No country can be at ease with itself when hundreds of thousands of its citizens are displaced from their homes and are placed in refugee camps. Estimates put the figure at around 1.5 million. Housed in ill-managed refugee camps these Pakistanis, all of whom happen to be Pakhtuns, face a bleak future for months, and possibly years.
But it is not the question of the future of Pakhtuns, but of the very survival of Pakistan. It is time for Pakistanis to ask as to what brought our great nation to the edge of the precipice. We should ask the question where the state apparatus was when this situation was developing over the disastrous Musharraf years.
Pakistan today is under a multi-directional threat to its sovereignty and its integrity. Blaming circumstances, whether it is internal disorders or external factors, for what is happening to Pakistan is not going to do any good to the cause of Pakistan’s survival as a dignified and honourable nation. Whether our adversities are internal discord or external in nature, it is we ourselves who are to blame. These things do not happen suddenly but take years to develop. Through the years, while it was happening to us, symptom after symptom, Musharraf and his cronies worked from day to day without a care for Pakistan’s future. After his lawless military coup of Oct 12, 1999, Musharraf had inherited a Pakistan that was a demonstrated nuclear military power and possessed the cohesion of a wonderfully well-knit federation at peace with itself. Musharraf left power in a shameful manner and left us as a humiliated nation that was weakened in all spheres of national life.
When Pakistan was being reduced from a very enviable national status to absolutely nothing we Pakistanis slept over all those years (1999-2008) as if we were a nation indifferent to our very own future. No one sensed the dangers that were about to occur and no one had any remedies for whatever was to come. Those state functionaries who somehow did sense the dangers of the future never cared beyond their own self-serving interests. Now that the adversities have been heaped upon us while we remained indifferent as a nation we all owe it to our future generations to make one last-ditch effort to get our national act together and arrest the situation before it snowballs into something that spells the final disaster for Pakistan. It will be naïve to think that Pakistan is in no danger at all. What makes us say that? Is our confidence based on the fact that we have a strong military? Or is our confidence based on the fact that because we are a nuclear military power we are invincible and cannot be attacked or cannot collapse under our own weight? This certainly would have been true if our internal situation was exemplary which it, unfortunately, is not. Nothing can now give us immunity from a total collapse other than one distinct aspect of nationhood if we can miraculously revive that aspect – National Unity.
Time is certainly not on our side. We have to act post-haste and forge a national unity that can overcome all the immense fissures that we have so far suffered. Realistically speaking, the fate of the erstwhile USSR should come back to our minds. If the might of the world’s then second superpower–i.e., the erstwhile USSR–could not hold it together when the chips were down, to expect that Pakistan can overcome all its centrifugal forces would be naïve, especially when all other cementing factors of nationhood have already either fallen apart or are gradually being torn to shreds.
Somehow it appears that we still do not seem to be realising the absolute importance of national unity. To stop the IDPs from resettling in safer areas of Pakistan like Karachi and other parts of Sindh as well as Punjab is going to be the next big mistake of the federation if that happens. Acts such as these will only widen the gap between the people of Pakistan. How can anyone object to a Pakhtun going to Karachi or anywhere else in Pakistan? It must not be forgotten that Karachi is home to the largest concentration of Pakhtuns anywhere in the world; even more than Peshawar. It is this that makes the movement of a lot of displaced people to Karachi where they have relatives and opportunities to work absolutely justifiable. Why do we forget that it is the hard labour and sweat of the Pakhtun labour that has made Karachi what it is today. The need of the hour now is national unity and not disunity created on one or another count.