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Know the true nature of Pakistan

Know the true nature of Pakistan

Author: M.V. Kamath
Publication: The Free Press Journal
Date: May 30, 2002

In April, 2002 the highly-respected Fortune magazine published an article by its correspondent Richard Behar on how things are in Pakistan after a ten-week journey through the country. Behar's conclusion was that Pakistan is a "dysfunctional nation" or "Problemistan" - a country that professes to be an ally of the United States but probably harbours more terrorists than any other place on earth. As he put it: "It is the most unstable nuclear power in the world, a land where even the best intentions are undermined by some of the world's worst economic conditions. Despite some bold moves by Musharraf and a talented team of Ministers to steer the country in a new direction, Pakistan is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, overwhelmed by poverty, vulnerable to a fourth war with neighbouring India and unable to control thousands of jobless jehadis whose anger is fuelled by religious fundamentalists".

According to Behar, "a list of Pakistan's problems reads like an encyclopedia of disaster". It is a country where "more than half the population is illiterate, roads are in a terrible shape, most of the population doesn't have access to clean water...and the legal system is in a shambles". As to Musharraf, writes Behar, "it's an open question whether he has the will or the power to take on the cancerous elite who have gotten rich from smuggling, black markets, a crooked stock market and an illegal money-changing system and who have helped turn Pakistan into a hothouse of terrorism". Behar visited the headquarters of Al-Badar Mujahideen's House of Martyrs where "a visitor is expected to remove his shoes on one of three flags taped to the floor - U. S. Israeli and Indian'. He was told by Umer Inqlabi, a 36-year-old commander: "Today you are my guest - my brother. But you belong to the enemy side.

If I see you at the war field, I will just kill you". Behar learnt that the Karachi Stock Exchange was run by six brokers. Here "Fund diversion to crafty directors was commonplace, margin requirements were non-existent and small investors were regularly scalped". Even commercial banks were in on the action, lending money to crooked brokers who, in turn, loaned the money at 20% interest rates to the client investors that the brokers would ultimately gang up on and devour. Shareholder meetings took place nine months after closing the books and many weren't held at all. Behar quotes a Canadian fraud expert Wayne Blackburn as saying: "The whole economy (of Pakistan) is predicated on avoiding taxes; about 85 per cent of all transactions are in cash, compared to 3% in North America". The Hundi system was used to facilitate drug trafficking, smuggling, terrorism and tax evasion.

The country's financial situation was so precarious that it had come to sovereign default on its foreign debt last year. Every night wooden boats laden with cigarettes and auto parts and TV sets sailed form Dubai for Karachi. The cargo supposedly was bound for Afghanistan but in reality most of the merchandise wound up staying in Pakistan - or quickly returned there, evading import duty as high as 80%. That meant cheap goods for consumers on the streets of Karachi but it also destroyed local industry. Behar interviewed an ex-air force sergeant about al Qaida. Said the sergent: "Osama bin Laden is not alone. He has a big organisation in every city, in every district here. Pakistan has been to terrorism what Las Vegas was to the mafia - a free zone, where any hood from any 'family' can pass through with impunity".

The government did not have the law enforcement capability to deal with the problem. Behar interviewed Zafar Anjum, who runs one of Pakistan's only corporate investigative agencies who said: "The government doesn't have the law enforcement capability to deal with the problem. Until last August, the nation's provincial police - the primary investigators of terror in Pakistan - didn't have the authority to demand records from banks, let alone hundi operators. If a terrorist has funds and influence, he is free and can move anywhere in the country. We have laws in the books, but there is no practical enforcement in Pakistan. Where are the task forces on money laundering, organised crime or terrorism? We don't have a criminal database like the FBI.

People are so afraid to do investigations". According to Behar "when it comes to freezing terror funds, it is not hard to conclude that Pakistan is leaving extremists just enough time to clean out their bank accounts". Barely $323.65 were seized from the Taliban consulate in Quetta. A bare $1.50 (one and a half dollars!) was hauled off from an account belonging to Jaish-e-Mohammad, the radical group suspected of involvement in the murder of Daniel Pearl. Comments Behar: "The government's slowness in cracking down on groups such as al-Badar and Sipah, both of which are believed to have links to al Qaida - raises questions about how far Pakistan is willing to go in the war against terror. So much for the report in Fortune, one of America's most prestigious journals. On 28 April, Seth Mydans, writing in The Washington Post had this to say: "Three months after President Musharraf announced a major crackdown on violent Muslim groups and on the religious schools that breed them, doubts are rising about his commitment to follow through. Of nearly 2,000 people arrested in a sweep of Islamic radicals, as many as 70 per cent have been set free.

After five militant groups were banned, many of their numbers reorganised under new names...The leader of Lashkar-e-Toiba, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed has been freed. Masood Azhar, who heads Jaish-e-Mohammad, has been moved to house arrest. Sayeed, according to the paper "did his time in a government guest house with access to a mobile phone"! Then there is the evidence of Karl Vick, also writing in The Washington Post (28 April). Vick quotes an Islamabad journalist and writer, Arif Jamal as saying: "I don't see any kind of crackdown on the jihadis. They are operating the way they used to. The only difference is, they are not visible". And Samina Ahmed, a researcher in Islamabad for the International Crisis Group has been quoted as saying: "If you pick up people and then release them, the signal you send is 'This is a public relations exercise." Vick says that the reason for this is that Pakistan has a use for its militants: fighting a proxy war in the disputed region of Kashmir".

The correspondent quotes a "senior Pakistani official" as saying: "There may not be any other country in the world which has at least 50,000 non-military pet, runs deep in Pakistani society and state. It is a state of mind that cannot be switched off by mere statements of disapproval. People have no other alternative frame of reference in which to define Pakistan nationalism". Mushtaq asked: "If it is not anti-Indianism, then in what other terms could we possibly render Pakistani-Muslim nationalism?" According to him "the most obvious place to look for unflinching anti-Indianism is, of course, the military itself" where "phrases like the 'Hindu-mentality' and "devious Indian psyche" were part of the daily military talk!

The Pakistanis are themselves despairing of their country. Writes Masood Hasan, another Pakistani writer: "Who in his right mind would want to come here? What do we have to offer? The world's highest mountains and the cheapest labour? Violence in our daily lives is as certain as the sunrise. No one is immune. Christians, Shias, Sunnis,rs, some Pakistan-based groups have reportedly been arming and training volunteers to take part in the Kashmir jihad. In addition, a press reports in the past. Some religious parties have been openly collecting funds and recruiting volunteers for the Kashmir cause in major Pakistani cities for years. Even when the government tried to ban such activities, these groups openly flouted the decision".

This, then, is contemporary Pakistan. A nation India now has to face.

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