New Pakistan or the TTP’s Pakistan?

Published: March 30, 2013

The writer is a lawyer and partner at Ijaz and Ijaz Co in Lahore saroop.ijaz@tribune.com.pk

Most of what General (retd) Pervez Musharraf said to the few people at the Karachi airport was delusional and egoistic nonsense. Well, no surprises there. However, there were two things that stood out; firstly, this was not the country he left, and secondly, that he was as much as a Muslim as anyone else; in fact, he was a “Syed”. Within these two statements is the acknowledgement and evidence of the changed landscape. The fact that the whisky drinking, cigar smoking Commando, the patron saint of the “moderate enlightenment” felt the need to affirm his faith-based credentials. Times they have changed. The present is a different country.

A day earlier, Mr Imran Khan addressed a huge crowd at Lahore. Mr Khan is on a mission to build a “New Pakistan”. However, listening to Mr Khan, one felt that there is already a new country, or at the very least, the process is well and truly in motion. Mr Khan led us through his core belief system and the spiritual path to salvation that he pursues, in elaborate detail. Religious references and rhetoric have been in vogue here right from the beginning. Yet, Mr Khan did not talk about religion in the rugged, honest to god, man of the people manner. Religious convictions once mentioned are enough; to stress unduly on the point is suspicious, unless it is geared towards a specific objective. Jalsas and public addresses are carefully scripted with specific objectives in mind. His opening talk was as close to a sermon as a political rally can be. It could be because Mr Khan is a devoutly religious man; if so, more power to him. However, it could also be because of a target audience. The very sizeable voter base of Mr Khan comprises mostly of politically conscious, energetic youth, not necessarily extremely religious. The really faithful are not likely to be swayed in any case. The few dozen supporters of the Commando do not care much about his personal piety or lineage either. Then why did both of them feel the need to wear faith on their sleeves?

They felt the need, perhaps because there is a new member in the audience. Invisible, yet undoubtedly present. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have expressed keen interest in the elections. They have even put aside their fundamental objections to the electoral process for now, and have given preferences. The TTP has told people to stay away from the PPP, the ANP and the MQM jalsas as they plan to attack them. Mr Khan is aware of this comparative advantage and is not keen to lose it. The unacknowledged audience, possibly even subconsciously, is the TTP. Not addressed directly. Not even looked at, they are supposed to overhear. The monitoring role and the picking of favourites by the TTP is new; they might even define what the “New Pakistan” will look like in the future.

It is unfair to single out Mr Khan alone. The PML-N has not come clean on the alliance with the ASWJ. The PML-N probably does not need the ASWJ vote anymore, yet considers it impolite to turn down their offer of assistance. The PPP has an electoral alliance with the Sunni Ittehad Council, displaying flexibility on ideals for a maximum gain of one seat. No explanation for the alliance has ever been given. The PTI now wants an arrangement with the JI, although we do not know yet whether it will materialise or not. One might say that this is very “Old Pakistan” like. It is for the most part, but not exactly. In the old country, the JI were a party of the faithful who believed women should have witnesses to the rape or remain mum and that Malala Yousufzai was never shot at, etc. And you either agreed with them or you didn’t. In the new country, you suspend judgment till the outcome of the negotiations for the alliance. If it does not work out, the JI is what we know it to be. If it does, the JI is at least not financially corrupt (a demonstrably false claim), not part of the status quo, etc. No marks or face is lost in trying to make an alliance/arrangement in the first place. A candidate who leaves a party is good riddance, the party cleansed. Of course, in the event he/she chooses to return immediately, they are again the brilliant statesperson the party and the country needed.

Political affiliations and alliances have always been fickle in this country. Yet, the movement and the responding to sudden inner voices of conscience in the past few days are really something else. No reason given for leaving a party or for joining a new one. Not even unconvincing token excuses. Politics has no hinge. The new country suffers from amnesia.

It can be argued that the PML-N, the PTI and all those not mentioned specifically by the TTP are not to be blamed since they do not influence the TTP decision-making process. This is unquestionably true. And this is election; this is war, Hobbes and Darwin. No time for high moral grounds.

One has to disagree with this argument. They can and should condemn the threat by the TTP. Exempt them from the condescending and insulting offer of protection. Not only because they should want to ideally defeat the rivals in a fair fight, the PTI and the PML-N are going strong anyway, why give somebody an excuse. And also to do otherwise is bad politics. It is dangerous politics. Election is or should not be quite literally war, neither with actual blood nor with the threat of it. If public condemnation of the TTP for this does not come from everyone, the election has already become slightly less free, less fair. This is the start “New Pakistan” is getting. Rewarding and incentivising surrender and punishing and discouraging courage. If the customary clichés are to be invoked, the new country can perhaps be called “TTP’s Pakistan”, since they are the ones in the driving seat.

There is admittedly “newness” to what is happening, in the elementary sense of “not being like the old”. We have no reasons for false nostalgia of the old country, it needed to be changed. Some of the change is heartening, most recently the appointment of the caretakers without much commotion. Yet, perhaps we should also have the cautionary thought that new is not always good; all change is not for the better.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 31st, 2013.

Reader Comments (35)

  • mind control
    Mar 30, 2013 - 11:17PM

    New Pakistan or the TTP’s Pakistan?

    You mean they are different?

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  • MSS
    Mar 30, 2013 - 11:18PM

    Mr Saroop Ijaz is correct in suggesting that the elections will not be ‘free’ as TTP have made their impact by issuing threats or not issuing threats and they have the potential to carry out the threats.
    As for Musharaf, going by the comments made in this paper by several readers, it would seem he has significant support amongst the youth. IK and Musharaf will try to ‘include’ every type of voter in their speecehs – that is politics and may not necessarily be out of fear of TTP. Whatever else, Musharaf is not a coward. The person who can spend a night on the wrong side of LoC cannot be a coward. IK is yet an unknown identity and he also enjoyed his leisure in ways not approved of by TTP and their kind. It seems that Zardari will out smart many old hats having ensured that his people are in critical places and the younger Zardari is out of harm’s way.

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  • lalai
    Mar 30, 2013 - 11:26PM

    We are already living in new Pakistan. The room for humanity is next to negligible. Some people have screwed up the courage to justify the most heinous crimes. Religion has become the biggest tool to hold people aligned and in abeyance. Clerics challenging the writ of the state get acquittal from courts while in parallel unanimously elected PM gets removal order from same courts.

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  • Genius
    Mar 30, 2013 - 11:36PM

    “Religious references and rhetoric have been in vogue here right from the beginning.”
    Please allow me to add the religious reference that is ignored by the masses calling themselves Muslims. One may not hear it even in any Friday sermon but is indeed the reason as to why people calling themselves Muslims are in such an ignominous state today.
    To manage the affairs of the land, Lord Almighty made every faithful responsible to to bring about the rule of virtue and justice. Lord Almighty invited everyone to come to rally round no man but Him and when people have started coming together to unite, He commanded everyone to resolve their matters through consultation. Consultation of those who are affected by the decision. Thus Lord Almighty made every soul responsible for creating such caring and responsible societies everywhere where people live. Do we see any one in obedience to the above commands of Lord Almighty? So why will they not endure the ignominous life they do?

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  • Parvez
    Mar 30, 2013 - 11:48PM

    You have as always made an excellent point.
    The TTP is in reality as ‘ big ‘ as we the public / the media and of course the establishment want it to be, the fact that it is a criminal nuisance must not be put aside.
    The other somewhat darkly funny development is that with the TTP’s entry onto the scene, outfits like JI and JUI- F take on a more acceptable image………..can two wrongs ever make a right ???

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  • Ali tanoli
    Mar 31, 2013 - 12:07AM

    What syed has to do with bankcrrupt pakistan hahahahahah

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  • AW
    Mar 31, 2013 - 12:26AM

    Yet, perhaps we should also have the cautionary thought that new is not always good; all change is not for the better. Who says it is? But, this is democracy. The minority no matter how right is does not have the power to implement their kind of change. Everybody thinks, especially the more educated ones that their kind of change is the right one. What gives you the authority to define good change Mr. Ijaz?

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  • zaahid
    Mar 31, 2013 - 12:33AM

    what non sense?kia pehlay talban pakistan hai?corrupt politicians have ruined or country,am in support of every party whether religous or secular who eliminates corruption,injustice and terrarism

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  • Abdul Jabbar Mohmand
    Mar 31, 2013 - 12:37AM

    PTI is NOT in any way, shape or form responsible for the current policies or the mess they have created yet its slogan is being dissected left, right and centre and is being used as a tool to criticize it on the flimsiest of excuses. Have a heart, wait until PTI is in power (inshallah) and then all power to you. Until then, hold fire against PTI.

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  • Ejaaz
    Mar 31, 2013 - 1:23AM

    This is not new. Many saw this Pakistan in 1947, and tried to alert people to it. But we would not listen. Now it is being retread as new? Take this to its logical conclusion, and you will get the Pakistan that we were destined to have.

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  • akhtar tak
    Mar 31, 2013 - 3:18AM

    As always excellent analysis.The people favoured tday will be target tomorow,Remember nawaz sahab and khan sahab

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  • Arifq
    Mar 31, 2013 - 3:40AM

    Saroop is absolutely correct in saying that the elections have already been slighted or one could even say rigged by threats and actual attacks. Biggest loser is ANP followed by PPP and then maybe MQM, not only are these parties at a electoral disadvantage they have also lost valuable people in this war against terror with little or no public recognition. Beneficiaries are JUI-F, JI, JUI-S, PML-N and PTI all those with conservative, right wing credentials. What does this tell is? Grow a beard, say a few words in Arabic and death to America! All will be forgiven and you become the proud carrier of the esteemed “Green Card” issued by the highest authority, TTP.

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  • Nero
    Mar 31, 2013 - 4:02AM

    “Whatever else, Musharaf is not a coward. The person who can spend a night on the wrong side of LoC cannot be a coward”.

    Anyone can spend a night on the “wrong side” of LOC, if the other doesn’t know. The real courage is shown in the times of war (for military). Forget about leading on the frontline, Musharaf and his generals couldn’t even accept that their army is fighting. When push came shove, they simply left couple of thousand men to die on those peaks without any logistical support. The last thing Pakistan needs is Musharaf’s “courage”!

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  • Al-Tair
    Mar 31, 2013 - 5:06AM

    Islamophobia in disguise. What Imran said in the rally is normal for any muslim who is not shameful of being a muslim.

    The problem of mullahs, TTP, extremism is there but when you say such things you are alienating the majority and pushing them to the far right.

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  • Concern of Youth!
    Mar 31, 2013 - 7:42AM

    Immpresive thoughts and analysis:) Moreover, being a member of ‘youth bracket’ of the society, this is becoming a conern that people like IK are going to the same old notorious extremist Islamic groups. Now consider, PTI wins and JI becomes its ally in the coilation then what would be their impact on the policies and legislations. Off course they won’t let us go forward only in the name of religion. By this I never mean that Islam is an extremist religion, never, what I mean is the interpretation which these long beared people give is extremism and history has witnessed them. In a nutshell, If IK goes to the elecctions with JI, he loses my vote!

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  • Mirza
    Mar 31, 2013 - 8:11AM

    In Pakistan there is a killing, extremist, terrorist Mafia which is butchering Pakistanis almost every day. These killer like some parties make them their guarantor and target the other secular parties. People have to choose between those supported and approved by TTP or opposed by TTP. The favorite parties of TTP are going to align themselves with JI, JUI and likes just for the sake of few more seats. Their closeness with the religious right is called election alliance, seat adjustment or other fancy names. However the adjustment is always with the like minded parties not the arch enemy. In fact no rightwing party ever contested elections against PPP without a rightwing coalition.Recommend

  • Syed
    Mar 31, 2013 - 9:12AM

    @MSS, Mush is not coward, but cunning like a fox.

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  • Mullah Man
    Mar 31, 2013 - 10:13AM

    The rest of the world already calls us Mullahstan, only we still call our country Pakistan

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  • Jawad jamil Malik. (Advocate).
    Mar 31, 2013 - 10:17AM

    As a matter of fact pakistan’s political history is replete with such self motivated and self styled alliances. Unfortunetly this marriage of convenience has never brought any fruitful results for
    our motherland. Having said that as a patriot (as we all are) lets not get obfuscated with this political jugglary, and atleast caste our vote’s with a sense of responsibility.

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  • shahid
    Mar 31, 2013 - 10:27AM

    **>> If it does, the JI is at least not financially corrupt (a demonstrably false claim),

    not part of the status quo, etc**

    It will be interesting to see if the author can really prove that JI is financially corrupt and show that his claims are not based on innuendo and hearsay. And also that he would be man enough to stand up and apologize if he cannot do so. Let us wait and see …

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  • Dr Imran Ahmed
    Mar 31, 2013 - 11:38AM

    a party of the faithful who believed women should organize (appropriately qualified and numbered) witnesses while being raped or remain mum and that Malala Yousufzai was never shot at, etc. And you either agreed with them or you did not – wonderful summary of JI!

    Seriously, I agree that it is the duty of all sane political parties to loudly and repeatedly distance themselves from TTP. All religious parties, PMLN and PTI have been remiss.

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  • Mar 31, 2013 - 12:01PM

    the concept of morality and ethical values no more exist.. all matter is is interest. this is so what we call clashe political interest.. no one dares to speak against extremism and TTP.. how we goona build a new pakistan without condemning these culprits ??? one must speak for the truth..good one saroo ijaz

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  • Enlightened
    Mar 31, 2013 - 12:39PM

    The author is spot on in his analysis regarding Talibanisation of Pakistan as major parties are in alliance with religious and sectarian outfits for the forthcoming elections. Well, the parties concerned cannot be entirely blamed for these unholy alliances necessitated for their own existence and more importantly winning the elections, as everything is fair in love and war. However, only one establishment may be blamed for Talibanisation of Pakistan which is military who failed to bring TTP to its knees despite fighting them for the past five years but it too has passed the blame on to the political class. Notwithstanding above, the real test for the new ruling party who comes to power shall be to control the sectarian as well as TTP violence who are not going to sit quietly but continue their respective agendas for which the author is genuinely concerned, is the new Pakistan.

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  • Dr Imran Ahmed
    Mar 31, 2013 - 2:56PM

    @zaahid:
    Although I agree with you that Corruption is a problem, a big problem, it is a secondary target. The two life threatening problems facing us are Terrorism and Over Population, the first is an immediate threat with bombs and bullets and the second is an imminent and inevitable threat of thirst and starvation.
    Access to speedy justice (which will stamp out corruption), a responsive administration, representative rulers are the three targets for governance but even these three targets should give way in priority to elimination of terrorism and to birth control.

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  • Mar 31, 2013 - 5:17PM

    So these parties that were all in power for five years are being threatened by a terrorist group they all collectively failed to deal with? Is that about the sum of it?

    And as for IK’s religious inclination, for all his love of criticising IK, the author seems not have been paying attention for the past 15 years! Read his books, see his interviews (yes, even the ones given to the BBC) and you will see him repeatedly mention his faith. Nothing new happened on the 23rd!

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  • burjor
    Mar 31, 2013 - 5:49PM

    Pakistan society, Pakistan decision makers, Pakistani politicians, Pakistan electorate, Pakistan people in general never had values, commensurate with a modern progressive nation. Our resources have been misdirected to the “Kashmir cause” ” Strategic depth cause” ” Ran of Kutch, Kargil, Mumbai, East Pakistan, good Taliban, bad Taliban, India, Hindus, etc, etc.
    The most important resource of any nation is its people. It is not oil, or gas, or gold, or natural resource. We have never forethought, never looked long term, all decisions have been short term, shortsighted.
    We deserve to be where we stand today, where we will stand tomorrow, and for as long as Pakistan is alive as a state, because we are unable to know right from wrong, good from bad. We do not have the sensibilities to be an independent progressive nation, that is why we have to comment on articles such as “New Pakistan” or TTP’s Pakistan.

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  • Usman
    Mar 31, 2013 - 6:03PM

    A refreshing analysis. Everybody in Pakistan realizes what you say is true, but they will never admit it.

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  • Abid P. Khan
    Mar 31, 2013 - 7:45PM

    @Arifq:
    “Saroop is absolutely correct in saying that the elections have already been slighted or one could even say rigged by threats and actual attacks. …..”

    Not only Saroop but you too @Arifq: are correct, the country has always been on the right or supported the ultra-right. Only darkness is at the end of the tunnel. The salariat and the poor can go to where the sun don’t shine.

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  • New Era
    Mar 31, 2013 - 8:52PM

    Musharaf did not need to use the language of people before as he was a dictator. Now that he needs to go out and ask people to vote for him, he needs to speak the language of the people. So, change in his language does not tell us anything about the country.
    Author conclusions are based on wrong arguments.

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  • John the Baptist
    Mar 31, 2013 - 9:35PM

    A refreshing analysis. Everybody in Pakistan realizes what you say is true, but they will never admit it.

    I am from Pakistan and I don’t realize it to be true. Please stop making sweeping generalisations based on your own inclinations–it is a common fallacy and for some strange reason, tends to afflict the perpetually angry amongst us than other people.

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  • Eyes Wide Shut
    Apr 1, 2013 - 12:33AM

    It should have been “New Pakistan or No Pakistan”

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  • elementary
    Apr 1, 2013 - 2:29AM

    What disgusts me about Saroop’s stance is the conspicuous absence of any criticism for the (up untill recently) ruling party.To me he is unequivocally biased .And therefore however much truth his write ups portray they remain half the truth. Half the truth we know is worse than the full truth.

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  • Satan
    Apr 1, 2013 - 7:51AM

    Conspiracy theories, Conspiracy theories. Dude, pls.

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  • Usman
    Apr 3, 2013 - 2:54PM

    @John the Baptist
    I am from Pakistan as well, and unless you are trying to fool yourself, I do not see how you can side with what you said. Tell me, if you have the time, how exactly do you think what the author said isn’t true?.

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  • Rizwan
    Apr 21, 2013 - 11:36PM

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