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Heroes and villains

June 15, 2014


The writer is a member of staff.
The writer is a member of staff.

LET’S play a little game. Call it alternate reality. There is a place called Pakistan. It has a power called the boys. The boys own everything, decide everything, do everything — as long as that everything is good.

Responsibility for the bad stuff is never theirs. Responsibility for the bad stuff belongs to some schmucks called civilians. At the moment, the chief fall guy is someone called Nawaz.

So, the boys decide to pound a place called North Waziristan. Quite why, nobody knows. But since we are in an alternate universe, we can make up a reason.

Say, one of those international friends the boys pretend to hate but secretly work with and always take their money rang up the boys.

Because they love their games, the boys know when not to push their luck.

Umm, boys, there’s something cooking in that NWA backyard of yours and it looks bad. If you don’t do something about it, we will. Good luck and hope you guys enjoyed the bag of goodies we sent last week. Bye for now from Langley.

The boys love their games. But precisely because they love their games, they know when not to push their luck.

They wallop a tiny part of North Waziristan. Better the boys do it before someone else does — or before North Waziristan becomes the place the next 9/11 was planned.

So far so good. Makes some kind of sense.

As does what comes next. The foreigners who get walloped in North Waziristan don’t take very kindly to it. They decide to retaliate. Something spectacular, something to grab the attention.

Something like an attack on the country’s biggest airport in the country’s biggest city. Say, like the airport in Karachi.

Now, here’s the problem. You’re Nawaz. Everyone’s blaming you for what went wrong in Karachi and falling over themselves to praise the boys for saving the day

But you’re thinking, hang on. I didn’t want this. I didn’t authorise this. I wanted dialogue. And dialogue was working — because nothing, nothing much anyway, was getting hit.

Then the boys decide to go and pound a bunch of foreign militants for God knows what reason and the militants decide to strike back and now Karachi is my fault, how?

Since you’re Nawaz in a parallel universe, you can afford to be blunt.

Nawaz: OK, you boys wanted to take out some foreign militants, but what the hell did you think would happen? That the survivors would shrug and move on, like they’re a bunch of Pakistanis?

Nawaz: And if you knew the foreigners would attempt something monumental, what the hell did you do to try and prevent it? Or were your intel boys too busy keeping Geo off air to, y’know, do their job?

Nawaz: Had anyone — anyone — among you boys thought it would be a good idea to complement the action in North Waziristan with emergency intel-led operations in the logical blowback zones of Pakistan proper?

In this alternate universe, Nawaz would be on the warpath and the boys would have a lot to answer for.

But we live in Pakistan. Where the real PM is in deeper trouble while the troublemakers are the saviours.

Oh, and in the real world, let’s have a look at what’s going on with the Airport Security Force that’s been so maligned this week.

Here, verbatim, is an excerpt from a typed-on-plain-white-paper note written by an ASF-er in July 2013:

“On 30th April [2013] TTP leader Ehsan ulah ehsan claimed that he has assets (accomplices) at airports. One wonders about the possibility of having such assets in ASF, the force primary responsible for the security and safety of aviation industry. If that, God forbade be the case terrorism can unfortunately add bloodiest chapters in the history of mankind.

“So, can it be? If you check the pulse of the force even an outsider can gauge that this department is in perils. The crippled morale and disgruntled H.R, no wonder can give away such assets to trouble finders like TTP.”

Forgive the language; focus on the sentiment. Why is the ASF’s morale crippled and the organisation on the verge of collapse? According to the ASF-er’s note, reason no 1, again reproduced verbatim:

“Story of ASF that bears burnt of army hegemony and subjugation due to MPML [Manual of Pakistan Military Law], under the blotted eyes of former ministry of Defense. Under these DMS shoes [standard-issue army boots] one can not be heard, can not approach to redress the grievances. This lot of 11000 men is virtual slave of The Boys without any fundamental rights or coherent law.”

Don’t take this anonymous ASF-er at his word. Assume he’s exaggerating by fifty per cent. Maybe he’s got an axe to grind.

But who’s going to dig deep and tell you the real story? The media that’s been falling over itself to praise the boys for their gung-ho response?

Ra ra ra, go, boys, go. Nawaz is the problem. Down with Nawaz! To hell with democracy. Pakistan needs to be saved.

Sure, Nawaz has got it wrong again. Where he’s picked battles — Musharraf — he’s had no real plan. Where battles have been thrust on him — Geo — he hasn’t been able to adapt. And where everyone thought he would pick a battle — India — he’s done nothing.

But note the symmetry in those battles: on one side, Nawaz; on the other side, the boys. So, is democracy what’s really our problem or you-know-who?

The writer is a member of staff.

Twitter: @cyalm

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2014