Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bleak Pak-Afghan Realities

Bleak Pak-Afghan Realities

by Muzaffar Iqbal

So they will not be going home anytime soon; instead, history will note that Mr. Barack Hussein Obama made false promises when he said he will pull out US troops out of Afghanistan in 2011. That will be just fine, both for the man who has now become the symbol of a new kind of deceit, and for the average Jo on the US streets who could not care less for the slow and systematic annihilation of a centuries-old way of life in Afghanistan.

Gone are the days when the US and the European countries could be seen as possible rivals in a new world order; NATO is now effectively an extension of the US army, not that it was not so before, but now its sole role is to provide cover for the blunders of US political leadership when needed, and be a surrogate mother to the half-baked ideas of spreading democracy and enlightenment in countries of US interest.

Be that as it may, what options do people of Afghanistan—and for that matter, that of Pakistan—have in the face of an all-out assault on their way of life? When their rulers are beholden to the invading armies for their survival, when their daily lives are consumed by the most basic necessities of survival and when their very existence is at risk, what can they do?

Is it not surprising that no one in Pakistan makes any fuss over drones anymore? No one mourns the death of those whose lives are extinguished by the deadly firepower coming down from the skies at the command of almost inhuman beings sitting thousands of miles away? Is it not an indication of the servility of the entire political set up in Pakistan that petti men are squabbling over petti posts while their country sinks and sinks and their citizens are kidnapped, murdered, and imprisoned by foreign forces?

The successful elimination of any alternative other than the tired and nauseating faces of the current political leadership—which has been on the scene for as long as one can remember—the rapid disappearance of the Pakistani middle class, and the reduction of Pakistan’s once vibrant and healthy populace to a nation of beggars and unhealthy men and women has already spelled a death sentence from which there is no escape now. What remains of Pakistan is a mere skeleton which trembles at every blow and sigh of the remote controllers.

As far as Afghanistan is concerned, the country is awash with billions of dollars. The occupying armies are having their pie and eating it too! Hot meals are flown in from the Gulf for their higher ranks, they drive on the roads as if they are latter-day Pharaohs and though their rank and file still trembles when they go out on petrol, the situation is not so deadly now as it was during the summer. There is a remarkable lull in the numbers counting dead bodies. All of this can be attributed to the tiredness of Afghan resistance or to the increased and improved tactics of the invaders, but none of this is permanent; Afghanistan’s history shows that no foreigner has been able to subdue it, so, whatever has caused the current hiatus, will soon change.

What does not seem to be changing for a vast majority of people in Pakistan and Afghanistan is their continuous downward slide into degradation, depravity and utter helplessness, all of which have been imposed on them by their own rulers. That is, rulers who look like them but who behave like foreigners. These men—and almost all of them are men—have emerged on the political scene through various national and international intrigues and they have been playing the game called democracy and although there have been elections of sorts in both countries, there is nothing legitimate about them: neither their lifestyles, nor their primary concerns are local; they are floating in foreign money and their only ambition in life seem to be continuation of their own rule over a populace with which they share almost nothing.

Intellectually, Pakistan has become a wasteland. There was a lively literary tradition until the end of 1980s, there were at least second-rate scholars in humanities—historians, sociologists, literary critics, etc.—and Pakistan had a mediocre crop of scholars in religious studies. All of that has disappeared. All that is left now is the daily struggle of survival for a vast majority of disempowered people. Afghanistan was never a center of scholarship in its recent history, but at least it had a vibrant religious life and tradition of piety steeped in antiquity; now that has been destroyed.

In such a polity, one cannot talk of honor, of national pride, of moral values which form the backbone of a society, one cannot even talk of psychologically healthy men and women who would behave in a decent manner in a given situation. Hence, the public space is filled with unending squabbles of petti nature.

The bleak synopsis of the state of these countries is not a figment of imagination, it is borne out of a deeply painful watch of their slide into chaos, destruction, and depravity. One can find causes and even blame many people for this state of affairs, analyze and document the process which has brought these two nations to this state, but all of that is mere exercise in futility because the ground realities are so harsh and unequivocal and one does not see any ray of hope, save a totally unexpected Divine mercy, descending from the Heaven, and changing the entire landscape and course of these two once vibrant and potentially most important polities in the Muslim world. That one should not give up hope is true, but one must also not take flight into fancy, when dealing with a situation that requires clear and analytic approach.

Muzaffar Iqbal is the founder-president of Center for Islam and Science (www.cis-ca.org), Canada, and editor of semi-annual journal Islam & Science.

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