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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Pakistan At the Precipice: III – Vision for Coexistence

Pakistan At the Precipice: III – Vision for Coexistence

I – Human Rights in Islam
II – MIF Kakistocracy: Military-Industrial-Feudal complex
III – Vision for Coexistence

Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime. Aristotle

Surge in Suicide Bombing

The factors that gave rise to mushrooming suicide attacks are not easy to identify and discern. Some of the following have contributed:
* The support US gave to the Mujahideen to do their proxy fighting in Soviet occupied Afghanistan
* The cold turkey abandonment of the Mujahideen outfits after the Soviet withdrawal - a lesson not learned in Iraq
* Abject poverty that led the people to parcel off their children to the madresas, which offered free board and lodge in addition to doctrinaire teaching of the religion.

To remove injustice, corruption, and poverty in society, some of the madresas distorted the egalitarian message of Islam and started indoctrinating their students to demand imposition of Sharia laws in Pakistan as a panacea.

Their (Islamic) reductionist approach succeeded in brainwashing their charges. This was noted in the interviews of the students released from the Lal Masjid reported by the media. They were unabashed in their vehemence and expressed a desire to go back into the compounds of the Lal Masjid ostensibly to die with their colleagues.

In the aftermath of President Musharraf’s belated and heavy handed resolution of the Lal Masjid fiasco, the acts of violence unleashed primarily against the Army and security forces have claimed upwards of 160 lives all over Pakistan.

There is a dire need to take balanced and concerted measures immediately in consultation with politicians to redress the injustices. Otherwise these perceived injustices will snowball to more mayhem.

Blaming the Agencies

It is widely believed here that the Lal Masjid shenanigans were blessed by the euphemistically called Agencies. These Agencies, such as the ISI (Inter Services Agency headed by a serving Army officer), Military Intelligence and the Intelligence Bureau are a power unto themselves, according to the Opposition Parties in Pakistan. They blame it for undue interference and meddling in the internal workings of the government.

This is also ironic. When these parties were in power they unabashedly used some of these very Agencies to subvert, thwart and pressurize their political opponents.

The Ulema (religious scholars), MMA (Muttahida Majlis e Amal – an alliance of right wing religious parties), Wafaqul Madaris (an umbrella organization of seminaries) and the assorted opposition parties cannot shirk off their responsibility and direct or indirect involvement. They have been a part of the social and political fabric of this nation of 160 million and cannot sit idly and blame the Musharraf Administration for the rise in religious intolerance.

One of the root causes for the disenchantment by the masses is their disenfranchisement. Corruption and kick-backs have assumed a built-in factor in all government spending. The Defense spending eats a large percentage of the national budget, leaving little for poverty alleviation, education, healthcare, judicial reforms, crime prevention, and law enforcement.

Pakistanis from all strata of life contribute heavily into charitable and philanthropic donations. Most of this remains un-audited and untraceable. It is common knowledge here that a majority of the poor, who cannot feed themselves, drop off their children at the mushrooming madresas which provide them with food, shelter and religious indoctrination. Their syllabus has remained unchanged for centuries. Critics of madresas say they want to push the baby back into the womb.

The majority is near or below the poverty line. They see the rich in cahoots with the military backed governments. Despite progress on the economic front, the estimated 17 % of the middle class is largely invisible. As the cliché goes the rich have become richer and the poor poorer.

Need to Develop a Vision for Coexistence

The politician led kakistocracy and the Army led k(h)akistocracy both have failed to address the core problems afflicting the country – runaway population growth, poverty, corruption, mismanagement, lack of basic healthcare, unavailability of basic necessities such as drinking water, electricity, decaying infrastructure and lack of trust in institutions.

Sane elements in the military see the bad influence of long term civilian rule affecting Army morale and efficiency. Some politicians privately also agree to the necessity of the Army’s role in curbing and checking the violent forces unleashed in the country.

A Pakistani version of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission is needed here to re-establish trust and to create a breathing room for the democratic traditions to take root.

There is a need for the Army and the politicians to come to an understanding on some power sharing formulae. A reinvigorated National Security Council moderated by a Constitutional Court along Turkish lines can allay the fears of both the Army and the Politicians.

The status quo of ad-hoc management of the affairs of the nation, and the policy of divide and rule should be abandoned in favour of national consensus and reconciliation.

There is a need for statesmen who can bring out in the open an understanding where both can co exist and govern Pakistan in the interim


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