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August 14, 2017

New threat to MAJ’s Pakistan


August 14, 2017

Month of August is landmark for Pakistan and its people. On August 11, 1947 its founder Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah unfolded his Magna Carta for a secular and liberal Pakistan to ensure empowerment of the people, irrespective of their caste, creed, colour or gender and most certainly not a theocratic state. And on 14th August we were an independent state.

In the 70th year of our independence we shall have to sincerely rededicate to MAJ’s vision in the right earnest rather than just be ritualistic, besieged by bigotry, sectarianism, violence and hatred. Looking in retrospect, what an irony it is for Pakistan that having suffered most in the war on terror, it remains permanently pilloried in the eyes of successive American administrations as the villain of the piece.

Our immediate neighbours—India, Afghanistan and Iran—with their own grouses on different counts seek to settle scores with us. In view of independent analysts, fault lies within our own parameters, domestic political, religious contradictions and perception that Pakistan’s powerful establishment remains committed to running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. We are lucky to have steadfast friend like China to stand by us always.

Once considered most trusted ally of the United States east of Suez, it has after sixty years down the road come to be Washington’s favourite whipping boy. Trump Administration is singularly hostile to it. Its officials that regularly visit Pakistan-while uttering few ceremonial praises for its sacrifices in war against terror—don’t hesitate in blowing hotter than before down its necks most brazenly conveying that Trump Administration would not accept its role as it is and would like it to do more in eliminating terrorism and helping it restore stability in Afghanistan.

No doubt Pakistan has come to be one country worst victim of American policies that bask in creating uncertainties in areas of their geo-strategic interests. Its pleadings that Islamabad is paying through its nose for the post-Soviet Union’s occupation of Afghanistan and the fall out seems to fall like seeds on the stony ground. Except of course one person in the previous American Administration, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton no one responsible in America for Pakistan’s sad plight had the courage to accept its responsibility for creating the Jihadis-turned Taliban-turned terrorists wreaking havoc within Pakistan, Afghanistan and the region. Most pathetic is the case of Kashmiris whose sad plight is oblivious to international community.

Wiser counsel always believes that before finding faults in external factors, forces, geo-strategic currents and cross-currents one should look deeply within to charter a correct course and seek a sense of direction that avoids pitfalls in seeking pastures new. Unfortunately, it has come to be a habit among the managers of the state that instead of thoroughly investigating and analyzing factors behind an untoward incident, they have instant answer in the blame game on external elements rather than getting to the roots of the problem within.

Divergent religious forces with bigoted agendas of their own after having opposed the idea of Pakistan and calling the Quaid Kafir-e-Azam found a safe heaven mainly in the province of Punjab for their nefarious agendas. Though they have different notions as how to practice their brand/sect of religion, they are united in subverting MAJ’s secular and democratic vision that had no place for religion in the business of the state. These elements readily found common cause with the power troika hell bent in replacing Pakistan’s secular raison d etre with the idea of a security state—an all purpose kit available for the Americans to exploit in the Cold War as well dismantling of the Soviet Union.

We have had various religious groups finding a favourable playing field in Pakistan funded by their Sunni and Shia financiers. The birth of Jihadis and their subsequent branching off have sprouted in various shapes all over now causing havoc to human kind. Pakistan and more so province of Punjab became an epicenter for the pursuit of what they call a theocratic state. In the post 9-11 Jihadi organizations became corollaries to Al-Qaeda and Taliban.

Like previously, the present American administration firmly believes that establishment in Pakistan has a deep nexus with such groups especially one led by a banned leader. Though he is supposed to be incarcerated, his opponents say that he is in protective custody. His Centre is overly active in business as usual.

Knowing well the fact that he is to Americans what could a bull be in a china shop. They have put prize money on his head; his organization is banned and prohibited to collect funds. And any bilateral talks would remain incomplete if he is not mentioned. To add insult to Washington’s injury or in his sublime audacity, his organization has decided to plunge in mainstream politics by establishing its as a political party to be registered with the Election Commission of Pakistan ready to participate in 2018 elections. With former President and ex-Army Chief General (Retd) Pervez Musharraf as his avowed mentor—one could smell a rat all over. Now its electoral importance to PML-N has also come out clear.

While its leader remains detained, the party will be led by his second-in-command. Its agenda is to convert Pakistan into ‘a real Islamic and welfare state’—whatever it means to them. It will provide its supporters protection and better cover to maneuverability without falling under the preview of American pressure for an effective crackdown on LeT and JuD. Not only it is a red rag for the Americans, it is no less for the Indians who insist that he had been the alleged mastermind behind the Mumbai terrorist onslaught in May 2008.

One wonders how Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif’s desire to build bridges with India will fare with the emergence of this party and how he will bring Indians on the conference table to discuss Kashmir issue. Notwithstanding the possibility of this party securing some electoral seats, its establishment at this critical juncture adds a sinister dimension to Pakistan’s murky politics. It is time to wake up for all patriotic, secular and liberal forces to join hands to effectively blunt moves to inject sectarian poison in the body politics of Pakistan. Any move to impose bigotry in the name of Islam be nipped in the bud. A little late would be too late.

Author is former High Commissioner of Pakistan to UK and a veteran journalist.

Charter of inter-institutional integration


Mian Saifur RehmanPakistan’s political dynamics is unique (if not strange) in itself. Here, the principle of empowerment  of institutions which is the hallmark of constitutionally required ‘separation of powers’ has not worked well to the advantage of the country. This is very unfortunate although the ‘separation of powers’ keeps the institutions within their respective domains and tries to strike a balance of power.

In practice, this wonderful theory ‘separation of powers’ that should have brought about balance and harmony among the institutions, has ended up most of the times in the past in the empowerment of one or two at the cost of others since the fight has predominantly been fought for supremacy. If one yields to the authority of the other, the other becomes haughty and dominating ascribing to itself the right to meddle into the affairs of others.

This has been happening for years in our country although during the last few years, things have changed with the institutions carrying out their constitutional duties within their prescribed limits in line with the theory of separation of powers thus contributing to the strengthening and perpetuation of democracy.

Still, the question remains that the parliament or the political parties have usually remained at the receiving end giving birth to the debate whether integration or greater integration can be more helpful than separation.

The sane ones in the society who have observed the national politics in depth, have arrived at the conclusion that the time has come for greater integration of the institutions into the system instead of promoting the idea of keeping the institutions within their own domains without showing concern for the greater, collective national interest with consensus of all the stakeholders.

In this regard, the idea given by Senate Chairman, Mian Raza Rabbani, seems to be the best option in the direction of this greater integration of all stakeholders, decision-makers and institutions.

And now former Prime Minister, Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, has also endorsed Rabbani’s greater integration or greater dialogue plan. This greater, inter-institutional dialogue is the need of the hour and if the parliament, the armed forces, the judiciary, the bureaucracy and other stakeholders unanimously arrive at the conclusion that all of them would sincerely work towards the common goal of empowering each other for the greater public good after ironing out their differences, reservations and complaints, democracy will set in the right direction at last rebuilding the confidence of the masses in the system raised by them (the masses) with their mandate that is not merely dependent on legal interpretations or misinterpretations.

It is a fact that our institutional framework has continued to be influenced, rather governed, by strong likes and dislikes and differences have seldom been ironed out for decades. It was in this backdrop that the country has seen a number of martial law regimes and military juntas and extreme hatred among the politicians for one another at the cost of sustained democracy (as well as hatred within some powerful quarters for the people’s representative body, the parliament).

It takes us to the conclusion that the differences have existed in reality. Some people go a bit further and describe it as jealousies among the institutions or even a battle of egos or supremacy. This supremacy factor and the desire for supremacy are the actual culprits that have to be done away with once and for all, whether it requires a new charter, more effective and fail-safe than Charter of Democracy, whether it be Charter of Tolerance or Charter of Inter-Institutional Integration.

At this juncture, Interior Minister Ch Ahsan Iqbal’s stress on greater unity also ought to be heeded to not because the one giving the advice is the interior minister but because his statement stands in total conformity with the situation on the ground. Nobody will differ with the minister when he says that the country is encircled with dangers and threats and that the country is in a constant state of war. All this calls for greater unity and in order to achieve greater unity, the role of the leading setups and institutions becomes all the more essential. The unity and harmony must flow from top to bottom and vice versa.    

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