Owning the war
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
by Muhammad Saleem
This is with reference to Ayaz Amir’s article ‘Our priceless talent for wasting time and money’, published in this newspaper on Oct 17. Being a member of parliament, Mr Amir is certainly in a better position to throw light on the context and the content of the briefing.
One would think that his article would be a more serious and informed analysis of the exercise than that of others who were not part of the briefing’s audience. Regrettably that was not the case. The key points that he discusses focus on the briefing itself, arguments on the ownership of the war, the content presented by the army (about which, as he points out, his party asked no questions), analysis of the root of the problem, and his vehement denial of the presence of foreign fighters.
Mr Amir seems to raise these issues with the aim of taking a swipe at the government. His democratic right could best be practised inside parliament since that is where the debate is taking place. By demonising the important parliamentary exercire in print, the only purpose that is being served is that the terrorist threat has been demonised. Also, it comes as a bit of a shock that while its own MPs are being attacked by terrorists the PML-N continues to deny the gravity of the threat.
The PML-N certainly treads a delicate path especially when it comes to the issue of terrorism. It has to represent its constituency, which is as much at risk from terrorism as others in the country. At the same time, it has to continue political point-scoring as a part of its bid to call elections before 2013. However, after a recent suicide attack on a party MP’s residence in Bhakkar one would have though that the PML-N would review its rhetoric on this issue.
As far as the article is concerned, the writer on the one hand traces the roots of the problem to Zia’s Islamisation. And on the other, he says that there was no insurgency, no Nek Mohammads and no Taliban in FATA in 2001.
The obvious question is that if there were no insurgency before 2001, then how is Zia to be blamed for the current crisis? Even more shocking is Mr Amir’s denial of the presence of foreign fighters in the tribal areas. This flies in the face of scores of newspaper reports last year, especially during March and April when there were news stories of infighting between Maulvi Nazir and his group and around 10,000 Uzbeks led by Tahir Yuldashev – who is also based in Pakistan Clashes between the two groups had caused the deaths of over 200 combatants during the said period. Surely, this is proof that foreign fighters do exist in Pakistan.
Declaring the ongoing session as an exercise in futility is a negation of the PML-N’s own demand for a joint session to discuss the most important challenge confronting the country. In any case, even if the party had not demanded such a thing, the session was important not least because of the need for developing a national response to this critical issue. The terrorists need to know that the elected representatives have a role in the crisis and will not be silent spectators.
The fact is that the PML-N has lost the argument on the war being a non-issue. ‘Dialogue’ was one proposal it advocated, which the government agrees with. However, lines have to be drawn when challenges to the state’s writ continue, when kidnappings and public execution of our forces continue and when terrorists expand their circle of activity from the troubled region to the main centres of the country.
We would be doing the biggest disservice to the nation if we continue to disagree on the ownership of the war. FATA and other regions in Pakistan happen to be places where global acts of terrorism are planned, and at times executed. So if we indulge in the mindless debate of whose war it is, are we suggesting that these terrorists be let off the hook? By calling it America’s war, Mr Amir and others are implying that Pakistan has no threat from these elements – which is clearly not the case. One last question: How many Karsaz, Liaquat Bagh, Marriott, Wah, and Bhakkar tragedies are required for our MPs to start owning this war? (The News)
The writer is a freelance contributor.