Sadiq & Ameen vs Security and Economy

panama papersLet us save the theatrics for the script writers for a moment and admit what appear to be some basic truths. Nawaz Sharif’s family lives a lifestyle that exceeds their reported income. Okay, this is increasingly obvious, but is it really so unexplained? Let’s consider a few other facts:

  1. There are more people on planes at any given moment than people paying their due taxes.
  2. The ‘informal’ economy in Pakistan is nearly as large as the formal economy – around $160 Billion.

Yes, but it’s not our fault, you say. We expect more from our leaders, you say. And we would pay our taxes if we knew our leaders were not pocketing our money, you say.

Really? Okay. Then let’s talk about our leaders. Nawaz goes, who is the sadiq & ameen who will replace him? Asif Zardari? Imran Khan? Don’t make me laugh.

This is why we need Army to take over and clean house, you say. But how clean is Army’s house? Will we see another ‘Panama Papers’ type leak about Gen Musharraf’s unexplained wealth? The worst kept secret in the country is the rampant corruption and looting by Army officers.

Okay, then, so what does this mean? There is no hope? No. I don’t think we have to be so fatalistic. However, I do think that we need to decide what is important. Is it most important to see our political rivals humiliated? This seems to be how we are deciding things now, and what has it earned us? We are a nation that is divided, insecure within our own borders, overwhelmed by religious extremism, all while in a state of economic stagnation. Instead of taking our problems seriously, we have tried to outsource them – first to America, now to China. You take care of our security and economy, we say, while we entertain ourselves with petty political dramas.

This may well be the end for Nawaz Sharif. If he goes, he goes. But what comes next? The same will be repeated with the next, and the next, and the next. We have no intention of changing. And why should we? Are you not amused? After all, surely the Chinese will take care of us….

State’s Role In Vigilante Killing

Another video has leaked showing armed police including ATS standing guard as vigilantes search cars for the body of murdered student Mashal Khan.

Sadly, this is not a surprise. Even after police cleared the victim from any allegations, still there are countless who support his killers including many officers from law enforcement agencies. This is not an accusation, it is a fact stated by police themselves.

We are all familiar with reports that University administrators pressurized students to accuse Mashal. And we have seen the report of PTI councillor Arif Mardan warning students not to name the killers. We know the dramatic statements of PM Nawaz Sharif and IHC Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui against blasphemy. All of these add up to state’s role in whipping up the religious sentiments and making a very dangerous environment. However there is another way that the state is responsible for these lynch mobs.

Whole society may be sensitive to blasphemy issue, but this is not enough to explain vigilantism and lynch mobs. If students and administrators truly believed that someone has committed blasphemy, why won’t they report to authorities? Why won’t we accept the legal process to determine guilt and innocence? I believe the reason is that we have not actual legal system in this country, and I will now provide evidence.

When Rangers pick up people and torture them to death, when state agencies kidnap bloggers, when supporters of killers openly defy government orders with no consequences, when militant leaders declare that they are unmoved by government bans, when Army denies foreigners consular access before sentencing them to death in secret trials, when hardened terrorists are killed in ‘police encounters‘ and even those who are captured are tried and convicted in secret military courts, the message is given very clearly that there is no actual law and order but only the law of the jungle. If even our own law enforcement agencies act as vigilantes, how can we expect anyone else to act differently?

Parliamentarians condemn lynching and declare that law of the jungle cannot prevail, but they are empty words for show only. Which lawmaker will reign in out of control agencies? Which lawmaker will change laws that affect religious sensitivities?

Speaking about why police did not stop the mob that killed Mashal Khan, a police officer said “There are hundreds of sympathisers in my force and if I take too much interest in the case I might be killed too.”

Police know that the reality is that the law of the state is the law of the jungle.

And privately, in our own hearts, we know it too.

Nawaz has a problem. His name is Chaudhry Nisar.

Nawaz Sharif Chaudhry NIsarNawaz Sharif gave a commendable speech today in Chakwal, saying that his government is dedicated to improving the lot and lives of religious minorities and promoting the mindset of ‘for you is your religion and for me is mine’. He told the audience that he is prime minister of all Pakistanis and “not just Muslim Pakistanis”. The Prime Minister should be applauded for giving this important message. Unfortunately, he has a problem.

No, it’s not his past flirtation with becoming ‘Ameer ul Momineen‘. The past can be forgiven if the present proves different. In this case, there is a question mark because while Nawaz is saying the right thing, he is keeping in his government powerful ministers who are saying the opposite. Day before PM Nawaz gave his impressive speech, his own Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar told a completely different story, declaring that sectarian militants cannot be considered terrorists. Nisar’s remarks sparked a walkout by opposition Senators.

How can anyone take seriously the PM’s words about ending religious intolerance and sectarianism when his own Interior Minister is seen serving tea to the heads of proscribed hate groups and giving his own speeches defending sectarian militants? Nawaz Sharif has a choice. He can keep Chaudhry Nisar and continue to give empty speeches and have no one believe him, or he can sack Chaudhry Nisar and go down in history as a PM who actually put his words into action to improve the country. He can’t do both.

Nawaz Sharif just dealt an important blow to extremism

Muhammad Abdus SalamPrime Minister Nawaz Sharif has dealt an important blow to the forces of obscurantism and extremism today by renaming of Quaid-i-Azam University’s (QAU) physics department to the Professor Abdus Salam Center for Physics and creating a new programme named the Professor Abdus Salam Fellowship to grant five annual fellowships for Pakistani PhD students in the field of Physics.

Dr Muhammad Abdus Salam is a national hero, though he has been treated very badly and nearly forgotten only because of his religious sect. By openly recognising Dr Abdus Salam in such a public and lasting way, PM Nawaz has dealt an important blow to extremism in the country. It is a first step only, but it is a crucial one to undoing the normalisation of hate and sectarianism that has taken root in so much of our society.

 

Foreign Policy: Everything is fine

Pakistan Foreign PolicyYesterday I predicted that the state was still unwilling to do the needful to fix our current foreign policy that has increasingly moved the country into global isolation. How could I have known that I would  be proven correct only 24 hours later? According to Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan is not only not isolated, but our foreign policy is a ‘monumental‘ success!

To prove his point, PM’s Foreign Advisor listed several achievements of the foreign policy. These include CPEC and Pak-China ties (listed separately, as if they are two different things) and resumption of dialogue with US (really? US ties are a success???). However the best example given by far is “exporting labor to Middle Eastern countries”.

Abandoned laborers in Saudi

Yes, our leadership believes that their ‘monumental’ success is demonstrated by Pakistani laborers in Middle Eastern kingdoms.

Islamabad said 8,520 of its nationals in Saudi Arabia had not been receiving their salaries for several months. A foreign ministry statement said “most of the workers want to leave these companies but only after settling their dues.”

Exporting our people to work under slavery conditions is not a success of foreign policy, it is a failure of economic AND foreign policy. In other words, even our ‘monumental’ successes are actually failures. But as usual we are not letting the facts get in the way of a good story.

Nawaz urged envoys to promote a positive image of Pakistan to other countries, saying the responsibility to introduce Pakistan as an emerging market rests with ambassadors, who should take up the promotion of foreign investment in Pakistan as their mission.

This is actually our foreign policy: Just keep repeating what we want to be true, no matter how ridiculous we look, and keep hoping that someday it will actually come true.