by Waseem Shehzad (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 42, No. 1, Rabi' al-Thani, 1434)
The great hopes arouse by the Pakistan resolution when it was first passed in Lahore in March 1940—seven years before Pakistan came into existence—remain a pipe dream. Instead, for most Pakistanis it has become a nightmare.
Minar-e Pakistan (the Pakistan Tower) stands at the spot in Lahore where the Muslim League had passed its historic resolution on March 23, 1940 demanding a separate state for the Muslims of India. The tower was erected by Pakistan many years later to commemorate that historic day. As symbols go, it is an impressive monument reminding people that the leaders who led the Pakistan movement were visionaries. They had to struggle against enormous odds to achieve the State of Pakistan that was dismissed by many at the time as a pipe dream.
It was Dr. Muhammad Iqbal, the poet-philosopher, who had first articulated the idea of a separate homeland for the Muslims of India is his address to the annual meeting of the All-India Muslim League in Allahabad in 1930. Iqbal did not call it Pakistan — the name was coined a few years later by Chaudhry Rahmat Ali, a student at Cambridge University in England — but he visualized a separate state for Muslims that would comprise those regions of India that had a Muslim majority. Iqbal had arrived at this conclusion after careful study and understanding of the prevailing situation in India and the plight of Muslims within it. Iqbal did not live to see his vision enshrined in a resolution much less the realization of his dream into a state but on August 14, 1947 Pakistan emerged on the world map as an independent sovereign state.
March 23 is celebrated each year in Pakistan and abroad with great fanfare. Fiery speeches are delivered and tall promises made to turn Pakistan into the “Switzerland of Asia” and more. The reality, however, is very different and is aptly captured by the scruffy surroundings of Minar-e Pakistan itself. Today, the grounds surrounding Minar-e Pakistan are used by an odd assortment of politicians to launch their political campaigns or threaten long marches on Islamabad. Despite expending a lot of hot air, nothing is achieved.
If the scruffy surroundings of Minar-e Pakistan were the only problem facing the people of Pakistan, perhaps they would not complain much. In the 73-year period since the Pakistan resolution was first adopted, the plight of the people has worsened immeasurably. There is rampant corruption at every level of society. People cannot get even legitimate work done without greasing some official’s palm. Four-fifths of Pakistanis view government corruption as widespread. Transparency International ranked Pakistan 42 out of 176 countries in its Corruption Perception Index (CPI) in 2009. Last year, it went up to 33. In other words, the level of corruption went up in 2012 making Pakistan the 33rd most corrupt country in the world out of a total of 176 countries examined. This level of corruption is the direct result of the abuse of power at the highest levels of government.
President Asif Ali Zardari, widely viewed as an accidental president because of the murder of his wife Benazir Bhutto on December 27, 2007, thus garnering sympathy for the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), is seen as the most corrupt politician in the country. A deal brokered by the US and Britain enabled Benazir Bhutto to return to Pakistan after then military dictator General Pervez Musharraf annulled all corruption cases against the couple and a host of other politicians under what was referred to as the National Reconciliation Order (NRO). In turn, those politicians were asked to work with Musharraf supporting his bid to remain in power. Circumstances did not help the general and he was forced to resign in August 2008 going into exile in Dubai and England. He keeps popping up on television periodically declaring his intention to return to Pakistan but so far he has kept well away for fear of being arrested.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan, meanwhile, declared the NRO unconstitutional in a ruling on December 16, 2009. Zardari, however, clings to power and has used different ploys not to relinquish it. He has dragged on his stay, holding on until the assemblies will be dissolved before March 16 and elections held by May of this year. That the elections will yield any different results, given the level of corruption and manipulation of the electoral process in Pakistan, is not difficult to fathom.
Further, Pakistan is a deeply feudal society in which the big landlords hold sway over their workers as if they are slaves. The feudals pay no taxes on their vast land holdings or produce. They use this wealth to buy their way into power and once there, they begin the process of plundering state resources. Even retired admiral Fasih Bukhari, Chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has declared that daily corruption in Pakistan results in 7 billion rupees loss to the treasury ($1 is equivalent to approximately 97 rupees). In the five years of the Zardari regime, the treasury lost Rs12,600 billion through corruption alone.
There is not only avoidance of tax by the mighty and powerful but there is a direct subsidy of their activities provided by the treasury. Shahid Kardar, former governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, in an opinion piece in the Karachi daily, Dawn, wrote on January 29, 2013: “The subsidies for fertiliser, wheat and sugar not accounted so far as expenditure in the federal and provincial budgets exceed Rs100 billion; the losses of PIA, steel mills and railways not recognised in the federal budget has crossed Rs350 billion; the annual deficits for electricity provision is still not being charged as expenditure, and, building up at an astounding Rs1 million a minute, is more than Rs100 billion.”
For the last two years, Pakistan has produced more grain than it needs. Thus, in 2011 Pakistan produced 36 million tons of grain but consumed only 28 million tons. Even with a surplus of 8 million tons, 58% of Pakistanis reported experiencing food insecurity because of inflated prices of food staples. This was confirmed by a report presented to the feudal-dominated National Assembly in October 2012. Did the National Assembly take any notice of this grim situation afflicting the people on whose behalf they claim to sit in the august chamber? They sank into their deep leather chairs and asked: what poverty? They have never had any problems getting food in the assembly cafeteria or in the MNA hostels. In fact, food is delivered to them on command. Besides, they pointed to the restaurants overflowing with customers in Islamabad and other major cities where every kind of exotic food is available. Their complaint was that often they could not avoid the underlings that crowd such places.
Then there is the US war on terror that is waged at different levels in Pakistan. While theoretically Pakistan is described as a US “ally”, the reality, as far as the people of Pakistan are concerned, is very different. Since 2004, they have been relentlessly targeted by drone strikes resulting in some 5,000 deaths so far, most of them civilians. For the people of Pakistan, especially in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the US is their number one enemy since neither their homes nor their lives are safe from drone attacks. These have intensified under Barack Obama’s presidency and there is no evidence to suggest that he intends to scale back such attacks. Even the UN has been forced to take notice and has said these attacks may be illegal and would constitute war crimes. An inquiry commission under British barrister, Ben Emmerson has been constituted to examine the legality of drone strikes in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.
Drones are not the only attacks carried out by the US against Pakistani civilians. American CIA as well as Israeli Mossad agents prowl the streets of Pakistan without much hindrance from the Pakistani authorities. In January 2011, Raymond Davis shot and killed two Pakistanis in broad daylight on a busy street in Lahore. Davis was carrying a number of guns including high velocity rifles, magazines, binoculars, and several cell phones including a satellite phone. The people captured him before the police arrived and recovered from his possession all these items. A search of his cell phones revealed a treasure trove of information including about 60 people who were on the “US list of terrorists,” yet Davis was in constant contact with them. Why would Davis be in touch with such people? While Davis was whisked out of Pakistan under pressure from the Americans including threats from Obama no less (Davis was presented as a security contractor at the US Consulate in Lahore!), his activities shed light on the dirty game the US is playing in Pakistan.
This was further augmented by a report last month about a Mossad agent of Pakistani origin being arrested in the Defence Housing Society in Lahore. This is an upscale neighbourhood where retired and serving military officers reside. Mossad’s Pakistani agent, a specialist in IT, was recruited when he was serving time at Guantanamo Bay. He was given a choice: to work for Mossad or face years of lockup in Guantanamo Bay. When captured in Lahore, his cell phones and laptop computer also revealed a huge amount of data including his links with his handler in Jerusalem. The Mossad agent had also recruited dozens of other highly qualified IT Pakistani professionals and he admitted that during his years of service for Mossad, he had killed at least 200 Pakistani security personnel.
Hitherto, Pakistani allegations of foreign agents operating in the country were laughed at by many foreign commentators and their Pakistani stooges. Last month’s arrest provided conclusive proof that Mossad as well as the CIA together with British, German and Indian intelligence are actively engaged in destabilizing Pakistan. Their activities are most pronounced in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan provinces. Both are sensitive regions and are gripped by insurgencies that are clearly backed from abroad. True, there are local grievances as well but without external support, they would not be as successful.
One also cannot rule out the role of foreign agents in stoking sectarian tensions in Pakistan. In Baluchistan as well as in places like Karachi, Dera Ismail Khan, Hangu and Gilgit, the Shi‘i community has been relentlessly targeted. Hundreds have died in such attacks. Sectarianism is a Saudi specialty. They have many people on their payroll in Pakistan and stoke such hatred in order to prevent the influence of Islamic Iran spreading into Pakistan. The alarming rise in sectarianism and the mass killings that have resulted as a consequence clearly point to foreign sponsorship. The result is the suffering of innocent people. On January 10, 125 members of the Hazara community were killed in twin bomb explosions in Quetta. This gruesome act was repeated on February 16 when another 83 Hazaras, many of them women and children, were murdered in a crowded shopping market in the same city. Lashkar-e Jhangvi, a banned terrorist outfit claimed responsibility for both dastardly crimes.
Where is the government in all this and what is it doing to contain this destructive policy from taking hold? Unfortunately it is largely absent. Government institutions exist only on paper and when they want to create problems for the people. Solving the people’s problems is not considered its function. Can anyone blame the people if they believe the Pakistan dream so eloquently articulated in the Pakistan resolution of March 1940 remains a pipe dream? Indeed, for most Pakistanis, it has turned into a nightmare.