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Fight to the finish

August 18, 2012


ARMY chief Gen Kayani says it’s our war. Archrivals PML-N and PTI disagree. No. Not with each other but with him.

Unsurprisingly, PPP, ANP and their allies fall in behind the army — unsurprisingly because terrorists have targeted the two parties and drawn much blood from them almost to the exclusion of any other political party in the country.

The country has lost several thousands of lives in this conflict and yet the ‘whose war’ debate rages.

Whosoever’s war it is, it should end. There can be no two opinions about that. Isn’t harmony an imperative if this war is to be brought to a close? It is. But a national consensus on this deadly existential threat is missing.

Gen Kayani and his institution may have taken their time getting here but it is refreshing to hear the army chief say that those who seek to impose their ‘flawed’ thinking using the force of arms, those who threaten our way of life, must be stopped by a united front.

He also told an Aug 14 gathering at the Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul, just a few miles from where Osama bin Laden was located and killed by the Americans last year, that any disagreement on how to deal with the militant threat could be the potential trigger for a civil war.

But for ‘complete consensus’ he must still be able to move some levers.

Look at the ease with which outrage was manufactured when the Raymond Davis affair came to the fore and the army was unhappy. Experience tells us that these levers are at the disposal of the institution rather than of an individual such as erstwhile ISI chief Gen Shuja Pasha.

So, if a Difa-i-Pakistan Council could come together at the drop of a hat to bay for American blood (and this isn’t to defend a near-crazed killing machine like Davis or to condone the existence of a purported CIA network he was part of), couldn’t it now be asked to play a similar role?

In Salala’s aftermath, when Nato supply lines were severed, these rightwing ‘patriots’ were again very active and appeared to be the bargaining chips in a game to tell the US what was and wasn’t on. If this furthered Pakistan’s cause, then all very well.

That this influence extends perhaps beyond the confines of those strictly described as the DPC also became clear when the PTI chief named the Pakistani diplomat allegedly involved in conspiring against the military. Yes, this is a reference to late last year’s red herring: Memogate.

The one intangible troubling some analysts is whether some ‘surrogates’ such as the DPC and ideological allies such as the PTI chief may now have so cemented the thinking that was promoted to serve a temporary purpose that they may not be amenable to change.

If one follows the media and the politicians regularly appearing on it, it isn’t difficult to get a sense of where they are coming from, and whether what they say reflects their own thoughts or represents the thinking elsewhere.

Anyone who has been following Rawalpindi politician Sheikh Rashid’s vitriol against all those in the current parliament and the intensity of his outbursts against them at crucial junctures are left in no doubt that he has often articulated the army, security services’ thinking.

However, he must have been trying to compensate for the paltry numbers at his public meeting by being bizarre. What else would explain his appeal to Mullah Omar, the ‘amirul momineen’, that a warm welcome be accorded to Imran Khan when he heads to Waziristan next month?

If the PTI chief, who was at the rally, didn’t agree with the Sheikh’s statement, his reaction wasn’t reported. What was reported in his own voice was his response to the Kamra attack a few days later which he linked to possible action in North Waziristan.

Now even Mr Khan will know that an assault as the one on the PAF facility must have remained weeks, if not months, in the pipeline and couldn’t have been a ‘reaction’ to something reported as a possibility a mere 48 hours earlier.

PML-N’s Khwaja Asif even linked the Astore attack on Shias as a reaction to possible action in North Waziristan. I quite like Khwaja Asif as he looks like a man who doesn’t mince his words. But to say that if there was no action being planned in North Waziristan, the Shias wouldn’t have been killed? Please.

Imran Khan has come in for considerable stick by the liberals because of his avowed preference to talk to militants belonging to Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. Still there should be no reason to doubt his sincerity even if one disagrees with him.

That’s why one would humbly request him to study a few conflicts particularly the one in Sri Lanka in recent years. When Mr Ranil Wickramasinghe came to power the second time in 2001, he made one of the most concerted efforts ever to talk peace, offering unprecedented concessions to the LTTE.

But LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran’s response was to not only spurn all peace efforts and violate a ceasefire agreement but also call upon his supporters to not vote for Mr Wickramasinghe in the next elections in 2004.

The loss of LTTE supporters in government-controlled areas, coupled with the majority Sinhala backlash ensured his defeat. The Sri Lankan leader’s hardline successors abandoned all peace efforts and finished off the LTTE in a bloody fight which saw countless innocent victims.

Each time I see the TTP’s rejection of the rule of law and democracy, contempt for human life even their own, and their avowed goal of establishing an Islamic emirate, I am reminded of the LTTE.

But, having sacrificed up to 50,000 of our compatriots to these murderers, if there is still no ‘consensus’ on how to deal with them, then perhaps we are fated to live in their emirate one day in the not-too-distant future.

The writer is a former editor of Dawn.