EDITORIAL: Changing regional scenario - Monday, April 18, 2011

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has led a high powered delegation that included COAS General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani and ISI chief General Ahmed Shuja Pasha to Kabul for consultations with the Karzai government regarding the strategy to be followed for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan in the backdrop of the impending withdrawal of foreign troops. The top level discussions yielded agreement on an upgraded joint commission of which the COAS and ISI chief would also be a part from the Pakistani side, along with the prime minister. The significance of this agreement as opposed to previous joint and trilateral commissions (including the US) is that the Pakistani military and intelligence services will have a place at the table, leading to the hope that whatever strategy is agreed upon will have the backing of all the main stakeholders.

In a joint press conference after the consultations, the Pakistani prime minister and the Afghan president were both at pains to stress that the process of national reconciliation, with its centre-piece being bringing the Taliban in out of the cold, would have to be Afghan-led and -owned. This emphasis derives from the appreciation in both Islamabad and Kabul that after the withdrawal of foreign troops, the two neighbouring countries would have prime responsibility for ushering in a political settlement that could lead to peace in Afghanistan, and by extrapolation, to Pakistan, the region, and arguably the world. The alternative, continuing civil war in Afghanistan, with its implications and spillover effect for neighbouring Pakistan and other regional countries and further abroad, is no longer acceptable. While both Prime Minister Gilani and President Karzai were clear on the US being on board (finally) regarding the reconciliation process, it needs saying that the Americans are latecomers to the peace feast. Not until the December 2010 Afghan policy review did the weight of opinion inside the Obama administration swing decisively in favour of seeking a way out of the impasse of a seemingly never-ending war. General Petraeus’ strategy of degrading the Taliban and only allowing the reintegration of Taliban foot soldiers in the interim until the Taliban were forced from a position of weakness to come to the negotiating table seems to have been recognised in Washington as not delivering the expected results, despite the troop surge. There is no timeline or verifiable parameters on which to judge the claims of the US military that it is making ‘progress’. The prospect of a war without end finds little favour in the US administration, Congress or the American public by now.

The presence of Generals Kayani and Pasha in the deliberations can be considered a positive sign that all sides are agreed on the essentials: negotiate a share of power for the Taliban to persuade them to give up the insurgency. The compromise strategy on the table is the best option under the circumstances as it would not only lead to a cessation of hostilities, accelerate the foreign withdrawal, restore the whole region to some modicum of normality and stability, but also isolate, arguably, the jihadi forces inside Pakistan, which must then either yield to a farewell to arms, or be ready for the consequences. Endgame in Afghanistan offers hope of peace inside the country and in the region. Freed of that onerous shadow, our military and security forces must gird up their loins to bring to heel the domestic jihadi menace in short order. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: A needed address

Chief Justice (CJ) of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry is making his presence felt outside the courtroom as well. In what can only be called a remarkably candid address to the officers of the Command and Staff College in Quetta, the CJ spoke of many things, most prominent of which were the ravages of our political system. He cautioned his audience to preserve the sacred oath they had taken to protect their country at all costs and to defend the constitution. In a rather honest overture, he reminded the army officers that the political system in the country had been overwrought with military interventions and that these stunted the growth of democratic institutions.

These are all truthful words and it is encouraging to see the highest judicial voice in the land rising to address these issues. However, there are many things that have been left unsaid for too long where these matters are concerned and this address, while honest and fair, did not delve into the details and the reasons for the constant circumventing of democracy in this country. When the CJ mentioned that military interventions have cut short the democratic process, he did not talk about the fact that, throughout the years, it has been the judiciary that has been complicit whenever a coup has been staged. Democracy in Pakistan is like a festering wound, one that, when it starts healing, the gauze of the political process is ripped off and the wound is left to bleed again. Not just the military, but the political leaders, who have made their parties their own personal fiefdoms of dynastic rule, have also given democracy a superficial cover. Consolidating the process of democracy and making strong the political process must be taken up in earnest by these very forces, not remaining silent, indifferent or acting in a manner that prevents democracy from taking root.

If this was a motivational speech, the CJ should have outlined a few other basic points. He should have asserted that the post-2007 independent judiciary would not remain silent at or complicit with any military adventurism and that the bureaucracy, that has loyally served itself and its perks all these years, should be a servant of the democratic process and the people. He should have outlined that it is vital that fresh blood be introduced into the political arena by holding intra-party elections and putting an end to dynastic politics. Everyone has a part to play in upholding the virtues of democracy and it is important that a voice like that of the CJ keep reminding the people, the military, judiciary and the politicians of these sorry facts from our history. *

Source : http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\04\18\story_18-4-2011_pg3_1

No comments:

Post a Comment