Rehman Malik calls for collective national response to deal with challenges


Senator Rehman Malik:

Today our nation stands confused and directionless with polarized political structure. The Constitution of Pakistan is under attack, institutions are undermined, terrorism is raising head again and the economy of our country is almost nearing crash.

The question is where we went wrong despite having rich resources and immense talent? We fail to stop the decline of the governance and the rule of law. I have tried to mention some of the factors, which have contributed to erosion of our national infrastructure. The nation building is carried out with dedication and just implementation of the rule of law. The basic parameter of nation building is through having regard of the given responsibilities either by way of respect of law or fear of the law. Both factors make a citizen a responsible one.

This element of individual responsibility becomes collective only with the national spirit of responsibility at every end. So citizens have to draw a clear demarcation between the responsibility and rights. The scholars say: “Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so” and “life is a balancing act. While we have all the rights to be in freedom, peace, harmony and bliss; we do have a responsibility to ensure that others too enjoy their own freedom, peace, harmony and bliss. ”

Disciplined and strict enforcement of the policies and laws of the land may be seen as harsh by many but viewed as a necessary tool by others. Whatever their reasons, China, North Korea, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Argentina etc. are champions of strict governance and implementation of their laws. These countries sternly follow their policies and this is something we must consider in order to succeed. All these mentioned countries are booming economies that have taken the world by storm, and their success formula is not hidden from anyone. The anti-state propaganda is always traced and those responsible are dealt severely. Moreover, it is a crime to instil irrelevant and antagonistic thoughts which can influence the minds of their youth. Their media is controlled and so is the access to the Internet. Nobody is allowed to discuss topics that pertain to rebellion, change and reforms.

The major problem with countries like ours is that most of us do not participate in the political process or even bother to vote and yet when some corrupt leaders and politicians are voted back into power, we are shocked and wonder as to how unwise we could be. We are all sincere for our love for Pakistan, but unfortunately mere love and affection is not going to change the destiny of this unfortunate nation. Because of our lack of participation in the political process, we have been made the sacrificial sheep, thanks to a few of our misguided short-sighted leaders who became subservient to America which used Pakistan first to help Taliban and later to eliminate them. And after the unwilling sacrifices of thousands of innocent lives, we have been declared the most dangerous country in the world despite our subordination and uncounted sacrifices.

Furthermore, since independence Pakistan has been experiencing recurring military coups, unstable democracy, crippled economy, fragile judiciary and social stagnation due to some brain-dead economists with crippled and jammed bureaucracy, egotistical, feudal, religious warlords, profit oriented industrialists building empires with illegally extracted funding from banks and finally terrorism by extremists and hardly any contribution by illiterate masses. The list of failures surpasses the achievements. rule of law, an independent judiciary, and respect for fundamental rights, free media, merit-based procedures, and questioning by masses are some of the essential features of democracy. Unfortunately, these basic rules have openly been violated since independence and by every successive government.

Democracy has always faced utter hardships in Pakistan, a variety of factors contributed to the political and economic instability of the state. Military regimes have also added to the cause. The dictators manoeuvred the circumstances in their favour and implemented such policies, which strengthened their illegal hold. Furthermore, the civilian governments in Pakistan are of transient significance. The military, the higher echelons of the civil service, and the intelligence services are the permanent features of the state. There is little or no evidence where the civilian government has any meaningful autonomy. I strongly feel that the weakness of the civil government is to not act in support of the common man with an exemplary conduct. It is unfortunate that the world powers have always preferred military hold over Pakistan as history itself is witness that dictators like FM Ayub Khan got US assistance due to cold war, Gen Zia due to Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (1979), and lastly Gen Musharraf due to front-line role of Pakistan against war on terror. Were these actions right and why there was no collective national response to show resentment and to block it?

Another reason of our demoralisation and isolation is our poor foreign policy which has resulted in the current situation. We have failed to retain trusted allies even though there was huge opportunity to do so. Egypt and other GCC states had good relationship with Pakistan yet it failed to further enrich that relationship. Pakistan failed to establish economic ties with these countries on bilateral level. Today we see that apart from other GCC countries, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Egypt have commercial and military pacts with India. We failed to attract buyers of Pakistan commodities and investors from these friendly and Islamic countries. More so we have failed to build good relations with Afghanistan even after being a generous host to three million Afghan refugees. Our failed foreign policy could not convince the Afghan government and the people of our sacrifices firstly for the liberation of Afghanistan from the clutches of the erstwhile Soviet Union and secondly for hosting more than three million of their brethren and sisters in our country at the cost of our own fragile economy.

Iran’s government is very conservative and does not have diplomatic relations with Israel for its obvious reasons. Iran was the first state, which recognized Pakistan as an independent country immediately after its independence in 1947. The patronage of anti-Iran militant zealots of Pakistan by Gen. Zia had sown the seeds of mistrust between Pakistan and Iran, which the successive governments have failed to clear. India, on the other hand, had taken advantage of this vacuum and became closer to Iran by fanning the already tense relations between Pakistan and Iran. We could have used the advantage of relations between India and Israel and used these relations vis-à-vis Iran in our favour to improve relations and secure investment from Iran.

Sri Lanka had sour relations with India due to the latter funding and supporting terrorists there yet we did not use that opportunity to strike a military or financial pact with that country. Imagine a friendly nation on the border of India, which could have been of great benefit to us. A few years ago, another neighbour of ours Bangladesh, when began to have sour relations with India, Pakistan could have used that opportunity to heal the wounds of mistrust and unfortunate events of 1971 to bring that country and its people close to our folds. We had missed that opportunity and let Bangladesh fall in the lap of India once again.

Moreover, we have yet to score investors from Europe and Japan, who would love to invest in a country which has cheap labour. But our failed national policies with a blend of unstable political system and poor decision making by our rulers lead us into a deeper mess.

These erroneous policies helped Talibanization and introduced terrorism in Pakistan. Now Pakistan is the lone victim of terrorism with the highest number of causalities and yet is blamed as responsible for it. We are suffering at the hands of terrorists today as we have not been able to give a united and collective response to terrorists for the nation still stands divided within on sectarian lines. We today are branded as facilitators of Taliban, Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda.

We as a country are also facing international intrigues and are being isolated by design by the anti-Pakistan forces. Unfortunately our important institutions and government are not on one page and it is going to prove dangerous at national level, both at home and abroad. As we are getting into a more complex situation, we must give positive hope to our new generation for the betterment of our country’s future. More so our concern lays in some very important questions; will the government take an initiative to build a narrative for a collective response to our crises to get out of terrorism? Will media play its role to bring the real spirit of unity of 1965? National unity is the basic component, which can help in building collective response. We never acted responsibly and we continued to run Pakistan on ad hoc basis. The system has lost its value, its writ has evaporated and individuals have taken over the system; hence the system is being dented by corruption and nepotism. Lack of respect or fear of rule of law and accountability, allowed the system to become hostage in the hand of a few. In short we are today victim of our own failures and blunders.

We as a nation, over the period have developed a national trait of shifting the responsibility to others and avoiding being responsible ourselves at all levels of government or private sector. We do not have fear or respect of the law, nor are we apologetic for being irresponsible. This trend of ours has destroyed the basic fibre of the national cohesion and responsibility. Today we are far from the notion of collective responsibility, which in fact is the need of the hour to face all our present challenge. Collective responsibility is the main factor and a guiding principle of progress for the leading countries. It is nothing but the failure of our collective responsibility that we even are unable to elect our proper leaders. This spirit of collective responsibility was last truly seen in all its colours, in the 1965 war where with unity and undivided will, we as a nation defeated India. To again instil the spirit of collective responsibility, the Parliament has to play its role, as in the first place, it is the Parliament that should have been the forerunner in spreading the culture and spirit of collective responsibility. Unfortunately it failed in its role to create the spirit of unity; instead it aided further national polarization. It is heartening to see that those to whom the trust of the public was posed; not only broke it, but acted against the basic narrative of nation building. Their acts of omission on the streets of Islamabad; where personal elevation and interest were more dominating in the streets theatres, were witnessed by the entire nation.

Now perhaps a time is approaching when a common man will ask for his rights aggressively and work for their genuine leadership which is determined to bring the nation on same page, to forge unity as per the pressing national requirement. As a nation we have started to feel comfortable with status quo and dare not challenging it; which means that we do not look for other avenues to lead us to progress, prosperity, national cohesion and harmony. We need to break this status quo if we want our due share nationally and internationally. Let’s make a pledge that we would revisit our past and plan for our better future for all.

I will sum up by saying that we might not have been in trouble today, had we shown collective responsibility to ensure the rule of law and stood against the corrupt and inefficient rulers.

I urge everyone, especially the youth of this nation, to please come forward and show their collective responsibility to elect honest and competent leadership so that we drive ourselves out of this crisis. Collective national responsibility is the only hope and the right way forward.