SaleemShahzad is dead — his writings live (Daily Times)

SaleemShahzad is dead — his writings live

Babar Ayaz

First we were sliding down as a country, but now for the last few years it seems we
are rolling down and the momentum is accelerating each day. It is only that the
dark hole is bottomless.

Look at the eventful month of May, first the world’s most wanted terrorist Osama was
found in a Cantonment city and the US helicopters entered our border,
ostensibly, unnoticed, The US Seals killed him and took him to Afghanistan
before we could say “SCRAMBLE.’

The Pakistani’s anger against the failure of intelligence and security forces was
redirected to the ‘Ugly Americans’ by the establishment to save their skins.
The parliamentarians abetted. Many in the media played their assigned roles,
excluding the few brave-hearts.

We were struck by another blow on 22nd May. The terrorists attacked on
PNS Mehran, before we could fully debate whether the resolution passed by our
‘sagacious parliamentarians’ was an emotional outburst or a realistic policy
statement. People were shocked on the second conspicuous intelligence failure.
This time even the sympathisers of our intelligence agencies could not hold
themselves back from lashing out at their incompetence.

Even those of us who are no more in investigative reporting could say from day one
that terrorists who attacked PNS Mehran must have had insiders’ support. I
shall not deal with this issue here in detail because it was dealt with in my
last week’s column. Any person who has common sense and ability to analyse the
available facts could say with confidence that ideological and organizational
infiltration of the terrorist groups in the security agencies is deep. Our
agencies and the Western press call these insiders as ‘the rouge element.’ Boy!
It seems there are too many of them necessitating a purge.

But the investigative journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad, who exposed the arrest of
some terrorists’ sympathisers in the navy, was tortured to death. Saleem was
eliminated, but the facts of his story live and have not been denied. However,
perhaps for the first time ISI’s unidentified spokesperson directly denied in
an official statement that they have any hand in the killing of Saleem Shahzad.
Nobody is buying this denial in the country and abroad.  This time it seems that our ‘not so intelligent agency’ has crossed all the limits. For the first time in the
history of Pakistan, APNS President and Chief Executive of the most respected
media house has rebutted ISI’s denial forcefully. And he is not alone many of Saleem’s
friends and Human Rights Watch have also alleged ISI’s involvement on the basis
of the circumstantial evidence only.

Why all the fingers whether of foreign governments and Pakistani political and human rights activists are only directed to our premier intelligence agency? Why increasingly they are becoming the usual suspect?

For those who strongly believe in the self-deceiving propaganda it is the
American-Jew-Indian conspiracy.

First the Indians started blaming ISI for their connections with the Pakistani
insurgents in Kashmir, the groups that attacked their parliament and  Mumbai. Our establishment said the Indian are our declared enemies from the day Pakistan was made so they are trying to defame us. Some even say that it was message to the Indian not to support Malakand Taliban and Balochistan militants. These are contradictory statements.

Okay let’s accept it for a minute. What about our other neighbour Afghanistan who
blame that we are supporting the Taliban who attack their country? Oh rubbish! Afghanistan government cannot manage its own country and are passing the blame to us. Right, what about the US and other NATO countries who support  Afghanistan’s view? They are also making Pakistani establishment their scape goat to justify their failure.

Fine what about opposition leaders, journalists, human right activists, Baloch and
Sindhi nationalists who blame the agencies for the missing people and killings
in Balochistan and FATA?

Counter reply: All making allegations are Indian or CIA agents.

Should we believe in the famous Urdu saying “zuban-e-khalq ko naqaar-ae-Khuda samjho.” (Consider the voice of masses as God’s herald). If we are realistic then the
circumstantial evidence cannot be dismissed in our nationalist fervour. The
country is already paying a heavy price with its blood for letting the military
establishment and its agencies run the national security policies unchecked. No
civilized country allows this.

There are some starry-eyed among us who think that this the time when the PPP-led
government should take the initiative and establish the writ of the civilian
government on the over-grown military arm. This issue of imbalance in
civil-military relationship is finally being discussed openly. It’s not just a
few sane journalists who have been saying this for many years, now it is also
the popular Punjab based party PML (N) which has taken a lead on this issue.

But this is for the second time in the history of Pakistan that PPP-led government
is going to miss the opportunity to push the military establishment out of the
policy making domain which under the constitution is not their job. First
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto lost this chance when the military government had lost half
the country and ended up giving India 90,000 prisoners of war (POWs). Initially,
he snubbed the general’s interference and chucked out General Gul Hasan
maintaining no ‘Bonapartisim’ will be tolerated. But then he resurrected the
army to its grand position and made a major mistake to use it against the
National Awami Party. The same generals later hanged Bhutto and ruled this
wretched country for two decades directly and continue to rule the civilian
governments indirectly.

Present Zardari led PPP has a short-term political goal of completing the term and
winning the next election. They do not want to annoy the military
establishment. Secondly there are too many corruption scandals in their
cupboards to take a principled stand. So to expect any courageous political
move for them is unrealistic. Zardari is happy that PML (N) is not liked by the
military establishment. Mian Nawaz Sharif’s bold stand that military’s interference
in policy making and politics should be stopped has made amiable Zardari ‘a
good chap’ for Kiyani.

If the opposition is serious it should move a well-drafted bill under which a
parliamentary oversight committee should be established for the ISI so that it
is made accountable to the civil governments. Even the appropriation of funds
should be under this committee as it is done in the US and other developed
democracies. The other bill should clearly mention that any support to the Jihadi
organisations for destablising our neighbours would be a constitutional
violation and punishable by a life term. Please mark, I am not talking about
toothless resolutions which cannot be implemented, I am talking about a
constitutional Act. If any amendment is needed in this respect we should do it.
Unless the entire security establishment is cut to its natural size, we may see
more of us dying Saleem’s way and the country bleeding more each day. Put the
present government in the dock by moving such bills Mian Sahib, otherwise all
your rhetoric will be lost in thin air. (


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