Pakistan sailing in choppy waters
Asif Haroon Raja
The ship of Pakistan is sailing through choppy waters for over a decade and so far the safe shore is nowhere in sight because the captain of the ship and his crew members neither have the capability or the will to steer the ship to safety. Almost all parts of the ship have got damaged and water has started to gush in from several gaping holes but the steward is unconcerned. Equipped with safety jackets and safety boats, he and his team are deeply involved in fun and frolic and have turned deaf ears to the screams of 175 million people aboard the sinking ship. They are confident that if the ship sinks they would be able to sail to a nearby safe island.
Balochistan is in turmoil where handful of Baloch separatists tutored by their foreign pay masters are determined to go their way irrespective of the economic package for development and grant of provincial autonomy. Their trained target killers are continuing to murder non-locals and Hazaras, but surprisingly the motivated segment of media on the payroll of foreign powers, NGOs and the judiciary seems more sympathetic towards the separatists and nationalists and insensitive toward the plight of the non-locals and Hazaras. Issue of mutilated bodies of Baloch nationalists and separatist is being blown up out of all proportions, while the separatist agenda and barbaric methods adopted by foreign paid BLA, BRA and BLF is ignored. The Army, Frontier Corps (FC) and intelligence agencies engaged in saving the province are being pressured and their jobs made more difficult. FC has been placed directly under Chief Minister Raisani who is least concerned about the affairs of his province and spends most of his time in Islamabad.
Peaceful FATA became turbulent after the induction of Pak Army in 2002 and extensive interference of foreign agencies. Although the Army has succeeded in establishing its writ, but it had to pay a very heavy price. Tehrik-Taliban-Pakistan led by Hakimullah and TNSM by Maulana Fazlullah have been disarrayed from South Waziristan and Swat but the two outfits have not been defeated since they are still receiving funds and weapons from foreign agencies and have been given safe havens in Kunar and Nuristan by the Afghan regime. CIA, RAW and RAAM are actively involved in facilitating their cross border terrorism.
Karachi is being bled daily by unknown target killers and the figure of dead persons in the last three years has crossed 5000. Notwithstanding the perverse role of the three coalition political parties ruling Sindh, each having militant wings, RAW and CIA are continuously fuelling unrest to drain out Pakistan’s economic hub centre. Act of sectarian terrorism in peaceful Gilgit-Baltistan followed by another terrorist act perpetrated by a shady group in rural Sindh calling itself Sindhudesh Liberation Army is part of a calculated game to undermine Pakistan.
Economy is in dire crisis with little hope of recovery due to mismanagement, incompetence, corruption and extravagance of ruling elite. Inflation and price spiral have scaled new heights which have crushed the lower and lower middle classes. War on terror is bleeding the socio-economic fabric of the nation. Energy crisis resulting in prolonged power outages is closing down industries and factories and forcing many industrialists to shift to Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Externally, Pak-US relations are at lowest ebb and patience of angered US leaders is fast wearing thin. All sorts of charges have been pasted on Pakistan and loud calls are heard in Washington demanding total aid cut and severing relations. Afghanistan is going through most difficult times and its fallout is being borne by Pakistan since October 2001. Drawdown of foreign forces from Afghanistan has commenced but the US is still unclear as to how it will be able to safely pullout all the troops of ISAF numbering 130,000 and also retain its influence over Afghanistan. It holds Pakistan responsible for its failures and hawkish elements are keen to punish Pakistan. Our leaders are completely blank how adversely the instability in Afghanistan will impact Pakistan in the aftermath of 2014.
As regards India, although it has embarked upon trade peace venture with Pakistan, its hidden motives are well known. It is not prepared to make any compromise on core disputes of Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek and water dams. While its businessmen are wearing masks of peace and friendship, its policy makers are relentlessly pursuing covert war against Pakistan from the west using Afghan soil, cultural onslaught from the east and silent water war from the northeast. India will complete 40 dams on River Jhelum and Chenab. Four large dams and 16 small dams have become operational. India is building world’s largest dam Kargil on River Sindh. A water tunnel is now functional which sucks 45% water of River Sindh. India has completed disputed Baghliar Dam on River Chenab and is feverishly working on Kishanganga project on River Neelum/Jhelium. India has decided to make Pakistan a desert by 2015 so that it can bring down nuclear Pakistan on its knees without firing a single bullet.
Least concerned about the turbulent external and internal conditions, our highly unpopular and discredited leaders keep trying to win the affections of leaders of foreign powers by undertaking purposeless and unproductive sojourns at the expense of impoverished national kitty. Purpose of visits is not to gain anything for the country, but to have rest and recreation. Frequent trips abroad by top leaders are at the cost of neglecting home front which is in a terrible mess. They befool the people that their foreign junkets will help in bringing relief to the domestic problems. Whole attention is focused on collecting alms to enable the elites to maintain their high lifestyles. Instead of putting heads together and working out ways and means how to tackle multiple challenges, and how to make the country stand on its own economic legs, the entire effort is on how to get additional loans sanctioned. Beg, borrow and steal has become their motto. They hunger for foreign assistance well knowing that it doesn’t come without extracting its pound of flesh.
Excessive borrowing from IMF, World Bank and other institutions has made Pakistan heavily debt ridden and completely dependent upon them for Pakistan’s economic survival. This heavy dependency has been at the cost of erosion of sovereignty. The process of loss of honor, dignity and sovereignty had crept in during the decade of democratic era in 1990s and during 9-year authoritarian rule of Gen Musharraf. It gained momentum during the period of current regime. Over four years rule of PPP led government has emasculated and corrupted the state institutions and in turn weakened home growth potential. Corruption has acquired new proportions and anybody who is somebody in politics has managed to make a fortune sufficient for his future generations.
As a result, GNP has slumped to lowly 2.7% and budget deficit has widened alarmingly. Debt burden has shot up to over $68 billion and daily expenditures are met by the State Bank, which prints rupees two billion currency notes daily. So far, rupees 442 billion has been borrowed from State Bank in current fiscal year. Borrowing is main cause of inflation in double digits. Reforms which demand sacrifices by the elites are postponed or shelved on one pretext or the other. This unholy inaction is exacting a very heavy price in terms of national health, which is fast deteriorating and getting more and more dependent upon oxygen provided by USA and IMF. Correspondingly, the status of Pakistan has got reduced to a US satellite. The ship is fast sinking in choppy waters; someone will have to act fast to steer it to safety.