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We had been Warned!

Phool daikhay thay janaazoN pe hamesha ‘Shaukat’

Kal mery aaNkh nay phooloN kay janaazey daikhay

One of the most poignant aspects of Apocalypse Peshawar is the feeling that it could possibly have been prevented, by timely and decisive action. Decisive action can only be taken by a decisive and responsible leadership, which has been absent from the political scene in Pakistan for the last seven years.

The earliest warning from a  person in authority was sounded by former President Parvez Musharraf in a speech to the nation explaining the reasons for the promulgation of the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) in November, 2007, in the following words:

“Terrorism and Extremism are rampant. Suicide bombings are widespread. In Karachi, Rawalpindi, Sargodha, fanaticism is now common. Fundamentalist extremists are everywhere. They are not afraid of law-enforcement agencies. What was confined to the frontier areas, has now extended to many other areas. Extremism has spread even to Islamabad – the heart of Pakistan.”

There were several warning shots in recent months, such as the  attack on the courts in Islamabad and the killings at the Wagah Border. These incidents were loudly calling for action on a war footing, but it looks like the politicians had their  priorities elsewhere.

In his speech on the PCO, Pervaiz Musharraf had gone on to say: “The people are worried. The extremists are trying to take the authority and power of the government into their own hands. They want to impose their outdated religious views upon the people. In my eyes, this is a direct challenge to Pakistan’s future as a moderate nation”.

Unlike the political leadership which had been in denial since his ouster, Musharraf had recognized the obvious fact that Pakistan was in a state of civil war. Like the Great American Civil War, this is a war between the moderates “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal”, as envisaged by the founding fathers of both countries, and the extremists, who believe that a privileged class is more equal than the others. Extreme situations call for extreme measures. Abraham Lincoln had suspended habeas corpus twice during the American Civil war for reasons similar to those given by Pervaiz Musharraf. Like a real leader determined to come to grips with the problem, Musharraf had recognized that the action of some of the judges had been a major hurdle in dealing with the menace on a war footing, as clarified in the preamble to the PCO:

“Whereas there is visible ascendancy in the activities of extremists and incidents of terrorist attacks, including suicide bombings, IED explosions, rocket firing and bomb explosions and the banding together of some militant groups have taken such activities to an unprecedented level of violent intensity posing a grave threat to the life and property of the citizens of Pakistan;

Whereas there has also been a spate of attacks on state infrastructure and on law-enforcement agencies;

Whereas some members of the judiciary are working at cross purposes with the executive and legislature in the fight against terrorism and extremism, thereby weakening the government and the nation’s resolve and diluting the efficacy of its actions to control this menace;

Whereas there has been increasing interference by some members of the judiciary in government policy, adversely affecting economic growth, in particular;

Whereas constant interference in executive functions, including but not limited to the control of terrorist activity, economic policy, price controls, downsizing of corporations and urban planning, has weakened the writ of the government; the police force has been completely demoralized and is fast losing its efficacy to fight terrorism and intelligence agencies have been thwarted in their activities and prevented from pursuing terrorists;

Whereas some hard-core militants, extremists, terrorists and suicide bombers, who were arrested and being investigated, were ordered to be released. The persons so released have subsequently been involved in heinous terrorist activities, resulting in loss of human life and property. Militants across the country have, thus, been encouraged while law-enforcement agencies subdued;……….”.

Pervaiz Musharraf cared for the lives and property of people he had sworn to protect, both as an army general and as a president of the country. For people who don’t agree with Musharraf’s reasoning, I would like to quote an extract from a news report in the Dawn dated October 19, 2013:

“ISLAMABAD: From 2007 till now the courts have released 1,964 alleged terrorists, says an official government document.

More serious still is the fact that of those released, 722 have rejoined terrorist groups while 1,197 are still actively involved in anti-state activities, according to the official document available in Dawn The provincial breakdown presents even more interesting details. The highest number of those released is from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata (1,308) followed by Islamabad, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir with 517, Punjab (83), Sindh (47) and Balochistan (9).”

It is significant that the statistics in the government document reported by Dawn date from 2007, the very year in which Parvez Musharraf had sought extra-ordinary powers to try and stem the rot. He had the wisdom to recognize that, when the enemy is internally entrenched within the country, there is only so much that the armed forces can do, whose duty is to protect the country from external threats. The internal threats can only be countered by internal means: by an effective police force and by a quick and effective judicial system to grant quick and exemplary punishment.

Currently, while the Pakistan Army is dealing with the country’s enemies, the urgent need of the hour on the civilian side is to re-vamp the police force and the judicial system as it applies to terrorists.

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