Saturday, 4 May 2019

Najam Sethi on Pakistan Military's Truths

 Najam Sethi in The Friday Times

The world according to Al Bakistan

In a wide ranging and far reaching “briefing”, Maj-Gen Asif Ghafoor, DG-ISPR, has laid down the grundnorm of state realism. But consider.

He says there is no organized terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan. True, the military has knocked out Al Qaeda/Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and degraded the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. But a question mark still hangs over the fate of our “freedom fighter” jihadi organisations which are deemed to be “terrorist” by the international community. That is why Pakistan is struggling to remain off the FATF black list. The Maj-Gen says Pakistan has paid a huge price in the martyrdom of 81,000 citizens in the war against terror. True, but the world couldn’t care less: these homegrown terrorists were the outcome of our own misguided policies. He says that “radicalization” took root in Pakistan due to the Afghan jihad. True, but we were more than willing partners in that project. He says that terrorism came to Pakistan after the international community intervened in Afghanistan. True, but we provided safe haven to the Taliban for nearly twenty years and allowed them to germinate in our womb. He says it was decided last January to “mainstream” proscribed organisations. True, but what took us so long to tackle a troubling problem for twenty years when we were not busy in “kinetic operations”?

Maj-Gen Ghafoor says madrassahs will be mainstreamed under the Education Ministry. A noble thought. However, far from being mainstreamed, the madrassahs have so far refused to even get themselves properly registered as per the National Action Plan. Now the Punjab government and religious parties have refused to comply. Indeed, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government is actively funding some big ones which have provided the backbone of the terrorists.

But it is Maj-Gen Ghafoor’s briefing on the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) that has generated the most controversy. He says the military has responded positively to its demand to de-mine FATA and reduce check posts but is constrained by lack of civil administration in the area and resurfacing of terrorists from across the border. Fair enough. But most of the “disappeared” are still “disappeared” and extra-judicial killings, like those of Naqeebullah Mehsud, are not being investigated. He wants to know why the PTM asked the Afghan government not to hand over the body of Dawar to the Pakistan government. He has accused PTM of receiving funds from hostile intel agencies. If that is proven it would be a damning indictment of PTM.

The PTM has responded by accusing the military of being unaccountable and repressive, a view that is echoed by many rights groups, media and political parties across the country.

In response, Major General Ghafoor has threatened: “Time is up”. Presumably, the military wants to detain and charge some PTM leaders as “traitors”. That would be most inadvisable. It will only serve to swell the PTM ranks. It may even precipitate an armed resistance, given the propensity of foreign intel agencies to fish in troubled waters. We also know how the various “traitors” in Pakistani history have ended up acquiring heroic proportions while “state realism” dictated otherwise. The list is long and impressive: Fatima Jinnah, Hussein Shaheed Suharwardi, Mujeebur Rahman, G.M. Syed, Khan Abdul Wali Khan, Khair Bux Marri, Ataullah Mengal, Akbar Bugti, etc. etc. We also know the fate of “banned” organisations – they simply reappear under another name.

The PTM has arisen because of the trials and tribulations of the tribal areas in the last decade of terrorism. The Pashtun populace has been caught in the crossfire of insurgency and counter insurgency. The insurgents were once state assets with whom the populace was expected to cooperate. Those who didn’t suffered at the hands of both. But when these “assets” became “liabilities”, those who didn’t cooperate with the one were targeted by the other. In consequence, from racial profiling to disappearances, a whole generation of tribal Pashtuns is scarred by state policies. The PTM is voicing that protest. If neighbouring foreign intel agencies are exploiting their sentiments, it is to be expected as a “realistic” quid pro quo for what Pakistani intel agencies have been serving its neighbours in the past.

If the Pakistani Miltablishment has been compelled by the force of new circumstances to undo its own old misguided policies, it should at least recognize the legitimate grievances of those who have paid the price of its miscalculations and apply balm to their wounds. Every other household in FATA is adversely affected one way or the other by the “war against terrorism”. The PTM is their voice. It needs to be heard. The media should be allowed to cross-examine it. In turn, the PTM must be wary of being tainted by the “foreign hand” and stop abusing the army.

The civilian government and opposition in parliament should sit down with the leaders of the PTM and find an honourable and equitable way to address mutually legitimate and “realistic” concerns. The military’s self-righteous, authoritarian tone must give way to a caring and sympathetic approach. Time’s not up. It has just arrived.

No comments:

Post a Comment