Time to set the narrative in black and white
The audacious raid on Kamra Air Base and execution of 25 Shias in Kohistan –all within a day- clearly shows that the Taliban are on the rampage.The TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan) has taken responsibility for the unfortunate incidents. The modus operandi in both cases was somewhat similar with the terrorists disguising themselves as military personnel.The unarmed Shias felled by the Taliban as part of their ethnic cleansing campaign were sitting ducks. At Kamra, however, the terrorists received stiff resistance.The Taliban spokesmen have termed both incidents as an act of revenge for killing of their leadership by the US and Pakistani security forces. The attacks were no surprise as there was intelligence reports that the terrorists were bracing to attack our military installations.Obviously it is mad terror, fuelled by a fanatical ideology to foist a xenophobic totalitarian regime in the name of Sharia. Sadly, the apologists for such elements (which are many) declare time and again that Pakistan is paying this heavy price for “fighting America’s war”. If the Pakistani state boots out the American and starts talking to the TTP, somehow terrorism will just go away, they contend.According to Imran Khan, the militants have gone berserk because they apprehend the action against them in N Waziristan. According to the PTI chief, as a result of if the military acts against the Taliban in N Waziristan, they will go on the rampage with disastrous consequences for the country.It is another matter that the Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani has ruled out a joint US-Pakistan putsch. However, he has not discounted the possibility of a unilateral attack by Pakistani forces, if need be.According to Imran, the attacks on Shias could not be the work of any Muslim. If they are not Muslims, who are they? Not only Imran but also most apologists for the Taliban proffer this twisted logic.The TTP has never hidden its anti-Shia agenda. And this is not the first incident of ethnic cleansing of the Shias at the hands of the Taliban. Outrage expressed by the UN Secretary General on the plight of the Shias in Pakistan further tarnishes the country’s image on this count.Imran is not the only apologist for the Taliban. Many abound amongst our political and military elite. Naturally, a fairly large swath of public opinion also subscribes to the naive thinking that terrorism in the country is a phenomenon directly in proportion to the Pakistan’s support for the US.Admittedly, as per most surveys, the US’s approval rating in Pakistan is one of the lowest. And, of course, it is good politics to blame the government’s policies for rampant terrorism in the country. Is it not time that the politicians engage in a more informed narrative to tackle the hydra-headed monster?The situation is far more complex than we are willing to admit. Is it as simple as booting the Americans out, severing our connection with them and talk to the terrorists to bring peace? If it was so, it could be done without delay.But what happened during the interval when Pakistan stopped NATO supplies. Did terrorism or rampant killing of Shias stop? Of course, the answer is in the negative.Imran Khan has vowed to go to Waziristan to protest. But despite his cynical and ill-advised move to garner the fundamentalist vote, he has been badly snubbed by the TTP as a liberal who is an infidel by virtue of his belief in democracy like other secular politicians in Pakistan.In fact, the TTP expressing its obvious distaste for democracy and democratic institution is averse to virtually all-political parties including religious parties that contest elections. According to some reports, they are somewhat sympathetic to Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman. But even he has not been immune to assassination attempts by the Taliban.Imran Khan honeymooning with Sheikh Rashid, the maverick politician, addressed his rally on the eve of Independence Day. Symbolically speaking, what better day the great Khan could have chosen to break bread with a person who openly espouses the cause of the most retrogressive brand of fundamentalism in the country?Sheikh Rashid, a cardholder member of the obscurantist Defense of Pakistan Council (DPC), chose the occasion to declare his intention of forging an alliance of right wing parties. The PTI chief preferred not to comment on the Sheikh’s proposal in his subsequent speech.But here lies the rub. Our politicians should make up their mind about the kind of Pakistan they envisage. Paying lip service to Iqbal and Jinnah but, in practice, lending support to those very elements that do not believe in any of the niceties for which the country was created is the worst kind of hypocrisy and opportunism.Interestingly enough the Jamaat-e-Islami, whose founder Mualana Abu Ala Maudoodi never hid his opposition to the creation of Pakistan, is now spelling out what should Jinnah’s Pakistan be. Imran Khan who has no dearth of pro-JI activists amongst his motley crowd visited Mansoora the other day to express solidarity with its amir, Munawwar Hassan.There is nothing new about Nawaz Sharif flirting with the religious. At the back of the mind of the PML-N policymakers runs the same apprehension that unless they are able to cultivate the right-wing/anti-PPP vote, they will lose the elections.Is it not time to catch the bull by the horns? The existential threat to Jinnah’s Pakistan is from those who want to destroy everything through the barrel of a gun. Whether we want a system based upon narrow and self-serving interpretation of Sharia or a Pakistan based upon the Quaid’s pluralistic ideology should be sorted out.Similarly, whether the so-called war on terror is our war or that of America must be determined. There is no use fretting about the military’s flawed strategic paradigm when civilians themselves are not on the same page.It is time that the narrative is set before going all out against those who are threatening the country’s very existence. There have been a lot of wild allegations in the foreign media that the Taliban are after Pakistan’s nuclear assets. It has been officially clarified the our nuclear assets are safe and the Taliban are nowhere near themOn the other hand, there are apprehensions that the US wants to take over our nuclear assets. These are all serious issues that need to be discussed amongst our political elite. Perhaps a serious effort should be made to evolve a consensus within and outside the parliament on such matters vital for the future of the country.
The writer is Editor, Pakistan Today