Good news is few and far in between in this God forsaken country. The unanimous 14-point resolution covering tricky national security issues passed by the parliament indeed augurs well.
First, it was a good step to take the discussion on national security to the parliament, which was hitherto a sacred domain of the GHQ, and pass a unanimous resolution.
Second, all the political parties showed their maturity and were able to draw a consensus resolution.
Third, the ruling party did not try to steam-roll its resolution, which was appreciated by the opposition members also.
Fourth, it gives a comprehensive set of guidelines covering all the major national security issues faced by the country.
Fifth, a proposed parliamentary committee would be appointed to oversee that actions taken by the government are in line with the guidelines set by the resolution. One has to be cautious here. The committee that will have representation of the parties of all stripes is not expected to keep the consensus on all implementation issues. The media would obviously jump on this opportunity as controversies are more juicy and interesting than consensus. But even if it moves slow and can meet the objectives of the resolution half way it would be major paradigm shift as an attempt is being made to shift the national security policy-making center to the political government from the Khakis.
Sixth, the resolution would give leeway to the government to deal with undue pressure of the US administration. Usually, Washington gives lip service to democracy but prefers to deal with dictators in such cases. President Bush had made it obvious when he confessed that he likes dealing with one powerful person in Pakistan, instead of the democratic government of India.
Clause 4 of the resolution says: “That Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity shall be safeguarded. The nation stands united against any incursions and invasions of the homeland, and call upon the government to deal with it effectively.” Now, it is clear that the success of this clause is directly co-related to what has been laid in Clause 5 of the resolution: “That Pakistan’s territory shall not be used for any kind of attacks on other countries and all foreign fighters, if found, shall be expelled from its soil.” (Hope this includes Afghan Taliban also). We can only safeguard our sovereignty if we respect the sovereignty of other countries.
Seventh, it must have sent a clear message to the terrorist and sectarian organisations that the nation would not tolerate extremism in Pakistan. Clause 3 of the resolution clearly says; “The nation stands united to combat this growing menace, with a strong public message condemning all forms and manifestations of terrorism, including spread of sectarian hatred and violence, with a firm resolve to combat it and address its root causes.”
This is the biggest challenge that the government is facing and is trying to combat. But the problem is every time the conflict becomes violent many political parties blame the army and the government for high-handedness. Now the government should let the supporters of the Taliban and Jihadists negotiate with them without compromising the spirit of the resolution. If they fail, as they did in the case of Lal Masjid, then the writ of the government should be established through other means. The opposition then should not support the extremists who want to conquer FATA and Afghanistan.
Implementation of the resolution is not possible overnight. The politicians have to be patient. PML (N) hawk Chaudhry Nisar, who gifted Musharraf to Mian Nawaz Sharif, is fond of giving deadlines. He has demanded constitution of the implementation committee within 48 hours. I don’t think they have learnt any lesson from their recent politics. It is not advisable to do cul-de-sac politics and get trapped. If the committee is not constituted by the time this column is printed the media would love to ask him, now what? And I am sure he will oblige them with another tough statement damaging the spirit of reconciliation.
Former information Minister Tariq Azim aptly said that the parliamentarians have passed a written test, and the practical test is yet to be passed. No doubt the present government will find it extremely difficult to implement this mandate of the parliament. Most difficult task would be to convince the Taliban not to interfere in the affairs of Afghanistan and the umpteen Jihadi organisations that they should not cross the Eastern border anymore. Clause 12 says: “That Pakistan’s strategic interests be protected by developing stakes in regional peace and trade, both on Western and Eastern borders.” This will be a major departure from the decades’ old policy, if the powers that be permit. Strategic interests would no more be dictated by fear and building unaffordable war machines, but they can only be protected through ‘regional peace and trade.”
Skeptics may be right that not much will change and I should not pin much hope on this resolution. But standing only a couple of months away from turning sixty, hope is the only balm to numb my pain and that of the poor people of Pakistan. (firstname.lastname@example.org Blog: http://babarayaz.wordpress.com )