HOW desperate and dirty the war for who calls the shots in Pakistan can be is illustrated by innumerable examples, but let us choose one.
'Questions about the ISI's role in Pakistan have intensified in recent months. The finger of responsibility in many otherwise inexplicable attacks has often pointed to a shadowy outfit of ISI dubbed 'S-Wing', which is said to be dedicated to promoting the dubious agenda of a narrow group of nationalists who believe only they can protect Pakistan's territorial integrity.
'The time has come for the State Department to declare the S-Wing a sponsor of terrorism under the designation of 'foreign governmental organisations'. Plans by the Obama administration to blacklist the Haqqani network are toothless and will have no material impact on the group's military support and intelligence logistics; it is S-Wing that allegedly provides all of this in the first place. It no longer matters whether ISI is wilfully blind, complicit or incompetent in the attacks its S-Wing is carrying out. S-Wing must be stopped.
'ISI embodies the scourge of radicalism that has become a cornerstone of Pakistan's foreign policy. The time has come for America to take the lead in shutting down the political and financial support that sustains an organ of the Pakistani state that undermines global antiterrorism efforts at every turn. Measures such as stopping aid to Pakistan, as a bill now moving through Congress aims to do, are not the solution. More precise policies are needed to remove the cancer that ISI and its rogue wings have become on the Pakistani state.
Had you read the quoted paragraphs in an influential western publication wouldn't you have expected the ISPR (Inter-Services Public Relations Directorate) to issue a strongly worded rebuttal that decried the writing asinspired to undermine a key national security institution? Had the writer been in Pakistan perhaps his fate may not have been very different to Saleem Shahzad's: life squeezed out brutally, a lot of tell-tale signs but no 'conclusive'proof of who was responsible.
But this didn't happen. You know very well why. These paragraphs followed several others which 'implicated' an elected civilian government, apparently fearful of a coup, in asking a foreign power for help in preventing a takeover and offering 'concessions' in return.
The rest may not be history but is definitely sub judice.
The less said about it the better. The country's apex court is already overloaded with the burden of upholding the law and everyone's great expectations. It wouldn't be prudent to test its patience, add to its workload.
We have all rightly slammed the government for its poor governance record, for presiding over a mess in each and every public-sector corporation, for the energy crisis, for inept handling of the economy without, of course, the context of the global recession, and for all other faults perceived or real.
However, my grouse with the government is on totally different grounds. It has pandered to the military so spinelessly that GHQ now appears to expect and want the sky and doesn't seem to be in the mood to settle for less.
Look at how the govern-ment has defended the military leadership. I won't mention that it asked no questions at the ease with which the militants breached security at GHQ and Mehran base or even how the US was able to find and eliminate Osama bin Laden deep inside Pakistan.
The government placed only itself in the cross-hairs of all critics of the US drone attacks on Pakistani soil. Few mention who was in charge when this policy was initiated and who has quietly acquiesced to it to this day. What is it, including extensions and funds, that's been denied the army? The ISPR can issue a statement on the Kerry-Lugar bill; it can contradict the prime minister on a phone conversation between the president and the army chief and it can warn the country's chief executive that his statement the chief may have acted illegally can have 'serious ramifications with potentially grievous consequences' for the country.
It can turn on the country's chief executive thus: 'Any expectation that COAS will not state the facts is neither constitutional nor legal. Allegiance to State and the Constitution is and will always remain prime consideration for the Respondent, who in this case has followed the book.
Why can't it issue a statement either explaining why the drone attacks may be necessary or asking the government permission to intercept and shoot down the drones? Neither will it issue a statement turning down extensions to its leaders by a 'corrupt, treacherous and inept' government.
The army isn't doing so probably because it is looking forward to the 'constitutional and legal' removal of an elected government and moving towards fresh elections which can yield 'positive' results.
'We should look for the kind of people we have in the forces who have made the nuclear weapon and the JF [is it 17?] aircraft. Surely, there must be other people who have excelled in their ownfields in the civilian sphere.
These people must be brought forward in the elections,' a very profound former air vice marshal told a TV discussion programme.
One also heard words of wisdom from former ISI general Ihtasham Zamir, the architect of the controlled democracy experiment of 2002, although gratefully no one appeared on the media to take credit for other similar military-engineered experiments.
We have no sense of history so what's the point in recalling what these experiments delivered. Only free and fair elections at regular intervals ensure a process where discredited or underperforming leaders/parties are sifted out of the system. Nothing else works.
But who'll bell the cat? Tell those currently engaged in consigning the current 'corrupt' lot to history, that long after they have done so the world will still be asking the same questions as raised so eloquently by one Mansoor Ijaz in the three quoted paras.
Such perceptions will represent the only real threat to national security.
The writer is a former editor of Dawn.