Pakistan: The Slide, Redemption, and the Surrender

.. by Saeed A. Malik.
In all societies colloquial phrases used with reference to the ethical framework of such societies often form a fairly accurate measure of the ethos of a society.
In the early days of Pakistan, when the flaunting of religiosity? was not yet in fashion, a reputation for corruption was generally considered a black mark. To certify that a person was free of this taint, a pretty common formula was: “maen qasm kha sakta hun ke is khandaan may kissi ne bhi kabhi haraam ka luqma nahin khaya” i.e I can swear that no one in this family has ever partaken of a non-kosher morsel !
But a couple of decades down the line, there was a rearrangement. Morality was nudged off the pedestal by practicality. “Ooper ki kamai” i.e enhancement of emoluments by extortion, came to be accepted as a distinct advantage, but one to which shame was still attached. And then we graduated to where bribery became the norm in society, though it was still not openly flaunted. And then we reached the top rung. Everyone and his uncle was on the take or the giving end. The time had come to put into works a new generation of Pakistanis who will be nourished on nothing but “haraam”.
At this point corruption moved up from being acceptable, to being justified by phrases like: ” but who is not corrupt! “; ” yes, but where is the proof against him? “; ” well OK, he may have made some money here and there, but the least you must give him is that after all he is a ” yaaron ka yaar” i.e though he feeds on the vitals of the nation, he does not dine alone– he throws table scraps to his lackeys as well!
Whatever value system or moral grounding we had as a society, was was dug up and completely overlaid by rampant greed? and theft, and every outrage committed towards the satiation of this hunger began to be considered rightful and proper.
Musharraf’s NRO bestowed legal and moral sanction on this system of unalloyed and unchecked depredation committed on a hapless nation by the ones who were its solemnly sworn protectors.
This gave us the Zardari-Shareef decade of daylight plunder of Pakistan and every possible crime was committed in the furtherance of it, from blackmail to extortion to murder. And all these were consistently condoned and justified by ever expanding armies of “elite” beneficiaries or hangers-on, by the magic of the phrase: “but where is the proof?”
The proof was indeed there, but it lay hidden in the empty bellies of the poor and deprived–too far away from eyes sworn not to see. It lay also in the magnificent mansions and chateaus of the vultures who had stashed abroad, the wealth stolen from their country. But the willfully blind chose not to see these despite the refulgent glare of these palaces.
It was not just that the coffers of the state were hollowed out; to make theft a seamless operation the civil service was co-opted and destroyed. And to put the thieves beyond the reach of law, every institution of law enforcement was undermined, while laws were crafted to abet the thieves. To further enhance their immunity and to indemnify them against the possibility of being divested from power, the constitution itself was mutilated.
But more than all this was destroyed. The national ethos and value system were destroyed, honesty and integrity began being looked down upon, and those holding on to these values began being looked upon as fools.And any lingering sense of patriotism was squelched underfoot. To appear to be working for the U.S became a mark of honour; exhibition of deep but servile relationships with dirty rich Indians became the stuff of glamour. Pakistan’s interests were accorded the lowest value possible. The only value Pakistan retained was that of a land which could be stripped without let or hindrance.
Every sanctity was erased, and outright thuggery came to occupy the vacated sacred spaces.
As war against the terrorists was repeatedly impeded whenever there was a suspicion by the government that the furtherance of these operations would lead to an exposure of a nexus between terrorists, black funds, and political bosses, and as the state was continually being hollowed out, the army did not move a muscle. As the ultimate guarantors of national security the army high command should have felt compelled to make recourse to the Supreme Court in an effort to halt this catastrophic erosion of national security. But it did not. Probably it did not have the gumption to see that economic ruin when working in lockstep with a dedicated fifth column can cause countries to fold up and armies to be defeated, without a single shot being fired!
The elevation of Asif Zardari to the presidency was a metaphor for this epoch of rot and filth— a manifestation of the depths of national disgrace and dishonour to which we had sunk.
Any hope that Pakistan could be recovered from this fall could only have remained alive in the heart of a fool. But redemption did at long last miraculously dare to put in an appearance. Imran Khan won the elections, and the higher judiciary and the army, for once, seemed to stand by the higher interests of their country.
But by this time the country was a suppurating mess with its infrastructure for governance destroyed,? every higher value subverted, while economically it was in an advanced state of ruin. The hollowing out of Pakistan to bring to bring it to this state seemed to have been lifted right out of the pages of ” The Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” i.e to run up a debt so large that it cannot be repaid so that national sovereignty is pawned off to the creditors. I believe this was a DELIBERATE goal of both Zardari and Nawaz Sharif, quite apart from feeding their greed as well.
This situation was made all the more dire by a U.S committed to sabotaging Pakistan’s pivot to China, an ideologically super-charged India which made no secret of its zeal to undo Pakistan; and an active fifth column committed to subvert and undermine the country.
If ever there was a time to impose national emergency rule in Pakistan to stabilize and save it from the after effects of ravages visited upon it, this was such a time. But the powers that be decided to rectify the situation through the very system which was responsible for bringing the country to its knees in the first place. This was a blunder pregnant with consequences which soon began to unravel on a daily basis creating ever more instability in the country. The latest drama in the Supreme Court was just the latest link in this chain.
The present state of national demoralization and disillusionment was not reached of a sudden. It began with Nawaz Sharif’s cavalcade down G.T Road after he was convicted by the Supreme Court. He immediately began to test the strength and resolve of the new government each mile of the way, eroding it with every mile. In military parlance a defeated enemy was allowed to regroup .By its inaction the first step towards surrender had been taken by the state. By the same token it was signaled that though the rapid fall of the state might be slowed down, there was to be no turn around in its fortunes. The system which had caused devastation to the state could least be expected now to salvage it.
Over time Nawaz Sharif gained new allies. Prime among them were the cohorts of flunkies fattened by his largesse, who began crawling out of the woodwork after the initial shock of his ouster, but heartened by lack of any follow- up by the government; the pro-Sharif sleeper cells among the bureaucracy who began sabotaging Imran’s government as its credibility began to crumble; the grave economic situation playing havoc with the poor man, which was in good part a crop sown by the Zardari-Sharif combine, but left to be harvested by the new government; the bought and paid- for judges of the higher judiciary who were inducted by Iftikhar Mohmmad Chaudary– after keeping their heads below the parapet for a? while they came out in the open when they decided that the present dispensation held no terrors for them; and Nawaz Sharif’s last ally was the utter moral delinquency of a people who had lost their value base and saw no incongruity between mouthing religiosity on the one hand, while justifying heartless plunder of their country,on the other.
In time all these forces, aided and abetted by the monumental incompetence of the Imran Khan government, coalesced into a potent fifth column, threatening Pakistan with massive internal instability. The event that marked their triumph, and the craven and unprincipled surrender of the government AND THE STATE, was brought about by the collaboration of corrupt judges, sold out doctors, and venal politicians on both sides, which allowed Nawaz Sharif to go abroad for treatment for which there was no leeway in law and no precedent in fact. In qualitative terms, this event was a formal admission and validation of the fact that the powerful in Pakistan are above the law essentially on the strength of national wealth they have looted. Thus this event should be placed on a pedestal of ignominy at par with Parvez Musharraf’s infamous NRO, as a benchmark of national shame? brought about primarily by certain venal but well known judges of the superior judiciary.
The next to be sprung will be Mariam Safdar.
So much for hopes of redemption. So much for “Riasat e Madina” !
P.S. One reason why the government tottered but has yet to fall is that neither Zardari, nor Nawaz Sharif was willing to part with his loot to the extent required as investment towards achieving this aim. It is ironic indeed that in the last resort it was the same greed which had brought Pakistan to its knees, that gave respite to Pakistan in this instance. But this may not be the case when spiraling prices and hunger bring the masses out on the streets in the not too distant future.? .. Source

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