Only for the fortunate few
He came, he saw but did he conquer? That friends is the multi trillion dollar question. Photographs of Nawaz’ trip to the White House have drawn many comments all over the media. Unfair is my response. A pensive Nawaz, naturally with much to absorb and ponder, pictured with a slightly patronizing Obama is a far better sight than the hands folded, seated pictures we’ve seen of many a visitor to that exalted venue. But, the opportunity itself and the emerging fact that signal the USPAK relationship is finally, after some years, on the mend does provide instant gratification.
And let’s not term this just a photo-op; it has been a meaningful encounter. The release of promised financial aid has been secured and the payments due for the CSF are apparently being pushed through the pipeline. Importantly there has been a face to face between two leaders who are expected in the next two years to sketch and implement a solution to the Afghanistan problem. And between whom trust has been an issue. The PM’s meetings with other US leaders, Biden, Kerry et al appear to have met expectations and it all appears hunky dory. But do we have real agreements or are we led by the illusions of diplomatic jargon? Time will tell.
In economic terms, other than release of withheld funds and the IMF bailout, things remain the same in Pakistan. The dollar reserves continue to mysteriously dwindle and a lack of buoyancy trends while precious little is being done to address the issue. Real investment in Pakistan from the US or its allies in the war of terror holding the region hostage has not been forthcoming during successive governments and appears unlikely to in the immediate future. Especially now, it will be ‘watch and see’ with regard to developments during and after the withdrawal of troops next year.
The government is seeking consensus for an anti-terror bill that appears to be another drop in the ocean, with the clamour for talks, government’s defensive response of ‘sharing’ proposed action and the issue of drones buzzing everywhere, from the White House to the UN and Pakistan taking the forefront. Where I find myself in a quandary is the ‘doubling’ that is doing the rounds. Pakistan’s UN ambassador says something to the effect that drones bring Taliban retaliation. So tell me two things. First if action is taken under an anti-terror law and terrorists executed does anyone believe there will there be no retaliation from the Taliban or terrorists or whatever you want to call them?
And second, are drones causing retaliation or are they themselves retaliation for premeditated attacks by the Taliban? I have forever subscribed to the fact that Pakistan’s policy, even the US policy, has been largely reactive. Perhaps if the battle had been taken to the terrorists we would be looking at current history differently. To simplify this, let us quickly agree that any kind of deterrent, be it a law which is genuinely implemented, or physical attacks that cause damage to the terrorists, will draw retaliation. The Taliban have proven repeatedly they are vicious and in no mood to offer the ‘other cheek’ as is proposed by Pakistan’s politicians and security forces. I for one do not see too many options.
The Iranians have taken the bull by the horns. Quick, rapid action by authorities in response to the killing of 14 guards in the Saravan region of Iranian Balochistan resulted in16 alleged rebels hanged. And a warning to Pakistan to keep its borders closely secured. In 12 years of war we have not even seen one person tried and executed in Pakistan for acts of terror. This is a glaring difference in the approach to terrorism and strife. I believe, given similar circumstances, the Taliban during their time in government would have done the same. The Saudis deal with ‘rebels’ in the same way. So why are we different? It cannot be said we are more humane and less bloodthirsty. Look what’s happening in Lyari, or Karachi for that matter. Blood is spilled like water; the number of dead is countless.
Well, someone smart said yesterday referring to the Iranian action, “You can’t dare to do that. The SC will take immediate suo motu notice and everyone responsible will be on the mat”. Given the track record it is impossible to disagree. After all for nearly four years, a self-confessed, convicted murderer has not had his sentence carried out. And the courts whose responsibility it is to order implementation of their own sentences are busy indicting other institutions of the state and those individuals that it holds responsible for not implementing court decisions, some bordering on trivia.
Politics continues to ride the merry go around with meaningless statements flooding print and electronic media. At a time when political consensus is the need, this is distressing. Resurrection of issues believed long decided is a waste of time. The national assembly had ostensibly agreed on combating terrorism a few months ago, so why a new exercise in seeking consensus, why isn’t the bill a manifestation of that resolution or resolutions? Instead of current issues, emphasis is on dispensing distractions. NAB cases, allegedly critical legislation (obviously something important for someone important) are all distractions. In real terms political cases purportedly involving politicians have been pending for decades. They have become a joke and a form of entertainment.
For government to sense a defeat of the anti-terror bill in the Senate is unfortunate. The need for the bill to be passed is without question. It is a Pakistan centric legislation and political parties need to extend unequivocal support. Political manoeuvring is fine but there must be valid reason and justification, not purely a whim or an act of agitation. It is surprising therefore that the PPP would consider contesting the bill in any forum. Unless, of course, it is seeking benefits in exchange for supporting the bill. Given that the PPP leadership is cited in many prosecutions being run by investigative and judicial institutions under government control this may well be the case. Pakistan’s politics has historically been run on the carrot and stick mode.
The attempt to remove the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly and replace him with Imran Khan is kind of hard to figure. If he had the support it could have been handled at the outset, especially with the sympathy vote generated by his accident at the time. Today, Imran does not have the political position he did a couple months ago, although it is unwise to right him off as a genuine challenge within the political circle. Perhaps he has been advised to pre-empt a possible switch of the role to Bilawal, when he wins what is now a probable seat in bye-elections. To unnecessarily cause destabilization and raise yet another issue is uncalled for at this juncture.
Pakistan’s polarized politics has taken control of everyday life and relegated real issues. Yes there is noise about power and some other concerns and orders are issued without exposing real resources to those being lulled into submission. Nothing is coming off the drawing board. Sadly both, people and government are being forced to seek instant gratification. This unfortunately is something that visits only a few, although I will stop short of saying just the fortunate few.
Whether these trips seeking instant gratification, the various economic forums and the like signal an end to Pakistan’s deepening woes is debatable. While they keep the ball rolling, providing distraction of sorts, nothing on the horizon, forget the partisan optimists or growing, audible fan club seeking lucrative assignments, tells us that change is evident or even likely. An apt quote comes from an early exile from the madness that engulfed Quebec state in Canada, Irwin Wolfe, who wrote in Goodbye Beaver Lake, “All this political falderal is making me crazy, Pete. I hear cuckoo statements being made by cuckoo politicians … “. I rest my case.
Imran Husain can be contacted at: [email protected].