Head of PPP Media Cell
Hearts of all Pakistani went out to the victims of Quetta carnage earlier this week in which seventy people, including thirty lawyers, embraced martyrdom when suicide bomber struck in the civil hospital of the city. The cowardice of the terrorists was limitless as they first shot dead Balochistan Bar Association President, Bilal Anwar Kasi, and suicide attack soon after to kill lawyers in large number who rushed to the hospital to get the dead body of their leader. It was a creepy and gruesome design of terrorists that deprived Quetta of the educated people who rendered valuable services in providing justice to the people of the province and also spearheaded arduous movement for their rights.
The loss to the families and the province in particular and the country in general was beyond all recognitions. May God bless the departed souls with eternal peace and the fortitude to the bereaved families to bear the irreparable loss? The resolve of the people of Pakistan has rather strengthened to defeat terrorism in its all forms and manifestations after this pusillanimity of terrorists.
The abhorrent attack cast poor reflection on the level of vigilance of the security apparatus that had been literary in control of the province for the last many years. No one even stopped the suicide bomber entering the civil hospital not to speak of pre-emptily foiling their plan by the intelligence agencies. Clearly, there was a chink in the armory that needs to be plugged because this blood bathing must be stopped by those who were assigned this important task.
The Opposition parliamentary leaders were right in questioning the government in the House about the effectiveness of its operation against extremists and terrorists in the wake of deadly terror attacks happening in the country. Syed Khurshid Shah, opposition Leader, demanded that those who were responsible for thwarting such attacks should be summoned in the House to explain the reasons of their failure. He expressed his disappointment over the implementation of the National Action Plan notwithstanding that the opposition extended unconditional support to the government to defeat terrorists. Mahmood Khan Achakzai demanded that some heads must role those were found responsible for the failing in their duty. The government took such reaction as demoralising for the security agencies caring less for the imperative of accountability. Accountability cannot be equated with as a demoralising factor.
The suicide attack in Quetta explicitly suggested loud and clear that despite the claim of ‘ breaking the back of the terrorists’ they were still there to hurt the nation grievously at the time of their choice. They were very much here to unleash hell against soft targets with devastating impact. This profuse bleeding of the country should stop sooner than later as it would lead to the terrified consequences. The Pakistan leadership of all spectrums should huddle together to energise the implementation of the National Action Plan in letter and spirit. There is thin difference between failure and success. Half success is no success.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif while addressing the National Assembly expressed the resolve of the government, institutions and the nation not to rest till the last terrorist was not followed to the gate of hell. Opposition leader, Syed Khurshid Shah, on behalf of the Opposition parties, assured full support to the government in the fight against terrorism and extremism. He was right to point out that despite the whole hearted support terrorist attacks had not stopped in the country. The interior minister’s comparison of this government with the PPP government in the realm of fighting terrorism was uncalled for when prime minister was appreciative of all political leadership for their support. The prime minister had to intervene to bring back the Opposition back to the House that staged walk out as a protest against interior minister’s criticism of PPP last government. The number of fights interior minister had picked up with opposition leaders perhaps surpassed his Party comrades’ put together.
Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani while talking to media in Islamabad after his meeting with Supreme Court Bar Association had rightly pointed out the time had come to take important decisions by the state no matter how difficult those might be. He warned that without taking such crucial decisions by the state the people and the state would continue to bleed threatening their existence. He was clearly referring to the accountability of the all the institutions those must be made answerable to the Parliament. Parliamentary oversight in the implementation of national policies had to be put in place. Enigmatic formulations of the policies and their implementation had brought the country to this pass. Maulana Fazlur Rehman also underscored the importance of this important point while giving his perspective on Quetta carnage.
Unfortunately, today Pakistan stood isolated in the international community. Our relations with our immediate neighbours were disturbing. Afghanistan President, Ashraf Ghani, minced no words in accusing Pakistan as responsible for all predicaments of his people. The world was also not buying our argument that we were the victim of terrorism and had suffered immensely both in blood and treasure. The world view considered the presence of Haqqani Network in Pakistan as the root cause of instability in Afghanistan. It also highlighted the perception of discriminating between good Taliban and bad Taliban. Moeed Yusaf, a member of US Think Tank, in a local TV interview recently pointed out that there was not a single Afghan in Afghanistan who held good views of Pakistan. Anti-Pakistan narrative had overtaken the entire populace of our neighbour due to our redundant and counter-productive Afghan policy. Is it not enough proof of the utter failure of Afghan policy? It should jolt our policy planners to calibrate our Afghan foreign/security policy as an instrument of promoting than jeopardising our national interests.
Our relations with India, the immediate big neighbour, have also been going from bad to worse because the two countries could not come out of the cob-web of deep seated mistrust. Both countries have not inched towards normalisation of relations on durable basis since independence. Indian Prime Minister Modi opined recently that progress towards normalisation was difficult because there were many ‘centers of power ‘in Pakistan. Pakistan wanted normalisation of relations while maintaining its principled support to the Kashmiri people -- an Achilles heel for India. India, on the other hand, wanted to focus on the issue of terrorism and more specifically on cross-border terrorism. The Mumbai and Pathankot attacks were other barriers that the leadership of the two countries had not been able to crossover despite half-hearted attempts in the past. India and Pakistan’s fixations continue to haunt the dialogue process with no tangible results whatsoever to the frustration of the people of two countries who wanted to live like good neighbours.
Pakistan relations with USA have been on the downhill trajectory as the superpower is offended with Pakistan for not taking action against Haqqani Network in Pakistan. Afghan Taliban are considered as responsible for intense fighting in Afghanistan killing Afghan and Allied combat troops including the civilians. The US has stopped Pakistan’s military assistance to purchase fighter planes. The Coalition Support Fund (CSF) is also in doldrums as retribution for not ‘doing any action’ against Haqqani Network.
President Obama made it clear that US would stay in Afghanistan for longer period of time. The defence analysts are of the view that the US presence in Afghanistan for much longer period is foregone conclusion considering the long term and short term geo-political interests of the US. USA has vital stakes in the stability and security of Afghanistan. Is Pakistan prepared to withstand the economic, diplomatic and political cost if US finally abandons Pakistan as a lost case in frustration? This is the fundamental question that deserves the attention of the Pakistani foreign/security policy planners in order to evade the probability of eating the humble pie scenario.
In the domestic front, the government should implement the National Action Plan in letter and spirit. First of all, it should take action against the proscribed outfits those bring out big processions in the big cities in the full glare of media to embarrass the government. The international community watches their activities bitterly hurting the credibility of the country and the government alike. It gives the clear message either the government is scared of them or taking solace in double speak. This is not going to work. Such unlawful activities of the proscribed organisations have hurt the credibility of the country to the considerable level. US military general based in Afghanistan has opined Let, Jem and Haqqani Network as threat to the whole region.
It should be abundantly clear to all, that as long as the state of Pakistan does not take action against the proscribed organisations and against the Haqqani Network, the international community will not take our words and actions seriously against extremism and terrorism. Actions against such outfits not only be taken by the government but also be seen to be taken by the international community. It is easier said than done. But, the leadership takes decisions under most inhospitable conditions judging from the perspective of positives outnumbering negatives. The leadership is at its best when it turns adversary into opportunity. Pakistan leadership has to prove its worth during these testing times.