. Two more openings along the Line of Control agreed in the meetings should be appreciated.

If Pakistan could control terrorism then there should have been no terrorism here. Pakistan is a victim of terrorism itself; it cannot be its initiator. Indian leaders should understand this.

I am optimistic that both the countries will eventually cooperate with each other and they will have to come out of the ‘suspicion mode’. For thousands of years India had been a victim of hoards from the north-west; that spectre is again on the horizon, and India seems to be realising this.

Syed Musahid Hussain

Our Founding Fathers were self-made, honest, educated, middle class leaders who created this country through a relentless constitutional struggle, whose essence was the rule of law, rather than the rule of men. They left behind no hidden foreign bank accounts, no progeny to claim a ‘born to rule’ dynastic privilege, and, against all odds, they negotiated deftly and with dignity to protect and promote the interests of their Muslim constituents.

Regrettably, their successors, both in khaki or in mufti, have generally governed Pakistan as an extension of the ‘Mughal mindset’, a sort of ‘political tribalism’ where personal, family, clan or partisan interests are paramount. Pakistan’s problems primarily emanate from its visionless, greedy, grabby and callous elite, which winks at corruption, prefers coercion to consensus, and is easily amenable to capitulation abroad.

Fixing Pakistan is no rocket science, provided people at the top are willing to develop values, vision and the will of the Founding Fathers. For starters, three areas will suffice: Education as the main priority with a school system that relies on vocational training helping to promote employment, counter extremism/terrorism and strengthen the Federation through a unified curriculum; respect for the rule of law and accountability of the big-wigs whether they are politicians, bureaucrats, business tycoons, media barons, generals or judges. Enforce Conflict of Interest laws ensuring politics and business are kept separate.

These steps will generate hope and faith in the future for our highly talented and hard-working people that they too can rise on merit, not just due to an accident of birth.

Asma Jahangir

Millions of Pakistanis and the international community are impatiently waiting for Pakistan to take a turn for the better, but a large section of Pakistani society is either oblivious of the perils faced by the country or infected with the disease of self-denial. Formal economy is shrinking while informal wealth is rapidly expanding. This too has made the State hostage to corrupt and criminal elements in society including those within the government.

Proliferation of arms, terrorism backed by an ideology mixed with religion, lack of basic infrastructure and a crisis of governance in all institutions of the State is leading the country to a cycle of violence and instability. This is staring us in the face, but those in any capacity of leadership are only concerned with their own survival and distasteful glorification rather than striving for collective recovery. To our misfortune, some commentators describe us as being big on ego but low on reliability, sharp in wiliness and dull on being constructive.

A large portion of the blame for deteriorating moral values and depleting economy can certainly be laid on our military rulers, but our civilian authorities too have shirked their responsibility. They not only lack skills and integrity but also have shown scant wisdom while in power. Witness the daily mini-clashes between the judiciary and the government; the brazen disappointment expressed by the “tasadum” group; the shouting matches between the politicians in full public view and the propagation of Taliban mentality even when hundreds of our own are being brutally murdered owing to the promotion of a vicious form of intolerance.

Worse still is the role of self-styled leaders of society who audaciously speak, act and intervene on behalf of a discredited establishment. The blame is, therefore, all round. To make matters worse we are constantly in search for personalities that we can adopt as the messiah rather than strengthen democratic institutions.

Governance in Pakistan is not easy. The unresolved issue of Kashmir and an open border with Afghanistan has made illegal trade and movement of militants effortless. Azad Kashmir remains under the heavy thumb of the establishment and Fata remains a haven for militants and smugglers, while the local population is denied all basic rights and protection from violent groups. Similarly, the dual system of policing in A and B areas of Balochistan has made civilian administration ineffective.

In 2009, fatalities had risen to 12,632 as against 907 in 2006. Policing is weak. There are several strands of law enforcement and coordination between them is virtually non-existent. There are no systematic databases for weapons, vehicles on the road, DNA matches, blood samples and crime patterns. According to a study on criminology, 74% of terrorist related cases ended in acquittal in the last 20 years. Poor prosecution, intimidation of witnesses, ineffective legislation and a lethargic judiciary adds to impunity.

The role of parliament has been disappointing and the judiciary is more of a chat rather than a system that delivers justice based on law and logic. The high courts are working on half strengths and fresh appointments are mostly appalling. Some would argue that a draw of lots amongst the lawyers for appointment of judges to the superior courts judiciary would at least ensure transparency and fairness. It may also add to the professional ability of courts.

At the moment we are only deteriorating, but every society has been through similar suffering until they have resolved to make a change for the better. Even for the worst malaise there are recipes for improvement but there is no medicine to cure lack of political will and dithering sincerity.

Pakistan needs to build some consensus on major issues. First, we must agree that our future lies in the promotion of a democratic transition, despite lack of exceptional leadership. To speed up the cycle of transition and to use the system of elections as a filter to discard dead wood that is recycled into politics and to give fresh blood an opportunity for genuine leadership to emerge; it may help to shorten the election period from five to four years. It would keep the opposition alive and the patience of the people will not be put to an extreme test. The quota seats for Fata, women and minorities must be rationalised so that those elected from general seats are not made hostage to reserved seats. Political parties should be financially supported through budget allocations in a transparent manner, based on electoral performances. They too must follow democratic principles within their party setups. A truly independent and autonomous Election Commission should be established that has the confidence of all political forces and the support of the administration.

Foreign policy should be tailored around the need of the country, rather than be based on historical prejudices, grandeur and impractical ideas or emotions that are kept alive at a great cost to the nation. Public expenditure should be diverted towards social sectors rather than being spent on weapons of war. After the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment provinces should call for technical assistance to cope with the gigantic powers devolved to them. A clear policy should be devised to counter religious extremism and to gradually deweaponise the civil population.

Above all, the courts should function efficiently, independently and remain depoliticised. Reforming a society is not easy and it takes decades before any positive signs of stability can be detected, but there has to be a starting point. Ours is still awaited eagerly.

Ayaz Amir

Our problems are not unique. Our confusion is in a class of its own. Much as we like to think otherwise, Pakistan was not a manifestation of divine grace. That we are a fortress of Islam is, sadly, a fiction we have lived with for too long.

Although much of the Muslim clergy had opposed Pakistan they seized upon the idea of Muslim separateness to press for the creation of an Islamic republic. As for the secular elites, the more they failed in running the country the more they ran behind the banner of Islam. The mullahs were never an influential power in themselves. Their rise to number one national nuisance owes itself to secular failure. Pakistan’s English-speaking classes have failed it the most.

The one exception to the trend to use Islam for political purposes was Ayub. But he fathered his own folly in the shape of the 1965 war, the single most disruptive influence in our history. In many mysterious ways we have still not recovered from its effects. The India-centricism of our national security fallacies was fixed in stone by that ill-conceived venture.

A visionary leadership could have rescued us from our past. But we were unfortunate in that respect. Bhutto’s ‘democracy’ was almost an invitation to the reactionary backlash which came with the 1977 agitation and Zia’s martial law, the darkest chapter in Pakistan’s history. From the dragon’s teeth sowed then sprouted the monsters of religious extremism and violence which haunt Pakistan today.

We have signally failed in solving our own problems. But we remain obsessed with trying to wield influence in Afghanistan. Our posture towards India lacks clear thinking. We have spread our feet too far apart and, in many things, continue to live in a world of fantasy and make-believe.

Our major problems are self-created. If only we could live and behave like a normal country.

Khurshid Ahmad

There is a need to make the conduct of the leadership transparent. Time has come for the leaders of all fields to become role models by showing honesty, forbearance, steadfastness and sagacity. Pakistan should seek economic self-reliance instead for looking towards America and China. This will give it independence of thought and action, enabling it see what is right for it and what is not.

There is a need to remove the huge knowledge deficit. Nearly 59 per cent children leave school at the primary level and nobody is noticing it with seriousness. An educated human resource is much beneficial than swarms of uneducated, directionless youth.

Educated young people can work better for the welfare of the country and for their own good.

There should be dignity of work and an end to feudalism. Pakistan must develop a labour force of women, providing them with proper education and skill training. This can bring a big social change. The energy crisis should be tackled on a war footing so as to manage the crisis-ridden industry. The crisis has badly affected production and business, generating large scale unemployment.

There is a need to ensure the rule of law and provision to justice to all. Injustice, poverty and illiteracy are the root causes of terrorism, and the country can no longer afford to ignore them. The rights of the working class should be protected.

There was no need to devolve the subject of labour to the provinces under the 18th Amendment because this has eroded the element of oneness among the labour force. We can still take the country forward if we start sincerely working for the good.  Otherwise we should remain prepared for Egypt and Tunis-like revolutions.

Aitzaz Ahsan

We must first understand what we cannot do quickly to uplift the country. We cannot suddenly improve power and food supplies, stabilise prices and provide housing, educational facilities or employment opportunities to the people.

Yes, we can salvage the people by abolishing the VIP culture, ensuring accountability and submission to it by everyone. This will greatly reduce the frustration, and resentment among the people who must feel that the ruling classes are subject to the same inconvenience and problems as they are. The reduced frustration will help the country tackle terrorism. There is no substitute to the use of fire power and intelligence to combat terrorism. But people and youth get inducted in the world of terror by seeing the elite’s ostentatious, loud and above accountability lifestyle. Upon seeing huge cavalcade of a minister they react, become willing recruits to the ranks of the extremists, and work to tear the system down.

The situation in Karachi is more complicated. If on the wave of one man’s hand violence can suddenly be stopped, it is not different to discern who is responsible for it.

We have to recognise and take advantage of the potential of our own region and negihbourhood. We cannot swap neighbours.

Why should we deprive our industry a market seven times the size of our own if it is offered by our neighbours? Why are we begging for market access for our products to Europe and the West when we have a huge South Asian market at our doorstep?

We should give up the hypocrisy of trading through third party conduits such as Dubai and go for direct cross border trade.

Peace itself has an enormous economic benefit, and is the greatest engine of growth.  Prosperity comes as it did in Europe with trade, interdependence and mutual growth. This in turn introduced peace even amongst fratricidal neighbours who had fought horrible World Wars I and II.

Mufti Munib-ur-Rehman

Our present ‘government of national reconciliation’ is just a power sharing arrangement among contradictory elements. There is no agenda for the survival, evolution, protection and security of the country.

One simple solution to all our problems is rule by honesty, trust, courage and social justice: resources should reach the common man; oppression, killing, plundering, violence, lawlessness and terrorism should be eliminated.

Joining the war against terrorism we have lost enough but are not aware of its outcome. The government has not told the people the truth. It needs to explain to the people that if this is not America’s war but our own, they (people) should be taken into confidence and told what Pakistan has achieved or lost by becoming part of this war.

The people are denied their basic needs. The power and gas crisis has upset every Pakistani. The rulers are not interested in resolving these issues. The nation needs a leadership of character that is bold, committed and determined to rekindle hope and restore confidence of the people. –Mufti Munib-ur-Rehman spoke to Habib Khan Ghori

Nadeem Farooq Paracha

Almost every political, social and economic crisis faced by Pakistan today stems from questions that should have been addressed 60 years ago: about the role of religion, ethnicity, military, democracy and civil society in the polity. These questions were brushed aside with a rather Utopian narrative that encouraged authoritarian intervention and bullying to impose a singular, centralised and impractical concept of nationhood and religion.

This concept only ended up alienating and insulting the rich religious, sectarian and ethnic diversity that Pakistan is made of, triggering all sorts of political fissures, ethnic upheavals and sectarian violence. The answer lay in the flowing of uninterrupted democracy and provincial autonomy – they still do. These should be the central planks of Pakistan’s future make-up.

The provinces should be allowed to bag democratic mandates to decide what sort of a role religion and ethnicity should play in their respective regions and what kind of economics they prefer. The central government and the military should only be there to facilitate this kind of democratic and progressive provincialism. Anything less is bound to continue bouncing us from one catastrophe to the other.

Shehzad Roy

The future of Pakistan is with its youth. We have to invest in the coming generations by educating them. The biggest problem of our system is rote learning, and its futility in practical life. It negates the very essence of education. Rather than making thinkers, it preaches to our children.

Education must be imparted in a language the child understands and is able to express himself in. We talk about reforming the education sector but we don’t have thought-provoking books in our own languages. Children and youth are in a majority in Pakistan. There are hopes, dreams, and a sense of pride associated with them. The public school system needs a drastic change in curriculum. Children need counseling, guidance, and eventually jobs, for which the school must prepare them.

Allama Abbas Kumail

The tragedy of Pakistan is that we lost the Quaid-i-Azam soon after independence. The rulers that followed, instead of building institutions, were interested in amassing wealth for themselves. They surrendered the sovereignty of Pakistan to super powers.

Today we are is in a fix of confusion on why the country was created and whether Pakistan is or should be a theocratic, orthodox Islamic state or a moderate progressive state. This confusion has given birth to sectarianism, ethnic tensions and extremism.

Individuals in the army grabbed power for their personal gratification; religious preachers also contributed a lot to this mess which started because of deviating from the path of the Quaid.

We can overcome our problems by reverting to the Quaid’s vision of Unity, Faith and Discipline, and by pursuing principles of love, brotherhood and equal opportunity for all; by upholding the principle of peaceful co-existence within the country and with our neighbours.

We have enormous wealth of resources, strategic and geo-political as well as human. But we lack a sincere leadership. We need to eliminate the cancer of sectarianism and ethnic rivalries or risk dismembering the country like in 1971. –Allama Kumaili spoke to Habib Khan Ghori