Pakistan in 2013: a happy new year? — Dr Mohammad Taqi

TaqiThe deep state’s obsession with tripping democracy even in the last quarter of an elected government, using a charlatan speaking with forked tongue and twisting the MQM’s arm to join him, leaves little doubt that the security establishment is not about to mend its ways. The gruesome slaughter of the 21 levies personnel near Peshawar and the Mastung car bombing killing 20 Shia pilgrims by Pakistan’s jihadist proxies is virtually business as usual. As the news of these brutal inland attacks poured in the Army Chief was harping on how a strong navy was important for Pakistan!

The three-pronged Afghan jihadist conglomerate viz. Taliban proper, the Haqqani network and the Hizb-e-Islami (Hekmatyar) is what Pakistan continues to bet on

This week will mark the second death anniversary of the founder-owner of this newspaper. Salmaan Taseer was martyred in cold blood for the crime of speaking up for a just cause. Last week was the fifth anniversary of Benazir Bhutto’s martyrdom. Days prior to that, Bashir Bilour was martyred in a suicide bombing. He is the senior most Pashtun nationalist leader this side of the Durand Line to have been assassinated since Khan Shaheed Abdus Samad Khan Achakzai. Glowing tributes were and will continue to be paid to all of them. All these leaders died not just for their words but actions and resolute stand against bigotry and terrorism. Unfortunately, Pakistan and its military and many political leaders commemorate their ultimate sacrifice with inaction and paralysis.

After the assassination of the Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa’s senior minister Bashir Bilour, his party the Awami National Party (ANP) did take a very clear stance on confronting the terrorist menace. Last week, the ANP’s consultative committee released a policy statement, which not only recommended clear action but also laments the party being left high and dry by rest of the country. The communiqué notes:

“ANP supports negotiations with all those elements that recognise the writ of the state and renounce violence. Those who are not prepared to do it should face effective and meaningful action. ANP is of the considered opinion that all of us should express zero tolerance towards all violations of the country’s sovereignty and integrity. We are opposed to drone strikes and have raised our voice against it. However, we are also opposed to terrorists — individuals and networks — from within the country and from other countries who have carved our sanctuaries on our soil. We are of the view that instead of defending ourselves on our doorsteps and in the streets we should go after terrorists’ sanctuaries. We should evolve a national consensus on a comprehensive strategy for defeating terrorist outfits that are out to destroy our state and society.

Pakhtuns in FATA and Pakhtunkhwa are bearing the brunt of the terrorist menace. Why is the rest of the country not effectively joining this struggle? Is it only the struggle of Pakhtuns who are being killed on both sides of the Durand Line?”

Of late, the Pakistani military brass has been blaming the civilians for not showing leadership against terrorism. The military and those who echo its thought have castigated the civilians — with some justification — for not visiting the men in the trenches to show support and boost their morale. Did it not behoove the top military leaders to visit and condole with Bashir Bilour’s family and party? Was this not the time to draw a line in sand and bolster a party that has lost hundreds of men in fight against militancy? Was Mr Bilour not one of the handful of civilians who reached every hotspot even when combat was ranging as he did when the Peshawar Air Force base and airport were under terrorist assault? Was he not a symbol of resistance like no other leader that should have been owned by the military and civilians alike? Was the ANP policy statement, which was released to the media, not something that the ISPR should have endorsed and owned? The trigger or should one say keyboard-happy ISPR has never wasted a moment springing into action against the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act, an elected prime minister and even the judiciary. Why do they have cold feet now?

The answer is simple. In 2013, Pakistan’s military establishment continues to look at the domestic terrorism problem through the Afghanistan and, in turn, the India lens. It seems that the key assumptions that the Pakistani security planners have operated under have not changed one bit. They continue to gun for a Pakistan-installed regime in Kabul after the US and NATO withdrawal that starts this year and will complete in 2014. The three-pronged Afghan jihadist conglomerate viz. Taliban proper, the Haqqani network and the Hizb-e-Islami (Hekmatyar) is what Pakistan continues to bet on. These groups, the al Qaeda with its assorted transnational jihadists and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) remained joined at the hip. But Pakistan seems willing to continue tolerating the TTP in the hope that some of its ‘wayward’ leaders can be replaced with more pliable ones and the cadres reoriented towards Afghanistan once the US withdraws. Similarly, the Pakistani state continues to tolerate, if not harbour, the Punjabi Taliban especially the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and its political wing the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) now operating as the Ahle-Sunnat-wal-Jamat (ASWJ) in anticipation of a future role against India.

The militancy cannot be eradicated by non-violent means. One cannot offer the cheek to AK-47 and suicide vests. Only the state and its military might has the capacity to fight and subdue terrorists. Private lashkars and militias are a patently horrible idea to fight terror. The army is the only entity capable of putting the jihadist genie, which it has let out in the first place, back in the bottle. Civilian leadership has the desire as indicated by the ANP statement and the courage as shown by Bashir Bilour, Salmaan Taseer and Benazir Bhutto to fight terrorism. But unless the military shows its willingness to take on the whole spectrum of jihadists — not just the ones it thinks are rogue — the civilians will end up backtracking as indicated by Asfandyar Wali Khan’s subsequent watered down statements.

The deep state’s obsession with tripping democracy even in the last quarter of an elected government, using a charlatan speaking with forked tongue and twisting the MQM’s arm to join him, leaves little doubt that the security establishment is not about to mend its ways. The gruesome slaughter of the 21 levies personnel near Peshawar and the Mastung car bombing killing 20 Shia pilgrims by Pakistan’s jihadist proxies is virtually business as usual. As the news of these brutal inland attacks poured in the Army Chief was harping on how a strong navy was important for Pakistan!

We are all prisoners of hope and one does wish the year 2013 to be a peaceful and prosperous one for Pakistan and its people. But it might just be realistic to qualify the wish with a question mark.

PS: I may have to eat my hat but let me add that the brass will keep dragging its feet on the North Waziristan operation.

The writer can be reached at mazdaki@me.com and he tweets @mazdaki

Courtesy: Daily Times
http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=201313\story_3-1-2013_pg3_2#.UOWyhI5wFX4.twitter

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