ALL Provincial Metropolises targeted in a week across the country by the enemy is a symbolic challenge to the writ of the State, which no longer allows the rulers to take only half measures. Pakistan is in a state of war, we are told every now and then but it is only when enemy proxies visit us with pre-warning and take the deadliest toll at places of their choice, that the Government wakes up momentarily when the damage is already done while the media makes it into an event to fill its appetite out of proportions dwelling on a futile running commentary on the fateful event for hours asking stupid questions and repeating inconsequential information ad nauseam. Repeating visuals and pointing accusing fingers upon the State machinery without knowing the facts or the magnitude of the problem faced by concerned Agencies, smacks of dismal lack of training and propriety of some anchorpersons and analysts.
The lip service paid to the martyrs is falsified by mindless interjecting of transmissions with a sensuous spree of pop music-laden ads, and reminds you of the good old days when in the event of a tragedy such ads were suspended for a while as a mark of respect and homage to the departed. But in the present scenario it seems business as usual; the singular instance of genuine camaraderie being displayed only by the Lahore Qalandars owner Rana Fawad who during his team’s PSL game, was deeply saddened and expressed his anguish at the spate of terror attacks and dedicated his team’s possible win to those who perished in the blasts. The Government invariably contends that the back of these terror outfits had been broken and that they were on the run and aiming at soft targets in desperation. While Zarb-e-Azb launched in the wake of the Army Public School indeed struck and cleansed the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan, the fleeing enemy sought sanctuaries in the neighbourhood and has since been operating under safety of Indian RAW and Afghan NDS patronage targeting afresh the law-enforcing personnel, hospitals, schools, market places and shrines, judges and lawyers across the country; a reprisal Pakistani Government neither anticipates nor pre-empts. Mulla Fazlullah of the TTP and its splinter Jamaat-ul-Ahrar both outlawed in Pakistan openly take responsibility and yet the Government of Pakistan looks hapless to deal with the enemy or cause international action against it.
While it is rightfully asserted that the law enforcing agencies have also pre-empted and averted several more attacks in a largely foreign inspired insurgency in Pakistan, and that it is not possible to cleanse the society totally unless every citizen of the State plays its part in the countrywide vigil to identify and report suspects to concerned agencies, the people no longer derive satisfaction from mere condemnation of such heinous acts by the Prime Minister and others in the Government, and the opposition performing the same ritual besides political opponents rather than putting their heads together with the Government to work out a national strategy to counter the conspiracy against the State, instead drawing political mileage in criticizing the Government of the day for failing to protect its citizens.
The domestic scene is also blurred by the increasing ineffectiveness of key institutions of the State. The only time the entire Pakistani leadership went into a serious scramble, it came out with a National Action Plan of which Zarb-e-Azb was its military component; the only one which performed its job with telling effect just to see its gains in danger of being squandered through inaction by the civilian apparatus failing to back it up by performing its part of the task. The Prime Minister who is heading the counter-terrorism body known as NCTA which ought to assiduously meet, monitor progress and iron out any loopholes, has reportedly not met even once in two years nor explained why. Also no one in the Government bothers to answer why after speedy trials and conviction of around 140 terrorists and their facilitators by military courts sentence of only 12 or 13 has been actualised and cases of the rest are hibernating with the President? Why failing to effect judicial reforms in two years, the tenure of military courts has not been automatically extended, as also the deployment of Rangers which had produced extraordinary results.
But regardless of the requirements of the National Action Plan as drawn, if Pakistan is in a State of war which is trickier than the conventional one where enemy lines are visibly drawn, a state of emergency ought to have been declared in the Country suspending civil liberties like demonstrations and public gatherings, restricting protests to fixed venues or voiced through people’s representatives in Parliament. In the context of the 13 February blast right across the Punjab Assembly in the heart of Lahore, it beats all common sense why despite a clear intelligence pre-warning about the impending attack on the city, congregations of all kinds were not prohibited and the orders enforced.
One is also aghast that the Provincial Government is still mulling over whether to declare the Mall a ‘Red Zone’, as the main boulevard in Lahore houses principal government institutions, or is it awaiting another tragedy to occur. In each town major or minor, a meeting place must not only be ear-marked but also physically protected and secured by walk-through gates and check points and miscreants dealt with iron hands. This is done in all such countries which value the freedom as well as lives of their citizens. It is also a shame that the Government issues advisories to schools to beef up their security rather than take responsibility itself. One has not insisted upon the Government to make the detailed contours of the National Action Plan public lest it might compromise tactical State information, but it is disappointing that despite all and sundry crying hoarse over the missing action on its elemental ingredients such as intelligence coordination, Police and judicial reforms to strengthen prosecution and planned evacuation and rehabilitation of internally displaced persons in FATA, the political component is guilty of either wilful neglect, rank incompetence or dereliction of duty.
Those who sacrifice their today for the people’s tomorrow cannot ever be repaid by any condolences or eulogy of the departed. The missing link is where to place the continued sacrifices of the Pakistani Armed Forces. If there is any recompense for them it is in backing them up by everyone as part of national duty. It is time to disband private possession of Arms and the State to take responsibility for protection of life and property of its subjects. The missing link in this entire scenario is the fact that till date there is no public awareness as to the motivation and stance of the elements taking on the State, as also of those used for suicide bombing and their recruitment reservoir and why it cannot be plugged. One finds it hard to believe that the religious seminaries functioning in subcontinent for centuries and once famed for imparting knowledge of the divine faith to millions can suddenly become nurseries for terrorists.
The missing link is also why instead of letting everyone coin its own version and distort the concept of Jehad, the Imam of Kaabatullah cannot issue a clear Fatwa to the Muslim Ummah for universal application as to in what situations and where Jehad ought to be waged as a religious duty and also spell out categorically in what existing formulations it was disallowed.
—The writer is a media professional, member of Pioneering team of PTV and a veteran ex Director Programmes.