Louder than words

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Zaheer Bhatti

THE outgoing Chief of Pakistan’s Armed Forces by his conduct, has relived the proverb that actions speak louder than words, placing him among immortalized soldiers of Pakistan. If the manner in which Gen. Raheel Shareef has served the country with his Zarb-e-Azb Operation winning worldwide acclaim and acknowledgment, and protection of the CPEC route besides national security against enemy provocations, it can only do the nation proud. The man has gone beyond the call of his duty in rehabilitation work of IDPs in FATA and harnessing Baloch Fararis back into the mainstream as he has led his great team from the front blunting enemy designs. He has always been seen with jawans in the forward areas even on Eids and other National occasions where the civilian leadership has been found wanting.
Even though the pedigreed General as he makes his farewell calls among his ranks, has been given a resounding send-off by the Prime Minister with acknowledgement of his exemplary performance, one hoped against hope continuation of command in this critical hour as Pakistan grapples with a multi-pronged incursion upon its sovereignty. One nevertheless cannot but support the idea of an enhanced overseeing role in the future national security affairs of the country as a befitting tribute to the General, which would also be a source of strength to the national edifice. This is not uncommon in developed societies and would be in line with the PM’s reiteration at the farewell dinner that he would continue to benefit from the strategic advice of the General. For a start straightaway, the Prime Minister in giving meaning to his rhetoric needs to realise that unless he ensures that the 130 odd ratifications by the outgoing Chief, of death sentences by Military Courts to proclaimed and proven high profile terrorists were put on fast track, elimination of terrorism from Pakistan would remain a pipe dream. It is unpardonable that only a dozen of them have so far been executed. While doing so, the Prime Minister will also need to review his other priorities at home and abroad if he wished to stake his party’s claim to yet another stint in office.
Also requiring prioritised attention will mainly be implementation of the National Action Plan which has been localized to Karachi, and unless carried out in letter and in spirit it is bound to boomerang on the entire country. It is incumbent upon the present leadership to develop political consensus on all sensitive and critical national issues to send out a strong message of unanimity to the enemies of the country. It is also time that Pakistan knows its enemies within and outside rather than continue propping them up. More recently it was Altaf Hussain foul-mouthing and inciting his followers to a revolt against the very country that gave him identity and propped him to a leadership role. Had he remained in India, he would have been experiencing the plight of those who opted to stay back per force of circumstances, and assessed for himself if he would have been any better than an odd errand man striving to make both ends meet leave alone a dignified identity. Like many, he might even have been fighting for life and security in the Hinduvta obsessed Indian Raj. This is also a matter for serious introspection for those who still tend to follow the traitor.
On the external front while the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has come as a blessing, it has also presented a challenge with the fall-out being already experienced in the shape of organised State-terrorism by India focusing on Balochistan besides provocative incursions over the Line of Control and International boundary. With no love lost for Pakistan ever since its creation, India is doing so with the dual objective to divert world attention from its atrocities and uprising for freedom in Indian-held Kashmir, and to present Balochistan and Gwadar as an insecure CPEC route to the outside world which it has openly avowed to disrupt. But with the first symbolic cargo by the grace of God already sailing out of Gwadar and several countries including Germany, Italy, Russia, Turkey and Central Asian States eager to avail the route it must have substantially hurt Indian sabotage plans, and cautions Pakistan to be more alert to frustrate future adventurism by the enemy.
In the home scenario, with the next general elections barely 18 months away there has been no effort to bring about electoral reforms to ensure credible scrutiny of candidature to public representation. After the polls in 2013 it was widely publicised with worldwide certification that Pakistan had its most credible Elections, in the same breath also acknowledged as one which had suffered large-scale rigging through delays and ballot box stuffing besides faulty delimitation of constituencies and electoral rolls. What is worse there are still no signs of the national census which ought to be the basis for any credible election but no one has bothered in the last almost 18 years despite being a mandatory constitutional requirement which has been violated with impunity by successive governments.
The Chief Justice of Pakistan has cautioned the government to give a firm date without hiding behind the excuse of non-availability of Armed Forces to conduct or assist the drill since census after all is the responsibility of the civilian government. The Chief Judge is dart right in exclaiming that if the Armed Forces are to do everything why have a political government. It is therefore time that instead of taking the coming elections for granted in 2018, the government seriously pursues and conducts the long overdue census well within 2017, or else in order to force compliance the Supreme Court may take suo moto notice declaring formation of a national government on expiry of the present political term, which may continue until such time that the Census is held.
Same is the case with elections to the Local Bodies another Constitutional requirement for empowerment of people at the grass-root level which has been spurned by successive political governments. And now that these elections have more or less taken place with a lot of prodding and pushing, the incumbents remain dysfunctional without funds or assignment. The parliamentarians have been scavenging upon funds of Local Bodies rather than attending to their basic function of legislation where their performance is next to nothing; just look at their attendance leave alone contribution. To cap it, the Cabinet yet again as at several occasions in the past has without remorse or shame approved 150% further enhancement in their salaries and perks as against at best a 7 to 10% annual raise for public servants and working classes.
Chastised by his past, Mian Sahib needed to realize that dignity in dealing with matters abroad and indulgent attitude in conducting affairs at home were cardinal to his rule this time, but unfortunately rather than decentralize and prop up an across-the-board Cabinet from amongst his party ranks, he succumbed to the temptation of reducing it largely to a family affair, refusing to part with the all-important portfolio of the Foreign Minister; an area of national policy which requires full-time attention. His reliance upon a stunted Political team reflects either his lack of the sense and importance of a full-time pro, or trust in the abilities of a nation of 20 million. Actions indeed speak louder than words.
—The writer is a media professional, member of Pioneering team of PTV and a veteran ex Director Programmes.

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