By Mehr F. Husain
23 May, 2014
CONFLICT is what Pakistan seems to be about right now.
Media barons fight for power unravelling years’ worth of sacrifices for freedom of expression; the media and the Islamists battle for control over the masses who huddle, scared and mindless; the judiciary and the military risk tension over the missing persons case; the government is fighting to work on its agenda while facing anti- government sentiment spearheaded by political rival Imran Khan; the TTP is engaged in its own internal leadership crisis; and regionally, Pakistan stands friendless.
The previous PPP- led government decided to pursue the gas pipeline project with Iran right towards the end of their tenure. In hindsight, it was a political gimmick of sorts, either to secure voters or to use it for the next election since the party had some inkling that it was going to lose.
Come PML N and the project which was to be largely funded by Iran is put on the backburner.
In Afghanistan, a wall made of mud is finally being built between Afghanistan and Pakistan which means the Durand Line could become a reality. Anti- Pakistan sentiment exists within Afghanistan and the wall is a much delayed need to control the flow of arms and militants through a porous border.
But that is doubtful since the new administration could have territorial concerns and also face their own version of the Taliban that they allege has been nurtured by Pakistan.
And there is Modi. Within Pakistan, the Prime Minister is committed to economic development and establishment of peace. But Indo- Pak relations are equally important, not just for both the countries but regionally as well. Right now, regionally India is the strongest and must play a larger role in establishing peace. The PML N run government realises this and is hoping that Modi would try and call the shots on decisions regarding the maintenance of peace.
The media wars are another prime example of why religion should not be used as a political or a social tool to either gain viewers or expand the sphere of influence.
As the media barons battle it out, the Islamists are only happy to morph it into a sectarian issue targeting Shias. As religious intolerance shows no sign of slowing down, the government sticks to its plan of conducting peace talks with the TTP. With no other plan, it seems the efforts could go to waste. But as right wing Islamism is here to stay and a war will only worsen the situation, the best the government can do is control violence.
Consequently, at a local level there has been a crackdown on militant links in Lahore and a targeted operation in Karachi supporting local police in taking control of a city that‘ s been bleeding for too long.
But is it enough? Imran Khan’s rally on May 11 indicated otherwise.
While he continues to question electoral results, he is gaining support from political parties as well as the electorate. For it is not just Khan’s anti- government stand but his leadership in areas such as eradicating polio and education in the KP province — both areas where the federal government has lagged behind— which is causing people to think that there is more to Khan than his right wing Islamist sympathising.
None of these issues can go without serious consideration.
Each threatens the future of democracy as it affects the supremacy of Parliament. So as internal conflicts eat away at political development and externally Pakistan remains isolated, all the government can do is fulfil pledges made to the people.
Mehr F. Husain is a columnist in Lahore
Source: Mail Today