By Dr. Aslam Abdullah, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)
Pakistan (Land of the Pure) is now Faujistan (Land of the Army). It could have become Benaziristan (Land of Banazir) if elections were held as were promised or it could have become Nawazistan (Land of Nawaz) if Sharif Nawaz were allowed to stay in the country after his return from exile.
Who ever has ruled Pakistan during the last 60 years has ruled it for building personal empires and family fortunes. The power of personal cult is so strong that no amount of criminal activity on the part of rulers has resulted in their permanent ban from public life. So passionate are people to support even those convicted for crimes against Pakistan, that they are willing to offer even their lives to sustain a corrupt leader. Who would have imagined Benazir in the role of a messiah for Pakistan after what she and her husband did with Pakistan and its resources? (Foreign cases that could haunt Bhutto)
Martial law or emergency? It does not matter. Pakistanis once again have been enslaved by their own fears and inability to create a political structure that would ensure that the average citizen would have the freedom to live a decent life. No one can point fingers at others for this situation.
Various segments of people in Pakistan have contributed to what occurred last week.
Political parties have promoted a culture of violence. Many of the public officials lead a lucrative campaign of corruption. Bureaucrats have created an environment of greed. The clergy sector has thrived on ignorance. Businessmen have excelled in deceiving the state of its legitimate taxation. The law enforcement agencies have created a world of their own where the accepted norms and law were violated at the slightest whim of those who were powerful.
How can one trust a political leader when he boasts among his followers, the killing that his people engineered to silence the opposition? How can one believe in a law enforcement system when a police officer proudly narrates his exploits in implicating innocent citizens in crimes? How can one believe in the integrity of an army that delivers the national resources to its top brass in order to win over their silence?
In any society the middle class plays a key role in developing a democracy or promoting social change. The Pakistani middle class must create a vision of Pakistan and work for that through sacrifice and public involvement. The middle class of Pakistan has to create either a political movement or leadership than can prove to the people through an example that different ethnic and linguist groups can work under a political structure amicably. If they just looked beyond their Eastern borders they can see how India has sowed its social fabric with a multiplicity of ethnic and linguistic communities.
There are limited examples of people working to bring meaningful solution to the many problems that the country faces. There is the shameful issue of bonded labors and slum dwellers. Status of feudally controlled and socially subdued women in rural areas is disgraceful.
The prevalence of illiteracy among more than 40 percent of Pakistanis must be given a priority. Not enough attention is being given to the youth to create a culture of peace so that their creativity could be used for the betterment of the country and humanity. Instead the youth are being given guns and provoked to murder in the name of whatever suited the interested political leadership.
The level of protest by the lawyers to what the generals have done prove that people are not willing to take things passively. The process of protest is still to be played out but if in this process the methodology of violence is chosen by the political parties, it will only strengthen the army. The use of violence in responding to the violence of the rulers never produces anything constructive.
Many Pakistanis often argue that their rulers have often played in the hands of powerful groups in Washington or London, etc, and average Pakistanis have no control over their own destiny. While, it may be true that Washington, London or Delhi might be keen to engineer things in Islamabad according to their interests, but their ability to do anything substantial is limited as long as people in Pakistan are active, dynamic and concerned about their interests.
What is the way out? A radical paradigm shift is needed in Pakistan to bring about any substantial changes for the betterment of the country. Issues such as poverty, illiteracy, lawlessness, bonded labor, status of women and labor, environmental crisis such as pollution and miss-utilization of resources, deserve the same importance as democratization of the country.
Only those who have a humble heart and a concerned mind for the interests of average Pakistanis can really grasp the reality. Only those who have a passion for humanity and fellow human beings can think in larger terms different from those who always think of their interests first. It is the emergence of those people with a long term strategy to bring about changes at the grass roots levels that can save Pakistan from the chaos that its current leaders have created. Usually, this role is played by an educated middle class.
Pakistan has suffered a significant brain loss and the bulk of the middle class is outside Pakistan. Unfortunately many among these groups are divided into groups, ethnicities, and factions replaying the politics of the homeland.
Pakistani Americans and others who are living in Europe and Canada can certainly use their skills and love for Pakistan to provide a strong peaceful movement for change. Pakistanis must overcome the politics, factionalism and ethnic divide that is dominant inside and outside of Pakistan. It is essential that Pakistanis work for the collective interests of its entire people.