Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sher View: Pakistan: a fragile moment.

After a jet lagged appearance on Riz Khan's talk show on Al Jazeera International, I have had time to reflect a little more deeply on the situation in my country. To say these are precarious times would be an understatement; Pakistan is perhaps at its most fragile moment since its independence in 1947. It is blatantly clear that self interest, which has been the hall mark of most of the nations leaders, be they in uniform or not, has begun to unfold in a sadistic soup of side deals, broken promises, exiles and finally the show of the power of the gun muzzle through 'emergency powers'. 160 million souls have now been again imprisoned behind the shadow of a political intent that is clearly only serving the handful who have decided to determine what is best for the country.

Sadly this attitude and apathy is not confined to Pakistanis only; the United States and others have taken the position of a rhetorical slap on the hand of a general who has gone mad, while hoping their political contriving with just one political leader might be the solution. In the backdrop of this the country's former Chief Justice, with perhaps the record of being the only Chief of an apex court to be dismissed twice in succession, has forgotten his oath to uphold law and taken to supporting a political rather than a legal position.

As emails pour in from observers and friends from abroad wondering why Pakistan is trying to commit political suicide there is a lack of solutions. As the general promises elections one can only wonder if these elections, if and when they are held, can mean anything with an election commission that will partial or indeed with only one political party being a serious contender. It is all the more baffling to note that in the middle of this turmoil an extremist insurgency continues in Waziristan and Swat where militant Islamists have raid their own flags, torn down Pakistan's flag and essentially declared their own Emirate. If the general wanted to combat extremism there is no evidence that he has moved against those elements who clearly have committed treasonable acts and even more surprisingly the former Chief Justice has not felt it worthy to condemn what is clearly an act of treason.

Interestingly the view that some might feel, in the West, that between General Musharaf and Benazir Bhutto there is perhaps a possibility to curb 'terrorism'. In the first place home grown militancy is not linked to Al Qadea, but more a knee jerk reaction to Musharraf's failure to deal with the causes of the resentment within the masses. There is no doubt in my mind that unless a broad based return to a truly democratic system does not occur the political and social will to deal with militancy will not emerge. It is clear that even the religious political parties do not want militancy like that in Waziristan but this is something that has not been understood by General Musharraf and his minders.

It would seem that as this political stalemate continues, even though a placating promise of an election might be some ray of hope, the reality is these are all truncated solutions. There is not enough people power on the streets to topple the general and perhaps only Imran Khan, cricketer turn politician understands that unless the students do not take to the streets the only hope is that the generals comrades in uniform either convince him to back down or take the measures to be a true obundsman for the country and bring some change to the system. Yet will the politicians promise in return not to go back to corruption and nepotism which seems to have been the hallmark of each civilian government. This is, as I said, a fragile moment and its time for Pakistanis to think of the country and not themselves.

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