Failing, Failing, Failed?

Published: July 13, 2013
The writer is a lawyer and partner at Ijaz and Ijaz Co in Lahore

The writer is a lawyer and partner at Ijaz and Ijaz Co in Lahore

“We are a failing state even if we are not a failed state yet” thus spoke Lieutenant General (retd) Ahmad Shuja Pasha while talking to the Abbottabad Commission. The commission’s report is a chilling read, very well written and brutally honest albeit in short doses. Reading the report one is tempted to agree with the former Chief Spook’s statement. Starting with the obvious points, the most wanted fugitive in the world staying at a kilometre’s distance from the PMA for years, “Men at their best”? Not inside an underground tunnel mind you but in a fort-like compound. We know the salient points of the episode and our deepest fears are only reinforced by the report. Everybody should read it. If sparing the time to read 337 pages seems difficult, at least please do not miss General Pasha’s statement. The evidence of a failing state is right there. A state which allows gentlemen like General Pasha to rise to the absolute top is not fantastically successful.

The gallant General also believes that practically everyone in Pakistan is up for sale, many of the “journalists are heavily bribed with money, women and alcohol”. The pleasant General admitted that the “ISI has harmed many decent people”, and almost in the same breath cautions that those who fear the ISI are those “who should fear the ISI”. He was not alone though, the Air Chief made the nuanced point that, “… people were generally ill informed and did not know much about the hard facts concerning important events. Pakistanis were emotional people…”. What contempt in the aftermath of failure and embarrassment — and “we are sorry” is what the nation should have been told.

The General also conveyed his strong disagreement with former PM Gilani’s comment of “a state within a state” calling them “very unfair”. Here again, perhaps PM Gilani was in fact wrong. His statement presumes the existence of two states whereas in the commission report one is hard pressed to find evidence of even one. The report stops short of complicity at most points; it however does express wonder at the intention behind the gross incompetence. On the question of how OBL was able to stay in the Cantonment, the Commission found the official explanations credible “up to a point” (How one wishes it is as a veiled reference to “up to a point, Lord Copper”). The full inventory has been left for another day. The ISI, MI, DG MO and PAF amongst other military personnel all seemed very uninformed and nowhere as sure as they are when forcibly ensuring our salvation. No real surprises there. If you read the report, the responsibility remains on the military.

Yet, the other “state” does not cover itself in glory either. The house where OBL was living in was bought through a fake NIC, the construction was in violation of building rules (third storey built without permission, eighteen-foot high walls, barbed wires, etc), no revenue tax on the property was ever paid, four gas and electricity meters were installed in the house with no questions asked even when there were no television or telephone cables, no garbage was ever collected.

In a housing survey the compound was rather poetically declared be-chiragh, i.e., uninhabited, at a time when 25 people lived there. OBL was invisible, or perhaps the state was.

Much has been said on the civil-military question and much more will certainly be said, as it needs to be said. Heads should roll, the intelligence framework reconfigured, the recommendation of the commission report implemented. The intelligence agencies be brought under civilian control, I know, but it is a pleasurable imagination. The civil bureaucratic elite also come out of this plastered in mud.The remnants of the colonial era of yore posses the approach and knowledge suited for the late 1800s. Most officers come across as not having read the Police Order, 2002. The acting DG FIA was candid enough to admit that he had not found the time to go through the schedule appended to the FIA Act, and hence was unaware of his exact responsibilities.

The right kind, the only kind of state has to be seen, before it is believed, a state which talks to its people. The Munir Report instead of being translated and made part of the curriculum lies dusty and not talked about. The Hamoodur Rehman Commission Report was brought to us by the foreign media by a leak. Remaining on foreign media, Karachi has been a city without the state, and no one talks about it. Now a logical culmination seems inevitable. The other “state” might have run its course as it was always bound to. And there will be blood. Karachi is not only without a state, it is also armed heavily. There is always a price for silence, for abdication.

Expectations need to be managed and optimism dampened. Policy shifts and institutional reforms are not on the menu. What can be hoped is that a conversation starts. The military establishment has to realise that the closet has long run out of space. The civilians should read this report and find out what the masters in uniform think of them.

Coming back to the opening statement of the state failing and perhaps having failed. Pakistan would have long been buried and failed were it not a country of Malalas as well. The malicious conspiracy theorists and the nasty apologists outnumber her, but do not outgun her. Listening to her majestic, awe inspiring, sincere speech in the UN, all is not lost. Arrogance, cynicism and petty vindictiveness are not all that we have got. Malala said, “… The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.  I am the same Malala.

“My ambitions are the same. My hopes are the same. My dreams are the same.” She said “… Neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorists group. I am here to speak up for the right of education of every child. I want education for the sons and the daughters of all the extremists especially the Taliban. I do not even hate the Talib who shot me.” The State might be failing; we as a people are alive and well as long as we have Malalas amongst us. Jiyo Hazaaron Saal.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 14th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (35)

  • Parvez
    Jul 14, 2013 - 12:35AM

    Upto now this has been the best write up on this affair…………you do have a way.
    I also liked the way Irfan Hussain said it ‘ When all are guilty, nobody is ‘.
    On Malala I do believe in the saying that ‘ God works in mysterous ways ‘


  • ahmed
    Jul 14, 2013 - 12:43AM

    i rubbish article … writer is not clear him self what to say… please tell me how many time u have paid these taxes you mentioned in your article..


  • Jul 14, 2013 - 12:50AM

    Even after such a traumatic and horrendous history, this country still not sure about who its enemies are. Take an example of Malala, she was live all over the world yesterday on all major satellite channels and Pakistani channels were busy marketing and selling ramzan. World leaders praised her for being extremely courageous but Punjab’s CM ridiculed her and rest of Pakistani leaders remained totally numb including the playboy turned Neo Islamist Imran khan


  • Avtar
    Jul 14, 2013 - 2:11AM

    It is difficult to believe the senior officers were not briefed on the various issues and key clauses.The bounty on OBL was not insignificant – many US visas could have been purchased. I do not expect senior personnel to read reports or acts. Most of the bravado of the Military is good enough for civilian mortals. The report does not blame on any one individual rather the whole system.
    Hopefully, the Americans have learned a lesson as well with more than a $1B per year in terms of military aid and no coordination or systemic response from their ally.


  • Arifq
    Jul 14, 2013 - 2:42AM

    Beautifully ended Saroop, Malala speech truly inspirational, bought tears to my eyes, i wish her all the best and pray people of Pakistan can appreciate her purity and love for humanity.


  • Green Tiger
    Jul 14, 2013 - 3:54AM

    One of powerful and excellent article that I have read on ET. I guess nothing further could be added. Was missing cowasjee & here comes a golden article.


  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Jul 14, 2013 - 4:18AM

    Excellent article.


  • Faraz
    Jul 14, 2013 - 4:34AM

    Yes, give all the agencies under ‘civilian control’ or politicians control and then see how well they do.

    Same like the other institutions under politicians are working, e.g. Police, PIA, Railway, NAB, WAPDA, Ogra, etc.

    Also let politicians give control of the army’s internally,, they will work excellently like of Police.

    For heavens sake, do not destroy agencies by giving them under corrupt politicians. Under Army even if with some issues, agencies do deliver often if not all the time.


  • Nadir
    Jul 14, 2013 - 4:37AM

    There is no accountability and the powers that be know they can get away with whatever they like. DG Pasha admits to harming “decent people”, but knows very well that he is above account. He has sailed into the sunset and thats that. We are at the disposal of the whims of whoever is running the show and their definition of what constitutes patriotism. The civilian leadership cant/wont take the bulls by the horns because they have become used to playing the victim. Its mutually reinforcing, this status quo keeps everyone in power happy. Why change? The masses are indulging in conspiracy theories, who cares?


  • RAW is WAR
    Jul 14, 2013 - 6:12AM

    agree 100 percent.


  • C. Nandkishore
    Jul 14, 2013 - 7:19AM

    Two inflection points: First America leaving Afghanistan in 2014 and second 2018 when Sharif term ends. Pakistan will start sliding into a failed state the day America leaves Afghanistan. If by 2018 Sharif is not able to at least stop the slide then it becomes irreversible. Sharif is the last hope for Pakistan. There is no other all Pakistan leader in the horizon. A thousand Malalas cannot save Pakistan.

    The only positive point I see from Pakistan becoming a totally failed state is agriculture. Pakistan feeds itself and that should be the starting point to all reforms.


  • Feroz
    Jul 14, 2013 - 7:54AM

    The first and foremost decision should be to inform every one in the Government that only written ORDERS should be followed, not oral ones. Also every decision must be made based on jottings and recommendations in the notes prepared. This is the only way to fix responsibility on those desiring to evade it.
    Secondly Parliament must clearly take a stand on Non State actors to prevent outsourcing and exploitation of own citizens by the Establishment. Why are many terror organizations sanctioned by the UN allowed to raise funds and allocated Tax payers money too ? On what basis is the State deciding to let some terror groups function while targeting others ? The public and citizens need answers so they can decide whether the State is a terror outfit in league with the violent marauders OR it is a saviour out to eliminate all groups terrorizing the people.
    The Agencies must be asked to give a written report on the location of various Afghan Taliban leaders and Al Qaeda leaders residing in Pakistan, subsequently announce rewards for anybody providing information to interdict them. Clarity and vision must replace obfuscation only if all escape routes to those aiding terrorism is sealed.


  • Ricky
    Jul 14, 2013 - 8:05AM

    Very well written analysis with a great ending. Kudos to the writers like SI and ET for this.


  • Jul 14, 2013 - 8:12AM

    Abbottabad Commission Report confirmed that those heading the intelligencies Agencies were not competent, not knowing their responsibalities It is imperative that a committe of National Assemblyshould check their performance and recommand their head appiontment on merit the most suitable person, At present their is no coordination among intelligencies agenies, this is one reason that OBL was able to stay in Pakistan for 9 year under the very nose of PMA at Abbottabad. Recommend

  • Aysha M
    Jul 14, 2013 - 9:58AM

    The process started in 1974, when the state failed to separate religion from itself and brought religion into public space. The state initiated fundamentalism put Pakistan on path of sure failure.


  • ahmed41
    Jul 14, 2013 - 9:59AM

    “—–Neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorists group. I am here to speak up for the right of education of every child. I want education for the sons and the daughters of all the extremists especially the Taliban—“

    Yes , all girls need a regular academic education.

    However, before the *daughters of the taliban * are sent for a proper education, the taliban themselves need a state-enciuraged and society-encouraged re-education in 21st century values and practices.


  • Polpot
    Jul 14, 2013 - 11:41AM

    “A state which allows gentlemen like General Pasha to rise to the absolute top is not fantastically successful.”
    Many more names come to mind but surely the Moderator will not permit those.
    So pls exercise your imagination.:)


  • Polpot
    Jul 14, 2013 - 11:43AM

    “Failing, Failing, Failed?”
    Crossing new thresholds in Failure.
    Towards Olympian Excellence.


  • Salman Rashid
    Jul 14, 2013 - 11:45AM

    Well done, Sarop Ijaz, Well done. But, really, everyone who mattered knew about the OBL fortress all along. Try building a house like this somewhere and within days the spooks will be knocking your door. Could not have been built without the personal sanction of Mush-a-riff-raff.


  • Dilbar Jahan
    Jul 14, 2013 - 12:31PM

    Jiyo Hazaaron Saal, Malala!


  • asif
    Jul 14, 2013 - 1:38PM

    What comes to my mind after reading this article is that : ET is loosing it’s Editorial quality.Recommend

  • manto
    Jul 14, 2013 - 3:59PM

    Yet another third class oped in ET.


  • Dr.Shafique
    Jul 14, 2013 - 5:02PM

    I am glad the Malala brought tears to your eyes … and those of millions of viewers around the world. But your media, as always, deleted important remarks from Malala’s UN speech in which she said that she was inspired by “Gandhi … and Martin Luther King”. What does that say to you and all the readers here who are so “touched and moved” by this young girl who risked her life simply to go to school? That you CANNOT keep people in bondage and frightened just because you hold a gun. It should be the birthright of every Pakistani, just as it is in India, to get a proper education and not be confined to learning hate-mongering propaged by the mullahs. You need nation builders, not madrassah-brainwashed killers. Malala has set an example by risking her own life. Like millions of my Indian countrymen, I would nominate her for the Nobel Peace Prize. She is certainly more popular and esteemed than the late Benazir Bhutto. It’s ironic: Pakistanis did not say much when Malala was shot and seriously wounded. The applause began only after the world raised a hue and cry over this oppression against a girl who is still a child but full of determination. Scary for you guys, isn’t it?


  • linchpin
    Jul 14, 2013 - 6:23PM

    Please don’t patronise. Malala has recieved recognition by the Federal and Provincial governments of Pakistan long before you had heard of her. I think people like you only recognised her after she got shot.


  • F
    Jul 14, 2013 - 6:34PM

    Yet another report from an important Muslim state in which the powerful and righteous blame their “uneducated” civilians.

    why men like General Pasha rise to the top is reflective of the society, it’s institutions and values. They are driven by absolute power. Once at the top they use their contemptuous “uneducated” civilians as fodder for their crazy schemes and wars.
    Pakistan failing or failed: when you discuss it is as often as people in Pakistan do, the answer is obvious. You don’t have to compare yourself to Ethopia to say you haven’t failed. You have – you haven’t lived up to your expectations.

  • Heena Afridi
    Jul 14, 2013 - 7:18PM

    Malala’s birthday celebration by the world highlights the failure off Pakistan to reign incompetence of its people to rid themselves of the terror monsters that control them. Here we have critics of this op-Ed who do not have the moral courage to get involved as civilians and are complacent that their country ‘s faltering existence. Because of its national cowardice drones are being used to eliminate terrorist causing innocent deaths. So lets get off our high horses & examine our souls as to why Pakistan is failing, each one of us are responsible!


  • Ali Tanoli
    Jul 14, 2013 - 7:33PM

    Nothing gonna happened guys Pakistan will succeed in all ways and nothing can stoped them mistakes every one makes why too much halla hulla CIA and others make many mistakes too they arms many dictators like argentina, Iraq, iran shah and many more and then saw what happened there…. list goes on.


  • Sarmad
    Jul 14, 2013 - 7:55PM


    Yes army delivered between 1958-1971 resulting breakup of the country and a shameless surrender. Then 1977-1988 by hanging the prime minister, introducing violence, heroin, guns, fundamentalism and extremism and then again in 1999 making the country a warzone and allowing Taliban to spread throughout the country.

    Overall performance of civilians at their job has been bad but army’s has been an epic failure!


  • Leela
    Jul 14, 2013 - 8:49PM

    An army with a country – that is what Pakistan is! How can it be brought under civilian structure?


  • Ali
    Jul 14, 2013 - 9:25PM

    Remember, even if Pakistan fails, the land and the people will always be there.


  • zaheerkazim
    Jul 14, 2013 - 9:36PM

    As long as there is a girl of Fortitude,conviction and clear sightedness__Malala Yusuf Zai,all is not lost.Long after the dust gathers on the Abbotabad files the voice of this precocious child will still still echo around the globe and frighten all those Talibans who tried to play God on that fateful afternoon of October 2012.May you live long enough to see the end of terrorism not only in the beautiful vales of KPK but in the whole land of ‘the pure’!


  • Heena Afridi
    Jul 14, 2013 - 10:11PM

    @linchpin if you claim Dr.Shafique recognized her after she got shot & that Pakistan provincial & federal government already did that so why did not YOU & your precious government protect her & her class fellows from being shot was it to show the world that the cowards you hold in high esteem rule Pakistan?


  • Anonymous
    Jul 15, 2013 - 12:26AM

    Superb as usual.


  • Np
    Jul 15, 2013 - 3:52AM

    @Aysha M: does your rewing clock only work until 1974 when tha laws calling ahmadis Muslim was passed? What about objective resolution – did it not insert religion into the very basis for state? What about the Lahore declaration of 1940 where 2 nation theory was proposed – did that NOTrefer to religion as a basis of the nation?

    Madam the truth is that except for the supposed speech by Jinnah on 1947 of whic there is no record – rest of the Pakistan movement itself was on basis of religion.


  • Anjana
    Jul 15, 2013 - 8:43AM


    Dear Linchpin,
    Dr. Shafique is certainly not patronizing. If you carefully read his comment, he is merely stating the truth without any “we-are-better-than-you” air about himself (that, in good English, would be “patronizing”). Having said this, I believe Dr. Shafique has touched the nerve of the problems of Pakistanis who simply refuse to acknowledge and rectify the wrong direction in which they are moving. Religion is a good thing if you practise it within the walls of your home or in a mosque. But it becames a destructive element if used in politics and, particularly, by those (such as the military and the mullahs) pursuing their own agenda. That a minor girl should come forth and challenge the might of gun-toting and killer thugs, while the entire nation shows an abysmal and deplorable lack of interest in protecting her, speaks volumes of your “culture”. It is time you change — because if you do not, you can be assured of self-destruction and ostracized by the entire world (which is already happening, if you look at the way people treat Pakistanis abroad, including your “esteemed” actors, cricketers, etc. who are not welcomed anywhere in the world). You can keep whining about how badly the world treats you instead of changing — that is your problem. But in India, such an act of oppression would have raised huge protests and the perpetrators would have been cooling their heels behind bars for a long time to come. We did that to rapists, and we will also do that to other criminals who kill or maime unarmed and innocent men, women and children.Recommend

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