By: Ameer Bhutto Pakistan is trapped in a pincer movement: On the one hand we are under pressure from the US to fight its war against religious extremism and suffer brazen violations of our national sovereignty in the form of drone attacks and now even ground military operations, while bearing intolerable loss of lives and material damage. On the other hand we are under fierce attack from religious extremists for our complicity with the Americans and have to suffer terrorist attacks by them in which thousands of innocent citizens have died and the already beleaguered economy has ground to a halt. We find ourselves hopelessly unable to perform adequately on either front; there appears to be nothing our law enforcement agencies can do to stop terrorist attacks and there is nothing our government wants to do to stop drone attacks and breach of national sovereignty by our foreign masters before whom they have prostrated themselves for the sake of hanging on to power.
The origins of this fateful conundrum for Pakistan lie in former US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s ‘are you with us or against us?’ ultimatum to Musharraf, in response to which he readily heaved Pakistan onto someone else’s funeral pyre. The Musharraf administration was in serious trouble at that time. It stood isolated and shunted by the international community for having illegally seized power by usurping the democratically elected government of Nawaz Sharif in a military coup.
But just as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan threw open the flood gates of western, particularly American, largesse for Zia-ul-Haq and made him their blue-eyed boy, worthy of adorning the cover of Times Magazine despite having murdered an elected prime minister and subverted the constitution, the 9-11 attacks too pushed the Americans into instantaneously forgiving Musharraf his sins against democracy to use him as an instrument in their war on terror. But in time, Musharraf proved unable or unwilling to comply with the US wish-list in toto and was unceremoniously dumped.
Our foreign overlords needed to find a replacement in whose vocabulary the word ‘no’ did not exist. Enter Zardari. Drone attacks? Military operations against extremists? Resolving the Raymond Davis issue? Killing Osama bin Laden? No problem! Wikileaks has already revealed that Zardari made it very clear to the US authorities that they had carte blanche to do as they pleased in Pakistan and that they felt more concern for the loss of innocent lives in Pakistan in drone attacks than he did. It is because our so-called leaders are so eager to bend far before their foreign masters and invite them to breach our national sovereignty in order to secure their own hold on power with their support that Pakistan stands today between the devil and the deep blue sea.
But the ride is about to get rougher. Given the incompetence of our law enforcement agencies because of which our towns and cities are easy targets for terrorists, the nation is already bracing itself for reprisals in reaction to the killing of OBL. How many more hundreds or thousands will die in the coming days in such attacks just because our rulers’ lust for power propped up by foreign masters knows no bounds?
The cakewalk this government has enjoyed for three years, during which time it has represented the interests of its foreign benefactors more than those of the people of Pakistan, might not last very long. Even before the November 2010 US Congressional elections in which the Democrats lost their majority in the House of Representatives and their majority in the Senate was slashed, President Obama, and to a lesser extent Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, were Pakistan’s only friends in Washington DC. But if a trust deficit existed between Pakistan and the Pentagon, CIA and Congress before the US Navy SEALS raid in Abbottabad, it has now grown to full blown hostility. The Republicans are missing no opportunity to flex their muscle in Congress to make the going heavy for the Obama administration. Obama should be flying high after taking down America’s enemy No. 1, but the Republicans already have him on the back foot, forcing him to answer awkward questions about the advantages accruing to the US after pumping tens of billions of dollars into Pakistan to fight extremists, only to find the most wanted man in the world hiding in plain sight, living in peace and comfort as a neighbour of the military establishment in Abbottabad for the last five years (according to his wife). They have tabled a bill in the House to suspend aid to Pakistan. The Obama administration is looking distinctly shaky in the run up to next year’s presidential elections. If he goes, the incumbent dispensation in Pakistan will lose its only friend in Washington and will be in for the high jump. It is likely to dawn upon the next occupant of the White House that there is no need to deal with the useless monkey when you can deal directly with the organ grinder.
Where are our leaders when the nation needs leadership and direction? Why do they not step forward and use their much heralded ‘genius’ to pull us out of this mess? Another country invaded our air space and carried out a military operation on our soil and our rulers are acting like nothing has happened. Not only did the foreign secretary rule out any inquiry or action, but our government actually congratulated the US authorities on a successful military strike within our borders! As I write this, more than a week after the event, our rulers have yet to directly address the nation or give any explanation or reassurance to the people. The onslaught of accusations and slurs Pakistan is facing goes virtually unanswered as the prime minister continued his sojourn in a luxury hotel in France, as did Zardari when the country was drowning in the worst floods in almost a century last year.
They have left it to civil servants to provide the answers the whole nation and the whole world crave. Military dictators use civil servants to deal with prickly issues, but people expect better from their elected government. But, having been caught with their pants down after an intelligence and administrative failure of gargantuan magnitude and having shamed the nation yet again, what can they possibly say to the people? Hiding behind Benazir Bhutto’s portrait will not help this time.
We have hit rock bottom and stand disgraced before the world. But providence has brought us to a fork in the road and given us a choice for the future; one path is that of least resistance and leads to further prostration before foreign vested interests and their indigenous stooges to seek salvation by trying to ingratiate ourselves with them, leading to even greater oppression and servitude. If we choose to follow this path, we can say goodbye to Pakistan as we know it. The other path leads to the restoration of national honour and pride and rebuilding of our country by cutting the fetters of slavery that bind us to foreign overlords and their shameless agents and wielding the reins of destiny in our own hands. This path leads to a brighter tomorrow.
To be or not to be? Is it nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of debasing servitude forever, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and to break free through struggle and sacrifice? But freedom comes at a price. Do we have the mettle to struggle and endure hardship for it, or are we a slave nation by nature, destined to live and die in chains in shameful silence? The hour has come for us to do some soul searching and take action as our conscience dictates.
(The writer is vice-chairman of the Sindh National Front and a former MPA from Ratodero. He has degrees from the University of Buckingham and Cambridge University).
NOTE:This is a cross post from THE NEWS.