By Arif Nizami
March 2, 2014
Only leadership with a vision can pull us out of the mire
The abortive talks with the TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan) have served a useful purpose by bringing into sharp focus the wide chasm between the raison d’être for Pakistan and realities on the ground. It is quite clear now that the Taliban will not settle on anything less than their peculiar brand of unadulterated Sharia.
The religious lobby spuriously claims that the 1973 constitution already envisages an Islamic system. Hence the demand of the TTP to implement the Sharia can be met within the ambit of the constitution.
Luckily the Taliban do not buy this argument. Their ultimate prize is Pakistan in the name of their own brand of Sharia. It is not at all surprising therefore that they refuse even to pay lip service to the 1973 constitution.
The duplicity and chicanery of our political and military elite has landed us into an ideological cul-de-sac. Jinnah’s speech to the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947 calling for a virtual secular Pakistan was submerged long ago into the cacophony of the same reactionaries who had opposed the creation of Pakistan in the name of religion.
Jinnah’s earlier speeches calling for an Islamic system for the country were used to negate his pluralistic message. Self-styled researches bend over backwards in their writings to support champions of obscurantism within our fold.
The rot has spread for so long and so wide that the military alone cannot stem it
Ironically some of those who cry themselves hoarse that Pakistan was created to be ‘a laboratory of Islam’ also claim to be champions of democracy. During the Zia era with support from a large swath of the media they were successful in their bid to introduce separate electorates for the minorities.
Realistically the kind of system envisaged in the name of Islam excludes equal rights for women and minorities. Nor does it promote civil liberties, freedom of speech and open debate. Hence in this sense the so-called Islamic system is anathema to democracy that promotes tolerance and equal rights for all citizens, irrespective of their race creed or sect.
In order to perpetuate themselves power hungry generals and politicians deliberately created this obfuscation. Now the chickens have come home to roost, and the barbarians are literally knocking at the gate.
Things gave come to such a pass that a country created for the Muslims of the subcontinent instead of serving as a beacon of enlightenment for Muslims of the world has become a bastion of terrorism and Al Qaeda brand of jihad.
Can the policy to support jihadists across our eastern and western borders and fighting them within Pakistan is sustainable any longer? Of course no paradigm shift is possible without a change of heart within the military leadership.
Interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the self-styled apologist of the Taliban spuriously claims that it all started after 9/11. He conveniently overlooks the fact that it all actually began with the US-Saudi sponsored jihad in Afghanistan at the end of 1979. Pakistan under Zia became a willing tool in the clandestine war against the invading Soviet forces.
The Chaudhry and the Sharifs started their political career around that time under the tutelage of the dictator who claimed to be protector of the country’s ‘ideological frontiers’. Maybe Nawaz Sharif has moved on but Nisar it seems is still frozen in time.
Duplicity in the name of jihad has virtually landed us in the soup we find ourselves in. The badlands that the Pakistan Air force is now bombarding have been safe haven for jihad – in Kashmir, in China, in Chechnya – you name it.
In the process certain areas of Punjab, Karachi, Balochistan and KP have become sanctuaries for groups waging war on the Pakistani state. So much so that in parts of Karachi the only writ that effectively runs now is that of the Taliban.
Ironically it is the military that after being a consistent victim of the Taliban wrath in recent weeks has launched action against the TTP. The government notwithstanding the enthusiasts for talks with the Taliban within its ranks had no option but to go along.
The rot has spread on such a wide scale and for so long that the military alone cannot stem it. In any case its flawed doctrine is part of the problem rather than the solution.
Pakistan has the highest growth rate in producing missiles and babies, but at the same time has one of the lowest economic growth rates. Our outlays on health and education as percentage of the GDP are dismal.
The security policy launched with much fanfare does not even scratch the surface of the malaise afflicting our body politic. Is the ruling party willing to undergo a metamorphosis of its policies ingrained for decades at the expense of its conservative vote bank?
Similarly can the policy to support jihadists across our eastern and western borders and fighting them within Pakistan is sustainable any longer? Of course no paradigm shift is possible without a change of heart within the military leadership.
Exigencies of political correctness demand that the political and military leadership should be on the same page. But only far reaching reforms in strategic thinking and foreign policy will test the waters. How much space the military is willing to cede to the civilian leadership is however a point of conjecture.
It is up to the political leadership to bring the military on board on embarking on a detente with India without hindrances. The Jihadi groups who serve as the cat paw of the establishment need to be defanged. But admittedly this is a tall order.
Foreign minister Sartaj Aziz has clarified that Pakistan is not about to arm Syrian rebels at the behest of Saudi Arabia. But what stops Islamabad from reaching out to its neighbour Iran with whom relations have reached a nadir under the Sharif government?
The US forces are in the process of withdrawing from Afghanistan. This is going to have far reaching strategic implications for Pakistan. Islamabad needs to come out of the patron-client relationship with Washington.
Hence it is no surprise that Pakistan is a breeding ground for home-grown terrorism. This continuing recipe for disaster needs to be changed.
Instead of daydreaming about building motorways and bullet trains, money should be spent on the social sector. Our number one priority should be health and education rather than continuing to punch above our weight.
Madrassa culture nurtured over the years cannot be eliminated overnight. Only consistent economic growth and big time spending on the social sector can change things.
But unfortunately the state lacks not only the resources but also the political will to embark on such a course. The political elite, parliament and provincial assemblies jealously guard their warped priorities.
The social sector hardly figures amongst them. As for the boys, they want their toys to continue to play their war games.
Of course leadership with a vision can pull it off. But whether Nawaz Sharif has the attributes or the will is still open to debate.