Now for some home truths

10 Feb 2012

Email

WE in the media have spared no effort to vilify the civilian elected politician but our vigour seems to taper off dramatically in the case of other significant players in the country.

Take for example a news item in this newspaper on Wednesday which said four armed Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) members were arrested by the police at a road check-post near Rawalpindi-Islamabad airport but were taken away by men identifying themselves as intelligence officials.

We'll of course not comment on this link between the unnamed intelligence agency and armed men belonging to a militant group blamed for carrying out terror attacks in the commercial capital of a neighbouring country.

They are all patriotic and clean with only the country's best interest at heart. Also, because there isn't any 'evidence' that JuD or its predecessor Lashkar-i-Taiba or others like them have ever been involved in terrorism or any anti-Pakistan activity on 'our soil'. This has been the case for years.

A senior Islamabad journalist once told me of an unreported incident in Multan where a couple of armed men had just executed a sectarian murder when their motorcycle broke down and they were picked up pretty nigh red-handed by a policemen who chanced to be passing through the area.

The two seemingly confident hit-men were taken to the police station and detained for a few hours when suddenly members of the country's premier intelligence agency showed up, identified themselves and demanded the militants be given in their 'custody'.

Once the police had verified the credentials of the agency operatives, they had no option but to hand over the men, along with their seized weapons, to them. This was the last the police heard of them. Incredible as this story may sound, it was later corroborated by a different source.

As long as you articulate the point of view of the country's military establishment and stay wedded to it all is well. Look at the recently formed Difa-i-Pakistan Council which brings together right-wing elements/politicians of all shapes, hues and sizes. In short an enviable galaxy.

What unites them? They all buy into the national security policy. How do you know the army opposes any relaxation in relations with India, even giving it the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status as mandated by international trade laws and conventions?

Well you need not look far. Look at what the JuD leader Hafiz Saeed, PTI's Shah Mehmood Qureshi and sectarian leaders such as Malik Ishaq have to say about the MFN; about their eagerness to play the nuclear card, to drop the bomb on the enemy at the drop of a hat, so to speak.

You are suspect even if you believe with every patriotic fibre in your body that peace can deliver the most dignity to the nation and the biggest dividend to the shirtless millions for whom food, shelter, clothing, healthcare and education are but a forlorn, pointless dream.

God help you if you believe in civilian supremacy and oppose the khaki-sanctioned brand of obscurantism and the most unenlightened and militant interpretation of a religion hailed for its universal message of peace and amity.

There are some among my friends and readers who disagree with me and point to the inordinate loss of life taken by the military in recent years as soldiers have confronted Pakistani Taliban as proof of the khaki change of direction.

I have written in admiration of the sacrifices of our soldiers and civilians alike as they have faced the monster of mediaeval thinking. But I will unabashedly say as far as the military leadership goes, its continued belief in 'good' and 'bad' militants continues to be fraught with perils.

These perils are real not least because the security establishment remains self-righteous about the best course for the country. Clearly it doesn't realise and acknowledge its 'we-know-best' attitude has cost us dearly already.

Why else would it still allow its senior officials to, surely among other things, use text messages (perhaps even now notorious BBM!) to 'encourage' politicians to join a particular party or to send laudatory, approving messages when this party's leaders talk about the virtues of nuclear-first strike?

Agreed, we have poor governance, even corruption, but the country's nascent democracy is already showing signs of maturity. To what else can we attribute the National Finance Commission award and the 18th Amendment to the constitution?

Look at what the 20th Amendment will achieve: a caretaker set-up demonstrably so impartial that the next election's result will not be marred by acrimony and recriminations. What a gift to the nation.

Imagine what a new government may be able to deliver when it starts with a clean slate, unencumbered by a disputed election and enjoying an untainted mandate. This is what parliamentary politics, dialogue with give and take among various political parties, can deliver.

Contrast this with a number of systems 'engineered' by the most patriotic of national institutions to best serve the interest of the security state and what they delivered. Ask yourself what truly serves our long-term enlightened self-interest.

Look at how the unbridled security services have run amok in Balochistan and to what consequences. Yes, I am a liberal but not with shuttered vision. I can see the excesses of the Baloch separatists too.

But for the intelligence agencies of the state to snatch, torture and kill dissidents no matter how odious they are considered, without due process is mindless if anything. The origins of the conflict don't represent a chicken-and-egg dilemma.

We all know more or less where the conflict has its roots: in denial of legitimate rights. It's that simple. When leaders who have held public office in the federation say they have lost faith in it, it is a sad pass. Let's hope we are spared more of the wisdom that's brought us here.

The writer is a former editor of Dawn .

abbas.nasir@hotmail.com