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Archive for the ‘Pakistan’s Future’ Category

On an emotional level it is very difficult for me to accept the potential impending doom of my beloved native country forecasted in the article below. Yet, on an intellectual level, I have no choice but to agree with the predictions of Indian defense and terrorism analysts.

Indeed, the “situation is explosive” in Pakistan and “there does not appear to be any real acknowledgment yet in Islamabad of ground realities”. I further agree that the country “is on an irreversible trajectory of decline” and “nothing can stem the rot.” What a pity! The poor masses – who have had virtually no say in the affairs of the State since its inception – now have to endure escalating daily hardships on account of policy choices of their ruling elite. Worse, the general public has to face potential implosion of state and society for no fault of its own. Surely, the common man deserved better.

[Withering state a big worry for India; Times of India; 16 October 2009; Excerpts; Copy and Paste]

As Pakistan reeled under a wave of terrorist attacks, it’s the degrading of the Pakistani state that concerns Indian analysts most. Ajit Doval, former head of Indian intelligence said the apparent degradation of the Pakistani state had regional and global implications. “The situation is explosive,” he said, “because we are witnessing the steady degradation of a nuclear state.” The army and the jihadis have emerged as the predominant players with the civilian government firmly pushed into the background.

While its easy to say Pakistan had it coming, there does not appear to be any real acknowledgment yet in Islamabad of ground realities – that the jihadis paid for and nurtured by the Pakistan army and ISI are coming home to roost. “We must never lose sight of the fact that the Pakistan army has never condemned Taliban for their ideology or tactics, just their targets. If jihadis shifted their targets tomorrow to, say, India, the Pakistan army would be back to where they started, supporting them.” Evidently, even the Pakistan Taliban feel this way. Hakimullah Mehsud, successor to Baitullah Mehsud and the leader of the attacks, said that if Pakistan stopped following US orders the attacks would stop.

He added that if they wanted the Taliban to attack India Mehsud would oblige. This is an echo of Baitullah’s announcement after the Mumbai attacks that he would lead his jihadis against India, if India attacked Pakistan. B Raman, terrorism expert, raised another pertinent point. “While the morale and resilience of the terrorists belonging to different Taliban affiliates have been steadily increasing, there are worrisome signs of poor morale and motivation among the security forces. One notices also an alarming casualness and a lack of professionalism in performing their counter-terrorism tasks. There is a tendency, even in the army, to avoid coming to terms with the ground reality, which is that the situation, which has already deteriorated in the Pashtun tribal belt, has now started deteriorating in the non-tribal areas of Punjab.”

Certainly, the Taliban attack on the Pakistan army GHQ was announced in a newspaper. A Pakistan daily, The News, carried accounts of an intelligence report saying the GHQ would be targeted, by terrorists in army uniforms. Yet the terrorists penetrated this high-security establishment, killing officers and enacting a hostage crisis. Ajai Sahni, terrorism analyst believes Pakistan “is on an irreversible trajectory of decline. Nothing can stem the rot.” He said, the recent Swat campaign showed clearly that the Taliban had moved away to fight another war. “The state has no capacity to check the Taliban now.”

The full article is available at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/Withering-state-a-big-worry-for-India/articleshow/5129209.cms

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Contrary to popular perception, not all Pakistanis are delusional about how the country got into the current deep mess. While the scope and depth of their analysis varies understandably, an increasing number of citizens are beginning to realize the state’s error in infusing religion with national ideology.

Of course, the roots of this trend go back all the way to Pakistan Movement itself in pre-Partition India; with hindsight, it was illogical for the country’s founders to demand a separate homeland in the name of Islam and then expect the country to emerge as secular, liberal, and progressive nation. Nor was it possible with hindsight for a country carved out of a much larger entity – and that too in a most brutal fashion – to be able to create an identity that was independent of the Mother country; its identity had to be rooted in opposition to and hate of India and Hindus.

Posted below are representative comments from informed citizens.

[A civil war? October 27, 2009; The News; Letter to the Editor; Excerpts; Copy and Paste]

A major problem of Pakistan is the politically motivated integration of religion in all aspects of life which makes its citizens narrow-minded. Pakistanis should be reminded repeatedly that the freedom of a separate homeland was sought for the Muslims of India and not for the establishment of an Islamic state. If Pakistan becomes a secular state and leaves religion as a personal matter between the Creator and the believer then people will start listening to each other. It is going to take a lot of effort but unless Pakistan starts moving in this direction, the menace of terrorism is not going to be controlled. The army can kill or capture an infinite number of “terrorists” but the mindset of the common man is such that it is a nursery for such thinking – and it needs to be transformed if we are to rid our nation of terrorism.

Munawar Mir
Vancouver, Canada

http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=205298

[A dream gone sour? October 27, 2009; The News; Letter to the Editor; Copy and Paste]

My father and some uncles were young students at Aligarh University during the 1940s when the Pakistan Movement was at its peak. The loftiest of ideals prevailed in the minds of the leaders of this movement, who dreamt of a liberal, tolerant, rational, educated, economically prosperous and progressive homeland. They encouraged young students, such as my father and uncles, to equip themselves with the best possible education for the future and to avoid plunging into the abyss of ignorant, mindless violence.

Today, it is extremely sad to see Pakistan in a situation where the worst nightmares of our founders have been realised. On the one hand, our whole education system has been paralysed by a fanatical and psychotic group of people, who are obviously nothing but the avowed enemies of the homeland and of Islam itself. On the other hand, we have an even more deplorable stratagem being carried out, in the shape of the so-called “referendum” against the Kerry-Lugar law, or act, and against American presence in the region, by the Jamaat-e-Islami – purporting to be “well-wishers” of Pakistan but in reality, carrying out in this despicable manner the agenda of the fanatical elements out to destroy us. What have they achieved by this exercise except creating further divisive rifts between people in our already embattled polity?

This is the worst disservice anyone could have done Pakistan at this time, and shows how badly we have failed the dreams and ideals of our founders; that an ignorant mass-hysteria is now being calculatedly fanned by our enemies, leading towards our final catastrophe.

Saiqa Khan
Lahore

http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=205300

[Reap what we sowed; October 27, 2009; The News; Letter to the Editor; Copy and Paste]

Attaul Islam in his letter titled “Reaped what we sowed” (Oct 25) is absolutely right. However, I would like to add a little bit to what he has said on the silence of the majority of Pakistanis on the role of religious parties. In my view, improper education and ethnocentric tendencies were the major contributory factors which have so far prevented Pakistanis from raising their voices against rising extremism. One should not forget how and to what extent military officers were indoctrinated during Zia’s rule. Not only was a jihadi culture created but also corruption was institutionalised, through the practice of giving plots to retired and serving officers.

The promulgation of the Hudood Ordinance added fuel to the fire and thousands of innocent women became victims to false accusations of adultery. Furthermore, our writers didn’t help, many of whom poisoned the minds of their readers by calling such people mujahids. In addition the mullah did his bit to brainwash the people, often by invoking sectarian hatred. As for those who were in schools or colleges, they too were brainwashed – and in this case the culprit was the distorted history that they was taught in the guise of Pakistan Studies and the intolerance contained in their religious studies curriculum. Now is the time to change all of this.

Dr Najeeb A Khan
Islamabad

http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=205299

[We reap what we sowed ; The Daily Mail; Letter to the Editor; Copy and Paste]

It quite amazes me when I read in the papers or see on TV people saying that religious extremism has come from outside and that we have nothing to do with it. I am not a keen follower of history but I do have an understanding of what has been happening since Partition. Take a look at the Jamaat-e-Islami which after Pakistan’s creation started saying in the 1950s that Pakistan was created in the name of Islam and that the latter should the state religion. Their ideology eventually led to attacks on minorities and when that happened we stood by quietly and said and did nothing. Anyone who doubts what I am saying should try and get hold of newspapers from the 1950s or read Justice Munir’s report of the attacks and riots of that time.

Over the years, these elements became emboldened – because the silent majority said and did nothing – and eventually took upon themselves to be the interpreters and custodians of public morality and religion. And again we remained quiet. As time passed these so-called religious parties became political powers and even a strong political leader like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto could not say no to their demands and we know what he did. And again the nation remained quiet. In 1979 when Bhutto’s government was toppled by General Zia these religious-cum-political parties of Pakistan immediately switched sides (rather they initiated the martial law by convincing Zia that he would be Ameer-ul-Momineen). Gen Zia used these parties to bluff the nation for 11 years and the war against the Soviets was a great opportunity for him to use these parties in the service of so-called jihad. And still the nation remained quiet.

This brief backgrounder is necessary to understand what is happening to Pakistan now. Everything that happened in the past was not imposed over Pakistan rather it was done by us. There is not a single instance in our history where after someone from the minorities was burnt, murdered or assaulted, ordinary citizens stood up and protested and demanded that the government should punish the culprits. On the contrary, parliament itself on several occasions has assisted these extremists through constitutional amendments and presidential ordinances, and no political party came out in the street to tell the nation of the consequences of such intolerant deeds.

These were the seeds we sowed with our own hands; we nourished these seeds with utmost care. And now we reap their harvest. By now we should know who our real enemies are. I can only hope that we break our silence now.

Atta-ul-Islam ,
Islamabad

http://dailymailnews.com/1001/27/Editorial_Column/DMEditorialMail.php

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As I have often remarked, the greatest threat to Pakistan – and by extension, to the country’s ruling elite and powerful interest groups – comes from its demographics time-bomb. Pakistan does not have sufficient resources to support its current population of 170 million. Without Western aid (in the form of grants, loans, and credit), the current economy is guaranteed to collapse, leading to a massive social implosion, with severe regional and global security consequences. There is thus no way the country can deal with a near-doubling of its population by 2050… assuming it even survives till that time.

The article below describes the coming population explosion as well as Pakistani government’s cavalier attitude towards population control compared to other hitherto fast-growing countries.

[The explosion we ignore; DAWN; Mahir Ali; 25 Nov, 2009; Copy and Paste]

The explosive situation in which Pakistan finds itself, chiefly as a consequence of its own initiatives over recent decades, means that attention inevitably tends to be centred on Islamist militancy and political dysfunction. Various other aspects of the bigger picture that ought to provide plenty of cause for alarm are relegated to the periphery. For instance, there weren’t too many expressions of concern when a United Nations report predicted back in July that if present trends of population growth persist, Pakistan will be the fourth largest country in the world by 2050. Perversely, the idea of Pakistan trailing behind only China, India and the United States in this respect may even have struck some as a cause for pride.

The warning of a looming demographical disaster was repeated last Saturday in a report commissioned by the British Council and based primarily on an opinion survey focused on the younger generation. Back when Pakistan came into existence in 1947, it did not figure in the topmost echelons of the worlds most populous countries. Twenty years later, it was in sixth or seventh place. At the time, mind you, it consisted of two wings. East Pakistan subsequently became Bangladesh as the consequence of a genocidal military operation mounted by the very institution that today’s Pakistani youngsters, according to the British Council survey, appear to trust most. At the time, its population was marginally higher than that of West Pakistan.

In the intervening decades, the order has been reversed. Pakistan and Bangladesh are today sixth and seventh respectively on the world population chart. A study published last year in the medical journal Lancet helps to explain why Bangladesh has been more successful than Pakistan at curbing population growth. According to John Cleland, the lead author of the study, an innovative approach by the government in Dhaka made all the difference. Shortly after winning its war of independence, Bangladesh adopted a community-based approach whereby literate village women trained in basic medicine and family planning were recruited to go from door to door, handing out condoms and contraceptive pills, as well as referring women for clinical contraception.

“Because they were literate,” according to Cleland, “they were part of the elite, and as villagers they had credibility among a suspicious and very religious population.” Fertility rates in Bangladesh have consequently halved from six to three children per woman – a phenomenal achievement. In Pakistan, on the other hand, only one form of contraception was promoted by paying doctors and midwives: intra-uterine devices (IUDs). “All that money meant vast corruption and falsified figures,” Cleland says, “while there was not enough medical backup, so when women had problems with the IUDs, they had nowhere to go. When someone did an honest survey, they found that no one was using IUDs.”

As a result, by 2050 Pakistan’s population is projected to be 62 million more than that of Bangladesh. The British Council report suggests the population will swell by 85 million in the next two decades. Two-thirds of Pakistanis are at present under 30. The proportion will obviously increase. Thirty-six million new jobs a year are required to sustain this level of population growth. At the moment, only one million are being created per annum. According to David Steven, a fellow at New York University’s Centre for International Cooperation who served as an adviser for the report, “you could get rapid social and economic change” if the youth bulge is properly harnessed, “but the other route will lead to a nightmare that would unfold over 20 to 30 years”.

That’s an optimistic opinion. The nightmare is already unfolding, and it is reflected in the opinions ascertained by the British Council survey. Granted, the statistics that emerge from such reports ought to be taken with a pinch of salt; this particular one is based on interviews with 1,226 young Pakistanis, purportedly a representative sample of the country’s youth. The latter claim can always be questioned. Yet thats insufficient cause for disregarding the survey, not least because its inferences and conclusion come across as a reasonably accurate reflection of the national mindset. It is hardly surprising, for instance, that inflation – 23 per cent this year – trumps terrorism as the primary cause for concern.

Or that only one-third of the respondents have any faith in democracy, which almost exactly echoes the proportion who favour whatever they consider to be Islamic modes of governance. The ruling Pakistan Peoples Partys spokeswoman Farahnaz Ispahani sees faith in the army (60 per cent) rather than politicians (10 per cent) as a consequence of the fact that hardly any civilian government thus far has been permitted to complete its tenure. Quite to the contrary, the relative lack of support for the democratic process reflects the nature and predilections of the leading political parties – not least the vagaries of a president who, in trying to posit himself as an indispensable weapon against terrorism, informed Britain’s Daily Telegraph earlier this year that he had resisted the influence of “extremism from Aung San Suu Kyi to the Taliban”.

Asif Ali Zardari isn’t, of course, Pakistan’s paramount problem. Its the dearth of alternatives that is alarming. As is the absence of role models for young Pakistanis. It is more than obvious that, in terms of infrastructure and economic growth (or lack thereof), Pakistan is unable to sustain even its present population, let alone the explosion to come. It may not be too late for a concerted effort at population growth, combined with an attempt to provide the educational, healthcare and job opportunities that today’s young people desperately require. The likelihood of appropriate measures, however, remains minuscule. Pakistan, by overtaking Indonesia, will be the largest Muslim country in due course.

Too many of its denizens may perceive this likelihood as a means of Pakistan positing itself as the epicentre of a possible caliphate. That’s a demented dream with nightmarish consequences. But it’s far from clear whether the existing political and military forces can prevent it from unfolding.

The original article is available at: http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/columnists/the-explosion-we-ignore

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I am of the opinion that long term factors are squarely against the ability of the Pakistani state (really, the Punjabi ruling elite) to hold the country together. The economy is weak and can barely support existing population, much less the population boom expected over the next few decades. The state is essentially bankrupt and is able to keep its economy afloat only because of current availability of desperately needed foreign aid and loans on account of US geopolitical interests (such as its “Af-Pak Policy” in the aftermath of 9-11). There can be no guarantee that US will continue to remain interested in the region forever. After all, it had no qualms about abandoning Pakistan after withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan in late 1980s.

Given Pakistan’s endemic corruption, deep structural problems [such as, mostly feudal society, limited educational opportunities, crumbling infrastructure, inadequate industrial base, non-representative democracy, bias against women in workplace, etc.], and mostly military nature of US aid, it is a virtual certainty that there will be no improvement in economic situation in future from recent American largesse. Coupled with the expected population explosion, this means that the economic situation for the common man will become increasingly desperate, leading to riots and potentially major upheavals. Add to it the fact that the state writ is now being progressively weakened via Islamist/Taliban insurgency and that Pak Army – hitherto the premier symbol of nationalism – has begun to be regarded by portions of the populace as a stooge of “Americans, Crusaders, and Zionists” on account of its support for US policies.

Now, most independence movements are ethnic and are generally aimed at correcting perceived “historical grievances” via creation of separate ethnic enclaves. This is true of Pakistan as well; witness the demand for independent Balochistan, Pashtunistan (ie. homeland for Pathans/Pashtuns), Sindudesh (ie. state for indigenous Sindhis), and Jinnahpur (ie. name of separate province demanded by Mohajirs, Urdu-speaking immigrants from India). Given the above noted macro trends, it is fair to assume that it will become increasingly difficult for the Punjabi-dominated Army to suppress independence movements or for the Punjabi ruling elite to maintain the current federal status quo.

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Quoted below is an excellent article on the desperate need of Pakistan and Pakistanis to “grow up”. Given that more than 60 years have gone by since Pakistan’s inception, it is high time that the country as well as the nation (“population”, in my opinion) demonstrates greater maturity in its thought and conduct. Along any important policy dimension – domestic politics, development aid, international relations, economic management, national identity, media freedom, etc – our priorities and actions are seriously messed up. As per the article’s author, we are indeed a bunch of “children” – with all their attendant traits – who refuse to grow up into “adults”. The consequences of such behavior are all too evident in the prevailing conditions in Pakistan.

[Grow up, and smell the coffee; DAWN; Irfan Husain; 26 Dec, 2009; Copy and Paste]

THE late Enid Blyton enriched my childhood with tales of adventure and derring-do, as she did for millions of kids around the world. I am happy to see her Famous Five and Secret Seven series still on sale, an indication that some things, at least, have not changed. However, I did not associate the author with serious, philosophical views until I came across this quotation attributed to her: “Growing old is compulsory; growing up is optional.” The more I reflected on these words, the more I saw how relevant they were for Pakistan as a nation. In the 1950s, the constant refrain I heard was how young a state Pakistan was as an excuse and an explanation for the new countrys many failings and shortcomings.

Gradually, this mantra has faded as Pakistan grew older, even though things have got worse, not better, with the passage of years. As I look around, I see many signs of a country that has grown older, but has failed to grow up. For one, we remain too immature as a nation to reflect on where we have gone wrong, and what needs to be done to set matters right. We live from one day to the next, confident in the expectation that generous adults will look after us, no matter what transgressions we commit. In the event, foreign aid has propped us up, relieving us of the tough decisions we need to take in order to make Pakistan a viable, prosperous state. Other examples abound. When we see we cant have something, we tend to throw a tantrum and dig in our heels instead of moving on. For over 60 years, we have been fixated over the Kashmir issue.

Whatever the legal rights and wrongs of the matter, the harsh truth is that India is not going to budge, and there is nothing Pakistan can do to change this reality. Hundreds of billions of rupees and thousands of wasted lives later, we are where we were decades ago. In fact, we have lost whatever diplomatic support we once had. The world is heartily sick of the dispute, and wishes we could just put the matter to rest and move on. We are aggressive and touchy to the point of paranoia. Take the recent furore over the Kerry-Lugar law as a good example. For weeks, the media and the military were in hysterics over the evil intentions of the Americans who were bent on throwing billions of dollars in our direction.

Pundits and TV anchors fulminated and frothed at the mouth, insisting that somehow ghairat or our national honour had been affronted. Then suddenly, as though a switch had been turned off, this crescendo of irrational argument ceased. What had changed? Probably the dollars had started coming in, and nothing shuts up a needy teenager like a fistful of cash. Like most young boys, we love playing with toy guns, only in Pakistans case, they take the shape of lethal weapons, including nuclear ones. All nations have armed forces and arsenals, but they do not generally take such pride in them. In Pakistan, derelict jet fighters are mounted in public squares; models of missiles decorate parks; and mock-ups of Chagai where our first nuclear tests were conducted, sprout in open spaces.

Kids usually hate being mocked or criticised, and take umbrage at the smallest slight, whether it is real or imagined. So, too, do our leaders. A few months ago, a law was seriously being considered to prevent people from passing around jokes about the president on the Internet, or by SMS. This move drew much derision internationally, and was mercifully dropped. More often than not, children are intensely self-absorbed, caring little for the needs of those around them. Similarly, our well-to-do tend not to think about the rest of their countrymen, focusing only on their immediate families. And when they do give to charity, they are concerned only about how their alms will buy them a place in heaven. Partly as a consequence of this callousness, poverty continues to stalk the land. Illiteracy, hunger and disease are endemic.

Nevertheless, enclaves of obscenely ostentatious wealth flourish amidst a vast ocean of poverty. Impatience is another attribute of the young. Living only in the present, they want everything now. So, too, do our politicians demand regime change whenever they are not in power. Unwilling to wait for a government to complete its term of office, they plot with the military or the judiciary to overthrow the ruling party so they can grab power. More often than not, the army uses these discontented politicians as levers to upset the political applecart. This refusal to follow the rules and allow a government to complete its tenure is rife among the media as well. Thus, we can see the feeding frenzy among TV chat show panelists and their hosts in the wake of the NRO judgment that has dealt the PPP government a severe blow.

In fact, we can almost see these people salivating at the prospect of more political upheaval. Like children with a short attention span, we get bored with the same ministers saying the same thing after a year or so. We just cannot understand that above all, we need a period of political stability and tranquillity. And we desperately need a consensus to fight the jihadis who are threatening to tear down the foundations of our state. Despite these dangers, we continue to squabble like kids; far from developing a common front, we are doing everything we can to destroy our political rivals, destabilising the entire system in the process. Faced with harsh reality, many kids escape into fantasy. We, too, continue nursing dreams of a united Muslim ummah that would be able to take on the hated West.

In Pakistan, various extremist groups are committed to restoring Muslim rule over the entire subcontinent. But while individuals can indulge in daydreams, nations do so at their own peril. So wake up and smell the coffee. Above all, lets please try and grow up.

The original article is available at: http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/columnists/grow-up,-and-smell-the-coffee-629

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I am surprised how prescient predictions of US Intelligence Council appear to be for Pakistan in 2015. It had stated ten years ago:

“Pakistan will not recover easily from decades of political and economic mismanagement, divisive policies, lawlessness, corruption and ethnic friction. Nascent democratic reforms will produce little change in the face of opposition from an entrenched political elite and radical Islamic parties. Further domestic decline would benefit Islamic political activists, who may significantly increase their role in national politics and alter the makeup and cohesion of the military – once Pakistan’s most capable institution. In a climate of continuing domestic turmoil, the central governments control probably will be reduced to the Punjabi heartland and the economic hub of Karachi.”

This is what an Indian analyst has to say about Pakistan of 2020:

“An even more dystopian scenario has been put forward recently by Ninand Seth, an Indian. By the year 2020, Seth says that Pakistan would have devolved into an Islamic Commonwealth. This would be a federation of Pakhtunistan (formed by the merger of the Frontier Province with Afghanistan), Balochistan, Sindh and Punjab. Life in the commonwealth would be characterised by the intrusion of religion in every aspect of life, political regimentation and austerity. “

The above quotes are excerpts from “Reversing history” by Ahmad Faruqui published in DAWN on Feb 1, 2010. The article is available at: http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/19-reversing-history-hh-05

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The article below provide a telling snapshot of how far territories that became Pakistan have fallen since the British colonial era. They focus on domestic law and order and national railway system as the two fundamental metrics of the success of British rule. (I would have added public education and civil service as the third and fourth metrics, with similar conclusions.)

I have fond memories of attending my uncle’s wedding in mid 1970s in Karachi and traveling from Lahore with the entire family in First Class Tezgam. I would dare not board a Pak Railways train now on account of its decrepit infrastructure, murderous unreliability and lawlessness of countryside.

The excerpts also contrast Indian Railways with its Pakistani counterpart. Just a cursory comparison of the local train service of two major port cities, Mumbai and Karachi, highlights the severe deterioration of Pakistan.

[Nostalgia for colonial era; DAWN; By Kunwar Idris; 7 Feb, 2010; Excerpts; Copy and Paste]

Law and order and the railways were among the best of our colonial inheritance. But they were squandered after independence. Today, they are arguably among the worst services that Pakistan renders to its citizens. In the colonial era, people were not free because they were British subjects but they were secure in their homes. While travelling they had the assurance that the train would take them to their destination in safety and on time. Now as free citizens they have the right to vote, which many dont exercise, or protest, which everybody does, but do not feel safe in their homes or travelling in trains. The pride of freedom and nostalgia for colonialism exist side by side.

So peaceful was Sindh, for instance, that towards the close of the 19th century the commissioner, Sir Bartle Frere, felt confident enough to inform the governor of Bombay that here on the frontier (with Punjab) under the mountains not a mouse stirs without Merewether’s permission. Mind you, William Merewether was just an assistant commissioner under the legendary deputy commissioner, Sir John Jacob. Today, kidnappers and killers roam the streets of Karachi while a host of ministers, nazims and magistrates fret and fight. There is no Merewether to account for 10 deaths a day. Here, we must hark back to the colonial past. Sir Bartle Frere as chief executive of Sindh was firmly of the view that power in a district or region should be delegated only to one head.

John Jacob as deputy commissioner of the border region was also commandant of the Sind Horse – equivalent of todays police and the Rangers combined. The best system for law and order, Frere thought, “was a good vigorous despotism, in which the risks of tyranny and arbitrary oppression are minimised, one in which the despot is accessible, when every man sees, knows and can appeal to his own despot”. In today’s parlance Frere was asking for a district magistrate, nazim or inspector general, call him what you will, to be made responsible for maintaining law and order. Here, amid killings and arson, a variety of head honchos huddle only to wag their fingers at each other.

It was not too long ago that people travelled by Tezgam and Khyber Mail not just for financial reasons but for the sheer pleasure of the journey. At Lahore station a Spencer meal was an added attraction. Stations now are dusty and desolate. Migrant workers go to the Karachi station for a trip home only to board a bus outside for a 1,000-mile journey. The trains in Mumbai bring in, and carry back, a million commuters every day from the suburbs to metropolitan areas. Midday meals from their homes also come by train. Trains run on time countrywide. The turnaround of the Indian railways by Lalu Prasad Yadav has become a case study at the Harvard Business School.

By contrast, Karachi has junk of a train that comes crawling from Malir to Merewether Tower. The railway rot leaves no room for a study or for pumping in more public money. A solution that governments of losing rail services have applied is to invest only in the infrastructure and contract out the operations to competing private companies. We should do the same.

The full article is available at: http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/19-nostalgia-for-colonial-era-hh-09

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