The prime minister’s role

Published January 1, 2015
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.—AP/File
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.—AP/File

PRIME Minister Nawaz Sharif has been shuttling from meeting to meeting, speech to speech, prepared comments to prepared comments in recent days, all with the purpose of keeping his government’s and the nation’s focus on the fight against militancy.

Through it all, the prime minister has rightly insisted that the nation and the state need to be united in confronting militancy. But consensus-building is more than simply rallying a nation in grief and shock by vowing to crush the enemy.

Also read:Nation's resolve to crush terrorism is undeterred: PM Nawaz

Ultimately, there needs to be consensus on how to fight militancy because no strategy will work if the tactics are controversial and divisive.

In, for example, opting for military courts, the government did reflect the political consensus in the immediate aftermath of the Peshawar school massacre, but was it really a consensus or consent under duress?

Now, with the trauma and shock in the days after Peshawar giving way to more measured thinking, there are voices calling for revisiting the lynchpin of the government’s new strategy to fight terrorism, military courts.

Perhaps what the prime minister should be considering then is to revisit that most controversial of decisions, ie military courts, via a gathering of the political leadership once again.

Given the proliferation of committees, the breadth of recommendations on various aspects of the fight against militancy and extremism the government is receiving, and the range of actions the government will be required to take in tandem with provincial governments and the military, it would hardly amount to a setback if some of the more controversial aspects of the early plan, devised in a matter of hours in a single meeting in Peshawar, are opened for debate again.

Consider that when military courts were first mooted, perhaps many in the political leadership and certainly many among the public would have been unaware of the far-reaching consequences even a limited era of military courts would have.

The enemy must be defeated, but surely not at the cost of eroding the very constitutional democratic process that the state is fighting to defend. The government would do well to reopen for debate a decision taken in haste with profound consequences for state and society itself. Military courts should not be considered a foregone conclusion.

There is another aspect where Prime Minister Sharif could demonstrate better leadership: communicating with the public. For all his visibility in recent weeks, the prime minister has only once addressed the nation. This, in the prime minister’s own reckoning, is a nation at war.

Nations at war need their leaders to address them, to communicate with them and to explain clearly what is being considered in their name and what is to be done. Far too often, the prime minister and his team appear to believe that PR moments can make up for direct communication with the public at large.

Published in Dawn, January 1st, 2015

Opinion

Farewell Roosevelt Hotel
21 Jan 2021

Farewell Roosevelt Hotel

It is worth noting that massive plans have been upended and assets are now on the verge of being seized.
A horned dilemma
21 Jan 2021

A horned dilemma

Trump would rather ‘reign in Hell, than serve in Heav’n’.
Violence & Afghan peace talks
Updated 20 Jan 2021

Violence & Afghan peace talks

Many of those killed in recent weeks have actively been campaigning against rampant violence and rising human rights violations

Editorial

Updated 21 Jan 2021

Agosta kickbacks trial

A POLITICALLY significant trial opened in Paris yesterday. Former French prime minister Edouard Balladur is in the...
Updated 21 Jan 2021

Indian media scandal

Common sense, factual reporting and ethics are all chucked out the window in the maddening race for ratings, influence and power.
21 Jan 2021

Rising food prices

FOOD inflation continues to challenge the resolve of the government to control the prices of essential kitchen items...
Updated 20 Jan 2021

Broadsheet judgement

There are plenty of skeletons in the Broadsheet cupboard and they must be brought out into the open.
20 Jan 2021

Unequal justice

IT seems no one wants to testify against former SSP Malir, Rao Anwar. At least five prosecution witnesses, all ...
20 Jan 2021

Schools reopening

THE disruptive impact of Covid-19 on education will be felt for years to come. For countries like Pakistan, where...