Forecast (Daily Times)

New year but with dark clouds overcast

By Babar Ayaz

 

This is how my sorrows became visible:

its dust, piling up for years in my heart,

finally reached my eyes,

the bitterness now so clear that

I had to listen when my friends

told me to wash my eyes with blood

Everything at once was tangled in blood –

each face, each idol, red everywhere.

Blood swept over the sun, washing away its gold.

The moon erupted with blood, its silver extinguished.

The sky promised a morning of blood,

and the night wept only blood …

Let it flow. Should it be dammed up?

there will be only hatred cloaked in colours of death.

Don’t let this happen, my friends’

bring all my tears back instead,

a flood to purify my dust filled eyes,

to wash this blood forever from my eyes.

                             (Faiz Ahmed Faiz 1971)

 

Alas! The moment to wash this blood from our eyes is still not in sight. Am I being a worrywart in forecasting more blood in the country? Am I being unrealistic forecasting increased political instability? Am I being a cynic in forecasting intense pressure on the civilian government from the establishment? Am I being rash in forecasting that judicial activism will reach its logical crescendo? Am I being a prophet of doom when forecasting a difficult economic year for the country? I wish I am proved wrong. But the rational being in me torments me with a realistic outlook. Believe me I hate this.

On a personal note I can wish a happy and healthy new year to my readers. But on a national note it’s hard to do it. As I know my good wishes are not going to change the trajectory which our country is on leads to heightened uncertainty, more bloodshed and isolation of the country.

Change of a year on the calendar does not change the fortunes of the nation. We cannot just turn the page of our self-inflicted political and economic mess with the dawn of a new year.

The year 2012 has started with heightened political instability. The Supreme Court’s decision to appoint a judicial commission to probe the real writer and instigator of the ‘Mansoor Ijaz Memo’ is going to keep the political situation fluid. One wonders why Asma did not raise the point that Nawaz Sharif’s petition has become infractuous once the Parliamentary Commission probe was initiated before the decision to form the judicial commission was taken.

The Judicial Commission would be duplicating the probe already initiated by the Parliamentary Commission. Most analysts wonder that if the findings of the two commissions conflict with each other which one will prevail. Some leading lawyers say that the issue will once again go to the Supreme Court as the constitution is silent on this issue. Then comes the question can a court which has appointed a commission, undermining the parliamentary commission, impartially decide which finding should prevail?

Here the question raised by bold human rights campaigner and defendant’s lawyer Asma Jehangir becomes relevant that the probe should be at a lower level so that the basic right of appeal given in law can follow its course. The Supreme Court of Pakistan’s involvement at the primary stage because Nawaz Sharif and the military establishment have knocked at its door has closed the option of appeals at different stages. The Supreme Court, she rightly reminded us, is the court of last resort.

But now when all the nine honourable judges have spoken with one voice nothing much can be done. Ever since the restoration of judges for which political parties, lawyers and NGOs struggled hard, the judiciary is independent and the honourable judges have shown remarkable unity of thought. At the same time much of the time of the superior judiciary has been consumed by the cases with high political over-tones because the politicians and powerful lobbies drag them in this controversial arena.

In any country election year is the time when the government becomes lame. In our case this government has been lame right from the beginning due to its own faults and a number of extragenuous factors. So it can be safely forecast that 2012 will be politically tumultuous.

Energy shortage, falling FDI, lower foreign assistance, higher inflation political instability, terrorism and poor law and order situation will continue to keep the economy in pressure. The only redeeming fact is that our agriculture income and remittances from over-seas Pakistanis and tax evading businessmen is likely to keep our nose above the water.

Dangerously the country may see more deaths of innocents and terrorist activities. UnfortunatelyPakistanis in the conflict zone and its rulers have sown a harvest of cactus for the last many years. It’s now time to reap that harvest. Together with CIA they took pride that they had created techno-guerillas. Hundreds of people were trained in making and planting bombs, today these master trainers are imparting the know-how to young Islamic militants. There is no dearth of militants who are being brainwashed by a number of Jihadi organisations active in the country. Some liberals may underestimate their commitment by believing that they are just stooges of the intelligence agencies. While the leadership of such organisations can be opportunistic, their rank and file is committed to the extent that they willingly join the suicide squads.

The more the government will move away from supporting the Jihadis and try to clip their wings, the more terrorist onslaughts are expected increase in the country. Violence is the only language they know. And so shall they speak.

Two out of four neighbours of Pakistan blame that it harbours and supports militants who cross the border and commit terrorist acts. Their claims are supported by most members of the world comity.

Our desire to have a client government in Afghanistan on the pretext of guarding our western flank; our standoff with the US governments; and our strategy to keep Indian forces engaged in Kashmir are some of the short-sighted policies which need to be changed. The winds of change are blowing strong and it seems our establishment has decided to move away from the traditional US camp to the more time-tested friend China. But can China pick our financial burden and will stand with us against the West and Indians when the push comes to shove? That is the missing question.

The positive development is that the establishment has allowed the foreign office to move towards easing the pressure from the Eastern border. Relations with India are likely to improve because our military wants to concentrate on the North Western borders where withdrawal of US and NATO forces is going to change the game. Another glimmer of hope is that the US-Taliban secret dialogue may progress in the right direction in this year. The recent visit of ISI Chief to Qatar, one hopes was to support these dialogues.

So let us brace for the worst and hope for the best in tumultuous 2012. (ayazbabar@gmail.com)

 

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