Avoid yielding space to agents of anarchy
Peremptory demands accompanied by veiled threats extended by President Trump were bound to evoke strong reaction from Pakistan. Even those who wanted the government to take action against all terrorist groups without exception expressed indignation over the impolitic remarks. The Senate Chairman called upon the Foreign Minister to cancel the US trip. The government decided to consult friendly countries before talking to the US administration and Khawaja Asif was directed to first visit Beijing, Moscow and Ankara.
Making use of the situation extremist groups have ventured out of their hiding places to present themselves as super patriots. In Multan activists of JuD joined hands with traders’ bodies to stage demos. They indulged in fiery rhetoric against the US and burnt the American flag and Trump’s pictures. Earlier Sami ul Haq, Chief of the Defence of Pakistan Council – which is an umbrella organisation also sheltering banned outfits working under new names – had issued an inflammatory statement. He had condemned Trump and issued a call for jihad against the US. Haq claimed that those he was affiliated with “were still fighting the Americans in Afghanistan.” Statements of the sort are used by Trump to accuse Pakistan of “shelter[ing] the same organisations that try every single day to kill our people”. Unless it reins in these elements, the establishment is likely to be blamed for outsourcing the anti-US protests to extremist and banned networks.
There is a need to devise a well calibrated response to the position taken by President Trump. The best way to do it is to take the issue to Parliament soon after the return of the Foreign Minister. Meanwhile COAS Bajwa too would be back from the three day anti-terrorism moot being attended by high rankings military officials from Pakistan, China, Afghanistan and Tajikistan in Dushambe. The Parliament should receive briefings from the FO and the army, in camera if needed. Instead of providing space to the extremists though inaction, mainstream parties should publicly support the commonly devised line of action. The government on its part should talk to the US on the basis of the parliamentary policy.