72 years of Pakistan gone wasted!

By Saeed Qureshi

The religious zealots contend that Pakistan is a citadel of Islam, although most of the religious parties opposed the creation of Pakistan. Pseudo nationalists gloat that it is a nuclear power. I say Pakistan cannot be the second country after the United States to use the atomic bomb under any circumstances as it would receive the same in return.

Which Pakistan are we talking about and proud of? The one with barricades and barriers all over the land as if the whole country is a jail or a concentration camp! Religious denominations and cults take pride and self-entertaining divine blessing for massacring each other. The more this nation is getting into the religious mindset the more barbaric, backward looking and intellectually marooned it is becoming.

In every locality or street, there are loudspeakers blurring sermons and Azan (summoning for prayer) five times a day causing a lethal sound pollution. The people defecate in the open or in manual home latrines, all the members taking turns. The meagerly paid sweepers from scheduled castes carry away the heaps of human excretion on a weekly basis and dump it in an open filth depot or dumpster (I am not talking of Islamabad) where it rots for days till the rain washes it away. The municipality trucks come once in a blue moon.

In a sanitation and sewerage deficient country, if you find human refuse running into open drains outside the houses, don’t take it seriously. If swarms of mosquitoes and flees surround you all the way to your destination: be it market, mosque and work place, take it as indifferently as part of a decadent civic order. If the worms and bacteria cause deadly epidemics, don’t panic.

Don’t mind the mind-boggling traffic jams on the narrow roads as we are destined to endure those and that by our faith, we are goaded to thank God in every affliction. The puzzling and ear-splitting sound of smoke emitting rickshaws and run-down buses are not eye sores because that is how Pakistan is supposed to be. If the whole landscape, roads, footpaths, market places, grounds are littered with garbage; such gory spectacles should not incense you as we have been living under these abominable conditions since the inception of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in 1947. And Islam ordains cleanliness is half faith (Iman).

A culture of dishonesty and deliberate delinquency pervades and sprouts in every office: from presidency to make shift kiosks (khokhas). In offices burdened with red tape and inefficiency and nepotism, the five times praying Muslims prey upon the visitors and customers with full vengeance to pay for what they were doing for them as public servants. It is called bribe or graft is simple terminology.

The permits and licenses are for sale. If you need a connection for electricity or water or gas or phone, don’t go straight to the concerned department with only an application. Along the official fee take a service fee exclusively for the official doing the needful. But still your name will be placed in the waiting list. A letter from a political heavyweight or powerful bureaucrat would also be helpful. Be aware nothing is done on merit.

After 72 years of Pakistan’s creation, it takes 90 minutes to cover a distance of 10 miles to and from Islamabad and Rawalpindi: the so-called sister cities in the Potohar plateau. The police pickets, the road barriers, the para-military contingents stop you to find if you are a suicide bomber. The social life in the most protected cities has come to such a dreadful pass. I remember, as a student, it would take maximum 45 minutes to reach Rawalpindi from Wah cantonment by bus. Now this time is no less than three hours and one has to pay toll tax at many places.

Go to the Bara or Landi Kotal (tribal Business enclaves) to buy a 12-bore pistol for a pittance. Come back to your city, get into a house for robbing or forcible sex with a teenage girl or boy. One may also use it to kill his enemy or opponents at will.  The police would not know and would not like to probe who committed such a heinous crime because these have become commonplace daring daily occurrence. But if you want to indulge or watch a combined spree of robbing, killing, raping and extortion, go to Karachi. And take care that you could also be targeted.

Pakistan is the most ideal place to witness murders and massacres for reasons ranging from ethnic, sectarian, tribal, clannish, honor to land grabbing or just for show off in streets. The poor raped young girls have to produce four eyewitnesses to prove that they were raped. Is it possible? Law and order have become razor-thin and no one cares who is killing and who is being killed.

It is a tall order to explore who is raping whom, who is kidnapped and who kidnaps. These are signs of doomsday but the prophesied doomsday has already descended on the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Ironically Islam is a religion of tolerance and peace as it commands that killing one person is killing the whole humanity. Just imagine how many humanities have been killed and are being killed in Pakistan.

The new generations of Pakistan boys, girls, toddlers, adolescents, are living in an atmosphere of persistent fear, insecurity, bomb blasts, rape, arson, loot and plunder, in filth, in dark and dingy streets, in a nauseating environment of sound and filth pollution. They come out of the homes with a lurking fear of being blasted or kidnapped and targeted for unspeakable heinous crimes.

The food is costly and adulterated, the drugs and medicines are spurious, and the water is contaminated. The meat could be of a dog, a pig or mad cow. Who cares and scrutinizes for such infringements! We never ponder how many young children are forced to work with sex maniacs at auto workshops, restaurants or hotels or in private homes as servants? How alarming the level of molestation of the underage males and females is: no one bothers.

The country is in the grip of Thana and Patwari culture: the symbols of corruption and vehicles of obsolete, moribund institutions started by Mughal emperor Akbar the great, or the British colonialist. Caring a fig of what the law or the religion obligates, invariably everyone from the president to a police constable seems to be obsessed with making money through fair and fouls means alike. The whole nation seems to have fallen into a morass of moral sleaze.

The contracts are given in wrong and delinquents hands. The newly laid-out roads are washed off in one shower of rain, the bridges dash to the ground not long after being commissioned. If rental power generation units are purchased from foreign sellers, it brings hefty commissions to buyers (Raja rental scandal) and crooks are elevated to the higher positions. Pitiably such leased power units do not produce a watt and are paid in advance to the tune of billions of rupees.

When poverty grinds and inflation ruins the household, the crimes and prostitution sprout and rob the people of modesty, honor and religious penchant. That is what is happening in Pakistan and that country created in the name of Islam may turn into another Thailand in due course.

The army was there at the helm for half of Pakistan’s existence, a drunkard and lewd military president held the first free elections and then equaled this good deed by truncating Pakistan. Cessation of East Pakistan and surrender of a Muslim army are those calumnies that cannot be washed off ever unless the river Ganges starts flowing in the opposite direction and the sun starts rising from the west.

And during those crippling moments (surrender) several generals, politicians and bureaucrats were reported drinking in five-star hotels with their concubines. This is the story of a nation that claims that it ruled the sub-continent of India for a thousand years. If there was no obscurantism until 1980 notwithstanding Bhutto turning Pakistan into another Saudi Arabia. So, Pakistan an economically feeble and socially torn apart country has to put-up two-pronged war: one with the enemy across the eastern border, the other against Islamic militants rampaging the length and breadth of Pakistan.

Why in 65 years, the sermons and preaching of Muslim pontiffs failed to turn Pakistanis into good citizens not to speak of good Muslims? Yet the dreary and ineffectual sermons continue to foster sectarian hatred, reinforcing warnings of hellfire. Alongside, the construction of new mosques remains apace uninhibited. If there could not be one single model Islamic state in 1400 years, how one would hope for that in the present times when old taboos and gospels are losing their relevance.

Which war is for Islam and which one to safeguard the territorial integrity of Pakistan? Pakistan is doomed as the menace of Taliban abetted and supported by external abettors would not die nor surrender so soon. There is a noose of Islamic militancy around the neck of Pakistan that is tightening by way of proliferation of bomb blasts and violence.

Can one dream for the day when a true and patriotic leadership would take the reins of Pakistan? Will that day dawn when the citizens would travel with a relief that their lives would be safe and they won’t be molested, kidnapped or killed on the way?

Can we visualize a society when law and order would prevail and dispensation of unhampered justice would be possible by nabbing the highest culprits in government, aristocracy and from the elite classes? Would our judges be upright and strong to uphold the law and not selling the justice? Can our institutions, government departments and bureaucracy function even by a fraction of other civil societies?

Can Pakistan generate enough electricity that the word “load shedding” becomes obsolete? Can everyone have access to schooling, medical facilities, drinking water and job? Can we integrate the Islamic teachings into the established curricula and syllabi and close the ghost schools imparting hatred and spurious Islam to the students who come to Islamic nurseries due to poverty or ignorance?

Can we limit the number of religious institutions and affiliate them with the national educational system from the primary to the university level? Can we bring about a national reconciliation? Can we eliminate the thugs, the crooks, the public enemies, briber takers, the goons, and all those who have turned Pakistan into one of the most dangerous and debased places to live?

Can our roads be widened, railways modernized, bridges built, hidden natural resources tapped and stalled projects such Kalabagh be undertaken? Can the whole country be washed off the glut of dirt and mounting debris and trash? Can the cities be embraced with centralized sewerage system? Can we check the burgeoning population so that the resources can be better utilized?

Can we elect a leadership that is visionary, selfless, imbued with nationalistic spirit, progressive and dedicated to promote a democratic culture and liberalizing the society? Can a stable, democratic, economically prosperous and socially liberal, and civically a modern Pakistan be rebuilt? The list of challenges is endless.  It primarily depends upon the quality of the leadership that we choose. 

The writer is a Senior Journalist and a Former Diplomat.

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