Leadership question more acute as ever

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Leadership question more acute as ever

Ayaz Amir

If Pakistan is to move forward and make use of all the opportunities before it, it must have an infusion of fresh leadership. What we have is a leadership class which is more than 30 years old. We need new people at the helm. We need fresh ideas and new ways of doing things.

A change of guard is now possible only through the political process. The next elections in 2018 are therefore crucial. They will be an opportunity to throw up something better. Or they may well confirm the belief held by many that this country of 200 million souls is incapable of change. We will then have to put all our faith in such things as the China-Pak Economic Corridor, hoping that roads and infrastructure built with borrowed Chinese capital will work the miracles that we ourselves are incapable of bringing about.

The Chinese Revolution came about with Chinese ideas and Chinese resolve. We are hoping that something akin to a Pakistani Revolution will come about with Chinese help and goodwill. In the crucible of the Chinese Revolution the Chinese people learned how to change their conditions and fashion anew their destiny. We are hoping that our Chinese friends, even as they go about seeking their own advantage and profit, will remake our destiny.

After independence we placed all our eggs in the American basket. We aligned ourselves with the West, our elites having convinced themselves that the highest imperatives of national security dictated that course.

India never attacked us, at least not in the beginning, but we made a bogey of India, our ruling elites turning this into a national dogma that India was out to destroy Pakistan. The walls between our two countries did not go up at once. For the first decade after Partition travel between the two countries was relatively easy. The 1965 war—which, it bears remembering, we started—changed all that. After it was over, the walls went up and national security became the ruling ideology of Pakistan.

India did attack us but that was in 1971, at a time of its choosing when the alienation of the people of East Pakistan had come to a boil. India took advantage of that situation and when it was done with it Pakistan had been cut in half, the eastern wing having gone its way and become Bangladesh. The ruling elites were left chanting the two inter-related words, ‘conspiracy’ and ‘betrayal’. We still find it hard to acknowledge that the real creators of Bangladesh, because thus were created the conditions of its birth, were the ruling circles of West Pakistan.

Today we are putting all our eggs in the Chinese basket. The elected rulers and the army are both chanting the same mantra that CPEC will change Pakistan’s destiny. Game-changer by general agreement is the name they are giving it. Our earlier American and our present Chinese baskets may be different in colour and shape but between them runs a common theme: our dependent state of mind. For all our boasting we remain a strangely dependent nation, always looking for external props, our iron begging bowl always extended, and our problems reliant upon the help of others.

CPEC may well prove to be the Aladdin’s lamp we are making it out to be. But how will its various bits of infrastructure change our ingrained national characteristics? Will our work ethic improve and will we become more hard-working? Will our elites stop looting this country and taking their wealth abroad?
Our education system is in a mess—different tracks for different classes, posh schools for the rich, rundown schools for the rest. Will CPEC change this? Will it finally impell our ruling classes to reform education and introduce a uniform education system for all Pakistanis?

Will CPEC lead to an explosion of learning and research in our seats of higher learning? That is, if there is such a thing as higher learning left in the broad spaces of the republic. Will Chinese-built coal-fired powerhouses finally convince the Islami Jamiat-i-Tulaba to give up the use of their sticks (dandas) for the greater glory of the faith? Stick-wielding or danda-bardar Islam was introduced in our schools and colleges by the student wing of the Jamaat-i-Islami. Kalashnikov Islam came with the Afghan jihad and our involvement in it. Will CPEC enable us to bid farewell to our various armed brands of Islam? Will it convince our various lashkars to lay down their arms?

Who’ll reform our hospitals? North Korea may have other problems but its capital, Pyongyang, is a showcase capital: wide and clean avenues, efficient public transport and the best schools and hospitals. And it has no slums and no beggars. Look at our big cities and look at their government-run schools and hospitals.

Will the Chinese leadership, as part of CPEC, send special teams of experts to improve our hospitals? Will the Chinese Politburo or the Central Committee advise us that it’s not a good idea to keep two patients on a single bed in, say, the Jinnah Hospital or the Services Hospital?

Garbage collection in our cities has become a major national problem. We can’t do it ourselves which is why garbage collection has been contracted out to Turkish companies in Rawalpindi and Lahore and to a Chinese company in Karachi. Inculcating self-reliance in the matter of garbage collection…will this also be part of CPEC’s agenda?

It’s not just CPEC but we are now part of something grander, the One Belt, One Road Initiative: the New Silk Road across the Eurasian Continent. As part of this initiative will Chinese mandarins come and tell us that we should do something about the plastic menace in the form of the ubiquitous plastic shopping bag clogging our waterways and despoiling our towns and villages?

Who will come and tell us that water-guzzlers like the eucalyptus are not a good idea for a country like Pakistan? Who’ll tell us that the great Pakistani passion for tree-cutting—we see one standing and want to cut it down—needs to be curbed? Will CPEC educate us about the need to plant more trees?

By what process of higher learning will we finally learn that there are no free lunches anywhere, at least not in the real world? When the Americans gave us something or put something in our begging bowls they did not do it for free—they got their own pound of flesh, as we saw during our first Afghan engagement under Gen Zia and the second under Gen Musharraf.

We would be making the mistake of our history if the elites now crowing about CPEC think that the Chinese will be setting up free soup kitchens in Pakistan. They are coming as sharp-eyed businessmen and entrepreneurs with very clear ideas about the advantages they are seeking from the money they will be investing here. Are we equally sharp-eyed about how best to safeguard our interests and maximize our advantages from this growing Chinese connection?

The army is committed to CPEC; the civilians are committed to it. The CPEC basic document, as revealed in a Dawn news report, has been written by the Chinese, not by us. Have our leaders studied it carefully? Are we aware of its ramifications? Have we thought through its implications as carefully as the Chinese would seem to have?

Courtesy : dunyanews.tv

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