FE Today Logo

A craving for a better, livable world

Anisur Rahman | December 09, 2019 00:00:00

A man evacuates a young bombing casualty after a reported air strike by regime forces and their allies in the jihadist-held Syrian town of Maaret Al-Noman in the southern Idlib province, on May 26, 2019. — AFP

A child, who had just started learning about the world around him, was left badly bruised in an airstrike by the Syrian forces on a hideout of Islamic State (IS) fighters. He lost his mom and dad in the airstrike. Sitting on a hospital bed with no familiar face around him to hug him or lend a shoulder to weep on, he was just left dumbfounded by what happened to his family. In no way he could accept this sheer madness of war that reduced many areas in Syria to ruins.

His parents might have taught him one thing that after one's death one departs this world to meet Allah. So he was sure his parents went to the heaven to meet Allah. Suffering from the wounds sustained in the airstrike, he believed he would be leaving this world soon to join his parents in the heaven and meet the Almighty. He was not at the age to have learnt where to complain and how to complain about what happened to his family. So he said, "I'll tell Allah everything."

What else could he do, if not complaining to Allah? Does there exist any force or authority that could put a halt to the war that displaced a large number of Syrians and left many dead. After so many years of war, Syrian President Bashar al-Asad is still in power thanks to backing from Russia, but the US is reinforcing troops in the country to keep its oil fields from potentially falling into the hands of IS militants. On the other hand, Russia that also has its troops in Syria pledged no help to the US in keeping the oil fields under its control. So there is no end to the lust for flirting with miseries of the peace-loving common people.

Like Syria, there are many other flashpoints around the world where the people are paying the price of unresolved political bickering. Of the people in the conflict zones, the most persecuted ethnic group are the Rohingya, who were killed, raped and their houses were burnt in the political purge of them from their homeland in Myanmar. They were driven out of the land where they had been once enjoying even the voting rights. They streamed into Bangladesh to escape the mindless atrocities allowed by the Myanmar army. Many of them perished suffering from starvation or wounds they sustained in firing on them or drowned in the sea while others could reach Bangladesh that opened the border and also the heart to shelter them. The world was taken aback by the degree of magnanimosity the people of Bangladesh and the government showed towards them. The world community also later came forward to help them and prove that humanity is above all.

Bangladesh did what Myanmar failed to do. The government of Myanmar, strongly backed by the army, failed to protect the Rohingya people. Not only Rohingya, other ethnic communities also are vulnerable to atrocities in Myanmar. Actually there is no politics in its true sense in the country. If it was, the people of Myanmar could solve the political problem. The purge or annihilation of any community is not the solution. The Myanmar government viewed the Rohingya as a problem, not as human resources. Bangladesh proved that point. Despite bearing the burden of Rohingya, Bangladesh stunned the world by recording the economic growth rate of closer to 8.0 per cent and aimed to cross the 8.0 per cent mark in the current fiscal year. So the solution lies in politics. The army of Myanmar should be professional. They should protect the rights of the people. All big democracies in the world could thrive and, most importantly, their economies could grow, because of the professionalism of their armies. Their armies protect the rights of their peoples. They back the institutions that are the elements of a functional democracy. There is nothing wrong with support for such an institution.

India has not seen any military dictatorship, because its army is disciplined and highly professional. The Indian army never attempted to seize power. Let's cite an example of their professionalism.

In 1957 the then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru visited the office of the chief of the army staff. In the office he saw a steel cabinet behind General Thimayya's desk. He asked the general what it contained.

The general replied that the top drawer contained the nation's defence plans. And the second drawer contained the confidential files of the nation's top generals.

Then what's there in the third drawer, enquired Nehru.

The general said with a straight face, "The third drawer contains my secret plans for a military coup against you."

There are many flashpoints around the world with peace long banished. The world leaders have failed to establish peace there. How will they do that, if they are preoccupied with serving their own purposes there? Resultantly, the world agencies concerned also cannot play their part in ending the crises. They are only giving lip services and issuing philosophical statements. Actually the problem of a country should be solved internally. No country can develop economically allowing conflicts to linger on. This is the hard reality that Pakistan has seemingly learnt to recognise at the cost of prices it paid.

When Imran Khan came to power in Pakistan in the last general election, the opposition accused the army of its bias towards Mr Khan. But the then army chief claimed that the process Pakistan sees today started 10 years ago and the army was not doing any favour to any person. What is that process? Just have a look at the major events that happened over the last 10 years. The judiciary disqualified Pakistan's then incumbent Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The judiciary dared to do it, because the army played a neutral role. That went in favour of the judiciary and helped it function as an institution. After the departure of Nawaz Sharif, his brother Shahbaz Sharif took over as the next Prime Minister. Then came the general election that saw Imran Khan come to power. He was no stranger in Pakistan's politics. He spent nearly long 21 years in the opposition mobilising public support in favour of him. He rode on that support to come to power.

However, he inherited an economy already showing symptoms of serious illness with the current account deficit hovering near $ 20 billion and leaving its telling impact on the foreign exchange reserve. By the time Imran Khan took over as Prime Minister, the forex reserve started bleeding profusely because of the high current account deficit and he needed to inject fresh blood to keep the patient alive. Many experts advised him to turn to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) while others cautioned him on its bitter pills. In two minds, he took the third option and rushed to friendly countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and managed $ 12 billion alongside support from others that helped slow the bleeding but not stop it. It just allowed him time for going to the IMF. With the sky-high external borrowing that reached $106 billion recently, Mr Khan no more afforded to tread the same path. Finally he took the decision and delivered the patient on a stretcher to the IMF that operated upon it and kept it on medicine. After a major operation, every patient shows initial signs of sickness and takes time to recover. Pakistan's economy also is experiencing the same. The economic growth is projected to fall to around 3.0 per cent in the current fiscal year and the employment rate has declined. The exchange rate of the Pakistan rupee slipped to 160 against the US dollar from around 128 before recovering to around 156. The inflation rate has risen to a double-digit figure forcing the central bank to set its policy rate high at 13.25 per cent. These are the weaknesses after the much-needed major operation.

But there are signs of improvement also. The current account deficit fell to around $13 billion in the last fiscal year from the high of nearly $ 20 billion. In the current fiscal year the deficit is expected to plummet to $ 6.0 billion. It seems the bleeding has stopped. This has been done solely by cutting imports on a massive scale. Now the economy is growing green shoots. The exchange rate has stabilised. The inflation rate is steady. The remittance flow is increasing and exports are growing after a brief plunge. Foreign investors are getting back their confidence with Pakistan's jump in the World Bank's Doing Business Index by 28 notches. Now Imran Khan is no more making whirlwind visits to friendly countries for any dollar support. For Mr Khan, this is like a cricket match in which one team wriggle out of the tight corner after losing four or five top-order batsmen soon after opening the innings.

But his urgent but bitter financial reform has not gone unchallenged. Moulana Fazlur Rahman, a popular Islamic leader, led his followers to Islamabad very recently and staged a sit-in there, giving Mr Khan a very short time to resign over the double-digit inflation rate and increasing joblessness. However, as far as media reports suggest, Moulana Fazlur Rahman did not specify how he would, if in power, take care of the patient recovering from a major operation. On the other hand, the army warned that Pakistan could not afford to let the gains it achieved slip. The thread of all these happenings is that the country has attached much importance to building the economy. As their arch foe is big neighbour India, Pakistan has no alternative but to build its economy, because Pakistan allocates the biggest share of its budget for defence spending in a race with India. So, its economy is very important what, maybe, the intelligentsia realised 10 years ago. For the sake of its economy, it cannot also afford to allow any conflict to live on inside the country. Maybe, that is the process that started 10 years ago.

Not only in Pakistan, no conflict is expected anywhere in the world. No region can develop economically without peace. It is a good sign that the Taliban are sitting across the negotiation table while the Houthi rebels have offered an olive branch to the Yemeni government. Those make it amply clear that the solution to any conflict should come from within. No forces from outside will solve the problems. Rather they will fish in the troubled waters. All stakeholders in a country or region should keep it in mind. Any political problem has its solution also and the people can solve it amicably, if they are allowed to. If the people are empowered to take major decisions, all conflicts in the world will cease to exist and the whole world will be an abode of peace. None should be allowed to play with the miseries of masses as happened in Syria and other parts of the world.

We should feel proud of our National Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam for his bold assertion: 'Sing the song of equality/Nothing is greater than man, nothing is above him.' Though he was a poet in Bangladesh, he left a message for all of the world. His thoughts were not fragmented. He did not divide the humanity across any political, racial or religious line. That's why he could reveal that great truth in his poem, the appeal of which transcends the boundary of this land.

The writer is Additional News Editor of The Financial Express.


Share if you like