National dementia


We love committees and one more has been formed to meet and greet for photo op


In a short history of 67 years Pakistan had to deal with many man-made and natural calamities. Starting from first martial law of Ayub Khan, 1965 war, separation of East Pakistan, second martial law of General Yahya Khan and 1971 war, third martial law of General Ziaul Haq; hanging of an elected prime minister, first Afghan war and Pakistan’s participation as a frontline state, Ojhri camp incident, death of General Ziaul Haq and many others, Kargil incident, fourth martial law of General Pervez Musharraf, second Afghan war and once again Pakistan being made a frontline state, drone attacks without public acceptance, imposition of emergency in 2007, assassination of Benazir Bhutto, memogate scandal, Abbottabad operation by US special forces, frequent terrorist attacks, jailbreaks by terrorists in Bannu and D I Khan and now an attack on our children in Peshawar. This is just a short list to make a point and I have deliberately not included natural calamities that were aggravated because of the inefficiency of the state and its organs. After all these incidents we made hue and cry for a few days and then conveniently forgot what had happened and moved on. It seems we are inflicted with a national dementia without showing any signs that we want to cure it.

We are refusing to learn from any of these events to correct our course and prevent future calamities. We are conveniently hiding behind God by designating our dead as shaheed and showing no resolve to protect others that could be affected in future events because of our inability to act. It is about time this should change and our academics, intellectuals and artist come forward to provide some cure.

In my humble opinion one way to overcome our dementia is to record history with facts and lay blame where it is due rather than create fictional myth about our institutions and personalities. After every major incident we announce a judicial commission to investigate but do not have the moral courage to take ownership of the findings and announce them publicly. Hamood-ur-Rehman Commission and Abbottabad Commission reports are unofficially available on the internet but we still refuse to come forward and accept them.

Our judges are eager to become part of a judicial commission that earns them a handsome remuneration and add one more feather on their cap but they refuse to lay down condition in the terms of reference that findings of the report will be made public and recommendations implemented in letter and spirit. It is a like a Supreme Court judge decides to record a verdict but refuse to share it with the prosecution or a defendant. What good will be that verdict? Or how will it serve justice?

Another way to cure our dementia is to install memorials to remember these horrendous incidents. We should build memorial of terrorist incidents in Islamabad, Peshawar, Quetta or any other major city where they have happened. These memorials should have two walls. A white wall to remember those that perished in these terror incidents and a black wall containing names of all terrorists to shame all of us that they became what they were from amongst us because of our wrong policies and social injustice.

Within days of Peshawar school incident BBC journalists were able to talk to members of TTP and report that Umar Mansoor was the mastermind behind this attack. They also reported that planning for this attack started in the first week of December. The question is that if BBC journalists could approach TTP and interview them, how is it possible that our counter-intelligence operatives were not able to catch the chatter and alert security institutions to apprehend them before the plan was executed? It is utter failure of our intelligence infrastructure and one reason for it is that their priorities and mandate is not well defined. No one seems to have the courage to question them about it. Theoretically the prime minister is the person under whose supervision the ISI operates but practically it is the army chief and it is his responsibility to report why Peshawar sector commander was not able to warn in advance. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar is responsible for the functioning of Intelligence Bureau (IB) and domestic security. It is under his watch that major terror incidents have happened in the country. If he has any dignity he should resign from his job as well as make sure that director general of IB also goes with him.

Lal Masjid is not located in Islamabad only. There are many Lal Masjid’s around Pakistan, including major cities of Karachi, Lahore, Multan, and Peshawar, where hate speech is promoted and misguided education of Islam is imparted. Any mosque and Imam that require armed guards equipped with sophisticated weapons cannot be preaching love and peace. It is possible that a prominent scholar has risks to his life but security for these should be provided by the state rather than private guards with prohibited weapons. I am not suggesting that all madrassas are bad but a vast majority of them have questionable operations. We need to identify good from bad. Good ones should be provided resources to convert them into centres of religious learning and research with status of full university while others should be strictly regulated for their curriculum, quality of teachers and funding.

Another question we need to ask is where graduates from these madrassas are employed. There are no exact estimates on the number of madrassas but according to some media reports there are over 33,000. This means that over half million graduates are entering the job market from these schools. From what I know most of these graduates become Quran teachers, imams and moazzans in mosques. But do we have so many mosques to accommodate them? If not then it is a recipe for disaster because it means most of them are unemployed, frustrated and unfit to do anything else. It is an important social crisis for us to address and the sooner we do the better it will be for the nation.

Peshawar incident has created an international sympathy for Pakistan and it should be used effectively to create long term stability and security in the region. Pakistan and Afghanistan should jointly sponsor a regional summit in which important unfinished business should be concluded including recognition of Durand Line as an international border, creation of a regional security pact that is jointly supported by China and USA, and creation of economic zone which is resourced by EU, USA, and China and access to their markets.

A political solution should be found for crisis in FATA. Majority of the people I spoke to prefer that FATA should be made a province with its own assembly, revenue and budget. It is about time the committee formed for Peshawar incident include political solution as part of its mandate.

Unity without purpose will be a lost opportunity. Let us all use this moment of unity to the best of our capability and strengthen the nation.