In my endeavour to bring important news from across the border, I have received permission from AYAZ AMIR to upload his excellent article in this blog.
Ayaz Amir is a renowned Pakistani journalist, and is a newly elected Member of National Assembly in Pakistan's Parliament.
He is also known as a politician. His columns are critical of the Pakistan Army's role in politics throughout the history of the country. He is considered to be liberal, arguing passionately the case for rule of law, democracy, and an end to failed military rule along with extremist versions of Islam.
In parliamentary elections, held on February 18th, 2008, Ayaz Amir won a seat in the National Assembly contesting from Chakwal (Punjab province), representing the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz)or PML-N.
Ayaz Amir was a captain in Pakistan Army who resigned/released his commission. He remained an MPA in the Punjab Assembly representing Chakwal.
THE ARTICLE : WAGES OF FEAR & APPEASEMENT:
When a state and its military forces mentally reconcile themselves to defeat, one can only mourn the event. There is nothing left to say. It's not that we don't recognise what has just happened or what the ANP government in the Frontier and the federal government in Islamabad, backed by the National Assembly, have just agreed to. Munich is written all over it.
But we are trying to put a gloss on it and are putting forward all sorts of justifications - that there was no way out and that signing the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation will bring lasting peace to Swat and its environs -- but in our heart of hearts we know that, our courage having fled and no vision worth the name to guide us, we have acquiesced in a great act of surrender.
Before India our eastern command laid down its arms in 1971, not its spirit or soul. Before the Taliban in Swat we have ceded a part of our national soul.
We can't stand up to the Americans. So we do their bidding in matters large and small and endure lectures from them on how to fix our problems. Any American functionary, high or low, has only to come to Islamabad to be treated like a colossus of diplomacy and military skill. We can't stand up to the Taliban, whether in Waziristan or Swat. So we sign deals with them from positions of abject weakness and call them acts of the highest statesmanship. We look like nothing so much as a ship lost on the open seas with no pilot on deck and no hand on the tiller.
Since when did victorious armies lay down their arms? The Taliban under the command of Maulana Fazlullah have been victorious in Swat, having fended off several operations -- I am afraid we have lost count--mounted by the army. Are we now expecting that these victorious hordes, in a reversal of history never before recorded, are about to don pacifist robes and meekly hand in the tools of their victory? Which world are we living in?
Losing is nothing unusual. It's part of life and happens all the time. The Americans were defeated in Vietnam but they put their signatures to no document of surrender. But the ANP government in the Frontier, reduced to despair--many of its leaders in Swat killed, many forced to flee from that idyllic vale -- is portraying surrender not as surrender but as singular redemption, the key to permanent peace.
It was smart of President Asif Zardari to send the "System of Justice Regulation" to the National Assembly so that the shame of it should be equally shared by all. The MQM was the only party to voice its objections and abstain in the voting for the resolution when it was put before the house. This is one of the ironies we must live with: a party whose hands are sullied with so much, emerging in this debate as the champion of sanity and moderation.
The Regulation as signed into law is a set of judicial procedures. On the face of it there is nothing wrong with these procedures and in fact their adoption in the rest of the country could well lead to a speedier dispensation of justice. But this is only the surface appearance of things.
The overriding implication of signing the Regulation is that the supreme power in Swat -and indeed not only in Swat but the whole of Malakand Division, a fair amount of real estate - is the Taliban. Government and army have ceded control of Malakand Division to the forces of Maulana Fazlullah. And they have done this at the point of the gun.
The Taliban have every reason to celebrate. But why is the Frontier government congratulating itself? This must be one of those rare occasions in Pakhtoon history - and the ANP is a Pakhtoon party - when one section of Pakhtoons is hailing defeat as victory. And it wants the rest of the country to go along with this charade.
Strange things are happening in Pakistan. Since emerging on the skyline of Karachi the MQM has dominated that city's politics with a mixture of popular support and, where needed, the unabashed use of force. There would be no soul so foolhardy as to speak against Maulana Fazlullah in Swat. It takes a brave soul to speak against Altaf Bhai in Karachi. General Pervez Musharraf helped the MQM in every way he could. The MQM returned the favour by being his most loyal ally. The bloodbath that took place in Karachi on May 12, 2007, who was responsible for it?
Altaf Bhai called me from London the other day and said that in order to save Pakistan we must all join hands and forgive and forget. He spoke at some length, with the passion and eloquence that are his forte. No one can disagree with his sentiments but if anyone could ask him to consider that if the media in Karachi live in fear of the MQM and if MQM supporters get touchy even at the faintest hint of criticism of the MQM leader, then what, in real terms, is the difference between the politics of Karachi and what we see in Swat? A harsh comparison no doubt but one I hope, in the new spirit of democracy he appears to be advocating, he will forgive me for making.
These are depressing times for Pakistan mainly because while our troubles are many, and our challenges daunting, there is no sense of direction and very little by way of reassuring leadership. Before the 'long march' things were easy in that everything could be blamed on Zardari (just as, before that, everything could be blamed on Pervez Musharraf). Now it's not so easy.
With the restoration of the judges deposed by Musharraf we have lost another slogan -- that of an independent judiciary -- behind which we could duck and ignore other issues. Now that luxury is no longer available.
There are no quick-fix answers to life's complications. Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry can improve the dispensation of justice. That is all. Political leadership has to come from the political class and military direction from the military.
The party in waiting, the self-declared party of the future, is the PML-N whose hallmark, when critical thinking is called for and hard decisions are to be made, is, alas, a fudge: sound and fury in which it is extremely hard to detect a coherent meaning.
Does the PML-N have any policy regarding what once-upon-a-time was the 'war on terror' and now God alone knows is what? The nation is dying for a lead, a clarion call to arms. But when the PML-N had a one-in-a-million chance to take a clear position on Swat's Justice Regulation all it could muster was another fudge. Here was an opportunity to say that while we were against American diktat we also could not go along with Taliban diktat. But it was lost.
Coming to power is not the problem. The PML-N is already in power in Punjab, and will make it to power at the centre when the opportunity comes. But will it be able to deliver? Can it give the lead the nation wants and the people of Pakistan deserve? That is the question. Nawaz Sharif has been prime minister of Pakistan twice before. He will have to be a better prime minister of Pakistan next time round if Pakistan is to get out of the woods and surmount the terrifying challenges it currently faces.
Pakistan's democracy needs more fine-tuning. Many of the Musharraf amendments in the Constitution need to be done away with. But, realistically speaking, Pakistan has all the democracy that it can safely handle. Democracy therefore is no longer the problem. Our national debate must move on and focus on the battle for national survival which is staring us in the face.
We must not dance to American tunes. We have done too much of this in our history and need to think for ourselves and stand up on our own feet. At the same time we don't need to buckle under the advancing threat of the Taliban. It requires exceptional optimism to think that after the Swat deal Fazlullah's Taliban will rest on their laurels and not exploit their victory.
The American presence in Afghanistan is the root of the troubles we face. But as long as it lasts -- and there is nothing we can do to force America from there -- capitulating before the Taliban and ceding more ground to them should be no option either. If we go down this path, there will be precious little left to save.
KAMRAN SHAFI writing in DAWN asks: The ISPR (official Pakistan Army mouth-piece), when rebutting or complaining about the media actually copies its communications to the directorate general of the ISI! What does the ISI have to do with the media?
(BuA: Very interesting point above)
There is talk of a general amnesty for the Swat renegades, no matter what their crimes against humanity. Crimes such as decapitation; robbing graves and shooting up corpses and hanging them after decapitating the dead bodies; slaughtering women school teachers and 70-year old ex-servicemen. Amnesty for these Yahoos, sirs?
What is wrong with everyone? Must the Pakistani state debase itself in this manner? Must it prove again and again that it is mendacious enough to let its own monsters do what they will to whomever they will, and that it will then help them get away with it? Must the Pakistani nation, whose misfortune it is to live under this cruel and mindless state, be dishonoured to the extent that whilst murderers and executioners and thieves and robbers, many of them foreigners, are given ‘amnesty’, thousands of its poor brothers and sisters languish in its awful jails awaiting trial for petty offences such as gambling Rs10 in a game of cards, and other such ludicrous misdemeanours?
Who came up with this particular jewel of an amnesty for the Swat criminals please? They not only brought mayhem and death to that valley, but also took up arms against the state. Surely treason of the first order, what? And yet an amnesty is being considered for them? If you must give the Yahoos amnesty, then please open the gates of all the jails in Pakistan and release those who are lesser criminals.