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An open letter to important men



By Imtiaz Gul

Express Tribune, June 10, 2015


Dear Sharifs,

Your predecessors often fell short on their oath of duty. They mostly used the public vote and positions of power to pursue personal or narrow party and institutional agendas — all in the name of national security. They either willingly misled the Pakistanis or confused personal enrichment and self-preservation with national service. And hence Pakistan’s current dire straight. Your repeated pronouncements on counterterrorism and the rule of law, have failed to evoke definitive trust among foreign friends.

While a lot seems to be happening on the security front since the gruesome Army Public School (APS), Peshawar, attack in December, skepticism about your real intent abounds not only at home but also in Washington and Beijing.

Those in Washington and London still sound sceptical about the long-term intents of Pakistan’s political and military intent. They appreciate the strategic decisions underlying the National Action Plan (NAP). They also acknowledge the military gains in Waziristan as well as the push against organised crime in Karachi. Yet, they question the claims of success against terrorists and criminals. They quote the May 27 review meeting that you were part of.

Those in Beijing are empathetic to the context of the sociopolitical complications that geopolitics have thrown up in Pakistan. Some world leaders also relate to Pakistan’s concerns vis-a-vis the belligerent neighbour India and desire dialogue between both countries. But big questions still surround the lofty rhetoric on the 20-point counterterrorism (CT) as well as on claims of good governance. The NAP, for instance, contains a strong commitment against proscribed and militant organisations but Pakistanis are confused when they see the Maulanas and  adorning television screens on issues such as relations with India, Afghanistan or the US, and when ministers, lawyers and parts of the judiciary support non-state actors. All outsiders see this as a serious contravention of the government’s commitment against “all shades of non-state actors.”

Using the example of model Ayaan Ali, critics point to the tardy criminal justice system and the commitment under the NAP of revamping the Criminal Procedures Code of Pakistan (CrPC); if somebody caught red-handed with half a million dollars can’t even be indicted after over two months, how can one expect the authorities to speedily deal with anti-state crimes, terrorist financing and money laundering.

Big questions hang over the conduct of the judiciary and bureaucracy. Have you asked the police and the prosecutors about the fate of over 30,000 arrests they claim to have made under NAP? How many have been investigated and indicted? Have you bothered to revisit the NAP and ask your subordinates as to what tangible steps have been taken to reform the CrPC? It is quite clear that fight against crime, extremism and terrorism will never be a success without a reformed criminal justice system, which offers huge incentives even to highly-placed lawyers to defend known criminals and law-dodgers in the courts.

The world is watching you with scepticism. Your own countrymen are looking up to you with optimism generated by the NAP-rooted rhetoric. You got to these high positions because of the people. They deserve a better economic and security deal and long-term peace and development strategies. Unless you pull the plug on crime and terror nestled in Fata and Karachi through rule-of-law, and until the CrPC undergoes substantial reform, you cannot dis-incentivise crime and terror. You cannot take the raid on Nine Zero to its logical conclusion without commitment and the CrPC reform. You cannot enforce the law without reforming and depoliticising the police. With the current push, you may have scored tactical victories, but cannot hope for long-term strategic gains without the much-needed focus on legal and administrative reforms. And without a real push for these reforms, you can neither achieve lasting gains nor restore common man’s confidence in the government and the military.

Tailpiece: The government shepherded over 100 journalists to Islamabad for the launch of the economic survey and the budget — all at the expense of precious public money. Where is the reform and austerity?

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

Email: imtiaz@crss.pk