Presidential election held on 30 June 2013 kicked up lot of dust owing to PPP’s cranky behavior. PML-N’s demand to seek a change of date was not with mala fide intention. It was wrong on part of well-meaning but secular Fakhru Bhai not to understand the significance of 27th Ramadan which fell on 6th August and that many either sit in Aitiqaf or perform Umrah during last ten days of Ramadan. He should have owned his mistake and changed the date rather than showing his inability to do so when requested by PML-N. He displayed weakness when he was required to act firmly to stop pre-poll rigging and rigging on polling day, but became rigid at a wrong time. Rather than taking decision he passed the buck to the Supreme Court.
PPP’s attitude was debatable and it gave an impression as if Raza Rabbani would win the contest if held on 6 August and not otherwise. Judging from the political strength of each party and alliance of MQM and JUI-F with PML-N, victory of Mamnoon Hussain was a foregone conclusion. The only wishful possibility visualized by Rabbani was absence of large number of PML-N and JUI-F Parliamentarians on 6 August because of Aitiqaf/Umrah might pave his way to victory. He also naively thought that nomination of a weak candidate by PML-N might help him in winning over dissidents from PML-N and allied parties. Hidden motives were to make the election and judiciary controversial.
Notwithstanding some undesirable reservations expressed about Mamnoon, none will disagree with me that anyone howsoever mediocre but clean would be better than tainted Zardari. Hence boycott of election by PPP and its two worthless allies was in bad taste. PTI wisely decided to take part in election and field its candidate, although Imran Khan has still not got reconciled to general elections results and has landed himself in avoidable trouble. Mamnoon won with an overwhelming majority and will enter the presidency as a ceremonial president in September, putting an end to palace intrigues pursued by his predecessor.
Presidential election was no issue; what concerns Pakistanis are insecurity of life and property, energy crisis, faltering economy, declining morals and values, erosion of national sovereignty and honor, media’s negativity and foreign interference. Blood is oozing out of every pore of Pakistan for the last many years without blood transfusion to replenish the loss. As a result, the state is getting enfeebled with every passing day. The only preventive measure taken is to barricade the country by putting string of barriers and check posts and pitching security forces against faceless enemy which is well-trained, well-equipped and supported by external powers. While lawless FATA has to some extent been secured because of heroics of Army and FC, settled areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and urban centres where police is in the forefront remain in turmoil. Militants stab the chosen target with ease and get away. No fool-proof system has been devised to nip the evil in the bud by preventing occurrence through timely intelligence.
This myth has also been broken after the DIK jail break about which all concerned had been forewarned well in time. Police sluggishness, ineptness and collusion with the militants were reasons behind the embarrassing outcome. It was in knowledge of all that the police are involved in high scale corruption and in league with the criminals particularly in Balochistan and in Sindh. Performance of KP police was relatively better in facing militancy. Some say this downslide is owing to unclear policy of PTI government regarding TTP.
While the effect of this demoralizing event had not faded away, the nation was subjected to another embarrassment in Islamabad on August 15 where a lone gunman kept the capital city police in a spin for over five hours. But for Zamurrad’s bold act, the high drama would have continued till next morning. Having seen the conduct of Islamabad Police and its senior officials on TV, it can be safely concluded that it is unfit to confront even minor challenges.
It is indeed mind boggling that our security forces have been fighting war on terror haphazardly for a decade without national security and counter terrorism policies. This is despite the fact that Pakistan is the biggest victim of terrorism. Reason behind this criminal neglect is that the elites have secured themselves within the confines of Red and Green zones, bulletproof vehicles, and ring of security guards while leaving the masses to fend for themselves. In hundreds of acts of terror, the underprivileged class has suffered the most. This unfortunate class had neither been taken into confidence to participate in US imposed war nor is in direct clash with the militants. It is caught between the crossfire of security forces, militants and foreign agents.
The police which are the frontline force to check crime and terrorism have been thoroughly corrupted and politicized by the elites to serve their ends. Moral turpitude of all segments of society has nosedived and distinction between good and bad blurred. Rather, dishonest officials are patronized and rewarded while the honest are seen as misfits. This downslide started during Gen Musharraf era which allowed complete liberty of action to Washington to neo-colonize Pakistan and India given a free hand to crush freedom movement in occupied Kashmir. Five-year inglorious rule of PPP-ANP-MQM combine ruined Pakistan’s economy, social fabric and state institutions.
Till 2002, FATA was unofficially recognized as Illaqa Ghair where murderers, absconders, car-lifters, abductors and criminals could find refuge from hand of law. Now whole of Pakistan has turned into Illaqa Ghair since there is no rule of law, elites are biggest law breakers, accountability is absent, law enforcers and lower courts are corrupt. Terrorists having confessed committing over hundred murders are set free; terrorists nabbed during close combat in war zones are given bail; those in jail are freed by terrorists. Anti-terrorist courts violate mandatory timeframe and take their time to decide high profile cases, and those sentenced to death are not hanged.
A stage had been set to declare nuclear Pakistan a failed state, but God saved Pakistan from sinking by turning the victory of USA in Afghanistan into defeat and thus checkmating its imperialist designs. Since ISAF cannot possibly pull itself out of the quagmire without the help of Pakistan, the US is grudgingly tolerating Pakistan. Issues on which the US has been making hue and cry are being put up with and friendly gestures made. Its affability is however not at the cost of annoying India which continues to remain in its good books. USA is not putting any pressure on India to stop its hostile acts against Pakistan as is evident from ongoing escalation of tensions along the LoC. TTP and BLA have not been bridled by CIA.
It is heartening to note that the new government has firmed up to stem the rot and to not only clean the mess but also improve the economy and living conditions of the downtrodden. Some positive steps have already been taken. Electricity policy has been formulated and curse of prolonged load shedding marginally controlled. PM Nawaz Sharif’s address was inspirational and well-intentioned but good intentions require speedy and result oriented implementation. What is needed now is to take all stakeholders on board and finalize coherent national security policy and counter terrorism policy at the earliest to control the scourge of terrorism. Setting up of Rapid Response Force (RPF) and Joint Intelligence Secretariat to combat terrorism by the close of this month is satisfying, but police needs a big overhaul and so do investigating and prosecution agencies and lower courts. Effective RPFs and effectual intelligence setup are also required in each province.
As regards foreign policy, friendship with immediate neighbors is desirable, but it should not be one-sided and at the cost of honor and dignity. Clear distinction should be made between friend and foe since enemies guised as friends have caused more harm to Pakistan. It is good that grant of MFN status to India has been put on hold till normalization of relations. China being all-weather and time-tested friend, should be trusted and envisaged long-term projects executed.
The writer is a retired Brig, defence analyst, columnist and author of several books. [email protected]
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.