The two things hurting Pakistan | Ayaz Amir


The first is the army’s perceived soft corner for such outdated jihadi outfits as the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad. Why is it that when a Pathankot or Uri takes place Pakistan is automatically blamed, even before any evidence comes in? It is thanks to these outfits, their presence on Pakistani soil considered by Pakistan’s detractors as sufficient evidence of Pakistani involvement.

We can cry to the high heavens that India is committing atrocities in Occupied Kashmir, which it is, but one Hafiz Saeed and one Maulana Masood Azhar are enough to give a different spin to our distress. We then bemoan the world’s indifference.

The second thing doing incalculable harm to Pakistan is the unstoppable greed and corruption of the ruling elite, the tip of this corruption revealed by the Panama leaks. A corruption-tainted leadership, working overtime to deflect the arrows of accountability, cannot exercise leadership, let alone inspire the masses. A financially corrupt leadership is certainly in no position to give a lead to the army about the pros and cons of outdated jihadism.

Because of these twin factors Pakistan has been unable to adequately draw world attention to the plight of the Kashmiri people. Where we talk of Indian repression India raises the flag of ‘cross-border terrorism’. We may shout that this is a canard but the jihadis associated rightly or wrongly with Pakistan steal the thunder from our shouting.

The army under Gen Raheel Sharif’s command has big achievements to its credit – rolling back the tide of terrorism in Fata and dismantling to a large extent Altaf Hussain’s terror network in Karachi – a network receiving, let us not forget, unstinting moral and other support from that great bulwark against terrorism, the United Kingdom. But as he prepares to walk off into the sunset, the reluctance to call in the jihadi card will be counted as Gen Raheel’s biggest failure.

Let it be said again, if Pakistan’s ruling circles had any imagination, Hafiz Saeed by presidential decree would be appointed czar of all relief and rehabilitation agencies, his Lashkar-e-Taiba or its other incarnation, the Jamaat-ud-Dawaah, having shown a great capacity for relief work after floods, earthquakes, etc. Its trained and committed cadres should be put to good use.

And it is time to wean away Maulana Masood Azhar from the siren call of jihad and make him honorary instructor or consultant to the Special Forces at Cherat. He and his men have fought Indian forces in Kashmir and while we can take issue with the aims and methods of jihad, it is not easy to question the idealism and selflessness of those who are ready to die for their cause, whatever that may be.

In a society whose increasing hallmark is wealth and its accumulation by fair means or foul, selflessness of any sort is an all too rare quality. Most of us for petty gain willingly sacrifice our souls, not once but over and over again. So even while questioning the politics and ideology of jihad let us refrain from passing easy judgement on the moral conscience of the foot-soldier who for his beliefs can look death in the face without flinching.

Courage of any sort has to be admired…even the courage of the bigot and the fanatic. It is the snivelling coward who refuses to take any risk, refuses to take any side and whose lifelong passion is to sit on the fence, for whom, if there is any justice in hell, there will be reserved some of the choicest corners of purgatory.

So reach out to them and bring them into the mainstream of national life – avoiding the easy prescriptions of sofa samurai. Ask the Americans about this whose proconsul in Iraq, the clueless Paul Bremer, was quick to disband the Iraqi army and by this one senseless act paved the way for the breakout of the Sunni insurgency against the American occupation army.

We don’t have to go down the same path but it should be clear to the Clausewitzes of the general staff, and to the national school of ideology otherwise called the ISI, that the days of jihad are over and even the barest hint of an association with these outfits carries a heavy price for Pakistan, as we are seeing for ourselves at the present juncture.

Equally damaging for Pakistan is the unappeasable greed of the highest echelons of civilian power. What’s wrong with these guys? Haven’t they amassed enough wealth? Don’t they have property and assets everywhere? Haven’t they already ensured not the livelihood but the prosperity of not just their coming generation but their next twenty generations? Yet to look at them and their hectic profiteering in all directions and all sectors – from the steel and poultry industry in Pakistan to the plush real-estate sector in London and other equally salubrious places – the conclusion is unmistakable that they will never be satisfied.

What is the use of such wealth which leaves you perpetually craving for more? What is the use of ablutions and prayers, and prostrations at holy places, when such holy activity is sandwiched between one commission-begetting deal and another?

A fine mess Jinnah’s Pakistan is in – one side cannot curb the craving for jihad; the other side cannot curb its appetite for money-making. If Pakistan is to know peace both appetites have to be curbed. Hafiz Saeed and Maulana Masood Azhar have to be brought in from the cold and for Pakistan’s sake the engines of accountability have to be set in motion over the revelations stemming from the Panama leaks.

Enough is enough…how can the ruling echelons keep dodging the issue? Details of offshore accounts and Mayfair properties are there in the leaks, assets concealed and not declared, thus making their beneficiaries – in this case the prime minister and family – liable for action/prosecution under the law.

If jihad has reached the end of the road, and a good thing that it has, dodging over the Panama leaks should also come to a closure. But who will set the dynamics of accountability in motion? There’s no clear answer to this question. The courts are playing a passive and lifeless role, seemingly reluctant to take up in any energetic or decisive manner the Panama-related issues coming up before them. Institutions like NAB and FIA are under the government’s thumb. So we are at an impasse. Something needs to be done. Which Salvation Army will do it?

Pakistan faces a leadership crisis. We have tanks and missiles and a nuke inventory and a people ready to rise to any challenge. But our leadership ranks are empty – or in those ranks are trader-politicians who can only look out for themselves. We do have a leader on the military side and he’s proved his mettle over the last three years but he is about to depart into the sunset. On the civilian side there is Imran and just him but he is on the fringes of power.

These are seminal times. Pakistan either makes a new beginning by working on: a) jihad and b) the Panama leaks. Or it does nothing and remains stuck in the mess of the past. That will conclusively prove there is something wrong with our destiny.