The main fault lines

The Pak Banker - - 4editorial - I . A Rehman

THE ques­tion re­gard­ing the is­sue that topped the list of peo­ple's con­cerns dur­ing the year that is com­ing to an end will elicit a wide va­ri­ety of re­sponses, depend­ing on the re­spon­dent's be­lief, domi­cile, eco­nomic con­di­tion and so­cial sta­tus, thereby pro­vid­ing an idea of the fac­tors that have caused sharp di­vi­sions in Pak­istani so­ci­ety.

On two points, though, a nation-wide con­sen­sus is ev­i­dent. First, re­gard­less of the four mark­ers men­tioned above the peo­ple are likely to de­scribe their grow­ing im­pov­er­ish­ment as the most im­por­tant as­pect of their plight. There will also be broad agree­ment on the fac­tors con­tribut­ing to the process of the un­der-priv­i­leged peo­ple's pau­peri­sa­tion - lack of ad­e­quate em­ploy­ment, dis­rup­tion of eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity caused by short­age of en­ergy, low wages, a high rate of in­fla­tion and an in­ad­e­quate so­cial se­cu­rity net.

Se­condly, there will be near unan­i­mous in­dict­ment of the state for its fail­ure to pro­vide re­lief, es­pe­cially to the poor and marginalised sec­tions of so­ci­ety.

How­ever, nei­ther of these two fac­tors ap­peared for the first time in 2010. It will also be agreed that the first fac­tor is very largely a by-prod­uct of the process men­tioned as the sec­ond fac­tor. Thus, in the fi­nal anal­y­sis all the prob­lems and hard­ships faced by the peo­ple will be at­trib­uted to poor gov­er­nance.

An in­quiry into the causes and con­se­quences of poor gov­er­nance in 2010 will re­veal a most in­trigu­ing para­dox. On the one hand, the out­go­ing year of­fered an un­prece­dented ex­am­ple of in­ter-party un­der­stand­ing ev­i­dent in the adop­tion of the 18th and 19th Amend­ments to the con­sti­tu­tion. None of the po­lit­i­cal par­ties rep­re­sented in the par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee that drafted these amend­ments had all its de­mands met in the unan­i­mously agreed drafts and yet all of them hailed these mea­sures as rev­o­lu­tion­ary steps in the right di­rec­tion.

On the other hand, the same po­lit­i­cal par­ties failed to agree on mea­sures nec­es­sary to re­solve the crises in the po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic, so­cial and even ju­di­cial are­nas. The govern­ment must of course be held pri­mar­ily re­spon­si­ble for the ag­gra­va­tion of the var­i­ous crises con­fronting the state. But the per­for­mance of other el­e­ments in­volved - the po­lit­i­cal par­ties in the op­po­si­tion, the me­dia and civil so­ci­ety - too brought them lit­tle credit. They were more in­ter­ested in de­riv­ing po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal from the govern­ment's prob­lems and its dis­com­fi­ture than in help­ing it to meet the threat to the well-be­ing of so­ci­ety and not merely to the rul­ing coali­tion.

The way some po­lit­i­cal par­ties chose to de­fend the in­ter­est of their vote-banks while op­pos­ing the re­formed gen­eral sales tax pro­posal or

tried to pla­cate the mil­i­tant ex­trem­ists, or pre­scribed im­prac­ti­cal reme­dies showed that all talk of na­tional unity was merely hot air.

Thus, the ab­sence of a work­able plan to guar­an­tee na­tional sur­vival and re­cov­ery through a non-par­ti­san ap­proach to is­sues was the prin­ci­pal fault line that threat­ened Pak­istan in 2010.

Out of the other fault lines no­ticed in 2010 three posed the more sig­nif­i­cant threats to the peo­ple.

First, the is­sue of in­vol­un­tary dis­ap­pear­ances be­came uglier when dead bod­ies of some of the missing per­sons were found aban­doned in dif­fer­ent parts of Balochis­tan. A large sec­tion of so­ci­ety came to be­lieve that these killings formed part of a de­sign to frus­trate the ef­forts of the apex court, the ju­di­cial com­mis­sion and civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions to trace the dis­ap­peared per­sons, and the rea­sons are ob­vi­ous.

These killings can­not be dis­missed as sim­ple mur­ders be­cause if those re­spon­si­ble for these crimes only wanted to liq­ui­date their vic­tims they could do so with­out bear­ing the cost and run­ning the risk of hold­ing them in cap­tiv­ity. These were not cases of ab­duc­tion for ran­som ei­ther, for no re­port of ran­som be­ing de­manded was ever re­ceived. Be­sides, the po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tion of most of the vic­tims and their views on Balochis­tan's tribu­la­tions sug­gest po­lit­i­cal mo­tives be­hind these killings. What mat­ters, above all, is the per­cep­tion of the Baloch com­mu­nity that they are be­ing pun­ished for de­mand­ing their rights.

The ques­tion of in­vol­un­tary dis­ap­pear­ances in Balochis­tan has capped that fed­er­at­ing unit's alien­ation from the state, and the threat to na­tional in­tegrity has been en­hanced by some po­lit­i­cal par­ties' de­ci­sion to in­dulge in par­ti­san pol­i­tics.

Se­condly, the ding-dong bat­tle over women's rights re­vealed a fault line which could cause Pak­istan much greater harm than is gen­er­ally imag­ined. The govern­ment did a few things de­signed to pro­mote women's rights, such as the en­act­ment of a law to check sex­ual ha­rass­ment at the work­place, the ap­point­ment of a woman as om­budsper­son to take care of women's griev­ances and the dec­la­ra­tion of Dec 22 as Women' Rights Day, but its per­for­mance did not match its rhetoric. It did not do enough to re­alise the Mil­len­nium Devel­op­ment Goal No 3 or the obli­ga­tions acquired un­der the Con­ven­tion on the Elim­i­na­tion of all Forms of Dis­crim­i­na­tion against Women and Se­cu­rity Coun­cil Res­o­lu­tion 1325.

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