By Fareeha Qayoom
Photo by Swamibu It’s June. By the fifteenth max, the new fiscal budget will be announced with profound implications for Pakistani citizens. (No, I don’t know what it’s going to say. Its only end of April as I write this month’s editorial…) however, I do posses a modicum of common sense, I do know they are going to raise taxes and utility bills and set lower growth targets for the next year. It’s a given and deeply understood by all citizens of Pakistan. The government will slash the development budget down to one tenth in size from last year. Health care and education, infra-structure development and housing will be a couple of decimal points only with a lengthy wish-list that will be just rhetoric to satisfy the masses. The government will complain about the need for yet more loans, debt-servicing and security concerns across the border. Recession will continue. Prices will hike further. The cost of fast moving consumer goods (FMCG’s) will go up. Poverty will creep up a few more percentage points; up from 35 percent to God knows what by the end of next fiscal year. Banks will continue to wait, watch and circle. Private sector will also continue to wait, watch and pray for better times to come quickly. The citizens will continue to tune into the popular soap opera that is Pakistani politics. More people will be disenfranchised. Peace restored, robust economy and all citizens gainfully employed will continue to be just a pipe dream.
The situation at the border will continue business as usual. USA and NATO forces will keep bombarding Afghanistan. Drones will continue to attack Pakistan. US government will continue to reiterate that Al-Qaida is hiding in Pakistan, (like the famous mythical ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ -WMDs- were hidden in Iraq.) Pakistan will be asked to continue ‘doing more,’ while more people will continue to die in Pakistan. Our government will keep on asking for more aid and damages. The USA will continue to use the carrot and the stick strategy with Pakistan. Terrorists (Taliban and local dissenting groups that love chaos) will continue to get funds from mysterious sources to buy more publicity, advertising and arms while ordinary citizens like us will continue to wonder how to earn the next fast buck. Law and order will continue to be the number one priority on every politician’s lips while no practical steps will be taken to fix the prevailing situation. Citizens will continue to pray for deliverance, more will be displaced on the border areas while talking heads on TV will continue to analyze things to death and conclude it’s all because of our weird beliefs in God and Pakistan that we continue to fight and we should go back to Jinnah’s ‘secular’ Pakistan! The information minister will continue to be in a state of denial and will reiterate, ‘if they can’t find bread, let them eat cake!’ Basically, it will be the “same stuff, just different day”.
Are we done yet with all these complaints? Why don’t we simply get out of the Afghan –US war and close our borders with Afghanistan (and imprison anyone who crosses it like other normal countries of the world?) Instead of asking for more money to shoot people on this side of the border, why don’t we push all these radical elements towards Afghanistan (and India) and let them deal with the situation for a change? Why don’t we close our economy for a few years, stop asking for more loans and simply jack up our nukes arsenal and start a new stock- pile of conventional home-brewed weapons to shut the rest of the world up? Why don’t we stop exporting all our goods especially agriculture products to the world markets and instead look for domestic consumers only? Why don’t we stop importing stuff from abroad and finder cheaper substitutes locally? Since, money is the main issue to run our government, why don’t we fire 50 percent of the government staff and ask them to create themselves jobs in the private sector? Why don’t we stop selling our family silver to foreign corporations and groups abroad? Why don’t we renew and create closer relationships with our immediate neighbors and nations across central Asia, Middle East, Iran, Turkey, Europe, Russia and China instead? Why don’t we treat all Indians, Afghans and Americans the same – hostile to semi hostile and deal accordingly with them? Why don’t we recognize we have to be self-sufficient, armed and ready to defend ourselves if we want to survive as a nation? Why don’t we recognize that since it’s a war based on economics (and not on religion!), God is obviously on the side of the invaded instead of the invaders? Might is not right. We should stop taking sides. If we don’t want to fight this menace (USA), why don’t we simply lay down our arms and ask them to colonize or lease our lands peacefully while we take to the deserts and the hills? There’s no need to kill indigenous people to make way for a few gas-pipes! These are hard questions. Since no one has answers, tomorrow will be just another day! Relax it could get worse! 🙂
This article was originally published in the print edition of Valuemag, June 2009, issue 11, under the section, ‘From the editor’s desk – June 2009’