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Do Not Make War As Power Game

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Suffering of poor people living on the Pak-Afghan border has been increasing with each passing day, but no one has been giving attention to them. 

All the politicians and rulers are busy in the power game, but they have forgotten one thing  -- that this country is at war with terrorists. The country has accepted the role of frontline state in the war on terrorism. Pakistan is a strange country as on the one hand it is the frontline state in war terrorism, but on the othe hand it has been supporting terrorism.

Most of the tribesmen think that US President Bush in not serious about the war on terrorism. Actually it has used the 9/11 incident for increasing their wealth. Before 9/11 we had no knowledge about terrorists, but the tribal areas are being ruled by terrorists.

The double standard of the rulers has put the very integrity of Pakistan at stake. A writer Abbas Rashid discussed the situation in Pakistan. According to him, Pakistan celebrated its 60 years of independence under a cloud. Among other things, Independence Day had been preceded by serious deliberations on the imposition of emergency. There were the inevitable comparisons with the stable system of governance that India has evolved over the duration and Pakistan’s frequent bouts of military rule.

A survey jointly carried out in Pakistan and India in July-August sought to gauge popular perceptions on key issues relevant to the future of both. The survey, sponsored by Dawn and Indian Express among others, sampled urban populations in both countries in the top ten cities of Pakistan and the top twenty cities in India.

The relationship between the two states, given their history, is a central concern for people on both sides of the border. It is a hopeful sign that nearly 80% of the people in both countries thought that outstanding issues between the two should be resolved through negotiations, though hardliners in India outnumbered Pakistan almost 2:1 with 16% of those polled in India favouring war as the only solution as opposed to only 9% in Pakistan.

However, while more Pakistanis abjure war, they are also less optimistic about improved relations with India compared to the Indians’ perceptions about future relations between the two countries.

More than two-thirds of the Indian respondents would like the two countries to forget their past and work towards a more friendly future. Considerably less, though a substantial 44% of the respondents, share that view in Pakistan. The Kashmir issue seems central to this difference. Obviously, few Pakistanis are happy to see Kashmir merged with India but what is significant about the response among Pakistanis is that almost as many favoured an independent Kashmir as sought its annexation with Pakistan, 47% and 48% respectively. This level of popular acceptance of the Kashmiris themselves, rather than Pakistan, deciding Kashmir’s destiny is a significant departure from the past.

In terms of governance within their respective countries too, the response on both sides has been interesting. While in neither country is there much trust in the police, the courts rank high in popular esteem. One wonders if on Pakistan’s side, the same level of confidence in the courts would have been expressed had the survey been carried out last year. One may differ on the extent to which Pakistan is a different place in the aftermath of the events beginning with March 9 but there is little doubt that the Bar and the Bench triggered a collective rethink that is reminiscent of the 1970s.

However, it is with regard to the institution of the military that the survey’s findings should give us pause. Nearly two thirds (64.6%) of the Indians said they had trust in the army while not much more than one-third (38. 6%) in Pakistan had the same response. Does this have something to do with the military’s frequent interventions in the arena of governance? In any case, it is obviously a cause of concern not just for the army but also for the nation. If there is any degree of accuracy at all in the figure, it suggests a level of resentment or disconnect that cannot be taken lightly.

At least some of this would appear to be a response to the current scenario with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf insisting on holding on to power. He is willing to concede that his popularity has gone down and that his advisors did not give him the best advice or, more generally, mistakes were made. But at the end of the day, he wants himself re-elected, in uniform and by the current assemblies regardless of the extent to which all of this militates against the spirit of any kind of a democratic dispensation. Meanwhile, he is quite happy to declare that the best thing for leaders of the two mainstream parties would be to stay out of the country.

However, that wish is not likely to come true. It is a sign of the times that a 7-member bench of the Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Thursday that the Sharif brothers were free to return home whenever they wanted and rejected the government’s plea to the contrary.

Similarly, with or without a deal, Benazir Bhutto is likely to return by the end of the year. What then? Will both be arrested and put behind bars? If the cases against them are seen by the court as politically motivated, it will not be long before they are given relief. And then, once again, we will be back to the emergency or martial law options. But where will this lead? And are these options that Musharraf seriously wants to consider given the recent poll’s findings about popular perceptions and trust in institutions?

Far better for Musharraf to facilitate the transition that at this turning point seems within the nation’s grasp. If for a moment the president could see the Bar and the Bench as well as the media not so much as adversaries but as agents of change that could put Pakistan on a different track altogether, he might come to a different conclusion as to the manner in which his destiny is linked to that of the nation. In doing less, he could do far more for his country. And it is not just his individual role that is at issue here but that of the institution. The military has a serious enough task to perform, which is not governing the country itself, but aiding a legitimate government to do so.
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Muhammad Khurshid, a resident of Bajaur Agency, tribal areas situated on Pak-Afghan border is journalist by profession. He contributes articles and news stories to various online and print newspapers. His subject matter is terrorism. He is also (more...)
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