The first two steps
Blessed are the rulers of Pakistan who have the time to take off for ‘Umrahs’ and seclude themselves in saintly ‘aitekafs’. Surely they no longer pray for more pelf and pompousness. They already have more than what may be needed for themselves and their next many generations. Why can the same piety not be practiced somewhat more modestly and without adding to the carbon footprint? A simpler and more economical model for secluded self reflection, demonstrated by Buddha could be easily emulated around the outskirts of Islamabad, which have plenty of tall and ancient banyan trees. But then Buddha had the good sense to bid farewell to his palace and princely luxuries before setting out to seek the truth – precisely the stuff our inane leaders neither understand nor are willing to part with.
The leaders of Pakistan have been in a state of virtual ‘aitekaf’ for a long time – completely isolated from the suffering and concerns of their fellow beings. When our largest jail was attacked by scores of militants successfully freeing hundreds of hardened criminals, our leaders were presumably in a state of ‘aitekaf’ and hence failed to respond. Neither the brutal hunting down of ‘shias’ in Quetta, Karachi, Gilgit and Parachinar nor the daily targeted killing of 15-20 people in Karachi are good enough reason for our leaders to interrupt their precious moments of solitude. So our biggest problem is not education, energy or militancy but to disengage our leaders from their perpetual ‘aitekaf’ syndrome, so that they have a chance to do what they are paid for.
Unwilling to learn from history the new government has failed to induct people of competence, vision or intellect to reform its chaotic and non-functional machinery. To imagine that this complex task can be done by a bandwagon of uninitiated brothers, uncles, nephews, in-laws and family friends, suggests a medieval outlook. Take for example, the Chief Ministers of Sindh and Punjab. Having run out of steam as well as ideas, they can only do more of the same insignificance that they delivered in the last five years. Was it impossible to discover more enlightened, dynamic and thinking people to turn around these two provinces in the next 5 years?
The militants have pushed back the law enforcing agencies to adopt a defensive strategy. The policy of yet more barriers, check-posts and bunkers is a recipe for surrender. Why Pakistan is unable to tackle its militancy on pro-active basis is deeply linked to its own unruly ruling class. A class which is not willing to give up its own perks privileges, militancy, life style, archaic traditions and incestuous inclinations. A class that is not amenable to simplicity, to living like ordinary people, to giving up its own weapons, to travelling in public transport, to standing in queues, to paying taxes, to stop using obscene and fuel-guzzling smuggled vehicles, to putting its children in ordinary schools (if only to discover how the ghosts look like) or to stop presiding over ‘karo-kari’ ‘jirgas’.
An All Parties Conference or setting up a Counter Terrorism Force would be futile if led by people who are genetically opposed to any change or giving up their own feudal and criminal lifestyles. Can a country ever fight militancy if it does not comprehend the vital link between terrorism and the two fundamental instruments that are used in its execution – weapons and vehicles? No citizen, regardless of his rank or status must be allowed to possess, carry or display any weapon – licensed or otherwise. Every vehicle on the road must be registered and have a standard officially supplied number plate that is monitored by an ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) system. If the Prime Minister and an office boy have the same standard number plate in UK, why can it be not done here? A state that cannot implement these two fundamental controls may well have already conceded defeat.
If the rulers of Pakistan are sincere, they would make all the 1200 or so parliamentarians to voluntarily surrender every type of weapon in their legal and illegal possession. That would be the first real anti-terrorist action ever taken by Pakistan. Only then can the state demand others to do so. Autonomous urban commando units of the army (to be created hopefully, not under political control) may be our last hope to achieve these two objectives. A state unable to disarm its own ‘peaceful’ parliamentarians, is not likely to succeed with hardened criminals, who are determined to dismantle the state apparatus at the highest level.