Back in our debating days, we'd scoff at the speaker who'd paint the bleakest picture of the world with phrases such as 'bodies strewn everywhere' and Marxist rhetoric of 'poor getting poorer'. We knew these speakers were out to get brownie points with the help of goosebumps. It surprised us but little that these speakers often got the highest applause from the audiences and got away with most of the prizes in the competition. Speakers such as ourselves who usually tried sounding balanced and if at all biased, then positive, would scoff and ridicule them, thinking that they've encashed the world's misery in the form of their prizes.
Now I do wonder if they were all that wrong. Maybe it was us, the balanced, so-called sane individuals, who were sitting on the wrong side of the stadium.
The current day's business reports headlines are such:
14 units stop working; Large scale layoffs in car, bike industry.
India's rich lose 60 pc of their fortune.
S&P cuts Pakistan's ratings amid debt crisis (though the rupee remained steady despite it)
Stocks turn dull amid fading optimism
US retail sales plunge.
Europe officially in recession.
The economic crisis that has prevailed in the news since the Lehman bankruptcy certainly does not seem to decelerate despite hopes of many. Khanani and Kalia are busted, Abdullah Haroon is dead (though no one can blame the economy for that, I'm just going with the flow here) and the real cherry on top is that General Hayden, director CIA, thinks "every major terror threat involves Pakistan".
Isn't that exactly what every Pakistani would love to hear at the breakfast table? We're not only spending 678bn rupees on the 'war against terror' we're also inevitably the terrorists who are now invariably linked to anything remotely terrifying, whether it's a bomb hit in the US or a mouse squeaking underneath the Queen's chair.
Obama, the new face of the US, has regrouped and refocused the foreign policy matters in South Asia. He has now taken up the advices of Mr. Bruce Riedel who will now be reassessing Pakistan and Afghanistan (never thought I'd hear them both in the same terrorist agenda sentence - who knew?). Mr. Riedel plans to prioritize the "Kashmir issue" between India and Pakistan.
The efforts will not be based on the freedom of the Kashmiris; it will be a pressure on Pakistan to let go.
I had always agreed on that golden rule of International Relations that proclaimed a small country stupid if it decided to war against a country twice its size and thrice its population. Pakistan had been and will continue to be stupid if it deludes itself into thinking it can win over Kashmir. Muslim Ummah or not, strategically Kashmir is a bone of contention that has caused Pakistan nothing but decades of terrorist insurgencies in its tribal areas, big-and-small wars, and of course a constant flinch with its biggest, burliest neighbor. Bad idea.
Oddly enough, I quote Parveen Shakir,
Baat toh sach hai magar baat hai rusvaayee ki.
(It is humiliating, but it is true.)
Benazir Bhutto, in her first reign, opted for the same gradual release of Kashmir. Maybe she planned it a bit more stylishly than the begrudged let-go I'm expecting to come in the future by the Pakistani government, but she foresaw something the ISI did not. She understood that this was not only weakening Pakistan's economy but its international standing in the world. Unless it stopped sending its tribal militants, its feeble armies to fight for the 'atoot ang', it would not learn to stand on its feet, it would not be able to feed its poor.
But no. We're too happy fighting in the name of "Islam" or whatever we want to call it. What do you call an ideology when you use it at the time of foreign policy formation and discard it at the time of instructing PEMRA? Use it again when you want to establish a coalition with the mullahs, want a referendum, arm your troops for Afghanistan and discard it again when you make the President house a palace, give at least 20-30 guards per minister, let them go on luxury trips to Saudia Arabia and America and godknows where-else-off-the-record?
Obama's new regime will probably not be as great for Pakistanis are people may think but if it manages to force Pakistan to let go of Kashmir (with as little humiliation and pain as possible) it'll not only save us money and further shame in the long run, it might even help us regain a bit of that international stability.
Now if only we can convince them to let go of Bajaur too.