Political quackery rules the country
My friend and contemporary columnist Ayaz Amir said a few days back that he is writing two columns a week as there is too much happening in the country that inspires a comment. Another friend Zahid Hussain who writes a column once in two weeks agreed. I am out of the country and could not contribute by for the last two weeks or so. Two major government meetings and policy initiatives have been bothering me: one, the decision to give the Rangers a free hand to go for the target killers and criminals; and two, yet another meeting of political parties endorsing unconditional talks offers with all shades of terrorists..
Let’s analyse these decisions briefly. One cannot quarrel with the decision about Karachi as the city has been bleeding for years now. So action against the militants irrespective of their party affiliation was welcomed. Even by the political parties which back these organised militant goons, who kill the opponents on their orders and finance their groups through extortion money accepted it. Such statements were, however, for public consumption.
But as soon the action started they started crying foul and blaming that they are being singled out. As expected MQM Karachi’s biggest party share in the alleged criminals arrested by the Rangers was larger than others parties. It is directly in proportion to their undisputed control over the city’s fate.
But my issue is that after the long deliberations which were chaired by the prime minister what came out was a tactical move of giving Rangers (read military as all Rangers officers belongs to it) more powers and the ‘so-called free hand.’ In spite of the fact that the biggest metropolis of the country and the commercial hub has become one of the most dangerous cities to live in, the politicians have no strategy to solve the real problems of Karachi. All decisions are tactical to cure the symptoms and not the multiple chronic diseases that have multiplied over the years because of neglect.
Like all commercial hubs Karachi pulls in the people in search of employment from all over the country and beyond, particularly the Bangladeshis and Afghans. Its population has been growing at a much faster rate than other cities. Most job seekers are from the working class. They need accommodation and the city has not launched a single housing scheme for the poor working classes for the last few decades. Who filled in the vacuum? Obviously, the private sector land-grab mafia in cahoots with the bureaucracy. They need patronage which is readily provided by the political parties, in return for big money and future vote if they get registered in Karachi. Similarly the public transport system is inadequate. The people who commute to work and back dangerously on the top of minibuses are angry enough to burn the cars and buses on the slightest irritation. The growth in investment in civic amenities has never been more than two percent, while the population grows conservatively speaking at 3 to 3.5% a year. What else could happen with such a city but that it would burst at its seams?
Biggest crime against the city was committed by the present and the immediate past provincial governments by not holding the local government elections. They are averse to devolve powers to the city government because Karachi is a golden goose for the corrupt politicians and bureaucrats. PPP and MQM have been haggling with each other unendingly at the cost of a suffering city. The PPP’s folly is that it does not want to give enough powers to the local governments of Karachi. The MQM’s greed is that they want absolute control over the city without sharing it with other ethnic communities who form over 50 percent of the population.
Added to all this is the recent phenomenon of sectarian killings which is an extension of the Saudi-Iran conflict in the Muslim countries. And of course the Jihadi groups also find Karachi as good money churning source as they are involved in extortion and kidnapping of people for heavy ransom. They have pitched themselves mainly on the entrance point suburbs of the city and are equipped to bring the tribal areas’ war to Karachi.
All these issues needed a grand strategy, not temporary tactical moves. It might bring down the number of per day killings and maybe less extortion threats, but Karachi cannot be healed unless its chronic diseases are treated.
Talks with Jihadis
Now let’s take the issue of offering unconditional talks to the Taliban and other Jihadi groups who are ruthlessly killing our people and soldiers. If this was just a move to win over Islamists who oppose military action and show them that the Al Qaeda inspired Taliban do not want peace, like it was done before the Swat operation, one could understand it. But the problem here is, as I have earlier written many times and other leading political analysts also maintain, that the PML-N and PTI which are championing the cause ‘give peace a chance’ have little or no understanding of the complexities of the militant Islamist movement which has emerged in most of the Muslim polities.
This movement has its own history and global ideology which is in clash with the 21st century time and space. It is not a clash of religious civilisations, as Huntington had put it and Islamist leaders present it in support of their point of view. It is a clash between the progressive view that societies have to change and move on with the changing political, economic, technological and sociological environment and the retrogressive Islamists view which wants the society to live within the norms and values prescribed in the religious tradition and doctrine set in medieval times.
Unfortunately, political quackery rules Pakistan. In spite of being a critic of military interference in political affairs, it seems that the out-going COAS Kiyani is clearer on how to respond to the terrorism threat than PML-N and PTI. There is hardly a leader at the top who takes time out to read to find out the crucial question: Why Pakistan is suffering terrorism? Why the Muslim societies are going through the internal turmoil? Why Muslim societies have failed to progress without any introspection?
Benazir Bhutto’s last book “Reconciliation” showed that she had tried to tackle the issue of rising Islamism intellectually. Other leaders should engage the objective analysts and read the reports written by them. Otherwise they will not be able to understand the seriousness of the issue, which means failure to have a realistic strategy for the country. Even if the rest of the world is conspiring against the Muslim countries, as Islamists want to believe, there has to be some inherent flaw that gives them the opportunity to successfully destablise the Muslim countries and arrest their growth.
The writer is author of “What’s wrong with Pakistan?” firstname.lastname@example.org