Limits of individual liberties

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Zaheer Bhatti

IF indeed General Raheel Shareef’s speech sounded like the State of the Union address by the Head of the State or Government to a noted lawyer cum political analyst of Pakistan, much more responsibility and discrete channeling of his views is to the concerned quarters rather than agitating it publicly, as most of us are prone to do against‘supreme National interest’; to borrow by now a cliché-ridden phrase. A person of his intellect was expected at best to have directed the questions arising out of the General’s address through in-camera channels to the Prime Minister who has time and again rightly or wrongly been accused of lacking in timely response on important national issues. Rather than help forging unity against forces prying on Pakistan’s internal weaknesses, Pakistanis marvel at self-righteous assumptions.
Not a day goes by when either Pakistan’s Imperial Masters do not breath their ‘do more’ refrain while their Indo-Afghan RAW-NDS proxies overtly and covertly stir up confrontation with Pakistan on newly manufactured non-issues such as Afghan Trade to India through Pakistan which was never a part of Pak-Afghan Transit Trade Agreement, or voice objections over installing a Security-check Gate at the Torkham border by Pakistan as a measure of effective border management to thwart infiltration from either side. Rather than directly expressing its frustration over failing to browbeat Pakistan, India eggs on the Afghan puppet Government to hurl unfounded accusations and threats at it including recent foul-mouthing by Ashraf Ghani during his Indian sojourn. For him to say that Iranian Port of Chahbahar would stall Pakistani hegemony is mere hallucination of a delinquent mind, because Pakistan has welcomed the development of the said port as another opening for region.
India on its part without looking into the mirror over its own carnage in occupied Kashmir refusing media or Human Rights Bodies into the strife-stricken territory generating worldwide condemnation, continues attempts to divert world attention demanding action from Pakistan against the accused in itself-staged Mumbai and Pathankot episodes. Indian execution of the Indian-occupied Kashmir youth Afzal Guru over the Delhi Parliament building attack which it no longer talks about, and Ajmal Qassab over the Mumbai attack without giving access to Pakistani investigators to both the accused, reminds one of consigning Osama Bin Laden to the seas by the US pre-empting his DNA to authenticate its action.
The United States of late has adopted a double-talk posture in praising Pakistan on the one hand over its lead role in its war on terror and prompt combing operation along the Pak-Afghan border after attack on Kabul University, but in the same breath accusing it of selective action. The Pakistani Government and the COAS have made it clear that its Forces were operating against all criminals and terrorists across the country without any discrimination. The only saving grace early this week was a rebuff by the US State Department spokesperson John Kirby at his Wednesday briefing in response to a question by an Indian journalist about US position on Pakistan’s Balochistan Province referring to Modi raising the subject, wherein Kirby categorically declared the US Government Policy to be that it supports the territorial integrity of Pakistan and does not support Independence of Balochistan”.
But sadly, despite incontrovertible evidence against Indo-NDS incursions in Pakistan and fugitive TTP head Mulla Fazlullah operating against Pakistan from Afghanistan, neither Indian nor the Afghan Government has been chastened by the US to stop meddling in Pakistan besides taking out Mulla Fazlullah sitting pretty in their lap and not only operating against Pakistan from the Afghan soil but proudly owning most acts of terrorism in the country. It clearly suggests that the US does not want stability in the region while both India and the Afghan minority Government mindlessly enjoy the honeymoon with their ventriloquist, which is soon bound to end to their disillusionment. Yes Richard Olson! Pakistan indeed needs to decisively revisit its foreign policy, and look to closer neighbourhood for ties based on mutual respect and trust. For the attention of the worthy lawyer, it is these matters which need his valued inputs rather than protocol matters between the Prime Minister and the Army Chief.
As for the COAS of Pakistan’s Armed Forces, that he appears to betaking a position is not because he is fond of playing to the common man who either looks up to the heavens or the omnipotent General in the alleged absence of a rapid response from civilian leadership at critical junctures but because each time he has done so, he genuinely feels that a prompt National Statement was called for by a self-respecting Sovereign State; and who knows he may be doing so on a nod by the Supreme Commander.
As to the niceties of diplomacy, discipline and protocol, it should be the Prime Minister’s worry rather than that of the worthy lawyer or those among us who have made it into a fashion to talk about the Civil and Military divide without bothering to realize what message they were themselves dishing out to Pakistan’s adversaries by creating bad vibes externally due to the perceived bad blood between the two highest offices in the Government. It happens nowhere else in the world except Pakistan where each of us ascribe to ourselves the right to sit on judgment over matters which are not our domain; H.G.Wells reminds me of every man’s desire to be someone else.
One must in fact laud the unambiguous message on the Defence of Pakistan Day by the Army Chief directed to Pakistan’s external and internal adversaries that in any case Notwithstanding the above, all and sundry must stop considering the country’s Armed forces and their Chief as some kind of a robotic entity only meant to kill or be killed on command, but one who like other Pakistanis have the right to think and express; perhaps much more, because tagged to their oath is laying down their lives for others which none of us are called upon. They have a premium therefore upon any and all of us. So let us stop meddling and become mindful of our own undefined limits of individual liberties.
—The writer is a media professional, member of Pioneering team of PTV and a veteran former Director of programmes.