Dr Haider Shah
June 21, 2014
So, finally the government listened to the ‘liberal fascists’ and the much-awaited military operation has been launched. When the international community led by the US suggested that we should extinguish the fire raging in the safe havens of FATA, we arrogantly pooh poohed the advice and kept on declaring the militants as our brothers. Accusing a private television channel of recommending military action in Warizistan, Mr Imran Khan had announced boycotting the channel. And now, when the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) announces that Operation Zarb-e-Azb has been launched against the militants, Khan sahib loses no time in taking yet another somersault. Until yesterday, for him, those who suggested an operation were the scum of the country but now those who are actually participating in the operation are our heroes according to the subtle acumen of our visionary leader. If nothing else, at least a mild apology to the private television channel and liberal fascists was expected from his side.
Being one of the liberal fascists, I have also been clamouring for a military operation in North Waziristan. No war is without accompanying human costs though. Europeans had to suffer huge loss of life and property in order to reclaim their freedom from Nazi rule. The civilian population of Waziristan bears the greatest brunt of this bombing operation. Not only are many civilian lives lost due to heavy bombing, the consequential migration of displaced persons will also have long-term psychological costs. There should not be any illusions about the strategic objectives of this operation. It will in no way put an end to the wave of extremism that has wrecked the country. This eradication of safe havens will only be strategically rewarding if we are able to work in partnership with the Afghan government and US forces stationed in Afghanistan.
The militants, in Allama Iqbal’s words, “idher doobe, udher nikle, udher doobe, idher nikle” (decline here, rise there, decline there, rise here). They will shift their hideout across the border inside Afghanistan and stage attacks on the Pakistani forces from there. What we have been doing with Afghanistan since Ziaul Haq’s days will be done with us in a reversal of fortune. It is therefore important that our military establishment fully embrace the foreign policy-related paradigm shift of Nawaz Sharif’s government. We will only reap peace dividends if we treat militancy as a regional problem whose solution lies in working jointly with India and Afghanistan. In order to prove our sincerity to these key stakeholders, we will have to silence those who masquerade as spokespersons of the military establishment and promote warmongering against our neighbours.
The military operation will only help us regain partial control from the militants and the only strategic level gain is limited to ending the ability of the militants to use our land as their headquarters for planning and training purposes. I have been writing in the past about the need for a comprehensive anti-extremism strategic plan where a military operation against the extremists should be an important but not the only element of strategy. What I have been prescribing in my earlier writings has also now been directed by the honourable Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan via its latest judgment over the rights of religious minorities. There is an imminent need for de-radicalisation of all sections of society. The SC rightly asked for purging of syllabi of extremist content and better regulation of social media over the spread of hate speech.
Gullu Butt is the newest addition to our national discourse in the aftermath of the tragic handling of ‘operation clean-up’ in Lahore. Caught by media cameras, he was seen smashing cars parked in the troubled area. Being a part of the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) team, he was perhaps teaching a lesson to the cars belonging to the residents of the compound. Whoever has the proverbial danda (stick) in Pakistan gains the legitimacy of teaching the powerless a lesson. The editor of an Urdu language daily in Multan was recently thrashed in broad daylight in a commando-style operation by assailants who publicly stated that they were on a ‘lesson-teaching’ mission. The biggest television channel in Pakistan was taught a lesson as it angered people with a danda and guns. Not long ago, Pervez Musharraf waved his fists when he carried the danda while bodies were falling in Karachi on May 12, 2007. The military dictator, despite being tried for the greatest crime of treason, enjoys VVIP security. In the rule of law no one is above the law and no one is below the law as all enjoy equal protection of the law. Gullu’s crime is in no way more serious than that of Pervez Musharraf but Gullu is the national villain and the retired general is a hero. Size matters. If a big organisation with lots of guns has your back you can get away with anything but if you are just Gullu, you are doomed.
If a group living in FATA does not accept the constitution and promises a revolution we are quick to call them terrorists and hence rejoice when they are annihilated. However, when those living in the settled areas openly oppose the constitution and resist the writ of the state we tend to call them innocent citizens. Military action in FATA can help us regain lost territory but the state can only become genuinely sovereign when it can make all the Gullus, whether carrying a danda or guns, respect its lawful authority.