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'Why Maulana Qadri and Cricketer Khan can’t save P akistan' by Pervez Hoodbhoy

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  • Sukla Sen
    http://www.sacw.net/article3550.html Why Maulana Qadri and Cricketer Khan can’t save Pakistan Saturday 19 January 2013, by Pervez
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 23, 2013

      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
      the world.

      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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