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Circulated on the internet on 17 September 2009
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IS THIS THE END OF INDEPENDENCE?
By Ameer Bhutto
In his book ‘How the Steel was Tempered’, Nikolai Ostrovsky wrote
Man’s dearest possession is life. It is given to him but once, and he must live it so as to feel no torturing regrets for wasted years, never know the burning shame of a mean and petty past; so live that, dying he might say: all my life, all my strength were given to the finest cause in all the world – the fight for the Liberation of Mankind.
Such is the aura of intense romance that national liberation movements are born from. The struggle for an independent Pakistan too was rooted in just such a romance. But the romance began to turn sour at a very early stage as the basic premise of the independence movement contained in the Pakistan Resolution, i.e. equal rights for all nations in Pakistan, was never honored. A plethora of issues arising from the trashing of this grundnorm has systematically eroded the foundations of the state, steadily reversing the positive trends established in the early days. As a consequence of this, as well as subsequent failures of successive governments that opened the door for military adventurism, Pakistan now occupies a top ten slot on the list of failed states, whereas India has become a regional superpower. Not only that, but China, which gained independence two years after Pakistan, is a global superpower and even Malaysia, which gained independence ten years after Pakistan is among the most advanced and developed countries in the world.
The situation in Pakistan at present is worse than ever before. The edifice of state, already decayed due to the mistakes and misfortunes of the past, has been pushed to the brink of collapse under the present dispensation. Vital state institutions are in an advanced state of decomposition, our social fabric lies in shreds, the bond of nationhood is weaker than ever before, our national sovereignty is under attack and is in ruins and our survival as a state is at stake.
Superpowers have always exercised significant influence over Pakistan. The only leader who had the guts to resist their influence found himself on the gallows. But never before has the extent and scope of foreign influence been as all-encompassing as it now is. In the wake of 9-11, US security interests in this region escalated many fold overnight and the Americans felt they needed a strong foothold in South Asia. Hence the ‘You are either with us or against us’ ultimatum from Secretary of State Colin Powell to President Musharraf and Musharraf’s immediate capitulation. Since then, the United States has systematically extended comprehensive control over Pakistan, reducing it to a vassal state or a colony. They feel they have too much at stake vis-à-vis their own security to chance leaving things to incompetent, corrupt Pakistanis and they are well on their way to fully occupying Pakistan, as they have occupied Iraq and Afghanistan. The difference is that the Iraqis and Afghanis resisted whereas our government has welcomed them with open arms. Since the last several years, Americans have reportedly been deploying a significant number of personnel all over the country, particularly in Islamabad, where entire sectors of town are now under American control and even local law enforcement agencies are not allowed to enter, and also in Peshawar, where the Americans have reportedly decided to purchase the bombed ruins of the Pearl Continental Hotel to establish a consulate. The day can not be far when we too might be treated to the Blackwater horror show on our own soil.
Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke has adopted the airs of a viceroy and marches into the Aiwan-e-Sadar and Prime Minister’s House at will every fortnight. Pakistani politicians are told when to launch long marches and when to stop, whom they may criticize and whom they may not criticize, when they may speak up and when they must shut up. So pathetic is the state of our national sovereignty that now even the Saudis have gotten into the act. Immoral and illegal deals struck by disreputable and crooked politicians under the sheltering aegis of foreign powers to escape accountability for corruption and harm caused to the country have made a mockery of our constitution and laws, which are easily bypassed with a nod from the foreign powers. First there was the deal to patch up differences between Musharraf and the Peoples’ Party in October 2007, as a consequence of which the loot and plunder of the nation and even murder cases were forgiven. Then, less than a year later, another deal was struck to give Musharraf safe passage into retirement, with continued full presidential protocol and security and a full pardon of his heinous crimes against the nation. Recently, Zardari has admitted to being part of this deal, though later he denied any such admission. His denial, however, carries little water in light of confirmation on the part of Makhdoom Amin Fahim of such a deal. These shady deals have now replaced the constitution and writ of law as the foundation of the system of government in Pakistan because the narrow vested interests of our new colonial masters so dictate. After Zardari’s confession, all flimsy and hollow pretences of democracy and rule of law stand exposed as a cruel joke. Any lingering vestiges of national sovereignty and independence are gone. We are once again a colony. The Yanks have replaced the Brits as the new gora sahibs.
Where is our elected government in all this mess? Why have they not stood up for national interests? They are busy pandering to the new colonial masters to prolong their hold on power under their tutelage and, of course, making hay while the sun shines. The current dispensation has gone further than Musharraf in appeasing the Americans. The customary, toothless protests against American drone attacks are heard no more and they have thrown open the doors to the illegal entry of American personnel, reportedly without visas, and turned a blind eye to their de facto occupation of substantial portions of Islamabad. In return for the government’s cooperation, the new imperialists have given them a loose reign, for now, to set new records of loot and plunder and generally run amok. But in this wild feeding frenzy, the government has abandoned the public to its own miserable fate, believing like so many client regimes of the past, that US backing alone is sufficient to sustain them in power.
During eighteen months of power, apart from bending over backwards to appease the Americans, everything this government has done has been aimed solely at securing its hold on power. They sought to replace the elected PML(N) Punjab government with Governor’s Rule for which all they got was humiliation. They refused to restore the judges but then had to do so ignominiously under pressure of the long march. Most recently, they have unleashed Brigadier Imtiaz Billa on PML(N), which too is beginning to backfire. But throughout all this wheeling and dealing for power, there has been no relief whatsoever for the people. The Benazir Income Support Program, which is a new name given to the old Usher, Zakat and Baitulmal schemes, is riddled with corruption and graft. The distribution of cheap flour in Ramzan has led to bloodshed and horrifying degradation and humiliation of women who have no choice but to line up among crowds of men if they are to feed their children. Nineteen women are trampled to death while queuing for cheap flour in Karachi and all the government can do is ‘take notice’ of the incident. Unprecedented sums of billions of rupees supposedly allocated for development schemes have been placed under the ‘supervision’ of favored jiyalas as reward for past services. Despite the government’s best efforts at global begging, it has failed to secure significant economic aid from even close friends such as China and the so-called ‘Friends of Pakistan’, and now even America, have refused to cough up more cash until every penny can be accounted for. And all this while, unprecedented wastage on lavish government expenditure, especially pointless foreign junkets, lawlessness, high prices, poverty, unemployment and corruption are rampant and have made life unlivable for most citizens.
Ultimate sovereign political power rests with the people. The future depends on them and their disposition will decide the fate of the country. They have never had it so bad. For the first time in Pakistan’s history, the workers and supporters of a ruling party have turned on their own government and the Sindh Chief Minister and other ministers are regularly humiliated at public occasions by their own party men. But, inexplicably, instead of withdrawing their support from a failed government which they clearly despise and looking for better alternatives, jiyalas continue to latch on in the vain hope that some scraps may fall from the high table of the rulers on which they might feast. Precious few care about what happens to the country or vital state institutions. Even fewer bother to distinguish between right and wrong or good and bad. The rulers understand this and from time to time toss some scraps to the bickering rabble to silence them and they are sated for a while, but national interests suffer.
With the United States embarked on the systematic occupation of Pakistan and our rulers concerned only about personal gain and holding on to power at all costs, who is looking out for Pakistan? We appear to be on a shortcut to a very bleak future. The only way to escape obliteration is for the masses to awaken and arise. Nothing can stand in their way. Nothing is impossible for them. Our rulers and their new colonial masters have their own vested interests at heart and it is futile to vest any hopes in them. This country belongs to the people and only they can, and must, save it.