On A Sticky Wicket

Pakistan a conflicted country: many problems, few solutions


10/12/2018 1:56:55 AM
written By : Ashali Varma Print

I watch some channels of Pakistani News to get to know what is happening there and the scary thing is no one really knows. As in the recent case of Pakistani Economist Atif Mian, who is considered one of 25 best in the world. Imran Khan brought him in with much fanfare and when social media and Mullahs objected at first because he is an Ahmadi, and Pakistan does not recognise this sect as Muslim, Khan’s Information minister went on TV with a splendid defense as to how he was the best to help lead the country out of its economic woes and that he would advise on economics not religion. 

But this proved to be not enough for the Mullahs and there was so much outrage and dire threats of anarchy in the country that Atif Mian had to resign and go back to Princeton. Two other Pakistani economists who were professors abroad, in Harvard and Britain also resigned and left in disgust.

Conflicted by debates on good Muslim and bad Muslim; good terrorists and bad terrorists; democracy versus martial law; the Chinese Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) being very good for the nation or very bad; mullahs screaming about the plight of Rohingyas but strangely silent on the one million Uyghurs imprisoned by the Chinese and the brutality they suffer on a daily basis, contradictions exist in the country.

When economists and rational anchors on TV question this, the generals say Pakistan can never be defeated as it has the bomb!

I saw a debate between mullahs, where each one was trying to outdo the other on rigidity. The anchor asked them why they were against Ahmadis, weren’t they human beings and Muslims too, the mullahs erupted and said they would rather deal with Hindus and Christians than Ahmadis – they did not accept Mohammed as the last prophet. Yet one will hardly ever find Christians and Hindus in high positions in Pakistan, whether it be the Armed Forces; the Judiciary; or government. Even in schools do not teach students tolerance. This radicalisation, that has happened over generations, is hard to reverse.

On YouTube, I heard Pakistan’s best-known nuclear Physicist, Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy give a speech in the US, and his words seemed to describe the change Pakistan has undergone. He said when he grew up in Karachi in the 1950s they lived in a neighbourhood where there were Christians, Parsis and some Hindus. Now when he goes there the diversity is gone there are only Muslims. When he came back to Pakistan after his PhD in the US, and started teaching at a University there, students dressed casually just like anywhere else. But by the 1990s, girls started wearing niqabs and burkhas and young men became equally religious. 

One of the saddest events at this prestigious university was when one night he heard shots being fired at an Ahmadi Professor who was his neighbor. He died while Dr Hoodbhoy was taking him to hospital. What was even more disturbing was that none of his colleagues attended the slain professor’s funeral the next day. 

There seems to be frustration growing among some of the common people. We had visited Spain in May and our Pakistani taxi driver was envious when we said we came from India. He told us while the Indians living in Spain have the best jobs and are very well off, Pakistanis suffer due to poor education and hence end up as taxi drivers. 

Recent reports indicate that Pakistan is grappling with deterioration of its economy. It will be interesting to watch the turn of events. Can China change Pakistan or will the CPEC be its Waterloo? For the moment the terror proxies are ignoring China’s human rights abuses in Xinxiang, but for how long can the Army rein them in.

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