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Fighting terror & calamity




By Imtiaz Gul

Express Tribune, April 01, 2015


What is the most effective way of fighting irregular forces of terrorism and extremism or even reacting to calamities? Is it proactive mediation and reliance on the tools of soft power i.e., good and merit-based governance as a long-term strategy, or is it through the hard power of the state alone? Does the hard power provide lasting victory over unregulated evil? Can a state succeed against crime, calamity and terror if its governance structures are cluttered in a reactive mode? Also, can a country make the right decisions if most of the political discourse on national and international issues is usually dictated more by emotions and less by rationalty.

The Pakistan government’s response to the Yemen crisis offers one example of a state that lacks proactive intuition and only reacts when surrounded by crisis or hit by calamity. Most countries — including the United States, the UK, Germany — acted well ahead of time and had their citizens evacuated from Yemen without allowing fear and panic to perpetuate. Sadly, some 2,500 Pakistani citizens, as of March 30, still await evacuation and this reflects either the willful oversight of an imminent crisis or wishful optimism of the Pakistani diplomatic mission in Sanaa. Did it issue any caution or advisory, at least to those citizens who were closer to the advancing Houthi militias?

The trouble in Yemen had been brewing for several years and this simmering conflict turned into a regional conflict as Saudi Arabia initiated strikes on Houthi rebels. The government apparently lost no time in blindly committing military support to the Saudi Arabian monarch during the prime minister’s specially organised tour to the Kingdom in March. The evacuation of Pakistanis stranded in Yemen was probably an afterthought.

Pakistani political parties, intelligensia and the civil society at large, on the other hand, have loudly begun opposing their country’s active participation in the Saudi-led war on Yemen. They want the government to bring the issue to parliament before taking any final decision. Khursheed Shah made a similarly confused and funny demand to convene an all-parties’ conference (APC) before going to war with the Yemeni rebels on Saudi Arabia’s advice.

Here are three basic questions: what is parliament for, if the leader of the opposition in the same parliament asks for an APC? Two, do these parties realise that even countries such as Germany and France often find it hard to escape the compulsions of geopolitics and sooner or later join the bandwagon of international coalitions? Thirdly, can the prime minister of a beleaguered country where economic adversity grows by the day and teeming millions are jobless, simply disregard the fact that more than three million Pakistanis i.e., three million Pakistani households, are employed in Saudi Arabia? Half of our remittances come from them. Can any government afford a flat refusal in such circumstances? This is easier said than done.

Finally, while the country finds itself in an extremely difficult situation, its economic independence and political integrity does rest on long-term professional management and indiscriminate service delivery. Globally, only those nations command respect and embrace success which think ahead. Those caught in a reactive mode — and governed by familial dynasties — can at best hope to fearfully muddle along the course of history, getting battered and bruised every now and then.

Imtiaz Gul is the executive director of the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies

Email: imtiaz@crss.pk