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A MATTER OF SHAME

That the wolves would soon be at the door should not have surprised anybody, what is surprising is that Imran Khan’s people were not better prepared to deal with the hungry pack left out in the political cold. Despite the losers’ calling for mass rejection of the alleged July 25 election rigging, they failed to mobilise the streets. Fazlur Rahman’s vociferously fulminated that the new National Assembly (NA) would not be allowed to go into Session, it did (without him). In an act of sheer hypocrisy he tried being elected from the same platform he condemned, what’s new?  Subsequently when the “helicopter to Banigala” story failed to take traction, Usman Buzdar’s selection as the Chief Minister (CM) Punjab was made a point of contention. Barely 12 days into governance incomplete staff homework led to the “Dr. Atif Mian” fiasco. The opposition has been milking this heaven-sent opportunity for all its worth.

Religious extremists lost out to the Pakistan Armed Forces on the battlefield in their bid to take over the country violently.  Wiped out from their sanctuaries the religious extremists also lost out big on the ballot box, however they remain a virulent violent minority. Including the vote tally of the moderate religious-minded parties like the JI, etc, have polled less than 12% of the vote nationally but still retain considerable nuisance value.  This they exercise by clogging up choke-points in cities like Islamabad, there is nothing more potent a religious issue than the “Ahmadi” one.

Discriminating against a minority means violating the Constitution. Grievances are mostly manufactured and incidents staged to enflame public opinion. To quote extracts from my article of Dec 3, 2015, “Falsely accusing its security officer of burning pages of the Holy Quran, a violent mob consisting of people from the adjoining villages attacked the “Pakistan Chipboard Factory” in Jhelum on Nov 20. Claiming most men in the mob were drunk and were only there to steal valuables. MPA Mehar Muhammad Faiz, sent by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to investigate, said “Though it had nothing to do with religion, they stormed the factory on the excuse of blasphemy allegations.”  In the “Dr Atif Mian” affair the govt headed off a full-fledged crisis in the making by requesting the renowned economist to fall on his sword. To their credit so did two of his colleagues from the Economic Advisory Council (EAC).  All this left a bad taste in the mouth and opened the doors for future blackmail, particularly on the most sensitive issues of religion.

While we cannot accept discrimination on the basis of sect, caste, race, religion, colour, etc, Imran Khan cannot afford controversies threatening his govt less than a fortnight of into governance.  In the prevailing environment discretion has to be the better part of pragmatism.  His excellent credentials notwithstanding, the cause for Pakistan would have been better served by not making Dr. Atif Mian a “cause célèbre” for all the wrong reasons.   The selection of individuals by govt must be by due process, both the advantages and the backlash must be analyzed through active war-gaming.

As for the Ahmadis and their not being good citizens of Pakistan, flashback to midnight Dec 12, 1971. Lt Col (later Brig) Mohammad Taj SJ & Bar, Commanding Officer (CO) 44 Punjab (now 4 Sindh) assembled his “O” Orders Group adjacent to Sanohi village near Chor.  60 Bde from 33 Div had been moved post-haste from Rahimyar Khan to reinforce the Chor-Umerkot Sector because of the overwhelming Indian pressure on the badly outnumbered out gunned 55 Bde under constant Indian air attacks. The mission given to 44 Punjab was rather desperate, capture the ridge overlooking Sanohi Village in a two-company attack before first light 13 Dec so as to deny the Indians physical domination of Chor and the area surrounding by direct fire.  In many ways it was a last throw of the dice, to deny Indians access to the green belt it was do or die! When the CO asked for questions, one of the company commanders excused himself as having a heart pain, another said his ankle was badly sprained.  There was stunned silence in the makeshift dugout!

To quote my article “The Ides of March Again” on March 2013 “Capt Naseer Tariq and 2/Lt Hanif Butt (or Singawala as we affectionately knew him) vociferously volunteered to go with us into the unknown, cheerfully brave, fighting for country and willing to die for it. Being “Ahmadis” they left the Army a few years later as Majors, retiring as outstanding soldiers. One is proud that these courageous sons of the soil are still my friends 42 years later, notwithstanding their shortened career they still swear by the uniform they wore and the country they boldly defended. Where were “the defenders of the faith” (of the warped version that is) when these two were willing to give the ultimate sacrifice?” unquote. And what answer do I now give to these two outstanding and selfless sons of the soil?  That a small group of bigots are ex-communicating them as citizens misusing our religion for their own crass selfish purposes?

And then comes the matter of how Dr Atif Mian became a controversy. Writing in his blog Haider Mehdi says, “This is not as much a failure of PTI or Imran buckling under the right wing threat, it is a manifestation of a serious lack of a professional, thorough, rigorous and robust, decision making process”. unquote. Relying on real-time correct information this comprehensive process must be thoroughly analysed before a decision is made, not to “debate a decision till death” according to Richard Nixon, Imran Khan must be sanitized from bad or motivated advice by a competent staff system.  He cannot afford incompetence, corruption or motivation in his decision-making circle. To quote Haider Mehdi further, “while he (Imran) probably had nothing to do with the initial decision, every screw up, every stupidity, every unprofessional act, every incompetence, every deliberate sabotage by any member of his team, whether deliberate or in ignorance will lie at Imran’s doorstep and tarnish his brand!”, unquote.  In the present circumstances where the Pakistan Army has with great sacrifice won a victory on the battlefield in a sustained campaign against religious bigots and the electorate has given them a resounding blow at the ballot box, we should have been pragmatic and not given them the space they got.

Leaders must take action to protect the minorities, realizing their responsibilities they must have the courage to go with their conviction. To quote David Seabury, “Courage and conviction are powerful weapons against an enemy who depends only on fists or guns. Animals know when you are afraid; a coward knows when you are not”. Those that raise their hand on the weak and helpless are nothing but animals and cowards.

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