Witness to Surrender
There is humor in everything, more so in a tragedy. Ever since the unfolding of dharna (sit in) related events of weekend of Nov 25th, my instinctive response has been to focus on the humor of this tragedy. Not sure if the response is driven by escapism or it helps get clearer perspective, but there is a lot of humor to be found in this tragedy.
Let us start with Khakis. Leave aside a few of the very pertinent questions raised by IHC Justice Siddiqui. Leave also the impression that the whole thing has been orchestrated by the hidden hand of Big Brother. Buy that Army when asked to step in under 245 had genuine concerns regarding its ability of crowd management and it becoming a party in a conflict that has political and sectarian undertones. But where should one place the tweet right in the middle of the operation claiming Chief has urged both sides to avoid violence thus equating government with hooligans besieging capital? One hopes the tweet was not instigated by connivance but one prays that it was not out of fear. And as if tweet and public posturing was not enough, Army, desperate to stay clear of it all, as I would believe, agreed to have its name put on a document which amounts to nothing but a document of surrender. This provided a perfect excuse for an already inept and spineless PML-N government to happily sign the document of surrender, which from the looks of it, it seemed eager to do anyways. Ever since Pakistan has a full-time General for twitter, the confusion is rampant, and image of the paramount security institution of the country has become a matter of everyday discourse which is neither healthy for the country nor for the institution.
As if this was not enough, came in the DG in quest for a photo-op to cement the impression that he has a soft corner for the demonstrators; doling out cash to miscreants who had kidnapped and tortured policemen, burnt public and private property, and had held the capital hostage. Just when PML-N is hell bent on showing this as the proof of connivance on part of khakis to this entire dharna episode, I think it was a misstep in the desperate attempt for a photo-op, and coming out on good side of faithful; which makes the whole thing a comedy beyond proportions. Just when khakis know all, a word of advice for their own and nation's good is to send their officers to public administration courses at some international institutes if they are bent on being in the limelight.
That brings us to federal government. As one is generous with khakis, giving them benefits of doubts, one should give one to federal government too. Let us accept that they did not want to carryout the operation at this stage, fearing it will backfire and that their hand was forced by IHC order. But why then they not use the opportunity provided to them when Supreme Court took a suo motto of the issue. Feds could have easily fallen behind the SC suo motto and asked IHC to halt its proceedings. That the operation was launched ill-planned and that they rushed to Army for help in no time also makes one suspect their eagerness to pass the buck to the Army. A theorist may go as far as saying that Feds wanted Army to be pitted against the Barelvi brute force but it seems it was the fear of mullah which was forcing Feds to bring Army in, so that they are not left with facing the backlash on their own, high and dry. And then comes the golden manifest, the agreement. Kneeling before the mullah, they let them have their Law Minister. Worst still, in a document signed by Interior Minister, Interior Secretary, and a high-level Army Official, they pleaded mullah not to issue fatwa to kill the Law Minister; in turn giving legitimacy to such fatwas. No where has the state conceded its monopoly on violence as it has done in this masterpiece.
That brings us to the biggest of jokers, the Punjab Government. Just when the Feds, while surrendering the state to the mob, have succeeded in taking their Law Minister out alive, Punjab Government has handed the head of theirs in a platter, in our own equivalent of Spanish inquisition. Not only that but it has let LYK have say in matters of text books, allowed them to have free and unhindered use of loud speaker without any restrictions on the content being aired, and have allowed them to have carte blanche to implicate and criminalize anyone in blasphemy cases as they deem fit, without any checks or conditions. The whole issue of electoral reform bill was a non-issue till CM of Punjab made a fiery speech at Alhamra in Lahore, saying the amendment to the election laws was mala fide and the perpetrates be brought to justice. Sheikh Rasheed raising it was an iota on the fringe, Shahbaz Sharif raising it made mullah smell blood and for kill they went. As many allege, to pressurize the elder Sharif to side step for the sake of avoiding troubles for party and government, Punjab Government fully facilitated the march to Islamabad. But as happens with every Frankenstein, this too has gone out of hand and is targeting Punjab and Punjab government the hardest. Even if one discounts the conspiracy against the elder Sharif, the appeasement of Punjab government and passing the buck to Feds was most criminal in this entire episode. From smiles of over-smart to desperate pleas to pirs and mullahs for salvage, Punjab Government is the darkest of all comedies.
And when we are at it, let us talk about the culture of sab chalta hai (everything is acceptable) which has led us to this present state. The culture has destroyed the very fabric of state and all its permanent institutions. No one is willing to stick his neck out to stop the rot. Vested interests have held hostage the security and other apparatus of the state. In past, even in the era of tyranny, one would see few voices from the ranks of government and military who would call a spade a spade and either succeed in stopping the wrong or would quit registering their dissent. When was the last time we saw a high-level civil or military official doing it on a national issue? Our officials in the permanent services of Pakistan have become fixated in passing the buck rather than doing their job. This is the cause, not the effect, of officials being focused on personal interest. And until this is fixed, the State is bound to doom.
Our civilization is an old civilization and a resilient one. It will ultimately manage to come out of the shackles of goons threatening it today. Society will survive this, whether the State survives it or not is the question. And the answer lies in those who are at the helm of State's permanent institutions. They will have to stick their necks out, say enough is enough and do their part in the framework of the laws and constitution of the Republic. Else the institutions will erode and Libya, Syria, Iraq awaits us. This is the last chance for the State. The society will survive, albeit at a mammoth cost.