The recent murder of investigative journalist Arshad Sharif has highlighted the hazards of fighting on internal fronts. Unfortunately, Pakistan has been a security state with a focus on borders instead of strengthening the basic fibre of the nation. Over the years we have been externally fortified while becoming internally weak. The common human good or nation building has lost its importance. Most civilian institutions are in disarray and close to collapse. Mafias have taken over. The day-to-day existence of the common man is seriously impaired. Those who rule over us, over run our interests. Exploitation of the weak is the order of the day. According to Imran Khan (IK) who is currently leading a ‘ Long March ‘ to the capital, during his days of imprisonment during the Lawyers Movement he only found petty criminals behind bars while the big fish went scot-free.
The founding fathers of Pakistan built institutions with their sweat and blood to sustain the republic. My late father-in-law, Shehzad Ahmed Khan, was one of the founders of Pakistan Railways. To keep the trains running they had to burn the midnight oil. According to him there were no engine drivers or technicians, as most of them had left. The banks lost their staff. Against all odds the country survived. While the armed forces were deployed on the borders, the internal fronts were well fortified by the civilians. On the appeal of Jinnah, Muslim businessmen from all over India came to Karachi to establish industries. As a child growing up on the Mall Road, I remember our March 23 trips every year to watch the parade in the Fortress Stadium across the Mian Mir Bridge. We lived on the other end of the Mall. It was a seven or eight kilometre journey from a buzzing civilization to open green spaces where no commercial activity took place. For the entertainment of troops the Globe Cinema was there on the corner of Tufail Road and a wine shop run by a Parsi family, otherwise calm and tranquility prevailed.
Whenever we crossed the bridge, my late father Nazir Ahmed Malik, a worker of the Pakistan Movement who was struggling in the new land to re-establish his business, was always surprised to see the calm that prevailed on the other side.
Young recruits in khaki shorts and vests were seen doing PT (physical training). As everyone was trying to do his best in the formative years of Pakistan, my old man would ask, ‘” What are they upto “? My standard reply was ” Preparing to liberate Kashmir “and we would drive ahead to the parking lot of the stadium to watch the parade.
Almost everyone in those days was fighting on internal fronts. Railway men were building the Railways, teachers were focused on the coming generation, engineers were tasked to build WAPDA (Water and Power Development Authority). Institution building was taken seriously. The men in uniform were taking care of the border areas or the external fronts for which they were experienced and trained.
Unless the internal frontiers are strengthened, the external areas cannot be fortified. The journey that was started in 1947 by the founding fathers has to be revisited and revived with honest and able warriors at the helm. ‘Azadi March’ has to be taken to its logical conclusion by rebuilding and restoring civilian institutions. Let the crusade start with free and fair elections without ado.
Then the onslaught started to push out the warriors of the internal fronts. Ayub Khan, the first usurper, wanted to hold a public meeting at the University Grounds near the Old Campus. The Vice Chancellor, Prof Hameed Ahmed Khan, asked for a hefty deposit to protect the cricket pitch. The President was mad at the refusal of the VC, and as a punishment he was denied extension in his term.
During the term of the third dictator, the Minister of Communications Lt Gen Saeed Qadir was sent to fix Pakistan Railways as there were complaints of slow movement of goods while the passenger service was fully functional. Instead of facilitation the Minister used derogatory language against the board. The reaction was serious, the Chairman Engr Abul Kalam and Secretary Shehzad Ahmed Khan tendered their resignations. The board was disbanded, the Ministry of Railways was created, NLC (National Logistics Cell) was launched for transportation of goods. Since then the entire service has been in decline.
It did not end here; even the universities were handed over to retired generals to improve the law and order situation on the campuses. Peace was achieved but at the cost of academics. Several professors refused to work under the ex-soldiers and left.
By the mid-1980s, most soldiers of the internal fronts were either retired or perished leaving the field open to vested interests and mafias who started to rely on the men in uniform who were responsible for looking after the borders. Those who did not understand the complexities of civilan life started to dabble in uncharted waters with disastrous consequences.
It did not end here, the Political Cell within the ISI started keeping files on politicians which were mostly used to blackmail them. Manipulated elections resulted in powerless legislatures. Representatives of the people who were required to fight for their causes started to rely on the support of the men in uniform. Recent legislation has been carried out to bail out the corrupt.
The recent ‘ Azadi March ‘ of Imran Khan seeks civilian control of their fronts including free choice to elect their leaders. IK ‘s ‘ Long March ‘ came under attack at Wazirabad. Despite security threats, the administration failed to protect the most popular leader of his time. With its numbers and resources the Punjab Police needs a major shake-up as was carried out in KPK under the late Inspector General Nasir Durrani.
The men in uniform have to return to the barracks where they rightfully belong, but there has to be a planned transition. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan cannot be left at the mercy of the unscrupulous who were nurtured to weaken the internal frontiers. The internal warriors like Prof. Hameed Ahmed Khan and Engr Abul Kalam are long gone, having been replaced by incompetent sycophants who have been trained to surrender without a fight
Unless the internal frontiers are strengthened, the external areas cannot be fortified. The journey that was started in 1947 by the founding fathers has to be revisited and revived with honest and able warriors at the helm. ‘ Azadi March ‘ has to be taken to its logical conclusion by rebuilding and restoring civilian institutions. Let the crusade start with free and fair elections without ado.