The Road Less Travelled By Our Leaders Part 1

The events in Pakistan this week represent another setback to Pakistani democracy. Pakistan’s interests would be served by a prompt return to civilian rule and restoration of the democratic process. I urge that Pakistan move quickly in that direction.

I am sending my ambassador back to Islamabad to underscore my view directly to the military authorities and to hear their intentions. I will also be consulting closely with all concerned nations about maintaining peace and stability in South Asia.

Statement by President Bill Clinton
Office of the President
White House
Washington, DC, October 13, 1999

When another bloodless coup took place on October 12 1999, most people had mixed feelings and apathy was the more resounding response at the sight of seeing another entry by the army into politics. With Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan and Zia ul Haq imposing marital law before him, Pervaiz Musharraf didn’t exactly come off as a beacon of light to the citizens of Pakistan. The intervention of the military into the political arena was a clear sign that the veteran political parties’ failed to maintain the country’s stability. The irony in such circumstances is that it has always served the military as an excuse or in their words, the very reason to intervene that unfortunately reveals to be nothing but a crutch.

Let us identify a few key issues, which need to be addressed and so far have yet to leave the shelves, where they have been placed after years’ worth of investigation by numerous committees and commissions. During the tenure of Ayub Khan we saw the failure of the infamous BD system and martial law; Yahya Khan imposed martial law and lost East Pakistan, and Zia ul Haq introduced his revolutionary policy of Islamization, gave birth to sectarian conflicts, yes he too imposed martial law and so far holds the longest rule with 11 years of military dictatorship. With enough domestic issues to deal with since the time of partition, the Army really has not ‘saved’ the country during its periods of political darkness but it has in fact contributed to it. In his first speech Pervaiz Musharraf sought to differentiate himself from his predecessors, putting forward seven points to summarize his vision to lead Pakistan in a new direction:

1) Rebuild national confidence and morale.
2) Strengthen the federation, remove inter provincial disharmony and restore national cohesion.
3) Revive the economy and restore investor confidence.
4) Ensure law and order and dispense speedy justice.
5) Depoliticize state institutions.
6) Devolution of power to the grass roots level.
7) Ensure swift and across the board accountability.

Quite to the contrary, the nation can be seen in a state of total disintegration in regards to the first two points. After the military use and presence in Waziristan and Balouchistan, I can hardly see national unity or cohesion when you are not only fighting but killing your own countrymen. Musharraf handled both scenarios in the worst possible way. You cannot kill your way to peace. The end does not justify the means. How is that not apart of his ‘Enlightened Moderation’ vision? There is no harmony amongst the provinces and the people’s morale is at an all time low. Yes, Akbar Bugti was nothing more than a powerful hoodlum who Bhutto should have dealt with properly but Musharraf did not do a great job either. He turned a criminal into a provincial hero and a national martyr. Alternative methods to removing Bugti would have made Musharraf a more credible leader and there was no need to make his funeral proceedings so secretive. The masses gathered nonetheless and more importantly how dangerous is a dead body? Islam instructs that a dead body needs to be buried. It’s not like they were going to have a shrine created for him, right? So why not play it out in a clean manner. Show the person you killed and make sure you follow it up with the good reason. Why hide it from the public? Tell them the truth, Bugti was a warlord who had an army of 4000~6000 men, who did not believe in Pakistan’s ideology or in the decent livelihood that the Balouchis deserved. The Waziristan situation and this particular aftermath have led to a significant backlash amongst the public and especially within the respective provinces.

Why did Musharraf not remember Balouchistan throughout his seven years? Why did it take him this long to realize that he needs to start developing and investing in the province? The key word to note here is investing. Gwadar turned out to be the money spot, did it not? And Musharraf wanted to carpe diem on it. The same thing goes for NWFP, after the proxy war fought by Zia ul Haq against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, the province and more importantly FATA turned into a sanctuary for the Islamic Mujahideen and the Taliban. After failed military attacks in Waziristan, now he signs a ceasefire treaty, followed by a promise to develop the province? What is with the double standards? This is the same man that preaches to the U.S that military use is not the solution for Iraq or Afghanistan. I suggest the General add the following expression to his philosophy, “Practice what you preach” and update his website while he’s at it.

Some would ask why development has not taken place in Balouchistan, NWFP and Interior Sindh (except for Karachi)? Well there are two reasons, feudalism and discrimination. In most areas, feudalism has been wiped clean from Punjab where till metric level, education is free. The fruits of which will be seen in 10 to 15 years, where the minimum education of a student will be metric level, not including higher education. On the other hand, significant levels of feudalism still exist in the remaining provinces and education is negligible.

The best way to remove feudalism would be to build as many schools across the provinces as well industrial factories to retract the province’s natural resources. That way you have employment for the locals and education for the children. You want to industrialize the country? Go ahead but do not forget the social issues that need to be addressed simultaneously. Education polishes a person; you can not communicate with someone who does not have basic knowledge of his/her country let alone the world. Make education free and mandatory for all children in order to raise awareness amongst the coming generations but make sure the educational system set up is regulated and meets national if not international standards. There is no point to an education if it is not taught properly.

The second reason for lack of development in the mentioned areas is outright discrimination against the lower class. Satisfying the upper classes that enjoy a decent life in the urban areas and major cities creates a bubble effect. Everyone sees bridges and roads being built, thinking “Oh this must be happening everywhere across the country“, but unfortunately the ground reality is that if you go outside the cities, people who don’t live on the same road as some MNA or MPA live a very different life. A life lived at much lower standards, which is not hard to imagine as we see them on a daily basis.

Now I am not certain whether he mentioned those points in order of priority but how many has he really met with relative success? Two (3 and 6) and that’s if decentralizing local governments has been a success (though in theory, such a system is supposed to be effective). Let us be frank about this. If you go to the Government’s or the President’s website, they show clear economic progress Pakistan has made since 1999 to 2004 (Although the current year is 2006). What about the rest? Ask yourself this question, has Pervaiz Musharraf addressed the rest of his nation-building points?

Some of you must be thinking I’ve lost my mind or must be blind because one can see clear signs of development in the country. ‘State of the art’ underpasses, bridges, new roads, car and electronics leasing schemes are all visible to us on a daily basis but are these true reflections development on a national level? If you think it is, then here’s another question. What’s the point of a new building if right below, incidences such as spitting pan, lame graffiti, rape, kidnapping, robbery or drive-by shootings are common?

(To be continued…)

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2 thoughts on “The Road Less Travelled By Our Leaders Part 1

  1. I generally agree with most of your observations and return to true democracy is certainly essential for Pakistan.

    However, I don’t agree with your assessment of Punjab being wiped clean of feudalism. Where do you think the Chaudaries hail from? What about the famous private jails also mentioned in the book “My Feudal Lord”…. or the Mukhtaran Mai gang-rape case in Muzaffargarh, Punjab. There are numerous other such cases that happened in Punjab aswell as other provinces and were brought to the attention of the human rights commission and the world community, which infact, prompted the debate and subsequent review of the Hudood/Women’s rights ordinance.

    There are still a large number of feudal families that exist and dominate the Punjab. Education can certainly empower the masses and do away with feudalism if implemented with sincerety (Hard to beleive since quite a few feudals are in power in Punjab). The other issue is convincing the parents to send their children to schools which often is a problem with children needed in the feilds to help out. The Punjab education campaign launched a year ago is a positive move with ambitious targets and I hope they succeed in it, forcing other provinces to emulate this effort.

  2. I enjoyed your article but I must say that i do not agree that democracy is the way forward for Pakistan. We need a leader but democracy is not the way to go for us as the past brilliantly shows…

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