Daily The News: MISSING WILL
Many have asked this question: Has the state become impotent? Clearly, this inquiry is made with reference to how militants tend to have their way in the choice of time, place, and nature of the disaster they wish to inflict. They do so with impunity. The state can only react and that too feebly, post-facto, and restricted to cleaning up what is left of the mess in an orgy of blood, death and destruction. By my way of reckoning, the finality of the condition may still be down the line though we are well on the way.
This is why. The current coalition of the PPP-PML(Q)-MQM is a house unconcerned. Only the ANP is paying with blood for its lead role in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; and the MQM makes relevant noise.
It could have been anyone in power in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and they would have had to face exactly the same onslaught. So, let’s get this nonsense of secularism out of the way. The militants are least concerned with various formulations of the order they target to uproot. Remember, Maulana Fazalur Rehman and Qazi Hussain Ahmed have been targeted and remain among the list of political faces that the terrorists wish to eliminate.
The phase of the war is such that seeks expansion of the geographical space. And it is not only the state that is engaged in a ‘war against terror’, it is also the militants who are in a ‘war against the state’. It is not terrorism; it is plain and simple insurgency. The earlier we recognise it so, the earlier are the chances of instituting a correct counter in place, if we wish to, that is. And that is where the rub is.
This government has simply never focused on fighting this war. It may have secretly hoped that one day it will all go away, courtesy the US, the GHQ and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa lot and that all those who suffer it just might find a way out. Talks, negotiations, national consensus, political prioritisation, common political and national objectives – forget about it. It would only indulge itself in the Kerry-Lugar-Berman, the strategic dialogue on how to beg more from the US, lining pockets with the loot in hand and simply holding on to power through some choice sloganeering – reconciliation, consensus in sustaining political power, accommodation and back-handed deals.
Think of the mafiosi when the Great Depression (1930s-1940s) ruled. Sans political will, national cohesion and a bipartisan declaration of the war, the war in the ‘war against terror’ actually never took off. Is it any surprise, then, that militants rule the roost?
The PML-N is the party-in-waiting, certain to stake for national reins once again and yet, while they have sanguinely ruled Punjab – other than an odd resolution in the assembly against terrorism – they have simply stayed above the fray. Talk of a higher form of chicanery and opportunism. Corruption is not only of money but intent as well. As the opposition-in-charge in parliament, inane resolutions signifying only the intent and never the substance of the pronouncement is all that has materialised even as Pakistan proclaimed fighting an existential war.
It may be politics that led to this nonchalant abstentionism, but whatever it was it sure hasn’t helped Pakistan’s cause. Even as the nation approaches another election, there isn’t a murmur on terrorism and militancy. It isn’t even an issue, what to talk of the various parties stating their intended course to pacify radicalism in the society and to end the use of terror as a means to ideological ends. Imran Khan’s PTI has a plan, though it is still to test the waters for popular acceptance. Others simply don’t talk about terrorism as a concern even though it remains the only issue that will decide the fate of the state and this nation.
It is likely that if the PML-N comes into power it will at best be a halfway house, keeping the nation in perpetual confusion; some of their vote comes from the radicalised elements of Punjab. The political parties should have been fighting the next election on the issue of their preferred course to dealing with the menace, but all you hear is deafening silence.
The third party to this conundrum is the military. It did a decent job in Swat, but has since laid low. Deployments in Waziristan and motley operations in other agencies have kept it occupied but it has been locked into inaction on the larger question of dealing with a composite insurgency against the state across Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Stuck between the various fallouts of political manipulations within and between Pakistan and the US, which have tended to adversely engage its credibility in society, it has followed a very cautious approach towards large-scale operations.
Typically, the military finds serious absence of political will in the ruling elite, and the lack of accompanying societal consensus to fight militancy keeps it shrouded in uncertainty. Badly scathed, given the run of popular discourse in recent months, the military is more likely to fend against further injury – being averse to risky exposures and self-incrimination. It has thus already gone into a defensive mode, although it is time to be on the offence. Hence a consequential void, in which only militants retain the initiative and the offensive. To enable the military to gain more requisite support, political stakeholders need to be more positively engaged.
If indeed political will is what will underwrite Pakistan’s future, especially in the context of countering the manifestation of terrorism, the PPP and the PML-N remain desperately short of ideas, will and a plan. That makes space for a third political force that can stake relevance in this most urgent business at hand, away from consolidating political perpetuity.
Enter Dr Tahirul Qadri. Regardless of who may have beckoned him, he appears as the nucleus around which a third force can gravitate. He may thus lap the role previously envisaged of Imran Khan and deliver success against those who traditionally wield political power through cooperative engagement with regional groups and emerging players such as the PTI. Change may, therefore, become possible only as a cooperative agenda between different smaller groups to trump the political status quo.
Dr Qadri’s oratorical prowess can engage people more effectively across the national spectrum and develop a consensus on the future. The third force should add potency to national resolve by breaking the stagnation that has come to define it under an incompetent leadership.
Broad-based engagement with the society, ranging from the legislative to the judicial to the socio-economic to the political, will be needed to counter militancy. Initiatives to either engage in dialogue, or to militarily fight militancy, or apply a combination can only be conceived and implemented at the political level.
To be relevant to the times and contend with contemporary challenges, traditional politics will have to change and provide more innovative and inspiring leadership. This will save both the nation and the state. The PPP and the PML-N will do well to pay heed.
The writer is a retired air-vice marshal of the Pakistan Air Force and served as its deputy chief of staff. Email: shhzdchdhry @yahoo.com