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Are Rulers Still Playing Game?

By       Message Muhammad Khurshid       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink

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The citizens of the United States may be aware that Pakistan is a frontline state in the war on terrorism.

Just imagine a country at war and fighting on its own soil. There is no more dangerous an emergency.

Most of the tribesmen think that the main target should be elimination of terrorism. There might be people, who will oppose the state of emergency. But we the people of tribal areas have been living in state of terrorism. A war is being fought in the areas, which has been claiming the lives of innocent people. There will be no exaggeration to state here that rulers have been playing the game on the dead bodies of innocent people. How many people have to fall prey to this mad war?

One thing should be kept in mind, Pakistani society has been ruined by corruption. All the politicians are corrupt and so is the general. There is a possibility that US rulers may also be involved in this corruption. A newspaper comment discussed the situation in Pakistan.

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The Chief of the Army Staff, General Pervez Musharraf, has declared, according to Sheikh Rashid, the railways minister, a state of “Emergency Plus” because his order carries with it a Provisional Constitutional order (PCO) associated in Pakistan with a post-martial law status quo. In his address to the nation, General Musharraf held the Supreme Court largely responsible for the creation of a situation that necessitated the declaration of emergency. He says the judiciary had trespassed on the functions of the legislature and the executive and thus paralysed all governance.

What happened on Saturday was foreseen by many actors on the Pakistani political stage, especially this newspaper. We sounded many warnings to those who seemed bent upon confrontation, but these were either ignored or criticised. There was a division between those who sought a “revolutionary” change in favour of democracy and those who thought a “transition” would be less painful as well as more realistic, given the challenge of terrorism in the country. The newspaper was of the opinion that confrontation, if taken too far, would actually delay the date with democracy in January 2008 by when General Musharraf would have taken off his uniform and new general elections would have returned the peoples verdict. Indeed, we had argued against forcing a repetition of negative historical patterns in the country.

There were many who agreed with this “transitionist” view, but there was an opinion split across the board in the country which prevented realism from prevailing. The national economy, based on the “realism of opportunity”, silently supported transition, simply because it had done well during the period of political stability since 1999. The up and down movements of the stock exchange clearly signalled that any “revolutionary” fervour behind the desire to correct the “civil-military” relationship overnight in the country would be harmful.

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A few politicians grasped the possible reversion to old patterns if confrontation was taken too far. Others saw it too but the attraction of being in the middle of the lawyers’ movement, and sheer opportunism, closed their minds to the possibility of a national setback. Political alliances were fractured on the basis of these two ways of looking at the situation. Mainstream PMLN saw opportunity in gathering under the non-compromising banner unfurled by Jamaat-e Islami and Imran Khan; but the PPP and JUIF were convinced that any “zero-sum” face-off with President General Musharraf would be counter-productive. Interestingly, the instinct to back “transition” rather than “confrontation” was alive among parties with higher stakes in the functioning system after the 2002 elections.

There is no doubt that there was “judicial activism” in the country not normally seen in third world states where institutions often malfunction. Before he got wrongly dismissed in March 2007, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had hundreds, some say thousands, of suo motu cases under his belt. He had already put the brakes on privatisation by reversing the sale of Pakistan Steel Mills. But after his reinstatement, the apex court underwent a radical and extremist transformation that, as it turns out, has harmed rather than helped Pakistan. The lawyers’ movement and its support among the general public made the judges square off against the government.

Unfortunately, many electronic media journalists, flushed by their new found freedom to say whatever they liked, motivated by the principle of subjecting the state to accountability, and offended by the government’s action to remove them from scenes of conflict, added to the tendency to push the executive to the wall. Regrettably, too, the Lal Masjid in Islamabad was returned by the Supreme Court to the terrorists under these conditions. A suo motu judiciary went after the “missing” people cases with a vengeance, regardless of the nature of the terrorist charges against them, threatening the civil servants with punishments, and indirectly causing them to lose initiative in the pursuit of their duties.

The axe has fallen on the judiciary. At the Supreme Court level, 12 judges have bowed out while in the provinces 48 judges have found themselves without a job. While confrontation will intensify in the coming days, the alacrity with which some of the key vacated slots have been filled indicates a national divide that might help the Musharraf administration to control the situation. He has a political coalition which will back him, and he has politicians like Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Ms Benazir Bhutto who opposed the “revolutionary” intent of the confrontationists and may now cooperate if the situation doesn’t get out of hand.

In the “struggle” for democracy, the retreat of the state in the face of Al Qaeda’s terrorism had been either “denied” or subordinated to the higher goals of untrammelled democracy. The unrealistic, and some would say adventurist, confrontationist slogan was: get the general out of the system, dump the “American agenda”, and terrorism will vanish overnight. On the other hand, the warlords who spearhead the Al Qaeda thrust in Pakistan put forward conditions of ceasefire that no one pays heed to: removal of America and NATO from Iraq and Afghanistan and the proclamation of Islam of the Taliban variety in Pakistan.

Until now, the declared intent of President General Musharraf was to complete the “third phase” of holding elections. Now some ministers are saying that the general elections can be postponed in view of the deteriorating law and order situation posed by both the terrorists and the confrontationists. But this should not happen. While he copes with Al Qaeda, he must be held to his pledge to hold free and fair elections as originally promised in January 2008. If they are postponed, the crisis will deepen. Meanwhile, the restrictions on the media must be removed and the repressive measures undertaken to stifle protest must be halted.

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A defence expert Ayesha Saddiqa in her article threw light on the emergence of Taliban and terrorists. According to her, In his article ‘Whose war is this?’, Rasul Buksh Rais raised a pertinent point about the apathy of religious parties in not protesting the deaths of innocent security personnel and the rise of Talibanisation in the country. However, he is not the only one protesting. Recently, eminent civil society activist, Pervez Hoodbhoy also talked about the silence of civil society in protesting the obvious crime of the religious extremists. In both cases, the gripe is that in their rage against General Pervez Musharraf, politicians and members of the civil society are no longer considering the ‘clear and present danger’ to Pakistan posed by terrorism. This is not just the state of the politicians but applies to common people as well.

Let us consider why ordinary people do not have the ownership of this war on terror and why we don’t see protests against suicide attacks.

Criticism levelled against religious parties for their complacency is understandable because not only are such parties silent but also because of the uncertainty regarding their continued partnership with some militant groups. This partnership dates back to the Afghan War that these parties and militants had fought together. Moreover, religious parties would have little problem with the political agenda of the militants which is the imposition of sharia in the country.

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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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