Pakistan has spent the year 2012 deciding what it wants to do: 1) with its relationship with America and the scores of powerful countries worried about the international terror Pakistan is incubating; 2) with its policy towards the Taliban in the face of an overwhelmingly isolationist popular opinion moulded by the deep state; and 3) with an economy rapidly unwinding under pressure from a bad law and order situation, shrinking writ of the state, and corruption.
In 2011, the army had controversially fallen foul of America but was not questioned by politicians in parliament who, instead, joined it in issuing unrealistic resolutions which the army could not implement. Moral weight of these consensual resolutions fell to the advantage of the Taliban and al Qaeda using terror to mould the minds in the country. But Pakistan hurtled itself into more self-flagellation and self-hatred when it reopened the Nato supply route amid loud announcement by the religious parties, non-state actors and other extremists that they will attack the resumed supply convoys.
The vendetta between the Supreme Court and the ruling PPP continued through the year, culminating in the dismissal of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani — which became internationally controversial and internally divisive. Scandals of corruption continued to attach to the PPP in power but the moral arena of the PPP-judiciary conflict was thoroughly confused when the son of the chief justice of Pakistan was accused of corruption. Meanwhile, the public plaint that pendency of cases at the courts was getting out of hand was ignored. Terrorists were allowed to go free by the courts either because the judges and the witnesses were threatened or the cases were badly investigated. As far as the Taliban were concerned, the judicial system was tilted in their favour in 2012.
Pakistan’s efforts at lessening regional tensions were doomed by its contradictory conduct. Free trade with India and relaxation of the visa regime between the two countries went ahead but the process was hounded by the long marches of protest mounted by the Defence of Pakistan Council that objected to the award of the reciprocal Most-Favoured Nation status to India. Not much was done to disarm the lack of trust of the international community and India on the 2008 case of Mumbai attacks carried out by a Pakistani terrorist organisation, the Lashkar-e-Taiba. Pakistan’s reputation as a responsible state was damaged after Saudi Arabia handed over Abu Jandal to India — the terrorist involved in organising the Mumbai attacks in Pakistan.
Terror spread like a stain of blood from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to Karachi where crime and ideology mixed to take a cruel toll on the man in the street. Throughout 2012, shopkeepers were killed because they could not pay protection money (bhatta) to gangs enjoying political patronage. Towards the end of the year, the Taliban made good their pledge to increase their presence in Karachi. The police proved unable to handle the situation because of its non-merit-based induction of manpower. By the end of the year, it was proved that Karachi was yet another city where Pakistan was unable to tackle terrorism without international assistance in funding and training — and that training could only come from states Pakistan was officially accusing of acts against its security.
A most reprehensible state policy of accusing America — at times together with India and Israel — of doing terrorism in Pakistan indirectly let the Taliban and al Qaeda off the hook and may have encouraged them to kill more Pakistanis with impunity. In 2012, Pakistan completely ignored the killing of Shias in Parachinar, Quetta, Gilgit-Baltistan and Karachi. The Hazara of Quetta, targeted by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, were forced to join the ‘boat people’ of Southeast Asia in trying to enter Australia to escape persecution at home. By the end of the year, as the process of withdrawal of America and its allies from Afghanistan kicked off, Pakistan was thoroughly mired in terrorism that it did not have the capacity to put down. Dangerously, it continued to develop tactical nuclear weapons that ran the risk of being stolen by al Qaeda.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 31st, 2012.