PAKISTAN’S population has probably crossed 200 million as we enter 2017. This year the country will complete 70 years of existence. By the time it reaches 100 years its population will approximate 400m. Given climate change and its consequences, and the emphasis on investment in physical infrastructure instead of human resource development (health, education etc), the task of feeding and gainfully employing this population in a science- and technology-intensive world will be almost impossible.
Also given the wretched quality of leadership, governance, politics, and human rights protections this challenge will never be seriously taken up. The indifference of a corrupt and irresponsible leadership that wages class warfare against its own people represents a greater threat to national security and survival than any external or internal enemy.
The Qazi Faez Isa inquiry report into the double acts of terrorism in Quetta on Aug 8, 2016 has documented the dysfunctional state of administration and the rot that infests almost all institutions of governance at all levels. Had it not been a report by a Supreme Court justice authorised by the Supreme Court that accepted the report’s request that it be made public it would never have seen the light of day. This is because governance in Pakistan has become a way of keeping the people in the dark so that the government never has to answer for its comprehensive and ceaseless misdemeanours.
It appears the release of the Abbottabad Commission report has become victim of political games.
The Abbottabad Commission of Inquiry report was suppressed after it was presented to prime minister Raja Parvez Ashraf in 2013. Later, a draft for discussion by the Commission was leaked to Al Jazeera. This draft had failed to elicit a consensus among the members of the Commission. Nor was the final report which was eventually presented to the prime minister a consensus document. Accordingly, the report presented included the signed main report and a separately signed note of dissent which differed with parts of the main report especially those pertaining to assessments, responsibilities and conclusions. What was submitted to the then prime minister will be known if and when the current prime minister makes the full report public — which constitutes at the very least a moral and political obligation.
The Senate and the National Assembly in a joint session held on May 13-14, 2011, unanimously adopted a resolution on “the unilateral US forces action in Abbottabad on 2 May” which “called upon the Government to appoint an independent Commission on the Abbottabad operation, fix responsibility and recommend necessary measures to ensure that such an incident does not recur”.
Accordingly, it was incumbent upon the government to place the full report before parliament. If the government determined that certain portions of the report pertaining to national security should not be made public that could be justified. Instead, the whole report including the note of dissent was simply suppressed by the government without explanation. This was contempt of parliament — not that parliament seemed to mind very much as it did not even ask for an explanation.
Forty years earlier, the Hamood-ur-Rahman Commission report after the fall of Dhaka was similarly suppressed. Four decades later, the ruling elites remain just as terrified of the people of Pakistan getting to know about their corruption, their collusion and their concerted deceptions against them.
Moreover, the ‘embedded’ intelligentsia and media suggest in numerous ways that the people should get used to all this as part of an unending ‘democratic learning process’ of which they shall remain perpetual victims. Accordingly, they should not waste time demanding release from their horrible reality even if it inevitably leads to the ruin of their country and of their families.
After the Qazi Faez Isa report, pressure mounted for the release of the Abbottabad inquiry report. There have been contradictory responses from the prime minister and the minister of interior. The minister of interior has belatedly (deir ayad valey durust ayad!) called for the release of the Abbottabad Commission report even though he has criticised making the Qazi Faez Isa report public because it criticises his performance. However, the prime minister has only undertaken to review the possibility of making the Abbottabad Commission report public.
It appears the release of the Abbottabad Commission report has become a victim of political games, and more so after the return of the former president. The prime minister, of course, bears no responsibility for the events of the night of May 1-2, 2011 or the decisions and indecisions that led up to them. All of that happened on the watch of the former president. Moreover, media reports suggest there may be a developing understanding between the former president and the current prime minister on countering common political opponents. However, the minister of interior is apparently less inclined to indulge the PPP by overlooking its misdemeanours. The interests and rights of the people of Pakistan are once again made hostage to anti-people elite politics which is class warfare.
So how will the country address its several existential challenges? Its institutions are kept dysfunctional. Its leadership remains unconcerned. Its inquiry reports are buried or ignored so that no lessons are learned. How long will the people suffer this? A nation of bleating sheep breeds a government of ravenous wolves! Some argue nothing is possible because few starve and expectations are minimal. The black economy also works against real change. Such change, moreover, requires vision, commitment and due diligence which are apparently antithetical to what drives the political leadership.
With the approach of 2050, and its accompanying catastrophes looming over Pakistan, traditional political passivity will lead to Pakistan’s final transition from failing state to failed state. Venal political leadership will never stop this fatal transition because it has no interest in doing so. Mobilising, organising, empowering and sustaining a range of people’s movements and struggles against such obstacles are the only way forward. There are no honest and soft alternatives. The choice is ours. Are we up to the task of saving Pakistan? Our actions and inactions during 2017 will answer this fateful question. God Bless Pakistan!
The writer is a former ambassador to the US, India and China and head of UN missions in Iraq and Sudan. He was a member of the Abbottabad Commission.