EDITORIAL: The great expectation - Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Source : http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\10\26\story_26-10-2010_pg3_1

The development most telling about the US’s unchanged stance vis-à-vis North Waziristan (NW) in the recently conducted session of the Pak-US strategic dialogue was its grant of $ 2 billion in military aid. Supposedly a no-strings-attached aid package, the money is a guarantor of one thing: the US’s greatest expectation. A full-scale army offensive in NW before the July 2011 US withdrawal date is what the US is looking for. To think that a hefty aid package does not carry the weight of expectations amounts to fooling oneself. That is why Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s statement at a press conference after his arrival from Washington fails to inspire belief. Saying that Pakistan will work on its own “timeline” to fight the militants currently being given safe havens near the Pak-Afghan border will not go down well with the US, despite its reiteration at the dialogue that Pakistan is its “strongest” ally in this war. Such statements reflect that the civilian government has bought into GHQ’s formula on NW. The fact that the $ 2 billion will be made available (if approved by Congress) in 2012 gives the Americans plenty of time to sit back and watch how far Pakistan will go in its counter-insurgency efforts in NW. There are many rationalisations that the Pakistan Army may be able to bank upon to postpone the offensive further, such as the onset of winter and how the formidable terrain in NW will not allow an operation in harsh conditions. However, winter will surely fade, but US expectations will not. Such is the nature of the NW conundrum, one that comes with it a $ 2 billion price tag.

In all the years since 9/11, the great superpower has been unable to prevail in getting Pakistan’s dual policies — introduced by Musharraf when he agreed to hand over al Qaeda to the US but secretly nurtured the Afghan Taliban to gain a strong foothold in Afghanistan — changed. That is because the Pakistani military has played its cards exceptionally well, knowing that without its cooperation, any US plans for Afghanistan were bound to crumble. Hence the US’s immutable carrot and stick policy, of which this $ 2 billion is the latest lure. The $ 7.5 billion approved in the Kerry-Lugar Bill is also one of the US’s many carrots.

As far as Pakistan is concerned, the country has a militant onslaught on its hands, with the Afghan Taliban’s safe havens slowly giving the US reason to apply pressure, the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) attacking urban and religious centres all over the country and Punjabi militants coming out of the woodwork. The struggle against jihadis has become all-encompassing now as the theological/ideological nexus has gelled the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban together. For the military to differentiate between them and choose sides will be tantamount to putting the Pakistani state at risk. It has yet to be seen just what kind of operation will be launched in NW, and when.

The situation has come to a pass where the US needs to start leaving Afghanistan by July 2011 and Pakistan needs to start facilitating that departure by curtailing its support to the Afghan Taliban. The two sides must weigh all the odds. If both stick to their guns, the withdrawal may be postponed and the region will continue to remain unstable.

Unfortunately, the strategic dialogue seems to relay as much. Both sides came to the table with their individual aims and objectives intact. Although the dialogue bridged the trust deficit somewhat, until the deep-rooted doubts and reliance on dual policies are erased, not much is likely to change. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: SCBA polls and dirty tricks

The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) elections are to be held tomorrow (October 27) but it seems that a mudslinging campaign has been launched against one of the contestants for the post of SCBA president. Asma Jahangir, a renowned human rights activist and lawyer, is the target of a malicious campaign by her opponents’ dirty tricks ‘department’. A pamphlet titled ‘Asma Jahangir: Adalat-e-Uzma ke khilaaf targeted missile’ (Asma Jahangir: a targeted missile against the Supreme Court) is doing the rounds in the legal fraternity. The pamphlet has been published by a spurious group that goes by the name of Khatm-e-Nabuwwat Lawyers Forum.

The eight-page pamphlet has made some serious allegations against Ms Jahangir, most of which do not even need to be dignified with a response, but this sort of skulduggery has no place in an SCBA election. Someone of Ms Jahangir’s standing does not need any defending since her work speaks for itself. She has served as the chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief and UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Arbitrary and Summary Executions. The motivated pamphlet questions why Ms Jahangir raises the issue of minority rights at international platforms when Pakistan’s minorities have equal rights and there is no threat to them. It appears that the Khatm-e-Nabuwwat Lawyers Forum are living in a delusional world because Pakistan is a country where the state is not separated from religion and where we have witnessed the worst kind of persecution of religious minorities and discrimination against ethnic minorities from the day it came into being. Over the years, Ms Jahangir’s progressive and bold views have angered the reactionary forces. The allegations that Ms Jahangir’s election campaign is being funded by India, the US and Israel are laughable to say the least. Labelling someone a RAW/CIA/Zionist agent is often the first resort of the religious bigots to discredit someone. The extremist forces think that they have a monopoly on patriotism but they need to be reminded of Ms Jahangir’s services to the country in the human rights, legal and policy fields. Raising women’s rights issues, asking for peace in South Asia, highlighting the missing persons cases, asking for a cut in the defence budget so that more money can be spent on the development of Pakistan, opposing religious extremism, etc, make Ms Jahangir not just a patriot but someone who has her priorities straight. Asma Jahangir is one of our most articulate and effective advocates of all that is desirable and indefatigable critic of what is wrong with our society.

Instead of indulging in character assassination, distortion of facts and propaganda, Ms Jahangir’s opponents should let there be a clean fight where the electorate will decide who becomes the next SCBA president. *

No comments:

Post a Comment