Hitting Rock Bottom
By Shireen M Mazari

We have hit rock bottom at all levels -- from the political to the sports field. And it appears that only a non-Pakistani, the late Bob Woolmer felt the shame strongly enough to suffer an untimely death. But let us begin with the horror of the physical abuse of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, the chasm between the actual restrictions that continued to persist regarding his person and his family and the official disclaimers to the contrary. In all this, the sight of those who are supposed to uphold the law and protect the citizens actually mauling the Chief Justice and his wife revealed the sorry state of the law enforcement bureaucracy.
Violence is clearly endemic in them and certainly no ordinary citizen will feel safe now -- the little that they may have done so earlier. But what has been the state's response? A few inquiries but no rolling of the heads yet. Not that that should have been needed in the first place. Surely the shame of this incidence should have compelled the senior Islamabad police officials and interior minister to have resigned out of a sense of basic decency. Instead, no expression of regret was even heard from these folk.
As if the physical abuse of the CJ was not enough of a national disgrace, we saw the police run amok in what was clearly a pre-planned and officially ordered -- at what level is the real question -- assault on the Geo and The News offices. The apology from the President was a gracious gesture and the rush to the scene of the crime by the information minister and a day later by the prime minister was a clear reflection of their desire to disassociate from this ugly incident. But then there is the glaring question of who ordered the attack, because it was clearly on the orders of someone? Are there people who can order such violence with the top leadership not only kept in total ignorance but also damaged considerably? It is unbelievable to now be told that the top cop involved in the attack has disappeared!
The violence perpetrated by the police certainly has had an impact. After all, the ordinary person can now see how threatened he is at the hands of the very people who are paid out of taxpayer money to protect him/her. The fear that is being spread across the land with regard to police violence seems to be a deliberate policy. After all, it was not just Geo that suffered at the hands of the Punjab police. The Lahore High Court building was a target also, with lawyers earning the wrath of a police force that has obviously gone mad. We know the brutal reputation of the police in terms of blackmail, harassment, corruption and so on -- but seeing them with rocks and sticks initiating violence is a terrible sight. What was the difference between the police on rampage in Islamabad and Lahore and the lawbreakers who hold the government to ransom with the power of lethal sticks?
Of course, no force is used against such lawbreakers. Instead all the force is reserved for those who seek to peacefully protest or those who seek to fulfill their mandate of reporting such protest. What a place we live in. Certainly enlightenment and moderation have no place within our law enforcement setup. And no heads have rolled in the Geo case either -- although in any civilized and decent society, the interior and information ministers would have resigned. In this context, the less one says of the law minister, the better since his violence and abusiveness is becoming legendary. Never mind the ridicule that that brings upon this poor country.
Talking of resignations, it was a pleasant surprise to see the PCB chairman offering his resignation after the cricket fiasco the Pakistani nation has had to undergo. But why did the good doctor take up a position for which he was clearly not suited? As for the team, clearly the selectors played favorites and we got the results the state deserved – but not the nation which is starved for heroes and asks very little from them. Inzimam has resigned from ODIs, but he needs to be removed altogether. With others of his ilk, he is now focused more on proselytizing for the faith and that is admirable but then he must leave cricket to those fully committed to it. Why are we not able to have professional setups for professional tasks? No sporting great has a say in any of our sports boards which are run on personal whims and fancies. That is why we have hit rock bottom in squash, hockey and cricket -- not to mention the sorry state of other sports like tennis. It is not that the talent is lacking; it is simply our refusal to have professionals run things. Instead, retired bureaucrats, of both varieties, are seen as the answer to all our ills -- quite forgetting that they are probably responsible for these ills in the first place.
Nor is it just sports. Look at what we have done to our national carrier -- PIA. Once known as a leader in its field, we have managed to reduce it to the bottom of the heap, with the EU ban being the final insult. Despite the loyalty of the ordinary Pakistani, especially from the diaspora, who continues to fly the national carrier out of choice, those managing this "golden egg" have continued to let things rot. Perhaps it is a deliberate ploy to allow its sale to some Gulf enterprise -- and we would not know the Indian component in such an enterprise -- but it is reflective of the sorry state of affairs we confront today.
We allow external powers to abuse us at will while the state abuses the nation in a similar fashion. There is nothing new in what has been happening recently to what happened with the so-called democratic civil setups earlier. The judiciary and media were targeted then, as they are now. The US abused us then and it is doing so today. Pressler dictated US policy towards Pakistan for decades and now we are seeing a replay of this with the US Senate having passed a bill which will make aid to Pakistan conditional on Presidential certification. The House had already passed this bill and the issues on which certification of compliance has to be given range from nuclear-related issues and the GoP's commitment to secular public schools.
Even as we hit rock bottom on all fronts, there is a resignation in the face of events. After all, will we never see things changing? Every time hopes are raised and then they come to naught. There was a glimmer of hope before the 2002 elections on many fronts, but post the elections it seems to have become "business as usual". Are we destined to suffer through repetitive cycles despite our many developed strengths and despite a most passionate nation? What have we done to suffer those who bring disrepute to the state and nation and those who use violence against those they are meant to protect? Who will be the first to accept collective responsibility for state institutions going awry?
(The writer is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. Courtesy The News)




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