For how long is not the question

In South Asia on 9. August 2013 at 11:28

We should not ask for how long you, the powerful, will tolerate this madness. It will not change, it did not change last year when corpses were used in protests in a last attempt to gain attention. Neither did it change during the recent Anti-Christian arson and looting in Joseph colony or the Gojra incident. It did not change after the decade’s long forceful conversion of Hindu community, or the institutionalised discrimination of the Ahmadi minority. It did not change when imambargahs, mazaars or mosques were blown up nor when tribal elders were put to gunpoint by their new hosts. It certainly did not change when our neighbour to west burned during the civil war or when fine young soldiers were killed in the most brutal way. So, why will it change with angry written columns?

Leaders should rather listen of what is expected but is ignored, both by will and by ignorance. You, the elected, the umeedvar, as you call yourself, have a responsibility beyond your voters base, beyond financial donor or self interest. That responsibility is to ensure that the citizens of this state are granted the given rights in constitution, and where the constitution don’t grant them, to legislate change, reform in order to fulfil the principles of equality and justice. You are further responsible for the safeguarding of the citizens of this country and use means necessary to combat any threat – in short, keeping the rights of citizens at first priority.

Counter terror

Each nation’s security policy is defined by its national interest. What this interest is varies dependent on whom you ask, though it should not be any disagreement that this policy can only be vetted by civilians. Pakistan’s national interest has been dictated by its small circle of elite popularly known as The Establishment – an unofficial group of those who adhere and dictate the principles of the ideology of Pakistan. The members are within the powerful Army Headquarters, their allied politicians, wealthy business tycoons and bureaucracy.

As the ideology of Pakistan instead of being linked to the welfare of its citizens is rather linked to an overreacted fear of foreign aggression the national interest itself becomes a victim of paranoia and policy, which often compromises civil liberties and democratic principles.

As is known Pakistan supported the rise of Taliban in Afghanistan, militant proxies in Kashmir and East Pakistan and religious militants in Baluchistan because it was in the national interest, these same policies backfired repeatedly on Pakistan itself. Taliban quickly changed its strategy to fight Pakistan, because it was against its interest. Regretfully Pakistan did not change its policy throughout because of two major reasons, one it still adheres to a national interest centred on external threat and two as US can leave the region, Pakistan will get stuck up with an unstable neighbour with militants ready to take on Pakistan.

As the latter concern is legit, and one which US ignores, the former is merely causing trouble by Pakistan’s own doing. Kabul has never recognised Pakistan’s border and claims tracts of land populated by Pashtuns. While it would be normal for nations to be alarmed on such a position, there is no or little risk of Afghanistan to actually claim this land. Hence a foreign policy which is highly exaggerated and therefore unnecessary. On its eastern border, Pakistan has the conflict of Kashmir. While India recognises Pakistan’s border and vice versa, they do not agree on the Kashmir border and both claim the whole region for themselves. The only realistic solution for Kashmir conflict is to make Line Of Control a permanent border, as there is not an Indian interest in invading Pakistani territory. If had been, then Indira Gandhi would have gone forth to ‘fulfill the job’ after the fall of Dhaka – because it is against the interest of India to have a balkanised Pakistan on its western front.

Both conflicts can be solved by diplomacy, but the Kashmir conflict puts pressure on Pakistan to engage in militarisation of region and join the arms race. Every nation would have done so. As it is standing today, Pakistan’s real interest is not defined by an imaginary threat from Kabul or existential one from Delhi, its interest lies in the internal threat to its citizens, and thus it does not need, never have had the need, to court terror networks. In such a case any with a small amount of wit would have taken on these groups, but as Army is also part of defining national interest it becomes a conflict of interest. Pakistan Army is a fine one, especially its first generation of cadres and officers, but they are not democratic in mind-set, and thus not willing to reduce their power. In order to retain power it needs increased focus on its importance, consequently giving it more say in defining national interest, and share of budget.

Counter Terror Policy is a tool to safeguard parts of the national interest. Pakistan needs one committed, worked on CT-Policy, but it also needs a shift in definition of national interest – not saying that all foreign focus should be eliminated – one which puts the internal challenges in centre. This step also triggers the need to think aloud around the Ideology of Pakistan. Nations ideologies are formed and reformed through time and all stakeholders, especially civil society and elected should play a major part in it.

Once committed the state and its security agencies will have the full-fledged support to fight the menace that plays havoc with innocent lives. Causalities ensure lack of trust in state and thus making it fragile – again one thing that genuinely threatens national interest

Reform of Constitution

Constitutions are not everlasting. They can be revolutionary when brought into effect, being influenced by the then up-to-date understanding on sovereignty, freedoms and rights. By time, new fields are discovered to be defined or new concerns to be regulated in the Constitution. In early nation-states sovereignty was breached once a foreign power physically puts its foots on ground in another state, while today sovereignty can be breached by putting dam to a river shared by two countries, building nuclear power plant close to the border or putting restrictions on trade through sanctions. On rights front new challenges are amongst other the limit to free speech and limit in civil rights due to increased surveillance. These are challenges also valid for developed democratic countries.

On the other hand, constitutions also include sections and paragraphs that are not in tune with present nor past. There can be laws and regulations that are against something being higher than constitutions and ideologies – the universal values – it being equality and justice. These values are thought forth by human by centuries and are found in Holy books of faith or the wisdom of intellect. Constitutions compromising on these values are hence not in the interest of the people.

In Pakistan’s case articles regarding freedom of speech, thought and faith are of high concern. In more detailed list the articles limiting Ahmadis to practice their faith, Shias to compromise on their doctrines and heterodox sects to hide their literature is against the principles of freedom. Further, the laws stifling discussion because of their vagueness as the infamous ‘Blasphemy’-paragraphs limits both freedom of faith and speech, and harms especially religious minorities. The law is against principles of freedom, equality and justice.

As seen, the constitution needs to be shaken for some major hot points, but also reformed due to natural change and the many amendments and ordinances. A major task it is, but if legislators do not opt to initiate such, then surely a constitution, with elements against universal values will not give a society that gives equal rights and justice to all its citizens. As more and more countries moves towards democracy and secularism and as a secular state not necessarily harms one’s personal faith it is important to note than one becomes pariah. That too compromises national interest.


The issues around Counter-Terror Policy and Constitution reform are technical one and should be dealt by with the help of experts. Subjects as secularism and blasphemy law are easily misused in emotional rhetoric with religion as shield to oppose by groupings opposing such a reform. Counter-terror is not surprisingly also opposed by the same groupings as faith is instrumentalised. These groupings have the right to say their mind, right to partake in democratic process, but not right to go on accord with democratic principles. However, more importantly, the needed reforms and changes also needs to be translated into the local idiom, so they are understood in essence by the common man. Including the citizens into such processes are important, and for that Pakistan needs to rid itself of the colonial mind-set and legacy of top-down approach.

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