About this & that

We witnessed plenty of drama in the last couple of days. The first event was the visit of the most powerful man in the world  the US President. I was on a flight back from Lahore by an ancient 40 year old Fokker of the Pakistan International Airlines; we were forced to make an unscheduled landing at Islamabad airport. Later at 6.30 in the evening we flew towards Peshawar; normally the flight path lies over the Cherat hills; but as soon as we took off the aircraft veered and careened in the proximity of the grand trunk road; later the pilot explained that this was due to changing air-corridors indicated for the flight. The mystery was solved in the evening news; George Bush had landed in Islamabad after flying in from Kabul; obviously our Fokker was under security handlers; that is how powerful the US President is. His decisions can make or mar countries. Any reasonable person will understand that.

During the last few days we have gone over board by criticizing the US because we felt that India got a better deal than us from Bush’s visit. I would not like to compare the difference in the level of discussions between us and India. One can only compare an apple with an apple; we are an orange. Let us not compare ourselves with the Indian apple. Yes, we can be proud of many things but within the confines of our own limits. Let us not try our friends. Otherwise, they will tire of us.

Look, what happened to us when we boxed in a higher weight in Afghanistan or later in Kashmir. Our society was victimized. We became a nation immersed in the drug trade, weaponry and lawlessness. Much of it transacted in the nether world by intelligence services.

Between 1978 and 1992, $ 66 billion worth of armament was pumped into Afghanistan by all sides. A high percentage of these cascaded back into NWFP, tribal areas and the rest of Pakistan to some extent. If you put together the population of Afghanistan, NWFP and tribal areas, it will add up to 49 million people. $ 66 billion divided by 49 million comes to a neat $ 1347 per capita! Only a small percentage of this would have been enough to introduce peace and happiness for the people, who are now the target of gun ships and other horrors. We also had a hand in training more than 1, 61,000 guerillas for the war against the Russians. When these figures are added to the ones, who received training from the Russians or from Osama during the Taliban period in Afghanistan, then the body of such persons is very large. A way has to be found to neutralize them through alternate livelihoods, or the murderous conditions will continue. Let us learn the lessons and put efforts into improving the lives of our people rather than becoming a part of other people’s agendas. NWFP and tribal areas have already paid a very heavy price for such a policy in the past. Let’s worry about geo-economy rather than geo-strategy.

The point is that we cannot afford to be over critical of the United States. Our opposition parties must realize that President Musharraf understands very well that he has limits to what he can do. He cannot afford to ride the emotional bandwagon of US haters; yes, there are bad things happening that are not right; for example there is an evident rise in the religious tension between Islam and Christian evangelicalism world wide. Yet, reason and common sense dictates, that we thread our way carefully to a better life for our children. Let us recognize, that we are a developing nation and have still a long way to go. An offensive foreign policy can only create more trouble for us and take us away from economic development and growth.

In the light of the above principles, I suggest that we should have adopted a more conciliatory attitude towards Karzai; he sent us a complaint and we should have handed it over to the Federal Investigation Agency for a joint investigation with Afghanistan, under section 121 and 122 of the Pakistan Penal Code; there was no point in sending it to the intelligence people; who  are not trusted by the Afghans anyway?

We are an ally of the coalition; let us make a strong case for Pakistan’s economic growth, development and employment, when we speak with our allies. Let us tell them that they should do more. Let us also pursue Bush’s announcement about establishing Reconstruction Opportunities Zone; a strategy unveiled by him for economic growth and development of NWFP, FATA & Afghanistan. Let’s hope it is implemented in the shortest time.

One is now tired of writing about our policies in Waziristan. Foreigners will continue to find their way to isolated places with weak administrative structures, like the tribal areas and southern Afghanistan, until the violation of human rights in Central Asian Republics is stopped. The Stans are generating loads of refugees, who flee with their families; the media avoid reporting this reign of terror, which has been unleashed against the Muslims.

On the other hand, witness the media coverage of Darfur, where many unfortunate Christians, are targeted. Let the media be even handed and provide coverage to both.  Similarly, hardly anyone sheds a tear for the many tribesmen, who are killed every day; the logic of the War on Terror is that since the weapons are accurate, hence all the dead are terrorists. It is Orwell’s 1984 all over again. Another way of drying up the presence of foreigners in Waziristanwill be to end internal terrorism in Central Asia.

Another unusual event witnessed during the recent senate elections in Peshawar was the behaviour of MMA voters; the religious right wing alliance the MMA. It failed to win many of the seats, which were in their bag. They lost, because many of their legislators were attracted more by money than by party loyalty. In the end, the religious parties are like the others. Both are driven by the same monetary compulsions.  Another election anomaly witnessed this week was the election of 3 senators from tribal areas, who stood on the MMA ticket. It is strange indeed. Political parties are not permitted to operate in FATA (tribal areas). How come that the MMA put up candidates? No other party was allowed to do so. Are we operating double standards?

Our administration has all but shut shop in Waziristan. A recent gathering of tribal elders in Wana, in S. Waziristan, was organized by the famous cleric Maulana Noor Mohd. It decided that complaints from the tribes will be heard and justice dispensed by the local Taliban office managed by the militants. I thought this function was the prerogative of government. If such declarations are made and implemented, then matters are not well in the kingdom of Denmark. Secondly, Maulana Noor Mohd is one of the ablest and the craftiest cleric in the whole region. In 1976, he had set up a parallel administration in S. Waziristan, which was demolished with great difficulty and after an operation by Governor Babar.

Are we seeing Noor Mohd’s revival again behind a Taliban shield? Let us pay heed now or we may be sowing the seeds of a future tragedy. Lawlessness has spread from Tank to D.I Khan and now Bannu has been rocketed; I think the nexus between those trained for Jihad in Afghanistan and the local criminals has matured; we can expect more trouble in the days to come. The hall mark of any good administration is to take preventive action. Anything which weakens the state is not good for the people.  Maybe the time has come to enlarge the area of support for the state. Greater mobilization is needed to face the coming law and order crisis, it can be delivered through free and fair elections, open to all parties.

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