Wednesday, May 25, 2005

A courageous Pakistani editor

I see this editor as courageous because Pakistan is a place where it is risky to
challenge the powers that be -- or so it has been in the past. And people are
bumped off by unknown assailants whose identity is never discovered. This is a
courageous challenge to the administration. Best, RLC

The Friday Times
Pakistan's First Independent Weekly Paper
May 20-26, 2005 - Vol. XVII, No. 13

We are tired

Najam Sethi's Editorial

We are tired of endless talk of "enlightened moderation". There isn't a single
member of General Pervez Musharraf's cabal who is prepared to practice what the
Boss preaches. There is no attempt at serious madrassa reform, with the ministry
of religious affairs under Ejaz ul Haq at odds with the ministry of education
under Gen (retd) Javed Ashraf Qazi. There is no reform of Hadood laws, with the
PML allying with the MMA to stifle protest not just from the PPP but also from
within the ruling party. There is no embarrassment at the demeaning of the
"marathon" by the leaders of the PMLQ despite the fact that no so long ago
General Musharraf was lauding the first international marathon (mixed) held in
Lahore as a symbol of Pakistan's return to normalcy. The rights of the
minorities and women are under attack by the mullahs. And no one from the ruling
party or government has stood up to defend these groups.

We are tired of the endless drone about the bright prospects of foreign
investment in Pakistan and how we have irrevocably embarked on the path to
nirvana. Pakistan is not even on the list of emerging markets published every
week by The Economist. Indeed, our Foreign Office and Ministry of Interior are
constantly urging foreign diplomats to keep a low public profile and restrict
travel within Pakistan because of security concerns, even as our finance and
commerce ministries are irked by the negative "travel advisories" recommended by
the same diplomats to their fellow citizens and businessmen.

We are tired of hearing how the oil and gas pipelines from Central Asia and Iran
will start gushing prosperity in Pakistan before long. The theme of "Pakistan as
the gateway to Central Asia's 300 million market" was unfurled by former PM
Nawaz Sharif when he embarked on the Lahore-Islamabad motorway project in 1992.
Three years later, after Pakistan's obsessive meddling in Afghanistan had paved
the way for the wretched Taliban, the oil and gas projects were reduced to
classic pipedreams. Afghanistan is far from settled or stable and the
Turkmenistan-Pakistan gas project is nowhere on the horizon. Now we hear that
Gwadar is the shimmering gateway to Central Asia. But the Baloch, who should own
it, are up in arms and not even the existing gas pipelines at Sui are safe
anymore. Indeed, Chinese engineers have been killed or kidnapped, new
exploration for oil and gas has halted and some foreign companies are thinking
of pulling out from Balochistan.

We are tired of pious lectures on democracy and constitutionalism. There is no
democracy in political parties and there is no constitutionalism in parliament.
Irrespective of who is in power and who in opposition, every government claims
to be democratic and every opposition condemns dictatorship. Every parliament
trumpets its sovereignty and supremacy and every parliament pays obeisance to
every elected autocrat and every coup-making dictator. The present system is
particularly tiresome: neither the prime minister nor the leader of the
opposition is from the party (PPP) that won the most votes in the last general
elections; the chief proponent of the 17th constitutional amendment (MMA) is not
prepared to sit in its chief institutional innovation (NSC); and the one-party
system is creaking under the weight of its contradictions, with the ruling party
squabbling over the spoils of the system on the eve of another round of
controlled elections.

We are tired of self-righteous handouts from the NAB. We are tired of
allegations of corruption against anti-government politicians and proclamations
of virtue from pro-government ones. We are tired of VVIP movements. We are tired
of asking why housing societies are allowed to skin unsuspecting citizens; why
stock market scams continue to rock the markets; why car makers are able to
influence government policy and get away with exorbitant premiums; why we can
import cheap goods from far away China that hurt our local industry but not from
next door India; why we still need more tanks and missiles and jets and ships
when we have made the ultimate nuclear deterrent against war; why with 7-8%
growth rates, billions of dollars in debt rescheduling and foreign aid, and
unprecedented increases in tax revenues, we are still unable to dent the 30%
poverty line and the 70% illiteracy rate; why we have a system of apartheid in
education in which the vast majority has been denied access to English as a
second language in the name of Islamic ideology and Pakistani nationalism and is
rotting at the bottom of the social and economic heap while a small
English-educated, Westernized elite hogs all the space; why the green passport
is a sure shot recipe for suspicion and hostility abroad instead of being a
welcome calling card, and so on, ad nauseam.

We are tired of self-serving reformers and faith healers. We are tired of
democrats who act like dictators and dictators who pretend to be democrats. We
are tired of tribal sardars, ethnic warlords, and feudals. And we at The Friday
Times are VERY tired of offering the solutions over and over again!

Please see my "concerns" page:
My blog: http://rcanfield.blogspo

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