Friday, 19 November 2010

Top 10: Ways in Which Pakistan is Still in the '90s

Top 10: Ways in Which Pakistan is Still in the '90s: "One of the standard narratives emerging from the 24-hour news channel era is that modern-day Pakistan is a very different country from the past. The frame of reference in this case is the 1990s, the last time the country experimented with democracy. As most political analysts will tell you it is a very different country. It has a lot more people to start off with. Add to that a shift in geographic, economic and cultural trends, and you cannot help but embracing the whole idea.

But how much has Pakistan actually changed? Perhaps more importantly, how much have those who matter in Pakistan changed? A good way to check is to compare events, headlines and popular perceptions between the two eras. Here's a list of 10 such things we heard most often in the 1990s. We hear these today as well, albeit in different shapes and forms. It might just be me, but there is certainly a case for some irony here.

To be clear, this is not a list of our opinions. It’s just what the standard narrative was back then. Now keep in mind some of the stuff you hear today, and compare how similar it sounds to the 90s. Whether this is history repeating itself, is a question we'll leave for you to answer. Without further ado, let's get into the time machine:

1. The PPP is no longer the party of Bhutto

BB is nothing like her father. She is corrupt, inept and has sidelined all her father's closest advisors. This party is doomed and will be wiped out in 5 years max.

2. The MQM is Evil

The MQM is an establishment-run mafia controlling Karachi via gunpoint. Their hobbies include ethnic warfare, listening to Altaf bhai's speeches and dreaming about entering Punjab.

3. Nawaz Sharif is with the with the with the Saudis..or US..

No one has a clue who Nawaz Sharif is with. It might be entirely possible that he is cahoots with all four of those actors. I mean at one point during his second reign, he handed the civilian administration to the Army, declared intentions to become the Amir-ul-Momineen and was also BFFs with Bill Clinton. All at the same time. Or perhaps different times. No one knows. Speculation is that neither does he.

OK, maybe some things have changed.
4. The Army has rebuilt its image and is back in control

After the disastrous decade of Zia’s dictatorship, which ended with mass protests and a yearning for democratic rule, the military retreated to the barracks. Within months though, it has not only rehabilitated its image but also grabbed control of its favorite toys, the defense and foreign ministries. For good measure, it has also brokered a conclusion to a political dispute involving the judiciary, Prime Minister and President (circa 1993). Not surprisingly, many are calling for an outright coup.

Sometime in the future.
5. The Judiciary is a political actor

It is used various times by the government, military and by the President to undermine, dismiss or even restore incumbency. Prominent examples include 1993 and 1998.

6. Extremism and militancy threaten the soul of the country

Shias and Sunnis are killing each other. Extremist organizations are gaining strength, most enjoying the patronage of the intelligence agencies. The world fears what a fundamentalist-run Pakistan would look like.

7. The economy is in the midst of an IMF-overseen disaster

The combination of the IMF's austerity plan and a clueless Finance Ministry has ensured that the economy is moving laterally, not forward or backward. There is a debt crisis ballooning and soon the only way to get out of the IMF's grip will be to take on another IMF plan.

8. Our eyes are on India but our legs are in Afghanistan

According to the concept of strategic depth, we must have a pliant government in Kabul to achieve the GHQ’s dream of parity with New Delhi. Except that Kabul is a quagmire and New Delhi is and will always remain a bigger, stronger entity. Pertinently, no one in the GHQ is concerned about the domestic repurcussions of this policy. So while the country is awash in guns and drugs, the generals barter for more F-16s and geopolitical recognition for their role in Afghanistan.

9. The best cricketer in the land is a left-arm fast bowler with a secret power

Wasim Bhai is the finest left-arm fast bowler in the world. He wins a World Cup at a very young age and then proceeds to destroy England in a Test series. He also has a 'secret power’. And no, it’s not that inswinger.

Wasim bhai and some dude who also bowls left-arm fast.
10. The Jang Group is a (insert curse word here)

Yeah. They always were.

Postscript: So yeah, some things never change. Or they do, but via design or accident, are pulled back to look like replicas from history. Next time: 10 Ways Pakistan has Changed from the 1990s!

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