Today 60 per cent of Pakistan is living below the poverty line, while somehow the remaining people have broken Tim Hortons’ 61 years sales record. The cream of Pakistan along with its administration has turned a blind eye to the sufferings of its people … writes Dr Sakariya Kareem
As Pakistan struggles to stay afloat (quite literally), its internal political situations and militant violence dunk its face, keeping it from re-emerging. The middle class is slowly diluting with the poor in Balochistan and Sindh and the Pakistani Army with the remaining upper echelons of the society is enjoying the biggest-ever opening of the Canadian coffee giant Tim Hortons in Pakistan!
The Pakistani franchise of Tim Hortons witnessed a historical premier, a grand welcome from the nation in Lahore. Today 60 per cent of Pakistan is living below the poverty line, while somehow the remaining people have broken Tim Hortons’ 61 years sales record. The cream of Pakistan along with its administration has turned a blind eye to the sufferings of its people. Evident by this incident, Pakistan has pulled a Marie-Antoinette on its starving population; in the 17th century the French princess after being told that the peasants have no bread to eat had said “Let them eat cake”.
The Army tweets prayers for Pakistan in the merciless winters while Sui Gas from Balochistan envelops their sizable villas in comforting warmth, while Balochis struggle between Chinese takeover of their land and minerals, and Pakistan’s oppressive and discriminatory regime in the region, all without access to their own gas supply. The ones sitting on the high chair cannot comprehend the realities of life of the less fortunate. A couple of thousand deaths due to the floods, tens of millions displaced from their homes and croplands, and several million swimming in cholera and typhoid-carrying waters, seem to have no bearing on the elites.
At the brink of default and after a fresh series of begging sessions across the globe, how does Pakistan afford to buy the overpriced cup of coffee? Many citizens are holding protests in parts of Sindh, Balochistan, and Khyber-Paktunkhwa against the government for sending food and relief to Turkey and Syria. A team of doctors including specialists has also been sent to the two countries. The tension among the masses is palpable. They are angry, and rightly so because instead of focusing on their country the government has chosen to help other nations leaving the locals high and dry. And anyone who as much as raises a finger against the government is beaten, harassed, or disappeared.
Last week a young man in Faisalabad was sentenced to three years in prison and a huge fine for criticizing the Pakistan Army and allegedly running a smear campaign against them, using a questionable helicopter crash incident from August 2022. To keep their minorities under check even amid the failure of the state, Pakistan made their blasphemy laws even more stringent this January 2023. The author of the bill who belongs to a religious political party said that the punishment for the disrespect of the sacred personalities of Islam was not enough earlier. But what about the blatant disrespect of the people who are alive? Alive and waiting for someone to rescue them.
Once upon a time, Pakistan declared to “Bleed India through a thousand cuts”, a neighboring nation which has through the years always been the friend in need, whether it was for earthquake relief, economic crisis, or food crisis. They provoked insurgencies and terrorist activities in Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory (J&K UT) and the Indian state of Punjab, leading to massive unrest in the region. Today while J&K UT has passed the recovery stage, the same terrorism that Pakistan bred for India, is attacking them. The Taliban are closing in on the borders earning the sympathies of extremist groups in the country.
In Peshawar in the middle of the afternoon prayers in January 2023, a bomb explosion claimed by the Taliban took the lives of more than 100 people leaving 150 injured. It is a humiliating situation for a nation that leads by religion to be unable to provide security to its residents within a mosque. Is that what the sanctity of a mosque means to them? A security guard of the mosque told a national daily that the situation is going to get bloodier, and there is nothing Pakistan can do about it because the Taliban are using the same tricks Pakistan Army taught them. Terrorism in the country has blocked foreign direct investment. Its poor relations with neighbouring India and Afghanistan have led to its alienation. As Central Asia and India grow to power, with Pakistan somewhere in the centre of it all, the country again has to its advantage the geo-political position. Alas, the predictions of a major global rating agency reveal that due to the worsening liquidity, political volatility, and declining foreign exchange reserves, “Default or debt restructuring is an increasingly real possibility”.
The rogue nation could have used this strength to its advantage but whenever we hear the mention of Pakistan, it almost always has something to do with Human Rights Violations, circus politics, begging as a means of income, and sheltering most wanted terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda. The world does not need another Osama Bin Laden sympathiser. We need propagators of peace. As for Pakistan – what goes around, comes around.