The success of Operation Zarb-e-Azb notwithstanding, we started 2015 with an all-encompassing fear of the terrorism pervasive in our society persisting. Symbolising the depths of our despair across the breadth of the land, Karachi remained very much in the targetted grip of militants of all ilk and the horror of the Dec 16, 2014 APS Peshawar incident freshly imbedded in our psyche. We ended 2015 with hope clearly discernible at the end of the dark tunnel that years of wrong policies and bad governance had straitjacketed us into as a nation. Far from being out of the woods, to paraphrase Robert Frost, “we have miles to go” relentlessly fighting the scourge of terrorism in every conceivable form and from every necessary platform.
Remaining firm in the selection and maintenance of its aim, the military must wipe out not only the vestiges of militancy in both political and religious camouflage but all the extraneous forces and factors subscribing to it. On a different analogy, we vacillated too long past the fail-safe point in 1971 once the Army action on Mar 25 gave us a fleeting opportunity from what was a no-win position to that of relative strength by the end of April. Flush with military success we failed to seize and capitalise on the political opportunity for entering into substantive negotiations for compromise. Conversely the stakes are too high for the Army at the beginning of 2016 to now back away from engaging in its course correction within the Constitutional ambit. Can we by default accept that the corruption codified by “Pakistan-First” Musharraf’s infamous National Reconciliation Order (NRO), force-multiplied subsequently by Zardari’s corruption-ridden Presidential years, be given legal cover?
Corruption’s nexus with organised crime and terrorism is a worldwide phenomenon. Judicious use of technology must counter “terror financing” from the siphoning off monies donated to charities. Admiring those making legitimate profits from commerce and industry, we must distance these from proceeds illegally acquired through corruption. Monies discovered fuelling terrorism must answer for the blood of innocents and cannot be allowed to be legitimised by using the bogey of “provincial autonomy!” With accountability remaining the paramount denominator, all the monies and assets of those in our elite society awash with gains having any links with terrorism must be confiscated. Giving corruption free rein as being indirectly proposed by our elected representatives is a democratic vulgarity, can this really be representative of the will of the people? Have our respected adjudicators on the seats of justice ceased to have a conscience?
No vacillation about intent is conducive, particularly in public perception. The grey area about PML (N)’s commitment to root out those practising and/or feeding the terrorism in their own backyard must be dispelled. Given the present sequence of events and acrimony thereof one believes that collusion to dominate political power by turns between our two majority parties is now a thing of the past. Firmly committed to eliminating terrorism at its roots, PML (N) must not falter even though their campaign may encroach upon their own preserve. Only credible actions and deeds will strongly negate the public perception of filibuster, “delay and denial” by administrative and legal means. The present excellent civil-military relations must be sustained for the good of the democratic process, suspicions about intent will hasten the relationship coming apart at the seams. The parameters of the Constitution can only be sustained if we have a “sustainable” democracy and not a farce thereof camouflaged by sleight-of-hand legalese.
By subjecting itself to ruthless self-accountability, both the superior judiciary and the Army owe it to this nation to gain the high moral ground and the credibility thereof to conduct the ongoing process. A crook is a crook, anyone of any rank and appointment who have misused their authority for greed while in office must be held responsible for their misdeeds, and not allowed to get away because of their past status. With vast amounts of money available these criminals have the method and the means to make their pasts white and bright, and as a last resort even launch a political party. While one should start decades back and indict all those corrupt, practical considerations requires the process to focus on the immediate present and past, making salutary examples thereof.
Our cast-iron relationship with China aside, on external national security issues the civil and military leadership are on the same page, not only about India and Afghanistan but about Saudi Arabia, etc in the immediate region and with the world powers, the US and Russia. We cannot be held hostage by the academic input of a few powerful intellectual elite, among them a handful of arrogant former diplomats who slavishly served their masters while in service in taking our foreign policy to the dregs, trying to wash away their past these hypocrites now pontificate about foreign policy “shortcomings” feeding the counsel of our fears (to paraphrase Field Marshal Slim) whereas our recent foreign policy successes have shown that “it pays to be bold”.
Convoluted beliefs militating against the unity of the Federation led to the disintegration of Pakistan in 1971. One is more than sensitive about the rights of Provinces, this country came apart not because of corruption but because of discrimination and denial. No Constitution in the world makes protection for corruption and the corrupt linked to the unity of the Federation. For the sake of “democracy” and “Provincial Autonomy” our eloquent legal eagles would have us believe that the 18th Amendment gives all their mis-governance “legal” cover.
The hypocrites who swear about Provincial autonomy are conversely loath to give the Local Bodies any powers so that they can have their cake and eat it themselves to acquire villas in Dubai and apartments in London, New York, etc. Power must be de-centralized down to the common citizen stakeholder level to decide for themselves allocation of the funds earmarked locally for development.
Everything cannot be on the statute books, is there a law against cannibals eating human beings? We must not exacerbate our problems by compromising on any number of issues and/or following policies and actions thereof having no relevance to good governance. Our final resolve should be to uphold the spirit of the law rather than get drawn into the technicalities inherent in the wording of the law. Every New Year brings with it hope like a breath of fresh air, by staying the course in resolving our problems we must show determination to protect hope from turning into despair.
The writer is one of Pakistan’s leading defense and security analysts.