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Pakistan Press (06 Mar 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Interview with a Failed Suicide Bomber, New Age Islam's Selection, 06 March 2017

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

06 March 2017

Interview with a Failed Suicide Bomber

By Dr Fawad Kaiser

A New Chapter in Our Afghan Policy

By Shaukat Qadir

Fata and Lahore

By Zaigham Khan

Mainstreaming Fata

By Khadim Hussain

Psychic Spies

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 men.

“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 against.

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 current.

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 repeated.

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 terrorists.

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 counter-terrorism units.

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/06-Mar-17/interview-with-a-failed-suicide-bomber


A New Chapter In Our Afghan Policy?

By Shaukat Qadir

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 terrorism collectively.

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 camp.

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.

Source: tribune.com.pk/story/1346203/new-chapter-afghan-policy/


Fata and Lahore

By Zaigham Khan

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 region.

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 political.”

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 small arms.

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.

Source: thenews.com.pk/print/190425-Fata-and-Lahore


Mainstreaming Fata

By Khadim Hussain

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 be appreciated.

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 parallel apparatus.

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 Remain.

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 cent.

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 development plans.

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 infrastructure.

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 death.

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.

Source: .dawn.com/news/1318618/mainstreaming-fata


Psychic Spies

By Zarrar Khuhro

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 decisions.

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 thrown in.

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.

Source: dawn.com/news/1318617/psychic-spies


Owning the Fight

By Ahmed Bilal Mehbood

March 6th, 2017

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 operation.

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 security establishment.

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 oversight.

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?

Source: dawn.com/news/1318620/owning-the-fight


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