It is certain that when key institutions are manipulated whimsically, state failure is a natural consequence. Such a result is eminent when a country is also facing a severe legitimacy crisis; Pakistan today is in the grip of both. Unless our leaders see reality and give up their attitude of denial in the face of facts, we may then be moving rapidly towards becoming another Liberia, Uganda or Somalia; a major difference this time will be that Pakistan is a nuclear nation. The consequence of state failure in our case could be of monumental effect, not only on the local elite but globally too. So, let us withdraw from the precipice and reflect as wise men do, on how to avoid the coming catastrophe?
The previous two months have seen some of the worst examples on how not to manage the state properly. These incidents indicate a downward trend in state longevity.
Maulana Abdul Aziz the radical cleric of Lal Masjid (Red mosque), in Islamabad occupied a children’s library in retaliation for the demolition of six mosques, which according to the government were constructed on state property, (why was not the construction stopped in the first place). Subsequently, emboldened by the government’s failure to apply the law, the cleric’s supporters kidnapped some women from surrounding houses on pretext of being women of loose moral character.
The police reacted belatedly and arrested some students from the Madrassah attached to the (Red Mosque). To obtain the release of the kidnapped women, the government released the students arrested earlier and promised to reconstruct the demolished mosques.
The Lal Masjid plot thickened, when Maulana Abdul Aziz, its head with his supporters kidnapped four police officers including an intelligence agent to secure the release of their supporters who were arrested earlier by the police and were still in custody. On 19 May, the government caved in and released five of the Lal Masjid prisoners in exchange for two police officers.
However, the Lal Masjid issue took a twist and merged into another case being pursued before the Supreme Court of Pakistan. It related to an application by relatives of many missing persons for their release from the illegal custody of security agencies; the government has been denying the charge. This litigation is causing serious embarrassment to Mushraff’s government and there are charges of lawlessness by state authorities.
The Supreme Court has also been told that some of the missing persons have been picked up due to personal vendettas and in some cases handed over to the U.S authorities for financial gains obtained through bounties. This issue is suspected to be one of the reasons for the Presidential reference against the Chief Justice of Pakistan.
Khalid Khawaja, a former intelligence agent, is one of the noted individual appearing on behalf of the missing persons before the Supreme Court. He has embarrassed the state by becoming a petitioner on behalf of the missing persons. He too was arrested to deter him from pursuing the matter before the court. The Lal Masjid cleric has demanded his release in exchange for the remaining two police officers in his custody.
A couple of weeks ago, an air force C-130 pilot reported that while taking relief goods to Chitral the plane was targeted by ground to air missile/missiles over Chiragali in Upper Dir district of NWFP. The pilot and the aircraft escaped. This matter is still under investigation.
Malakand division, where the missile firing took place is the centre of an Islamist movement, which began in the 1980s under the leadership of Sufi Muhammad who is now under detention in D.I Khan Jail, after his force was mauled in Afghanistan in 2002 while supporting the Taliban; many hundreds died. Now his son-in-law Maulvi Fazlullah has begun to issue edicts against vaccination, female lady health workers and closing of audio and video shops in Swat, Dir, Charsadda, Mardan and Nowshera; the last named district is one of the principal army training centers of the country.
Shops selling video and audio material in Mardan and Charsadda have been dynamited for non-compliance with Fazullah’s directions. The Christian community in Charsadda has received letters that if they did not convert to Islam, their lives are in danger; it may be noted that Islam does not permit forcible conversion.
Elsewhere in NWFP, there have been attacks by militants based in Waziristan; the border city of Tank has been frequently attacked, and placed under curfew on more than one occasion. Many of its citizens have also died or were injured in these attacks by Waziristan tribesmen, who are under the leadership of Baitullah Mahsud and his supporters.
The much-trumpeted agreements signed in Waziristan between the Islamists and the government has collapsed. Each day brings news of people being either killed or kidnapped. Recently, a survey team compiling social statistics was kidnapped; it included five women. After this, who in his right sense will volunteer to work in development projects in tribal areas? Reports of similar lawlessness are coming from Bajaur, where only the other day a peace agreement was signed on the model of Waziristan. These agreements are common in their rhetoric rather than as instruments of conflict reduction.
The provincial capital Peshawar has witnessed terrible carnage at the hand of suicide bombers. The latest tragedy to strike this ancient city was on 15th of May 2007, when a suicide bomber detonated himself inside a restaurant frequented by Afghans, tribesmen and intelligence agents of Pakistan, Afghanistan and other countries. Twenty-four persons died and many more were injured. It was the second such explosion in three weeks. In an earlier explosion in Charsadda, only twenty miles away from Peshawar, the Pakistan Interior Minister and his son escaped miraculously, but 28 others died.
The 15th May suicide bombing in the Peshawar restaurant is shrouded in mystery. Suicide attacks are not normally a random affair; they either are in retaliation to government action or are intended to deliver a political message. It is conjectured that this attack was in revenge for the killing of Maulvi Dadullah
by Nato forces in Helmand in Afghanistan only a few days ago. It is also said that the intelligence leading to Dadullah’s death in Afghanistan was obtained from the interrogation of one of his family member, who was lured to this restaurant by an agent.
Analysts say that Dadullah’s death was the result of a commitment of more forceful cooperation given to the Afghan President by President Musharraf, when they met recently in Ankara.
Dadullah’s death has serious implications for the Taliban. In his death, Mullah Omar has lost his staunchest and most able Shura commander. The Shura or consultative council is composed of 10 persons and is the Taliban equivalent of General Staff. Secondly, Dadullah was the commander in charge of training suicide bombers. In Pakistani tribal areas alone, it is said that he trained more than 4,000 volunteers. In Waziristan, he had a list of 3,000 volunteers and was turning down more recruits.
Dadullah with Maulana Usmani, who was killed in similar circumstances last November in Kandhahar, formed Maulvi Omar’s inner core; they also represented the Pukhtuns of Kandhar in the Shura. With the death of these two, Maulvi Jalalludin Haqqani, the former commander of the Taliban military who was over-shadowed, is likely to re-emerge as the new powerful voice within the Taliban Shura. The centre of gravity of the Taliban policymaking will also shift to the eastern Pukhtuns, which will have serious consequences on the direction of the Taliban resistance. Secondly, the Taliban will be extremely worried and anxious for they now know that agents have penetrated their organization. A purge in their ranks is now likely with a possible re-alignment of forces and emergence of new leaders.
Reportedly, on the day of the bombing, a meeting of the intelligence group was taking place in the ill-fated restaurant; the Taliban who sent the suicide bomber was rumoured to be a middle-aged man rather than a youth; he evidently knew about the meeting of the contact group. He had a paper message tied around his leg, which said that similar death will be dealt to all those who spy for the U.S!
It is now plain to conclude that there will be severe reprisals in Waziristan and in other places in NWFP to avenge Dadullah’s death. The Waziristan and Bajaur agreements are now dead; appeasement never works. NWFP has become the innocent victim of the war on terror and its innocent citizens will now pay a very heavy price. In war only the innocent, poor and women suffer.
On another front, President Musharaff’s shenanigans in the wake of his dispute with the Supreme Court do not bode well for the continuing territorial integrity of Pakistan. The handing over of Karachi to the MQM terrorist squads, who killed more than forty persons and injured countless others on 12 May, will rank as one of the most callous and cynical act ever in Pakistan’s sad history. To imagine that the world’s seventh largest mega-city could be handed over to a terrorist organization and gunmen for political reasons is unimaginable. The people of Pakistan have lost any remaining faith in their leaders and the man in the street is convinced that their leaders do not want to serve them but to enrichen themselves. What a sad conclusion and indictment.