Careless remarks

Published December 10, 2023

WHAT prompted the caretaker interior minister to sound a public alarm over the country’s political leadership facing terrorist threats? What reason could there be for casting doubt on the safety of civilians who attend political gatherings right when parties are about to launch their campaigns for the next general election? The memory of Benazir Bhutto’s tragic demise is still very fresh, and the horror of what followed has been etched forever in the collective memory. Just last year, there was a failed bid on former prime minister Imran Khan’s life. Many other political leaders have been targeted by terrorists in the past; the interior minister himself helpfully dropped a few names. He should really have known better. Going public with such disturbing thoughts rarely has net positive effects. True, the security threats discussed by Interior Minister Sarfaraz Bugti may well be present. However, if there are any, it is the job of the minister and the security agencies to deal with it quietly, decisively and without giving the broader citizenry reason to panic, and to privately inform politicians whom they consider to be at risk and ensure their safety during poll campaigns. In this, Mr Bugti failed to live up to his responsibilities.

It was particularly concerning to see Mr Bugti speak of the vulnerability of public rallies and political gatherings with such nonchalance. He should be clear that if any harm befalls the citizenry in any such incident, the buck stops with him. The fault never lies with the people who ‘didn’t listen’ to the state’s ‘warning’, but with the state which failed to ensure its citizens’ security. The citizenry pays taxes so that the state can raise security forces and law-enforcement agencies for their safety. If these forces cannot do their job, there is no reason to expect the public to provide for their upkeep. Mr Bugti, therefore, should not be allowed to wash his hands of the matter by simply sounding the alarm. Since he has acknowledged that threats are present, he should ensure that the armed forces, paramilitaries and LEAs are working overtime to neutralise them. Perhaps he should also provide weekly updates about the progress his ministry is making towards this end. It may be the only way he can assure the people that he is hard at work at his job.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2023

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