Fate hanging in the balance

Not an individual’s fate but the nation’s is involved, because if we get it wrong this time, and take the wrong turning, the gods won’t forgive us and we will have time enough to bewail the consequences. Even if Mossad and RAW together had scripted a plan for subverting Pakistan, they couldn’t have bettered what we are doing to ourselves. Parts of Balochistan long swept by unrest, terrorists striking at will across the country, and now the fires of insurrection burning in an arc from Waziristan to Swat. All because of a mixing of roles: the army neglecting what it should be doing and doing that for which it is entirely unequipped.

The most striking thing about Pakistan today is the yawning gulf between danger and response. While the country is in turmoil and Pakistanis who care to think about such things are fearful of the future, those at the helm — whom God knows we never chose as our saviours — are lost in a world of their own, concerned only about self-preservation, this at a time when their inadequacy stands proven beyond words.

If they had the nation’s good at heart they would be thinking of an orderly exit. But in the turbulent world of Pakistani politics this is one manoeuvre we have yet to master. Our horse riders are great at grand entrances but a tad clueless about how to leave the arena when their time is up. Nero at least was aware that Rome was burning. The guys we are saddled with seem unaware of the price of their ineptitude. Why else would they be playing power games that are only making the nation sicker and adding to the sum of its cynicism? Pakistan has withstood external enemies and is more than a match for them but the gathering rot within is proving more powerful than external machinations. We know how we have got into this mess. Our military leadership thought it was being smart when it signed on with the US after 9/11. Six years down the road we are living with the consequences. Fear and greed lay behind that fateful decision. Anyhow, no use crying over the past, we have got to move on.

But how? Not by becoming indifferent to what is happening in the tribal areas, but by looking at the causes of the insurgency there, how the Baitullah Mehsuds have taken up arms, why their clout is increasing, and why the state is so helpless to meet the challenge they pose.

Sick and tired of the present situation most Pakistanis want their country’s future secured. They want it rescued from its current predicament but they also know that this rescuing won’t come from the army which is a part of the problem, or from the leading lights of the political class who have proved too small-minded to be concerned about the larger picture.

All the more reason for corrective steps because of a strange mood we are caught in. The waters are rising but all that the powers-that-be are concerned about are their petty interests. Hard to imagine a greater disconnect between fantasy and reality. National bankruptcy can’t travel further than this. Such moods at other times and in other places have been the prelude to revolutions. But in our case no such luck.

Ayaz, a columnist for Dawn, writes for THT from Islamabad