November 21, 2009

Pakistan's last refuge

On the continuing theme of "what Pakistanis think" on various issues, an article in The Nation (a newspaper mostly known for calling out American journalists as spies and forcing them to leave the country) sums up the sheer exasperation quietly expressed by Pakistanis of all walks of life. Titled An Open Letter to Allah, Londonstani thinks it's definitely worth a read:

"....Pakistan is run by the three A's - namely Army, America and Allah...Out of a choice of writing open letters to General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, President Barack Obama or You, I decided I had the best chance of being heard by You because, and I quote from Your Book: 'I comply with the call of the caller when he calls me'"

"As a country we are in such a bind. Depression surrounds us as we fight an enemy that we cannot even see. We fight an enemy that has unclear reasons for doing what they are doing. We are stuck with a leadership who, for the foreseeable future and even if it changes face, will always put themselves first. Their own security, their perks and privileges, their wealth and acquisitions. They constitute a club which we, the ordinary citizens, cannot break."

"Ever since You gave us a beautiful, independent country 62 years ago, this is probably the most desolate winter. The people have no respite from struggling to keep their bodies and souls together. Poverty is rampant and so is hopelessness. Nothing seems to divert attention from the insecurity and uncertainty of our existence. Dear God, even if it is not possible to go back to starting point again, give us the collective wisdom and strength to overcome our problems."

"It feels dreadful when we read of our place among the corrupt nations of the world and see the bulky Cabinet which needs a sound system installed for one end to be audible to the other. From among those we have elected, give us a lean, dedicated bunch of ministers who don't care so much for their perks as they do for doing the right thing. Give them the will to guard and protect their areas of responsibilities. Give us a judiciary that is beyond reproach. Give us a media that is an unbiased watchdog and, most of all, give us a civilian and military bureaucracy that does not overstep the boundaries drawn up for it."

"The flower of our youth is sacrificing their lives on the battlefield every day. Our cities and innocent people are targets of terrorism so frequently and our hospitals full of the wounded. Yet, we remain steadfast because we believe. In the space of just 29 months, we have seen 2,540 innocent people die. Dear God, please arrest this mayhem. Restore calm, peace and prosperity to this land. Give us the confidence that when we step out for our every daily chores, we will return unharmed to our homes."

"...Give us back the promise that was Pakistan. Amen"

The reference to corrupt nations is in relation to Transparency International's latest report which places Pakistan in 42nd place. Last year, Pakistan was ranked 47th, so this is a significant deterioration in just a year. You'd think this was depressing enough for Pakistanis. But to get an idea of what the writer is really despairing over, check out the response of the leaders of whom she speaks:

"Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer has said that the charges of corruption and misappropriation of funds are an attempt to destabilise the democratic government."

Londonstani really wishes Pakistani newspapers would have the direct quotes needed to back up their headlines. But, yeah, that's what they said the man said.

The article goes on:

Referring to the Transparency International, he expressed his doubts over the statistics given in its report and said, “The agency with its office located in London, is publishing the report as if it is operating in Pakistan. It should quote the statistics after a careful study.”

Yes, sometimes prayer really is your best option.