Sir, don’t call it a day - Hussain H Zaidi - Monday, March 14, 2011

Source :

It’s said that Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani offered to step down in the wake of the assassination of Minorities Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti. But his cabinet colleagues implored him to change his mind. The premier’s offer gives the lie to the view, which unfortunately has gained wide currency, that people in the saddle are bent upon saving their own positions by any means. Three cheers for Mr Gilani!

However, even more than the prime minister, the members of his cabinet deserve our accolades for having the good sense of prevailing upon their captain to continue at the helm. The country is in the throes of clear and present dangers. Bloodthirsty terrorists are on the rampage striking at will, malevolent mafias and gruesome gangs are ruling the roost, the economy is in a shambles, society is in disarray and public morale is going downhill. The allies are looking daggers at the government. The donors have made capital inflows contingent upon economic reforms, which don’t seem to be coming through. Both foreign investment and assistance have dried up.

A change of guards at this critical juncture would only make matters worse. Hence, although the death of Mr Shahbaz Bhatti is a great national loss, Mr Gilani’s departure from the Prime Minister’s House would have been a graver one. Thank God, he is still there piloting the ship of state in deep waters.

The nation is also indebted to Interior Minister Rehman Malik for brushing aside the calls for his resignation on account of the alleged security lapse leading to the terrorists’ gunning down of his colleague in the cabinet. Mr Rehman Malik hit the nail on the head when he said, in so many words, that if the alleged security lapse could constitute a ground for the minister concerned to quit, the Punjab government should have bowed out a long time ago for its failure to prevent many an incident of terrorism.

One is at one’s wits’ end to find that such demands were made at all for the interior minister to call it a day, and even by some folks in the ruling party (you too, Brutus!). We all know Mr Rehman Malik has risked his life in putting down militancy and at present is at the top on the hit list of the terrorists. He is as much indispensable to the war against terror as Mr Gilani is to the crusade against bad governance. Therefore it is in vital national interest that both stay the course. But some people will never come to terms with this fact.

Mr Malik has some other feathers in his cap. For instance, he is the ruling party’s trouble-shooter. Whether it’s wooing back the MQM, de-escalating ethnic tensions in Karachi, resolving the deadlock between the management and workers of the country’s flagship airline, or making the transporters call off their strike, the negotiating and persuasive skills of the interior minister come in handy more than anything else. However, we live in a thankless world, where a person runs the gauntlet more for his virtues than for his vices; rather, more for his achievements than for his failures. This probably accounts for why some politicians are gunning for Mr Malik.

The assassination of Mr Bhatti should open our eyes to a couple of things. One, the most effective way to combat militancy and extremism is to shore up security through the length and breadth of the country. In fact, the entire country should be turned into a security state – if it hasn’t already become so. Terrorism is essentially an administrative problem and needs to be grappled with as such. The government may give serious thought to resurrection of the office of the deputy commissioner as well as executive magistracy, which is the panacea for most of the problems that the country is faced with.

Addressing the factors which, it’s widely believed, lay at the root of extremism, such as a deteriorating education system, rising poverty, widening income disparities, continuing backwardness, shrinking employment opportunities, growing social injustices, rotting governance, increasing intolerance and brutalisation of society, rising bigotry and fanaticism and the growing tendency to take the law into one’s own hands, should at best be of secondary importance.

Two, of all the people, those holding top slots in the government or the ruling party are facing the most serious threat to their life. Therefore, each of them is in need of foolproof security. This includes, evidently, bullet-proof cars and scores of well-trained and well-equipped guards. These valiant men and women are fighting the war of our survival and their security needs have to be taken into full account while public money is apportioned under various heads. Their security ought not to be compromised for such flimsy reasons as paucity of funds or shortage of men and matter.

These jargons are only part of the infamous bureaucratic red tape meant to delay rather than facilitate action by having on tap all that’s necessary. If required, the entire development spending may be re-appropriated to VIP security. For a people will thrive only if they survive and they can hardly survive if those who underwrite their security live perpetually in the shadow of death.

The writer is a freelance contributor based in Islamabad. Email: hussainhzaidi@gmail. com

No comments:

Post a Comment