On the edge of the precipice | Pakistan Today

On the edge of the precipice

The fatal flaw is inaction

A friend posted W C Fields quote on Facebook, “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. Then quit! There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.” Having always followed the doctrine, “perseverance commands success”, it was the natural question. The response, “Perseverance is good but one needs to be smart and know when to quit.” Food for thought, definitely! I’d probably go with the advice of another friend, “If at first you don’t succeed, try something different! Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.”

Anyway, in putting aside the proposed subject for today, I think I have considered a bit of all of that. Actually that, plus the fact that the cricket team won Sunday night and Afridi did somehow wangle one of those flash in the pan performances. But this victory doesn’t change my views. The bowlers brilliantly pulled it off while the batsman almost buried the game with typical, sheer incompetence. There was a difference though; fielding was really good! Besides, Najam Sethi’s TV interview, apart from stuff one doesn’t agree with, reflects he is thinking along the lines I am. No favouritism and expand the resource base. That’s a start.

So taking a step back from cricket on a ‘wait and see’ basis, having already decided to give Nawaz Sharif time to settle and get through those first 100 days, one needs to begin to get to grips with the glut of outstanding issues that drown us. But before one does anything else, I’d like us to pay tribute to the outstanding courage of the sixteen-year-old Malala Yusufzai. She did Pakistan, and us, proud. In an alien language, just months after an accident requiring massive physical reconstruction of the skull she held the audience spellbound. Both the content and the depth of her speech rang the bell loudly for the whole world.

I find it abhorring that a perverted element within the country is making absurd attempts to dub her a pawn in the hands of foreign powers and agencies. Similar negative accusations were made about Mukhtaran Mai. These are women who suffered but did not allow the system to stifle and bury them. Let us not forget for a single moment. Today, there is a cry of support for the US to release Dr. Aafia. Following this trend, I dread what they would do with her, in case she was returned.

Pakistan is on the edge of the proverbial precipice. There are few, very few, instances in recent memory that inspire the nation. The tragedy is in the division of views. And although the majority has chosen, yet again, to return to the safety of their living rooms, it far outnumbers those who would have us fall over. The issue lies with the political leadership that believes engaging with a tiny but rabid minority is good for the country. There exists absolutely no raison d’être for engagement. In fact inclusion of this minority into the main stream cements the road towards irreversible decline. This time, thought and energy spent in pursuing the principle advocated by Malala of “books and pens” will, undoubtedly, deliver a progressive and prosperous society.

Forgiveness is fine, if punishment has been administered, provided there is something to forgive. Why the precipice then? Because nothing has been done to curb the monster. The only deterrent, apart from intermittent military action in the North, is the infamous drone. Till now that is. Required is a popular wave by, for and of the people that constitute the majority. And it is certainly doubtful if this will come while the politicians, government and armed forces maintain a posture of benign neglect. My belief is that changes in the fulcrum, perhaps slight but with very clear indication, could bring Pakistan back from this precipice and provide course correction.

Currently the evidence is contrary to this thought. Every day brings news of some new “pondering”, and within hours this pondering is laid bare by an act of terrorism. This blatant defiance is the result of the visible disagreement and conflict between the powers and the resultant confusion. This divergence is very obviously based on levels of self-interest and self-absorption of individual governments involved but there can certainly be no duality on the principle of defying and conquering terrorism. If Pakistani authorities are, for a moment, able to distance themselves on the strategic depth and allied issues and concentrate on this government’s avowed mission of building broken bridges and reaching the mountain top (sorry I chose a Z.A Bhutto quote, but it’s very apt) they must see engagement with a proven treacherous partner is an Achilles heel.

One can understand Obama’s strategy. In effect he wants his troops out as early as possible. Their exit has to be fully secured to ensure minimum damage. Besides this, frankly, if the US is able to secure that the possibility of further acts of terrorism against its territory is minimized, it will have achieved positive results. The sequel to this, once the Afghan government is in ‘full command’, will definitely impact the region. The subsequent role of Pakistan has obviously been reviewed by the US administration. Whether our authorities realistically review it remains to be seen. Whether the Taliban and their allies let Pakistan live in peace afterwards is also a significant factor. Beyond that the US will consider the safety of the bomb. As will India, as must we.

Immunity from acts of terrorism through engagement is possible when, in some form or manner, a government is able to address the demands of terrorists. In this instance we are unsure of any practical demands, except for the rapid and complete overhaul of the democratic and progressive ideals exacted by the 21st century. Denial of education, denial of interaction with the civilized world, pursuit of destruction, a return to the Stone Age, is what it means. It is seriously doubtful if any government can accede to this and lead a country to peace and prosperity.

Then again, one is left aghast when the civilized world gangs up against an Assad, possibly fast emerging as the icon for resisting political Islamism. It is documented fact that wherever the rebels in Syria have control, they immediately imposed a radical government system. So far, unlike other countries that succumbed to the ‘Spring’, Syria has held out because the West has physically stayed out. It should continue to do the same.

Egypt has seen an about turn, perhaps a reconsideration of strategy. Despite the overt mumblings it is obvious that a possible disaster has been averted. With Turkey in discord, Erdogan’s government on the retreat and developments in Tunisia perhaps political Islamism is nearing its dusk. Islam is a wonderful religion, not to be vitiated in the violence and chicanery of politics. The principle of the Almighty is, “unto you your religion and unto me my religion”. Subhan Allah.

Malala forgives her attackers. She said she would not shoot the ‘Talib’ who shot her if she had a gun and he stood before her. Perhaps she is right, but then a genuine Talib would never have attacked her in the first instance. It was a terrorist who shot her – part of the groups who hate ‘pens and books’, who preach death, kill and maim innocent people and threaten scribes with dire consequences. But as Malala said, that heinous act and all similar acts are creating thousands of voices. I believe she has it right and we have it wrong when we believe drones are creating thousands of terrorists. It is our inaction and that of our government that is responsible. Am I pushing the perseverance bit?

The writer can be contacted at: [email protected]