Mr Sharif, make us safe again!

Published: June 4, 2010
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Inaction against militant elements in Punjab only guarantees more deaths. PHOTO: AFP

Inaction against militant elements in Punjab only guarantees more deaths. PHOTO: AFP

Disclaimer: I use the word “operation” to suggest any action taken by the Government of Punjab that recognises an internal threat and within the confines of the law undertakes action to rid militants from the province.

The government of Punjab has accused the Minister of Interior Rehman Malik, of indulging in “provincial prejudice”. The Minister has suddenly come across irrefutable evidence that shows that domestic organisations such as the outlawed Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, the Spipah-i-Sahaba and the Jaish-i-Muhammad are part of the TTP and Al Qaeeda.

The Sharif brothers have dismissed any link between the operations of banned outfits and terrorist attacks in the province. The security of Pakistani citizens and their interests seems to have taken a back seat as the nations two largest political parties slog it out.

The government of Punjab seems least interested in conducting a “military operation” to clear out militants in the South of the province.

While that may be one explanation, however, as this is a matter of life and death, lets try and list out some other reasons which may explain why the Sharifs seem hesitant to take up calls for an operation.

1)      Rehman Malik is lying. Harsh words – politicians and lying? Doesn’t seem like a natural mix?

Well on the 14th of April, 2010 the same Minister claimed that the “attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore last year was funded from Sri Lanka.” And just to make sure that a key ally and trading partner is diplomatically snubbed, he went on to add that “the Sri Lankan government was aware of this fact, but Pakistan was kept in oblivion.” Fast forward to the end of May and the tune has now changed! Can we blame the Sharif’s for not taking him seriously?

2)      For the Sharif’s Punjab is their fortress. The lion roars once more. Their much deserved position at the pinnacle of provincial power is backed up by a heavy electoral mandate.

One would assume that a political party, which has accumulated so much political capital at the forefront of the restoration of the judiciary, principled stance of withdrawing from the coalition etc, would today, take the bold step of initiating a potentially risky operation to shut down dens of hate across the province. Are they just scared of losing power and becoming unpopular if things go wrong?

3)      If a military operation was undertaken in Southern Punjab it’s most likely that such an operation would be conducted with the Federal government or the Army taking the lead. Perhaps the Sharif’s do not want to cede control to the Federal Government it loathes, or to the Army that showed it the door some 11 years ago. Perhaps the Sharif’s are averse to any action which may marginalise them on their home turf?

4)      Or perhaps it’s just a clash of egos? The savvy Governor Salman Taseer versus the elected representatives of the people. Perhaps the Governor should change tactics. If he came out against an operation perhaps that would spur the Sharif’s into action?

5)      Or maybe eradicating militancy in Punjab is small potatoes? Perhaps Mr Sharif senior has his eyes on the prize. There has been talk that once the “10 year deal” with the Saudi’s comes to an end sometime in the second half of this year, Mr Sharif will be free to push for mid-term elections. Now if that was the case, any operation in Punjab could potentially be disastrous. So close yet so far!

I must emphasise that I have no way of knowing what happens behind closed doors. Or what the Sharif brothers are thinking. My guess is as good as yours, and I am sure other calculations can be made, and additional motivations identified. Any other reason that comes to mind?

Whether we list five reasons or a hundred; the reality remains that people, citizens of Pakistan, constituents of Punjab, many of whom have voted for the political party in power, are dying due to senseless violence. While there are many reasons or “excuses” not to conduct an operation to rid the Punjab of extremists, none of them seem to take into account the welfare of the people of Punjab. Let alone the interests of the nation as a whole.

Even if the Sharifs are correct and Rehman Malik is exaggerating the facts to score political points. No one can deny that illegal weapons have flooded in to the province. By his own admission Zulfiqar Khosa has conceded that inhabitants of Punjab have received training in Fata and then returned to conduct attacks.

Inaction only guarantees one thing: it guarantees more deaths. Do parts of Punjab and the local populations have to suffer the same fate as Swat and Fata? Where the local population was left at the mercy of the Taliban? Or will the Sharifs act once Southern Punjab becomes a “no-go” area?

Why do things have to get so much worse, before any concerte attempt is made to make them better?

Whatever their reasons, whatever their excuses, whatever the calculations, the state must provide security to its citizens by all means possible.

Go on Mr Sharif, with the same spirit that you display every 28th May, when you Sir, a true patriot, made the mountains of Chagai tremble.  Make the hard decisions and make us safe again.

Syed Nadir El-Edroos teaches Economics and can be contacted at nadirnwo@gmail.com

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Reader Comments (9)

  • Amazed squirrel
    Jun 4, 2010 - 5:25PM

    Mr. Nadir posts a comment everywhere so it is good to read a full article from him. However, I would like to know where does he teach Economics? In Pakistan or abroad? And at one level–university, A Level etc? Recommend

  • abid
    Jun 4, 2010 - 9:05PM

    Disclaimer: I use the word “operation” to suggest any action taken by the Government of Punjab that recognises an internal threat and within the confines of the law undertakes action to rid militants from the province.

    When you use the word military operation, then the above definition expands to one that definitely includes the military being in the lead.

    And to be fair, operations such as those in FATA are not required in Punjab. They weren’t required at such an intensity in FATA either, but thats another debateRecommend

  • Jun 4, 2010 - 10:18PM

    @Abid, point taken, well said. Operations are a whole other question, getting them to come out of denial is a first step. though, I am afraid that the longer they choose to do nothing, they will run out of options and we will only be left with the military option. Recommend

  • abid
    Jun 5, 2010 - 1:57AM

    I agree; at least they should admit there is a problem. And start the operation from within the government i.e. nab those in the government who have a history of cooperating with these outfitsRecommend

  • faraz
    Jun 5, 2010 - 5:00AM

    Lots of madrassas in Southern Punjab belong to the Ahle Hadees sect and current President of Jamiat Ahle Hadees is Professor Sajid Mir who is also a senator of PML N. Lashkar e toiba draws its recruits from Ahle Hadees madrassas; many militants who previously belonged to LeT are now part of Punjabi taliban. PML N has a considerable vote bank amongst the conservative middle class of Punjab and its a major reason behind its unclear stance towards extremism.Recommend

  • Rabia Brown
    Jun 5, 2010 - 7:00PM

    I loved your article. But again, since I know you personally, I may have an obvious bias. And as a response to Mr or Mrs Amazed squirrel, I love his sense of questioning and the inherent cynicism and superiority in that paragraph. I wish he could have the guts to reveal his true name and true identity before showing off his superiority complex…Recommend

  • Shumaila Khan (Amazed Squirrel)
    Jun 6, 2010 - 2:36PM

    @ Mr or Mrs Rabia Brown,

    First can I, or others for that matter, verify that you are indeed who you claim to be, Rabia Brown that is? If not then it should be amply conspicuous that neither posting a comment with a name needs much “guts”, nor the absence of the name required if one wants to show “superiority complex”…

    The point of this rejoinder, however, is that you must have a very poor self esteem to be get so exasperated at a comment that was not meant to offend, more so since it was not directed at you. It is indeed quite absurd you found “inherent cynicism and superiority in that paragraph” when none was intended. Since amusingly you got so worked up, reading perhaps too much into an innocuous enquiry, here is an interesting piece of information for you: in reputed newspapers when there are articles from educationists, especially those who are not regular contributors, there is usually a line in the end identifying the institution where they teach ( see, for example, if you must: Ejikeme, Anene. “The Oil Spills We Don’t Hear About.” International Herald Tribune. June 4 2010). Besides, I don’t see why, unless a person is incredibly insecure or doesn’t like presumably his/her chosen profession, teaching economics, irrespective of place of residence or level at which it is taught, should make that person feel inferior.Recommend

  • Rabia Brown
    Jun 6, 2010 - 10:50PM

    Dear Ms. Shumaila Khan,

    Firstly, I apologize for my earlier comment. I see that you are a genuinely concerned person who probably did not wish any harm. Excuse my earlier cynicism, unfortunately I am indeed suffering from a very poor self esteem because I feel that every time I tell people I am from Pakistan, I get a dirty look from most foreigners who judge me on the basis of my skin color, and I usually get a lecture from the “more experienced” elderly people of my so-called countrymen that I should be wearing more appropriate clothing because “a true Pakistani girl should be a good Muslim and hence should cover herself.”
    Therefore, I hope that you can understand the reason for my attitude towards anyone who questions me on the basis of my skin color and nationality and religion.
    Lastly, you are completely right: I also don’t see why it would matter to people teaching economics, irrespective of place of residence or level at which it is taught, should make that person feel inferior. But I feel that the young generation of Pakistanis are always under some sort of criticism or attack from the elderly generation for not having enough experience for entering the world of politics or economics (or any other profession). As someone who seems to be very well educated in the Pakistani tradition, I am sure you can sympathize with me on this one. And like Mr. Nadir said in his article, I am still amazed at the fact that the old generation of ‘experienced’ Pakistani (or Indian, for that matter) politicians always wait for things to get so much worse before any concert attempt is made to make them better…Recommend

  • Fasi Zaka
    Jun 8, 2010 - 7:16AM

    Very happy to see you writing articles. Quite often I found myself skipping reading an article to see what additional insights you gave to an articleRecommend

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