Before it sinks

In South Asia on 16. January 2011 at 23:58

Dear elected leaders,

The fragile ship HMS Pakistan is sinking. Due to not one but several struck with icebergs. Captain or captains are all clinging to both the steering and the lifesaving boats known as Dubai and UK. Some have khaki uniform, others well oiled beards, some have well ironed white cotton salwaar kameez while some shining suits with matching ties and napkins. The chief architect of the ship have long been put to rest, while the design and machinery is totally transformed from what it was meant to be. One major reason is the lack of understanding among the staff on their responsibilities and limits in the steering of the ship.

Pakistan is facing a difficult time. Perhaps the most difficult time since its creation, even considering the bloody civil war in where the nation lost half its population and half its land. Reading any serious analyses on the development of Pakistan since the 70s one will surely develop a pessimistic even depressive view of its future. Its economy has not managed to make a sizable industry which can release it from the deadly price fluctuations in the international market. The country has a political party culture where nepotism, corruption and mutual benefits made by horse trading are common. This in turn has led to increased support to army rulers when they seize power (only to regret it later on). The Army itself being the first one to bag their monthly salaries, the biggest landlord in the country and in effective control of the nation does not tolerate any criticism, neither wants to recognize that they are subjects and not masters of the people. While both the army and the politicians have failed to produce any healthy development of the nation, there is no doubt that the future lies in the hands of the politicians who should represent the peoples will.

With the ongoing trend of war on several fronts, terrorist threat in the urban areas, huge budgetary deficits, extremism on the rise, skyrocketing inflation and lack of electric power for the household and industry the nation will either end up as bankrupt (today American taxpayers finance our deficits) and therefore in complete anarchy. The darkest alternatives can be a breakup of the nation following an ethnic civil war in between the powerful Punjab against the other provinces. The result will be devastating since Islamabad holds nuclear material and the suicidal mentality in the army is to sink with the boat.

Considering the current situation the major political parties, PPP, MQM, ANP, PML-N and PML-Q (a total of up to 90% of the electoral vote) should immediately form a new coalition government giving it a charter with clear objectives so the people find relief and light in the end of the tunnel. A list of these objectives could be as following:

A sincere promise to the nation not to bring up any personal rivalry against other political parties during the period “Objectives Coalition Government” runs the office. You do not need to swear by the Quran or any other holy book, we will accept a simple promise from you. If such a government is possible, the people will certainly accept not one, but thousands of NROs. We can even accept an increase in your salaries with zero taxation, just make sure you can put up a unity government as soon as possible.

Peace with India should be the first major step of the government. Pakistan has over the years lost all its strong cards on this issue. We have not any serious international ally who will speak our cause. Neither do we have the necessary financial ability to wage a full scale war with the arch enemy. Even the army doctrine is to uphold the enemy for a couple of weeks so that the international community brings the warring parts on the peace negotiation tables. With such a backing and an Indian counterpart which have grown powerful over the years, we can realistically forget that the current Indian administration will honor Nehrus resolve to accept free and fair referendum in Kashmir. The only possible outcome will be to accept the Line of Control as international border. Unacceptable some would say, yes it is, but we are in such a situation because of our own doings. With a unresolved dispute we will keep on increasing the military budget while cutting the spending on other important areas. Such will not expand our revenue, while our counterpart do have a economic growth and therefore can afford a greater allotments the military.

Once peace, engage the army in Railway, Police department, PIA and WAPDA. These major institutions of Pakistan need professional leadership and a disciplined working cadre. Army involvement in upgrading the old electric grid and the railway tracks from colonial time will please the public and give the business community a steady transportation of goods and supply of power (One suggestion to tackle the energy crisis is to ban Air Conditioners all over Pakistan). Pakistan’s police department needs increased allocations in the budget. In addition it needs trust, training in counter terrorism and a distance from the local political leadership. The police should be enough to fight off the extremists and mafia networks in our urban cities, but with a backing from the now revealed army it will surely be a big crackdown for the foes.

While at the same time, slice the military budget. Slice it as if it was a Chicken Korma at your cousins wedding. Take initiative, sign the Non-Proliferation treaty and invite India to do as well. The world will look to you in admiration. Then slice the spending on the nuclear program while you are at it. With a strong popular government the Corps commanders and the service chiefs cannot protest at all. The army have fostered good commanders, if seniority and merit is considered when promotions are done one can expect that future service chiefs will honor their oath to the nation and the constitution (and Ayub, Zia or Pervez would never have become chiefs of the army). And if the knife is still sharp do separate the ISI into a civilian and a military agency. Pakistan has as of today several intelligence agencies, we need could do with less and they should know where their place belongs, under the strong control of the civilian and military administration.

With the army back in the barracks get a consensus on a national policy to get rid of terrorist organizations and the Taliban insurgency once and for all. A committed army and a united government will gather popular support. The hidden support to such organizations from some rouge political and security official elements will cease once Kashmir solution is final. US should and will pay for such an operation. But the heavy blow on the militants will be the care for Pakistan’s citizens by providing them their basic needs and rights.

Among these rights is a well functioning educational system. A sliced military budget will free much capital to be allocated to the health and educational department. Putting senior politicians on these two departments with increased monetary assistance these important departments will manage to produce a good service for its youth bulb and increasing population. And please, do eradicate all form of political propaganda from schoolbooks, give this task to our professional highly competent professors. The goal should be an equal attendance by both boys and girls in our schools, and therefore to develop an early respect between the genders. With an educated woman, population growth will automatically decrease, so will the many thousands Madrassahs which flourish only because of a weak education system. If the clergy do not agree on population control, import some Muftis from Indonesia and Bangladesh, they will happily support such initiatives. Our domestic Muftis will automatically adjust themselves once halwa is reduced on their daily diet.

With the work on giving the people their basic rights, do demand them to do their part as well. We will gladly pay our taxes if the system is fair and if the revenue is gathered to be used on us. It is in the nature of a Pakistani to complain about the current system, but they keep quiet when it comes to doing their part. Reform it to a simple tax system which aims at income and not on the poor masses in the form of VAT or GST. Why lump the cost of maladministration on the poor consumer while the elite walks away paying minimum taxes? Make the system valid for all, poor and rich and revenue will flow into the national treasure. But you dear politician, will be spared off course, as promised above, just make sure to broaden the tax base.

Pakistan’s economy is first of all based on the export of raw material such as Cotton and some fabric as Textile. With five major rivers running through the heartland, Pakistan should work on repairing the British inherited irrigation system so we once again can be a net-exporter of wheat, sugar and rice. It is a shame that with the largest irrigation system our crops are so uncertain that we cannot predict a specific amount of harvest the next year. Do help the farmer with collective tractor schemes, research on new types of grains and drilling for new tube wells. But at the same time, industry should not be a phenomenon reserved for districts in northern Punjab. We need processing industry in major cities like Multan, Hyderabad, Quetta, Peshawar, Muzaffarabad and Gilgit. What Europe did witness during their industrial revolution, do we need to witness now, and we need to walk the same path. Working class will emerge which in turn will foster a youth more eager for higher education. In a Europe which lacks salt during the harsh winters, why not use the opportunity we have with these vast salt ranges in our country to increase the revenue? Not to forget the giant potential we have in our tourist industry, just make sure you put a profiled politician on that post, not the one who just leaved the office just to justify the murder of Salman Taseer in the National Assembly.

A big chunk of our importing is related to oil and related products. If you, dear politician manage to make a reality of the IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India) pipeline, and get a supply chain from Turkmenistan as well, we can actually pick and choose from Saudi Arabia, Iran and Central Asia when it comes to Oil and Gas. A heavy consumer as Pakistan can surely get easy rebates from these suppliers when they know of the alternatives we have. Such a tactic is for the benefit of our budget. The machinery we import can with encouraged youth become a domestic produced hardware.

And while you have a consensus in the parliament, do create some more provinces to cripple the dominance of one province. A separation of Punjab into a northern part and a Seraiki south would make a balance in power among the provinces. In addition incorporate the PATAs into their respective provinces while FATA to become a part of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (why not call it only Pakhtunkhwa?). With the integration og Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir we can create another province in north. This will get all the territories under the same constitution and the government can start claiming back its writ.

Once these objectives are done why not reform your own political parties? Why do you aim at governmental power when you only have voter base in one or two provinces? Spread your wings to all the provinces and if there is ONE thing to imitate the Jamaat-e-Islami for, then it would be its democratic political culture. With such a party culture, the best among you will serve the country without the fear of a Commando to put you behind bars. At this stage it would be natural to discuss the wrong use of Pakistan’s penal code.

You might say these objectives are long term, and that popular support will wither away by time. You are certainly right. It Is the fear of losing power the earlier and current government refuses to launch long term projects, and therefore it is highly important that the major political parties puts aside their differences “in national interest” so they together both takes the responsibility and together face the public’s anger and praise.

Save the ship from sinking. Save us from the embarrassment of failing as a nation. And remember, you all will be honored if the ship reaches its destination.

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