When the cat is away, PML-N returns to old ways
ISLAMABAD: It was back to old ways after Parliamentarians had approved changes in the Constitution besides making tall claims to wipe off religious terrorism from the country.
Thursday was almost an anti-climax. The moment debate on the Peshawar carnage started, ministers were seen almost making a beeline to leave the premises. A few female members of the PML-N ‘knitting squad’ were found immersed in their usual gossip and the backbenches were mostly vacant. As Nawaz Sharif scooted away to Bahrain so did his party to their own merry ways, all that jazz about heralding a new beginning evaporated into thin air.
What was the point in holding a lengthy discussion on the Peshawar carnage when there was nobody to listen? Even interior minister left when PPP’s Nafeesa Shah was in the middle of her speech. Unsurprisingly, she chastised Nisar for not taking Parliament into confidence on the aftermath of the Peshawar massacre. “We are yet to be told about the National Action Plan,” she protested. “Where is Parliament in this whole show; perhaps prime minister should invest as much time and resources as he spends on mega projects as motorways.” Nafeesa had a point that the Peshawar massacre is not just a local issue but has linkages with our regional and international politics. We have proxies who are connected to a much larger internal game. “Why can’t we have a full-fledged foreign minister,” she asked while lamenting that Sartaj Aziz is yet to educate us on the foreign dimensions of the issue. Nafeesa mentioned the ominous “defensive offence” doctrine of India’s National Security Adviser, Ajit Doval, who proposes proactive subversion against Pakistan through proxies. Doval argues that this is the only way Pakistan could be taught a lesson. The speech has been around for many months but has been noticed by our politicians and media only recently.
Nafeesa raised a volley of questions: Is this doctrine already being practised in Pakistan? Is this why we see constant shelling on the working boundary? Will somebody in the government explain to us whether the Peshawar bloodshed has any foreign connection? Do we have a plan to counter the new Indian doctrine?
A former journalist, Nafeesa warned that the task was not over. The changes in the laws and the Constitution are a bitter pill that everybody has swallowed with a heavy heart. In the process, Parliament may have trampled over at least two legal jurisdictions. One was the separation of judiciary from the executive. Military is, after all, an extension of the executive that is barred from using judicial powers. The military courts may also be in conflict with the fundamental rights. Though Parliament is supreme in making laws, Nafeesa felt that Parliament should at least present its reasoning for “the extraordinary step in extraordinary circumstances.”
Mahmood Khan Achakzai was even harsher when he described the new amendment as haram, which Muslims are allowed to eat if it comes to a matter of their survival.
Whatever the case, all eyes are set on the courts. It will be difficult for the courts to throw out massive step taken by Parliament but, as they say, it is not ever till it is over. The fears about the judicial intervention continue to reverberate in the power corridors. One theory doing the rounds is the courts might propose a quick time-barred disposal at the appellate level. If the British judges can sit day and night to dispose of cases in recent London riots why can’t our judges clear an appeal within a week, opined a PPP member who did not want to be named. The guilt factor about forming military courts definitely lurks among political parties, particularly in the PPP. Raza Rabbani and Bill the kid are not the only ones who are upset over the military courts. But now that military courts have become a reality, there was increased focus on ‘What Next’.
Nafeesa was spot on when she said: “our war is not against a militant or a terrorist but against militancy and terrorism.” This calls for doctrinal recipes.The whole formula would fail if it were not backed by socio-political package to cleanse the society of religious extremism.
We are yet to see the contour of the security plan in action. Nafeesa pointed to two recent developments where the government was found wanting. One was the leniency, or perhaps fear, shown by the government in the case of Maulana Abdul Aziz. “Is Lal Masjid public or private property,” Nafeesa asked while pointing out that if we can’t take action in the heart of Islamabad how will people trust us for the rest of the country. Another incident was the vandalism exercised in Lahore on Salman Taseer’s death anniversary. She believed these were not random incidents but represented the doctrinal fight that we needed to undertake.
Nafeesa did not mention but the cancellation of notorious terrorist Akram Lahori may have been in her mind. Many wondered if this was an indicator of things to come. Surely, Taliban have lots of muscle power and money to pay in Qisas for their brethren on death row. What about the crimes against the State? Can this also be forgiven in Qisas, one may ask.
Aftab Sherpao had earlier concurred that the military courts were, at best, deterrence. We need a much larger socio political package to deal with the problem. The question is: will the government take the doctrinal war to the streets and gather courage to take on extremist fundos?
In the meantime, the biggest challenge for Nawaz Sharif is to manage his own party. It is not just about pushing them to take Parliament seriously. The rule of laws gets smashed when every MNA/MPA gets his or her choicest police and administrative officer in their area. Ultimately, it is all about governance. Should somebody take a lead in Punjab where, on average, no SHO survives beyond six months?Tailpiece: As we congratulate Imran Khan on his new marriage we request him to stop his party men from calling Reham Khan as “Bhabi”. She can’t be Bhabi to everybody!