October 1997, Pakistan
Pakistan, meaning a “land of the pure”, turned fifty this year. Looking back over the past five decades of Pakistan’s political history, a picture of utter hopelessness, disillusionment and decay in almost every field, flashed into the mind. A land which was carved out on the map of the world after enormous sacrifices were rendered in the form of precious human lives stands today in utter contrast to the ideals and goals which were promised by the pioneers of the Pakistan Movement and which were so gullibly believed by the people of that time.
Recalling the promises about independence and the high enthusiasm of the people at the time of partition 50 years ago, the present anxieties about the way things are drifting and about an uncertain future certainly cause dismay. Pakistan is almost on the verge of being declared a “failed state”. Public faith in the political leadership has been completely eroded and the working class are not sure about what they have to celebrate on the occasion of the “Golden Jubilee”.
Pakistan has floundered from crisis to crisis during its 50 years of existence. Over this period Pakistan has been a hotbed for self-seeking politicians, military adventurists and a corrupt bureaucracy, all of whom have played their full share in wreaking havoc on the country’s political and social fabric. More than half of the country’s lifespan has been under the rule of military dictators who in their bid to stay firmly in power left everything shattered and utterly ineffective.
Brutal and oppressive martial law regimes have made the country pass through a furnace of afflictions, but the civilian governments were no less corrupt. Every successive government simply brought more miseries to a country which was already suffering under the unbearable burdens of poverty, state oppression, and the worst kind of exploitation at the hands of those whom they have voted into power. The faces changed, the people’s lot didn’t. The policies which were framed during the last 50 years have been ineffectual and no serious attention has been given to the most pressing problems like health, education and other civic facilities. Today, the situation has reached a point of no-return. A country with a literacy rate of not more than 20 percent does not have the right to dream of progress and prosperity. Pakistan may have equipped itself with mass weapons of destruction and a powerful military, but the great majority of the country are poor. More than 70 percent of people have no access to clean drinking water, and about 70 percent of the population live below the poverty line.
Pakistan’s economic problems have gone from bad to worse. Its per-capita income is one of the lowest in the world. It is a debt-ridden country and has to pay enormous loans which it took from the World Bank and IMF. Every successive government has borrowed almost unlimited loans from these agencies at very high interest rates. The result is that the country lies as a hostage in the hands of the World Bank and IMF who dictate their terms and conditions at will.
To make matters worse every institution in Pakistan bleeds from wounds inflicted by greedy and corrupt politicians. According to a recent international report, Pakistan ranked second as the most corrupt country in the world. At the same time Pakistan governments have beaten the drum for holding criminals accountable for corruption. But how can a thief catch a thief?
Today the people of Pakistan feel betrayed and cheated. They didn’t expect the kind of mess that has developed over the last decades. There is a class of a few who have amassed enormous wealth and monopolised all the resources while the majority remain in miserable conditions.
Political dynasties have been established and the same names appear again and again on the political stage every time elections take place. Pakistan is said to have democracy. But what is going on inside the parliament is a mockery of democracy. These “patriotic” politicians have made themselves a laughing stock for the rest of the world. The government machinery has failed to provide for the needs of the people. The police are the lords of the land. They are at liberty to round up anyone and implicate him or her on false charges. Recently extra-judicial killings became an issue as hundreds of political workers and innocent people were murdered by the state police. No-one has yet been brought to book. Pakistan is a strange land where the mighty and powerful seem to get away with anything because no-one dare lay their hands on them. The people of Pakistan have become so fed up with their rulers that they have lost their hope and are apparently awaiting some miracle to come to their rescue.
The widening gap between the rich and the poor has frightening dimensions. The lava boiling within the inner core of this land can explode at any time. The rulers have for a very long time cornered or ignored the masses of this country and further testing their patience might have disastrous consequences.
Many people are now questioning the rationale behind the very existence of this country as the promises given to the masses have not materialised. People are suffering due to price hikes, corruption, sectarian killings, and an utter collapse of state institutions. How can they now be expected to feel jubilant when they have been denied the basic amenities like food, shelter, education and health? The state apparatus stands to secure and guard the interest of those who are the unquestioned masters of this land. The entire country may go to the dogs. It may starve to death but it will not stir any emotion in their politicians’ hearts. These heartless monsters have played with the working class’s future for too long. Today all of them stand condemned at the bar of public opinion and they have been stripped of their pretentious and apparent supremacy. A time will come when they will face the wrath of the people. Then their wealth and riches will not save them.
Author: A Socialist Correspondent from Pakistan
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