In the last few weeks, 41 passengers were burnt to death in a Karachi-bound bus from Khuzdar carrying smuggled Iranian diesel oil, 20 people including 18 children died of toxic factory emissions in Kemari, 84 people were martyred in a Peshawar suicide attack, and 52, including 49 children between the ages of 8 to 14, perished in the frigid waters of Kohat’s Tanda Dam.
A woman was raped at gunpoint in Islamabad’s F9 Park as was a newly married by armed men who barged into her home, again within the federal capital’s jurisdiction. A bus hostess faced the same harrowing ordeal in the moving vehicle. Meanwhile what we, the forsaken always had and are supposed to be content with is a myriad of sound bites where, as Camus put it, tyrants conduct monologues above a million solitudes.
The concerned district officials (understandably) denied that the ill-fated bus was carrying smuggled oil. The Peshawar incident remains limited to hyperbole and political point-scoring. The apathy can be judged from the fact that only 28 lawmakers were in attendance in the National Assembly for the third day running to discuss the tragedy.
As for the innocent children who had joyously ventured for a picnic, their heart-wrenching end merited nothing but a few heartless tweets. If women are not safe in Islamabad, that too in a park right opposite the Air HQ and defense residences, what chance does a bus hostess in Vehari have who might have been the sole bread earner of her family?
Today, as we remain mired in the excruciating mini-budget and other negatives, these travesties have been, as expected, completely forgotten. Political theorist Edmund Burke wrote: “It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters”.
Our dire security and economic predicament is not a recent phenomenon. It is ever-looming; the wages of an unfettered self-serving power elite. Military dictators chose to shove Pakistan into the devastating vortex of alien wars; civilian autocrats remained ever-seduced by self-serving passions. Corruption, misplaced priorities, and an absolute lack of accountability only enriched and benefitted the power elite. It bartered away our sovereignty to merit dollars and their status as Washington’s un-expendables.
It was no surprise that the Abbottabad Commission investigating the US raid on Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad during PPP’s tenure reportedly found “a shocking state of affairs”. It noted that local governance had completely collapsed, as had the ability of respective institutions. The findings were so stark that page 87 of its report labeled Pakistan to have a “Governance Implosion Syndrome”.
The APS tragedy in 2014 evoked the dictum “we shall not forget”. This proved a misnomer given how NAP and NACTA were reduced to the status of stillborn. NACTA, mandated to be the intelligence-sharing fulcrum of our 26 spy and law enforcement agencies, was to formulate a comprehensive national anti-terrorism policy and spearhead it.
The frivolous attitude can be gauged from the fact that only 60 of the 206 sanctioned posts in NACTA were occupied. To top it off, 50 posts were occupied by clerical staff and 10 by officers. It is also a matter of record that Ishaq Dar starved NACTA of funds with no provision in the 2015 budget.
The PML-N government Interior Secretary Shahid Khan lamented that the dearth of funds compounded by procedural hurdles had reduced NACTA to a paper tiger. Conversely, billions were doled out for the Metro Bus and Orange Train projects. The latter, now a subsidized white elephant, was built for a whopping 1,625 million dollars. Its track length of 26.2 kilometers cost an average of nearly 62 million dollars per kilometer.
On his most recent foray to his much-visited Washington, Bilawal Bhutto met US State Department’s counselor Derek Chollet to discuss “anti-terror” collaboration. The latter assured him that the US stood firm with Pakistan in “combating terrorism”. Pakistan’s role as a partner and logistics conduit for the US-led blood and gore war in Afghanistan (for the second time) has been Washington’s kiss of death for us. The fuel for this destructive inferno has been the unfettered passions and apathy of our power elite.
The People’s Despair
Yeats is known to have said, “I took satisfaction in certain public disasters, felt sort of ecstasy at the contemplation of ruin.” The ruling dispensations in Pakistan, both military and civilian alike, have resulted in a governance implosion syndrome; if pointed out, umbrage is taken. We have been an IMF surrogate since 1958; 65 years on, we remain its fourth largest debtor. The question that goes abegging is about the (non-existent) national outcome of the billions taken in loans, aid, and grants.
Today, we are totally devoid of a sustainable economic base. No wonder, an arm-twisting IMF demands its pound of flesh and fire sale privatization from a feeble and totally non-representative government albeit with an 85-member strong cabinet. Empirical evidence proves that the feeding ground for crony capitalism was established in the privatization round of the first Nawaz Sharif government.
No power center holds itself accountable; none takes responsibility for our beggared status. However, all proclaim to be our hallowed saviors; a self-ordained title thrust upon us to be defended by any means at all costs. Foolishly one expects, if anything, an iota of remorse; only retribution is forthcoming. Nothing will change till this mindset persists in our power elite of unfettered passions.
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