Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Of abdication, vacillation and decisions

Strange that it is France where our leaders abdicate to when Pakistan is either drowning in biblical proportion floods or frying in the greatest debacle after its 1971 division. While an entire populace sat stunned, betrayed and sleepless at the American Abbotabad strike, Prime Minister Gilani and a troupe of fifty luxuriated in the $800 a night Paris Intercontinental. Why did the Speaker of the House or the wives of the various officials need to go?

Is finding the World’s Most Wanted on Pakistani soil so much of an everyday occurrence that the Prime Minister seemed rested and his colleagues all smiles? After May 2nd America released a volley of information to the world. But Pakistan’s establishment seemed to have been given a paralytic. And when the silence did break it was nonsense that spewed forth and continues to. These are the people that we elected and the military and ISI that were once able to galvanize the nation with fiery speeches.

The insult to injury that Pakistan’s government, armed forces and ISI add to Pakistanis the world over is difficult to encapsulate in words. It would have been easy to vilify America or demonize India or abuse Israel, but when your own elected representatives and the armed forces that swelled you with pride and the intelligence agency you thought was superb are the ones that pretty much crucify Pakistan, hope all but evaporates. Is ghar ko aag lag gayi ghar key chiragh sey (this house was burned by its own candle).

The mealy-mouthed Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir is a smear on Pakistan’s Foreign Office. In a clear clash with Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Haqqani who repeatedly spoke of an inquiry, Bashir was content with a review. Leon Panetta was quoted as not sharing information with Pakistan as they would leak it to bin Laden and Bashir said that “we have the highest regard for Mr. Panetta”. Icing on the cake: “we realized that there was invasion of Pakistan’s airspace due to a ticker tape on the television”. This is not funny, only ignominious.

A statement on the website of the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement reads: “US helicopters entered Pakistani airspace making use of blind spots in the radar coverage due to hilly terrain. US helicopters’ undetected flight into Pakistan was also facilitated by the mountainous terrain, efficacious use of latest technology and ‘nap of the earth’ flying techniques.” So here’s the recipe, come invade us, tried and tested, it works!

The only credit that General Kayani gets is that he looked like a truck had just run him over. Interior Minister Rehman Malik shooed away reporters but had all kinds of time for the Saudi royals and Iran’s President Ahmadinejad to both of whom he paid a warm visit speaking with folded hands and deference. What of the millions that elected the PPP, don’t they deserve an answer or comfort, something? The Air Force Chief all but ripped off the scab that was barely beginning on the national psyche when he said that the radars on the western borders were not jammed they were off! And then that stealth technology was used and we couldn’t have detected them anyway. We really feel secure now.

But then it’s our fault isn’t it? We get the corrupt and the incompetent perhaps because we are damned as a people. Our own vacillation knows no bounds. The jihadists have woven their network into our society overtly and covertly, many a time with our permission. And now that our neighbor or servant has the philosophy and ability to hold us up at gunpoint or blow up our schools, we are really stuck. For within us are the likes of Amir Liaquat Hussain and the venom that they spew, and the television channels that they influence. Many pseudo-scholars like him have been successful in swaying the population by inciting hatred rather than promoting peace. On one such television channel the anchor spoke of bin Laden in the “unki” plural and respectful form and his daughter not as beyti but as his sahibzadi (honorable way of address). These are small cues but vital subliminal statements.

Pakistan remains a nation divided and is reaping the fruits of this deep division. The 6000 terrorist attacks and 30,000 innocent Pakistanis killed by fellow Pakistanis since 9/11 mean less to the population than the invasion of our sovereignty by the United States. We as a people need to understand, agree and unite on the premise that ridding our nation of terrorism can only happen with the help of the population. It must be de-weaponized and thought-controlled with regard to terrorism.

If bin Laden could have lived in Haripur and Abbotabad for nine years, under the nose of the Kakul Military Academy, what confidence should the nation have about the protection of its nuclear assets? Or is that what America is after?

Judicial commissions and closed sessions of Parliament are all delaying and diffusing techniques, crafted to gain political points. The “referendum” of the MQM is a misnomer, it is more of a survey and again serves to bide time. People who love Pakistan deeply are beginning to question its creation. This is not a time to create more bitterness and skepticism; sharp surgical action is needed to yank the nation out of its dark malaise. Prime Minister Gilani in an address to Parliament incredulously demanded several questions of the nation: what was the citizenship of bin Laden, what of the thousands dead in terrorist attacks, why has all this happened? Perhaps it was jet lag from French jaunts for even the Speaker of the House looked pained and confused as the Prime Minister seemed to be asking questions the country should be demanding of his elected administration.

Pakistanis are very slick at getting out of the worst pickles. Commissions and parliament sessions should be easy as pie. A no-confidence motion should be passed in the Parliament post-haste or a true referendum held on this one issue of resignation. And President Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani and ISI Chief Ahmad Shuja Pasha should gracefully resign. It’s generally three strikes or a grave violation and you’re out. This is as grave as it gets. Pakistan desperately needs a change at the helm. Immediately.

Mahjabeen Islam is an addictionist, family physician and columnist. mahjabeen.islam@gmail.com