COMMENT: The people — a new role —Zafar Hilaly - Friday, February 04, 2011

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If those bearing arms on behalf of the state, be they the military or the police, cannot provide the citizens with security, then they have no business to demand their loyalty or obedience, and they have no claim to a part of their earnings

It is not brass hats but brass heads that are a danger to Pakistan. It is another matter that our brass hats have brass heads and, along with hatless and (real) hairless politicos, are equally responsible for the plight of this country. But then they are all that we have unless, of course, one turns to the mullah — the professional (TV) wrestlers of religion — surely a dreadful prospect.

It no longer matters what system we have, democracy having proved itself as disastrous as dictatorship, and a presidential system as unsuccessful as that of the Westminster type. What matters are results. One would have thought this was obvious by now.

The prospect of carrying on as we are now is dreadful, which, in the case of Fawad, a poor hard working student-cum-office technician, has seen him deprived on as many as nine separate occasions within a period of 18 months in Karachi of his mobile phones and wallets containing (for him) significant amounts of cash. My own solitary experience of being mugged with a gun pointed at my head and another at the abdomen pales in comparison with the horrors that he has had to encounter.

This surely is an intolerable state of affairs. The loyalty of the people of Karachi is being lost by the state’s inability to offer protection not only against the suicide bomber or the remotely detonated bomb, but street and gun crime, car jacking, kidnapping, burglary, brazen corruption and wilful flouting of the law, many a time by our protectors and law givers themselves.

Pakistan faces two enemies: the foreigner armed to his teeth, kicking his heels at the border and biding his time, as much as his local and sometimes equally well-armed counterpart, stalking the streets and by-lanes for victims. To draw a distinction between the two enemies is invidious; both are equally lethal and both present a threat to the peace and security of the country and the well-being of the citizen.

The military often claims that that they have their hands full dealing with India and the Taliban, and that they are not equipped or trained or adequately manned to undertake the further task of ridding the country of criminals and armed gangs operating within, rather than on, the periphery of Pakistan. Yet the military feels it is equipped to manage the country’s foreign policy, which it insists on doing or, for that matter, taking over and running the country itself for decades at a time.

The fact is that if those bearing arms on behalf of the state, be they the military or the police, cannot provide the citizens with security, then they have no business to demand their loyalty or obedience, and they have no claim to a part of their earnings.

Clearly, the restructuring and revamping of the police and intelligence apparatus, the monitoring of entire localities and neighbourhoods, collating, sifting and planning action on the basis of the information and then overseeing operations is beyond the capabilities of inexperienced and self-serving politicians and their bureaucratic toadies. A look at the credentials and records of our head law minders and a brief glance at their performance reveal the utter folly of expecting them to plan, let alone deliver, even a modicum of security.

Neither at the centre nor in the provinces do we have leaders who have the slightest knowledge of what it takes to tackle the problem. Their knowledge of crime consists of getting away with it. One minister hardly stops talking to be able to do anything else. He struts about like a puffed up peacock. Arriving at the scene after a killing, he squawks about like a bedraggled hen. Another luminary, falsely credited with administrative acumen, reacts to extraordinary criminal situations by sacking everybody remotely concerned with the incident as if that is the remedy and then takes a deep breath and sacks the new lot to show his ire. The war against crime is being lost because of human shortcomings and not because of lack of resources.

We have arcane laws of evidence and procedures gifted by the British, and long since abandoned by them, that allow cold-blooded murderers to get away scot-free, witnesses blanche at the prospect of confronting murderers and judges avoid sentencing killers lest they themselves be killed. Because Pakistan is a place where the wave of a gun can earn a young man several times the wage he would earn in a month in a matter of minutes, why should he seek a job? Crime pays in Pakistan.

But it must not be allowed to. Unorthodox approaches and new ideas cost nothing nor does failure, because we cannot do worse. On the other hand, success would bring great rewards. Surely, the time has come for the people to get off the fence and act; it might just save Pakistan.

The writer is a former ambassador. He can be reached at charles123it@hotmail.comm

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