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January 21, 2015
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Now or Never!

Islamabad

January 21, 2015

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The piercing question is whether Pakistan has decided to take action against Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Taiba and other similar outfits under pressure of the international community in general and of the USA in particular or it is its own imitative. Whatever, it is analogous to ‘better late than never.’ The government and the security establishment must not stop here, otherwise, it will be perfectly deemed as too little too late with no relevance to the threat-level. Pakistan has to deliver and also be seen to be delivering. Alternatively, all bets will be off as the international community will not give yet another opportunity to the country to prove its mettle with unequivocal commitment.
Indiscriminate action against the extremist and terrorist organisations is the litmus test of the government’s commitment to effacing the distinction between the good Taliban and the bad Taliban. So far, its actions reflected halfhearted attempts to deal with the menace threatening the very basis of the State of Pakistan. They want to impose their toxic ideology on the people with bayonets drawn. The defiance and ridiculing the State and the Constitution of Pakistan by Maulana Abdul Aziz in the capital city explodes in the face of the government’s writ. The unabated proliferating of the seminaries in the big cities with impunity and government’s failure to regulate their activities only suggest either the government lacks the political will or is too scared to take action against them for the fear of their retribution. In both cases, the State has seemingly lost the war to the retrogressive and obscurantist forces and the people should be ready to face the worst. The nation of sheep will get the governance by wolves eventually.
The international community has already been bitten by our policy of playing on both sides of the street and as such will be sceptical of our new-found will to fight out the scourge after the massacre of Peshawar. US Secretary of State,

John Kerry, during his recent visit to Pakistan while appreciating the gains of military operation has in the same breath urged the government to take action against Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Taiba and other similar organisations. Happily, the government has decided to oblige the US and the international community, a giant step in the right direction indeed. The international community must not see the falling of shadow between the idea and reality in the implementation of the counterterrorism policy holistically. The world will only believe in us when actions against the purveyors of death and destruction are taken across the board. Till such time the international community’s deep-rooted suspicions will not shy away in the face of our abysmal credibility damaged due to our policy of running with foxes and hunting with hounds in the past. The successive governments, buckled under pressure of security establishment, had been relentlessly denying the existence of safe havens of terrorists on our soil till they established their Khilafat in North Waziristan. Their usurpation of our territory also buried much talked about doctrine of ‘strategic depth’ in our security perspective.
There is chink in the armour of our resolution even today. The banned organisations and their affiliates are taking out big processions in big cities implying clearly to desist from apprehending their supporters allegedly involved in terrorist activities. The government obliges them by looking the other way. The war on terror cannot be won halfheartedly and without clarity in absolute terms. The government’s determination is also mired with obfuscation and the people are not sure that it will deliver despite the overwhelming support right across the country. The abundance of platitudes to eliminate terrorists is hardly a source of solace for them because talk is not walking at a requisite pace. Nothing would be more heart-wrenching after Peshawar carnage if the mandarins are still inclined to follow their preferred strategy of expediency only to perpetuate their rule. The review of the National Action Plan the other day in a meeting presided over by the prime minister disclosed the sketchy details of the actions taken by the law-enforcement agencies. It looks too little in the face of existential threat. The assertion of the interior minister that only 10 to 15% seminaries were involved in the terrorism-related activities is a joke when seen in the context of the mindset coming out of such seminaries. Even his benign observation has unleashed a rage of the rightist parties those have warned the government of deadly consequences if they even contemplate for the reformation without their endorsement. The government has yet to come forward with befitting response to their posturing.
The state institution of judiciary is wrongly projected as having failed to deliver justice against terror. The judges decide the cases in an enabling environment based on evidence. It is indeed failure of the government because investigation and prosecution are the sole domains of the Executive branch of the government. Police is reluctant to investigate heinous crimes of terrorism due to temporal threats to them and to their families. The rustic investigation mechanism is not good enough to build up the case that could stand the witness box. The criminal justice system resultantly is successfully exploited by defence lawyers in favour of the criminals as they get scot-free under the maxim of benefit of doubt. It is not difficult for defence lawyer to seek the benefit of doubt in the face of flawed investigation and legal lacunas. The courts find it convenient to exonerate the hardcore criminals for want of sufficient evidence needed for conviction. The military courts have been established to deal with the terrorism cases as a last resort. But, the immediate question that agitates the minds of the people is as how the same investigating and prosecuting agencies will build up the case with irrefutable evidence to justify the conviction. Observance of due process of law is absolutely critical because the impact of the miscarriage of justice cannot be offset once committed. For life once taken away cannot be restored.
The other debate that has cropped up is on the 21st Amendment in the Constitution that the religious parties, Jamaat-e-Islami and JUI-F, have made controversial due to their abstention from the voting and now opposing it openly. The result of their opposition is that the national unity against terrorism and extremism that emerged after Peshawar tragedy is dwindling and the nation is again confused and divided. A divided nation cannot win a war. Jamaat-e-Islami is known for creating fissures utterly incompatible to the ground realities of the time. Its sense of proportion and ideological obstinacy can be judged from its edict decreeing that Pakistani soldiers killed in the war on terror were not martyrs and Taliban fighting against Americans are martyrs. MQM chief Altaf Hussain in his recent statement reportedly asserted that more than fifty percent Al-Qaeda, Daish, Taliban including Shaikh Khalid Muhammad, mastermind of 9/11, have been arrested from the residences belonging to important leaders of the Jamaat. Its activities in East Pakistan precipitated the creation of Bangladesh because of its abetment with General Yahya Khan. This party has hurt the country in more than one ways, may be not by design but surely by its poor judgements.
The other critic of 21st Amendment, Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, is known for his limitless ability of fishing out of the troubled waters. He ditched MMA at the nick of time in the reelection of the former dictator General Pervez Musharraf for the second term. The Maulana was holding the balance of power and he put it in favour of dictator at the eleventh hour while kept his allies guessing and thus pushed them in the black hole of political redundancy. His alliance with the PPP then and now with the present government were conditional of his getting pound of flesh, and keeps on demanding more when the time is right. If the ruling party approaches him to seek his support, that comes readily if the offer commensurate with his calculations. He is determined to defend his turf for reaping the resultant anticipated dividends unabatedly.
The pressure is building up on the government to take action against the seminaries if the government is sincere in eliminating terrorism in the country. These are considered by the impartial observers and defence analysts as dens of terror and hatcheries of suicide bombers. These seminaries are required to be brought under the control of the government if the war on terror has to be won on sustainable basis. The centres of retrogression and obscurantisms have to be rehabilitated with moderation and modernity. The supply line of extremists and terrorists has to be sapped. The government and the military establishment have to take this tough decision. Their dillydallying will beam out the message of their inability to hold ground against them and the fanfare of holding All Parties Conferences and summoning of the joint session of Parliament would be deciphered as futile exercises to mislead the people and the international community. But it is ‘now or never’ time precisely.
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