New Age Islam Edit Bureau
06 March 2017
Interview with a Failed Suicide
By Dr Fawad Kaiser
A New Chapter in Our Afghan Policy
By Shaukat Qadir
Fata and Lahore
By Zaigham Khan
By Khadim Hussain
By Zarrar Khuhro
Owning the Fight
By Ahmed Bilal Mehbood
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
Interview with a Failed Suicide Bomber
By Dr Fawad Kaiser
The mission was as simple as touching two
wires together; the little boy was promised. The resulting blast would
obliterate the infidels — but he would go straight to heaven. Umar radicalised
and rigged with his explosive payload, the boy, who was 14, was driven to his
target in Punjab after being plucked from the streets of Miranshah in North
Waziristan. Taliban said the people who pray to the dead at shrines are even
bigger infidels and he believed them. Umar was to blow himself up in public; he
never went through with his mission. Umar confesses that he was manipulated by
TTP recruiter Qari Zafar. He was told Pakistan had become a Western country;
there was no Islam here and whoever went to kill them would go to heaven.
Umar’s story is not unusual. In the past year, insurgents have used a wave of
child suicide bombers, some as young as 10, on the ruthless assumption that
small boys can pass through checkpoints and security cordons more easily than
“But at the time I detonated myself,
thoughts of my family were not in my mind, I was only thinking about what the
Taliban had taught me.” He wanted to be a fedayee (martyr0, to blow himself up
and kill as many people as possible. The bomb was already strapped to his body.
But on the way to the attack, mission failed in panic. “It wasn’t easy. I was
heading in the direction. It was a momentary stumble. Yes, I faltered when the
decisive moment came, I got panicked and failed”.
Why did he decide to commit suicide? He
says “No, that’s not it. That’s not right. I didn’t go to commit suicide. I
went to die a martyr’s death. I wanted to get the reward. I spent four months
in the mosque. I learned there how important it was to be Fidayee. It is the
loftiest objective. It seemed very important to me religiously. It was like the
biggest and most holy thing I could do. And then Qari Zafar told me to think of
all the rewards I would receive in Paradise.”
Amputated left arm from the elbow, strapped
right arm and most of the anterior abdomen in bandages, lying in intensive care
surgical ward under custody he barely revealed his emotions and expressed
neither sorrow nor remorse initially. He was expressionless and spoke in a
cold, monotonous tone as if he were reciting slogans. The gut feeling of the
others in the room was that Umar was not truthful, especially when he said that
he would not be interested in attempting another bombing. However after talking
through he seemed much more sincere and insightful. It was reasonable to
believe him. It seemed now as if he understood the craziness that he was sucked
into. Because now it was evident to him that he wants life and not death.
It is hard to ignore that the environmental
factor is the key in such cases and not the socio-economic situation. Whether
they are working or unemployed, or suffering the years of oppression and
built-up frustration or whether they are educated or not, these recruiting
parameters have weight even if it is marginal. Above all, it has to do with the
person’s character and how susceptible he is to pressure and persuasion. There
is an entire system with its sights set on this satanic aim. It operates
entirely in order to produce human bombs. As soon as they identified him as
suitable, they trapped him like a fish in a net. These suicide bombers are not
created out of nowhere. They are not born like that. The TTP, the Punjabi
Taliban and IS find them. It is the most cynical and cruel exploitation of
human lives, of young people’s lives especially. The weak, like Umar and
hundreds ofothers are caught.It shows the evil of the psychopathic culture of
death concocted in the name of religion that the Taliban are prescribing to
young mindsets, and provides a clear understanding of what risk we are up
Certainly, there is misery. Certainly,
there is frustration. Certainly, they are religiously naïve and get easily
manipulated. But then, at the moment of crisis, someone from one of these death
organisations comes and seduces them. Out of inertia, Umar kept going further
and further with it until the zero hours arrived. That is when the environment
operates and exploits fragile personalities and gets them swept up in a
Once they are on this satanic conveyor
belt, they don’t have a moment to think about the price they are going to pay.
In most cases, it is a lost cause by this point. Before they manage to think
about for whom and what they are dying, they are already dead along with all
their innocent victims.
But, unfortunately, while the military is
carrying out these necessary actions, the operations themselves become a
hothouse that produces more and more suicide bombers. The military actions
kindle the frustration, hatred and despair, and are the incubator for the
terror to come. The religious and political environment immediately exploits
this effect and dispatches the new suicide bombers, and the pattern is
The development of an effective
counter-terrorism policy necessarily begins with a compelling and coherent
account of what causes terrorism to exist. An accurate understanding of the
factors that give rise to terrorism is essential to developing a holistic
policy response in which measures are aimed not just at responding to terrorist
attacks with police investigations and military actions but also at preventing
terrorist attacks from taking place in the first place.
The aim is to develop models that could
explain the process by which ordinary people became willing to carry out acts
of mass violence, even against their fellow citizens. The notion of
radicalisation notes that political, economic, social and psychological forces
underpin terrorism and political violence. Most analysts of radicalisation
start from the assumption that some extremist versions of Islam usually defined
as Salafism are capable of capturing the minds of Muslims and turning them into
The challenge is then to understand the
process by which extremist religious ideology takes hold among young Muslim
minds. These radicalisation models were then drawn on by policymakers,
intelligence analysts and law enforcement officers in crafting strategies to
prevent future attacks and it is important that Nation Action Plan and the
Terrorism Research Centres focus on investigating and researching indigenous
terrorism issues through multi-disciplinary collaboration amongst a group of
international expertsin Pakistan urgently.
Resources available to counter-terrorism
should enable spaces for wide-ranging discussions of religious ideology,
identity, particularly among young people who feel excluded from mainstream
education. Those spaces should not be undercut by the fear that expressions of
radical views will attract the attention of intelligence agencies and police
A New Chapter In Our Afghan Policy?
March 5, 2017
Our media has adverted, with some surprise,
at our more mild reaction to Kabul’s reactions. After few days of anger, in
which accusations were, as always, exchanged, but far more firmly voiced by
Pakistan, than in previous occurrences and, during which, terrorist camps
across the Durand Line were targeted, the COAS repeated the desire to fight
Is Pakistan merely blowing hot and cold or
is there method in its madness?
To respond to this question, it is
essential to review our geography. Pakistan shares borders with four countries.
India takes up the entire eastern flank, in the south we have the Indian Ocean,
north is a small outlet to China and then on our east we share borders with
Afghanistan and Iran.
While Pakistan shares some ethnicity with
all its immediate neighbours but most of all with Afghanistan. Like the
majority population of Afghanistan, the vast majority of K-P province are
Pashtun and in Balochistan, Pashtun are the second largest.
If Pakistan is the hub at the link of South
Asia, Middle East and Central Asia, its links to Central Asia are through
Afghanistan or, by a lengthier and indirect route via China. If India is determinedly
hostile, Iran is, at best, indifferent and Afghanistan is firmly in the Indian
Pakistan can ill afford a hostile
Afghanistan on its western flank; but that is the Indian desire.
Furthermore, being a direct neighbour, an
insecure Afghanistan will, of necessity, export insecurity to Pakistan; just as
an insecure Pakistan will, of necessity export insecurity to Afghanistan.
The Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani must be
credited for initiating a reconciliation process with Pakistan. Pakistan
reciprocated with even greater enthusiasm and, for a while it seemed that a
fresh chapter had opened.
Regretfully, Ghani’s for a disparate
variety of reasons, initial reconciliatory efforts by both sides were not as
fruitful as they could or should have been.
And then, Pakistan committed its sole
mistake; but it was a colossal blunder. Since reconciliation with Taliban had
been initiated, for some inexplicable reason, the powers-that-were of the time,
decided not to inform Kabul that Mullah Muhammed Omer had died.
The inevitable occurred. Kabul learnt of
Omer’s death and the bulk of the Karzai-adherents in the current setup called
it a deliberate betrayal.
This gave the Pakistan-opponents in Kabul
another chance and they started sabotaging any future effort at reconciliation
at its inception. And they succeeded.
No wonder President Ghani gave up and
decided to join the crowd. The crowning glory of this crowd came when Ghani
scornfully spurned Pakistan’s offer of financial assistance of $500 million —
no mean sum for a country as firmly indebted as Pakistan.
That sufficed to embolden our TTP which was
taking succour across the Durand Line and their Afghan hosts. But it also
emboldened those encouraging this new “Proxy War”.
Pakistan had to retaliate and did.
But the reality of geography is also stark.
If we are neighbours of Afghanistan and want to ensure a secure Afghanistan, so
too should Afghanistan want a secure country on its eastern flank.
If Afghanistan is land-locked or, as
Afghans choose to call it, a “Transit Country”, its transit, trade and commerce
value to the world lies through Iran or Pakistan, not India. Even if, on Indian
behest, it decides to opt for Iran, Pakistan will stay a neighbour and, by far
the more economical route for transit.
Furthermore, China and Russia, both major
powers neighbouring Afghanistan are interested in transiting through Pakistan.
The characteristics of the Pashtun (and
other Afghan ethnicities) generally known to the world, apart from their
hardihood and stubbornly courageous resistance to occupation is their
Pashtunwali, strong tribal ties and hospitality.
But the Pashtun are also a risk-taking
people, but not foolhardy ones; only well calculated risks. However, they are
neither easily fooled nor unaware. Kabul, and the average Pushtoon is well
aware of Pakistan’s significance for them, just as we are.
Pakistan has done well in again reaching
out to Kabul. I hope Kabul reciprocates. I am sure Kabul too has grievances;
genuine ones. I have freely acknowledged one of them but, I think the error of
not disclosing Omer’s death was out of stupidity, not enmity.
We need to convince Kabul of that.
But we are also host to what is still the
largest horde of refugees and, they are Afghan, we still share inter-country
boundaries (since Afghan don’t like to call it an international border), we
will remain neighbours and are faced with the same problem; free movement of
citizens, some of whom are terrorists, across state boundaries.
These problems can only be resolved
bilaterally, if Kabul prefers to include other neighbours, these are welcome.
But, the resolution will be one acceptable to both of us.
I suggest we follow General Bajwa’s
sterling and oft repeated advice and sit down to resolve our issues; not
magnify them through the (also) oft repeated blame game.
March 6, 2017
Pakistan’s ‘Azaad Qabail’ (free tribes) are
celebrating the end of their freedom. After a century and a half, Fata is on
the path to become a ‘normal’ part of the state, rather than a strategic space,
by joining Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The decision to mainstream Fata required
statesmanship because for Nawaz Sharif there are no tangible political gains
attached to it and there are complex institutional and group interests attached
to the status quo in the region. Luckily, a broader consensus has emerged among
the people of Fata and KP that the two regions must be integrated.
In fact, there is hardly any other viable administrative
option. Fata is a long and narrow strip of land. Its different areas are not
interconnected and, in fact, people in different parts of Fata have better
connectivity with the contiguous areas of KP. People in the different agencies
of Fata are also culturally closer to their neighbouring districts in KP rather
than other tribal agencies. What unites them in a region is a myth of tribalism
and an outdated system of governance.
Fata was crafted as a ‘frontier’ of the
empire with czarist Russia – an additional buffer behind the buffer state of
Afghanistan. For strategic considerations, these areas were insulated from
political movements in British India and later in Pakistan. In fact, political
parties were allowed to work in Fata only in 2011 when the PPP government
introduced a set of reforms and extended the Political Parties Act to the
While political parties and the civil
society were locked out, the religious groups, the uncivil society and criminal
gangs flocked to the region and thrived in this poorly governed space. It
became a hub of smuggling, narcotics and violent religio-political movements.
Thanks to Fata, Pakistan became a major exporter of narcotics to the world.
Whenever an individual was abducted or a car was stolen in any part of the
country, there was always a good chance that they could be found in Fata. More
recently, it became a sanctuary for terrorists from all over the world.
The history of Fata can be easily be
related to Pakhtun stereotypes. Not all of these stereotypes are external; in
fact, most of these stereotypes have been fully internalised or they even
started as internal stereotypes. Pakhtuns saw themselves as warlike while
outsiders either respected them for this stereotype or turned this stereotype
upon them by branding them as headstrong and violent. Bacha Khan spent much of
his energy fighting this stereotype and whatever substance existed behind it.
For outsiders, this supposed propensity to
violence was also an opportunity. Great things could be achieved if this genie
could be harnessed for religious or political agendas. Thus started the project
to turn Pakhtuns into good Muslims that can be traced back to the Wahhabi
movement of Syed Ahmad Shaheed that was founded in Bengal and the Gangetic
Plains but made its centre in Pakhtun areas, because only here was it possible
to launch a movement that was “at the same time religious, military and
In the 19th century, Deoband successfully
converted a good part of KP and Fata to its school of thought. Those who came
under its influence included nationalist followers of Bacha Khan. Later, the
Jamaat-e-Islami entered the fray from its headquarters in Lahore became a
powerful presence during the days of the Afghan jihad. Both the Deobandi JUI
and JI are presently headed by Pakhtun leaders and their major pockets of
popularity are also located in the Pakhtun areas of KP and Balochistan.
Perhaps, the most decisive external
influence came when the Pakistani Deoband movement came under the influence of
Saudi Islam and decided to serve the national interests at the cost of its
spiritual objectives. Pakhtun religious extremism – if anything like that
exists – is a gift from the East of the Indus. It became so deadly in the
region because of the ungoverned spaces, state patronage and availability of
Linking any ethnic or geographic group with
extremism is not only wrong, it is also extremely dangerous. This is exactly
what the Punjab government is doing. There is hardly any doubt left that
Pakhtuns, particularly those who have moved recently to Punjab and Sindh, are
being harassed by the police. It is worse in Punjab where they are herded to
police stations and released after identification and paying ransom in the
time-honoured tradition of that great institution – the Punjab Police.
This has aggrieved the Pakhtuns in KP and
given a godsend opportunity to the Pakhtun nationalists whose stars have been
eclipsed by Punjabi politicians boasting Kashmiri and Pakhtun lineages. At a
meeting in Wali Bagh, Asfandyar Wali warned of ‘forcible eviction of Punjab
people’ from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa if the unjust treatment of Pakhtuns in Punjab
was not immediately stopped.
This is the worst anti-Pakhtun statement I
have ever heard from a member of the Wali family. Does Asfandyar Wali have any
idea of the demographic changes that have taken place in Punjab in the last two
decades? While Pakhtun nationalists had their eyes on Afghanistan, Pakhtun
entrepreneurs conquered Punjab through their hard work, honesty and social skills.
Pakhtuns now dominate markets all over Punjab and they have done it without any
support from their ANP guardians.
It is hard to demarcate a line between
Punjab and KP. There are Pakhtun areas in Punjab and Punjabi and
Seraiki-speaking areas in KP. Punjab has received and integrated Pakhtuns for
centuries. Pakhtuns have never faced racism in Punjab. This is not because
Punjab is not racist; Punjab is racist to the boot, but its racism is based on
caste and targeted at its own low-caste population or those outsiders who
resemble its own low-caste people. In Punjab, Pakhtuns automatically become
Pathans, which is a Punjabi upper caste.
The ANP is unhappy because, as Parvaiz
Khattak stated some time ago, “PTI is Pathan and Pathan is PTI.” The ANP is ill
prepared to face this Punjabi caste cum Pakhtun ethnic alliance. The Punjab
police has provided the ANP with an opportunity to kill two birds – PML-N and
PTI – with one stone, and it is in mood to waste this opportunity.
The ethnic problem does not exist in Punjab
but that does not mean that it cannot be created. Rana Sanaullah and Asfandyar
Wali can join hands to create one big disaster. If created, it can easily
surpass any other ethnic problem we have faced so far because Pakhtuns and
Punjabis are dominant ethnic groups in the country, enjoying a lion’s share in
the civil and military establishment.
Though the evolutionary purpose of fear is
to save life, it can make us do things that put us in harm’s way. The Punjab
government is in panic mode and doing bizarre things. Alongside mainstreaming
Fata, the Sharif government needs to pay attention to reforming the Punjab
police and ensure that action against terrorists is not seen as action against
any ethnic group.
March 6th, 2017
THE Pakhtuns of the Federally Administered
Tribal Areas ought to be congratulated on the success of their relentless
struggle, with the support of the Fata political alliance, to shed the shackles
of the draconian Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR). The extension of judicial
jurisdiction to Fata and election of representatives to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Assembly in 2018 are welcome steps. The federal government’s commitment to
rehabilitate and repatriate the displaced Fata Pakhtuns by April 30 should also
At the same time, one can’t help but
identify some pitfalls in the plan. The first and foremost is introducing the
Rewaj Act, which might in many ways be considered synonymous with the colonial
FCR. One wonders why a parallel judicial system is required if meaningful
mainstreaming is to take place. The entire criminal justice system needs to be
revamped — as was pledged in the now ‘buried’ NAP — instead of a creating
The second pitfall is that the merger is to
take place in stages. The five-year timeline might either land the plan in a
lethargic, bureaucratic pigeonhole, or allow for more resistance by vested
interests. Over the past 35 years, two types of interconnected economies have
taken hold in Fata. The economy of war was established, which was oiled through
the black economy. Sizeable groups in Fata’s various agencies, in connivance
with some state institutions, have permeated these economies. Hence, the power
of the black economy should not be underestimated.
Potential Pitfalls In The Merger Plan
The president might extend judicial
jurisdiction to Fata with a single stroke of his pen. A constitutional
amendment to Article 247 might be brought in for debate in parliament within
weeks. Line departments of KP have already been working in various agencies of
Fata. Why take five years when something can be carried out within months? The
rational approach to a KP-Fata merger would be to hand over the implementation
plan to the government of KP. Instead of the Fata Development Authority, the
relevant KP departments must be given a lead role in implementation. So far,
we’ve seen little to no role of the provincial government in the plan.
It’s also strange that the capacity of the
Levies is to be enhanced instead of merging Fata’s law-enforcement apparatus
with the law-enforcement structure of the KP government. Keeping the Levies
force intact might develop a parallel law-enforcement apparatus, which may
create confusion on jurisdiction. Merging the two will require more resources
and, hence, Fata’s share in the divisible pool must not be less than four per
Another major pitfall in the current scheme
is the establishment of a local government after the 2018 election. Doing so
before 2018 would provide a level playing field to all political parties,
ensure the participation of and representation for all groups, and enhance the
capacity of the provincial election commission for the 2018 polls. Establishing
a local government immediately will also ensure the effective implementation of
For effective, smooth mainstreaming, the
inclusion of the youth and women must be considered an essential component of
the plan. Public service delivery for both groups must be carried out with
diligence and at an enhanced pace. Besides providing a quota for Fata students
in provincial and federal educational institutions, the government must quickly
ensure qualitative and quantitative improvement of Fata’s educational
As far as the development plan for Fata is
concerned, it is of utmost importance that infrastructure and institutions be
established to enhance indigenous skills for developing products from local
resources. Substantial possibilities of exploring minerals and developing
agriculture exist, which can lead to large-scale industrialisation.
The idea of connecting Fata with CPEC is
admirable, but trade activity and market expansion can only increase when
Pakistan and Afghanistan mend fences. Both can benefit if land routes are open
on more than a dozen links. It is, therefore, essential for Pakistan to rethink
its Afghan policy and let the paradigm of ‘strategic depth’ die a natural
China’s One Belt One Road initiative, the
Tapi pipeline, initiatives by the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the
recent declarations at the Economic Cooperation Organisation summit can lead to
excellent opportunities for Pakistan’s economic growth, prosperity and
political stability if Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Iran, China and Russia
agree on finding common interests. Instead of using private militias against
one another, the states of the region must move towards the paradigm of
geo-economics and human security. Here, perhaps, lies the key challenge in
effectively mainstreaming Fata.
MATTERS of state are too important to be
left to chance, which is why every government on the globe invests in experts,
advisers, research and espionage to provide those who steer the ship of state
with as much information as possible so as to help them make the right
In less enlightened times, soothsayers and
sorcerers were among this coterie of advisers, and were valued for their
supposed ability to commune with the unseen world and determine the hidden
currents of the future. This skill set was invaluable to the kings and queens
of yore, who needed to know about upcoming assassination attempts, expected
crop yields and, of course, the likely outcomes of wars.
The most famous of the ancient soothsayers,
the Greek Oracle of Delphi, was courted by heroes, princes and kings alike.
Sadly, the business of prediction is an inexact science and the oracle’s
notoriously vague advice often resulted in disaster, as King Croesus discovered
to his everlasting regret. Having consulted the oracle about whether or not he
should make war on Persia, he was told that if he did he would ‘destroy a
mighty empire.’ Buoyed by this prophecy (Persia was pretty darn mighty) he
marched off to war, only to discover that the aforementioned (and doomed)
empire was none other than his own.
Nevertheless, the tradition of seeking
occult advice persisted throughout history: The pharaohs had their priests, the
Mongol Khans had their shamans, and the Mughals (like so many sub-continental
rulers) had their astrologers. Humayun divided all government departments
according to the four elements. He even dedicated each day of the week to a
particular planet and the activity it ruled over, changing the colour of his
garments to match the day. Sunday, for example, was dedicated to affairs of
state and the king’s garments had to be yellow or green.
Queen Elizabeth I had her court magician
John Dee, who claimed to speak to angels and the ‘mad monk’ Rasputin had the
ear of the Russian Czar Nicholas and his wife Alexandra, acting as their
‘mystical adviser’. Even Hitler is said to have consulted a clairvoyant.
What changed in the modern era is that “the
magical practices of ancient shamans entered the scientific level of research,
which immediately fell into the intelligence services’ field of vision”. This
quote comes from none other than retired KGB major general Boris Ratnikov,
whose duty during the Cold War was to harness the potential of telepaths,
telekinetics, clairvoyants and psychics to aid the interests of the USSR.
Following its break-up, he continued to serve in various capacities, and claims
that his department was also concerned with shielding former Russian president
Yeltsin from ‘psychic attack’.
The USSR was and its successor state is
notoriously enamoured of secrecy and so it is difficult to prove whether such
research and resources ever existed but luckily we do have millions of pages of
recently declassified CIA documents that provide evidence of how the US
attempted to harness and use psychic power to further its national interests.
Known collectively as the Stargate Project,
this initiative was launched in the early 70s in response to intelligence
reports that the USSR was engaging in psychic research — a telepathic arms
race, if you will. And among the major weapons in this arsenal were a select
team of ‘remote viewers’ — people who supposedly possess the ability to “choose
a location on the planet and visualise the exact location and what is happening
in that spot at that time”. Even the possibility of such an ability existing
was impossible to resist and the CIA used viewers to seek information on Soviet
military facilities, training camps in Libya and even the location of US
hostages held in Iran.
The famous spoon-bending ‘psychic
entertainer’ Uri Geller also featured in this programme, with the CIA
conducting weeklong tests to determine whether he did in fact possess
paranormal abilities, following which CIA documents claim he proved his
abilities “in a convincing and unambiguous manner”. Geller also claims the CIA
tested whether he was able to remotely detonate a nuclear bomb and stop the
heart of a pig, but these details are not included in the files.
If that latter part sounds like the plot of
the George Clooney film Men who Stare at Goats, that’s because that film is in
fact based on the Stargate Project itself, with the standard Hollywoodisation
After continuing with the project for
decades, the US government claims to have pulled the plug in 1995, after the
CIA concluded the project never provided any clear intelligence or results.
Regardless, not only does this show that despite the technological miracles
that surround us, the unseen will always intrigue us, but also that security
agencies will explore any means to gain an advantage, even if those means seem
a little ... mental.
IT was only through an ISPR press release
that the nation came to know that the Pakistan Army had launched Operation
Raddul Fasaad across the country. The objectives, scope and focus of the
operation were also described in the brief press release issued on Feb 22. The
press release was, however, silent on how and at what forum the decision to
launch the operation was taken and what article of the Constitution had been
invoked to deploy the army, air force, navy and the civil armed forces for the
Despite the fact that we have an elected
government in the country which also runs a full-fledged information ministry
(and a very active state minister for information though she mostly focuses on
PTI or Imran Khan-specific issues), and although we have a very vocal defence
minister, the subject of the armed forces called to the aid of the civil
administration was either not considered important enough or considered too
important to be announced by spokespersons of the elected government. It was
only when Pakistani media persons accompanying the prime minister asked
questions about the operation during his visit to Turkey that he clarified that
the decision to launch the operation had been taken at a meeting held at Prime
Minister House some days earlier.
This is not the first time that the
civilian democratic government seems to be not assuming the leadership and full
ownership of the operation. Earlier, in March 2016, in the aftermath of the
Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park terrorist attack in Lahore, in which over 70 lives were
lost, it was the then army chief who had ordered the counterterrorism operation
in Punjab. So much so that one newspaper headline at the time even asked ‘Did
army chief consult PM on Punjab operation?’. The operation was rather
short-lived and hardly anyone knows what its targets were and what it achieved.
We don’t know if the operation was discussed in parliament or by one of its
relevant committees such as the standing committees on the interior in both the
Senate and the National Assembly.
Operation Zarb-i-Azb in North Waziristan
was also announced through a statement issued by the DG ISPR in June 2014. The
National Assembly did debate the operation when it was launched and it passed a
resolution in support of the operation although JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur
Rehman expressed serious reservations about the operation. He even went on to
say that parliament merely approved it because it was helpless before the
However, political rhetoric aside, no
parliamentary committee seriously discussed the objectives, timeline,
achievements and lessons learnt during the operation. Until recently, the
operation was branded as a great success but after the resurgence of terrorist
activity across the country, questions are being asked about the extent of its
success. Would it not be appropriate that the parliamentary committees on the
interior hold hearings and compile reports on the challenges and achievements
of the operation? The committees may meet in camera, if needed, and they may
keep a part of their reports only for limited circulation but the nation would
like to see its elected representatives shouldering their responsibility of
Back in 2009, the federal cabinet meeting
chaired by the then prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had ‘endorsed’ Operation
Rah-i-Rast in Malakand after it was launched. Mr Gilani, however, had conceded
at that time that it was not possible to take the cabinet and parliament into
confidence before the launching of the operation as it would have provided an
opportunity to the miscreants to go underground. The irony in his statement was
not lost when he implied that prior briefing even to the cabinet could have
compromised the confidentiality of the operation.
Military operations within the country are
extraordinary steps with enormous implications for life, property, human
rights, scarce national resources and national integrity. Both the military and
the civilian armed forces should receive the strongest support from the nation
because precious lives are being laid down by them for national security. This
support can be extended by various institutions in several ways. Just
expressing verbal or written support through statements, press releases or
resolutions is not enough. Especially when it comes to parliament and the
provincial assemblies, their responsibility as institutions elected by the
people is probably the greatest.
Their endorsements do carry a lot of weight
but they can contribute much more than merely endorsing or criticising an
action. For example, the current parliament did pass the 21st Constitutional
Amendment in January 2015 paving the way for the establishment of the military
courts — a highly contentious and extraordinary step for a democratic
institution — but did not do enough to ensure that the government completed its
promised revamping of the justice system within the two years allowed to the
government for this purpose before the military courts were wound up.
Although the Senate did a commendable job
to produce a detailed report on the Provision of Inexpensive and Speedy Justice
in the Country after detailed deliberations in its Committee of the Whole in
December 2015, parliament did not exercise its oversight role in a befitting
manner. Its committees should have sought monthly reports from the government
on the steps taken to reform the justice system. Had parliament done its duty
at that time, it would not be discussing again today whether or not to give two
more years to the government for the same purpose.
Now that Operation Raddul Fasaad has been
launched, will the Senate and National Assembly committees on the interior and
other relevant committees meet regularly to see that the objectives of the
operation are clearly defined and that there is tangible progress achieved
within the established time frame?