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Way to go

On Wednesday, September 27, our foreign minister was at his best. He minced no words and candidly poured his heart out – and that to in a foreign country. He proved that having a dedicated foreign minister makes a big difference.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had made inept decisions by keeping the FM’s portfolio to himself and handing over the foreign ministry to octogenarians like Sartaj Aziz and Tariq Fatemi and then having Chaudhry Nisar as the interior minister for four years. Khawaja Asif, who served as the defence minister in the previous cabinet, was never allowed much leeway in his ministry.

On various occasions, the defence minister was visibly sidelined and outrightly humiliated. But he kept his cool. Now, in the new cabinet, Khawaja Asif is shining as a leader who is not ashamed of admitting the mistakes that his country has made. Addressing a gathering in New York, he talked about the Haqqani Network and Hafiz Saeed and called them a liability that should be jettisoned as early as possible. In the same breath, he also asked for some time to do that. Asif clearly termed his country’s involvement in the American proxy war of the 1980s in Afghanistan foolish.

When General Zia was throwing Pakistan into the abyss of Afghanistan and brought the flames from across the border into the country, Nawaz Sharif was his favourite and offered unconditional respect and support to the general. Isn’t it about time that Nawaz offered his apology to the nation for his association with the general? Not only that, ideally all members of the civil and military bureaucracy that stood behind General Zia and buttressed his dictatorship should come forward and accept and renounce their role in bringing the country to this sorry state.

Asif has rightly pointed out that keeping such people who are a liability in Pakistan can be dangerous in a time of a crisis. He also agreed with a question that Pakistan should continue to fight against the extremist and fundamentalist elements in the country. This is something that the world has been demanding from us for a long time. Within the country, whenever a civilian government has tried to eliminate the so-called ‘warriors of Islam’, some invisible hands become active to protect them. This was the message sent through the Brics declaration as well, which largely went unheard.

The manner in which the NA-120 by-election brought forward the sectarian and obscurantist forces in the mainstream is alarming, to say the least. If Hafiz Saeed is under house arrest and has become a liability, with his proscribed militant outfit, why was no notice taken when his posters and banners adorned the streets of Lahore? If murderers such as Mumtaz Qadri are eulogised, why are no state institutions taking any action? The argument that there are too many mullahs and it is better not to stir them is totally flawed. When state institutions want to take action, they do so irrespective of where the popular support lies.

When our state institutions wanted to crush all democratic forces during the 1950s and the 1960s, it never bothered them that leaders such as Fazlul Haq and Suhrawardy had wide mass support. When General Zia and his coterie cracked down on the PPP, it was the largest and most popular political force in the country. Nevertheless, they decided to crush it and did it. Nobody could carry or display ZA Bhutto’s photo for fear of being arrested and persecuted. With an iron fist, all opposition was crushed, democracy was demolished, people were disenfranchised and the press was gagged.

And now, the same state institutions are allowing Mumtaz Qadri to be sanctified publicly, Hafiz Saeed to be lionised in elections and Fikr-e-Hamid Gul conferences to be organised in the federal capital. What is this General Hamid Gul ideology that is being so blatantly promoted? This is the ideology of jihad that he and his fellows under the leadership of General Zia imposed on the country and never repented. The countless ‘defence analysts’ are still propounding similar ideas, badmouthing democracy and highlighting the virtues of dictatorship. These dimwits have not sprouted from nowhere. They are the product of the same General Gul mindset that is still cherished by many elements within our establishment.

Khawaja Asif has done a great service by denouncing the role that the Pakistani establishment and governments played in the 1980s. Now, it needs to be taken forward and our state institutions should confess to their sins of depriving the people of their democratic and human rights. This is not to say that it was only civil and military bureaucracy that brought the social fabric down as politicians also had a role to play. The PPP should apologise for its role during the 1970s when East Pakistanis were being butchered, the constitution was being violated, minorities were further marginalised and the National Awami Party was banned and battered.

All those politicians who have sided with one dictator or another should apologise. The judiciary should apologise for repeatedly making a mockery of justice from Justice Munir, Justice Mushtaq and Justice Anwarul Haq, to Justices Irshad Hasan Khan, Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and Justice Hameed Dogar. Justice Iftikhar, especially, owes the nation a mea culpa for squandering the opportunity when he was restored. Rather than taking Musharraf to task, he vented his anger against a large segment of the judiciary and against the civilian government by not only removing an elected PM but also by giving verdicts that have caused huge losses to the national exchequer.

But Khawaja Asif has only been halfway through. Surprisingly, he lamented that the news of Mullah Omar’s death and the killing of Mullah Mansour in a drone attack hampered the efforts to negotiate a deal with the Taliban. This means that the terrorists should be protected so that a deal could be struck with them. This is precisely what the world blames us for. Khawaja Asif, you are doing a good job but please stop lamenting the deaths of terrorists, when you do it you look more like your predecessor.

Dr Naazir Mahmood, "Way to go," The news. 2017-09-30.
Keywords: Political science , Foreign policy , Foreign minister , Election commission , Civilian government , Judicial system , Military bureaucracy , Human rights , State institutions , Defense minister , Pakistan