comment
Composite inertia
Does the recent exchange of visits between India and Pakistan mean some forward movement on Kashmir?
By Nadeem Iqbal
Despite the fact that four rounds of composite dialogue, spread over four years since their initiation in January 2004, have been held and some progress made on a few minor issues, the main issues having the potential of escalating into full-fledged hostilities still remain off the table.

A mighty heart
Prof. Waris Mir's writings were aimed at awakening a sense of liberation amongst the despondent people
By Sana Khawaja
"The unanimously adopted Constitution of 1973 has been disfigured to such an extent that it has lost its actual spirit. The protege of the military regime describe the mutilation of the Constitution as an attempt to strike a balance between the powers of the prime minister and the president. The reality is although quite different -- whenever the president feels the prime minister, who represents the Parliament, is trying to assert his authority, he can just dissolve the assemblies and dismiss the leader of the house. Those at the helm of affairs have never bothered to enlighten the people about the fact that every political crisis in Pakistan, every time the constitution was ripped apart; there was merely one reason behind it all: an individual holding power had refused to let go of even an inch of his authority," these words, written twenty one years ago by Prof. Waris Mir sound like an echo from the past, reverberating very truly to this age, this time, when another military usurper has replaced the portrait of General Zia in the photo frame.

Taal Matol
Summer!
By Shoaib Hashmi
The first battle of Panipat is lauded in all the history books as one of the turning points in history which established the three centuries of Mughal rule here. It is also known that no sooner than Babar had established himself in Delhi, that the summer came along, and all his namby-pamby Emirs from Ferghana, who had never felt the sweat drip down their tailbones onto the backs of their ankles started weeping and wanting to go back to their cooler hovels. Babar with some difficulty persuaded them to stay, but then launched into a tirade against India and its climate!

debate
We the other
Even though we remain critical of imperialist powers for failing to be culturally relative, we the urbanised and 'civilized' section of the population are guilty of committing the same mistake while dealing with our 'folk cultures'
By Ameem Lutfi
Even though for us, the British Raj was about nothing other than the British imperialist forces imposing themselves on the natives, the East India Company and the subsequent direct British rule government did carry a moral justification, however lame it may seem to us, for their imperial conquest. This moral justification was found within the loaded notion of 'development'. The British carried with them a certain idea of 'change' that they intended to bring about or impose upon the Indian society. Their idea of what changes were needed was based upon a very specific understanding of Indian society and culture, an understanding that is now severely criticised for its generalisations and inaccuracies. In order to aid their understanding they made a very Durkheimian move of creating rigid categories that essentialised several aspects of 'Indianness.'

'Judicialisation' of politics
The content and course of the lawyers' movement must be redefined towards institutional revamping and restructuring
By Amjad Bhatti
First a reflection from history: After the first Mysore War, the Regulating Act 1773 was passed by the British Parliament through which the East India Company was made responsible to the parliament. Simultaneously, the office of governor-general with four British councillors and a supreme court was established in Calcutta with a chief justice and three judges.

 

 

 

Despite the fact that four rounds of composite dialogue, spread over four years since their initiation in January 2004, have been held and some progress made on a few minor issues, the main issues having the potential of escalating into full-fledged hostilities still remain off the table.

These issues include Jammu and Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek and the Water dispute, about which the Pakistan foreign office believes a more comprehensive conflict management process needs to be launched.

The composite dialogue process covered eight subjects -- Peace and Security including Confidence Building Measures (CBMs), Jammu & Kashmir, Terrorism and Drug trafficking, Friendly Exchanges, Economic and Commercial Cooperation, Tulbul Navigation Project, Sir Creek and Siachen.

The dialogue was briefly suspended when, following the Mumbai blasts on July 11, 2006, India indefinitely postponed the foreign secretary level talks. The dialogue was resumed later in the same year.

Although there has been a talk of some behind-the-scene diplomacy going on that would bring forth some formula to resolve the Kashmir dispute, nothing has come out so far. The secret diplomacy, if it has done anything, has brought both the parties to the negotiating table and kept them engaged.

The speculations were spurred when, in December 2006, President Pervez Musharraf told an Indian TV channel the need of an "out-of-the-box thinking," for evolving a formula which was acceptable to Kashmiris as well. The four point formula talked about identification of regions, demilitarisation, self-government and joint management/institutional arrangement for resolving the dispute.

Although Kashmiri leadership considered it a good starting point, the pronouncement failed to elicit any response from the Indian leadership.

Going by the book, even within the specific framework of composite dialogue, Pakistan talks about Kashmir but India is more concerned about counter terrorism cooperation.

Pakistan Foreign Office year book for 2006-07 talks specifically about Kashmir in the context of composite dialogue saying "...we have worked to build tension-free relations with India. Kashmir remains at the heart of conflict and tension between Pakistan and India. We have initiated a composite dialogue process aimed at confidence building measures as well as resolution of outstanding disputes. Trade and people to people contacts have increased. As a result, the political atmosphere in the region has improved."

"The two countries", it concludes, "are at a critical juncture in their relations and it is for the leadership of the two countries to decide how to move forward on conflict resolution, since this alone can lead to enduring peace in South Asia."

While the Indian External Affairs Ministry in its annual report for 2007-8 is more focused at counter terrorism saying, "The dialogue process which began in 2004 is premised on the commitment given by the Pakistan President on 6 January 2004 not to permit any territory under Pakistan's control to be used to support terrorism in any manner. During the year, the dialogue process resulted in the signing of the Agreement on "Reducing the Risk from Accidents Relating to Nuclear Weapons", an agreement to allow either country's trucks to cross at Wagah/Attari Border up to designated points on the other side, and completion of joint survey of Sir Creek and exchange of maps showing respective positions of either country. Transport links established in the previous rounds of the dialogue continued to operate successfully, facilitating the movement of people and boosting bilateral trade."

It seems that India does not want to follow Pakistan for pursuing an out-of-the-box solution and wants to find solution within the ambit of Indian constitution.

There has also been a sign of growing frustration amongst Kashmiri leadership that has often visited Pakistan. During its recent visit to Pakistan, All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has proposed that the dialogue on Kashmir should begin in Kashmir and the heads of both Pakistan and India should hold one session each at Srinagar and Muzaffarabad.

Referring to the composite dialogue, Farooq said that they are not against trade or exchange of cultural troupes and delegations between India and Pakistan. But it is strange that when innocent people are being killed, the two states are talking about trade and culture? Therefore, dialogue for the sake of dialogue couldn't be result-oriented. APHC has always suggested that Kashmir should be the central point on the agenda of dialogue between the two countries that had never been. "The only outcome of dialogue had been launch of bus service between Muzaffarabad and Srinagar," he added.

Sir Creek and Siachen are being considered as resolvable issues and are also crucial to resolving Kashmir dispute. Unlike Kashmir both are bilateral military disputes. In case of their resolution, it would give confidence to both the governments to go forward on Kashmir with more strength.

Although, last month Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said that considerable progress has been made in narrowing down differences and in finding common ground. Both the issues -- Sir Creek and Siachen -- still do not have any agreement towards solution.

India cites the political situation in Pakistan as being the main factor in the slow process of dialogue. But the inception of PPP-led coalition government seems to augur well for India-Pakistan relations. Now the elected political government is comfortable in following the military's initiative on Kashmir. Otherwise in the late 1980s Benazir Bhutto had got her fingers burnt after touching Kashmir and got severe reaction from the then establishment for selling it out. Nawaz's brief peace entanglement with Vajpayee became a nightmare that led to Kargil.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani, in a policy statement soon after taking over in March this year, told Kashmiris that their sacrifices would not be wasted and emphasised the need to accelerate the dialogue process to resolve the issue. "The CBMs will only be beneficial when the Kashmir issue is resolved according to the aspirations of the Kashmiri people and under the set international principles," he had said.

The time has come for both the countries to prioritise the issues after whose resolution the people of both the countries would have some confidence on the composite dialogue process.


A mighty heart

By Sana Khawaja

"The unanimously adopted Constitution of 1973 has been disfigured to such an extent that it has lost its actual spirit. The protege of the military regime describe the mutilation of the Constitution as an attempt to strike a balance between the powers of the prime minister and the president. The reality is although quite different -- whenever the president feels the prime minister, who represents the Parliament, is trying to assert his authority, he can just dissolve the assemblies and dismiss the leader of the house. Those at the helm of affairs have never bothered to enlighten the people about the fact that every political crisis in Pakistan, every time the constitution was ripped apart; there was merely one reason behind it all: an individual holding power had refused to let go of even an inch of his authority," these words, written twenty one years ago by Prof. Waris Mir sound like an echo from the past, reverberating very truly to this age, this time, when another military usurper has replaced the portrait of General Zia in the photo frame.

Waris Mir was at the climax of his professional career as a writer and a voice of the dissident when a sudden cardiac arrest interrupted his writings on  July 9, 1987.

Waris Mir's writings, about political matters, feministic issues, social implications, cultural reforms, religious beliefs, philosophical ponderings, literary references and even historical background remain relevant because they were not directed towards one individual -- they were rather directed towards educating the people about the ills of tyranny, the psychological problems that the military tyrants possess. His writings were not just aimed to stand apart from the rest of the literary and pseudo-intellectual crowd, but were rather aimed at awakening a sense of liberation amongst the despondent public.

Prof. Waris Mir amalgamated historical orientation, international references and national situations in order to bring to light issues of vital national importance. These included political chaos in Pakistan, the unacceptable relationship between the political and the military leadership, ludicrous referendums, rigged elections, sham democracy, mutilation of the constitution and the like. "The army intervention in politics does not allow the political and economic setup of a country to get strengthened. The military regimes do allow holding general elections but only handpicked parties can participate and chosen loyalists become a part of the government. Pakistan has reached the very heights of desire to become such an ally of America that even our foreign policy and ideals are peppered with the directives of the US." The words sound as true today as they were 20 years ago.

Being an intellectual with moral courage and a mighty heart, Waris Mir was not ready to become a silent spectator to the brutality of a dictator and stabbing of democracy. Being a man of principles and truth, he did not put a stop to the pinching truth that flowed out of his pen. In one of his columns titled, 'The wish for monarchy in the era of democracy', he writes: "One president in uniform named it basic democracy and another gave it the title of Islamic democracy but just after a few years, all these presidents became monarchs under their own version of 'desi' democracy." Waris Mir now, must be viewing from above General (r) Musharraf's so-called version of true democracy -- the enlightened moderation.

Most importantly, what Waris Mir wrote and how he wrote, makes him an icon par excellence. "Freedom of the press is not an issue for all writers..." The times, in which he wrote, many of the country's leading intellectuals and writers, who are the opinion-makers, had compromised on their principles and professional credence. Freedom of the press is certainly not an issue for all those who write but it was 'the' issue for Waris Mir. "The national character and attitude of any nation is best expressed through its journalistic values and modes of communication because journalism reflects the political situation, intellectualism, cultural norms, social aspects and the working values and courage of government functionaries. Objective and free press is the only parameter that can give a fairly good idea of any country's weaknesses and strengths, its successes and failures... The successive governments have always believed that their success is the common man's success and their failure is the common man's failure while in reality the situation might actually be absolutely on the contrary."

To conclude, nothing would be more thought-provoking than this extract from one of Mir Sahib's writings: "If people are willing to delve into tough conditions and prepare themselves for hard core punishments, it should be registered that such a nation has hardened. And thus can take up the task to govern itself. At such a time, the people will have the right to either discard off the dictator or coerce the ruler to bring about a desired change in his style of governance. At such a time the ruler will have no option other than either to succumb to the demands of the people or to get done with his job altogether."

Prof Waris Mir's death anniversary falls on July 9.




 Taal Matol
Summer!

The first battle of Panipat is lauded in all the history books as one of the turning points in history which established the three centuries of Mughal rule here. It is also known that no sooner than Babar had established himself in Delhi, that the summer came along, and all his namby-pamby Emirs from Ferghana, who had never felt the sweat drip down their tailbones onto the backs of their ankles started weeping and wanting to go back to their cooler hovels. Babar with some difficulty persuaded them to stay, but then launched into a tirade against India and its climate!

Excuse me, Babar may be your hero, but he and his cohorts were a bunch of furriners! As were their successors the British, and indeed his predecessors from Central Asia and none of them really understood this land or its climate.

Summer, as the saying goes is in full swing, and we Lahoris are sweltering in our own perspiration; and if I sound too cheerful for your own memories of really hot weather, let me explain. Each region has its own climate see, and each climate has one season which is particularly its own, which is the high point of the year.

We live in what are the sub-tropics, and you may not realise it but our special season is the summer! That is when the land shows off its best aspects, although we never say so. For more than a thousand years we were ruled by people from a more moderate climate, see, first the Turkomans and Tartars, then the Mughals and Europeans, and for all of them summer was hell.

As soon as the weather started warming up they packed their stuff and made for the cooler climes of Kashmir and the northern regions in general. In British times summer brought the great migration when the 'Summer Capital' moved to Simla and the underlings to Dalhousie and Naini Taal, and for Pakistanis it was Murree and the Galis.

These were small settlements clinging to the foothills of the Himalayas, whose only qualification was they never got very hot. So for anyone who could afford it, it became the ritual to move to the hills for the summer. There was absolutely nothing to do there; and after breakfast they all pretended to go for a walk, then came home to endless bouts of playing cards.

It was not serious cards, mostly wishy-washy 'Rummy' or 'Sweep' and something called 'Bezique' which I never fathomed, a rather silly way to kill time until lunch and then tea. When it was time for all to get dressed in their finery with ties and brooches, and take the mandatory walk half a dozen times up and down the local 'Mall', greeting all the other visitors, and sipping the equally mandatory tea at places called 'Lintott's'. They might have thought that they were living the height of fashion, but they were not.

All the time they were missing the summer back home where, while it is true the collar at the back of the neck was perpetually damp, there were compensations. I don't think nature has a better showcase for sheer extravagance than the Amaltaas and the Gold Mohur trees in full bloom. There are about a dozen fruits which appear for a few short weeks each but nothing matches them for exotica. And above all there is the mango, the only fruit, the rest of them being vegetables. And here is a secret in case you are going to throw West Indian excuses for mangoes, or tell me about transporting them frozen all over the world. The mango does not come into its own, or taste the same, unless it is eaten at the height of the Lahori Summer, in Lahore!

Among the lesser known exotica are first and foremost the Falsa which appears for a few short weeks and leaves the taste buds longing for it for the rest of the year; and then there is the equally short lived Jaman. Many people forget that there are two varieties of Kheera, the European variety which stays around all year, and tastes like nothing, and the real stuff the Desi Kheera which doesn't look half as good but tastes like heaven. And more to the point there is the Kakree which appears for an even shorter time but is for the connoisseurs and not for culinary boors!

Actually there also used to be the Goondie and the Lasoorah and I haven't seen either in years. What a pity!


debate
We the other

Even though for us, the British Raj was about nothing other than the British imperialist forces imposing themselves on the natives, the East India Company and the subsequent direct British rule government did carry a moral justification, however lame it may seem to us, for their imperial conquest. This moral justification was found within the loaded notion of 'development'. The British carried with them a certain idea of 'change' that they intended to bring about or impose upon the Indian society. Their idea of what changes were needed was based upon a very specific understanding of Indian society and culture, an understanding that is now severely criticised for its generalisations and inaccuracies. In order to aid their understanding they made a very Durkheimian move of creating rigid categories that essentialised several aspects of 'Indianness.'

India, as a geographical location and locality, was fixated; in order to satisfy its understanding of religion, various disparate religions were all grouped into this single label of Hinduism -- the religion of the people of Hind. Hinduism was then placed in opposition to Islam, the religion of the foreign Arab, Persian and Mongol rulers. Even though this categorisation by itself might not seem problematic, and at best an academic issue, what followed from this categorisation became a very significant issue for the colonial subjects. It was these very categories and generalities that the British used to chalk out their plan for bringing about development and change.

Post-colonial scholars such as Edward Said have written a lot about the lack of understanding that was inherent in the Western Imperialist's models of change. Even 'people's writers' such as Karl Marx were susceptible to this Orientalist attitude suggesting a very fixed and westernised model of progress and change.

Common everyday modern morality does not deem every change bought under this dharma of 'development' as inherently evil. Actions such as suppression of local languages and literary materials continue to be condemned from all quarters, while actions such as the banning of Sati continue to receive commendation. But what about acts like commodifying land, which on the one hand did 'modernise' the nation by bringing them into the (pre)capitalist stage of progress but on the other hand deeply disturbed the societal setup creating much of the feudalistic tendencies we are dealing with today. How should we, as post-colonial actors, see this action and several other actions that fall in this gray area: as a social advancement or as a corrupting act undertaken by an imperialist force with no understanding of local customs?

In more modern times we continue to criticise the west for its lack of understanding of eastern cultures and its jingoistic tactics. We continue to condemn it for not truly understanding non-western social norms and using a very westernised lens to judge non-western cultures. Let's take, for example, the issue of the veil worn by women in Islam; just as the West with its ideals of liberty and human rights continues to campaign against it on the basis of the veil being oppressive towards women, we continue to try and rationalise it and point out the west's inability to grasp the true spirit behind the act of wearing a veil.

With the emergence of Boasian school of thought and the Post-modernist theories, there has been a trend to push for cultural relativism, a principle which suggests that all beliefs and practices should be judged from within the framework of the culture in which they are present. Put simply, there is a push to 'not judge other'. We, the non-westerners who in a global frame of reference become the subaltern group, are well aware of the virtue of this theory and continue to use in discourses with the West. But even as we raise the banner of relativism against the western world and the imperialist forces, we fail to be cultural relativists in our own rhetoric concerning the subaltern groups within us (especially with tribal cultures such as those prevalent in Balochistan and NWFP).

The meta-narrative about these tribal areas continues to be one of bringing about 'progress' and 'development' (British Raj's catchphrase). We continue to criticise them for their primitive setup, for preferring the Jirga system over the modern legal system, for their strictly hierarchical setup. We, too, like the British lump up all tribal setups into a single category and generalise to a great extent. Like the British our understanding of 'their' culture is not based on a thorough study but more on our 'feeling' towards them and a sense of our own superiority.

So even though we remain critical of imperialist powers for failing to be culturally relative and point out at their lack of understanding of native culture and their God-like attitude of a social architect; we the urbanised and 'civilized' portion of the population are guilty of committing the same mistake while dealing with 'folk cultures.'

When I placed this very issue of cultural relativism in front of a Marxist friend of mine, he almost immediately accused me of harboring 'pot-modernist bourgeoisie' tendencies, he felt that if one becomes a cultural relativist to the fullest one cannot be critical of any aspect of any culture. Even though my friend's statement had a strong bias to it, it did raise a very significant problem, a problem that has been implicit in the examples I have given in my article: how can cultural relativism and activism go together? My friend was right, relativism extended to the maximum results in complete paralysis. A pure relativist can not be a party to any campaign for social or cultural change. But from our experiences under the British Raj and as part of the 'misunderstood' culture we are aware of the merits and importance of cultural relativism. So the question really is how can we strike a perfect balance between the two? How can we be supporters of social change without being social architects? Specifically, in terms of Pakistan, a post-colonial nation state in which the majority of the population adheres to a sense of cultural modality quite distinct from the liberalised world, how can we advocate any change in these alternate cultures while at the same time not falling into the 'oriental' trap of failing to be culturally relative?

By Amjad Bhatti

First a reflection from history: After the first Mysore War, the Regulating Act 1773 was passed by the British Parliament through which the East India Company was made responsible to the parliament. Simultaneously, the office of governor-general with four British councillors and a supreme court was established in Calcutta with a chief justice and three judges.

Elijah Impey was the first chief justice, who is known for maliciously executing an influential Brahmin, Raja Nand Kumar, in 1775. Kumar angered Warren Hastings, the then governor-general, accusing him of taking bribes from the widow of Mir Jaffar and other officials. Reacting to it, the governor-general, by using another native Mohan Parsad, brought a case of forgery against Kumar and had him convicted by Elijah and got him executed -- perhaps it was one of the first judicial murders committed by an Anglo-Saxon judge in India.

Nonetheless, the saga of judicial pliancy did not end with the end of colonial rule in Indian subcontinent. It looks as the story of Nand Kumar and Mohan Parsad continues even today. Forget about Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's much tormented execution, many more such reported and unreported examples establish that the history of Pakistan's judiciary is replete with executions, trials, convictions, concessions and remissions with obvious political overtones. From Maulvi TameezudDin to Musharraf's eligibility case, judiciary assumed the role of political decision-making which triggered the 'judicialisation' of politics in the country. Some critics believe that judiciary is inherently a pro status-quo institution which reciprocally swaps legitimacy with the establishment.

Ran Hirshl, a Canada-based political scientist, termed this trend as 'juristocracy', through which "fundamental constitutional reforms have been transferred into an unprecedented amount of power from representative institutions to judiciaries, whether domestic or supra-national. One of the most significant effects of this trend has been the transformation of courts worldwide into major political decision-making bodies and a corresponding judicialisation of 'mega' politics."

When we look at the ongoing judicial crisis and subsequent movement of lawyers in Pakistan, it appears that the whole movement revolved around a one-point agenda of the restoration of deposed judges, while the urgency of restructuring the judicial dispensation as a system and as an institution was conveniently downplayed or outrightly ignored. Inescapably, this made the whole struggle somehow persons-specific and failed to infuse a broader reform agenda for the revamping of the judicial system -- which is overtly and covertly plagued with colonial corporatism and repressive elitism.

It is to be recognised that episodic struggles die down or start stagnating in isolation if their linkages and bases are not broadened. The lawyers' movement is likely to meet this fate, if the content and course of this movement is not redefined towards institutional revamping and restructuring.

Some analysts believe that in the post-long march scenario, the whole judiciary has become politicised to the extent that each judge has some political group, party or a clout at his back. The acceptance of official protocol of Chief Justice subsidised by a provincial government and distasteful remarks expressed by a coalition leader adds into polarising not only a person  but leads to an explicit division of the judiciary into many groups and sub-groups. We need to accept this reality that a 'coalition' or a 'split' judiciary would bring more disgrace and distrust to the institution. Court rooms would turn into branch offices of respective political parties and this movement is likely to expedite the crumbling collapse of incumbent legal system in the country.

We have seen in the recent judgment by the Lahore High Court on the disqualification of Mian Nawaz Sharif which was widely interpreted as a covert move by the PPP leadership. The legal dimensions of the case were outrightly dismissed; rather in such a charged situation no one was ready to give a dispassionate consideration to emerging issues in legal discourse on the basis of so-called legal rationality.

What is the way out? Perhaps this movement had given this rare opportunity to revise and rewrite the grundnorm of judicial dispensation in the country. This can be done by outlining and broadening the base of judicial discourse by involving the people at large and review the process and procedures of justice sector for a massive change in the way judiciary has been functioning for decades now. Also, there is a need to include issues relating to lower judiciary which have more direct and immediate bearing on the people at large for their everyday rights and access to justice.

It also has to be decided at this historical juncture as to how judiciary can be made accountable in the larger interest of the people. How can it become a pro-poor institution by adhering to the injunctions of re-distributory justice? How the trend of 'juristocracy' could be addressed by disallowing judiciary to intervene in the process of fixing legitimacy to rule or assuming the role which is attributed to people and their representatives.

There is perhaps a need to go beyond the restoration rhetoric now and look for some ways and means for our judiciary  to write a different history for the future -- not through individual impulses but through a predictable system. The sacrifices incurred in the lawyers' movement could then be rewarded meaningfully.

 

Earlier this week, this newspaper carried an explosive article by Mohammad Malick on the operation to root out militancy in Khyber Agency. Titled quite courageously 'The Bara Operation is a lie, plain and simple', the article quoted from the writer's own account of having travelled through part of Khyber Agency and coming with the conclusion that the operation was more or less an eye-wash -- apparently to appease the Americans and to make Pakistanis think that the government and the military were finally getting tough on rooting out militancy. However, the writer also quoted an officer posted with the paramilitary Mehsud scouts, with whom he had had a conversation at a check-post on the Tirah-Jamrud road, who told him, anonymously of course, that the security for the commandant of the force was usually provided by "Haji Namdar's men", the very militants that the government was attempting to remove from Khyber Agency.

Going beyond these observations, several questions come to mind, and they relate to events both prior to and after the launch of the operation. For instance, on Jun 30 a 'mysterious explosion' blew up in a safe house used by Haji Namdar and his men in which at least seven people were killed, mostly militants. However, quite strangely, the authorities kept on insisting that the house was not targeted by them and that the explosion occurred because of explosives stored in it. But a spokesman for the Tehrik-e-Taliban claimed that the house had been attacked by a US drone. The question obviously is that if explosives were indeed stored in the house, as the government said they were, shouldn't the house have been a target for the operation in any case? Why the need to be so defensive about what happened -- as if the government or some elements in it did not want to anger Haji Namdar and his men.

Also, many reports prior to this operation suggested that Mangal Bagh, though also wanting to impose a literal and orthodox version of Islam on the local population, was not overtly anti-government and had publicly said that he did not support suicide bombings. Of course, this does not mean that the government should not have gone after him because his men were reportedly threatening shops in Peshawar. But even when the government did claim to go after such elements, all it did was blow up some houses -- Mangal Bagh's was dynamited -- but neither he nor any of his senior commanders, or even foot soldiers for that matter were anywhere close to these structures. Of course, how can you possibly expect the target of your operation to be in his home when you announce several days in advance that you will launch an operation against him -- this is precisely what the government did when several of its senior functionaries kept saying for days that an operation in Khyber Agency was about to happen. No wonder that by the time Mangal Bagh's house was blown up, he was said to be far away in Tirah Valley. Other than that a few isolated structures were also demolished and there was no resistance -- but how could there be, some sceptics were asking, if the militants had been alerted because of announcement made in considerable advance by the government about the timing of the operation.

As for other operational issues, the government had said that the army chief would be the overall incharge of the operation but as of July 1 no army units were seen to be participating in the offensive -- other than pictures of army tanks positioned outside Hayatabad -- and the operation was being conducted by the paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC). As for the FC, its chief, a major-general, told a press conference on the day that the operation began that it would last around 'five to six' days -- again details that did not necessarily need to be given to the media.

In any case, the operation has not moved (at least by the time this was being written) beyond Khyber Agency and into areas where the threat from militants is greatest. In fact, some foreign news agency reports on July 1 quoted the ISPR spokesman as saying that the operation would not be extended to the Waziristan region because the government was hopeful of a peace agreement there. This, however, clearly begs the point that what does such a peace agreement give the country other than allow such terrorist elements to regroup and strengthen themselves. They then use this time to launch attacks across the border and if their power is challenged, they threaten to -- and in fact do -- carry out devastating attacks inside Pakistan. They force their narrow version of Islam of the whole population under their influence and they do this upon pain of death. Countless girls schools and offices of NGOs have been attacked and bombed, as have hundreds if not dozens of video and music shops and barber shops, and in the process many an innocent life has been taken. They kidnap and kill whoever they want -- usually dubbing them 'spies of America/Afghanistan' and their barbarism seems to know no bounds.

So unless the operation targets the real problem in Waziristan, Bajaur and increasingly Mohmand and Kurram agencies, it is not going to be of much use in tackling increasing Talibanisation. The point being made by a growing chorus of sceptics that this 'noora kushti' was more to placate a visiting senior US official and to ready the environment, so to speak, for the prime minister's visit to America at the end of this month, is now beginning to sound credible at the very least and not yet another conspiracy theory. Surely, those managing the operation would have heard Abraham Lincoln's famous line that 'you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.'

Postscript: By the way, in response to last week's column, 'Appeasing the militants', a reader emailed to clarify that the XI corps has two divisions -- one based in Peshawar and the other in Kohat. There has never been, as written in the article, an armoured brigade at Nowshera.

 

The writer is Editorial Pages Editor of The News.

Email: [email protected]

 

 

 

 


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