Friday, May 27, 2011

Rapid effective solutions

We’ve been sleeping with the enemy, that much is incontrovertible. But getting the Pakistani nation to realize that we face imminent demise unless some emergent action is taken is like trying to get the deeply somnolent, nay comatose, national ostrich pulled from under the sand.

As though harboring Osama bin Laden for years in the comfort of a million dollar mansion in Abbottabad were not enough, we were invaded from within, by an enemy we pretend not to see. Strolling through the backfields of PNS Mehran, simply cutting the barbed wire, probably smiling at the unmanned guard posts and security cameras , first allegedly twelve, then supposedly six and now apparently only four militants held one of the world’s most well-trained armed forces at bay for eighteen hours. The Karachi sky lit up with the destruction of the two Orion PC-3 that just sat there in seeming wait for this invasion.
Initially the story went that two militants escaped, later this was denied. There appears sufficient circumstantial evidence to show that this was an inside-job.

As soon as the incident occurred all national military installations were placed on “high alert”. One wonders if they should not have been on eternal high alert after the bin Laden incident or the GHQ attack or since 9/11 for that matter-but that’s where our “sab theek ho jay ga” (everything will be alright) Pakistani mantra always comes in handy.

In the raucous debates over the Abbotabad and Karachi incidents the straw that might well break the camel’s back is being ignored: power and impending food riots. But the civil and military government seems totally inured to this. At least Ahmad Shuja Pasha offered to resign after the bin Laden incident. The Navy’s Noman Bashir does not even consider the invasion of the PNS Mehran a security lapse. Is he confirming that it was an inside job or were they jinn of some kind?

As much as the Mehran incident has broken the spirit of Pakistanis the world over and robbed them of the last shred of self-respect, Bashir audaciously travels in a sparkling white Rs. 7 million bullet proof BMW and on retirement gets two plots of land in a prestigious locality. All from the taxpayer that is currently contemplating suicide or selling her children or marrying his daughter to an octogenarian for bail-out money.

After four long days of the Mehran attack the civil and military leadership finally met, sans the Defense Minister Ahmad Mukhtar who was traipsing the US. Is this a PPP thing to travel when the country burns? Anyway, the resolution that came out of this plastic meeting was that the armed forces would work to prevent acts of terrorism. Excuse me? They weren’t doing that till now?

I condole the death of Hakim Ali Zardari but wonder why taxpayer money was spent on helicopters hovering over the funeral. As it is when the most ignominious and critical incidents in their rule occur, Asif Ali Zardari and Gilani leave the country for jaunts to France, the Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Russia, China etc. It is also a matter of record that neither of them provided any coherent statement to the people after the Abbotabad and Karachi incidents-the nation recognizes their corrupt incompetence, but for old-times’ sake, nay vote-times’ sake, we could have licked our wounds together.

There’s always a silver lining in each cloud; with the rapidity of a technical knock-out the nation has realized that the army had better stay in its barracks. They can’t do what they trained for so they should not be pulled into government. And on a sadder note: the incidents stole the romance the nation had for the army. The armed forces are just another facet of a fast degenerating nation: lackadaisical, undisciplined and clearly corrupt.

The metastatic cancer of extremism that has spread widely in Pakistan, the role of the United States in destabilizing and splitting Pakistan to get at its nuclear assets and reduce China’s regional and world influence and India’s eternal enmity should really be moot issues for those that really value Pakistan’s survival. Daily protests occur against the widespread lack of power. Factories and businesses are so widely affected that unemployment rises and a population threatened with scrambling for food can be brought to the precipice of starvation. Suddenly.

These are not problems that the current corrupt clueless government has even the distant ability to manage. First and foremost the Zardari-Gilani national joke must be retired. It is not Pakistani to leave volitionally and with grace. Thankfully the army is not an option. Sadly though the replacements on offer make one’s despair complete, and yet essentially anyone could outsmart the national embarrassment that the current government is.

The days when detailed twenty-point agendas and five year plans were made for Pakistan should be long gone. The current government must be replaced by a vote of no-confidence by the Parliament. The second and most important action agenda is the economy: it needs to be yanked out of its abyss and the population provided with basic needs. Third, house to house de-weaponization. We are not the United States where there is a right to bear arms. Carrying a weapon should be made heavily and immediately punishable. Fourth, a policy of exterminating domestic terrorism and radicalization as well as a cohesive and united face as far as the United States is concerned. Pakistan has suffered from a lack of historic continuity in terms of agreements made by past rulers with none of the details shared with successors. We have to rely on WikiLeaks to give us the scoop.

As a nation we have long looked at accountability as quasi-treason, especially when it is asked for from the armed forces. And thus in the sub theek ho jaye ga mantra we have swept everything under our now mountainous national carpet of shame. The prognosis is not guarded but grave. We seem to hurtling in free fall. Sincerity, alacrity and smartness can parachute us to survival. But in the face of our imbecile leaders and the enormity of our issues, crying, I brace myself.

Mahjabeen Islam is an addictionist, family physician and columnist.