What we don’t know will hurt us

Published: October 3, 2010

A paramilitary soldier keeps guard in Karachi PHOTO: REUTERS

An overzealous media sniffing a tectonic shift in Islamabad, readied itself in obvious enthusiasm to cover the news of the expected ‘change’. Unsurprisingly, nothing happened.

The troika resolved to protect the current dispensation…the self-proclaimed defenders of what they choose to call ‘democracy’, while the reality of Pakistan is closer to that of a kleptocracy.

If we were in a democratic polity, decisions that alter the destiny of nations wouldn’t be made behind closed doors, through inoculators, with gentle nudging and helpful prodding of US and Saudi diplomats.

We have a President who in dubious circumstances inherited the leadership of his slain wife’s party, who refuses to declare his assets, pay his taxes and face legal proceedings. We have a host of ministers who have benefited for the infamous NRO, are accused of corruption, and rather than clearing their names hide behind counter claims of political victimization. The COAS, who has received applause for his support of democracy, is the same person who negotiated with Benazir on her return, authored the NRO and was one of the individuals who sat the Chief Justice down and demanded his resignation on that fateful day in 2007 at the Army house. Those who will not submit to accountability position themselves as champions of democracy.  Really?

The troika has meetings, they claim to be protecting democracy, however, they seem unwilling to let the general public, who they are sworn to serve, in on what is going on. The President recently declared that he felt betrayed. He had been betrayed by “players of the game”. What is going on? What deals have or are being made? Would anyone care to illuminate the people of Pakistan?

Exxtra-Judicial killings: Tell the public what you know

A couple of video clips have been circulating of army personnel involved in extra-judicial killings and beatings of captured militants. For several days the Pakistani media offered no coverage of the news of the circulating videos. Only after foreign journalists started reporting on the events did the local media care to publish the news.

The duplicity is annoyingly obvious. Articles published in the local press, contain clear denials and claims that the videos are conspiracies against the military. There is no suggestion up till today, of any investigation or any explanation.

However, to the foreign press the same news comes with either Pakistani officials promising to investigate, or muted denials the incidents or retired Pakistani officers claiming that the videos are authentic.

For one, it’s not only the Pakistan Army that is being maligned by these videos. The Army serves Pakistan, of which every citizen of Pakistan has ownership. If the videos are authentic, then the people of Pakistan have a right to know why the name of their country is being tarnished, what will come off the perpetrators, and what efforts will be made to make sure that such cases do not take place again. If the videos are fake, then the people of Pakistan have a right to know who is making these forgeries, and how they are going to be dealt with.

There has long been a chorus of accusations surrounding extra-judicial killings. The HRCP estimates up to 273 deaths. Either way, remaining silent and not even offering the Pakistani people a transparent insight into the to an institution that society warrants to take up arms is offensive to the spirit of the constitution and the claims of discipline within the military that so many people are proud of.  Can we please have some accountability?

Bankrupt: who has the numbers?

The finance minister has stated that we are broke. The President is suggesting a one-off tax on the affluent (why it should be one off is beyond me? Is he suggesting that the rich pay a tax for a year, and then they can be exempted while the salary class continue to bear the burden?), the IMF has not released a long overdue tranche, with aid and support for reconstruction and support post flood nowhere near what is required.

In the midst of the economic turmoil came news that the military has been granted a Rs. 110 Billion increase in this year’s budget, taking it up to Rs. 552 Billion. Adding in military pensions which are now included in the civilian budget takes spending on the military well beyond Rs. 600 Billion.

In a period when the military is dealing with an insurgency and supporting relief efforts such an increase is not unexpected. However, rather than presenting this information in parliament or making it known to the people of Pakistan, it seems that the government of Pakistan is more transparent in its dealings with the IMF than with its own people. Little else has emerged regarding for what the funds have been allocated from? No one really seems to care; perhaps they don’t expect to get an honest answer.

What are we doing about Nato attacks?

The recent escalation in drone and helicopter gunship attacks that left three Frontier Corps personnel dead, predictably lead to mass outrage. This is not the first time a cross border attack has left Pakistani personnel dead. 11 were killed in a similar incident in 2008. Then nothing happened, and today nothing has happened. While NATO trucks were stopped from crossing the Torkham Border.

Everyone hailed Pakistan’s action as a display of our sovereignty; all the while the border at Chaman remained open. Were we actually stopping the NATO supplies as a sign of protest, or were they stopped for their own protection?

The military runs Pakistan’s policy towards Afghanistan, however, the military doesn’t seem to clarify what our stance towards hot pursuit by NATO forces, the claims that the CIA runs a mercenary Afghan army that crosses into Pakistan, and reports that NATO may pursue retreating militants up to 6 miles into Pakistani territory is.

The military seems content to allow Rehman Malik to make statements about possible reaction to NATO’s “aggression” and how it is so “intolerable”.

The people of Pakistan have a right to know what is going on.

*******

The lack of transparency and accountability is obvious. Though, measures to bring about  any improvement seems unlikely. Rather than becoming more open, it seems as if things are getting even more murky

What is hidden is the nefarious and self-centred power struggle between political parties and state institutions. Our medias obsession with following this soap-opera insures that instability dominates our polity, and the Pakistani man and women remain on the edge of their seat waiting for the next great “change” to come.

P.S. Over 20 million people remain affected by the recent floods. Though there is a lot of news that fills our screens, the shenanigans in Rawalpindi and Islamabad must not be allowed to divert attention away from the mass suffering of our fellow Pakistani’s.

nadir.eledroos

Syed Nadir El Edroos

Nadir teaches Economics at Bellerbys College, London ans is interested in Pakistani politics and current affairs. He tweets @needroos (twitter.com/needroos)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • http://aamjanata.com Vidyut

    I think things look darker when times are tough. Two weeks ago, my mother in law called the country a failure with all the shame around the CWG (I’m Indian). Today, we scraped money together to but a fancy DTH thingy so that we can watch the CWG fully. It seems trivial compared with the existential problems you describe, but basically, this is a tough time. Hang in there dost log. The beauty of us democracies (marginal as they may seem) is that they keep inching toward what the people want. Just last week, we had claims of corruption in our high courts and the judges will probably have to go through an investigation. Shameful. For Pakistan also, trouble seems to be homing in from every direction. But we will live through it and come out smiling. The next year, this will be a bad dream, long forgotten as better times arrive.Recommend

  • Insiyah

    While we may all discuss the current situation in Pakistan, more bad than good, we still never face up to what is right for the country. Tell only the educated what is happening is like sharing a secret amongst the club elite. Democracy is well deserved in a country which understands its meaning. Churchill best described it as, “The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.” In Pakistan’s case, sadly the average voter is one of those men and women wathcing the news, hating the situation, but still waiting in vain for the next “change” to come.

    We need to compel, strike that, DEMAND the goverment to do something or else abdicate that chair for someone more competent.
    After all, we the masses, managed to get the lawyers back in their offices, cant we do that????Recommend

  • http://www.facebook.com/pracker S. Ali Raza

    @Nadir: it has to be a fake video, because even if Pakistan Army is carrying on with the extra judicial killings during their operations, they would surely not be recording it. These kind of recordings are normal with the US Marines in Iraq/Afghanistan, and the planters of this video do not know that our people don’t enjoy recording of their atrocities, and then show it around “back-home” to friends. Recommend

  • http://www.thetrueperspective.com Hamza Malik

    Absolutely spot on Nadir!Recommend

  • http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Jahanzaib-Haque/149352001744540?ref=ts Jahanzaib Haque

    The video might be real, but my question is, why was it leaked now?

    Recommend

  • http://deleted Sajjad Ahmed

    Good Analysis on the issue, Nadir.
    We shouldn’t be going berserk over the video footage – investigation into the matter may help in clearing our mindsets. The problem with Pakistani public is that they can be manipulated in an instant and in such times when we need to support the military when incursions in the North increase, talking more about the video would degrade the morale of our brave men serving on the lines.
    @Vidyut – Thanks for your comment, bro. We need inspirations like you in such times :)Recommend

  • ADE

    @Mr Edroos….welcome back to the writing sphere :)Recommend

  • Ahmed

    This country is a hopeless case atleast for another 50 years, because there is no use of expecting anything from the cuurent generation. In last 63 years we have not been able to determine which way we want to go. And I honestly think the damage here has not just been done by ruling class, may it be civilian or military but even the common man is equally responsible for destruction of this country. God may help us. Recommend

  • parvez

    Just finished reading ‘A journey to Disillusionment’ by Sherbaz Mazari and now at 1 am I read your article. How much doom and gloom is a person supposed to take.
    One is almost forced to say ‘ tell me something new ‘.
    On thing for sure your article is pretty spot on.Recommend

  • Insiyah

    @Ahmed:

    Im sick and tired of ppl lamenting on the sad situation of our country today and then saying “Only God can help us”. God only blesses or punishes. He does not make every child born a terrorist, its the upbringing which makes you one. Coz at the end of the day its the choices each and every pakistani who makes the fate of pakistan, not God.

    Please dont blame God for every zardari in Pakistan coz , you aint no better than any of those who are currently responsible for this damage. Recommend