One cannot be faulted for assuming that the Difa-e-Pakistan Council may perhaps comprise of officials of the defence ministry, four-star generals and decorated admirals who wish to ponder over the defence needs of the country and make major strategic decisions.
To find out that it is actually a motley crew of fourty-odd religious parties, banned terrorist outfits like the Jamaatud Dawa (JuD), a few other political has-beens like Sheikh Rasheed and Ijazul Haq, and former spymaster Hameed Gul, among others, can be shocking. To figure out what it stands for can be even more astounding. Let’s try and figure that out by asking a few questions.
So what does the Council stands for? According to Hafiz Saeed of the JuD, it is a coalition with the aim to “defend Pakistan”. What do they actually do apart from claiming to defend the country? Not much besides holding rallies in different cities and threatening the government of dire consequences if their demands are not.
What are those dire consequences? Chaos, anarchy and suicide bombings. But don’t we have them — anarchy, chaos and suicide bombings — already? Yes, but they have promised to scale up the operations if their demands are not met.
And what are those demands? For starters, they want parliament to not restore the Nato supply lines. But those supply lines have always been open and were blocked only some weeks back — why this sudden realisation that it undermines the sovereignty of the country? Better late than never, isn’t it?
What else do they want? Surely they cannot spend millions of rupees on all those public gatherings to demand that the government does not restore the Nato supply lines? The ultimate goal is to sever all diplomatic, cultural, political and economic ties with the United States of America. Errr, can our country survive this ultimate isolation? Most probably not, but the Council would surely like the government to try that. Is it just America that they want to cut ties with, or has any other country faced a similar wrath? They hate India just as much and are angry with the government for awarding it ‘Most Favoured Nation’ status.
But by regularising trade with India, the government will not only discourage cross-border smuggling of goods, it will also gain from taxes and duties levied on the increased imports — revenue which can then be used for public welfare. Surely that cannot be bad? The Difa-e-Pakistan Council is not concerned with the public good; according to its chairman, “the council’s sole agenda is to ensure the integrity and sovereignty of Pakistan”.
What legitimacy do they have, if any, to demand all that? Between the 40 parties and organisations that make up the Council, only the JUI-F is represented in parliament and it too has a handful of seats. One can surely ascertain the Council’s legitimacy by seeing its underwhelming electoral performance. The Council, of course, would like to think otherwise. According to Maulana Sami-ul Haq, its chairman, their gatherings are a clear message to US and a referendum for the government of Pakistan to immediately review its relations with America and other western allies.
Does any of this make sense? No, not really — but then our politics has never been about logic, finding solutions and peace and harmony. It has always been about rhetoric, confusion, demagoguery and posturing and the Difa-e-Pakistan Council is doing one hell of a job as far as this is concerned.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 4th, 2012.