Friday February 03, 2023

Agree or not, the operation will go on


September 10, 2015
DUBAI: When the all-important federal apex committee meets on Thursday in what may probably be its most important meeting, the pressure and onus would totally be on the politicians to take decisions, not on the army.
Why this may be so is that the army chief has already announced in categorical and unequivocal terms that the operations will continue to its logical end against terrorists, their helpers, abettors, financiers and collaborators. There is thus no middle path to negotiate.
Among the politicians who will have to either agree with the Committee’s decisions or break away and announce their future course of action, the most critical case would be of Sindh chief minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah and then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Qaim Ali Shah has to defend PPP in view of the Dubai meetings held recently. He has been tasked to protest. How much can he do so is an open question but in one of the previous apex committee meetings he had offered to quit but was quickly stopped by Asif Ali Zardari. On Thursday Mr Zardari will not be present.
The Rangers will have to explain and defend their actions, especially against the PPP leaders and MQM and follow up with detailed briefings about what they have found during their investigations and interrogations. They may disclose some future plans as well, depending on how much they can trust the participants.
Will they be able to convince the aggrieved parties, is not important because as per the army chief, the operation will not go into reverse gear against any one. So it will be for the politicians to accept or reject the decisions.
For the PM, the key decisions would be about the next phase of the operation against corruption and actions against terrorists, extremist religious groups and their helpers and abettors in Punjab.
This could be a tricky issue for the PML-N leadership. Why this may be so important is that the PPP and MQM have, to some extent successfully, portrayed the Karachi operation

as an operation only against Sindh. The Rangers and the army have to nullify this perception and the only way to do this would be to extend its scope and extent across all provinces and across all parties and groups.
Thus Punjab and the federal government will come under the sharp focus and PM Sharif has to decide how far he will allow this creeping coup to encroach in his governed territories.
To call it a creeping coup may not be totally justified but this is what has happened as the politicians have, by their acts of omission and commission, created vacuums, which have been, willingly or otherwise, filled by forces that otherwise had no business to get involved. The Constitution gives the executive authority to elected representative governments.
It was the politicians’ failure, as a collective stakeholder, to stop terrorism, corruption, maintain law and order, provide good governance and establish their writ and credibility but they faltered to the extent that a new system of apex committees had to be created, somewhat outside the realm of the constitutional boundaries, under the prevalent or sub-surface application of the doctrine of necessity.
Once the politicians lost face, they had to surrender one power after another, and today the country is being run through apex committees with the governments, Parliament and other state institutions almost becoming irrelevant or looking not at elected governments but outside powers. It may be a sad commentary that NAB, FIA, Rangers and others had to become active after unannounced meetings and briefings, read orders, given by the army and the establishment.
So in the Thursday’s apex committee meeting if everyone agrees on the course already charted out, and announced by the army chief, the operations will gain more strength and speed. If the politicians resist it will then be a monumental and a watershed moment in the current phase on how the National Action Plan will proceed. Proceed it has to, led by the army. This is certain, come what may.