National response is the need of the hour

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By Wajid Shamsul Hasan
Undeclared censorship of the media or creation of conditions that impose self-stifling restrictions— are not good for democracy

Decay and decline have been gnawing the very socio-economic and political fabric of our society. There is free for all every-where. Lawyers have surpassed the rowdies, judges have forgotten that they need to speak through their judgements and not their unsolicited observations during the proceedings of a trial. What is reported in the media of the court rooms is more theatrical than real.

Politics in Pakistan has not yet got out of the dharna mould despite elections. Instead of taking U-Turns for the good of the country and the society, politicians in power have not been setting right examples. One would not like to comment on their baazari zaban, conduct of many of them is akin to street gangsters such as Swati’s action against IG or Punjab Information Minister’s behaviour.

It is regretfully noted that state institutions too are not running properly. Not that there is bullying of bureaucracy and rapid transfers on whims, it is no denying that our bureaucrats especially the police from top to lower ranks have been found behaving as ruthless warlords. It is they who have created the impression that Pakistan is a police state.

Undeclared censorship of the media or creation of conditions that impose self-stifling restrictions or self-censorship of sorts — are not good for democracy. It gives the impression that it is a precursor to martial law around the corner.

Parliament is there but not functioning properly. Members are daggers drawn or at each other’s throat most of the time. Senior politicians such as Senator Raza Rabbani have been warning of an inevitable collapse of democratic edifice so painstakingly erected. Of course Senator Raza Rabbani rightly says that God forbid, if that happens every one would go with it. His fears about a conspiracy to do away 18th amendment and NFC award — are too alarming and need to be nipped in the bud as anything of that could unravel the federation.

Time has come to correct the direction of our qibla from that of General Zia-ul-Haq’s. State institutions that got polluted by his thoughts need to be purged in order to right track minds of our youngsters who are totally unaware how Pakistan came to be, what was Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s vision, Allama Iqbal’s dream and what has been made of it by Ziaist legacy

In this dismal atmosphere Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa has rightly advised that a comprehensive national response was required on hybrid conflicts. Speaking to 20 participants of the National Security Workshop during an interactive session at the General Headquarters (GHQ) recently General Bajwa said that Pakistan is now confronting hybrid conflicts where the focus is shifting subversion on religions, sectarian, ethnic and social issues.

“This needs a national response,” the COAS said about hybrid conflicts, emphasising that there was greater responsibility now on ensuring that Pakistanis, especially the youth, stay aware and steadfast against the propaganda onslaught being launched through soft offensive. “It is our time to rise and progress and we must grasp the opportunity achieved after countless sacrifice.” The army chief also said that Pakistan had been subjected to various threats, especially during the last two decades, adding that the Pakistani nation and its armed forces had bravely and successfully stood up to these challenges and are on a positive trajectory to defeat it.

Despite the big achievements by our armed forces against terrorism, there is much more to be done to effectively combat the scourge of extremism. It is a long drawn battle to win the hearts and minds of the people, to suck them back into the fold of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan as a social welfare state where all its citizens irrespective of caste, creed, colour or gender-were to be equal and where religion shall have nothing to do with the business of the state.

While our valiant armed forces are doing a great job with immense sacrifices, our political leadership should also seek common ground for unity and comprehensive national action plan to counter internal and external forces that are inimical to Pakistan. Parliament must play its sovereign role and take matters of foreign and security policy in its hands.

As General Bajwa said challenges are much too many. Externally we do not have friends. Internally our enemies are too many. Our one time ally that we served most devotedly has become too hostile. No doubt our government has given a hard hitting response to the anti-Pakistan tirade by American cowboy president Trump. However, we must measure our moves and while one would agree with Federal Minister Dr Shirin Mazari that there should be no more appeasement, we must revisit our foreign policy to make it proactive.

Revival of our lost values among the youth is much desired especially in the current atmosphere when the Labaikis are coming in a big force with their brand of Islam and bigoted interpretations. This is possible only when we take the challenge of educating the youth in history that is factual not fictional. Not only that, time has come to correct the direction of our qibla from that of General Zia-ul-Haq’s. State institutions that got polluted by his thoughts need to be purged in order to right track minds of our youngsters who are totally unaware how Pakistan came to be, what was Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s vision, Allama Iqbal’s dream and what has been made of it by Ziaist legacy.

(The writer is former High Commissioner of Pakistan to UK and a veteran journalist.)