Everyone at fault, except us
In the national interest
Monday, December 15, 2008
by Kamal Siddiqi
The writer is editor reporting, The News
One can only wonder at the collective amnesia that Pakistanis suffer, and how the various quarters are quick to exploit our insecurities. One look at our television chat shows makes you wonder which world we live in, or, better still, which world those commentators want us to live in.
It is time that some national debate starts on the role of the electronic media in Pakistan. We cannot continue to be misinformed and misguided—the consequences for us are dire. We need some informed debate. Currently most of us are shooting in the dark.
As a nation, it is time for us to do some soul searching. Why is it that everything that goes against us becomes a conspiracy? There is always an explanation for incidents, events and happenings. The Marriott blast took place because there were Marines on the premises. Such insensitive talk only heightens the trauma for those who have lost their near and dear ones.
But we are never able to blame those who are responsible. Take, for example, our economy. If our economy falters, we do not blame the leadership—whether civilian or military. This leadership, in most instances, is responsible for misappropriation of large amounts as well as spending in the wrong places. There is money for foreign trips but not for paying the oil-marketing companies.
As Pakistanis, we don’t ask our enlightened leadership why they are shy of taxing the rich and powerful. Why is it that all Pakistanis suffer by paying high indirect taxes when what we need to do is widen our direct taxes base? When will we not bow to pressure and have a national tax register that is both representative and comprehensive.
Why does the powerful landed gentry get away without paying its dues? When was the last time we had a debate on the tax structure in Pakistan that outlined what needs to be done. We do not take to task our bureaucrats—most of whom interpret rules to harass and harangue and earn an extra buck.
Why is it that we are unable to identify corrupt government officials and take them to task? When was the last time we took a bureaucrat to the cleaners? It seems that the only people our anti-corruption machinery targets are political opponents of the government in power.
No one points a finger at our business community—a significant portion of which cheats on taxes, steals power and bribes officials to have its illegalities overlooked. Our business community under-invoices and cheats on duties. Pakistan may be the only country where containers are “smuggled” through ports after the relevant officials have been paid off. Corruption is not just rife in Pakistan, it has taken the form of an epidemic.
And yet, ask the man on the street as to who is behind Pakistan’s economic crisis, and he happily blames the IMF and says it’s a Jewish conspiracy. Nothing can be simpler than that. When will we ever get out of the tendency of blaming everyone else but ourselves?
Take the current debate on the Indian charge that Pakistan is the epicentre of terrorism. And the declaration of the Jamaat-ud-Daawa as a terror organisation. We are told on the media that the Jamaat-ud-Daawa is in fact a welfare organisation which is running schools, computer centres and madrasas. No one is willing to talk about the link with the Laskhar-e-Taiba. No one questions what the source of this organisation’s funding is. There is no debate. It’s all a conspiracy. Case closed.
The level of discourse had dropped to new lows. Led by people of the callibre of Shaikh Rasheed and Hamid Gul. One can only wonder whose side these gentlemen are batting on. From an outside view, it seems that Pakistanis are not only in self-denial, they are also a nation of war-mongers led by a government bordering on the neurotic.
We made the same mistake with the Lal Masjid issue. At that time, the role of Chaudhry Shujaat and Ejazul Haq were both murky and self-serving. The two gentlemen played a double game. As a nation, we are riddled by these closet fundamentalists who play to both sides. The consequences are borne by the common man.
Pakistanis who argue that the military operation on the Lal Masjid was wrong need to be asked what other solution was there for the militant group that inhabited that religious seminary. This group had taken Islamabad hostage by “arresting” people, by trying them in its kangaroo court, and in some instances punishing them on the spot.
Encroaching of land and government buildings, this militant group challenged the state of Pakistan. What else would we have done? Nobody is willing to talk about how many mosques have encroached over how much land all over Pakistan. Why are we silent on these basic issues?
One of the reasons why we are suffering in terms of the war on terror is because we are still unsure who the enemy is. While we are quick to take out rallies against America and we are happy to target innocent American civilians every time there is a US attack on our tribal areas, everyone turns a blind eye when suicide bombers attacks and kill innocent Pakistanis.
We are unable to identify the enemy within. The government works in fits and starts. Madam Sherry Rehman started a campaign to highlight the victims of terrorism on our home soil. But as suddenly as it appeared, it was stopped. We are told there was “pressure” from religious quarters. How can a government be cowed down so easily? Who will take up the cause of those Muslims who are killed by Muslim groups?
How sad it is that we cannot even mourn those Pakistanis who were killed for no fault of their own by groups which base their operations here. People whose near ones have been killed by militants ask whom to blame.
It is a fact that more Muslims have been killed by militants in the war on terror than any other community. In fact, since the War on Terror started, Muslims have been the biggest victims. But the aggression has come not only from the Western powers. It has come from religious groups at home.
In the Mumbai attacks as well, the number of Muslims who died was sizeable. But we continue to ignore the on-ground facts. We are still dreaming of a revolution. We want to plant the green flag on the Red Fort. Rhetoric at its best.
This is where the collective amnesia comes in. As Pakistanis we continue to fund and protect these militant organisations. There are many among us who justify their existence. We give them our Zakat and the hides of our sacrificial animals on Eid. We help fund their madrasas. We think we are making a place for ourselves in Heaven. Instead we are making our home a living hell.
Where is the government in all this? Rehman Malik cautions the media not to glorify terrorism but some quarters of the state work in tandem. We get mixed messages. One wonders who is in control. When will we have an educated and informed debate on this? For the sake of Pakistan someone has to sit up and take notice. The question is whether the present government has the will and the ability to do so.
we are all trying to white wash our image in the international world.
why? because we are being told we are the source of terror, which in a way has been very true. its like crying wolf, now nobody wants to believe anything we pakis say.
our image is damaged and will remain so for years to come.
thanks to the criminals like gen zia and his monkey brigades. these mullas who preach anger and hate against the rest of the world should be locked up and the key thrown away. that is the first step that is required, keeping our religion private and not mixing it in religion is the second step. until and unless we do not do that , expect more pakis to be blamed.
I am very happy pakistan is being blamed and being dragged in the dust because it will wake up some of the ppl of this country to do something once and for all.
for gods sake pakistan is a bloody blood thirsty failed state. it time we pull up our socks and see the real world.
we have no futue or hope as long as we hang on to the religious path. keep it private do not force your religious ideology on the ppl.