Strange ways of democracy

Published January 23, 2012

BEING a public servant in a democracy is a strange business; one slip of the tongue and you may lose your job. It sounds even stranger to Pakistani ears. Norway’s national security chief’s resignation is a case in point.

Strange woman — that Ms Janne Kristiansen. Norway’s freedom of speech and of what-else-not may be exemplary, but she forgot that she was her country’s security chief.

Dementia has no place in her business. There was certainly no cause for her to divulge confidential information before a parliamentary hearing, saying Norway had its own intelligence people — polite for spies — in Pakistan.

Stranger still, Norwegian police say they are investigating the breach of confidentiality on Ms Kristiansen’s part to ascertain if it could have any criminal liability, and whether a case could be brought against her. Indiscretion in a country as democratic as hers can be a crime. She has already tried atoning for it by quitting her job.

But didn’t she know that such confidential information should only be divulged in an in-camera session? Look at our spy chiefs, past and present.

They never speak out of turn unless they intend to, and certainly never lose their jobs come what may, be it the Bin Laden raid in the wilderness of Kakul or the attack on the Mehran naval base in Karachi. The Nato raid on the Salala camp was serious business though. So the spooks, all and sundry, including those in the media, cried hoarse from the rooftops.

On the government side, the Norwegian incident left our own foreign minister rather puzzled. Ms Hina Rabbani Khar told a foreign news agency that “…it seemed like serious news” to her.

Mr Abdul Basit, the cool-headed head of the Europe desk at the Foreign Office was more eloquent, when he replied rather importantly that “there is nothing extraordinary about the revelation” and then hastened to add, “We have excellent relations with Norway”.

Sure we do. Friends spy on us for our own good, don’t they now? If it weren’t for such sincere friends, would we have ever known that Bin Laden was living here?

We, too, are a democracy; even their lordships at the Supreme Court were told so in no equivocal terms by Prime Minister Gilani himself the other day. But Lord be praised, our faith in Him and our own abilities holds us from acting in a strange way.

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