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Opinion

March 5, 2014

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Terror politics

Who saw the interview that Pakistan’s defense minister, Khawaja Asif, gave to my colleague Hamid Mir on Geo News on Monday? This was the man representing the military and semi-military institutions of the world’s seventh nuclear power, facing a domestic terror wave linked to a failed war in Afghanistan, and a regional competition and proxy warfare.
The interview was an anticlimax. The minister, otherwise a seasoned politician, came across confused and disorganised. After nearly 50 minutes of listening to him, I could not conclusively say the minister said anything. He failed to unite, failed to end the confusion over how to deal with TTP terrorists, and was unable to articulate anything resembling a government policy. What is the federal government’s policy on the TTP? The question remained unanswered.
No one can question the sincerity of all Pakistani political and opinion leaders who want an end to terrorism. But how is everyone pursuing this noble effort?
Ordinary Pakistanis are the biggest victims of the Afghan-inspired terror wave. The Pakistani elite are not directly affected in terms of deaths and casualties but they are responsible for most of the confusion in Pakistan today on tackling terrorists.
Like everything else, terrorism is being used for politics. Our politicians are using the issue of terrorism for the worst campaign of slander and abuse seen in years. It is ugly even by the standards of Pakistan’s dirty and below-the-belt politics.
Religious-minded Pakistanis will not accept that religion is being abused and exploited to recruit innocent citizens to kill fellow Pakistanis.
Liberal-minded Pakistanis will not discuss the regional proxy warfare and the responsibility of the US and its Afghan allies for the meteoric rise in anti-Pakistan terrorist groups inside US-controlled Afghanistan since 2005. They ignore India’s decades-old role of using Afghan soil against Islamabad.
Some liberal-minded Pakistanis wrongly

believe that talking about foreign terror links, or proxy warfare, will strengthen religious-minded Pakistanis. Inflicting mutual pain has become more important in our politics than solving problems.
Adding to the confusion are some voices in our vibrant media. Some of these voices are a victim of the national confusion, and some are a product of media manipulation by foreign actors who pumped money and groomed mouthpieces for information warfare.
This has resulted in a major political and societal division, with no one taking responsibility for uniting the nation: not the politicians, not the media, and not the government.
Politicians bear the biggest responsibility for the confusion. They can't have a decent conversation with each other. They can’t reason and convince. They are unable to rise above petty politics and think strategically for the country.
The quality of our politicians is not very high in most cases, but things become worse when party leaderships foster a culture of point-scoring and mudslinging over a culture of respect, debate, and consensus-building. Granted that some politics is normal, but party heads should draw a line in the sand.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan and Asif Zardari, as heads of the three largest political parties in Pakistan today, should instruct their party members to use television talk shows to unite, reason, and convince, instead of point-scoring. They should all agree that the question of tackling anti-Pakistan terrorism should be above everyday politics.
If politicians can't discuss a national crisis in a civilised way without point-scoring, how will they run a country?
If party heads can get the politicians working under them to get their act together, and they can, (party heads in our version of democracy have absolute power), then we can start using the media as a tool to unite instead of a tool to confuse. Most of the confusion trickles down from the politicians into the media. The media is just reporting the confusion.
The federal government can end the confusion. It needs to clearly spell out its policy on: 1) Tackling TTP/BLA/LeJ terror groups; 2) How the government will deal with those TTP groups that talk peace and the ones that insist on violence?; 3) Improving detention and litigation procedures for captured terrorists; and 4) Speaking up on anti-Pakistan terror safe havens inside Afghanistan.
Islamabad has already put Washington and Kabul on notice on the anti-Pakistan terror camps in Afghanistan. We need to tell our people about this.
No one in power, both in government and the military, is communicating with the nation on anything. This is a recipe for collective demoralisation and confusion.
Email: aq@projectpakistan21.org

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