By Babar Ayaz
Too much has happened in the last few weeks leaving the majority of the people flustered as they try hard to understand why the country is trapped in this maze. Look at some of the major incidents and developments: the out-going cabinet decided courageously to move ahead with the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project and handing the operations of the strategically-situated Gwadar port to a Chinese company; sectarian killings further spurred up as 84 human beings were murdered in a blast in Quetta, it was the second attack of its kind against the Hazara Shia community in 40 days; target killings of both Shia and Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (Sipah-e-Sahaba reincarnated) persons continued unabatedly in Karachi and Lahore; the biggest terrorist group—Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan offered to talk to the government but with conditions that the rest of Pakistanis do not accept; ANP initiated a round-table conference of all major parties and accepted the offer with a proviso that TTP first accept ceasefire and talks would be held remaining within the framework of the constitution. While these nerve-racking developments were happening, another narrative of a moderate and rationale Pakistan-the Karachi Literature Festival (KLF)–was also going on in Karachi. And Lahore festival is on while I write these lines.
A question was asked by a TV reporter at the KLF that while the country is burning from the terrorist attack, should such festivals be organised. Indomitable TV actor Bushra Ansari aptly replied there should be more festivals to show the humane and moderate face of Pakistan which represents the majority. Yes, we should share the grief of the people who are killed by the terrorists, but by shrinking back to the safety of homes and not carrying business as usual we will be held hostage by these barbarians. Hundreds of people who came to the KLF for three days in spite of the Quetta incident, ‘Dharnas’ (sit-ins) and tension in the city manifested their courage, the courage that is needed to defeat the extremist who want to take the society back to medieval tribal systems.
This brings us to the TTP peace conditions. They have asked for abolishing the constitution and establishing a theocratic state. Their demand is not much different than what Sufi Muhammad of Swat had laid down as a pre-condition of peace. Although the constitution of Pakistan says that no law repugnant to ‘Quran and Sunnah’ would be made in Pakistan, the TTP brand of Islam is not acceptable to the people of Pakistan. That was the reason that all major parties were not willing to give more space to Taliban despite the TTP threat to ANP that their candidates in the elections would be killed. In any case the government should talk to them from the position of power after their bases are destroyed in Waziristan, any weakness on the part of the government would encourage all terrorist organisations who want to establish the so-called Islamic Caliphate in Pakistan. On the contrary for a strong Pakistan we need to separate religion and politics by rectifying the colossal mistake made by the rulers of the country. Pakistan cannot be a true democracy unless the state is secular. The present official position has given too much space to the extremists to exert influence in every walk of life undermining reason and pluralism.
But the good development is that for the first time, it seems, the army establishment has realised that the fundamental existential threat to Pakistan is from internal terrorism. As they will move in this direction army will have to do a lot of convincing to its ranks and file, who were told previously that the Jihadi groups were assets to face the threat from India.
However, the establishment’s apprehension is that the decision to install China at the gate of the Arabian/Persian Gulf—Gwadar—will not be accepted by the US administration. Similarly the decision to accept Iranian credit for meeting the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline laying in Pakistan is already being openly criticised by the US. The critics of the government who have always dubbed it as lackeys of the US have failed to give their due credit to the present government to stand up against the US dictation on these two issues. A section of the establishment believes that the US may try to destablise Pakistan in Balochistan to sabotage the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project. Those who believe in the conspiracy theory, say that some of the major terrorist attacks are ‘actually a kind of messaging to us to behave.’ But this theory has one major flaw: the US cannot afford to destablise Pakistan at the juncture when it needs its support to settle the Afghan conundrum. Thus Pakistan has taken these decisions at an appropriatetime. This is the time when US needs Pakistan to move out of the Afghanistan quick-sand hence they may not like to destablise the country when it is needed as an ally. In the past US had turned a blind-eye towards Pakistan’s nuclear programme development in 1980s and sanctions were lifted because we were needed for sending insurgents to Afghanistan. Interestingly, this is the second time that instability and internal war in Afghanistan has helped Pakistan to parry the US sanctions.
Tailpiece: Just when sectarian hatred took the lives of 84 Hazaras of Quetta, there was a ‘saint’ Palestinian writer Dr. Izzeluddin Abuelaish visiting KLF to launch his book ‘I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey.’ His three daughters were killed in an attack by Israeli forces on Gaza in January 2009, but still Abuelaish says hatred can best be countered by love and reason and not by taking up a gun and avenging it. Isn’t this a lesson for the children of hate in Pakistan? But then he is an enlightened man on his own expense—the type which indeed is rare. (firstname.lastname@example.org)