By Amir Zia
June 16, 2014
Pakistan’s ruling elite’s collective sleepwalk towards a looming disaster is mind-boggling. No murder, no incident of mass butchery or bombing is able to wake our high and mighty from their sleep. No horrendous attack on our airports, defence installations, the slaughtering of soldiers or destruction of schools manages to wake them from their mysterious deep slumber.
After every fresh act of barbarity, what we hear are the routine dead, clichéd phrases from our elected representatives. We see the same old outpouring of empty words of sympathy for victims and their families. We witness many professional mourners – politicians, analysts, commentators, clerics, our liberal, not so liberal and conservative activists – exhibiting crocodile tears on the old and new media.
But their talk never translates into action. Their public display of grief creates more divisions than galvanising the people. Their long sermons create more confusion than bring clarity on how to deal with the twin ghost of extremism and terrorism in the country.
Our civilian lords and masters are at pains even to name and identify the enemy, let alone coming up with a bold, cohesive strategy on how to deal with this existential internal threat faced by Pakistan. In fact, they remain the main obstruction in developing a national consensus on waging a war till the finish line against these violent non-state actors, who are relentlessly pushing their agenda of destroying Pakistan. But our rulers chose to waste time in holding talks to nowhere with militants, who use this window to reorganise and plan more acts of terror targeting civilians and security forces alike.
The barren intellect, lack of even simple common sense, dead conscience, and timidity of our rulers is taking its toll on Pakistan. The country is at war and the people are paying its price through their blood and tears, but Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government is too weak in spirit and too meek in action even to admit that a full-blown conflict is at hand.
In our recent history, can there be a more distressing time than the present one? This is a time when the enemy within is striking at will, and has all the initiative, but the political bosses are too afraid to take ownership of this war, lead its ideological narrative and allow our armed forces to deal with them as they should be dealt.
The government is focused on giving centrality to non-issues as our armed forces are being targeted and attacked in their own backyard – perhaps the most nightmarish scenario for any military leadership in the world.
The civilian rulers have allowed the Al-Qaeda-linked and -inspired local and foreign militants – Pakistan’s enemies from Uzbekistan, Chechnya, China, Indonesia, Afghanistan, the Middle East and many other places – to run amok in the country, challenge its writ and dictate terms of engagement, using the sacred name of Islam. The terror bandwagon, its cheerleaders and sympathisers are on the roll, yet there is no one to take a stand for Pakistan.
Nations do face wars and conflicts of far graver magnitude than the one we face today. What sees them through such traumatic times is the leadership and its will to lead the fight. A leadership that has the vision and capability to turn the heat on the enemies and take the war to them, rather than take reactive fire-fighting measures after every new atrocious attack and act of terror as the one that recently happened at Karachi’s old airport.
Yes, we can keep counting the number of such incidents and lament over the loss of precious lives as has been done all these years. We can keep analysing which faction of the shadowy militant groups carried out this or that attack and their internal linkages. Our busybody officials and ministers can, as usual, be found competing to take credit for how they managed to minimise losses or even worse indulging in blame game – as happened in the case of the attack at the Karachi airport in which the federal and provincial governments publicly accused each other for negligence.
Perhaps the appalling part of this latest terror attack was that our prime minister was, as usual, found missing in action. Barring the ceremonial statement, we have yet to hear his grand plan and vision on how he aims to take on the militants.
After the hurly burly of the attack was over, our always grim-looking Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan was seen giving details of the heroics of some security personnel on how they resisted militants, but he failed to give a course of action on how the government will deal with terrorists. Still by pursuing the policy of appeasement and offering another round of talks, or inviting militants to play a friendly cricket match as was done by the interior minister in the recent past. Indeed, Chaudhry Nisar praised the security personnel and their sacrifices when he discussed the Karachi airport attack, but his performance appeared less passionate compared to the one when he was lamenting the killing of terrorist kingpin Hakeemullah Mehsud.
However, in all this frenzy of statements, the core issue that is seldom addressed remains the absence of policy needed to deal with the twin challenge of terrorism and extremism. What does it signify in the broader sense? It tells us a sorry story of a state that is crumbling and fast losing grip on the chain of events. A state that has conceded its sole prerogative of the use of violence to violent non-state actors.
It sends the world a message that the state called Pakistan is on the brink of mass strife, disorder, conflict and civil war as it is unable to tame internal challenges and resolve its contradictions.
The internal message is as grave. The actual or perceived weakness of the state and its institutions always emboldens and encourages all kinds of militants – from Islamist to sectarian, ethnic and even criminal mafias – to expand their domain and act more vigorously to undermine its writ.
The writing is very much on the wall. Once it was hard to imagine that any violent domestic player could dare take on the armed forces directly. Now the militants do this with impunity. All long-festering conflicts have intensified and the nature of violence has become more lethal against the backdrop of the continued paralysis on the part of the government. This certainly is a bad omen for the country. Even in recent years, haven’t we seen a number of countries’ descent into bloody civil wars and internal conflicts when the ruling elite failed to resolve internal contradictions on a war footing?
Today’s Pakistan has all kinds of destructive ingredients in the form of religiously motivated militants and widening sectarian, ethnic and nationalist chasms that can rock the state and throw it into chaos and anarchy. The state is in mortal danger due to the inaction of our rulers who are unable to call this war Pakistan’s war. Once people give up hope and lose the will to fight, even hordes of barbarians like the Taliban can march into cities. We are witnessing this in some brotherly Islamic countries today.
This looming tide of anarchy and the state’s drift toward chaos can still be halted provided we have the right leadership, which is ready to pay the price of this war and stand up for Pakistan.
But is there any room for optimism if we look at the present breed of frontline politicians? All these Sharifs, Asif Ali Zardaris, Imran Khans, Tahirul Quadris and others – do they give us any hope? Unfortunately they don’t. The entire arena of our politics has never been as barren as it is now. All we have in the name of leaders are not more than paper tigers and political pygmies who are in shoes too big for their small feet. They have all the potential to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory rather than leading the nation to triumph in this internal war.
Then, who has the potential to win this war for Pakistan and its people? Your guess should be as good as mine.
Amir Zia is editor The News, Karachi.