WASHINGTON DC, July 14, 2005 | ISSN: 1684-2057 | www.satribune.com

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An Outsider's Disturbing Report on Ground Situation Inside Pakistan

By Dr. Maqbool Halepota, MD
Special to the South Asia Tribune

ARIZONA, USA, July 14: I recently visited Pakistan, the country of my birth, a country which has been under the spotlight for the last few years. Here are my impressions of the current situation in Pakistan, as seen from the inside through the eyes of a common person on the street and what he thinks about the future of the country.

Any student of history will tell us that dictatorships are like games of Russian Roulette, with each ending either in the demise of the country, or the dictator. Pakistan’s short history is filled with such examples. Ayub/Yahya’s rule ended with the demise of Pakistan, as it was created by its founding fathers. Zia’s regime ended in his own death in mid air. Musharraf's dictatorship came close to following the Zia example many times but he survived.

This phenomenon is not unique to Pakistan. History is filled with similar examples. The most recent being that of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, along with countless military dictators, all over the Third World, who have been used and then disposed off, since the end of the colonial period.

So the next logical question would be: Who is going to be the victim of next round of this perennial Russian Roulette being played between Pakistan and its army?

Unless there is a drastic change in the international geo-political conditions, as had happened in the case of Zia, it seems very unlikely that the powers that be will want to eliminate General Musharraf in the near future because he has time and again proven to be more loyal than his masters and has been quite willing to do all of their dirty work whenever asked or told.

Thus the odds are that the loser at the end of the next round, in all probability, will be the country itself, early signs of which are already visible in what is happening in Balochistan. An extension of the current setup will only further increase the deep sense of deprivation prevalent among the smaller provinces and ethnic minorities of the country.

But, before predicting about the future of the country, one needs to look at the ethnic make-up of the country to better predict how each of these groups is likely to react to the continuation of current autocratic setup, and in case of a flare-up of ethnic rioting in the country.

Pakistan consists of many ethnic groups, many of these actually meet the criteria for being recognized as nations, as defined by the UN. These nationalities share nothing other than religion with each other. This was the basis of the two nation theory, behind the carving out of Pakistan in the mid 20th century.

These nations had been in existence thousands of years before the very idea of Pakistan was conjured up by the British bureaucracy. These nationalities include Punjabis, Sindhis, Pashtuns, Balochs, Seraikis, Kashmiris and Mohajirs. One can easily predict how each one of them will behave by evaluating the kind of relationship they have enjoyed with the Pakistan Army over the last 50 years.

Balochs and Sindhis have always been treated by the Army as nothing more than conquered and enslaved aborigines, with no rights or privileges. Thus they are already completely alienated, making both of these provinces volcanoes which are ready to erupt any time. This is where the trouble is most likely to start in the next few years. When this happens it will lead to further unrest among the Seraikis, who have been relatively calm, but still totally dissatisfied with the situation.

Army’s relations with Pashtuns and Kashmiris have also soured completely over the last few years, due to General Musharraf's U-turns on Afghanistan and Kashmir. Although in the past they were the favorite blue eyed boys of the establishment.

At present Musharraf’s strongest support base is among the Mohajirs, because he himself is a Mohajir. This is the name given to individuals who had migrated from India at the time of creation of Pakistan and their descendents. As a matter of fact General Musharraf himself was born in India and migrated with his family when he was a young child. He has never made any secret of his affection for his place of birth and desire to go back to his roots.

During his last visit to his motherland he had openly expressed a desire to come back and settle in his ancestral house - the Neharwali Haveli in Old Delhi, India. He has thus been called a proud son of the soil by some Indian think tanks. This also explains Indian Governments love affair with Musharraf and his regime, as he is considered one of their own, and rightly so. After all, he single handedly has achieved for India what their whole army could not do in last 50 years, conquer Pakistan.

But the million dollar question still is: Will he continue to enjoy the same level of support when things reach the boiling point in Balochistan and Sindh. I personally do not think so, I believe that at that time the Mohajirs of the urban areas of the Sindh will also be left with no choice but to abandon him.

Signs of which are visible even today by MQM’s radically changed rhetoric. MQM is the organization which represents 99 per cent of mohajirs all over the world. Altaf Hussain the dynamic and able leader of MQM has openly started asking for a United States of Pakistan, because he can clearly see the writing on the wall.

Like any dictatorial government the current economic policies are primarily being framed to appease and buy the loyalties of the few who can provide support to this artificially erected system. Therefore although benefiting a few fat cats, mostly Army Generals at the top, the current economy has failed to trickle down to the masses whose lives are getting more miserable by the day, due to the skyrocketing prices of daily commodities, giving rise to a sense of resignation and helplessness among the masses, even in Punjab and urban Sindh.

Thus, if and when, there is turmoil in the country, even these traditionally pro army areas are not likely to support the Musharraf set up.

Therefore when there is widespread unrest, which is most likely to start in either Balochistan or Sindh and then spread to the Seraiki belt, the General will use his army’s overwhelming power to crush it. This will only result in further hatred against the army and create further disharmony among the provinces because the Army and bureaucracy in Pakistan is composed almost solely of Punjabis at lower ranks and Mohajirs at the top. It has almost no representation of other nationalities and is actually perceived as an occupying force by most them.

When can we expect all of the above to start? Keeping all of the above facts and figures in mind, one can safely predict that this modern day Bonaparte of Pakistan will continue with his autocratic rule for a little while longer. He will do so with the full blessing, backing and support of the champions of democracy and freedom of the world.

But like all dictators he will outlive his utility in the next few years. This will be the time when things will be reaching a point of no return internally also. Thus one does not have to be a visionary to foresee some definite changes in the setup over the next five to ten years.

This should be of grave concern to the people of Pakistan, United States and the whole free world. If left unchecked this dictatorship is going to breed genuine anger against the General and the Pakistan Army. Resulting in further chaos in an already unstable country, which as it is, has already lost all internal cohesiveness and is only being kept together by external forces and favorable geo-political conditions! And when these conditions change it is most likely to crash like a house of cards.

Therefore I sincerely believe that the time has come for the country of my birth to take stock of the gathering dark clouds and realize that unadulterated democracy is the only way of salvation for them. Because continuing to rely on self proclaimed and military appointed saviors will bring nothing except more death and destruction to the country.

It is time the inhabitants of this “Mumlikate-Khudadad”, name given to Pakistan by its well wishers, which translated into English means “Country Granted by God”, end their perennial wait for divine intervention and start relying on their God given talents.

It is time for Pakistanis, as a nation to get their heads out of the sand and face the harsh realities of the 21st century. The need of the hour is for Pakistanis to bring true democracy to their country before it is brought to them by someone else, as is being currently done in Iraq.

The writer is a Pakistani Oncologist currently working in Arizona, USA

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