Volume 3, No. 1, January 2021
Editor: Rashed Rahman
The traditional greeting at New Year has to be modified as the above title since the annus horribilis of 2020 promises to be around for some time still. Hence no ringing in the new, only fighting the same battles as the past year. The first and foremost issue looking back at the year past is the corona pandemic. What it has demonstrated once again with full force is that in an unequal world, the costs of a catastrophe, just as the benefits of good times, are distributed along the contours of that pre-existing inequality, and serve to deepen the gap between the haves and have-nots. The latter have borne the brunt of the corona pandemic-driven unemployment, homelessness and inadequate healthcare (for structural and cost reasons). They may well also turn out to be the last to receive the promised vaccine to vanquish this virus. Meanwhile, the filthy rich billionaires of the world have inexplicably increased their wealth astronomically during this crisis. Clearly, whether in adversity or better times, the business of capital thrives regardless.
In Pakistan we are still struggling with all too familiar issues, but also with some new ones. First and foremost, Imran Khan’s admission of his and his government’s cluelessness about running the country even after two and a half years in power would only have surprised those who do not know him well. The only remaining question is whether he and his government have actually learnt how to govern even now, or are capable of doing better in the second half of their term. The jury is out.
What is certain is that the duffers have picked a duffer, something that would have been expected to give pause for thought, but the selectors are now too embarrassed and shamefaced to admit their mistake, dump their choice, and open up the polity towards some kind of normality away from the partisan witch-hunt of the opposition that has been on display since 2018. This does not in any way imply endorsement of or support to the worthies of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), whose past is hardly a secret. Nevertheless they are at present the only antithesis available to a military-dominated state and society that we are currently suffering under.
Unfortunately, with the decline of the Left and subsequent limitation of the narrative to the confines of the struggle between different elements of the elite, there is little or nothing on offer for the people who are suffering from the dire consequences of the ineptness and cluelessness of the Imran Khan setup.
It is with great sorrow that one contemplates the assassination of Baloch activist Karima Baloch in Toronto, Canada, where she had sought asylum in 2015 after threats to her life in Pakistan. Surprisingly, the Canadian authorities seem to have made a little too much haste in declaring her death a ‘non-criminal’ incident, just hours after her body was discovered in a river and even before any autopsy or investigation. If one peruses a video of Karima Baloch on social media before her death declaiming that the Canadian authorities were facilitating Pakistan’s security services in Toronto, all the pieces of the ‘puzzle’ fall into place. One should not forget the similar end of Sajid Baloch, Editor (in exile) of Balochistan Times in Sweden. Clearly, if to this is added the beating up in Paris of the blogger Waqas Goraya, a pattern is discernible. It seems the ‘kill and dump’ policy being practiced in Balochistan and by now all over Pakistan has now been extended to exiles abroad. Our and the world’s human rights defenders should step forward to take up these cases of extra-territorial state terror to prevent a repeated recurrence of such incidents as is feared.
Imran Khan’s much-touted ‘honesty’ was on display in getting his illegal Bani Gala mansion/estate ‘regularised’ under an Ordinance passed by his Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) government. An Ordinance bypasses parliament, for which Imran Khan and his ruling coterie have no time or interest. In the aftermath of this ‘breaking news’, other residents of Bani Gala have been protesting the discriminatory ‘favour’ to Imran Khan when their own properties still lie in the shadow of illegality and their roads and infrastructure are left in disrepair while the road leading to Imran Khan’s estate has been ‘polished up’.
But then this discriminatory behaviour towards the poor and those without ingress into the corridors of power is neither new nor is this the only case. As happened in Gwadar, Balochistan, the Ravi Riverfront Project in Lahore is stealing from the poor their land and bestowing it upon the rich. Similar plans are afoot for the islands of Sindh and Balochistan. Why is land central to so many of our so-called ‘development’ schemes? Because real estate is now for many years the leading sector on which the military and others have concentrated their sights in the presence of deindustrialisation in force for the last four decades and agriculture in decline. Land is therefore the most profitable investment in our current economic climate.
Spare a thought for the long-suffering Palestinian people who are now being incrementally abandoned by their erstwhile supporters in the Arab world. After Egypt and Jordan, the growing list of Arab countries ‘normalising’ relations with the Imperialist-implanted Zionist entity now includes the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. This incremental abandonment of the Palestinian cause is sweetened by incentives from Washington. What price Arab and Muslim solidarity? Perhaps it is time to abandon these blinkered notions in favour of a cold, hard, clear appreciation of the death of any remaining principles in international relations except those dictated by the Imperialist powers.