Nawaz Sharif, a former prime minister of Pakistan, said at a press conference in Karachi that the formulation of his country’s policies should be the prerogative of the elected government instead of the military and the intelligence agencies. He was only pointing out the basic tenets of democracy. We — as many as 12 from different walks of life — while travelling through Pakistan last month, could see how sick the people were of a rule where they had no say and where the military and intelligence agencies had the last word.
The nation’s anger is justified when such a goof-up takes place: None of those who claim to be the custodians knew that Osama bin Laden was living in the heart of Pakistan. And when the 40-minute long operation of killing him takes place, neither the military nor the intelligence agencies knew about it. In fact, this was the time President Zardari’s government should have put the military on the mat. Instead, the ruling elements arranged to have a unanimous resolution passed by the National Assembly and the Senate to stand behind the military. By condoning the criminal negligence, the two houses of parliament do not in any way help those who should have been held accountable in the military and intelligence agencies.
Once again, the rhetoric against India may have simplified the situation but no effort seems to have been made to ascertain the underlying causes of the malady. Nawaz Sharif is quite right that “Pakistan must stop treating India as its biggest enemy”. The India bogey is a dead horse which has been whipped again and again.
True, Pakistan’s army chief is India-centric and makes no bones about it. But even he has not opposed the talks which are currently taking place between India and Pakistan. Probably, he, too, realises that the common man in Pakistan wants to live in peace with India and take advantage of its economic development through trade and other new mutual transactions.
I thought when the late Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif signed the Charter of Democracy, they had given a joint undertaking to build tomorrow’s Pakistan, which would have the military only for defence and not to dictate or thwart the rule by the people. When I reminded Nawaz Sharif of the charter during my visit to Lahore, he said that he stood by every word of it but felt helpless because President Zardari was dependent on the military. I wish I could have asked Zardari to make Benazir’s dream come true. But he is so anxious to stay in power that he has no time to recall what the Charter says, much less implement it. Yet, there was a time when Zardari was keen on friendship with India. Why and how he lost the way is beyond me.
I hope that the talks between New Delhi and Islamabad are successful and the solution of one problem leads to the solution of others. Both must realise that there is no alternative to peace. However, both must also respect each others sensibilities. India is not worried about whether ISI chief Lt-General Ahmed Shuja Pasha visits the country or not. But it is indeed concerned over the ‘involvement’ of the ISI in the 26/11 attacks by terrorists on Mumbai. Pakistan, too, may have something against India on Balochistan. That, too, should be discussed.
I find Prime Minister Manmohan Singh totally committed to having good relations with Pakistan. His visit to Pakistan later in the year may assure the country that he would walk an extra mile to bury the hatchet. Both President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani have their compulsions. But if they were to make a joint front with Nawaz Sharif on detente with India, they may succeed.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 24th, 2011.