More bloodshed ahead (Daily Times)

Establishment fails as Pakistani suffer

Bad news comes in bundles. And for Pakistan these bundles have been coming in a row for the last 64 years, with good news small packets so seldom that they are not enough to tranquilise our tense nerves. Quickly just review the last few days: floods have swept southern Sindh killing over 200 people, ruining over one million houses and affecting seven million people’s livelihood; Dengue fever is killing people every day in Punjab; Taliban are getting active in Karachi and attacked a senior police official’s residence situated next to a number of schools; Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is again and again proudly claiming killings of the people going to Iran; the army operation continues against TTP in the tribal belt; US is threatening direct action against the Haqqani Group if our army doesn’t move against them; and US-Pakistan relations remain strained since the Raymond Davis incident and operation against Osama by the US.

Now what is common in this bundle of assorted bad news besides Pakistan? It is the failure of the governments. Not the present government alone but all the past governments also. While Pakistan’s civil and military establishment continues to blame others for all our miseries, the fact is that we are more responsible for this than others. This does not mean that I am unrealistically discounting factors that are beyond our control.

Let’s take all these factors and briefly analyse where our military and civil establishment has failed. It is rightly said that much of the flood that swept the many districts of Sindh was caused by the natural calamity – unprecedented rains. But that is not the whole truth. Badin and adjoining areas of the Left Bank Outfall Drain (LBOD) have not only been inundated because of freak monsoon rains this year. Ever since this drain has been made at the cost of over one billion dollars these areas have been deluged for at least 15 times as far as I remember. The LBOD was built with the World Bank’s loan in many years and cost overruns were enormous. Even when it was being made to drain the water-logged areas many Sindhi irrigation engineers had objected to its design and had predicted that it will add to the problems rather than solve them. The frequency of floods increased once the LBOD was made because of its design faults. The natural course of draining the rain water is obstructed by the drain and it has given an inlet to the sea during the high tides in the monsoon period. There was another experts group which reported that there is a design fault which should be rectified. But as it happens with all the reports no action was taken. I think the residents and farmers of this area have a strong class-action case against the federal and Sindh government. They can claim damages worth billions of rupees. So the governments cannot just blame the nature and go scot free in this case.

The spreading dengue fever in Punjab is a classic example of what I have been saying for a long time that in the country where governments have failed in gutter and garbage management, talking of moral issues like corruption and constitutional issues is talking Sanskrit to the people. Once a national leader said ‘well that is the work of the local governments why are you blaming us.’ I asked him isn’t it true that the democratic governments usually hate to share power with the local leaders and dissolve the local government given the first opportunity. And sewerage pipelines are laid with proud signage saying ‘Prime Minister’s or Chief Minister’s sewerage programme.’ In reply he only smiled sheepishly.

Isn’t it our health-sector’s failure that we needed to get Sri Lankan experts to tell us that it was wrong to assume that Dengue mosquitoes only breed in fresh water? Even the government department ads were based on this misperception. Isn’t it pathetic that a large city like Lahore has inadequate facilities to meet an outbreak of such an epidemic and doesn’t have enough platelets separating machine? Why because the health and education sector is given the last priority by all governments. If we put all the allocations by the federal and provincial governments for the health sector in the current budget, it is only 1.7% of their total budget. However, the Punjab government’s efforts to manage this epidemic so far are a shade better than the management abilities shown by the Sindh government in managing the flood. Agreed that the devastation in Sindh is much larger but historically for a number of political reasons Sindh governments have always been less efficient.

The issues of terrorism whether they are related to the recent Karachi attack or in tribal areas are inter-related. It is no secret now that in our stupid desire to have strategic depth in Afghanistan, our military establishment instigated armed insurgency in Afghanistan in 1979, which resulted in the Afghan government inviting the Soviets to help them. Then we lured the US in this war who happily joined to teach the communist Soviets a lesson. We also gave a free hand to the Saudi intelligence to operate here and get all the Muslim terrorists from the world to operate from Pakistan. General Zia and US congressman Charlie Wilson used to boast that they created the Islamic techno-guerillas. Today the same are master trainers of the second generation Jihadis across the country and blowing us up piece by piece.

Pakistani establishment is still not realising that the militant non-state actors nurtured by them are villains and there are no heroes in this saga. Many have revolted and are fighting the army also because they want to bring an Islamic Revolution by first creating anarchy in the country. The involved Saudi intelligence nurtured the sectarian organisations fighting their proxy war against Iran. The Iranians have their own militants but cannot match the power of pro-Saudi elements.

The US pressure on us to either take action against the Haqqani group, Quetta Shura and Lashkar-e-Taiyyba, or else they would take action directly, is increasing every day. What are our options: One, to play tough with US and its global allies and insist that Pakistan is not supporting Haqqani, Mullah Omar and LeT and think foolishly that we can fool the world; two, to push the Afghan related groups into Afghanistan and work towards packing up India specific Jihadi groups; and three to launch action against these groups as desired unrealistically by the US. The first option is no more because we also claim that Pakistan can broker a peace with Afghan Taliban and Haqqani group which means we have considerable influence on them. Option two is the least risky and realistic solution to the mess we have created. And the last option (which is Washington’s first option) is unrealistic because Pakistani establishment may be a nuclear power but it doesn’t have the will, wherewithal and ability to open other fronts against these Jihadi groups. Already the TTP and other Jihadi groups which are allied with Al Qaeda have revolted against the establishment and killed thousands of our soldiers and common people.

Ideally to regain the respect in the world, we need to change our 64 years old strategy and decide that henceforth we are not going to indulge in pursuing our foreign policy through militant proxy organisations. This game is over. It is unfortunate that our establishment is finding it hard to accept the reality. It is better they do it soon or else they will have to do it after the country would be squeezed economically, politically and may be militarily. The US should also realise that by putting their boots on Pakistan, they will only help the Islamic militant organisations agenda and push the country to unimaginable chaos and anarchy. (ayazbabar@gmail.com)

 

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