BY BINAY KUMAR SINGH
The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) air crash in June that killed 97 people and the circumstances causing it beg a closer look. It is widely believed that the pilots of the ill-fated PIA aircraft were fake, who in all likelihood cheated in exams to secure a Civil Pilot Licence or perhaps went a step further and had imposters sit in their places.
It is reported that around 260 commercial pilots of Pakistani origin have been grounded across multiple airlines to set things in order! The upshot of this incident is that Europe has taken an unprecedented step of banning PIA flights for six months!
But then, this should not be a surprise for those well versed with Pakistan’s history of cheating.
The birth of Pakistan in itself was in every way a stillborn idea. The annulling of the landslide victory of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Awami League of East Pakistan in 1970 General Elections by President (General) Yahya Khan of West Pakistan, and the consequent call for self-determination by East Pakistan ended in the mindless murder of three million Bengalis.
These events which precipitated the vivisection of Pakistan into Bangladesh in December 1971 bear a fitting testimony to the bankruptcy of the founding principles of Pakistan.
And yet the country continues to peddle the belief that faith is the glue that keeps it going and that the serious socio-economic-security problems facing the country are the work of a ‘hidden hand’ – India.
Hussain Haqqani, a prolific academic and a former Ambassador of Pakistan to the United States, in his seminal book ‘Reimagining Pakistan: Transforming a Dysfunctional Nuclear State’ argues that Pakistan was a premature, feeble offspring at birth and although it survived critical infancy, it never gained the strength necessary to combat its inborn ailments’.
In my opinion, the inborn ailments are the severe drought of selfless, visionary leaders, conspiracy thinking, inferiority complex, falsification of history, obsession or paranoia about India and internecine power struggles that often throw up a corrupt military dictator.
The consequence of these ‘inborn ailments’ is widespread cultural and moral decadence of the Pakistani society.
Surprisingly though, the Pakistani elite comprising mostly its Army generals and some politicians still manage to project a strong but misplaced notion of national pride built around superiority of its race, military, and nuclear weapons leaving millions of innocent Pakistanis in grinding poverty.
It is instructive to mention that Pakistan is home to the world’s third largest illiterate population; there are only 15 countries in the world with a lower literacy rate than Pakistan.
Corruption, fraud and cheating form the very lifeblood of this dysfunctional state as substantiated in the following part of this article.
Fake websites have been created to promote fake global rankings listing Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) as the world’s best intelligence service and the former Pakistan Army Chief General Raheel Sharif as the world’s best commander! A ridiculous proposition.
ISI is anything but a professional agency that intimidates the common man through hired thugs and mercenaries.
As for the venerable General Raheel Sharif, his military acumen and leadership remain to be tested in a worth-mentioning military operation.
On the contrary, Raheel Sharif is a symbol of corruption and nepotism. He has managed to milk his position (Army Chief from 2013 e2016) to grab hundreds of acres of land worth billions of rupees, without consent of the civilian government!
In June 2020, it was reported that Pakistan enhanced military spending by 12 per cent to a whopping Rs 1,700 billion (including pension bill) as against a total development budget of Rs 650 billion, even as barely literate and unemployed youth continue to bulge at an alarming rate.
As per the latest Economic Survey, the current allocation for defence is harebrained and unsustainable as Pakistan is heading towards massive joblessness, around 19 million, which would further accentuate the deplorable social conditions that Pakistanis are already reeling under.
According to one estimate, just one-fifth of Pakistan’s defence budget would be sufficient to finance universal primary education in the country, which currently remains abysmally poor. The increased defence spending is justified by creating anti-India hysteria supported by a massive misinformation campaign and fraudulent propaganda.
It is widely known that the beneficiaries of such disproportionately high defence budgets have mostly been the high-ranking military officers (mostly Army generals to the exclusion of Admirals and Air Marshals!).
As per a news report in April 2016, former Army Chief (1998-2007) and former President of Pakistan (2001-2008) General Pervez Musharraf was in possession of Rs 2,156 million in net cash in an offshore account in addition to immovable property worth several millions.
Also, former Army Chief (2007-2013) and head of Inter-Services Intelligence (2004-07) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is known to possess a multi-million dollar Swiss bank account. He was also accused by a fellow officer of being involved in a major land scam in a Defence Housing Scheme.
Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, like most other national achievements, has a nefarious past. It is common knowledge that Abdul Qadeer Khan (born in Bhopal, India), the so called efather of Pakistan’s nuclear weapon program’ built the technology from a stolen design and sourced material from a network of grey markets to try and destroy his country of birth! He is also instrumental in the secret proliferation of this technology to rogue countries like Libya and North Korea. So much fuss about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons being the most important epillar of national pride’!
In December 2019, a reputed international news agency carried a report that more than 600 young Pakistani girls, mostly from the minority communities, were fraudulently sold in marriage to the Chinese with the tacit approval of the state; sadly most would end up in prostitution.
In May 2020, a massive scam amounting to $630 million was reported in a power project linked to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The Chinese companies involved made windfall profits to the tune of 70 per cent by swindling Pakistani customers. It is widely acknowledged that Prime Minister Imran Khan can do little to rescue the common man as a retired Army Commander, General Asim Saleem Bajwa, who wields immense powers as the head of CPEC Authority would not dare antagonise the Chinese firms.
In many ways, paranoia, denial, fraud and cheating have begun to define Pakistan’s national character, crushing the well-meaning but voiceless average Pakistanis under its weight. In the aftermath of the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s statement powerfully summarises the arguments made thus far:-
“Pakistan has everything that gives you an international migraine. It has nuclear weapons, it has terrorism, extremism, corruption it is very poor e it is in a location that’s really, really important.”
In 73 years of its existence, Pakistan has nothing that even a marginally successful country can talk about.
In order to find solutions to overcome the overwhelming socio-economic-security problems, Pakistan needs to acknowledge that its faulty founding principles (hate, falsification of facts, conspiracy thinking) and inborn ailments (paranoia about/obsession with India, inferiority complex, corruption, fraud and cheating) are the root cause of its present state of mess. But the country continues to behave like a sick ostrich on a sleepy march, metamorphosing from an einternational migraine’ into a giant ecancerous tumor’ well on its path to self-destruction.
(Binay Kumar Singh is a columnist and researcher. He writes on national security issues)