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Clear Messaging is what Pakistan Needs

 

By Imtiaz Gul

 Weekly Pulse, May 10, 2013

 

General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s loaded speech that he delivered on the occasion of the 'Yaum-e-Shuhada' (Martyrs Day) ceremony at GHQ on April 30th came to the context of an unusual surge in violence and mounting speculation on the conduct of the elections. 

Data on violence in the first four months is pretty mind-boggling; as many as 2674 people killed in about 1108 incidents of violence, terrorism, and target-killing across Pakistan (compiled by Centre for Research and Security Studies). Similarly, skeptics have increasingly been questioning the conduct, fairness, and legitimacy of the entire electoral exercise, accompanied by the simmering perception that by targeting MQM,ANP and PPP, terrorists were leveling the ground only for the right-wing parties i.e. Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and Pakistan Tehreeke Insaf (PTI). This also amounted to imply as if an unholy nexus between the military, militant mullas , PML-N and the PTI existed to keep others out of the arena. 

The absence of representative governments in the centre and provinces and the wobbly, unsure conduct of the five caretaker governments added to spice to the unending though harmful conspiracies theories. Gen Kayani, therefore, did well by sending out four unmistakable messages. 

Firstly, by branding the election “a golden opportunity, which can usher in an era of true democratic values in the country,” the army chief attempted to snub all those sceptical of the election. 

By committing to help in the holding of free, fair and peaceful elections; to the best of our capabilities and remaining within the confines of the Constitution,” Kayani reiterated his institutional commitment to the constitution and its supremacy.

Those who know Kayani from the close can vouch for the general’s penchant for the book i.e. the constitution. In private conversations, he often refers to the constitutional role of the armed forces and insists that if every institution acts within its constitutional confines, benefits for the country would be immense.

The second message relates to the nature of threat and the constitutional view on whether and how to deal with it.

“……..if a small faction wants to enforce its distorted ideology over the entire Nation by taking up arms and for this purpose defies the Constitution of Pakistan and the democratic process and considers all forms of bloodshed justified, then, does the fight against this enemy of the state constitute someone else's war? “”

Herewith Gen Kayani resonated what counter-terror experts, particularly those from multi-cultural societies such as United States, Canada, Australia, France, the UK and Germany often ask at international fora; does the state submit to the whims of a small amorphous, group that is bent on hitting the interests of the state and people living therein. Does the state talk to a band of criminals-turned religious militants on their terms or makes them first submit to the constitution that governs the state. While pursuing peace and reconciliation, does the state compromise the fundamental guiding principle that no individual or group can be allowed to jeopardise/threaten or attack the interests of the state and its inhabitants?

Thirdly, and this relates to the previous one, by calling it “our war” the general tried to challenge those who are still projecting the conflict as the “American war.” By drawing on examples of other conflicts and seditious uprisings against the state, Kayani endeavoured to clear the conceptual confusion about the conflict that the unrelenting combination of TTP-Al-Qaeda has imposed on Pakistan.

What is important to underline today – in view of the atrocities that terrorists are committing across Pakistan – that regardless of who initiated the conflict over a decade ago, terrorists are jeopardizing lives all over Pakistan, hitting at the interests of the state indiscriminately. That is why Kayani’s emphasis on the need to develop a civil-military consensus on the nature of the war and the recipe to fight it.

Fourth message relates to the responsibilities that democracy accords on public representatives. The crux of his message flowed from the premise that public representation demands primacy of public-focused delivery of services.

“Our salvation resides in transforming the government into a true platform of public representation. This would come to pass once the construct of public representation in Pakistan is oriented towards affording primacy and precedence to larger public interest over personal interests. Otherwise, may it be democracy or dictatorship; governance would continue to remain a means of self aggrandizement and that of plundering national wealth and resources.”

Although a message coming from an army chief in a democratic dispensation sounds can be dubbed as a strange anomaly , yet in the Pakistani context, with a prolonged history of military’s predominance in politics, this should not come as a surprise. The larger question that Kayani’s desire entails is whether this anomaly conflicts in any way with the widespread public demands for “precedence to larger public interest over personal interests?”

During most of the five years of the PPP-ANP-MQM rule, media, judiciary and public at large decried, and were incensed over what they called corruption, mis-governance and apathy towards public interest issues.

One would hope that, regardless of however violent, the election on May 11 marks another big step forward in Pakistan’s democratic transition that could pave for greater political consensus on the definition of the sweltering conflict, the ways to fight it, and also help in greater sense of responsibility among public representatives. That is the only way to gradually neutralize the influence of the monolithic military establishment.

Number of Attacks

Centre for Research and Security Studies

January-April, 2013

Data Sheet Jan-April 2013

Nature of Attacks Number of Attacks Civilians Security Forces Militants Total

Dead Injured Dead Injured Dead Injured Dead Injured

Bomb Blast 139 343 1011 55 95 7 4 405 1200

Suicide attacks 25 168 340 43 82 61 272 422

Drone attacks 12 71 19 71 19

Target killings 499 637 190 78 31 5 1 720 222

Landmine explosions 19 18 10 7 15 25 25

Sabotage attacks 171 2 13 2 4 13

Dead bodies found 227 10 4 241

Military operations 43 6 3 11 339 109 356 112

Schools blown up 39 1 1

Missile/Mortar/Firing 161 141 206 72 88 367 78 580 372

Total 1108 1542 1774 276 311 856 211 2674 2386

Imtiaz Gul is the executive director of the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies, and the author of the recently released book Pakistan: Before and After, published by Roli Books, India

Email: imtiaz@crss.pk