THE week that ends tomorrow even by our standards was so hectic and, well, so insane it left one completely breathless.
Each passing day and event underlined the work we have to collectively put in if we desire to be counted among the ranks of civilised nations. While our, that is the media’s, attention remained fixated on non-issues a more serious, sinister matter had slipped from the radar.
The win of the PML-N candidate Mamnoon Hussain in the presidential race was a foregone conclusion even if the governing party had not asked the superior judiciary to intervene on the grounds of faith and, thus, take a bit of the shine off its own victory.
The PPP and a handful of allies promptly boycotted the poll, where the National Assembly and provincial assemblies and the Senate form the electoral college, because the opposition party believed the governing party, the Supreme Court and the Election Commission of Pakistan had acted against it by advancing the poll date.
We spent hours analysing the legitimacy of a poll where the major opposition party had boycotted it. Some even went ahead and analysed the challenges the president-to-be would face on assuming office. The mass murder of Parachinar Shias was relegated to secondary status.
There was hardly any mention of the minor detail that after the passage of constitutional amendments by the last parliament, scrapping the powers of the president under the erstwhile Eighth Amendment, the presidential office has very little role to play apart from a ceremonial one.
The election of the soft-spoken and seemingly decent Mamnoon Hussain was obviously the lead story with the Dera Ismail Khan jailbreak again competing and failing to make the lead. And we all know how much follow-up attention it is likely to receive.
As in the case of the Kurram Agency bombings, that the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) represent a hate-filled, toxic ideology was again on display as the ‘Taliban task force’ attacked the D.I. Khan jail and facilitated the escape of dozens of prisoners described by the authorities as dangerous. They also slaughtered four Shia prisoners before leaving.
Being a city person, I take refuge behind complete ignorance of the geography and security arrangements around D.I. Khan and South and North Waziristan. So, will a knowledgeable security expert tell me if there are no ‘checkposts’ on all routes in the area?
The irony is whether the answer is in the affirmative or negative, it’ll be equally shocking. If a hundred, or double that number, armed men can freely travel out of and then back to an area described as the epicentre of all terrorism in the country, something is horribly wrong.
And it goes beyond the sort of criticism the Pakhtunkhwa minister Ali Amin Gandapur has levelled at the police and jail guards. In fact, the local police could also have bought into the theory that TTP are drone victims’ heirs and the government needs to talk to them; not fight them.
But surely the checkposts on all access routes into and inside the two tribal agencies must be manned by members of a much better trained, armed, motivated and organised force than the D.I. Khan police. How could dozens of motorcycles and coaches, yes coaches, travel to and fro freely?
One was beginning to ponder the ramifications of the prison attack when news came of the resignation of Chief Election Commissioner Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim. Given how he was being attacked by all sides and then had his toes stepped on by the Supreme Court, he had run out of options.
The attacks were of a nature that they didn’t just target his perceived shortcomings in office but social media was replete with ageist remarks against him by people who normally claim to be civilised and enlightened.
Thanks Fakhru Bhai, you are a decent man and did the best you could. Amazing how your critics didn’t even mention or laud that you voluntarily left a constitutionally protected tenure of office years ahead of time. Surely, there are few, if any, examples of such conduct.
Before Fakhru Bhai’s exit could sink in, the focus shifted again to the Supreme Court after the apex court summoned Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Imran Khan to explain why contempt proceedings shouldn’t be initiated against him for his remarks against the judiciary.
The matter is before the court. Therefore, any further thoughts on that would be out of line. So, I’ll refrain. But one thing that caught my attention was a remark attributed to the PTI leader as he emerged from the court.
He was quoted to have said he didn’t know that sharmnak (shameful) was an abuse. Don’t know about ‘abusive’ but it is a derogatory word. One really wishes the time Imran Khan had spent chiding Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari for the latter’s Urdu, he’d invested in some lessons for himself.
On the eve of Imran Khan’s appearance before the apex court, US Secretary of State John Kerry made the dramatic disclosure that drone attacks were being tapered and would end “very, very soon”.
The remarks must come as a huge relief to all Pakistanis. But particularly to the Pakhtuns and all sectarian and religious minorities who have had to face the brunt of the wrath of the TTP and allies who somehow think all these groups represent those who launch the pilotless aerial attack vehicles.
I, for one, will be looking forward to a quick end to the drone attacks so we can get on with our lives in safety and comfort without the ever-looming spectre of terrorism. Equally, I hope the connection between the two is that straightforward. What’ll we do if it isn’t?
PS: It was good to see one of my favourite columnists, Babar Sattar, on these pages. There have been many occasions I have disagreed with him but continue to hold him in esteem.
The writer is a former editor of Dawn.