Ripe for revolution - Roedad Khan - Wednesday, March 09, 2011

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For the last 50 years or so, the West has treated the Middle East as if it were just a collection of gas stations manned by its stooges. It was never interested in the Arab people or how they were governed. The US wanted the region to be a land open before it, without obstacles and without even the slightest wrinkle in the way. The Arab world was insulated from history. Well, history is back. The Arab world was asleep not dead. It has suddenly awoken and is living through a very exciting, effervescent moment.

Today the US finds itself “trapped in a region which it cannot fix and cannot abandon”, where America is not liked, not feared, and not respected. It took President Obama four days to condemn the slaughter of hundreds of freedom fighters by Colonel Qaddafi. Even then, he spoke only vaguely about holding Libyan officials accountable for their crimes. Why did he fail to mention Qaddafi, the arch-criminal, the butcher of Tripoli, the man who will stop at nothing to hang on to power? Obama knows very well that sanctions are ineffective and will not prevent Qaddafi from slaughtering his people. There is not a lot of time. Why, then, is he temporising? Why is he equivocating on Libyan freedom from autocracy? Libyans have shown extra ordinary courage but it is unrealistic to expect them to bring the dictator down all by themselves.

Britain and France joined United States in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War in establishing no-fly zones in large parts of northern and southern Iraq to protect the Kurds from the “savagery of Saddam Hussein”. There was no UN mandate for such zones. What prevents them from imposing no-fly zones in Libya?

Drone attacks kill men, women and children in Waziristan.

Let it not be forgotten that, not long ago, United States invaded Iraq, a sovereign, independent Muslim country, to topple a dictator and to impose democracy down the barrel of a gun. In the process it killed hundreds of thousands of people. Why is it reluctant to use force in Libya in support of a just cause?

The ambivalent, almost nervous, carefully calculated US reaction to the uprising in Libya reminds one of the broadcast from Moscow, calling for a general rising in Warsaw; the Polish rising in Warsaw in July 1944; the distressed Polish message for help; Stalin’s grim reply withholding aid; the tragic end of the rising and the Martyrdom of Warsaw. Out of the 40,000 men and women of the Polish army about 15,000 were massacred by the German army. Out of a population of a million, nearly 200,000 had been stricken. Is Obama doing to the Libyan freedom fighters what Stalin did to the Poles in Warsaw?

History reveals that uprisings go viral and ricochet from nation to nation. Tunisia has lit the match and setoff an Islamic prairie fire that has set the whole region ablaze. Very soon, it will engulf Pakistan. That is almost a mathematical certainty.

So here we are, at last on the threshold of great events. The day is not far off when words will give way to deeds. The world of corrupt presidents and prime ministers, the world of usurpers and despots, the world of hereditary monarchs and kings, will be blasted by the wind from the Maghrib.

Think about where we in Pakistan stand today? Terror is the order of the day. Pakistan is experiencing the warning tremors of a mega political and economic earthquake. These are days without shame or glory in Pakistan. We have President Zardari. And little hope and no cash. We have a president who is facing corruption charges at home and abroad and whose moral authority is in shreds. At a time when the country is at war, President Zardari, the Supreme Commander, spends almost his entire existence in the confines of a bunker – which he seldom leaves these days.

Our country is in grave danger. Pakistan looks exhausted, ossified and ideologically bankrupt, surviving merely to perpetuate its corrupt rulers. Never has the divide between ruler and ruled seemed so yawning, and perhaps never has it been so dangerous. The president and his prime minister are servile, obsequious, lackeys of United States, insecure, highly dependent on American support, too willing to sacrifice national interest in order to secure American help for themselves and remain in power.

It is hard to exaggerate the baleful impact of the Zardari-Gilani rule: the oligarch and the mafia who have stolen every asset of any value, the inflation that has ruined the middle class and the poor, the corruption that has corroded all values and humiliated every decent citizen; and the insecurities that have filled everyone with fear and anxiety. What will become of poor Pakistan?

We have a disjointed, dysfunctional and corrupt political system – a non – sovereign rubber stamp parliament, a weak, ineffective and corrupt prime minister, who changes his public statements as often as he changes his designer suits. Not surprisingly, Pakistan is rudderless and sliding into darkness.

Today Pakistan has a rotten socio-political system in an advanced stage of decay and decomposition; its rulers are unresponsive to the prime needs of the people; it lacks the will to defend itself because what its rulers represent is not worth defending; it is highly vulnerable to attack.

Pakistan shares many of the conditions that triggered the revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. The Tunisian and Egyptians revolutions have shown how people can bring down corrupt rulers without firing a shot. It was a sea of peaceful humanity that washed away Hosni Mubarak and Zein ul Abedin of Tunisia and is threatening to topple Gaddafi.

Every once in a while I feel despair over the plight of the country but nobody wants to hear about it or do anything to avert it. We stand on a volcano. We feel it tremble, we hear it roar, how and when and where it will burst, and who will be destroyed by its eruption, it is beyond the ken of mortals to discern.

The writer is a former federal secretary. Email:,

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