Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Lawlessness in Pakistan

Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Khan heads a Lahore based Think Tank.

Lawlessness in Pakistan

While scanning the daily newspapers after Ashura I discovered something strange and troublesome as probably Pakistan had created a world record of the wrong kind. I was bewildered when I found that in many newspapers the main news was “Ashura went peaceful” as if it was some kind of an unexpected anomaly. According to its definition news is a report of interest to the readers or the audience. Typically an example is used that a dog biting a man is no news but a man biting a dog is news suggesting that the unusual aspect of an incidence plays a major role in determining its newsworthiness. It seems to be a confession on the part of our media that absence of a tragedy and violence on this holy day is an unusual event. We have gotten so much used to calamities of different types that their absence has become news. This state of affairs in a country aspiring to be a progressive nation is a very tragic commentary and it is only in Pakistan where this is happening. If this decay of law and order situation continues we might start reading news that all airplanes landed safely or that all trains reached their destination.

Good law and order situation is a necessary prerequisite for positive developments and outcomes in any country. No nation in today’s modern world can dream of developing without peace and law and order in the society. We need capital and FDI to develop and these are the shyest animals known, as they always stay away from unstable places. In addition to monetary capital, even the human capital ultimately leaves insecure places making the matters worse. It is quite understandable, as people don’t like to raise their children in unstable and dangerous places. No wonder we see most of our highly talented people going abroad taking their skills and investment in their education along with themselves. This further dampens the future prospects of such a country.

Peace and stability are known as the mothers of all factors determining the future of countries. We can take the example of Sri Lanka in our region. In the early eighties it was the fastest growing economy of South Asia with highest literacy levels. It was progressing fast and was expected to take off soon when political turmoil started there resulting in violence. This made Sri Lanka unsafe taking along with it the development and prosperity that looked so certain. In addition to Sri Lanka the world is full of examples where countries that could not control their law and order got caught in spirals of violence and destruction. Such nations slide into lawlessness ensuring their doom. Are we heading towards that fate? It is the question all of us must ask.

Our current law and order situation is pathetic to say the least. Bombings, killings, kidnappings etc have become very common and people seemed to have resigned to this fact of life. Unfortunately this negative condition is not confined to the local media, as internationally all the news originating from our beloved Pakistan has been negative. In addition to all this insistence of one man to be able to amend the constitution has further spoiled the picture increasing uncertainty and violence. This has prompted the world media to declare Pakistan as the most dangerous place in the world including Iraq and Afghanistan. A kind of a failed state and that also armed with nuclear weapons.

Pakistan was a very peaceful, law abiding and friendly place fifty years back but gradually the situation worsened and we reached the current undesirable state. To improve this appalling situation we must first ascertain the reasons that got us in this mess. Without going into details, the major causes become apparent themselves. The major cause of this downward spiral is that the mother of all laws the constitution, has been routinely violated and called a piece of paper by our rulers. Dictators routinely hijack the judiciary and weaken the state institutions so that their rule goes unchecked. Our privileged classes and the rulers show a visible lack of respect for law to the extent that ability to break it has become a criterion of stature of a person. Many less privileged look up to this trend setting elite and their contempt for law is creating bad examples. It is interesting to note that the advent of all military rulers who find it hard to defend their legitimacy always resulted in worsening of law and order situation. After all it is never easy for a ruler of dubious legitimacy to preach and enforce law effectively. People follow their ruler’s actions not words. This situation effectively converts the law enforcement agencies into dictator’s will enforcement agencies further encouraging lawlessness.

The other major cause of our worsening law and order situation is the same that can be related to many other problems; our propensity to fight other nation’s wars without giving any thought to its after effects and cost. We fought the cold war for others, then the Afghan war of the 80s and now the other Afghan war interestingly called “war against terrorism” which is apparently fueling it. Wise and respectable people stay away from troubles but we as a nation seem to be looking for opportunities to get ourselves in danger. There is a certain set of dynamics at work putting us on this negative path but then no vicious scheme against a nation can work if it is vigilant enough. A few people for their personal gains put the nation at risk and then get away with it. They routinely do it by convincing the nation that fighting other’s war is in their interests and we routinely succumb to this flawed and dangerous reasoning.

We as a nation might be paying the price for our lack of vigil to protect our country from its rulers and their selfish foreign friends. We let them abuse us and then keep on grudging against their maltreatment until they again find our use and we more than happily start serving them for the price our future generations will pay. Because of this pliability and lack of vigilance Pakistan has lost a lot. It is rated as the most dangerous place in the world and even the sports teams don’t like to visit here. Unfortunately this negative perception about Pakistan is not absolutely baseless. Even our President is busy convincing the west how bad, unstable and violent the nation is, hoping that it might establish his utility for them. This is further worsening the situation.

No one has ever been held responsible for this deliberately introduced lawlessness and violence. We must identify the people and policies responsible for our troubles if we want to come out of this vicious circle. A team of respected intellectuals might be constituted with the mandate to study our problems find the causes and recommending corrective measures, a bit like Hamood ur Rehman commission. Then we must act on it unlike that report.

This generation is paying the price for the contempt of law shown by Ayub, Yahya and Zia. The current military rule is breeding problems that appear to be even more complicated and devastating. Our future generations will be forced to pay the price for this negligence of our generation. Let us enforce law in our beloved country at any cost and stop looking for scapegoats. For this we must give the constitution the respect it deserves and free the judiciary with the responsibility to protect it. We have to make Pakistan peaceful and prosperous defeating the prevailing lawlessness because we have no options.

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