By Najam Sethi
HERE IS A brief litany of, and comment on, some core socio- political developments in the space of the last seven days. They shed much light on the deep and unrelenting crisis of governance, national security and economy that is spreading a sense of anger, fear, despair and helplessness all round.
Over 100 people were killed in senseless inter- ethnic- party bloodletting in Karachi in the last two weeks. The issue was seemingly minor: a quarrel over the spoils of two Karachi seats relating to the recently held elections in Azad Kashmir.
The MQM quit coalition- office, compelling its Sindh Governor, Ishrat- ul- Ebad, to resign as well. The PPP responded by legislating the Commissionerate System that is aimed at disinheriting the MQM from its local power base. Now, after the usual to- ing and froing by the usual clutch of conciliator- suspects, the status quo ante is being restored. Mr Ebad is back in the saddle, the MQM has been “ awarded” the two AJK seats and the Commissionate System will be disbanded shortly. What was the point of it all? Why must discredited politicians continue to play games over the carcasses of citizens? The Governor of the State Bank, Shahid Kardar, has resigned after barely nine months in office. He says he was not prepared to sanction the reckless monetary demands of the federal government in view of the financial crunch faced by the country.
The IMF, World Bank and other donors would agree with him. Why must such domestic and international covenants be broken with impunity by a bankrupt government desperately in need of foreign injections that are conditional on good fiscal practises? Is the departure of the similarly bureaucracy- besieged Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Nadeem ul Haq, also on the cards now? What signal will the exits of these top- notch professionals send to markets, investors and donors at home and abroad? The ISI has supposedly mended fences with the CIA after months of mutual bickering and recriminations. The “ rules of engagement” are said to have been drawn up. Thus nearly 100 CIA operators who had been expelled earlier are officially back on duty in Pakistan. The US has announced a partial opening of the funds- tap to Pakistan. But the “ objectionable” drone strikes are soaring, the US Congress is publicly pressing for restrictions on US aid to Pakistan, the US media has published old kickback allegations made by Dr AQ Khan against a former army chief and another top general, and the FBI has arrested the head of a key ISI- funded Kashmir- NGO based in America. Still, if Pakistan’s civil- military leaders want to do business with America, then they must not fan anti- Americanism at home. Why must they seek dubious populist short- term leverage with the US at the expense of long-term alienation and dislocation from the mainstream international community?
The bonafides of the Judicial Commission inquiring into the Abbottabad incident were suspect from Day- One because it was packed with obedient military Yes- Men. Now, having barely waded into the thicket, one of its key members, General (retd) Nadeem Ahmad has said publicly that the ISI is innocent of both complicity and incompetence. This is widely perceived as an inspired attempt to undermine the Commission’s independence and lead it by the nose. It is unprecedented for a member of an inquiry commission in midstream to go public with his “professional” views. He cannot investigate and prejudge any issue or institution.
If Justice Javed Iqbal, the chairman, doesn’t nudge the self- righteous general out, the commission’s credibility will plunge and with the good judge’s too.
Why is the military bent on rubbing the nose of the civilians in the dust? Why does it want to retain charge of foreign policy when it is clearly such a disastrous and debilitating exercise? The populist policies of the Punjab Chief Minister, Shahbaz Sharif, and the Prime Minister- in- Waiting, Nawaz Sharif, are a prime example of misplaced concreteness.
The Sasti Roti Scheme wasted Rs 10 billion down the drain. Now the Yellow Cab Scheme is fated to sink another Rs 8 billion.
THIS IS the Sharifs’ answer to Asif Zardari’s Benazir Income Support Program, except that the latter puts Rs 1000 in the pockets of at least 3.5 million poor women in the Pakistani countryside while the former scratches the backs of 20,000 middle class men in the urban areas of Punjab. The Yellow Cab Scheme in 1992 was an outrageous scam the last time round and it will be no different this time too. The Cabs have been doled out on the basis of political and electoral considerations rather than the yardstick of demand and supply of cab services for income generation. Much the same brazen disregard for public propriety attaches to the PMLN’s soft- pedaling on the disgraced MNA Anjum Aqeel who is charged with massive corruption and was forcibly freed from police custody by PMLN hooligans. If Mr Aqeel hadn’t dished out tens of crores to the PMLN party fund, he would have been chucked out of the party by now. But is this the yardstick by which members are welcomed and appointed to high office in the PMLN? Isn’t this precisely the sort of hypocrisy condoning corruption and violation of the law in the mainstream parties that is tilting the masses in favour of Imran Khan and opening avenues for the likes of Jehangir Tareen et al of the Clean Party? And so on, ad nauseam. Angry columnists are spilling barrels of ink exhorting the masses to launch an “Islamic Revolution” while self- righteous anchorpersons are warning of “rivers of blood” to sweep away the accumulated filth of sixty years of corrupt, dysfunctional Pakistan.
Alas. The civil- military chattering classes are fiddling while Pakistan inexorably melts down.
The writer is the editor of The Friday Times
Source: Mail Today, New Delhi