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A Time To Unite

The terrorists who strike South Asia (mainly India) from time to time have a precocious propensity to do so close to a noteworthy event, e.g. whenever a US President (or someone likewise important) is about to visit the region. Despite the fact that India has a fair number of militants, Naxalites, Mizos, Nagas, Manipuris etc with several thousands of square miles under their control and who are certainly not Islamic, any major terrorist activity is blamed immediately on Pakistan, lack of evidence notwithstanding! That it also puts Pakistan on the defensive as a terrorist-ridden State (if not a sponsor) is not a coincidence anymore.  Whoever thought up the Mumbai blasts (targetting first class railway compartments?) did not have mayhem only in India’s economic capital in mind, Pakistan’s image in the world (and existence as the only muslim nuclear entity) was the real target.  No mean coincidence that for the past four weeks the Economist, the Atlantic Monthly, Time, Newsweek, etc etc have been running remarkably similiar articles attacking Musharraf and Pakistan, in that order, much before the Mumbai blasts.  The coincidence goes on when you note the “accusations” list against Pakistan are strikingly in sequence. 

Had not the Hezbollah kidnapping of the two Israeli soldiers invited a disproportionate response from Israel and removed Mumbai from the prime media forces, Pakistan would have been on the rack, the major agenda item for G-8 world leaders at St Petersburg, an “unstable” muslim nuclear State exporting terrorism! No coincidence that right on cue the Indian PM Manmohan Singh, on his way to the G-8 conference as an invited observer, implored G-8 leaders to condemn terrorism and its sponsors, making it quite obvious he meant Pakistan. The Middle East violence put everything else for G-8 on the back-burner.   Coincidences  aside,  this  was  a  well  planned   media offensive, a meticulously orchestrated campaign whose timing for G-8 attention was upset by Hamas and Hezbollah.

Pakistan certainly has problems and it would be foolhardy to either deny or try to gloss it over.  These problems are not insurmountable and need to be addressed, by a Pakistan that is united in the face of adversity. The nation (and all its leaders without exception) must be aware of the profound danger to our continued status as a nuclear power, if not a real enough danger to our existence as a nation. If Gen Musharraf fails to look reality in the eye and correct the anomalies than the rumours of his imminent departure (with apologies to Mark Twain) will not be greatly exaggerated.

Instead of the tribal areas (FATA) being our source of strength in time of war, they have become a weakness in time of peace.  No State can permit any individual or group to thumb an armed finger at the State and get away with it, in any case most militants aliens from Chechnya, Yemen, Uzbekistan, etc. While the campaign in South and North Waziristan is officially a “war against terrorism” a la the US, it is very much in Pakistan’s own interests that we curb armed militants from having free rein.  With pervasive sympathy for Taliban within Pakistan’s population (as opposed to Al-Qaeda) this is a Catch-22 proposition, with a damned if you will and damned if you won’t caveat.  The government is now doing what it should have done in the first place, negotiate more and fight less, and be dynamically innovative.  The whole of FATA must be a designated as a Special Tribal Economic Zone (STEZ), over the next year or so the Afghan Transit Trade (ATT) must be phased out completely, with STEZ providing for all of Afghan requirements.  The only ATT allowed should be public sector imports of foodgrains and POL products.

GOP has done well by calling the Akbar Bugti bluff! Enduring   two   years  of  excesses   inspired  by  him, the FC has reacted only when attacked directly. Most of his misguided followers have already surrendered unconditionally. Time now to go on the offensive and eliminate the handful of militants still left with this cruel, sadistic and selfish old man stuck in the mountains. The disturbances are only confined to two districts, the perception Province-wide of a revolt is a fiction, far more than actual fact.  The population if not in area is almost equally divided between the Baloch and the Pakhtun, the coastal tribes having no allegiance to either.  A “London Plan” about a greater Balochistan is certainly fashionable in Western strategic circles, more Iran-specific than Pakistan, in ethnic terms about 100 years too late from becoming a fact.  The Gulf State involved in this conspiracy must be informed in clear, unambiguous, unequivocal language they have much more to lose by playing such silly games.

The looming water problem and the Shia-Sunni strife has to be contained by following pro-active policies, the domestic media has to be mobilized to play a positive role.  The assassination of Allama Hassan Turabi was shocking, GOP must pull out all stops to solve this beastly attack.  Extermination is prescribed for all groups that are militants, at present they can be contained, in the near future they may run wild, fomenting anarchy a La Somalia. The focus of governance should be on providing justice at all levels, the Honourable Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and his associates having done a tremendous job in restoring the credibility and authority of the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan, the judicial momentum should be focus on the Provincial High Courts, thereafter the  subordinate courts.  SC should make salutary examples of maximum punishment for those indulging in perjury, in criminal cases perjurers suffering the same punishment the accused would have got because of their false statements under oath.  Stop the people telling lies with impunity under oath and see how justice starts to prevail in Pakistan!

PPP and PML(N) remain major political parties, other than those in the current mainstream, PML(Q), MQM and MMA.  Their leaders need to get involved in the process.  Neither Benazir Bhutto or Mian Nawaz Sharif are likely to stand on ego when the country faces such danger as now, one cannot doubt their patriotism. The “Charter of Democracy” can be suitably amended in satisfying military’s qualms in arriving at a co-existence formula. Putin put it very bluntly in so many words to US President Bush when the Russian record of democracy was targeted during the G-8 Conference, the Russians do not want to have “a democracy such as in Iraq”.  The national security apparatus of the State remaining with the President, politicians across the board must control day-to-day governance.

Pakistan’s image is taking a severe beating. International professionals capable of a strategy of direct media action have to be hired not only for damage control but positive image-making.  If companies are hired that also pander to Indian interests then the effect of the conflict of interest will work against Pakistan.

For the sake of the country Pervez Musharraf must accommodate the legitimate demands of the Opposition. Politicians in and out of power must understand the implications of the geo-political dangers and consequences thereof. Let us recognize that Musharraf managed to delay the eventuality of 9/11 on Pakistan for 5 years, we have again become the prime target. The Indians simply have their timing go wrong as happened with the contrived attack on Indian Parliament in Dec 2001 (identity of attackers still unknown). Somewhat geo-politically naïve, our major politicians are still patriotic.  It is not a time to fight among ourselves, it is very much a time to unite.

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