EDITORIAL: Pushing forward cooperation - Thursday, March 31, 2011

Source : http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\03\31\story_31-3-2011_pg3_1

Whilst Mohali may have brought India and Pakistan together in the spirit of sportsmanship and cricketing fever, New Delhi reinforced the original resolve that both countries have to encourage peace and stability in the region. The meeting of Indian Home Secretary Shri Gopal K Pillai and Pakistan’s Interior Secretary Qamar Zaman Chaudhry for two-day talks has revived the promises made with such fervour in Sharm el-Sheikh in July 2009. Both secretaries have paved the way now for the upcoming foreign secretaries meeting and then the foreign ministers meeting by reviving the peace process. It seems that finally wisdom has dawned on the representatives of both countries to coordinate a counter-terrorism plan by sharing intelligence in an organised manner. Hence they have announced that plans are afoot to establish a “terror hotline” to be used by the interior secretaries, which will allow real-time intelligence sharing on any perceived and real terror threats. By far, this is the furthest we have come in making any real headway in addressing the terror threat being faced by the region as a whole. It was also decided that both countries would be willing hosts for investigators — from India — and a judicial commission — from Pakistan — in connection with the Mumbai and Samjhauta Express attacks respectively. It is encouraging to see that the door is finally being opened to coordinate satisfactory investigations into the events that sabotaged the peace process.

While manoeuvres to build mutual trust are on the table and the meeting repeated the usual rhetoric of remaining engaged to resolve all “outstanding issues”, it must be reiterated that terrorism must hold precedence over all other matters, something that seems to have been understood in this recent round of talks. Whether India or Pakistan, the truth remains that terror knows no boundaries. Whenever the peace process between these two volatile neighbours has been initiated, the ominous threat of terrorists wiping out any important progress made between the two countries always remains large. A single act can obliterate vital developments towards stability in these trying times. With the two sides once again tracing their steps back to the promises made before the Mumbai attack, turning the relationship back onto sounder footings, it seems as though they have both realised that they cannot tackle and dismantle a terror threat that will never respect borders, law and lives if they try to go it alone.

It is hoped that these decisions will be implemented without reservations. Pak-India dialogue, although widely anticipated, has of late not been taken seriously because of the terrorists’ sabotage of any real progress. While progress is still a long time coming on many issues of the past such as Kashmir, the real immediate problem is the struggle against terrorism. Terrorism has held the region hostage. It has obliterated any real developments, whether on economic and trade cooperation, or people-to-people contact. We have been painfully slow in engaging our neighbour for the sake of the region’s stability. These efforts to share intelligence and investigations will be a thorn in the side of all those forces that wish to see the two countries perpetually in conflict. It is high time the terrorist tail is no longer allowed to wag the dog, i.e. the interests of both countries in the normalisation of relations and peace. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: Shifting the responsibility

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court (SC) asked the additional advocate general to take up the missing persons’ issue with the government and ask parliament to legislatein order to resolve the matter. The SC observed that the issue was sensitive in nature and parliament should come up with legislation to deal with it. With all due respect to the apex court, the missing persons’ issue was taken up by the SC and it should have been pursued by the court to fruition. Shifting the responsibility at this critical juncture to a weak parliament will not necessarily resolve the issue. The missing persons’ issue is a very critical one. It involves our intelligence agencies like the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Military Intelligence (MI) and other such agencies, particularly in Balochistan where the Frontier Corps (FC) is running a parallel government. Families of the thousands of missing persons, especially from Balochistan, believe that our intelligence agencies are behind their disappearances. Many a time, the apex court has ordered that the heads of the ISI, MI and other agencies appear before the court but so far this request has not been entertained.

When General Pervez Musharraf sacked Chief Justice (CJ) Iftikhar Chaudhry back in 2007, many people believed that one of the reasons was the missing persons’ issue that CJ Chaudhry had taken up. When the deposed CJ and judiciary were restored in 2009, it was expected that they would pursue the missing persons’ case. Though the cases have been heard, the SC’s appeal to parliament seems like the apex court has given up and does not want to take any further responsibility in this matter. Commission after commission was set up by the apex court to tackle the matter, but nothing came of it.

It is well known that the real power in Pakistan lies with the military and security establishment. Anyone or any institution that challenges this establishment is asking for trouble. If the independent judiciary can take the democratically elected government to task on a host of issues, it should be equally willing to take the establishment to task. It is a sad day for Pakistan when the judiciary, in which millions of people had put their faith, shifts responsibility off its shoulders and onto parliament’s. *

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