Through out the day on 18th October local television channels talked about Benazir Bhutto return and her reception. As the day proceeded some channels asked the question whether the security threat she has been talking about before coming to Pakistan was real or it was a publicity stunt. Around midnight the skeptics got their answer. And alas today (19th October) when I am writing this column death toll from the twin blasts has risen to 138 and injured are reported to be around 500. It would not be a surprise that many more succumb to their injuries.
Attack on people’s rally by the terrorists should be an eye opener to all those who have all through underestimated the Talibanisation threat to this country and are bogged down only with constitutional intricacies and moral questions of corruption.
Respect for constitution and urge for corruption free (or speaking realistically less corrupt) society are noble thoughts. But is the other side willing to respect these democratic values? Indeed not. They want to enforce Sharia in Pakistan by force not through democratic means. Mainstream religious parties like JI, JUP and JUI have been part of Pakistan’s politics and democratic struggles. They were always accepted even as allies by the liberal parties. But now it seems because of their basic ideological formulation, they are also hostage to the militant Islamic forces. And are acting as apologists of these militants.
Many analysts and friends were heard on TV yesterday lamenting that the PPP has lost its anti-establishment role because of the deal with Musharraf. What they failed to realize is that in the post 9/11 situation the immediate need is to defy those who want to derail this country from progress and take it back to medieval era of stoning women and beheading people. This is not a perceived threat, it is real and each blast and wanton killing is a kick in our shin to remind us of this urgent threat to the society. Any political defiance like the one Ms Bhutto has been making is met by the terrorists not with constitutional or intellectual dialogue but with more killings. They believe that those who disagree with them have to be eliminated and that their brand of politics can only be enforced through force and terror.
Another question raised by some middle class intellectuals is that Ms. Bhutto and President-General Musharraf are American stooges. What they fail to understand is that in politics at various stages and times there is convergence of interest and no body is just a puppet. Anti-west or anti-American stance of the Taliban is not to bring our people more political, social and economic freedom (mind you they are interlinked and one cannot flourish without the other). Taliban’s Puritanism negates all human progress. They are not willing to accept the fact that culture, jurisprudence, politics, economics goes through progression. They believe in taking us back to the medieval period.
Afghan and Pakistani Taliban slogan may sound very nationalistic. And their mentor Al Qaeda’s slogan is of international Islamic revolution a la Trotsky. But fascistic nationalism is dangerous and there cannot be two ways about it. There cannot be a revolution in all Muslim majority countries which can roll us back by 1400 years. This desire is against the laws of nature. But here one has to admit that Bush’s stupid counter-productive policies have been only strengthening and spreading terrorism.
So what should be Pakistan’s politicians and people’s agenda, when the country is threatened by such fascist forces? Undoubtedly it should be national reconciliation across the board with PML-Nawaz and MMA included. Religious parties which believe in democratic process should be engaged and we should not let them drift away to the militants. They are fast loosing their supporters to extremists. On the other hand President should move ahead and get everybody who wants to curb terrorism on one platform in the national government and ensure army support in this most urgent task.
At this juncture when the elections are around the corner, political parties should make eliminating terrorism a common manifesto for elections. Musharraf has agreed to give more political space by promising to take off the uniform. So let’s not do something which might give him an opportunity to say that prevailing conditions have forced him to break the promise. We have waited for seven years; another few months will not do any harm. After the elections if the political forces will play their cards sagaciously instead of the usual squabbling he can be pushed to perform only his presidential duties within the limited parameters defined in the constitution.
This transition could be achieved gradually. No adventurism would help. Again what has to be remembered at every stage of politics today (if we care for the country) is that the most urgent threat to Pakistan is from Talibanisation. So friends remain focused. 10/18 was a loud and bloody message for not only PPP but all democratic forces. Don’t let the political workers blood be lost over high-brow middle class niceties and intricacies. (firstname.lastname@example.org)