A ROLE FOR NAWAZ SHARIF

The NATION, Saturday, May 23, 2009

A PERSONAL VIEW, INAYATULLAH

“You have to go with the incompetents you’ve got”, said a senator in Washington at a lunch for Karzai and Zardari, attended by 26 other US senators. This “crude truth” has been revealed in a report published in the current issue of the Time Magazine. Senator Bob Croker was quite brutal when he dubbed both the presidents as corrupt.

One may be corrupt and competent but the mix of corruption and incompetence is indeed lethal.

Whatever be said about Zardari’s long absence from the country, one has to concede that his passion for money has remained undimmed. He pressed the Americans to fill the bowl without delay. By the time he left USA, $ 1.9 billion were about to be approved for Pakistan. If there are strings attached, so be it. All that matters is the flow of funds. In Tokyo, the “friends” pledged more than 5 billion. Gordon Brown and Sarkozi have agreed to give sizable amounts for the IDPs. “We are not a failed state yet”, Zardari told writer Ahmad Rashid in a recent meeting with him “but we can become one if we don’t receive international (read, financial) support to combat the Taliban threat”.

He keeps asking the world leaders to give more as Pakistan, he asserts, is fighting for the security of the whole world. What is not realized is that a considerable part of the money received, goes back to the donor country in various ways, part of it is misused and all of it has to be paid back with interest.

American Congressmen have not minced words while expressing their apprehensions about the way the money is used in Pakistan. Hence the stiff conditions proposed to be attached. Every time an installment is released the US president will certify that money was being spent on the lines indicated and the tasks met as prescribed.

The worrisome aspect of decisions the present government readily makes is the cavalier way it is done. Take the move to launch the military operation in Swat and the adjoining areas. The agreement for Nizam-e-Adl was approved by the National Assembly on April 14. Under US pressure, military action restarted by end of the month and the Taliban attacked in the 3 districts.

The National Assembly in session poised to discuss the situation was suddenly prorogued. Nawaz Sharif had called for a conference of all the political parties to determine the future course of action since the agreement was in doldrums. No such meeting was convened. Instead the prime minister addressed the nation announcing the launching of the military operation “to eliminate the Taliban”.

No steps for taken to examine option of discussing the scrapping of the agreement with the other parties before the next step was taken. The threat of Taliban to capture Islamabad was dramatically exaggerated by the American administration and the media. An old recording of flogging of a girl by the Taliban was repeatedly shown on national and international channels. US administration and media started airing fears about collapse of Pakistan and Taliban grabbing nuclear weapons.

The US secretary of state raised the scare, saying that government had abdicated its responsibilities. Obama called the civilian government as “fragile” and incapable of providing basic services to the people. Gilani’s sudden unilateral announcement of a renewed military operation was a response to the pressure exerted by Washington. Later he did hold an all parties conference which in spite of the consensus resolution (which does not endorses the military action) has become quite controversial.

This time the operation is on a large scale with artillery tanks and gunships deployed to crush the “enemy”. No thought however was given to the fall out of such drastic action. The sudden large scale movement of the people of Swat Dir and Buner was not foreseen. The IDPs number has swelled to more than 2 million hapless Pakistanis.

While most of them have been accommodated by large-hearted Pakistani families, arrangements to provide shelter, water, food and health care to the rest, leave much to be desired. There is also fear of the undesirable criminal elements and foreigners getting themselves registered at the camps as Pakistani citizens.

PPP government’s performance needs to be noted with regard to the timing of holding parliamentary sessions and political parties meeting. These had a definite relationship to Zardari’s presence in USA and other places.

Although amended resolution does not explicitly support the military action, it does not disapprove it, either. It endorses the role of armed forces of Pakistan in the present situation and “seeks to establish the writ of the state”. The Jamaat-i-Islami, Imran Khan’s Insaf party and some of the PML (N) leaders have been complaining of the ruling party hoodwinking them but they have themselves to blame for falling into the trap of consensus for the greater good of the country. They say that the operation having already started, the army needed to be backed and all that they could ask for was a swift completion of the mission.

Some of the opposition leaders including Imran Khan and part of the media feel that by sheer ineptitude and servile subservience to the imperial power of the day along with the greed for money the country’s stability and future have been jeopardized. The trouble began when at the American behest, Musharraf dispatched tens of thousands of soldiers to FATA turning loyal and peaceful Pakistanis into so-called “militants”, terrorists and insurgents.

Half-hearted attempts were made to take them into confidence. These armed and proud people were pushed into belligerence and counter-measures forgetting that they were as good Pakistanis as any of us. At the same time no sustained and serious effort was made to identify and expel the foreigners and criminal elements. By consenting to Drone attacks the disaffected and aggrieved tribal Pakistanis have been turned into virtual enemies.

Many of them have been grabbed for money and handed over to the American intelligence to rot in the torture cells. Instead of safeguarding our interests, we have been serving others’ designs for dollars and cents. We, indeed, are hired labour often rebuked for not doing the work properly. Our economy is literally mortgaged to US administration and IMF in Washington. No wonder Aryan Baker writing in the Time Magazine has remarked: “But no one bears more responsibility for a slow collective suicide than Pakistanis themselves. A set of failures has contributed to Pakistan’s fall”.

One more sobering quote attributed by Aryan Baker to a Pakistani doctor practicing in UK: “It is well known that the present civilian government headed by a corrupt, psychopath was conjured up by the US and UK to push their agenda and what do they get in return, violence, drugs instability.”

Nawaz Sharif alone has the stature and possibly the sense to mobilize public opinion to save the country. He did a remarkable job to boost the lawyers’ struggle to achieve restoration of the Chief Justice and his colleagues. His performance since has been unimpressive. For certain reasons he, keeps assuring the PPP government of his support and often indulging unnecessarily in appease its leaders.

He doesn’t realize that his strength and promise to rescue the country from the quagmire it has fallen into lies in his role of an upright uncompromising protector of the vital national interests of the country. He may feel elated with the sweet noises the influential American visitors make when they come to him, off and on. He shouldn’t forget that they come to soften him for the furtherance of their designs. The stooge NRO government is already in their grip.

Beware of the trap being laid for you Mr. Sharif. Being good-natured is not good enough while dealing with wily and sly confidence – tricksters.

The writer is a political and international

relations analyst.

Email: pacade@brain.net.pk

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