For nearly 16 hours a day, power (electricity) is out in Pakistan. For those who can afford them, battery-operated units have been installed to produce enough electricity to light a few bulbs and run cooling fans but not air conditioners. In the scorching summer heat of Pakistan, one can imagine the people’s misery. There are no such problems for the elite –” civilian and military –” who live in their air-conditioned bubbles with an army of servants ready at their command.
But if summer heat were the only challenge facing the people, they would have put up with it. There is rising pollution as a result of millions of vehicles plowing the already congested streets, belching thick smoke; the water is contaminated, food prices are skyrocketing and the gap between the rich and poor is widening. The latest budget estimates, released by finance ministry officials paint a dismal economic picture. The country’s total debt is Rs8.922 trillion ($106 billion) –” 59.3% of GDP. This includes $51.5 billion of domestic debt and $54.5 billion in foreign debt. Of the total annual budget, $8.02 billion will go for interest payments and $5.2 billion for defence.
Add to this grim picture the lawlessness that has gripped Pakistan from Karachi to the Khyber Pass, thanks to America’s war on terror that will escalate further following the failed Time Square bomb plot in New York. A Pakistani American, Faisal Shahzad, has been arrested in the case. The US is now demanding that the Pakistani military launch operations in North Waziristan as well, following its murderous rampage through South Waziristan. US drone attacks have escalated killing hundreds of civilians and a few militants. Even if all the militants were guilty, such killings only heighten resentment against the US and its Pakistani agents.
One must look at specific examples to understand how bad the situation has become in Pakistan. Peshawar is the capital of the North West Frontier Province, renamed Pakhtunkhwa-Khyber, a tortuous name even more ridiculous than the old name bequeathed by the British. Every morning, parents run the gauntlet of multiple security checkpoints to get children to school. A journey that normally took 15 minutes now stretches to two hours or more. Once parents reach the school gate, they must leave their children outside; they are not permitted to enter school premises. Children are subjected to body and bag searches. The same routine is repeated in the afternoon. Even getting children to school and back is a battle. There is no guarantee that they will make it safely. Car bombings and other crimes are routine. Prayer is all that keeps them going.
Kidnappings have escalated alarmingly. This is particularly acute in such places as Hangu and Tall. These previously peaceful and serene towns have become safe havens for an assortment of terrorists and kidnappers. Hangu, the birthplace of this writer, is particularly bad because it lies in a valley bordering the tribal area of Orakzai where the Pakistan military is currently engaged in vicious attacks. There are daily announcements of 20 or 30 “militants” killed as a result of aerial bombings or artillery fire. Anyone who is killed by the army is immediately branded a militant, presumably to get some bakhsheesh from the Americans.
Numerous relatives of this writer, both distant and close, have been kidnapped in recent months. Some have been ransomed for millions of rupees thereby bankrupting the family; others have been shot and killed, execution style. Almost everyone who can afford has an armed bodyguard but they are unable to confront the heavily armed kidnappers that attack in large numbers. It is Pakistan’s own Wild West. The government has no writ; it does not even care what happens to the people. All it is concerned about is carrying out America’s orders whose Blackwater mercenaries, now rebranded as Xe Services, continue to indulge in all kinds of criminal activities on Pakistani soil with the connivance of those in power in the country.
In a May 22 speech to military cadets at West Point, US President Barack Obama said: “We need intelligence agencies that work seamlessly with their counterparts to unravel plots that run from the mountains of Pakistan to the streets of our cities.” This is the same rhetoric his discredited predecessor used: we attack them “there” before they attack us here. The Western media talk about Obama’s belief in “reconciliation” –” through drone attacks and Xe Service mercenaries; the people of Pakistan pay the price.
Some Americans still wonder, why they are hated.