By Farrukh Khan Pitafi
No wonder that when money and property become the primary concern of the defenders of the state, fighting the real threat becomes secondary. Terrorists can kill your children and mine but how can they attack the children of the elite who live outside the country enjoying life on the taxpayers’ money?
“A country tainted by corrupted bureaucrats, army officers, and politicians, by governments rotten to the core, by protected mafias, and by the bloated profits of the heroin industry and the arms trade. Add to this the brutal hypocrisy of the Islamist parties, which exploit the state religion, and the picture is complete” — Tariq Ali, The Duel.
Pakistan, it must be pointed out, is a realtors’ paradise. For the last 64 years, what else have we done beyond crowing about our geo-strategic location and then selling our property to other states? And for these star-crossed 64 years, the single-minded obsession of our state has been India and single-minded pursuit the military buildup. We sold our land to build this army and the nation’s defences. What actually started with the establishing of a US listening post in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa against the Soviets, has grown into a full-blown industry. Now our armed forces whisper in the in-camera session of parliament how a base in Balochistan was leased to the UAE and now is under US operational control. Similarly, our news channels very proudly break the news that China has very generously shown its readiness to assume control of the Gwadar port.
And that about sums up the business interests of our people too. When, during the Musharraf regime, the financial state of the country was better, we did nothing but borrow money from the banks to invest in property and when the property bubble burst, the banks were left with countless bad debts. This is a country where the most powerful man is not the president, the prime minister, the army chief or any other chief for that matter, but a property developer who manages a housing authority named after the country’s navy. Faisal Saleh Hayat, a sitting federal minister, once told me in my show that when he was federal interior minister under Musharraf, he feared being arrested upon the request of the very same property developer. Imagine the power of realtors in the Islamic republic who build their power by gifting money and property to those who matter the most. And do not forget the defence housing authorities either.
But let us not digress. It is a telling comment on the nature of our state that it has preoccupied itself with the geography of the country not its demography. Oh, people of the country were important at the start all right. But their importance primarily rested on the state’s obsession to project them as a potential threat that needs control. The state had hardware, it also had a people that it claimed was prone to radicalisation and communism but it did not have proper software to indoctrinate. Then it discovered the power of religion and since then it has been our state’s preferred method of social control.
Religion, owing to its emphasis on morality, usually is supposed to build one’s character and discourage corruption. But not here. During Ziaul Haq’s time, the drug trade was one of the most cherished occupations of our state. Even today when we are busy inventing conspiracy theories about American support to the Pakistani Taliban, their actual financial backbone, the drug caravans that originate from Afghanistan, pass through Balochistan and reach Iran, continue unabated. You can visit Chaghai to view it with your own eyes.
No wonder that when money and property become the primary concern of the defenders of the state, fighting the real threat becomes secondary. Terrorists can kill your children and mine but how can they attack the children of the elite who live outside the country enjoying life on the taxpayers’ money? Deals are cut with the terrorists to avoid any serious showdown. When the forces of the world take things in their own hands and take out some terrorists, our glorified prime time anchors are used to whip up jingoism and spew conspiracy theories. The journalists who fail to cooperate should learn a lesson from the example of Saleem Shahzad.
In fact, Saleem Shahzad’s assassination can help in explaining a dangerous trend. Scene one: PNS Mehran attack takes place and it takes our forces 17 hours to free the base from four terrorists. Scene two: Saleem Shahzad claims a dialogue between al Qaeda and our security establishment. Scene three: he is abducted and killed. Scene four: the US government demands investigation, then claims that Ilyas Kashmiri was killed in a drone strike. Instead of celebrating the death of the Mehran attack mastermind, as if in anger, the forces go on an arresting spree to round up as many Americans in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as possible. Was he too a strategic asset? And then we have The New York Times report that the officers responsible for finding Osama’s location have been apprehended, not the ones responsible for his presence here. Do you need any further interpretation? I wish this efficiency was shown in apprehending the plotters and killers of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and Salmaan Taseer Shaheed.
And if you were expecting any course correction from the democratic government, you know better now. The prime minister threatened disqualification under Article 63 of the MPs who question Pakistan’s armed forces. Yours truly received an insulting PEMRA advice on hosting a show on the Balochistan situation. The actual crime, I am told, is that I keep questioning the prime minister’s priorities.
And the PM’s priorities are evident. He wants to stay in power and in order to do that he will not mind cutting deals with the devil. Also while his feudal pomp may or may not be there any more, the mentality persists. Submit to the powerful, crush the weak. Now the new enemy is the media and the PML-N because they have challenged this perverse agenda of the state and the government’s institutions.
As things stand today, this state’s future seems as sad as its past. And I do not see any better future unless things really change. After all, it is a state that prefers Chaudhry Nisar over Javed Hashmi, Yousaf Raza Gilani over Benazir Bhutto, Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Hafeez Sheikh and of course Imran Khan over Mian Nawaz Sharif. Tell me, do you see any hope?
The writer is an independent columnist and a talk show host.
Source: The Daily Times, Pakistan