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No spin zone: Asian tiger romp-in-the-woods

April 16, 2011

It was Mian Nawaz Sharif who boasted of making Pakistan an Asian Tiger. His glib tongued successor Shaukat Aziz echoed the empty promise. The tiger still romps the woods. Now, President Zardari thinks by merely calling a moot of economic gurus, the tiger can be netted and brought back to Islamabad from the wilds.

God speed to the president. But a jump start never worked. How many more moons to go before the impoverished, corrupt and moth-eaten economy can start to show any positive results? Apart from worshipping the dead, or destroying their mazaars, the leaders from top to the ordinary man on the street appear paralysed. If anyone of you chanced to switch on the TV on the afternoon of April 3, you would know what I am about to describe.

On the state run PTV we watched Zardari and his son Bilawal lay bouquets of roses and tiger lilies on Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s grave; on another channel I watched the most bizarre, macabre and sickening sight of a corpse being cooked (Was Pemra awake or asleep to subject unsuspecting viewers to such graphic scenes repeatedly?); and yet on another channel I watched suicide bombers kill innocent men, women and children at the Sakhi Sarwar shrine in Dera Ghazi Khan.

Asian tiger? Forget it! Chances of becoming a Taliban tiger are brighter. And to say our civil and military establishment does not know what’s happening in the country is telling a lie. Everyone in civilian and uniform attire knows only too well that Pakistan is being surrounded on all sides by terrorists. Our rulers have retreated to their bunkers and well-fortified garrisons. They ‘lead’ the embattled country from behind iron walls out of reach for a suicide bomber to strike.But when the angel of death comes, no number of tigers from the commando elite force can prevent the inevitable.

Gen Zia went into hiding at the Army House in Pindi but death got to him; Gen Musharraf too sought refuge behind the Army House and dug his heels into the presidency. Death spared him, but he got booted out. To say that the terrorists are not advancing towards the nerve centres of Pakistan is also telling a lie. The KP government drowns in aid dollars never seen before. It’s a race against time – they must grab the last cent for themselves before their game is up.

Daylight kidnappings for ransom, bomb attacks and killings continue unquestioned. Only ten years ago, one drove around the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa fearlessly. Unaccompanied by their males, women played golf at Peshawar and Nowshera clubs and shopped at the Kissakhwani (heads uncovered). The whole area from the Attock bridge to Khyber Pass was a dream to drive through, especially in spring when apple and apricot blossoms hit the eye anywhere one cared to look. The two rivers – Kabul and Indus added to the beautific scene and at the spot where the two met, Kund, friends often set camps to take in their confluence.

Goodbye to all that. Goodbye to the oil and gas fields the foreigners explored. Most have shut down their wells and fled. Recently an engineer of a foreign drilling company was kidnapped for ransom around Bannu. The Frontier Constabulary guards were killed. Did this hit the headlines? No. What is the establishment waiting for? Will its armies move in once the terrorists have overrun the province?

Our rulers must remember that if the people are helpless to save their country, fate intervenes. To say we are far from that day is living in a fool’s paradise. Who is accountable for the daily death and destruction, reckless state spending, load shedding laying thousands jobless? Pakistan is a strange country where the poor pay taxes and the rich spend them! Our rulers – civil and military - are guilty of gross negligence.

While the Punjab government quibbles with the Centre over the term ‘Punjabi Taliban’, the terrorists are quietly but surely advancing towards the urban areas and sporadically showing their muscle by blowing up government buildings and killing police personnel. Again, what is the establishment waiting for? Name one province where the Taliban have not struck in the past three years.

And, ah, the civil society! Like the Asian tiger, civil society too has lost its way in the jungle. Islamabad is rife with all kinds of NGOs claiming to help the poor. That may be so, but name one NGO that is working as a pressure group to challenge the government’s corruption. We do read sweeping statements from certain high flying NGOs who denounce the parliamentary workings of the ruling party, but their foreign donors are pulling their strings. Who then to trust? Everyone has a vested interest to serve.

Doing the blog rounds is yet one more NGO that wants “concerned citizens” with “proven ability, commitment and integrity – to provide the lead and help realise its mission. Never doubt, that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change this world. Indeed, this is the only thing that has!”

That may be so, but when did change occur by mere words? Our greatest misfortune has been words. They come cheap. As Pakistan advances in age, words, empty words slap us from the moment we wake up to the time we sleep. We live on opiates. Words make us sick. A former intelligence officer says, “I can act. Give me a month to fix things.” He knows where and who to attack. I believe him.