Articles of the year 2010

Lost Opportunities
Published on July 24th, 2010

Pakistan is indeed unfortunate that it has been conquered repeatedly by our politicians, whether civilian or military, without any thought for the country, always to their own advantage. The present regime had a one point agenda: 'Loot and scoot '.And this shows in all the scams surfacing, on a daily basis. The Government goes out of its way to protect the perpetrators, and the Presidency has used its sacred power of the Presidential pardon to protect Rahman Malik the Min of Interior, while the lesser lights, have been saved by a NAB that has changed its agenda so that no member of the PPP or supporter shall be prosecuted by the newly reconstituted Office of NAB. No doubt it is the prerogative of a Government to protect its near and dear, but not when a national institution such as Pakistan Steel can be stuck with a shortfall of 1Billion dollars in just under a year!

What is worse is the present Government ensconced by the US has been kept so busy in damage control of the Swiss Millions, that it has lost sight of all other issues of Governance that should be priority concerns.

Our leaders invariably start out with intentions of clean and transparent Governance. This time they were assisted by the infamous NRO thrust upon us by the Bush regime, but this was rejected outright by a National Assembly that found its forgiveness too much for even our 'broad-minded' and notoriously corrupt Parliamentarians. However the Presidency and the Prime Minister's office was soon back to business as usual.

The immediate danger facing Pakistan is of being dragged into a war not of our choosing, and also a proximity that is destroying our economy and our civil society. The loss of life by suicide bombings is unbearable, with even praying at public places, now fraught with danger. The shrine of the beloved Saint of Lahore Data Sahib was targeted, killing over two hundred innocent worshippers. The Afghan war, and the American exhortation to 'do more' has certainly locked us into its deadly embrace without our having a clue of who the enemy is or where he is coming from.

We do know that we are losing men and money, and quality of life, and our Government does not have any agenda to derive any of the benefits from the situation that is prevalent. Our primary need should be to improve our infrastructure starting with the railways and roads. With the basic network laid down by the British almost a hundred years ago, the track to Kabul and beyond should prioritized, and opened up. The whole network can be tripled which will open up the interior for passengers and cargo. The cost of moving passengers is a fraction of the other modes especially by air. The main hurdle is corruption, which was responsible for the deterioration of the railways—as in all other sectors of Pakistan, whether commercial or Government. Our neighbours have achieved a dramatic improvement in their Rail network. We can easily do the same , provided that Corruption is rooted out.

The time to act is now, with the world willing to help us. We should start with the Railways, and double the track up to Baluchistan, extending it to Kandahar and beyond. The whole of Afghanistan is waiting for a helping hand from the world. What better than to open up goods and services to Afghanistan and beyond. Pakistan has the ability to execute this mega project, and this must be done quickly before the Americans lose interest. This opportunity must not be lost, for the world interest is fleeting, the US even more so. If indeed Pakistan has to take a lead, then this is the direction, and even the Indians will undoubtedly come along, for their own markets and goods.

This opportunity will provide the basis for peace with Afghanistan, for with a desperately poor and isolated Pakistan in our midst no progress will be possible without taking into account the needs of the Afghan people. Similarly the Indian chimera of progress may be a bubble that could disappear in this volatile climate. Our leadership must quickly decide if it wants a future in Pakistan. If so then they must put aside their corrupt practices and use the goodwill that exists for Pakistan in a constructive manner. Protecting the corrupt or the bogus degrees shall help no one. Surely there are enough talented and genuine degree holders that can be brought to the fore?