Pakistan – An Inside View

If you live in Lahore or any other area you are probably experiencing fourteen to sixteen hours of power outage in a 24 hour cycle and most of it neither announced nor scheduled. There are also sudden power surges and sharp voltage drops. Generators designed to be back up systems cannot cope with the demands on them nor can electrical appliances survive such abuse. No one has ever explained to the suffering people the reason for this state of affairs. Street agitations are routine as are the shouting matches between politicians and the analysts on television. This indifference could become the veneer of dangerous violence as the summer heat sets in and the problem intensifies. More problematic will be the loss in work hours and the health hazard posed by food stored in conditions where the cold chain is repeatedly broken. The government is aware of the situation but faces an uphill task. This inconvenience, however, pales into insignificance against some of the other internal events that shape the image of this nuclear weapons state.

The gun battles in Lyari and the streets of Karachi are reminiscent of the street violence in Bosniaat its worst. Strange random killings take place and no one has ever explained the reason for these. There are rumors of ethnic motivation, political tussles, gang warfare, foreign hands, terrorists and criminal mafias but there is no clear picture of exactly what is going on and why. The Baluch Liberation Army operates in Baluchistan as the face of nationalists demanding separation. People disappear and then turn up dead stuffed in sacks and thrown like garbage. People are dragged from buses and executed. Kidnappers are said to operate with influential patronage and the kidnapping and murder of the Red Cross representative was particularly reprehensible. Recently a ‘Sindhu Desh Liberation Army’ patterned on the Baluch model raised its head in Sindh with a series of bomb blasts. The military has denied that it is carrying out any operation in Baluchistan and intelligence agencies deny any role in disappearances. The violence in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the FATA continues with bomb blasts, suicide bombings, ambushes, kidnappings and drive-by shootings in spite of the fact that the military is fighting the insurgents banded under the Tehrik Taliban Pakistan – TTP. The recent killing and beheading of soldiers indicates what the military and the government are up against. North Waziristn has become a black hole and haven for evil. Human security is almost absent and despair stalks the land. Small wonder then that the economy is in decline – or is it?

There are pockets of affluence. The rural areas are said to be prosperous. Restaurants, cosmetic clinics, fashion shows, art displays and super markets in the large urban areas are thronged with people. Trains run, planes fly, cars clog roads, banks and businesses function, government offices open and close, cars are big business as are electronics and others consumer items. There is said to be a massive parallel undocumented economy that the government is trying to tap into through ‘money whitening‘ schemes and in spite of all the turmoil the economy is still expected to register slow growth – but growth nevertheless. Behind this façade is a real problem – the disparity that fuels anger and the divisions and poverty that spawn violence and radicalism. The problem also is that this facade is not enough – not for the size of population that exists and the rate at which it is growing. It is not enough to compete with others around us who are racing forward with clear strategies and stable internal conditions. Demand sophistication is not there and we are getting used to accepting lower standards everywhere. We are falling behind – education and health care are the hardest hit.

Too many problems beset the country at the same time. No single institution can even begin to address the issues. Unfortunately what the world sees is a country that is not even trying to pull itself out of the morass in which it is mired. No one is calling for the military to intervene but options are being bandied around all the same – the establishment and the religious right coming together in some kind of reformatory mode, the military and the judiciary getting together to prop us a selected government of experts and do-gooders, the military acting in desperation to ‘take the plunge’ and consequences be damned and finally all the institutions understanding the gravity of the situation and deciding to come together to support the elected government so that a strategic vision is forged and policies as well as governance emerges. The option that the world sees being exercised is for the myriad dynamics being allowed to play out and institutions and politicians battling it out over trivialities in the hope that there will somehow miraculously be a resolution and the dawn of a new era – perhaps after the elections. The trouble is that no one believes this – certainly not the world that is passing us by. The first step has to be a review of the situation to understand what the situation is and there are people paid to do just this. Once this is done the next step has to be the policy response and the methodology for implementation. The review should include the agreements taking shape around us, the promise of the ‘new silk road’, the rail and road infrastructure that will shape future trade dynamics and the bilateral relations that are much more valuable than transitory illusions of pride and honor. None of these need wait for political changes. There is an elected government that should be supported to forge relations and policies that are in the country’s interest and that will transcend political changes. For this to happen the government must ensure credibility through effective governance that responds to the peoples problems.

(Spearhead analyses are a collaborative effort and not attributable to a single individual).

Spearhead Analysis – 08.05.12