No magic wand

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 Roadblocks in the action plan

Finally, the prime minister graced the Senate to wind up the Peshawar debate, though not before opposition threats of withdrawing support if he continued to stay away. Ch Aitzaz was right in refusing proceedings with Ch Nisar in the chair. The PM has made bold promises every day since Dec16, and it’s good that he’s realised the importance of partaking in the debate. Yet his optimism, that political consensus generated following Peshawar has lasted while he’s procrastinated, betrays the same divorce from reality that his typified his handling of the insurgency. Even the magnitude of the Peshawar tragedy, it seems, is not enough to dislodge the government from its laid-back mindset.

If he had not missed Tuesday’s session – and every other before it – he would have realised that the matter of special courts is about to run into a number of roadblocks. Aitzaz has made the PPP’s position clear enough – constitutional amendment is a no-go. And it’s difficult to fault Hamid Khan’s summing up of PTI’s last huddle – that PML-N, being weak, is simply appeasing the army by establishing military courts to try civilians.

Former CJ Iftikhar Ch’s meddling did not make things much clearer either. He favours increasing the number of civilian courts instead of establishing military ones, especially since he considers lawmakers supporting the latter are committing an illegal act. But if problems of evidence collection, information gathering and witness protection, not courts’ incompetence, are the reason behind special courts to begin with, how will simply increasing the number of civilian courts help? And if the point about the courts is not enough, another challenge awaits the government as soon as it touches the subject of madrassahs and seminaries. It seems, therefore, that the consensus of a few days ago has given way to reservations from political, legal and religious communities. Such moments require brave, determined and clear-minded leadership. So far, the government’s action plan does not inspire much confidence. It must pull its act together or pay a heavy price.