Another momentous year, in what has been a momentous decade for Pakistan, comes to an end. Indeed, more than momentous, both the year and the decade were tumultuous. Whatever they were I wish the year, and the decade, had been just a little less so.
If I have a wish for 2011 it is that it be everything that 2010 was not.
That it be un-noteworthy. That it be politically boring. That it be uninteresting. That it is unremarkable. That it be unexciting. That it be undramatic. That it is not spent on the very edge of the edge. And, above all, that it be calm. A year when at least for a few moments Pakistanis can just sit back and relax – take a deep breath to calm their nerves – without having to worry about how everything might turn upside down the very next moment. A year that we can all go about our lives without forever hanging on the brink, and that too by a thread. A year when the world thinks little about us, and we think about the world even less. Now, is that too much to ask for?
In past years we have had ATP Polls on predictions for the following year (predictions for 2010, predictions for 2009) but the results have been far from stellar: In 2008, 41% of our readers thought that the PPP government would not survive the year and in 2009, 53% thought that Mr. Zardari would not be the President at the end of 2010. So, rather than set a menu of propositions for you to choose from, this year we would like you to make your predictions for 2011 and maybe we can revisit them in a years time – or even earlier!
What is your wish for 2011? And what is your prediction?
To get the ball rolling, let me throw out a few propositions. Please do add to them.
Proposition #1. Pakistan will remain a divided society. It was a divided society every day of 2010 and will remain so in 2011. The most recent and poignant manifestation of these divisions were in the debates over the blasphemy laws and the Asiya Bibi case at the end of 2010 – debates that straddle into 2011 – but the divisions are larger and deeper than this case and have been strewn all over ATP ever since it began. 2011 will not be different. But what is already different, and what I hope will be different as time goes on, is that buried angst about these divisions is now being converted into open – although sometimes violent – debate. I believe that the debate will indeed become more honest in 2011. I hope it will not become violent. I do not think it will be resolved in 2011. So, fasten your seatbelts, this one is going to be a long one.
Proposition #2. The government will remain unstable, but will not be dislodged. The big news right now is about the government coalition falling apart. I do not think it will. I hope it will not. Elected governments in Pakistan are always unstable and there are too many who want to make them so. Our politicians themselves do not help. But nor does the embedded impatience of the Pakistani public. Like an unending soap opera, the topi-drama of Pakistan politics keeps going on with all its characters – politicians, bureaucrats civil and military, the omni-present ‘agencies’, and, yes, all of the rest of us too – perched on edge and forever attempting to dislodge everyone else from that edge. All of that will continue. I hope the government will concentrate of real issues – particularly those related to economic development, energy, prices, and unemployment – but I also hope that it will see the end of its term and that whatever change will come, whenever, will come with a general election. That is my hope. That is my prediction.
Proposition #3. The US-Pakistan relationship will remain dysfunctional. The Kerry-Lugar Bill, the WikiLeaks revealations and the demise of Richard Holbrooke may have been the big news of the year in terms of US-Pakistan relations, but the real news remains that this is one amazingly dysfunctional partnership. That is not about to change. When no Pakistani seems to trust any Pakistani institution, or any other Pakistani for that matter, it is difficult to convince Americans why they should. But nor is it easy for any Pakistani to see any reason to trust America: friends who routinely send drones to bomb into friend’s territories are no friends at all. The trust deficit remains the real issue and neither Pakistan nor the US seems either capable or interested in bridging it right now. Without that happening first, no amount of halwa-puri diplomacy will change anything.
Proposition #4. Internal terrorism will remain Pakistan’s biggest enemy. 2010 was another bloody year. There is no sorcery in predicting that there will be much bloodshed in 2011 too. What became evident and largely understood all across Pakistan in 2010 was that terrorism is a grave, and possibly the gravest, threat to Pakistan. That realization is important in society. Internal terrorism is Pakistan’s biggest enemy and has to be seen and confronted as such. There are too many who would wish to muddle the understanding of this threat. Those within by arguing that these incidents are related to what is happening internationally and until that changes these will not. Those outside Pakistan by arguing that these are merely collateral to what is happening internationally. Both arguments have merit, but only partially. The internal terrorism has to be tackled with concerted and strategic police action – improving the international aspects will certainly help, but cannot be a precondition to police action against internal terrorism. I do not think these incidents will stop in 2011, but I do hope that we will begin better policing them, catching and making examples of culprits, and stories of ‘successful’ attacks will be outnumbered by stories of ‘attacks pre-empted’ and of terrorists apprehended.
Proposition #5. Pakistan cricket will remain mercurial. There is never a dull moment with the current Pakistan team. I hope the scandals will be left behind in 2011, but I do not think the mercurialness of Pakistan cricket will. I am not sure if I want it to. There will, unfortunately, be plenty of disappointments. I just hope there will also be a few moments of absolute glory and heady achievements. In this, the year of the Cricket World Cup, I can only hope that the flash of glory will come at the right time and the right place. Hey, we can always hope, can’t we!
So, there is my rather sundry list, in no particular order and rather random. Do tell us what you think. What are your hopes for 2011? What are your predictions.