'Why Maulana Qadri and Cricketer Khan can’t save P akistan' by Pervez Hoodbhoy
Why Maulana Qadri and Cricketer Khan can�t save Pakistan
Saturday 19 January 2013, by Pervez Hoodbhoy<http://www.sacw.net/auteur254.html>
The Express Tribune (Pakistan), 19 January
Pakistan has two angry messiahs, the Maulana and the Cricketer. Both are
men of fine oratory � the former being more gifted. They promise to kick
wicked leaders out of government, reward the righteous, and deliver a new
Pakistan. Before a coup-plagued nation that has spent many decades under
military rule, they preach to adulating under-30 crowds about the
corruption of the present rulers. But neither dares to touch Pakistan�s
real issues. Both are careful to castigate only the corruption of
civilians; there is nary a word about the others.
Inspired by his fiery rhetoric, for four days the Maulana�s youthful
Lashkar-e-Qadri had occupied D-Chowk, Islamabad�s version of Tahrir Square.
The cheering, chanting, flag-waving crowd was joyous at the verdict
ordering the arrest of Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf. The precise
timing owed to another one of Pakistan�s putative saviours � the honourable
Chief Justice of Pakistan.
In this age of discontent, assorted demagogues have mastered the art of
mobilising the credulous masses. Corruption, say the Maulana and the
Cricketer, is Pakistan�s central problem. Utopia will come if honest and
pious men � perhaps themselves � are in power. But is crookedness and
dishonesty the real issue? Countries which are perfectly viable and livable
may still have corrupt governments.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been convicted of everything from tax
fraud to soliciting minors for sex, and yet Italy keeps getting richer and
better. No one dares call it a failed state. Mitt Romney � who Barack Obama
only barely defeated � parked his assets in the Cayman Islands and paid
only a little more tax than Pakistan�s unscrupulous parliamentarians.
Corruption in the US is institutionalised to the point that Washington
spent 10 trillion dollars of taxpayer money bailing out banks and
corporations but no politician or CEO (with one exception) ended up behind
the bars. Interestingly, according to the 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index
(CPI), 70 per cent of the world�s people see their countries as more
corrupt than good.
So then, what are Pakistan�s real problems today? If the lives of
Pakistanis are to be improved, what is it that really needs to be done?
First, address the population problem. Demographers estimate the expected
number of Pakistanis in 2030 at a staggering 258 million, which must be
compared with 28 million in 1947 as well as the current population of 180
million. This growth is the second highest among major Muslim countries in
Even if we miraculously acquire the most perfect of political systems, it
may be impossible to provide most Pakistanis with employment, education,
food, housing, electricity, water, and a clean environment. Short of
renting another planet, there is no way that the constraints of fixed land
and water can be overcome.
This emergency situation demands that population planning must be
reinstated and contraceptives be made freely available. Once upon a time,
Pakistan had a population planning organisation. But it has essentially
folded up in the face of religious opposition. The Jamaat-e-Islami�s party
manifesto, and those of other religious parties, specifically forbids
family planning. As for the Taliban: they suspect that polio vaccines are
designed to reduce Muslim fertility and so have issued dire threats. Last
month, the TTP brought the immunisation programme to a halt by murdering
five women and a man who were administering the shots in Karachi. So,
instead of getting claps and cheers, our messiahs might have to face
bullets and bombs should they dare to rally people around this real issue.
Second, the terrorism of religious militias must be confronted head-on.
Their daily slaughter of Pakistani soldiers and citizens, and recently the
Hazara Shias, elicits only the barest whimper of protest in the media or
the public. In shameful surrender, there is talk of negotiating with
terrorist groups. The lesson of Swat � where kowtowing to Sufi Mohammed�s
ever-escalating demands led to increased ferocity from the other side � is
forgotten. The army and the state stand in muddled confusion. They know
they should actually negotiate only from a position of strength and not in
their present condition of weakness. Unfortunately they cannot summon the
courage to do this. The Maulana is silent on this critical matter, but the
Cricketer prefers to attack those who might target Pakistan�s enemies. He
would rather shoot at the drones than the terrorists.
Third, the promise of the messiahs that they shall bring prosperity to
everyone by somehow equalising the distribution of wealth is fake and
dishonest, and un-implementable. One would certainly welcome extending the
tax net, and doing so would be a huge achievement. But to actually bring
prosperity, wealth must be created rather than simply expropriated from
somewhere. The only party that seems to give this any consideration is the
PML-N. But industrial progress and a post-agricultural economy require
cultural change, and so Pakistani society will need to transition from
being a progress-unfriendly culture to one that welcomes and promotes
progress. From the time of the 19th century German sociologist Max Weber,
social scientists have observed that culture and progress go hand-in-hand.
Progress-friendly cultures demand planning, punctuality, deferred
gratification, belief in rationality, and the rule of law. Without
acquiring these features, wealth generation is slow and uncertain.
Fortunately, as it turned out, the �million-man march� turned out to be a
damp squib. Its victory would have resulted in indefinite postponement of
the forthcoming national elections and Pakistan would have returned to a
dreary tradition where no government has successfully completed its term in
office. During the occupation, messiah-junior was caught in a dilemma.
Eclipsed by his senior and unable to join in the demand for postponement,
he now seeks to clamber his way back into the public eye.
Pakistan�s restless young are out on the streets demanding change, but they
must not become pawns of fake messiahs. The fist-shaking, rostrum-pounding
orations of Maulana Qadri and Cricketer Khan are empty thunder; they offer
nothing real. Of course, the D-Chowk youth rightly protested Pakistan�s
pseudo-democracy and its venal and incompetent civilian leaders. But the
military�s attempt to landscape national politics � which is probably what
rocketed the Maulana into his present prominence � could be disastrous and
would go the way of the army�s past failed interventions. At a time when
Pakistan is seriously threatened by internal terror, the military would do
well to perform its real duty which is that of protecting Pakistan�s people.
*The writer Pervez Hoodbhoy retired as professor of physics from
Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad*
Peace Is Doable
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