July 20, 2008
Rajab 16, 1429


Write to Mr. Cowasjee

Inept, so inept, are we

By Ardeshir Cowasjee

TO repeat, and repeat ad nauseam, 61 years ago the founder and maker of the 
country that was Pakistan (half of it having fallen by the wayside within the 
space of a quarter of a century) firmly told the legislators of his constituent 
assembly that the first and foremost duty of a government, any government of 
any country, was to impose and maintain law and order so that the lives, 
properties and religious beliefs of the country’s citizens would be protected 
and preserved. But he was lecturing to the deaf.

We have never had, apart from brief periods during the early life of the 
country, the imposition of law and order. Right now, under this present 
dispensation to which governance is a totally foreign concept, we are more 
bereft of that vital factor than ever before. And we must remember always that 
hand in hand with law and order there must be an independent judiciary — the 
one without the other is incomplete.

The leaders that have been imposed on the country since the elections of 
February, all unelected, a combine of the United States of America, President 
Gen Pervez Musharraf, Asif Ali Zardari, the man who would be amir-ul-momineen, 
Mian Nawaz Sharif, and the fugitive Pir of London Town, are all allergic, for 
reasons of expediency, to an independent judiciary. It is the last thing, at 
this given time, any one of them wish to establish.

To repeat, and repeat, also ad nauseam, Jinnah once predicted, undoubtedly with 
sadness in his heart and a self-admittance that he had not got it all right, 
that each successive government of Pakistan would be worse than the preceding 
one. Now, one day Musharraf will have to go and when that day comes he will 
surely rue what he has left behind. He had ample time, a clear seven years 
(discounting the disastrous 2007) to establish a working political order and 
set up a successor system. He failed entirely in this. His judgment of men and 
manpower let him and the country down badly. He also ignored the fact, not 
being a politician, that friendship and politics and governance do not go 

He aligned himself with some of the most distasteful political characters that 
this country has ever produced — and that is putting it mildly. He relied on 
them to keep him in power and it all fell apart, due to his own foolishness and 
his reliance upon the worst advice he could be given. By now, almost isolated, 
he has hopefully acknowledged their worth and his own errors. His job should 
have been to seek out, rear and nurture young, fresh, unpolluted, able and 
honest men and women and establish them in politics as his successors. That is 
what, as a good dictator with unlimited powers, he should have done. It is all 
too late. The present is doomed. We need governance to survive, and without 
governance we will remain lawless and directionless.Come the inevitable 
elections and he offered the country all he had to offer, all that was 
available to him — relics of his own reign which were roundly rejected by the 
electorate, and relics of the totally
 unproductive and destructive 1990s. What the country got, via the ballot box, 
was stale bread.

Now, Zardari and Sharif are quarrelling over various issues, both for entirely 
selfish reasons — Zardari because of the dishonest-to-the-core NRO, his 
commitment to the US and his desire to ensure that the judiciary remains as it 
was as of Nov 3, and Sharif because of his loathing for Musharraf. Zardari has 
reportedly suggested that Sharif accompany him to our capital city, Washington, 
where, hand in hand with the American mentors, they may try to sort out their 
differences. Nawaz is fearful. The Americans, with good reason, distrust him. 
He is prone to blundering, and his public posturing has neither been moderate 
nor reassuring, less so these days with the Taliban knocking on our gates.

The combat with ‘extremism’, as is termed the Taliban phenomenon, is very much 
on, with a non-governing government and the Pakistan Army attempting to keep 
the threat at bay. This is proving to be no easy task. And surely there is no 
‘quick fix’. To cure the disease much time is needed. The country will not rid 
itself of its ills unless the majority of its citizens are educated in the 
profound sense of the word, so that they are able to differentiate between 
right and wrong, and apply to their thinking and lives a logic in tune with the 
21st century. This is a long, slow process but at some stage in the country’s 
life someone will have to set a start to it.

To begin with, we must get our population figures right. We must accept that we 
are a nation of 170 million, largely illiterate, brainwashed by bigotry, and 
highly intolerant of each other. Population control played no part in the 
Musharraf regime, as it will play no part in the schemes of this present 
government unless it can bring itself to govern.

A report in the national press last week made reference to recent studies made 
by the World Bank on the global state of education. According to its findings, 
primary education in Pakistan has declined by some three per cent over the past 
decade. Three out of five Pakistanis are illiterate. Of our 170 million, 70 
million are below the age of 18 of which 20 million have no access to schools. 
These figures are growing by the day, as the population waxes by leaps and 
bounds. And side by side with illiteracy, hand in hand goes extremism.There are 
a few of us, far too few, who are extremely worried about the want of primary 
education, the foundation upon which educated nations are built. We worry about 
the legacy we will leave behind, whereas the educated of this planet are 
grappling with the development of ‘brain power’, accepting that ‘societies 
unable to appreciate the challenges they face can be destroyed’.

Finally, a word of advice to those who rely on polls — some treat them as 
entertainment, others who believe what they want to believe take them 
seriously. Josef Stalin who is blamed for some 80 million deaths ‘in political 
purges and agricultural famines’ has just been lionised by the Russian 
pollsters as being the second best ruler they have had, the first being Tsar 
Nicholas II.



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