Why the so-called All-Parties Conference (APC) on the US government’s statements against the alleged role of the ISI in destabilising Afghanistan? While one knows that our great praetorian strategists prodded the government to bail them out, the issue could have been debated in a joint session of parliament and a resolution passed for whatever good that would have done.
Why indeed, were the leaders of political parties not represented in parliament, invited to the APC? While selfsame praetorians probably insisted that their friends be present, why did the government oblige: bringing say, the PTI’s Imran Khan and the AML’s Sheikh Rashid ‘Tulli’ to the same level as former prime minister Nawaz Sharif? The former two have no representation at all in parliament; the latter is the chief of the main opposition in the country.
Going further, if these two unelected leaders could be invited, why not those who work their hearts out in civil society organisations, some of them with a bigger membership than the PTI and the AML put together, such as labour unions; women’s and artists’ organisations; and representatives of the minorities? A parliamentary committee could have heard these voices as well.
Moreover, why hold the APC at all when it merely parroted the line of the Deep State when it comes to Afghanistan, the operative thought being: “Pakistan must initiate dialogue with a view to negotiating peace with our own people in the tribal areas [FATA]” … leading of course to the Taliban; the Quetta Shura; and the Haqqanis finding a place in the next ‘set-up’ as the future government of Afghanistan is referred to by Pakistan’s foreign policy ‘elites’ of JI/USIP report fame.
But before we go further, let us dwell on the words “our own people in the tribal areas”. Who are “our own people” in the tribal areas, please sirs? The Afghan Haqqanis; the Uzbek, and Arab, and Chechen, and Uighur, and Punjabi terrorists who terrorise the real ‘our own people’ by killing their elders every so often in crimes that are never investigated; or those against whom these crimes are committed in full view of the State?
Is it any wonder then, that the very person that Islamabad “blames for cross border attacks on its security forces” — according to this newspaper of record — Maulvi Faqir Muhammad, the TTP’s deputy commander and commander-in-chief in Bajaur (I ask you!) has offered peace talks to the government of Pakistan after PM Gilani’s reiteration of holding dialogue with all comers, even the killers of thousands of our troops and other lay people? The man’s gall: well, both Gilani’s and Faqir Muhammad’s!
Seriously though, our BMW 7-Series riding brilliances should study Faqir Muhammad’s statement carefully: “We want direct talks with the government and not through intermediaries … we will continue to fight till the establishment of an Islamic state … but if our demands are met and an Islamic justice system is established in Pakistan, which is our country, we will lay down our weapons because we are peace-loving people,” he said. So there … shades of Sufi Muhammad and Swat, what? The start of the Global Jihad, what?
But let’s leave this aside for no one will listen, no one will hear. We have a government which refuses to stand up to the Deep State even when it has a better and a wiser handle on international affairs, and on matters that can deeply affect our country. And we have a Deep State that refuses to give up even those policies that have seen our country dragged down in every way.
To end, let me tell you a little of censorship. While one sees some in the Pakistani media now and again it is most upsetting to see the BBC indulging in it too. On this last Wednesday I was on ‘Sairbeen’ with fellow discussant, the good Rustam Shah Mohmand. Whilst the BBC broadcast Mr Mohmand’s assertion that Zia, Junejo, Benazir, Nawaz Sharif and Musharraf had nothing to do with the Afghan imbroglio and that it was only “people at the lower levels” who meddled in Afghan affairs, it edited out completely what I said in reply. And that was that whilst the civilian leaders certainly had nothing to do with it, the army dictators named, were involved all the way in ordering the mess we see today.
Here, too, we are powerless. Let us instead talk about Faiz’s Centennial Festival held at the Asia Society in New York City on October 1. The great actor/compere Zia Mohyeddin read from some of Faiz’s most inspirational Urdu poetry interspersed with prose and passages from the letters he wrote to his wife Alys, in English, when he was in jail. Zia’s seamless dove-tailing of English prose and Urdu poetry left the audience in complete awe, the packed house erupting in applause several times.
In the second part, famous singer Tahira Syed sang ten ghazals and nazms of which seven were composed by the legendary composer Arshad Mahmud. Her rendition of the popular “Bahar Aai”, originally sung by Tina Sani, was applauded time and again by the audience which also loved Mahmud’s new composition of Faiz’s ghazal “Nahin nigah mein manzil to justejoo hi sahi”. Resonates in the present, this one, doesn’t it?
The event was organised jointly by the Faiz Festival Committee, New York, headed by my pal Masood Haider; the Asia Society; Zia Mohyeddin; Tahira Syed, and Arshad Mahmud. I might add that the organisers are out of pocket to the tune of $11,000, as I write this, having spent $21,000 total.
P.S.: Someone called Asif Jamshaid complained by email that I hit ‘below the belt’, referring to Short Course officers as ‘Nur Jahanias’. I sent back and email saying, that he should lighten up, that it was only a joke, and that some of the finest officers I knew/know were ‘Nur Jahanias’. However, I do apologise if I hurt any sensitive feelings.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 7th, 2011.