You have to hand it to our rulers: In times of grave crises, they can only offer black comic relief with a heavy cost to the nation. From the bizarre declarations of “technical fault” to the Indian air intrusions into Pakistan and the overall clumsy handling of the Mumbai terrorist saga; to the droning chorus of how all will be well once Obama comes to power (thereby once again shifting the onus of fixing things to others) since he would stop the drone attacks and give millions in aid to Pakistan; to numerous other lofty declarations that are just so much hot air; to the farce of Dr A Q Khan’s release, our present rulers have reduced themselves to a bad joke. And through all these bizarre behavioural trends, the leaders stay locked up in their ivory castles, with the forays outside the capital merely reflecting moves from one secured palace to another. No visits to the troubled areas in the offing here. For all their absurdities the US and British leaders at least visited their people in lands they occupy – Iraq and Afghanistan and perhaps soon Pakistan! But a year has gone by since the last elections and the “elected” rulers have yet to reach out to their citizens in FATA and Swat – even though they have travelled across the globe in this time.
It is no wonder then that the US has managed to find a most loyal team of subservient Pakistani leaders through the NRO. Look at the track record. Drone attacks on the increase, especially since Obama took over; the joke of the Biden financial bill which has now died a natural death although vacuous promises have come forth again; the pressure for Pakistan to act against its own people without waiting for any substantive proof coming forth from India on the Mumbai blasts; the sending of Holbrooke as a special envoy to the area without Kashmir on his brief and with a record that reflects a hard stance towards Muslims (yes, we all know about the Dayton Accord but how many of us recall that the accord came after NATO took over from the UN in Bosnia and after the Bosnians were allowed to suffer the full force of Serbia’s murderous onslaught so that they would accept a truncated Bosnian state); and finally the brazen and unwarranted interference on the Dr Khan release issue.
All these strands of US aggression and pressure towards Pakistan have now come together in what was a clear threat of aggression against this country by Obama in his press conference on Monday (February 9) where he declared that the US knew that Al Qaeda safe havens existed in FATA (I suppose just as US intelligence knew WMD existed in Iraq which warranted the US invasion) and would not be tolerated! This statement was preceded by US gunship intrusions into Pakistan along with drone attacks and missiles fired from across Afghanistan into the tribal belt. So the Obama threat of sending in US troops into Pakistan has been given presidential expression. And in the face of all this, Holbrooke has the gall to declare that he is in Pakistan to renew US “commitment and friendship with the people of Pakistan”. Mr Holbrooke, the US has never had a commitment to the Pakistani nation – only to its own goals here and to its handpicked leaders, both in uniform and in civvies. As for friendship, only the US would define this in terms of killings, which is what they are doing to the Pakistani people.
If the US really wanted to show a positive commitment to the people of Pakistan, they would stop the drone attacks, allow our state to dialogue with all its stake holders, desist from strategic arrangements with India that have a direct fallout on Pakistan, stop destabilising Pakistan by using its territory to target the Iranian state, and accept our differing perspective on critical issues including proliferation and Dr Khan. In the case of the latter, given how the US and its European allies are proliferating with India and Israel in complete violation of their commitments to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, it is rather farcical to give us sermons on proliferation and try and undermine our already enfeebled judicial system by demanding the state incarcerate Dr Khan again.
However, it is our leadership, both military and civilian, that must take responsibility for its servility to the US – since they have covertly sanctioned US drone and probably other military attacks on Pakistan and its citizens. Look at the contradictions on the whole Mumbai investigations, which show why the government has no credibility at home and abroad. But then which other sovereign state would pay $1.5 million initially ($30 million in total) to the UN to investigate BB’s murder where no outside power was involved? Why can we investigate Mumbai but not BB’s murder?
Moving on, even if we were to forget the humiliating nonsense post-Mumbai that emanated from the presidency and the prime minister regarding the sending of the DG ISI to India and the “technical fault” that led to Indian air force intrusions into Pakistan, what about the premature “revelations” of where Mumbai was planned? And, now, the contradiction where, on the one hand, the government has demanded more substantive proof from India and, on the other hand, it has already begun arrests and so on! How can any investigation move substantively without Pakistan first getting access to Kasab and to the “evidence”? Or was the DCC under pressure to move, regardless of the paucity of evidence before Holbrooke landed?
Nor are the absurdities limited to the political leadership. How can those in sensitive positions give interviews where Pakistanis are labelled as “crazy”? Do we not realise the damage we do to this nation by such unwarranted exposure? Look at those in charge of our nuclear assets. They give all manner of access to foreigners who then churn out negative stories but locals are denied any substantive access. A colonial mindset sees only “goras” (as Ejaz Haider had put it) as credible commentators. Well, the latest result of the SPD’s hospitality is the David E Sanger article (New York Times) for all to see!
There are countless more absurdities that show how our rulers are fast being reduced to a joke. Just one recent example will highlight this. Dr Khan was released after, in my view, an unjust and illegal detention, when the state reached an agreement with Dr Khan, who had petitioned the Islamabad High Court (IHC) for legal redress to his incarceration. Part of the agreement was that he would not discuss his work, but suddenly the government, under pressure from external forces, once again put such conditionalities on him that effectively his old incarceration status has been revived, de facto. How can any citizen of this country trust the state when it does such flip flops? Although one should have anticipated this when our foreign minister declared, in Munich, that the government could file an appeal against the IHC decision. Is he really that ignorant and did not realise that the IHC decision was premised on a signed deal between his government and Dr Khan in the first place? Or was he suffering from the US appeasement syndrome that afflicts all his peers in power?
One could simply laugh off the foibles of our ruling elite if there was not a more dangerous fallout to them. There are some ordinary but informed people from Swat who feel that peace will be restored in Swat by April since the state has realised the errors of its policies! What policies? Are our suspicions correct when we ask how the military, which had brought the area under control in 2007, has again allowed the situation to deteriorate to levels where the most vulnerable are being targeted by forces comprising those largely from outside of Swat? But what about the cost that has had to be paid by the people of Swat? Why has the political government removed all signs of its presence from this troubled area, where it is not the US drones that are the issue?
Clearly with jokers for rulers and with a state that lacks the confidence to distance itself from lethal US designs, governance has finally been reduced to the ridiculous. And with no rule of law and independent judicial structures, we are fated to continue down the dark abyss that we were pushed into post-9/11.
The writer is a defence analyst. Email: email@example.com