Dr. Haider Shah

Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance (Plato).

The day the dam broke —Daily Times 21/01/12

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OVER A COFFEE: The day the dam broke —Dr Haider Shah

With bated breath the whole country is waiting for the glorious coming of his highness, Mansoor Ijaz. A beaming Akram Sheikh, in a charged voice, has declared that Mansoor was coming to establish truth and demolish falsehood

The year began with the hype created by Memogate-related judicial activism and estranged relations between the civilian government and the military establishment. If the holy security paradigm is put aside for a while and the contents of the so-called memo are examined, one is reminded of the chaos sketched by humourist James Thurber that erupted in Columbus, Ohio in 1913. Thurber speculated in his ‘The Day the Dam Broke’ story that the scare started when one man, possibly late for a lunch date with his wife, began to run east. And this suddenly set in motion a wave of anxiety that culminated in the whole town running for life amid rumours that the dam had broken.

Pakistan’s climate is particularly suited for similar kind of chaotic scenes triggered by rumours of all sorts. In fact, in 2005 the Thurber story suddenly became alive in Peshawar when the whole city was swarmed in the middle of the night by rumours of a tsunami (a real one, not that of Imran sahib). Mr Zafar Ali Usafzai wrote a nice piece about it then in a national daily. Those who staunchly believe in an imminent end of the world due to rampant immorality were fully justified in exacerbating the chaos but interestingly highly educated families were also not far behind in going berserk and heading towards Islamabad in heavy showers and a dark night. I was then not in Peshawar but in London so I remained deprived of the great laughter that various family members and friends had had at each other once their folly became well established. No one has any right to grin at the sight of fleeing Peshawarites in the wake of a chaotic situation created by a prophetic dream of a local religious personality. What happened then in one city is now happening at the national level and the most respectable institutions of the country are part of the chaotic mayhem.

With bated breath the whole country is waiting for the glorious coming of his highness, Mansoor Ijaz. A beaming Akram Sheikh, in a charged voice, has declared that Mansoor was coming to establish truth and demolish falsehood. The historical Mansoor gave away his own life to remain loyal to his mystical beliefs. The 21st century Mansoor, on the other hand, is coming on his own terms and amid full protocol to the court with the stated aim of putting his adversary to the sword. Modern day Mansoors are faring much better than their counterparts of medieval times.

In the memo the US government is promised that a new national security team will be appointed by the civilian government. If a government is enjoying a majority in parliament, it is fully empowered to choose any security team it deems fit. Thereafter, six offers were made in the memo. First, an inquiry commission to investigate fully Osama bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad. Since the whole world was shocked at this incident, it was in our own interest that a commission was formed that comprised people who enjoyed a reputation of integrity at the international level. These demands were also made by Nawaz Sharif in the media on many occasions. Second, it was assured that the inquiry would be transparent, and not a cover-up effort, and all those found responsible would face termination of service. This demand was also made by Nawaz Sharif and all opinion makers in the media soon after the Abbottabad incident. Third, the security team will either hand over all al Qaeda leaders to the US or let it kill them if it is beyond Pakistan’s capability to arrest them. Many sensible opinion makers have been arguing for this policy paradigm change of ending our embrace of extremism and instead re-establishing respectable ties with the international community. Even Nawaz Sharif has been heard many times stressing the need for ending terrorism-prone policies and beginning a new phase. Fourth, to allay the fears of a stealth strike against the nuclear facilities of Pakistan, it was proposed that a mutually acceptable framework for disciplined monitoring be developed. For the ‘ghairat brigade’ (honour brigade) this might be a red rag but seen rationally it is the way forward. Pakistan cannot act like Iran for long. It is getting crushed under the overwhelming burden of its nuclear assets. What it needs is the energy that can keep its factories running and pots boiling. Once Pakistan gains the confidence of the international community about its nuclear programme, it will be in a better position to seek help in its energy sector. No country, big or small, can solve its problems on its own. It has to cooperate with the outside world and trade some part of its sovereignty to deal with internal economic problems. Ireland, Greece, Portugal and Italy have recently done that. We cannot be an exception. Fifth, the Section S of the ISI, which harbours militants, would be disbanded. Again not only all major opinion makers have been calling for this for long but Nawaz Sharif has also on many occasions called for ending interference in neighbouring countries. Sixth, bringing to justice all perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attacks and handing over the criminals with clear guilt to India. Nawaz Sharif fondly mentions the Lahore visit of Vajpayee and the backdoor Kashmir diplomacy to normalise relations with India. Cooperating with India in the Mumbai attacks investigation would not only give a boost to Pak-India relations but also help improve Pakistan’s image in the international community.

So these were the six proposals made in the memo written by Mansoor Ijaz on the alleged insistence of Husain Haqqani. Both the military and civil governments in the past had been using the US and Saudi mediation in backdoor diplomacy between India and Pakistan. The army chief was reported discussing the future political setup with the US ambassador by WikiLeaks and the PML-N’s Punjab government, military establishment and the judiciary had joined hands in ending the Raymond Davis affair after the US pressure became unbearable. It is a well-respected principle of parliamentary democracy that “a parliament can do anything but make a man a woman, and a woman a man”. All the six measures proposed in the memo could have been taken by a government that enjoys majority support in parliament. Parliament has all the power to decide through the government who is to head the security organisations, what kind of inquiries are to be held, and what to do with all military assets, including nuclear ones. So even if the memo had been written by Husain Haqqani, what is objectionable in its contents that has made the whole countrymen run for life? Can a small child not go and tell the honourable judges that the dam is intact?

The writer teaches public policy in the UK and is the founding member of Rationalist Society of Pakistan. He can be reached at hashah9@yahoo.com

Author: Dr. Haider Shah

Academic, Researcher and Writer

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