Not one to quote poets or pour “whisky” into his speeches, Gen Kayani would ideally prefer to say what he has to say, and sit down. But lest some take umbrage or misunderstand, the ever cautious Kayani picks his words carefully and couches his thoughts in a manner that won’t give offense or generate controversy. That’s worked for him, as his career shows.
It was significant, therefore, that in his speech on the occasion of the Azadi Parade at Kakul Kayani did not mince his words. His message was clear enough. The notion that the current war is not “our” war or a “just” war is out. The army won’t stand for that. More importantly, the army’s first priority henceforth will be dealing with the internal threat, and less so the external one.
That was music to our ears because it suggests the army’s fixation with India which has proved the greatest obstacle to fresh ideas has been dislodged, if not entirely removed. Hopefully, other equally stale concepts which have outlived their utility, like strategic depth, will also be jettisoned. These are early days but let’s keep our fingers crossed.
But not all what Kayani had to say was good news. He seemed to think a “pragmatic” solution could be reached with the TTP and, if so, “no sane person could deny” that that was not a good thing. Well, frankly, most sane people would. And I am surprised that 3,000 army dead later, not counting the tenfold greater number of civilians, Gen Kayani does. So vast are our differences and so deep the distrust that even local agreements concluded with the TTP in the past have floundered.
It is puzzling how anyone can support the state negotiating agreements with outlaws who slaughter, kill, pillage and rape. The “principles of Islam” that the TTP espouse have nothing to do with our Islam. For example, the TTP believes that Shias are worse than kafirs and deserving of death, and they keep reminding us of this by slaughtering a score or so innocent Shias from time to time. As for an agreement being “within the bounds of the Constitution,” “What’s that?” replied Soofi Mohammed, when asked how the TTP intended to reconcile their laws with the Constitution.
Perhaps, Kayani feels he needs to say that because people will not readily bear pain unless there is hope. But he should also know that “those who live on hope will die fasting.” And, lest he is tempted to reach some sort of a “pragmatic” agreement with the enemy, that won’t work. You either follow the good path or the evil one. You cannot stand at the crossroads: that’s been tried and earned us nothing but contempt, not only of the enemy and our own folk but also the world. Reconciling with the TTP, for Shias at least, is like making a pact with the devil.
Actually, people long for a leader here who will get up and say. “Listen, folks, this is a fight to the finish. It’s we or them. And if you can’t stand it, lump it, and if you get in our way, watch out.” But, then, few people are better at fudging issues and living in the cockroach world of compromise than us. Ask the British, we served them loyally for 200 years. The country will also be waiting to see just how Kayani gets to practise what he preached in his Kakul speech. For example: just how many heads of terrorists and collaborators will roll for the deaths they have caused? Or whether we will continue to be palmed off by such excuses that the “laws are still not in place to convict the guilty,” accompanied by much hand-wringing. And, meanwhile, lodge terrorists apprehended with blood on their hands in jail till they get to escape or are released for “lack of evidence.”
Whether the state security apparatus will ever get to thwart attacks and not arrive at the scene to collect bodies and bullet casings after the deed is done. The number of (pseudo) clerics arrested and incarcerated for promoting sectarian hate; madressahs shut down for spawning extremists; civil servants sacked for fleeing their posts for fear of the TTP, etc., etc., and “national leaders” taken to task for never stepping foot in Fata.
When Kayani speaks of “stabilising” the country, how does he propose to go about ensuring that happens? People are already placing bets on the identity of the next prime minister, the third in as many months who, ironically, is also being had up for contempt of the law and the Constitution. And what does Kayani propose to do about “the fragile economic situation, corruption and near-breakdown of civil services”?
Kayani spoke of the “nation having a potential to deliver.” If by that he means Pakistan under the present lot, believe me, Pakistan does not. As for Pakistan becoming a “respectable member of the comity of nations”? Forget it. Our name is mud, as we who get to travel know and experience at every airport.
And, frankly, I wish Kayani had not gone on and on about the pride we have in our religion. Why else are we Muslims and intend to die as Muslims? That said, it was nevertheless good to know that the thoughtful Kayani was working on our problems, because no one else seems to be.
The writer is a former ambassador. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org