We’re on the slide

October 24, 2021

If ‘Insaf’ is the name of the game, then the umpire should be ready to raise his finger. Or is it the case of the player getting out hit-wicket not requiring the umpire’s...

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If ‘Insaf’ is the name of the game, then the umpire should be ready to raise his finger. Or is it the case of the player getting out hit-wicket not requiring the umpire’s intervention? In football’s parlance, you may call it an own goal. But it is cricket that casts a spell on our lives. So it is this weekend, with a vengeance.

I concede that this entire picture of the playing fields of Pakistan’s politics is suddenly becoming very mysterious. There are players who can change their side in the middle of a match. It is not the same, though, in this evening’s heart-stopping ‘takra’ in Dubai where the lines -- and loyalties -- are clearly etched.

We thus have to deal with our high-voltage involvement with multiple competitions and clashes. What we have in the media – with an uncensored version on social media -- is scary. We have different story and narrative threads in an encompassing thriller. Is this a perfect storm in the political domain?

Since this is a developing situation, with many uncertainties, a few things may have happened by the time you read these words. But the confrontations that have shaped up in recent days would linger for some time. One confrontation, however, will be resolved tonight, after the Pakistan-India match in the Twenty20 World Cup.

Will the outcome of this encounter in Dubai have any impact on the popular mood in the context of the present political environment? Will a Pakistan win against its traditional rival temporarily lessen the pain and anguish of the ordinary citizens who feel defeated by the daunting rigours of their lives? Will it bring some respite for Imran Khan, who wears the game’s crown?

But what if the result is otherwise? The point simply is that so much patriotic passion is invested in a Pakistan-India game, particularly in a World Cup, that people are bound to be emotionally affected by it. Still, this is not an opportune time to enjoy the game of cricket.

The nation is not in high spirits. It does not seem to matter that Imran Khan personifies our glory in cricket. He has not been able to excel in the game of politics and his performance as the prime minister is not very inspiring. After a sudden turn of events, he is now confronting his moment of truth.

While total attention is now devoted to the unfolding situation, it would be worthwhile to look back and take stock of the direction in which Imran Khan is steering this country, with all the support he had from his patrons and his followers. That is why I have invoked the idea of ‘Insaf’ at the outset.

After all, Imran Khan had chosen to baptise his mission as the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and he has constantly been reminding us of his goal. Addressing the National Rehmatallil Alameen Conference on Tuesday, he again stressed that democracy cannot prevail without justice. Similarly, exposing the corruption of the previous rulers and punishing them for their alleged crimes was the pivot of his campaign.

How he has failed to make much headway on both these fronts is the story that has not been properly explored. The fact is that Pakistan has regressed across the board, if you take some crucial areas of national endeavour into account. It is a rather dismal thought, but it is also prompted by the present crisis.

I had intended to dwell on the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index 2021 as evidence of what is happening to Pakistan with reference to rule of law and dispensation of justice. But a brief mention should suffice because we perform poorly in almost all international surveys on social and democratic development.

Anyhow, Pakistan ranks 130 out of 139 countries in the Rule of Law Index 2021. The report shows Pakistan as the second worst in South Asia in the areas of corruption, fundamental rights, order and security and regulatory enforcement. You should not wonder about the country that is below Pakistan in the region. It is Afghanistan.

What I find instructive is that in this and many other assessments, Pakistan’s ranking has slipped in recent years. The drift is unmistakable. Pakistan was placed at 120 out of 128 countries in the Rule of Law Index 2020. In 2019, our ranking was 114 out of 128 countries. In 2018, the country ranked 105 out of 113 countries in the Rule of Law Index, which is the world’s most comprehensive dataset of its kind.

By the way, US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman had said in Mumbai, before coming to Pakistan, that America had no interest in returning to the days of a hyphenated India and Pakistan. That is how we look at ourselves, competing with India, with our nuclear capability and as the second largest country in South Asia.

But why are we increasingly being hyphenated with Afghanistan? There are reasons why we are so close of Afghanistan, after it broke its shackles of slavery. Yet, the fact that we lag behind other countries in South Asia in development, specifically Bangladesh, is very hard to digest.

Take inflation, which has become the flag of the opposition parties’ protest movement. The PTI leaders insist that inflation is a global phenomenon, suggesting that we are in the same boat with other countries. But The Economist has reported that Pakistan’s inflation is fourth highest out of 42 countries. In this index, we are above all other South Asian countries.

Statistical assessments aside, we can see what is happening in Pakistan at various levels to identify the drift. Now that a wave of popular discontent against the performance of the government led by Imran Khan is rising, we should find some time to understand why a leader who had promised a ‘naya’ Pakistan is unable to locate himself on the right side of history.

So, who will lead Pakistan to march ahead of other South Asian countries and become a peaceful, modern and progressive democracy?

The writer is a senior journalist.

Email: ghazi_salahuddinhotmail.com

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