Army is Neutral and Has No Favorites


by Asif Haroon Raja

Sudden emergence of Tehrik-e-Taliban-Pakistan (TTP) in December 2007 under unknown Baitullah Mehsud (deceased) from nowhere was in reaction to Gen Musharraf’s pro-US policies and its continued vendetta is because of the role of liberal parties pursuing Musharraf’s policies. The banned TTP is exploiting the disillusionment of the youth and frustration of the have-nots and has stepped up its propaganda war to sell its brand of SHARIAH (Islamic system). It is dreaming of establishing Islamic Emirate in FATA and has eyes on Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and rest of Pakistan. Assisted by other banned extremist groups, it has made inroads in southern Punjab and has its tentacles in other parts of Pakistan up to Karachi.
Finding that TTP has no scope in upcoming general elections on May 11, the TTP under Hakeemullah Mehsud has declared the democratic system practiced in Pakistan and constitution un-Islamic. It has vowed to disrupt elections and to fail evolution of democracy. Its suicide bombers and bomb carriers have already struck several political meetings, political offices, contestants and party workers of ANP, MQM, PPP and PML-N thereby posing caution on liberal parties in particular. Security agencies have warned of increase in attacks on high-value targets in the coming days.
Demonstrating its undemocratic trends, the TTP has not only openly opposed democracy but has also started propagating negative themes like “Why Democracy is Forbidden for Tribes”. A propaganda leaflet distributed by militants of Pasban-e-Shariat Organization in North Waziristan, rejecting the democratic system in FATA, is a case in point. The aim is to denounce the process of elections and create an atmosphere of anarchy and lawlessness in FATA. Devolution of power can only be ensured through democracy. Elected representatives have to study SHARIAH and then make laws for its implementation. Branding Government officials and Army personnel as un-Islamic is not fair. They are Muslims and their religion is Islam. Allegations against soldiers without any evidence are not justified.
People of FATA have seen the deep attachment of soldiers with religion. They offer five times prayers in war zone and recite Quran where daily skirmishes and casualties are a norm. Their religious fervor and innate commitment to defend the motherland inspires them to brave the hardships smilingly and to fight the foreign funded private armies of banned groups operating under an agenda. While they fight the non-actors with unmatchable courage and ferocity, they are benevolent and helpful towards the peace loving and law abiding people of FATA. They provide them security at the risk of their lives, share their rations with the needy, provide them free medical care, build their homes, and help them getting educated by constructing quality schools, colleges, cadet colleges and technical institutes.
Ample opportunities are being provided to both men and women to earn their livelihood at their own. All this is being done under a well considered rehabilitation and development plan initiated by Gen Kayani in 2010. For the first time election fever has gripped FATA. There is lot of activity and excitement about the elections and all major political parties have given party tickets to their candidates in all the seven tribal agencies.
While the Army is safeguarding the integrity of the country and developing FATA at a very heavy cost, the militants governed by their selfish agenda are defying the state and are pursuing destructive policies. They harbored foreigners including Al-Qaeda in the aftermath of occupation of Afghanistan by US led forces in 2001, and when the Army went in to South Waziristan to flush them out, they together with the foreign terrorists picked up arms and to this day are fighting the security forces. TTP hasn’t given up fighting despite several peace deals. To lengthen its fighting arm, it has co-opted the services of several banned groups involved in terrorism. This unwanted fight has caused a financial loss of over $70,000 and 40,000 civil and military fatalities.
Before out rightly condemning democracy, the TTP should carryout self-analysis whether its conduct has been strictly in accordance with Islamic teachings? It should answer whether Islam espouses destruction of schools, kidnapping for ransom, extortion, forcibly enrolling the youth and making them terrorists and brainwashing them to become suicide bombers, attacking mosques and funerals and slaughtering captives and then making video movies?
There is no objection to its demand of SHARIAH, since all religious parties as well as Tehrik-e-Insaf and PML-N also seek the same and want to make Pakistan an Islamic welfare state, but its efforts to enforce Islamic laws using violent means raise many questions. They are continuing to fight because of regular inflow of arms, equipment and funds supplied by their patrons based in Kabul. In no way they can compare themselves with Afghan Taliban fighting to free their homeland from occupation forces. Devoid of genuine cause the TTP and its affiliates are bound to fail.
The TTP members and other affiliated groups must understand that the youth in Pakistan in particular carry a negative view of the farcical democracy practiced by PPP led coalition of liberal parties during its five-year rule. The poor are also disenchanted with democracy and are fed up of politicians making false promises before the elections but getting disconnected after getting into corridors of power. They are looking towards the third force led by Imran Khan to bring a healthy change in decayed democracy. The people want either a wholly refurbished democracy or the military to takeover or Islamic system to be enforced. As per latest survey carried out by PEW, 84% Pakistani Muslims favor SHARIAH. However, none want the violence prone SHARIAH practiced by Taliban.
Appreciating the sentiments of the masses, Gen Ashfaq Kayani’s speech delivered at the passing out parade at Kakul gladdened the hearts of Pakistanis. Each and every word he uttered concerning linkage of Islam with Pakistan manifested the sentiments of over 95% Muslims of Pakistan. Barring the minuscule west loving secular brigade, all and sundry agree that Islam cannot be taken out of Pakistan and should remain a unifying force. His best part of the speech was that ‘regardless of the odds, Pak Army will keep on doing its best towards its common objective dream for a truly Islamic Republic of Pakistan envisioned by Quaid-e-Azam and Allama Iqbal’.
His speech distressed the liberals including liberal political parties which are these days actively agitating the settled issue of ideology of Pakistan at the behest of India and other anti-Pakistan foreign powers. Spate of ongoing terrorist attacks made the liberal parties cry out that the Caretakers, Election Commission and military establishment’s leaning towards the Right was visible and that liberal parties were being denied a level playing field to keep them out of power. Gen Kayani made an effort to dispel this misperception in his speech he delivered on the occasion of Yaum-e-Shuhada on April 30. While paying rich tributes to the sacrifices of martyrs of armed forces, paramilitary forces and police and acknowledging the resilience of general public, he held out an assurance that elections will be held on time.
He added that wholehearted assistance will be provided to ensure free, fair and peaceful elections that would contribute towards strengthening democracy. He also talked of the prevalent confusion about war on terror, whether it is our or someone else’s war. He said that these misgivings not only divides the national effort but also affects the resolve of soldiers fighting a very difficult war under tremendous odds. He stressed upon forging consensus on this vital issue that it is our war. With thousands of fatalities of officers and men and thousands of critically injured getting treated in hospitals, and seeing the infinite sufferings of their near ones, he was fully justified to say so.
This time there was a slight change in the pattern of colorfully arranged program of events. Instead of confining the events to Army Shuhada only, contributions of other two services as well as of police and politicians were also highlighted. ANP’s leader Bashir Ahmed Bilour who died at the hands of suicide bomber was extolled; his son Haroon Bilour was asked to come on the dais and express his views. Like his father he expressed his resolve to continue fighting terrorism till its complete elimination. Probably this move was made to make the event all-encompassing and to convince the liberal parties that their fears that they had been abandoned were unfounded and that the Army was neutral and had no favorites.


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Brig Asif Haroon Raja an Member Board of Advisors Opinion Maker is Staff College and Armed Forces WarCoursequalified, holds MSc war studies degree; a second generation officer, he fought epic battle of Hilli in northwest East Bengal during 1971 war, in which Maj M. Akram received Nishan-e-Haider posthumously. He served as Directing Staff Command & Staff College, Defence Attaché Egypt and Sudan and Dean of Corps of Military Attaches in Cairo. He commanded the heaviest brigade in Kashmir. He is lingual and speaks English, Pashto and Punjabi fluently. He is author of books titled ‘Battle of Hilli’, ‘1948, 1965 & 1971 Kashmir Battles and Freedom Struggle’, ‘Muhammad bin Qasim to Gen Musharraf’, Roots of 1971 Tragedy’; has written number of motivational pamphlets. Draft of his next book ‘Tangled Knot of Kashmir’ is ready. He is a defence analyst and columnist and writes articles on security, defence and political matters for numerous international/national publications.