The parameters and paranoia of the bygone Cold War just refuses to evaporate from the psyche of Pakistan’s military-establishment. That war might have folded with the folding up of the Soviet Union in 1991, but it seems Pakistan’s military-establishment is still largely stuck (albeit willingly) in the thick muck that this war threw up in this region in the 1980s.
…. The Bin Laden incident has placed us at the crossroads yet again. We can respond with denial and jingoism and consequently dig deeper the hole we find ourselves in. Or we can stop lying to each other and ourselves, disclose all related facts leading up to the May 2 incident with candour and responsibility, let individuals be held to account for their failings, and use the opportunity to revisit our security mind-set, overhaul our security policy and policy making mechanism. In this context, a non-partisan commission revealing the truth can serve as a necessary first step. But offering policy advice on national security, counter terrorism and foreign policy would fall beyond the mandate and expertise of a judicial commission. Once the facts are out, we will still need a high-powered bipartisan policy commission to review and overhaul our security mind-set, policy and policy-making mechanisms that caused the Bin Laden debacle and the many before it.
Let us get the nonsense about patriotism and ‘sticking by our institutions’ out of the way first. Is sticking by a corrupt government patriotic? Should we have celebrated the Dogar court or Musharraf’s rubber-stamp parliament as our token of love for Pakistan? How would unquestioning and unconditional support for everything the khaki leadership does promote Pakistan’s national interest? Are these not mortal men capable of making mistakes? Should they have a monopoly over the definition of national interest and patriotism? And how does holding the khaki high command to account for its acts, omissions and choices translate into lack of gratitude for the soldiers who stake and lose their lives in the line of duty and are the frontline victims of bad policy choices?
Was it not the self-serving use of the term patriotism that Samuel Johnson described as the “last refuge of the scoundrel”? Does our national security doctrine not affect the rest of us on an everyday basis and impinge on the most fundamental of our constitutionally guaranteed rights? Does it not impact everyone wearing a Pakistani identity for becoming an object of suspicion around the globe? The definition of patriotism that confers on our khaki high command the status of a holy cow is also a product of the same mindset that led to the dismemberment of Pakistan, contrived the jihadi project, manufactured the doctrine of strategic depth, gave us Kargil and is still at ease with preserving militants as strategic assets. Clemenceau was probably not being facetious when he declared that, “war was too important to be left to generals.”
We need a new concept of national security that focuses on maximising the security of Pakistani citizens. This will not happen by laying bare the facts of the Bin Laden incident alone. We will also need to review Pakistan’s counter-terrorism policy, security and foreign policy especially vis-à-vis Afghanistan and India, and Pakistan’s relationship with the United States. Can we preach respect for sovereignty if we are unable to account for who lives in Pakistan, control cross-border movement of men, arms and money or ensure that our territory is not used as sanctuary to plot attacks on other nations? After being in the throes of violence for over a decade now, why do we still lack a comprehensive counter-terrorism policy? Why is being a proscribed militant organisation in Pakistan of no legal consequence? Why is our criminal justice system failing to prosecute and convict terrorists? …
… Are we unaware of militant organisations flourishing in Pakistan, or are we being coy? Will we view the Osama bin Laden incident as another minor blow to the jihadi project or are we going to realise that the use of jihadis as strategic assets is history and it is time to liquidate them? Has anyone calculated the intangible cost of this misconceived project and the damage inflicted on the country and its citizens through the spread of intolerance, bigotry, arms and violence? Are we cognisant of the disastrous consequences that another Mumbai could inflict on the interests of Pakistan and its citizens? Will we have a stronger bargaining position in resolving our disputes with India if we have a strong polity, a stable economy, credibility and international support or if we possess surreptitious jihadis as strategic weapons?…
… Neither hypocrisy nor a facelift will redeem Pakistan after the Osama fiasco. We need to come clean and use this as an opportunity to overhaul our security policy and policy-making mechanism. We have skeletons in our closet. It is time to drag them out, confront them and bury them for good.
Courtesy: The News