Making sense of the senseless violence
It’s ironic that after six days of upsetting protest scenes, Pakistan’s prime minister couldn’t recognise that it’s probably his office or constitutional role that needs to spring into action to address and alleviate fears and grievances of the people of Parchinar
Violence, insecurity and terrorism continue to haunt Pakistan in one form or the other. The recent bombings in Parachinar and the tragic incident of an oil tanker blast have resulted in the deaths of more than 200 people with hundreds injured and traumatised.
The looming insecurity in the country has been coupled with sorts of other fierce political actions and inactions. In the case of Parachinar bombings, the country’s civilian leadership has not been able to deal with the situation properly or proactively. Apparently, the tragedy only became noticeable after the victims’ families continuous protests and sit-ins, demanding their basic human rights of proper security, healthcare and political and social justice.
It’s ironic that after six days of upsetting protest scenes, Pakistan’s prime minister couldn’t recognise that it’s probably his office or constitutional role that needs to spring into action to address and alleviate fears and grievances of the people of Parchinar. When seen from this context of apathy and indifference on the part of the ruling elite, it’s not surprising that common citizens of Pakistan look at the military as an institution that is the only force which can provide relief to their problems. It’s this vacuum which the country’s political leadership continues to leave on purpose that the non-civilian institutions have to – or are forced – to fill. Hence, this leads to all sorts of unconstitutional roles which are undefined but are needed, for otherwise the semblance of any remaining state structure would be in jeopardy. Arguably, one can disagree with the military stretching its jurisdiction into areas that it should not be concerned with; it’s undeniable that when it comes to domestic governance structures and responsibilities, civilian leadership remains an abject failure – hence inviting or forcing the military into action.
One of the reasons that the protesters in Parachinar demanded that the chief of army staff pay heed to their grievances was due to an overwhelming element of distrust on the political leadership. The ongoing corruption investigations have consumed the ruling party’s focus and the recent tragedies were only considered incidents that can be put to silence with the help of financial compensations and hollow condemnations. In fact, the civilian leadership has been quick to throw allegations that the protests in Parachinar have been organised to turn the situation into a sectarian conflict. What the civilian government continues to ignore and overlook is that all three suicide bombings that have taken place in Parachinar in the last six months, have targeted the Shi’a population of the area.
When hundreds of people from a one particular community have been targeted, killed and traumatised, doesn’t it reflect a situation which is motivated by sectarian detestations? Apparently, the interior ministry appears distraught with the development that how a community which has lost hundreds of its members is protesting, for their mere complains after tragic loss means inciting sectarianism. Following the attacks, the government has only attempted to blame protesters and their supporters with allegations of sectarianism rather than addressing their legitimate demands. Clearly, labelling mournful families and their supporters with tags of ‘unpatriotic’ for asking for their rights, is not going to make them more patriotic rather such actions will only aggravate their grievances and fears.
Internationally, a number of Islamic countries has recently taken sides that appear to have motivations in broader Shi’a and Sunni conflicts. Saudi Arabia’s recent blockade of Qatar due to its ties and leanings toward Iran and Syria has been labelled as an act that are triggered by a Sunni country against a state that have cordial relations with major Shi’a states in the Middle East. Pakistan, being a country that has always struggled to implement a balancing act in its relations with major Sunni and Shi’a states in the Muslim world, has again found itself in a quagmire. In fact, after the Qatar blockade, Saudi leadership called on Pakistan to make similar demands that the United States made after the September 9/11 attacks. In US’s context, Pakistan had to grapple with the question of ‘You are either with us or against us’. Here, Riyadh has given Pakistan the choice of choosing between ‘You are with us or Qatar.’
With the recent attacks in Parchinar and Quetta, it’s likely that the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran, that has sectarian strands, can potentially spillover into Pakistan. Its undeniable that historically in Pakistan, militancy to some extent has proliferated and grown due to conflicts between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The developing situation in Parachinar, has the recipe of this devastating development if grievances of the protesters are not addressed amicably.
It’s high time that Pakistan’s leadership recognised that it cannot bury its head in the sand and overlook issues and problems that remain one of the key challenges in the way of attaining peace and security in the country.