Reluctantly but finally Pakistan was drawn into an inescapable battle that it ought to have initiated many moons back – voluntarily, aggressively and in its own time and turf. The delay and the absence of ‘surprise’ factor went greatly in favour of the enemy. But all that is now history. The reality is that we have entered a defining battle that would decide if Pakistan will emerge as a strong, tolerant and law abiding nation or be overrun by a barbaric militia. For both sides, the only acceptable solution would be a complete meltdown of the other party. The government and the people of Pakistan must therefore understand that the long hot season of ineptness, indecisiveness and deception is over. It may just be the final roll call to stand up and deliver – for history is never kind or forgiving to those who default on this account.
The extraordinary developments place extraordinary expectations on the government and the people of Pakistan. While the army engages the militants, there is simultaneously a need to organize and push for real reforms and accountability within the lifeless body of our trumped-up democratic order. A governor who thinks that the war will be over in days instead of months and a Prime Minster who prefers foreign junkets when his country fights its war of survival are not the material who will turn into Churchills overnight. They belong to an era of dynastic incestous leaders, ‘pirs’ and ‘guddi nashins’ riding the crest of a geriatric, fraud-friendly and toothless electoral process. The Election Commission, a collection of archaic bureaucrats, needs to be replaced with a structure that can prevent the same lot of corrupt, fake and criminal elements from taking turns. All this would not be possible without a massive peoples’ movement for electoral reforms.
Despite persistent demands by members of civil society the state has emphatically refused to understand and act upon the deep link between crime, militancy and the instruments that are used to execute these unlawful acts. Weapons, illegal vehicles, untraceable SIMs and a hugely unprofessional and politicised police come together to form a lethal combination that breeds and promotes crimes of all shades – killings, bomb blasts, kidnapping and extortion. It was always well known that peace will not return voluntarily unless Pakistan can deweaponise all shades of militants, may they be criminals, private militias, political goons or TTP zealots. A nation-wide program to forcibly withdraw weapons from all individuals and private militias and cancel all gun licenses must be the first logical step in our fight against violence and militancy.
It is heartening to note that the government has designated ‘surrender points’ for those TTP militants who wish to bid farewell to arms. This however needs to be massively advertised by newspapers, radio, TV and dropping pamphlets from air and the ‘surrender points’ extended to all towns and cities of Pakistan. The process must begin by the world’s most well-armed parliament to ‘walk the talk’ and to first surrender its own 69,000 prohibited bore weapons. Need we remind ourselves that the war against militancy will remain a façade unless we force every urban, rural and tribal militant to lay down weapons. As the civilian government has neither the will nor the capacity to undertake this task, the Armed Forces must directly assume this responsibility. They are the ones who are the final recipients of this madness.
Pakistan’s police force became dysfunctional a long time back. It has now graduated to being a partner in most crimes. An SSP working in a remote town of Sindh can have five policemen accompany his son in Karachi to go and kill an ‘A’ level student – all in the line of duty. In Lahore, eight workers of a party are killed by the police with real or tacit approval of the party in power. So the police has been reduced to act like canine hunters and personal servants of the party in power. Pakistan cannot win its war on militancy without resurrecting its police force. An organization doing more harm than good must be shut down and replaced by a completely new structure.
Finally it is time for Pakistan to take charge and establish its writ uniformly over all territories that constitute the state. All tribal territories must be brought under complete state control and state laws. An effective civilian management system must be in place to take over from the army, once the militants are flushed out. Biometric verification of citizens, telephone SIMs and vehicle owners must be put in place for all territories including the tribal areas. Pakistan’s thoughtful and committed citizens must come together for change and reform a system that its ruling class is hell-bent to preserve. If there was ever a time to push for change and reform in Pakistan – it is here and now.