A decade to nowhere.


Byline: Zahid Hussain

IT has been a decade that we would rather forget. It has not been the best of times for Pakistan as the country lurched from one crisis to another. The death of hope has made future prospects more uncertain. The overall crisis of leadership has never been so pronounced.

Despite two elections the democratic political process remains fragile. The country has already moved to becoming a diarchy with an ineffectual civilian government virtually playing second fiddle to the military. The weakening of democratic institutions has provided a greater opportunity to forces outside the government to get more deeply involved in manipulating politics while attempting to thwart basic rights.

More worrisome is that under a democratically elected government there is now a move to stifle freedom of expression and plurality of views through unannounced censorship and other forms of pressure exerted by security agencies. The populism is increasingly manifested in rising authoritarianism, thus undermining democratic political culture. The 2010s have seen further erosion in the rule of law.

The state has seldom been so fractured. The 'accountability process' mainly targeting the opposition has widened the fault lines in the existing power structure. Starting from the Panama Papers scandal in 2016 that led to the judicial removal from office of Nawaz Sharif and his conviction, most opposition leaders are now either in prison or facing indictment on corruption charges.

The selective application of the NAB law reinforces the allegations of a political witch-hunt. Many politicians and bureaucrats are languishing in jail for months without being formally charged. The situation is fast becoming untenable. What happens next is not hard to guess.

The decade witnessed the deadliest terrorist attack in the country's history when on Dec 16, 2014 the Pakistani Taliban took their campaign to a ruthless new level with an assault on a school in Peshawar that killed 141 people - 132 of them schoolchildren.

The attack on the Army Public School demonstrated how the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan had often targeted the country's most vulnerable citizens. Described as Pakistan's 9/11, the incident should have been a turning point in the country's battle against militancy and violent extremism but unfortunately it didn't happen.

Violent extremism remains a major threat to the country's stability. There are serious questions about the state's capacity and...

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