The people’s duty

Jul 08 2014


The writer is a political analyst based in Peshawar.
The writer is a political analyst based in Peshawar.

THE fundamentals of the Constitution are clear. Policies will be formed by the elected civilian government, laws will be made by an elected parliament, and the same laws will be interpreted by the judiciary. Lacunae in foreign, internal and external security policy and in state departments will be dealt with by the government, which must also oversee its citizens’ economic wellbeing, the equitable distribution of power and fair implementation of the rule of law.

Failure to do so because of vested interests and inefficiency would be a failure of the state itself.

It is against this backdrop that we must view extremist violence resorted to by militias representing a particular type of religious interpretation. Their formation divests people of their share in the social contract outlined in the Constitution

Militias, whether they strike against the state itself or against other states, negate the principles of the social contract. Complaints against the state can be addressed through mechanisms designed to bring about amendments to the social contract or to implement the latter. The government has a monopoly on power, for a specified tenure under the Constitution. It has at its disposal institutions that can act on behalf of the people to counter internal and external forces that jeopardise public security.

Militias negate the social contract.

Civil society is the major stakeholder in the social contract, comprising as it does professional groups, trade unions, academia, non-profit organisations and political parties. It must resist and stand up to any violation of constitutional basics. That is its right and responsibility.

Any decrease in instances of violation of basic rights is seen as directly proportional to an increased level of vigilance and the adoption of due process by civil society. In fact, such checks help raise the level of trust that ordinary people have in the state. This in turn helps the state move towards a better future for its people.

On the basis of this, lobbying for bringing peripheries into the mainstream and advocating equity in the distribution of power and resources is a prime responsibility of civil society. And one place where such change is necessary is Fata, whose administrative, political and economic structure is more than simply anachronistic — the area has become a breeding ground for militias and for organised crime to thrive in.

Militias and crime cartels are manned by both Pakistanis and non-Pakistanis. They have developed a lethal nexus with sectarian groups and international jihadists in and around Pakistan to embark upon a three-pronged strategy to disrupt the social contract of the state.

First, they have perpetrated terror to instil fear in civil society and to convince the people that their social contract with the state is not worth their trust. Second, these networks and cartels have disrupted the governance machinery, putting pressure on the state in an attempt to bankrupt it and isolate it from countries in the neighbourhood and beyond. Third, the network has achieved some success in developing ideological, political and financial constituencies among certain elements, groups and areas.

Those that have stakes in fomenting extremist violence, supported by crime cartels, aid the overall terror network by extending a helping hand to each other when the state uses force prescribed by the Constitution to disrupt the terrorism structure.

What they are capable of is well known. They spread irrational propaganda to misguide the common people, often resorting to their own print and electronic media resources to reach as many people as possible to put pressure on the state. Additionally, they mobilise their ‘welfare’ wings to create a trust deficit between the state and its citizens. By winning the people’s trust, the terror network finds the space to melt away, re-organise and reshape its anti-state strategies.

This can best be observed in the current military operation in North Waziristan. The humanitarian tragedy, in the shape of thousands of IDPs, could have been easily managed. The space that ‘welfare’ wings of militant groups achieved could easily have been denied to them with a little hard work and some coordination among civilian relief departments.

The Fata Disaster Management Authority and KP’s Provincial Disaster Management Authority should have coordinated their efforts, and a workable liaison among various departments of the KP government would also have been welcome under the circumstances.

A system of coordination could have easily been developed among the local Bannu administration, KP’s social welfare department and local civil society groups to minimise IDP suffering. One can see that those espousing extremist violence want to push matters to a stage where the federal government and military come under immense pressure to halt the much-needed operation in North Waziristan.

The writer is a political analyst based in Peshawar.


Published in Dawn, July 8th , 2014