No, you can’t


Following the Osama embarrassment, many people hoped that this rude awakening might be a game-changer in policy making. Not too many events and statements since then seem to support that sense of optimism. Pakistan Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman recently assured the government that no foreign helicopters or fighter planes will be allowed to violate the Pakistani airspace in future and if ordered, the PAF can shoot down the US drones. “Yes, we can” was Obama’s political slogan of determination to write a new chapter in domestic history.

Now ACM Suleman has let out his own war cry. “Yes, we can too” if ordered to do so. He surely must have been in very light-hearted company while saying so.

For a start, it is most heartening to know that our uniformed masters take orders so obediently from a group of historically subordinate “bloody civilians” in matters of governance. Perhaps he could have gone on to complete his joke but he decided to end his Hollywood script there and not mention that there would be some definite consequences to follow from the other side. That would be a reasonable assumption unless the assessment was that the Americans would leave the region in a hurry in “shock and awe”.

He also did not elaborate that if and when consequences did set in, who would take orders from whom? The point he intended to score in shifting the burden of guilt from his colleagues in uniform to the political actors in power was just the kind of fodder that many electronic media anchors feed off for their cheap popularity.

If memory serves us all to even a reasonable extent, the drones started to fire missiles during the period that a military regime headed by Musharraf was in power. Not too many of them were shot down at the time. May be that technology is a very recent acquisition. There was no elected government then to either seek approval from or to place the blame on for such a wild-west script.

The statement was meant for domestic consumption; a veiled reassurance to the general public that the patriotic armed forces were willing to guard national honour but the lily-livered and Washington-loving civilian establishment set up was an insurmountable obstacle. Rao Suleman knows with utmost certainty that the suggested green signal floated to the media will never come from an elected government and therefore he will never need to prove his proclaimed chivalry. He and his colleagues know from record that no such signal would come even if a military dictator was in power at this point in time.

Making such a statement in the knowledge of a non-event purely from motives of damage repair and for deflecting a military failure on a civilian government is hardly the kind of sincerity the nation so desperately needs at present. Such moves are understandable from any state institution under pressure of performance and credibility. But the timing of it is an alarming indicator that the seriousness of the current situation has still not fully registered and that there seem no immediate plans for a review of current directions and objectives.

While these mind games are being played out to gain time for the effects of disconcerting matters to die a natural death, all sides should be more concerned about potentially more dangerous happenings any time now than the symbolic shooting down of unmanned drones. The international community is today convinced more than ever before that there are other skeletons in scattered closets in the knowledge of and protected by those who may have provided moral and material support to Mr. Laden. If the Americans are not playing another bluff and have really recovered vital electronic and hard copy evidence from OBL’s bedroom that could provide them reliable evidence of the whereabouts of a Mullah Omar or other most wanted individuals, despite assurances to the contrary there could easily be another “take out” in the darkness of the night for the nation to discover as the next day dawns. What will be our explanation then to the world staring at us in unison through the strongest binoculars at their disposal? The Americans already claim that they have additional disturbing evidence to suspect more foul play on our part. One can hope and pray that Osama was the last and only source of embarrassment resident within our national boundaries.

It is a terrifying thought that something like this might yet happen. The strategic difficulty is that even if NATO allies have partial information while claiming full intelligence of other leads, our intelligence gurus would be unsure which part of the record has gone missing.

Relocating another closet might just be the move that leads to another “courier” movement. There IS no other solution than to come clean, clear the mess ourselves before anyone else can prove another point. An effort in the midst of an image shattering devastation may yet provide a forced detour into more constructive and saner pursuits of national policy; one that attempts to alleviate the instant pains of the “not guilty” millions and seeks to build bridges of trust and development with the international community.

Meanwhile if the air chief feels so strongly about the need to retaliate but is frustrated by an allegedly sold-out civilian setup, he can set the tone of honesty by not being a party to such an unpatriotic bunch. The finest expression of honourable conduct on his part would be to resign from his position in protest. His conscientiousness in this hour of severe national crisis would be recorded eternally in our history.



  1. Mr. Kaleem:

    God bless your heart!

    You are a brave soldier and you speak the truth. You are a patriot!


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