Pakistan: still waiting for a new dawn

Pakistan celebrated its Independence Day yesterday. As is the norm, there were official ceremonies and colourful tributes were paid to our forefathers who struggled for an independent state. In 1947, Pakistan may have gotten its independence from the British Raj but 64 years later, with a moth-eaten country, we are still waiting for a new dawn. Every year, the people of Pakistan wait for some miraculous transformation of this country’s situation but with each passing day, things go from bad to worse. Once again Prime Minister Gilani reiterated Pakistan’s “unhindered moral, diplomatic and political support” to the Kashmiris for their rights but where is this ‘support’ for the people of Balochistan? Prime Minister Gilani might be “ready to go to all Baloch leaders” as the government wants “to bring them in the national mainstream” but on the day he delivered this address, and while the people of Pakistan were celebrating August 14, the people of Balochistan were mourning their dead after an explosion in Dera Allahyar killed more than a dozen and injured many others. In a separate incident, journalist Munir Shakir was gunned down in Khuzdar. No wonder the people of Balochistan want their right of self-determination in the face of state oppression. Pakistani leaders continue to talk about state oppression outside Pakistan, be it Kashmir or Palestine, but when it comes to their own people, our leaders are in a habit of sweeping everything under the rug.

How long will Pakistan continue to pursue policies that have not just hurt us but the outside world as well? Cross-border terrorism has resulted in Pakistan being treated like a pariah state by the whole world. Supporting jihadi networks has made this country into one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Bomb blasts, suicide attacks, sectarian violence, Baloch genocide, political warfare in Karachi are just the tip of the iceberg. Dependency on foreign aid and loans has pushed us into one of the worst economic crises ever. Inflation keeps rising and so does unemployment. The energy crisis has led to the shutdown of many businesses and also made the lives of our citizens miserable. Corruption, both in the military and the civilian set-up, continues unabated. The military still calls the shots when it comes to our foreign and security policies. Instead of protecting our borders, the military is far too busy meddling in other affairs of the state. Our children are being taught distorted history in schools, colleges and universities. Madrassas keep churning out religious zealots who wreak havoc in the name of religion. The majority cannot even afford to send their children to schools, which is why child labour is still rampant. In his August 14 address, President Zardari said, “Youth is the real future of the country and they are the hope for the progress and prosperity of the country.” If the government is really serious about bringing progress and prosperity in Pakistan, it must do so by investing more time and money to improve the education system. We must also protect the rights of our minorities who are treated like second class citizens in their own homeland. For this, the government needs to repeal draconian laws promulgated by General Ziaul Haq. Crimes against women must also be stopped. A society cannot progress unless and until women are treated equally. Our justice system needs to be revamped in order to bring speedy justice to perpetrators of terror and other heinous crimes.

Only a secular, tolerant, educated, egalitarian and just Pakistan can survive. Continuing with the same old policies of abetting religious extremism, terrorism and intolerance will lead to anarchy and self-destruction.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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