Sunday, July 20, 2008

Inept, ao inept,are we

Inept, so inept, are we By Ardeshir Cowasjee TO repeat, and repeat ad nauseam, 61 years ago the founder and maker of the country that was Pakistan (half of it having fallen by the wayside within the space of a quarter of a century) firmly told the legislators of his constituent assembly that the first and foremost duty of a government, any government of any country, was to impose and maintain law and order so that the lives, properties and religious beliefs of the country's citizens would be protected and preserved. But he was lecturing to the deaf. We have never had, apart from brief periods during the early life of the country, the imposition of law and order. Right now, under this present dispensation to which governance is a totally foreign concept, we are more bereft of that vital factor than ever before. And we must remember always that hand in hand with law and order there must be an independent judiciary — the one without the other is incomplete. The leaders that have been imposed on the country since the elections of February, all unelected, a combine of the United States of America, President Gen Pervez Musharraf, Asif Ali Zardari, the man who would be amir-ul-momineen, Mian Nawaz Sharif, and the fugitive Pir of London Town, are all allergic, for reasons of expediency, to an independent judiciary. It is the last thing, at this given time, any one of them wish to establish. To repeat, and repeat, also ad nauseam, Jinnah once predicted, undoubtedly with sadness in his heart and a self-admittance that he had not got it all right, that each successive government of Pakistan would be worse than the preceding one. Now, one day Musharraf will have to go and when that day comes he will surely rue what he has left behind. He had ample time, a clear seven years (discounting the disastrous 2007) to establish a working political order and set up a successor system. He failed entirely in this. His judgment of men and manpower let him and the country down badly. He also ignored the fact, not being a politician, that friendship and politics and governance do not go together. He aligned himself with some of the most distasteful political characters that this country has ever produced — and that is putting it mildly. He relied on them to keep him in power and it all fell apart, due to his own foolishness and his reliance upon the worst advice he could be given. By now, almost isolated, he has hopefully acknowledged their worth and his own errors. His job should have been to seek out, rear and nurture young, fresh, unpolluted, able and honest men and women and establish them in politics as his successors. That is what, as a good dictator with unlimited powers, he should have done. It is all too late. The present is doomed. We need governance to survive, and without governance we will remain lawless and directionless.Come the inevitable elections and he offered the country all he had to offer, all that was available to him — relics of his own reign which were roundly rejected by the electorate, and relics of the totally unproductive and destructive 1990s. What the country got, via the ballot box, was stale bread. Now, Zardari and Sharif are quarrelling over various issues, both for entirely selfish reasons — Zardari because of the dishonest-to-the-core NRO, his commitment to the US and his desire to ensure that the judiciary remains as it was as of Nov 3, and Sharif because of his loathing for Musharraf. Zardari has reportedly suggested that Sharif accompany him to our capital city, Washington, where, hand in hand with the American mentors, they may try to sort out their differences. Nawaz is fearful. The Americans, with good reason, distrust him. He is prone to blundering, and his public posturing has neither been moderate nor reassuring, less so these days with the Taliban knocking on our gates. The combat with 'extremism', as is termed the Taliban phenomenon, is very much on, with a non-governing government and the Pakistan Army attempting to keep the threat at bay. This is proving to be no easy task. And surely there is no 'quick fix'. To cure the disease much time is needed. The country will not rid itself of its ills unless the majority of its citizens are educated in the profound sense of the word, so that they are able to differentiate between right and wrong, and apply to their thinking and lives a logic in tune with the 21st century. This is a long, slow process but at some stage in the country's life someone will have to set a start to it. To begin with, we must get our population figures right. We must accept that we are a nation of 170 million, largely illiterate, brainwashed by bigotry, and highly intolerant of each other. Population control played no part in the Musharraf regime, as it will play no part in the schemes of this present government unless it can bring itself to govern. A report in the national press last week made reference to recent studies made by the World Bank on the global state of education. According to its findings, primary education in Pakistan has declined by some three per cent over the past decade. Three out of five Pakistanis are illiterate. Of our 170 million, 70 million are below the age of 18 of which 20 million have no access to schools. These figures are growing by the day, as the population waxes by leaps and bounds. And side by side with illiteracy, hand in hand goes extremism.There are a few of us, far too few, who are extremely worried about the want of primary education, the foundation upon which educated nations are built. We worry about the legacy we will leave behind, whereas the educated of this planet are grappling with the development of 'brain power', accepting that 'societies unable to appreciate the challenges they face can be destroyed'. Finally, a word of advice to those who rely on polls — some treat them as entertainment, others who believe what they want to believe take them seriously. Josef Stalin who is blamed for some 80 million deaths 'in political purges and agricultural famines' has just been lionised by the Russian pollsters as being the second best ruler they have had, the first being Tsar Nicholas II.

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