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So what is Pakistan’s narrative?



By Imtiaz Gul

Express Tribune Dec 31, 2014


Following the Peshawar tragedy, a lot of talk has centred on narratives. The civilian-military leadership’s response to the Peshawar tragedy radiates consensus, confidence and commitment to rid the country of forces of terrorism and obscurantism. A consultative frenzy led by two Sharifs on the way forward is visible too. But the real question facing them all is whether their recipes for the future are rooted in an accurate diagnosis of the crisis?

Probably not. Why? Because if it were so, the civilian-military leadership would have first lunged for correcting whatever we have as the narrative right now before crafting the unavoidable, essential and much-needed narrative — something much more crucial than the physical war on terror in the long haul. Without a clear construct of this foundation — anchored in socio-cultural and historical contexts — and admission of the limitations that cultural diversity, complex socio-political make-up and difficult geopolitical surroundings impose on Pakistan, crafting a narrative will be pointless.

What is it then that must flow from the two pivots of power — parliament and GHQ — to convincingly prepare all stakeholders for the testing months and years to come? The narrative is essentially the socio-political philosophy that guides the conduct of state institutions in an inclusive, holistic way — without discrimination of caste, creed or faith.  What should it sound like then?

Perhaps this the way we should go. First, being a multi-faith, but predominantly Muslim society, Pakistan is aware of the need for the respect for and adherence to indiscriminate adherence to the rule of law. The government and the leaders’ resolve, will not distinguish between religious, political or social groups when required to establish its writ or enforce existing law.

Second, the entire leadership is fully cognisant of the fact that only by placing fundamental rights at the core of its polices can Pakistan effectively pursue the ideals of the rule of law, equal citizenry, social peace and harmony — as the prerequisite for internal stability. Third, the leadership recognises that internal stability comes through equitable human resource development, a goal achievable only through an across-the-board education reform and a must for social cohesion and economic development. The leadership commits itself to be the principal guardian of education in general, responsible for a rational, forward-looking curricula that induces critical thinking and innovation. The state will be responsible for an equitable, standardised religio-historical content being taught at all educational institutions. Mosques and madrassas are not exceptions either.

Fourth, the leadership commits itself to safeguarding Pakistan’s Islamic ethos, and resolves to disallow individuals and groups who exploit them through propagation of ideologies that conflict with the Constitution. Fifth, while ensconced in a challenging geo-strategic environment, Pakistan will pursue peaceful relations with all its neighbours incuding India, Afghanistan, Iran and China. Also, Pakistan will continue to fulfill its responsibilities as a responsible and sovereign member of the UN.

Sixth, the leadership also realises the need to preserve its sovereignty and neutrality with a suspicion-free relationship with the US and the European Union based on the principle of non-interference and respect for mutual sovereignty. Pakistan will not allow hate-mongering or preaching of violence — neither against immediate neighbours nor against other members of the UN.

Seven, while Pakistan reiterates its commitment to democratic values, it also expects others to be sensitive to its centuries’ old entrenched socio-cultural values, some of which symbolise elements of social harmony and peaceful coexistence in a culturally diverse society. Only a relentless pursuit of aforementioned principles can lay the foundation for a clearly defined national narrative on the country’s limitations, potential and its policy for surmounting the daunting security and economic challenges staring it in the face, resulting from skewed foreign and internal policies rooted in: a) the Cold War era; b) the reliance on private militias — often used as cost-effective peace-keepers and counter-insurgents — for  border (western border) and peace management (both inside Fata and Balochistan); c) porous and selective law enforcement; and d) a dated Criminal Procedure Code

No internal security, counter-radicalisation or counterterrorism framework will stand any chance of success or have a sustainable impact without articulating the fundamental guiding principles for such a policy framework.

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

Email: imtiaz@crss.pk