The Quetta tragedy has resulted in a barrage of accusations and finger-pointing towards the ‘failed democratic government’. True as these accusations may be, they are still of no material consequence in the immediate context. The reality is that a government that should have been long disposed of has managed to survive. Obviously, it is the people’s government and ideally, it should only wrap up its constitutional mandate to govern when balloted, not booted, out of power.
With the absolute failure of the government on almost all fronts, people find themselves compelled to view the army as the sole institution that could ensure peace. The manner in which democracy is practised in Pakistan is fast becoming unpopular. General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani may have won honours for depoliticising the military, but the institution as a whole wins little support of the people, who question the apathy and indifference with which it has allowed the current conditions to prevail in the country.
I disagree with all those calling for the deployment of the army to restore balance in Quetta. Why deploy it now for any military operation anywhere in the country when we have come so close to holding elections? For 54 months, the military waited for politicians to take political ownership of military operations. It even desisted from bulldozing its way through to ensure political compliance. All this has done is forced people to view, both the government and the military, more as clones rather than as two institutions in disagreement on the methods to seek a way out of the current predicament.
Had the military carried out operations against militants when they were most needed, we would not have witnessed the violence that we see now. Even the operations that were carried out in Swat and parts of Fata were forced upon it as a matter of ‘defensive offense’ rather than it strategising, planning and executing them under any reassessed military doctrine. Innocent people have died because of persistent political and military indecision and both the leaderships are to blame for this. Deploying the army in Quetta at this stage may only result in delaying or even cancellation of elections.
Accusing our entire intelligence network of failure now is not in good taste. Intelligence agencies had actually failed when they allowed the American special forces to penetrate our country and conduct an operation without any retaliation on our part. Had we held them or those who led them accountable at that stage, then all spymasters would have realised the consequences of being inefficient and incompetent. Blaming intelligence agencies now is not entirely justified because there are hardly any credible methods of intelligence-sharing between the many intelligence agencies and the actionable intelligence they gather is often wasted as the ‘go-ahead givers’ are reluctant to take timely action on it.
Hardly anyone questions how appropriately intelligence agencies are organised and structured. The resources at their disposal are the same that they utilised when Pakistan was not as ungovernable as it is today. In this scenario, can we blame them for underperforming? Do they have the manpower, tools and technology that can help them execute smart and result-oriented operations? The fatal bomb blast in Quetta is not the failure of our intelligence agencies. It is the failure of the collective conscience of our political and military leadership that has miserably failed to prioritise and implement the most essential doables in the war against terror. One such doable was to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of our intelligence agencies, at least by equipping them sufficiently to perform the herculean tasks that confronted them.
If the army is deployed in Quetta now, besides being a recipe for postponement of elections, this will also give a huge incentive to the enemy which, riding on the success of its current strategy, may target other cities as well. Both the government and the military are in a tight spot. Would this have been the case had they taken the bull by the horns earlier?
Published in The Express Tribune, February 26th, 2013.
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