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اتوار، 26 اگست، 2012

It is definitely time to wake up Pakistan

I would think our real war is against intolerance with extremism and terrosism being manifestation of it. As such we can"t really solve the problem of extremism and terrorism without tackling the causes of heightened levels of intolerance in our society.

 The hot topic these days is the war against extremism and terrorism, which some sections of our society, from among both the civilians and retired senior-level military officers, see mainly as a war against Tehreek-e-Taliban, Pakistan.

For such people, the ultimate step is an operation in North Waziristan. which is stated to be the training ground and the source of all terrorist activities. However, an equally large group of civilians and retired military officers including, according to some reports, senior active service officers, are opposed to North Waziristan operation, at least for now, because of its adverse fallout.

Imran Khan and Lt-Gen (Retd) Hameed Gul go a step further and in addition to opposing North Waziristan operation, put at fault our government's involvement in the US war on terror, which they hold responsible for the bulk of terrorist activity in the country. Obviously, through his involvement with the issue going back a few decades, Lt-Gen. Hameed Gul knows the situation inside out and his opinion cannot be dismissed simply as an emotional outburst and Imran Khan, to a lesser extent, is similarly placed.

Imran Khan has announced a big march to North Waziristan to protest against drone attacks. He has also expressed a desire to play an active role in controlling militancy through persuasion and deserves to be supported and not simply dismissed as being misguided especially in circumstances where the bomb-and-mortar approach is far more likely to expand the battle-field immensely instead of eliminating militancy and the militants, because they are unlikely to stay put in North Waziristan, waiting to be eliminated by our armed forces. We have seen that despite its optimistic statements, the government has not been able to control even the killings in Karachi and elsewhere in Pakistan and people shudder to think of a further increase in violence, in retaliation to North Waziristan operations.

Also, since the armed forces as well as the law enforcement personnel have not been entirely successful in protecting their own installations from terrorists attacks, they are unlikely to be able to provide extra security to the masses needed in the face of increased level of terrorism which is likely to ensue in retaliation for the North Waziristan operation.

We note that the senior US civilian and military officials have expressed satisfaction over the prospect of early North Waziristan operation which is sort of dream-come-true for them. However, if encroachment from Pakistani side was the problem, the Americans could have accepted the oft-repeated proposal by Gen. Pervez Musharraf to have the whole border fenced, or at least North Waziristan, but the Americans deliberately declined, in order to have a handy excuse for their failure. As a matter of fact, soon after overthrowing Taliban government, they could have continued operations to mop up resistance and even capture Osama bin Laden, who was stuck at Tora Bora mountains. However, they deliberately left the situation to worsen so as to come later to implement their agenda to dismember and defang nuclear Pakistan. 

In an article in American press, Gen. John Allen, a favourite of Barack Obama, was described to be sleeping short hours, sparing time to read war literature and to think of 'big ideas'. One of the big ideas of this sleep-deprived, tensed up and perhaps constipated General would be to get Pakistan to stir things up in North Waziristan and invite wrath of even those who do no harm to Pakistan, as well as others in Afghanistan whom the NATO forces would provide all help. Another article stated that despite best efforts to determine the causes of rising green on blue killings, senior US military and other wise men in Washington do not fully understand what is driving the attacks, which says a lot for these thick-heads to whom it did not occur that proud Afghans would want foreign occupiers out of their country, dead or alive.

In the meantime, US-Pakistan relations have improved: the development having been brought about by extreme 'cooperation' demonstrated by withdrawal of all of our demands and renewal of pledge to continue serving the United States on terms worse than before, with not even the agreed amount of coalition support fund having been cleared in entirety, and according to some reports, our forces have already stopped billing the US for these.

I would think our real war is against intolerance, with extremism and terrorism being manifestations of it. As such, we can't really solve the problem of extremism and terrorism without tackling the causes of heightened levels of intolerance in our society. And while analyzing the causes of intolerance, we find that except for the initial few years, we had inept, power-and dollar-hungry leaders who did almost nothing to tackle some or all of the problems like lack of education, over-population, dwindling resources, massive unemployment, rapidly worsening law and order situation, injustice, the 'economic terrorism' by way of astronomical corruption, plus serious consequences of our involvement with Afghan Jihad: all elements playing their part in making us what we have become. Obviously, a complex problem that has arisen due to multiple causes can only be solved through a multi-pronged strategy, and not simply by North Waziristan operation.

The recent army chief's address and the ISPR statements, discussing the difference between the 'coordinated action' and the 'joint action' create an impression that there definitely exists a willingness on the part of the army to carry out the North Waziristan operation but that its timing and scope remain to be decided by the civilian government, based solely on our interests as well as our political and military requirements, and not under external pressure. All this indicates that the operation is not too far away and that our civilian and military leaders are sort of preparing the nation for the eventuality.

 The declaration not to bow to outside pressure, while sounding good, is not all that assuring, in view of our track record of abject surrender after a short-lived defiance, in the recent and distant past, an example of which is the opening of GLOCs after an insignificant regret portrayed as an apology, and without any of our other demands being met, drone strikes for example. According to press reports, a senior People's Party leader who castigated US authorities for not respecting Pakistani Parliament's resolution against the drone strikes said, in response to another question, that serious results may come as a result of striking down the drones of the US by Pakistan. I always thought that respect is something which is not offered on a plate but has to be earned through words and deeds, and statements that we would not dare respond physically despite being humiliated, punched, kicked and even killed by our adversary are not very conducive to earning respect. Is it any wonder that soon after the statement, the sworn enemies of Muslims launched multiple drone strikes, which are continuing.

 Coming back to intolerance, with extremism and terrorism being its manifestations and lack of education, over-population, dwindling resources, widespread unemployment, rapidly worsening law and order situation, injustice, massive corruption and last but not the least, our involvement in Afghan Jehad, being its causes, we have to realise that in order to deal with extremism and terrorism comprehensively, we have to make satisfactory progress on all the underlying causes. However, since some of these problems can only be solved over medium and long-term, and since we can't wait indefinitely, it becomes essential to restrain and contain the incorrigible elements, using force when completely unavoidable and not seeing it as ultimate, and the only solution. Luckily, Imran Khan has offered his services to tackle extremism and terrorism by enlisting the support of tribal people with which to isolate and deal sternly with the incorrigible elements. His approach has the advantage that it won't antagonize large sections of population by forcing them to leave homes as a result of all out military campaign, thus swelling the ranks of terrorists and extremists. Our forces employed similar approach but on occasions, massive attacks by NATO frustrated their efforts. Also, on occasion, the entry of a fresh face, who has no bitter history as regards the on-going conflict, helps. Imran Khan also seems to be the only one who could solve other problems listed above, coming to power through fresh elections, which have become imperative now because the sitting government does not seem to have time, energy, capacity or even a will, to solve these, being occupied full-time in trying to ensure its survival and longevity. Barring early days in the history of Pakistan, we had the misfortune of having incompetent, corrupt and power-hungry civilian and military governments with the result that we are in the sorry state we are in. We are the strongest militarily, and the only nuclear power in the Muslim world yet we prove to be the weakest of them all: no wonder some Muslim countries are making fun of us, and the terrible thing is that we can't even fault them, such is the state of our cowardice which we mistakenly consider realism.
We cannot afford a further flare-up in our country by launching North Waziristan operation now. As the foreign presence thins out, turf-wars will accelerate in Afghanistan, and all militants will get busy there, trying to secure their territory. Just why do we have to get all these forces deflected on to us, leaving Americans and their gang free to implement their dirty agenda of creating Greater Pakhtunistan, an independent Balochistan and defanging nuclear Pakistan. Are there not enough lessons for us in American gang's treatment of Palestinians, their devastation of Iraq, their dirty role in Syria, their dirty plans for Iran and Pakistan, their promotion of India as a regional leader and as their partner in their efforts to contain China. With their focus declared some months to have turned to Pakistan, the Americans and their gang seek ultimate cooperation from us in our own undoing, and we seem to be all too willing to offer it. The inept civilian-military leadership combination cost us half of Pakistan in just a matter of 24 years plus the disgrace of making 90,000 of our soldiers prisoners-of-war, and the inhumanity and shame of abandoning Pakistanis, over two hundred thousands of whom are still languishing in sub-human conditions in refugee camps in Bangladesh. This time round, the situation could be much worse but the leadership does not seem to be too bothered over it.
It is definitely time to wake up.

 By S R H Hashmi
 The Frontier Post,

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