Enjoying the breathtaking views of the Northern Areas of Pakistan I was able to forget, rather overlook the collection of problems awaiting me back home. I am sharing these problems with 160 million of my fellow Pakistanis and this collected suffering has strengthened my emotional bond with them somewhat like the victims of great tragedies. Coming back to the topic, I was driving on the KKH with my family enjoying the exotic spectacular views thanking the Good Lord for blessing me with such fabulous assets wondering why privileged Pakistanis spend fortunes in Europe and other countries while being totally unaware of the marvelous vacations Pakistan offers. The air was clean; wind was cool and the road, well; acceptable. In these far off places the health standard was excellent and the pink cheeks of the residents were a proof of that. Education standards were probably better than even Punjab and illiteracy was practically unknown in the younger generation. Law and order situation was excellent and some friends boasted that there hadn’t been a murder or serious violent crime in a hundred years and what more electricity was cheap. All this made me ecstatic and I smiled obstinately after a long time while enjoying the stunning view of the cathedral peak in Passu, Upper Hunza convinced that if there actually was a Shangri-La, it was here.
Next day we tried to socialize with these wonderful people and discovered some interesting facts. Government of Japan funded the school, the Danish government financed the hydroelectric power plant, the local health center by another foreign donor and the road was financed and built by the Chinese. Something absolutely invisible in the development and progress of the area was the government of Pakistan. We didn’t even give them the right to vote, whatever it means in our peculiar setup. This is how we treat our brethren who fought for independence against the Dogras joining Pakistan. Not a very good message for the independence seeking Kashmiris of the other side.
The story doesn’t end here as it has more interesting turns. After building the hydroelectric project, the Danes handed it over to some government agency to maintain it and the things started going wrong. Now there are power breakdowns exceeding down under. After building the road (KKH) the Chinese handed over partial maintenance to our government and the things started deteriorating. Anyone who traveled the road in 1980 can certainly testify that the road was much better then and now it is a set of potholes from which you have to find the road, a bit like the GT road of the late Zia era. My first exploration of this road on a motorcycle in 1980 was on a much smoother road. The moment you cross over to the Chinese side you find a wonderful shinning new road of international standards but the decay on the Pakistani side was obvious. Fortunately the education and health facilities survived in a relatively better condition but then again due to foreign NGOs enticed by Agha Khan foundation and the exotic culture of this area.
Regression everywhere is all too evident all over Pakistan. This might be the only privilege we handed over evenly to all parts of the country. Any thing or service that came close to any government agency just collapsed leaving a trail of suffering and debt to be paid by the original victims. In 1947 we inherited a reliable Railways network that worked which is now cracking and leaking from all places and has become a huge drain on the national exchequer. In 1947 we were the most educated after the Europeans and the Americans and now our whole educational system is crumbling. We have been lying to ourselves ignoring this most important prerequisite of any improvement. Our performance of health sector can be clearly illustrated by the Mayo Hospital example. The exploiter colonial government made this hospital more than a century ago for Lahore with a population of 1 lakh, which has now swelled to 8 million. This would clearly require another 80 hospitals of this size and we failed miserably. Interestingly out of the new government hospitals in Lahore Sheikh Zayed hospital was built by UAE and Jinnah Hospital by the Chinese. The GOP couldn’t maintain the public welfare delivered by the colonial government.
Leaving the physical aspects apart our performance in democracy and other nation building endeavors has been equally pathetic. After earning the country democratically we criminalized the word politics repeatedly packing the elected civilian governments. Arguably the constituent assembly of 47 was more independent than the current one. Constitution and courts were also stronger and more respected. Law and order problem was unheard of like the ethnic and communal violence. Our record of maintenance of sovereignty is even worse as foreign forces routinely bomb and kill Pakistanis and play pivotal role in the internal politics. Not a very impressive progress report.
This regression comes in stark contrast to what we hear about the other progressing countries. People visiting China, India or Malaysia after an year or two testify that it can be difficult to recognize the place because the speed of development is enormous and it can be hard to keep track. Naturally I am talking about the positive developments and not the kind we just enumerated. This is how the nations progress and not the way we are proceeding.
Despite strong evidence to the contrary this unfortunate nation is fed on a regular diet of some intangible and unverifiable achievements like making of different bombs and missiles. Our Foreign Ministers confession of helplessness regarding securing our sovereignty in the face of foreign bombings is a clear proof of exaggeration of our claims. History tells us that whenever these claims were put to test in 65, or 71 or Siachen or Kargill, they proved to be bordering on lies. Pakistan has a very dubious distinction of being the only country in the world with regularly shrinking borders.
All this very clearly explains the current situation in Pakistan. We are losing our brightest people regularly to other countries and also the most valuable capital, which always shies away from the insecure and unpredictable places. This uncertainty is translating into depression causing most of the young to yearn to leave the country for a better future. Nothing can be more unfortunate for a country aspiring to grow than having a dissatisfied populace not associating their hopes or future with it.
Munhasir marney pey ho jis ki umeed
Naumeedi us ki dekha chaahiye
We also have this inopportune distinction further tarnishing our hopes for the future.
Reality has to be faced which tells us that as a nation we are not progressing rather regressing. With this speed of regression we might be heading towards disaster in not very far future, which we must prevent. Those destined to live and die here cannot afford the luxury of inaction and must take the matters in their own hands closing the doors for self proclaimed deliverers who brought us to this stage. The civil society must rise to protect itself, its rights and the country denying the foreign supported autocrats opportunities to takeover the country again. The recent mobilization of the civil society in the judge’s movement is certainly a visible ray of hope but it must be further built upon. The civil society must protect the country from its rulers and the best way of doing it is by establishing the rule of law. Governments and its officers must be assessed and rewarded by progress reports with third party evaluations like anywhere else in the world. The immunity of the government and its officials from law or other constraints must be withdrawn. In short the government and the government servants must be made subservient to the people they are supposed to serve.
The newly developed nations have defied the old Chinese proverb that progress has little to do with speed but much to do with direction and advanced at tremendous pace. We must correct our direction and start moving forward. If we still cannot mange to stop our regressive tendencies we might re classify ourselves from a developing country to a regressing country. This accurate classification might be painful but honest.
In the end let me confess that in the heat of the argument I unintentionally ignored observations showing the overwhelming presence of government of Pakistan and its different agencies. Everywhere we went burning diesel in our 26 years old car at the rate of Rs. 55/litre we encountered lines of fancy government jeeps, colored and green, serving the government officials and their families arranging lavish picnics whose costs will never be calculated.