No idle questions these! They are cries of desperation in the choking throats of tens of millions of Pakistanis suffering extreme deprivations in the shape of malnourishment, unattended illnesses, lack of education, exploitation and ill treatment by the privileged, a life of serfdom, no access to justice, no security of life and property, no minimal support for survival in case of unemployment, free to starve, free to fall sick, free to die with no bother to any one, for all the rulers cared, much more so over the last five years!
PROMISES APLENTY No doubt! But the shroud of credibility deficit which covers the promises leaves people unbelieving and helpless. After all, the echo of “Roti Dinga”, “Kapra Dinga”, “Makaan Dinga” still echoes in their ears and hearts and they continue to fare worse with each passing month in respect of bare minimum necessities and more! So will the new promises be believed?
THE NEW SETUP Nawaz Sharif who has just received as big a mandate as one could wish for in the Federation and in Punjab has started on a cautious note, referring to the bad shape of the economy, indebtedness and need for massive inflow of money (which has a cost) and the gigantic tasks ahead, the power shortage being at the top of the misery list. He has promised a gradual measured relief to materialise over a period: 2 to 3 hours less loadshedding every 6 months is the catch phrase. That appears to be a good conservative approach. If one does better one can claim credit. Doubts remain, though.
A FULL PLATE FOR THE PM I started talking about the need for change and straws in the wind following the general elections but have been drawn into the vortex of Drone attacks following the mid week killing of prominent Taliban leader from Waziristan Waliur Rahman on 29 May. But that is also because the two matters appear to have intertwined to create a full plate for the new PM. With Taliban’s curt retraction of their offer for talks, urgent thinking and action on the subject of Drone attacks has become necessary. We have a full range of projected reactions from Imran’s “shoot them down” to Nawaz’s “let us talk to America and convince them otherwise”.
NOT THE FIRST TIME!This would not be the first time that American action has scuttled talk with the Taliban. One recalls the killing of Nek Mohammad, Pakhtun military leader, who was targeted and killed by the first ever CIA Drone strike by the US inside Pakistan in June 2004. Just two months earlier the Shakai agreement had been signed between him and the Pakistani government which was to become the cornerstone of such future agreements with militants in the tribal areas. The US had made very clear its position against any such agreements and struck to prevent them.
THE AMERICAN “CASE” What is the American case? They say Pakistani territory is being used by terrorists to target American and Afghan forces across the border. They say they have the right to pursue the intruders across the border and attack them by drones. What is our stock reply? We say infiltration is from the other side. We also ask them to close the border to stop the infiltration they claim is taking place from the tribal area. But Americans have the financial clout and till our leaders prove they are “ready to eat grass” we have a degree of dependence on American help for solving urgent problems at home.
THE DRONES ARE AN ILL WIND They do no one any good. They create more determined enemies for the Americans from among the uninvolved whose dear ones are killed in “collateral damage” (sounds any better?). It makes yet more risky for the US Army to cart away its sophisticated high-tech weaponry over Afghanistan and Pakistan back to home sweet home on ships from Pakistani ports. It gives the superpower a bad name for acting in cruel and callous regard of the time honoured principle that one should let ten (suspected) guilty escape, than punish one innocent person. Each new attack means more trouble of every kind for the government and Army in Pakistan as well.
WHAT ABOUT OUR OPTIONS? Americans find attacking and killing enemies with no risk of shedding American blood a very attractive proposition which contrasts with “militants” and “terrorists” ever ready to give their lives for what they consider to be a cause worth dying for. This explains American persistence with drone attacks despite loss of life of non-combatant Pakistanis – men, women and children. Imran Khan talks of shooting down the Drones. Not so fast dear Captain! Surely you are aware that tacit understanding by Pakistan provides a sort of justification to Americans. Co-ordinates of spaces that are communicated as open to Drone attacks (“boxes” in space) are communicated to Americans by us before each attack if reports are to be believed.
STEPS ONE, TWO, THREE So step one would be to stop this “cooperation”. Next would be to vigorously support UN initiatives already in the air against Drone attacks as violating sovereignty of Pakistan and to try to get a UN resolution passed against it. A drive to put the case before American people can also elicit support which matters. If all this fails to leash Drones then movement of American weaponry on its way out of Afghanistan can be disallowed till America sees reason. Only then can the possibility of shooting down Drones be seriously considered. But that requires a resolve on the part of Pakistani people and (more to the point) of its leaders to “eat grass if necessary” while the crisis lasts. A large number of Pakistanis are already “eating grass” anyway.
THE CREDIBILITY GAP Will Nawaz Sharif be able to lead the country through the crisis? Will he “eat grass” if necessary? Will he be a role model? Will he be able, by what he says and does, to live down the doubts raised by his decade long sojourn in Saudi Arabia at a time of crisis and a decade long life of comfort there, by his business preoccupations which have prevented him from playing a role in building up an effective opposition over the last five years as the country continued its free fall into decay and disaster as well as from building up his party at the grass roots level across the country. His expression and body language confirm that he is aware of the difficulties that lie ahead and that he is a very worried man. Will he come up with what it takes and recover what is lost? An honest, innovative and courageous, marathon endeavour would earn him the support of the entire country. So good luck and Godspeed!
(email@example.com)Wajid Naeemuddin, "Spotlight: New Drone attack unsettles almost all perceptions!: Will anything change? How much, how soon?," Business recorder. 2013-06-04.
Keywords: Political issues , Political process , Political parties , Political leaders , Political problems , Economic issues , Load shedding , Terrorists attacks , Drone attacks , Pakistan