Fear guides Pakistan. And this fear emanates from the absence of law and order. In other words, terrorism. Law and order can fluctuate in most Third World states and still not render them dysfunctional. When we say law and order in Pakistan, we mean terrorism coming from al Qaeda, the Taliban and non-state actors.
Who will correct this condition of living in fear? The politicians who run the democratic system through elected governments? Who can be in the field for elections? The party that is safe from the terrorists? Today, all parties will have to push some of the right buttons to qualify in the eyes of the terrorists. The condition is irreducible: you have to be anti-American and pro-Taliban.
No politician can avoid being anti-American without being killed. The PPP is heavily on board with our army to be on the safe side. The army itself is in the process of getting rid of its old nexus with the US military. Why? Because it doesn’t want to fight terrorism linked externally to the Haqqani group and internally to non-state actors.
The theory is that if the Americans are made to leave Afghanistan and not provided a leg-up in Pakistan, the Taliban will give up terrorism. After that, the army can concentrate once again, on India.
Imran Khan says, if the Americans are made to leave, the Taliban will come to heel. He used to claim that he will put an end to terrorism in 90 days. The assumption was that his pro-Taliban line will reward him after he comes to power by persuading the Taliban to get back to being normal Pakistanis.
Nawaz Sharif has made his own adjustments. His party says that the war against terrorism is not Pakistan’s war. That makes him safe vis-à-vis the terrorists. If Imran was hoping to make headway against the PPP in south Punjab because of his pro-Taliban line, he should focus on Nawaz Sharif’s interface with the Sipah-e-Sahaba.
The Sipah is the mother of the Jaish-e-Muhammad and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the two lethal sectarian outfits in south Punjab with a clout that scares the feudal power brokers of that area. Both, along with their mother organisation, are affiliated with al Qaeda too.
If terrorism is your entry ticket to power, why should you name it as the foremost state-destroying factor? Corruption is much better as the single problem rendering the state dysfunctional. It also comes in handy for getting rid of the PPP government before its five years are up.
You want to hold ‘mammoth’ rallies? Be on the right side of the terrorists or get your jalsa suicide-bombed.
Businessmen and capitalists have long been saying that they are not investing because of the bad law and order situation. They will not name the terrorists to avoid being kidnapped or killed, so they say law and order. Most of the country is taking orders from the terrorists and that includes the politician and the police.
The interface between the state and the terrorists is clearly seen through the non-state actors that Pakistan brought into existence to fight its proxy wars on both sides of its territory. Today, no politician will name them. Imran Khan, wisely avoided reference to them in his interview with Karan Thapar, but it is obvious that he hates them.
The army is busy fighting India in Balochistan and will not save the Hazara there from being slaughtered by the terrorists affiliated with al Qaeda. Everybody is hoping that somehow the Taliban will lie down and wag their tail obediently if Pakistan is anti-American enough.
Pakistan is sinking because it doesn’t want to look terrorism in the eye. If someone is negotiating peace with the Taliban and the non-state actors, he should keep in mind what happened when the army tried talking peace with them in the past.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 29th, 2012.