The ignoble massacre of children and teachers in Peshawar has led to unprecedented anger and grief across the country. The state has responded by ending the moratorium on the death penalty and convicted terrorists are now being hanged. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has announced that the days of differentiating between the good and the bad Taliban are over. A parliamentarians’ committee is reviewing counterterrorism measures that need to be adopted. The military leadership has undertaken the diplomatic-security initiative to engage with Afghan authorities on potential action that can nab the Taliban leadership based in Afghanistan.
All these measures are important and noteworthy. The ongoing Operation Zarb-e-Azb is here to stay and perhaps, is likely to be extended to other areas. But the central question is, whether these tactical moves are sufficient to tackle the hydra-headed Frankenstein’s monsters that Pakistan’s flawed national security policy has created, sustained and nurtured, sometimes with outside support and on occasions totally on its own. There is a name for this Frankenstein’s monster and it is known as jihad — a narrow, self-seeking interpretation of an otherwise lofty and ethereal religious concept. The struggle embedded in jihad — according to most scholars and not semi-literate clerics — is self-improvement. Instead, this has turned into a spectator sport where private militias carry out state objectives in the region and within the land of the pure.
This trajectory is an old one. It did not happen overnight nor was it a ploy of the Unites States and other powers to get Pakistan into a royal mess. In 1948, ‘jihadis’ from the tribal regions started with the battle of Kashmir that continues to date. Conventional wars or private ‘jihad’ efforts have brought neither glory to Pakistan nor relief for the Kashmiris, most of whom are sick of India and Pakistan treating their land and rights as national fiefs. Continue reading “Don’t expect a miracle to happen”
Pakistan faces a challenge largely of its own creation and only political processes can correct it, argues Raza Rumi.
The attack on Peshawar’s Army Public School and the killing of more than 130 children creates a new watershed in Pakistan’s battle against terrorism.
Maligned globally as a ‘hub’ of terror, Pakistan has suffered immensely in the past decade. More than 50,000 of its civilians have been killed and over 15,000 security personnel have laid down their lives.
Pakistan’s policy choices of the past have been far from sagacious and its purported self confessed identity as an Islamic State has not helped matters. More than that it is the curse of geography that has haunted the nation.
For 30 years, it has been an active participant in Afghan wars directly and indirectly and the perceived threat from the larger neighbour India is almost an article of faith.
December 16 also marks the anniversary of the humiliation that Pakistan suffered when in 1971 East Pakistan with India’s support became independent.
In 1947 the country’s founder called the country he created s ‘moth eaten’ and ‘truncated’ and since 1971 the insecurity has only grown.
How far is that an imagined construct, how much of it is to continue to run it as a martial State has been subject of unresolved debate — yet to be resolved.
The Afghan policy of the 1980s and patronage to the Taliban movement in the 1990s is part of that insecure worldview. National security has been defined in limited terms and the reliance on non State actors to work as support system for the formal security apparatus remains a policy tenet. Yet there are signs of change.
The attack on the Hazara community in Quetta last month, which left 10 dead and many injured, comes amidst the recent spate of violence against an intensely vulnerable and ghettoised community. Pakistan’s new theatre of sectarian killings, the troubled province of Balochistan, is turning into a parable of disastrous policies that are being pursued ostensibly to bolster Pakistan’s national security. Since 2009, such attacks have become the norm and the worse impunity of attackers underlines state complicity.
In early 2013, two bombings targeting Hazaras in Quetta killed over 180 people. The community sat in freezing cold for days with the dead bodies of their loved ones, waiting for effective action by the state. Nothing came out of that except assurances, token arrests and high-sounding platitudes by opportunistic political parties. The truth is that the infrastructure for sectarian hatred has grown right under the nose of security agencies. This terrorist infrastructure is inextricably linked to militant bases in Punjab, patronised by a spineless provincial government and a fast radicalising state apparatus that has accepted the power of those who preach hatred and execute their brazen agenda through target killings. No judge or prosecutor has the courage — and why should they put themselves in the line of fire — to curb and punish these networks. The political class, eager to appease rabid clerics and right wing business lobbies, continues to build metro buses or hold rallies while graveyards fill up with lesser citizens of the Shia, Ahmadi or Christian variety.
To say that Pakistani journalists are under attack is an understatement. They are lucky if not assailed or killed.
Beyond the veneer of prime time television shows that many think constitutes ‘journalism’, there are thousands of media workers at risk. They are endangered and pressured by state agencies, political parties, militant networks and mafias, which share a common goal: suppressing information and muzzling those who dare to dig facts.
Comrade Irshad Mastoi and his two colleagues join the ranks of slain journalists who were targeted for their profession; this is unacceptable in a country that is ostensibly governed by a constitution.
I never met Mastoi but followed him on social media and occasionally, we communicated. His views were ‘dangerous;’ and he never refrained from expressing them.
Mastoi was a working journalist for 14 years and before his murder was also the Secretary General of the Balochistan Union of Journalists (BUJ). The killers, who remain at large, shot him dead along with an intern Abdul Rasul and an accountant of the news agency bureau that Mastoi was heading in Quetta. Mastoi was also affiliated with the ARY News and frequently wrote for vernacular and English papers.
That the murderers could enter into a news agency office located in a busy area of Quetta speaks volumes for the impunity with which such attacks are carried out.
Mastoi was 34 and his associate Rasul was a student at the Media and Journalism Department of the University of Balochistan.
What is the message for journalists and those who aspire to adopt this profession?
Raza Rumi cuts through the high decibel terrorism rhetoric to voice some ground realities of Pakistan, all this while braving attempts on his life.
A few months back, I had to leave my country simply to ensure that I would not be left dead. The price of public positions is hard. Perhaps I had ruffled too many feathers or was simply unlucky to have caught the attention of those who tried to kill me. I am trying to make sense of things that may have fallen apart for me. But have they? I keep trying at making sense of my country, the one I belong to and the one I love immensely.
Nuclear state. An Islamic Republic. A Failed state? Endless labels and categories have been accorded to what Pakistan represents today to the world at large. Some facts speak for themselves but perceptions are deceptive as they start morphing into realities. Pakistan is also a resilient country and inspires me to fight the odds, the demons that have to be defeated and the endless list of things that need to be done.
Contrary to what most diagnose, Pakistan’s trajectory was not inevitable. The country’s founder, almost a demonic figure in India, attempted to set a direction in his August 11 speech by recognising that religion could mobilise people and politics but cannot be an instrument for governance. “We are starting with this fundamental principle,” said Jinnah, “that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State.” The famous words followed: “…in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.” Critics say it was too late. Others think this was the only way to shape statecraft when a new state had come into being. Perhaps all of this is irrelevant now. Sixty seven years later, Pakistan is hardly the country it was geographically or otherwise in 1947.
Recent events and statements by the civilian leadership indicate that there is a move towards undertaking a military operation in North Waziristan Agency (NWA). This has been a much delayed option that haunts the state of Pakistan especially the power military which has lost thousands of personnel, officials and five generals in the past few years. If one adds the civilian casualties and the climate of fear that grips Pakistan. Earlier, media reports suggested that in a briefing the army was not too optimistic about the success of an operation. The Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf, whose simplistic position on war, terrorism and domestic anarchy has been informing the discourse, had quoted 40% chances of success in a media interaction.
Admittedly, with a large number of civilians residing in NWA, air strikes and ground operations can be lethal as the recent bombings in Mir Ali demonstrated. The armed forces were successful in hitting valuable targets but it came with a cost. This was a route that ought to have been adopted years ago but Pakistan’s strategic calculations prevented such clarity. In large measure, high tolerance for the existence of a mini-Emirate within Pakistan’s territory was perhaps a means to allow the functioning of Afghan Taliban factions in NWA. This was an opportune moment for the Pakistani militants to increase their strength, enter into alliances with sectarian groups countrywide and enhance their ‘soft power’ through media interactions, and gain the sympathies of political parties such as Imran Khan’s PTI. The results have been disastrous for the country. Pakistanis while condemning acts of terror against civilians are willing to give leeway to the militants terming acts as an expression of resistance to Pakistan’s partnership with the US. Continue reading “Strategic Blunders”