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Creeping anarchy

Originating from multiple sources, the creeping anarchy in the country is systematic and constant. Democracy (‘the best revenge’) being a convenient camouflage for their ulterior motives, different militant groups have taken advantage of the turmoil to push their own agendas. Political patronage has allowed hundreds of target killers to walk free in Karachi despite being caught red-handed.

Justice being subverted is not an inconvenient secret anymore; the blatant display of political power is deliberately misused under the convenient garb of a democracy of the feudals, by the feudals and for the feudals. Under the Supreme Court’s monitoring, the Rangers did a terrific job for several months in 2011. Without continuing support of activist judicial steam, the Rangers success came back to square one.

What is happening to the Hazaras in Balochistan is an abomination, both ethnically and in religious terms. Other than those transient in uniform in the garrison town, Quetta was mainly populated by the Hazaras till the early 1970s. Then came settlers from Punjab, along with a fair number of Mohajirs, and the ethnic Baloch became a minority.

With Akbar Khan Bugti installed as governor by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto during the governor’s rule that was imposed after the elected NAP-led coalition was overthrown in early 1973, a concerted campaign was initiated to increase the ethnic Baloch population in the city. This was certainly not a wrong move, since no metropolis can be the sole preserve of any single ethnic race, nor can it be ‘ghettoed’ into ethnic zones. The ethnic-religious mix was further compounded by a large influx of Afghan refugees in the 1980s.

With the Mujahedin-e-Khalq operating across the border against the Iranian regime, the Shia-Sunni strife took on the international divide of a proxy war with the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) bringing religious connotations to what was essentially a peaceful Baloch-Hazara disagreement. The Hazaras have subsequently been pushed into a bloody corner with a vengeance.

Supported by the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), formerly called the Sipah-e-Sahaba-e-Pakistan, the LeJ masterminded the January 10 carnage, the Usman Kurd-led faction (the other faction being led by Shafiqur Rehman Rind) carrying out the brutal attacks. Captured separately, Kurd and Rind escaped together from a high security prison in Quetta in 2008.

While Rind was recaptured a little later, Usman Kurd and his second-in-command, Dawood Badani, have been carrying out large scale atrocities against the Hazaras with impunity for the last five years.

If it was not macabre it would be funny that the SC has entered into another exercise in frustration by taking ‘suo motu’ notice of the carnage in Quetta. Their Lordships do not seem to comprehend (or come to terms with) the problem of bad governance, fostered deliberately to camouflage the nexus between corruption, organised crime and terrorism. Bad governance is as likely to be addressed as the sidelined NRO.

How is it possible that a country at the ‘ground zero’ of terrorism is without a dedicated counterterrorism force? Given the experience of an independent Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) catching the son of a sitting prime minister red-handed in a drug-related scam, do you expect politicians to allow a counterterrorism force to run amok?

The administrative vacuum, which exists because of terrible governance, has allowed the forces of evil to surface with a vengeance. Some operate in the name of religion, others take advantage of the shortcomings of our law-and-order machinery. The roads to Karachi and Lahore airports were blocked this week; how long before these international airports are taken over?

The gun battles in the counter-guerrilla operations in the mountains are child’s play compared to countering catastrophic urban guerrilla warfare in the streets of Karachi (shades of Syria). Their Lordships need to kindly define the meaning of ‘anarchy’ in one of their future pronouncements.

Between 2009 and 2012, the SC under Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has widened the scope of Article 184(3) of the constitution, maintaining in case after case that once information infringing the fundamental rights of the public at large is brought before the court, it will act on the basis of that information.

What is said matters far more than who says it. Their Lordships were quite rightly harsh with Dr Tahirul Qadri; he had no business behaving like a spoilt child, with conduct unbecoming both inside and outside the august premises of the SC.

With all due respect, the court should not have been insensitive to the issue of ‘dual nationality’. Not only do our expatriates contribute substantially to our foreign exchange reserves, their generosity also creates an economic cycle invaluable to the present and future financial health of the nation.

After the 18th Amendment under Article 213 of the constitution, the PM in consultation with the leader of the opposition was to forward three names for the post of chief election commissioner to a twelve member parliamentary committee (with eight from the National Assembly and four from the Senate according to the respective party strengths). The 12-member committee would conduct public hearings before making a recommendation to the president for appointing the CEC.

After consultation with the opposition leader, the PM short-circuited the process and recommended Fakhruddin G Ebrahim’s name to the president without referring it to the parliamentary committee. In the general popular acclaim of the man’s credentials, everyone glossed over the legal process being flawed. Since the CEC’s appointment matters more to the destiny of the nation than that of the Ogra chief and the PTA head (and numerous other chairpersons) thrown out by the SC because their appointments were not according to the statutes, the SC is precedent-bound to take cognisance under Article 184(3).

Incidentally, since due process was not followed, why is a man of principles, Fakhru Bhai, compromising by not resigning? Riding high on morality, in the legal sense his CEC feet are mired in clay. However, the SC could condone the legal flaw under the ‘doctrine of necessity’.

Rich in manpower and material resources, Pakistan deserves far better. Unfortunately our present form of democracy has failed to deliver. The SC must give substance to its rhetoric; presently those who must implement the rule of law simply ignore it. Valued both as a respected senior and as a friend, NAB Chief Adm Fasih Bokhari was way out of line in his letter to the president, but it was simply another manifestation of a frustrated reaction to the SC’s ambivalent stance concerning the fundamental rights of the people.

With the court allowing repeated transgressions on the ‘contempt’ scorecard, can Their Lordships be selective in Fasih Bokhari’s case? As the country sinks rapidly into a black hole in our journey to nowhere, institutions of substance that matter have been reduced to the equivalent of Nero fiddling while Rome was burning.

The army can be real proud; history will record that it steadfastly turned a blind eye to the loot and plunder going on in Pakistan today and adhered strictly to the constitution as the country perished.

The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email: ikram.sehgal@wpplsms.com

Ikram Sehgal, "Creeping anarchy," The News. 2013-02-22.