WORLD: Is Pakistan waiting for a miracle?

Author Christina Lamb was a close associate of the late Benazir Bhutto. Submitted photo

ALI MEHDI
VANCOUVER DESI

Pakistan is becoming more and more fragmented. Out of the original four provinces, there is a war in two, Baluchistan and Khyber-Pakhtoonwa (KP), and lawlessness in the other two. Out of the latter two, there is renewed call for division into further provinces.

Baluchistan is on the path of secession. In certain areas there, one cannot fly the Pakistani flag. In certain schools Pakistan Studies is not a subject any more, neither do they sing the national anthem. The Baluch nationalists want separation from the Federation. In KP, war against terrorism is ongoing, both by the Pakistani Army and U.S. drone attacks, destroying innocent lives in the process and leaving an unnumbered amount homeless! In certain areas it has been reported that the Army refused to take up weapons against their own. To root out a few, many have become the target and it just keeps multiplying.

There are talks to divide Punjab into a Seraiki speaking belt, basically consisting of the Southern Punjab where the lingo spoken is Seraiki.

Whether it’s one or all four provinces the undertones previously and the overtones now just spell one word – regionalism. For well over six decades of independence, we have failed to inculcate amongst ourselves, both as a country and a nation, a deep sense of nationalism. We feel we stand better divided amongst our own. So will this mean that divided we stand and united we fall?

What is that we are actually waiting for? Or are we so numb that we don’t care anymore?

Yes, we do feel united in nationalism but it’s mostly when we are not living in Pakistan. Ironic!

16 years ago, I entered the Central Superior Services of Pakistan. Some 30,000-40,000 candidates appear each year and about only 0.5 per cent qualify. This makes the chosen ones feel elite, a euphoria which they bask in the first day they walk into the training academy at Walton, Lahore until the day they retire as king maker bureaucrats.

This exam is also based on a regional quota system! So the young aspirants walking in are already endowed with an overwhelming sense of being Punjabi, Baluchi, Sindhi or Pathan. To add to this there is a quota for the armed services also! Armed services personnel, who are “connected” and want to exit, can join the bureaucracy without an exam!

So policy makers of the future come together in one place but they talk and walk regionalism. This is further reflected in the policies that are made, in national Economic Commission Awards and The Planning Commission of Pakistan, which eventually gives rise to regional woes and more chants of self deprivation, bias and anguish.

This regionalism is also reflective in the most popular sport in Pakistan – cricket! It is usually a mesh between Sind, Punjab and KP and the nation awaits a smoothie!
When the British came to undivided India, they had one policy and one objective – divide and rule! Though we went through independence from them, yet their legacy lives on. Our so called politicians and policy makers sing the tune of divide to compose their rule!

With Gilgit-Baltistan being made a new province, taking total provinces to five, Pakistan currently has 102 Administrative Districts – one major city combined with smaller ones, which eventually make up the provinces, in addition to Azad Kashmir and FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas).

A simple solution to foster nationalism would be to run the country on the basis of these administrative districts, do away with the provinces that continue to preach regionalism. Each District electing their one representative, and combined all of them elect a President – all for a four-year term. Let there be greater accountability and lesser bureaucracy!
After Jinnah, Founder of Pakistan, there has been no one that could ever gain true national consensus. Every aspirant was sincere in attempting to establish their own rule, whether it meant breaking East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, imposing military or civilian Martial Law, distorting the Constitution and rewriting it to suit their “Democratic” definitions, suspending basic rights, imposing sanctions on press and media, using or abusing Judiciary, taking Khaki’s off or keeping them on, and the list goes on!

In the Holy Quran, there is a verse that sums up our state of affairs: “Ye shall have the same rulers imposed upon you as your own deeds are.”
Christina Lamb was a close associate of the late Benazir Bhutto, Oxford days. Her first major interview was Bhutto and later the same year, in 1987, she was invited to Bhutto’s wedding in Pakistan. 20 years later, Lamb was one of the two foreign journalists on board the reception bus heralding Bhutto’s second return to Pakistan. This was the target of a suicide attack that left dozens killed and Bhutto eventually in another attack two months later.

Lamb wrote a book titled Waiting for Allah – Pakistan’s Struggle for Democracy in 1991. She was declared persona non grata and asked to leave Pakistan by the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and the book was banned. The last sentence of the book is “Pakistan is a nation waiting for Allah.”

Time is not on our side. Let us prove her and so many others, wrong …

Ali Mehdi runs a Vancouver-based financial consultancy engaged in Private Equity and Venture Capital. An MBA from LUMS and an MSc from the London School of Economics, Ali has been in senior strategic roles in global finance with banking giants as Citi, ABN-AMRO and Barclays Capital in Europe and the Middle East. His late father, Ali Mohtasham, was a celebrated Pakistan Movement worker and an author of four books.

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