Lack of political democracy, economic inequality and the oppression of minority nationalities have become deeply embedded in the consciousness of a mass which increasingly questions the very basis of its state. The people being referred to here are those of our neighbouring country, Pakistan.
The country is in state of acute economic, political and, most importantly, social crisis. The people have been unfortunate to the extent that never in the nation’s history have they experienced a democratic leadership in the real sense. The present regime under President Pervez Musharraf appears to be a puzzle to the countrymen, as well as to the people and leaderships of other countries. Aggravating the complications of the puzzle is a leader who is a bad listener, lacks strategic vision and believes that ruling Pakistan is like running an army division.
With a vision to transform his country into an enriched, enlightened and modernised Pakistan, he took over as the President of Pakistan almost a decade ago in 1999, when the then Prime Minister was overthrown in a Military coup. Thus, with a modern outlook he initially set out to please the affluent elites and educated by opting for what in the civilised world would be referred to as progressive reforms, only to realise that such actions lead to agitation among the religious extremists – a much bigger force in Pakistan. He, thus, has been assuring the extremists that he shall protect Pakistan like a ‘Fortress of Islam’ with all his might. On the other hand, he has been assuring the people with progressive mindsets that their coming generations would live in a modern Pakistan. What I see is a confused leadership trapped in cobwebs in the middle, leaving a country which is at war with itself.
The picture gets grimmer with smugglers and drug dealers having an unhindered run and religious extremists enjoying a free hand. The country has all of five provinces, out of which two North West Frontier and Baluchistan make it no secret that their model is the Taliban. Things that are otherwise normally considered pleasurable were banned in these provinces. Just to cite an example, the famous singer Gulzar Alam in Peshawar was thrashed brutally for singing and his two sons were harassed equally.
The education system is becoming a horror in Pakistan with each passing year; the number of madrasas, instead of decreasing, are on the rise. Around half of the children do not have a proper school to go to. As for the pupils in the madrasas, they are being trained to live a strictly fundamentalist lifestyle, adhering to all religious customs. One-third of them are trained in the use of arms and ammunitions and are prepared strictly for suicide bombing. The whole process is aimed at jihad and the pupils are duped into believing that they would attain a place in heaven.
The jehadis have entrenched themselves everywhere in Pakistan, and have become a law unto themselves. The support of these jehadis is as massive and demonic as their ideas. They have the main say in the country’s most extensive educational system, they enjoy the patronage of the underworld and the drug dealers. The police and authorities remain helpless in front of this force. One can imagine how prevalent the influence on the society these fanatics have. The plight of the women in Pakistan is unexplainable. The legislation seems to be ineffective when it comes to putting an end to the dehumanisation and torture of the weaker gender in a male-dominated society.
Sectarian violence is rampant in the country; there are killings of the Shias by the Sunnis and in turn retaliations cause further anarchy. But the Sunnis greatly outnumber the Shias and thus mainly it is the Shias who get massacred. Sipah-e-Saheba and Sipah-e-Mohammed go on a rampage against the other sects and the result is just plain brutal bloodshed.
Though the picture is gloomy and disappointingly hopeless, the provinces which constitute Pakistan are rich in natural resources which if properly utilised would prove to a boon for the nation. These had a tremendous potential for prosperity as parts of an undivided India.
Captivated by sectarian violence, fanatic fundamentalism, highly corrupted social ethos, mismanagement of Islam, extreme backwardness, the country is in a political, economic and a social mess, and desperately needs to break free from these bondages. The people need to wake up from their deep slumber of ignorance, make their voices heard, come forward and take initiative to do something. Accepting the present situation and running away from it is not a solution. I have seen the general attitude of the youth. Students of Pakistan, who study with me, lack the feeling of nation building, the urge to go back and do something for it lacks in them, they shun the idea away by expressing that improvisation from such a deplorable situation is next to impossible.
Can these unsurpassable difficulties be overcome? Yes, provided Musharraf sincerely gets rid of his hostility against India and succeeds in transforming both the state’s economic structure and political framework. Once the goodwill with India is established, disputes between the two countries can be resolved. Until the leadership on the other side of the border is stuck up with Kashmir and other futile grievances ,the rising hopes of reconciliation will keep getting dashed. It is also clear that the result of the change in attitude will be extremely beneficial for Pakistan, as defence expenditure will get substantially reduced and the funds will be available for providing better health services, spreading education and giving thrust to other civic developmental steps.