One of the finest decisions the Nawaz Sharif government has taken in the few days it has been in office is the appointment of Munir Malik as the Attorney General of Pakistan. A more upstanding lawyer would be difficult to find in this country; and a more courageous one, for we recall his incarceration in Attock jail during the movement to restore the superior judiciary when he fell gravely ill and was taken to hospital at PIMS, Islamabad.
Lonely days those were, with us ‘protesters’ hanging about the hospital in our fives and sixes, waiting for news on his progress. Small anecdote: one day that great champion of human rights Ansar Burney came riding in his ministerial car, flag flying, carrying a bouquet for Munir. I walked up to him despite his flunkeys trying to keep me away and, while he waited for the lift to take him up to the second floor, repeatedly told him he ought to be ashamed of himself being a minister in the Commando’s cabinet in those days of beatings and unlawful detentions, and that if he had any grace at all he ought to resign immediately. Needless to say he stayed on until the cabinet was dissolved.
But I digress. I write this to say that I see a faint dawn. I say this because of the several earth-shaking events that have happened over the past few weeks, gently guided by the experienced hands of the new government and helped no end by our superior judiciary. They have, of course, been ignored by the mass (read Ghairatmand) media, because they shake the very foundations upon which teeter our powers that be.
Take the database to be set up to trace the disappeared whose apprehension and incarceration the ‘agencies’ are now slowly but surely being forced to admit. I have to say here that whilst I can sort of accept detention centres in Malakand and Palthom, even I, cynic though I am, was gobsmacked to know that there is a safe house/prison, near/in a mosque in Westridge, Rawalpindi Cantonment, for God’s sake! Er, is this the same Westridge where tens of officers; their children; and soldiers were massacred by terrorists in a Mosque? Is it the same Mosque?
We will get the answers. Reason: our determined superior judiciary and our government have the will to do the right thing. Does one have to reiterate that it is more than inhuman to disappear people for years and not even let them meet their loved ones?
To help this project along there is the Attorney General whose own record in upholding human rights is second to none. One can only wish him, our courts and the government well. By the way I agree absolutely with the Supreme Court that our State ‘agencies’ should be respected; however they will have to earn that respect by giving up their cruel ways. Just a few words of advice: please deal directly with intelligence officials, not the Secretary Defence. (Read Ahmad Mukhtar’s disarming testimony to the Abbottabad Commission please!).
And now to the King Kong in the room: the US withdrawal and its effects on our hapless country. Just yesterday, a most intelligent report has come out of the K-P government (I did not say PTI government)’s Home and Tribal Affairs Department, commissioned during the previous government’s tenure.
It bears close scrutiny by all including the prime minister himself, and his personal staff and advisers, particularly because a person who knows K-P backwards and was also chief secretary of the province, Khalid Aziz, who now heads a think tank in Peshawar, had something to say about it.
To quote, courtesy Dawn (July 25, 2013): “Exit (of foreign forces) does not mean the cause of action will disappear (for our militants). There will be a new push for the enlargement of influence in Balochistan, K-P and Fata. “Our miseries begin with the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan. The prognosis is bad but this is what it is. This is the writing on the wall.”
And: “Wishing the militants away would not make them disappear,” Azam Khan, the principal architect of the strategy document and secretary of Home and Tribal Affairs, cautions. “With the departure of the US troops, the TTP and its multiple partners will pursue their ‘jihad’ with renewed vigour under the banner for setting up a true Islamic Caliphate in Pakistan.”
“There is no on-off switch button. You can’t unplug Pakistani militants from their ideological battle-hardened brethren from across the border,” Azam Khan maintains.”
I am tired of saying it, but what, pray, have I been screaming about for years now, friends? The frightening part is that our establishment still believe they will be able to ‘control’ the collective Taliban once the Americans are gone. Woe. And all the more reason that the civilians take over the Afghan policy immediately.
And now for a case of police brutality I saw in broad daylight, at Gulberg Main Market Chowk, just outside City Towers on July 11 in Lahore. I was parked waiting for the traffic light when I saw a not very new car driven by a young man screech its tyres and come to a stop among some traffic police wardens standing on the main boulevard.
I saw them haul the young man out of the car and proceed to thrash him with their fists. They were soon joined by regular police ‘lining’ the route. In no time the poor chap’s face was swollen with the thrashing, making me turn towards the fracas and get out of the car to try and stop the beating.
Just then a police jeep pulled up with a young ASP in the front seat to who I appealed to please stop the beating and charge the young fellow with whatever crime. He asked me not to interfere and to come to the Liberty police station where he would explain matters to me.
I refused to accompany him anywhere having my young daughter in the car with me and said, “All I want is that you please stop this beating”. His answer was: “Don’t interfere, my force is doing the right thing.” I ask you!
Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2013.
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