It was Goebbels who came up with the brilliant theory that if the government wanted people to follow its policy, it must first instill fear in them and then slap all dissenters with the unpatriotic card. Anyone like me, who disagrees with the current indiscriminate military operation is accused of being a Taliban apologist.
Let me state categorically that I have been against the military operations since the disaster of what was formerly the East Pakistan. From East Pakistan to the present Swat operation, the political mantra has always been “no option but the military”. Successive military operations in Balochistan have only added to the sufferings of the Baloch people, which nurtured the seeds of their disillusionment with the Pakistani state.
When Bush decided to attack Afghanistan in less than a month after 9/11, I opposed this US policy at every forum, including through the print and electronic media. Later, when he ordered the invasion of Iraq, I joined the nearly 2 million marchers in London opposing the Iraq war. It is noteworthy that at the time, over 90 per cent of Americans supported Bush’s Iraq invasion. Today, the overwhelming opinion in the US is that Iraq was a disaster. Moreover, the so-called “good war” in Afghanistan is being lost and its support dwindling.
It is not surprising to see the findings of a Rand Corporation study of the last 40 years of terrorist or asymmetric conflicts, which reveal that only 7 per cent of these conflicts were resolved through military means.
When Musharraf buckled under the US pressure and sent the Pakistan Army into Waziristan, I opposed it in parliament and through the media. Speaking to the editors, Musharraf called me a “terrorist without a beard” – as if terrorism is the sole domain of bearded folk. When the Pakistan Army was sent into Waziristan, there were no militant Taliban in Pakistan. As a result of the Army operation, the tribal social and political structure was destroyed throughout Fata and Malakand, and the vacuum has been filled by nine major militant Taliban groups.
Again, at the time Musharraf commenced military action in Balochistan I opposed it and was accused of backing the “anti-state” elements. Today, what was a movement for Baloch rights and autonomy within Pakistan has morphed into a Baloch independence movement. On opposing the Lal Masjid operation, some of the self-appointed “liberals” accused me of backing the Islamic fundamentalists. But soon most of the indefatigable crusaders for human rights joined the critics of the Lal Masjid operation. More sobering is the fact that there were 60 suicide attacks in the aftermath of the slaughter of the Lal Masjid inmates and a steep rise in extremism. The Swat flare-up is a direct consequence of the Lal Masjid operation.
While discussing my opposition to the current military operation, I must state where I stand politically and ideologically. My political inspiration is derived solely from Quaid-i-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the constitutionalist and democrat who believed in the rule of law above all else. My ideological moorings are firmly rooted in the political and spiritual dimensions of Allama Iqbal’s exposition of Islam, which not only liberates society from bondage but also the human soul from material desires – releasing the enormous God-given human potential.
Above all, I am an ardent follower of our Prophet’s (PBUH) example of inspiring the heart and the intellect rather than forcing ideas through the sword – a far cry from what has been happening in Swat in the name of Islam. So on no count can I possibly either support the un-Islamic acts such as beheadings, flogging of women, or forcing a way of life on others, nor am I an apologist for such people – I am only answerable on this count to my conscience and to my God.
As for my opposition to the Malakand military operation, first and foremost I believe that the military option, if it has to be used should always be a last resort. Yet in Swat, the military operation was started barely two weeks after the presidential signing of the accord without alternative political strategies being given a chance. In my opinion, a national conference of all stakeholders, including religious and political parties and groups, particularly those representing Swat, should have been called prior to the operation. A delegation from such a conference should have been mandated to visit Swat and talk reason to the militants and report back to parliament. In other words, every effort should have been made to make the militants abide by the peace deal. All along the political effort, a concerted effort should have been made to gain time to revive civil administration, police, and the paramilitary presence in Swat.
The diehard militants who consistently refused to adhere to peace agreement could have been isolated over time – a key counter-insurgency tactic followed by precise military action to decapacitate the leadership.
Assuming, there was no alternative to the military option, then while it was being planned, arrangements should have been made for the people who were going to be displaced. Sadly, and shamefully, the military operation began suddenly under increased US pressure, timed with Zardari’s US visit and with the least concern for the people of the area.
The unfolding tragedy that is taking place in Swat is mindboggling. To flush out a few thousand militant Taliban, more than two million people have been forced to live in misery in camps not fit for animals in civilised societies. Even more disturbing is the use of heavy artillery shelling and bombing from the air alongside helicopter gunships in areas with significant civilian population. Despite a heavy blackout, the news coming from the war zone tell tales of dozens if not hundreds of innocent civilian casualties.
Given the collapse of governance in the country, can we adequately look after so many displaced people – especially as summer temperatures soar? And for how long? The wheat crop has already been lost. If the IDPs cannot return within two months, the fruit cash crops will be at risk. Hence how will they sustain themselves for the coming year? Perhaps most dangerous is the possibility of IDPs’ anger and frustration that besides resulting in riots may also swell the ranks of the militants.
In such a situation, according to the Army briefing given to the parliamentarians, there is every possibility of the Taliban resurfacing not just in Malakand Division but elsewhere in the country – possibly the urban centres. Can we afford further spread of terrorism in our cities given the precarious security and fragile economic situation? Military action breeds more militancy.
An Army action which has already led to almost 2.5 million displaced countrymen cannot simply be accepted without questions. And, as if we do not already have a crisis, Zardari has declared that the war in Swat is merely the beginning of a wider war, which is likely to engulf other parts of the country. It is time to take stock and stop ourselves from committing collective suicide. What needs to be done is the following:
* The military action unfortunately is already underway but there is no political, particularly governance, strategy which is guiding this operation. That should be the first priority so that the military action does not continue in a political vacuum.
* A clear governance and political strategy that allows the IDPs to return following a swift end to military operation is needed. This strategy should be focused on a system of speedy justice through the Nizam-e-Adl and effective civil administration. The writ of the state and the rule of law go together and this has to be ensured if violent challenges to state and government are to be avoided in the future.
* The military action, if at all, should have been extremely limited in scale and targeted with precision to minimise civilian casualties. Tragically, this did not happen and my fear is that widespread use of aerial weapons would only result in greater civilian casualties, swelling the ranks of the militants. So the military action needs to be revised to focus more on specific targeting and commando action.
Will any of this happen? Unfortunately in the present mood of the ruling elite, this does not seem likely. Instead, we will see increasing military action in the tribal areas as long as the US is in occupation of Afghanistan.
In other words, as long as US troops in Afghanistan are perceived to be an occupying force that is anti-Pushtun and anti-Islam, there will be no peace in this region. We are heading in a fatal direction unless we change our strategy and pull out of this insane war that is sinking us into chaos. The longer this persists, the deeper we will find ourselves in this quagmire and we will confront a deeply divided society.
Finally, my heart bleeds for the poor soldier confronting his own people turned into misguided and brutalised militants and giving his life for a war wrought on him by a corrupt and decadent ruling elite that cannot see beyond the lure of American dollars that have become as much of a curse for this hapless nation as the criminal extremists in our very midst.
The U.S. and NATO should withdraw from Afghanistan.
Dear President Obama,
Your extraordinary ascent to the U.S. Presidency is, to a large part, a reflection of your remarkable ability to mobilize society, particularly the youth, with the message of “change.” Indeed, change is what the world is yearning for after eight long and almost endless years of carnage let loose by a group of neo-cons that occupied the White House.
Understandably, your overarching policy focus would be the security and welfare of all U.S. citizens and so it should be. Similarly, our first and foremost concern is the protection of Pakistani lives and the prosperity of our society. We may have different social and cultural values, but we share the fundamental values of peace, harmony, justice and equality before law.
No people desire change more than the people of Pakistan, as we have suffered the most since 9/11, despite the fact that none of the perpetrators of the acts of terrorism unleashed on the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, were Pakistani. Our entire social, political and economic fabric is in a state of meltdown. Our sovereignty, dignity and self-respect have been trampled upon. The previous U.S. administration invested in dictators and corrupt politicians by providing them power crutches in return for total compliance to pursue its misconceived war on terror.
There are many threats confronting our society today, including the threat of extremism. In a society where the majority is without fundamental rights, without education, without economic opportunities, without health care, the use of sheer force and loss of innocent lives continues to expand the extremist fringe and contract the space for the moderate majority.
Without peace and internal security, the notion of investing in development in the war zones is a pipe dream, as the anticipated benefits would never reach the people. So the first and foremost policy objective should be to restore the peace. This can only be achieved through a serious and sustained dialogue with the militants and mitigation of their genuine grievances under the ambit of our constitution and law. Since Pakistan’s founding leader signed a treaty in 1948 with the people of the country’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas and withdrew Pakistani troops, they had remained the most peaceful and trouble-free part of Pakistan up until the post-9/11 situation, when we were asked to deploy our troops in FATA.
Even a cursory knowledge of Pushtun history shows that for reasons of religious, cultural and social affinity, the Pushtuns on both sides of the Durand Line (which marks the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan) cannot remain indifferent to the suffering of their brethren on either side. The Pushtuns are proud of their history of resisting every invader from Alexander onwards, to the Persians, Moghuls, British and the Russians (all superpowers of their times) who were all bogged down in the Pushtun quagmire. So, no government, Pakistani or foreign, will ever be able to stop Pushtuns crossing over the 1,500-kilometer border to support their brethren in distress on either side, even if it means fighting the modern-day superpower in Afghanistan. Recent history shows how the mighty Soviet Union had to retreat from Afghanistan with its army defeated even though it had killed over a million Afghans.
To an average Pushtun, notwithstanding the U.N. Security Council sanction, the U.S. is an occupying power in Afghanistan that must be resisted. It is as simple as that. Therefore, the greatest challenge confronting U.S. policy in Afghanistan is how to change its status from an occupier to a partner. The new U.S. administration should have no doubt that there is no military solution in Afghanistan. As more innocent Pushtuns are killed, more space is created for new Taliban and even Al-Qaida recruits–revenge being an integral part of the Pushtun character. So, as with Iraq, the U.S. should give a time table for withdrawal from Afghanistan and replace NATO and U.S. forces with U.N. troops during the interim period.
The Pushtuns then should be involved in a dialogue process where they should be given a stake in the peace. As the majority’s stake in peace grows, proportionately the breeding ground for extremists shrinks.
The crucial lesson the U.S. needs to learn–and learn quickly–is that you can only win against terrorists if the majority in a community considers them terrorists. Once they become freedom fighters and heroes amongst their people, history tells us that the battle is lost.
Terrorism worldwide is an age-old phenomenon and cannot be eliminated by rampaging armies, no matter how powerful. It can only be contained by a strategy of building democratic societies and addressing the root causes of political conflicts. The democratization part of this strategy demands a strategic partnership between the West and the people of the Islamic world, who are basically demanding dignity, self-respect and the same fundamental rights as the ordinary citizen in the West enjoys. However, this partnership can only be forged if the U.S. and its close Western allies are prepared to accept and coexist with credible democratic governments in the Islamic world that may not support all U.S. policies as wholeheartedly as dictators and discredited politicians do in order to remain in power.
The roots of terror and violence lie in politics–and so does the solution. We urge the new administration to conduct a major strategic review of the U.S.-led war on terror, including the nature and kind of support that should realistically be expected of Pakistan keeping in mind its internal security interests. Linking economic assistance to sealing of its western frontier will only force the hand of a shaky and unstable government in Pakistan to use more indiscriminate force in FATA, a perfect recipe for disaster.
The stability of the region hinges on a stable Pakistan. Any assistance to improve governance and social indicators must not be conditional. For the simple reason that any improvement in the overall quality of life of ordinary citizens and more effective writ of the state would only make mainstream society less susceptible to extremism. However, if the new U.S. administration continues the Bush administration’s mantra of “do more,” to which our inept leadership is likely to respond to by using more force, Pakistan could become even more accessible to forces of extremism leading to further instability that would spread across the region, especially into India, which already faces problems of extremism and secessionist movements. Such a scenario would benefit no one–certainly not Pakistan and certainly not the U.S. That is why your message of meaningful change, Mr. President, must guide your policies in this region also.
Imran Khan is chairman and founder of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (Movement for Justice), and served as an elected member of Pakistan’s parliament from 2002-08. The captain of the Pakistan team that won the cricket World Cup in 1992, he founded the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Center, the biggest charitable institution in Pakistan. He is chancellor of the University of Bradford, in the U.K.
Pakistan cricket legand, a renowned politician, chairman of Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf and a social worker, Imran Khan has returned the highest civilian award of Pakistan (Hilal e Pakistan) to the government in protest of Mr. Zardari’s decision of givin Hilal e Pakistan to newly elected US vice president Joe Biden and giving Hilal e Quaida e Azam to US under secretary of state (known in Pakistan for his support to the dictator,the NRO deal and interference in Pakistan judicial and political issues) Richard Boucher.
In his interview with Khaleej Times Imran said,“I have decided in protest to return the award conferred on me for my services rendered in sports arena. I am disappointed and angered over government’s decision which neglected the sentiments of the people of this country who are frustrated and seething with anger with this deplorable decision” .
In All Pakistan lawyers convention, Pakistan bar council (PBC) has announced the date of long March for the restoration of judiciary .
The date decided with the mutual consensus is 10 th of June 2008 and according to SCBA president Aitzaz Ahsan the Chief Guest for the March will be the honorable genuine CJP Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary.
Lawyers have formed a committee to decide the future coarse of the movement.
APDM to Meet on 18 May
APDM will hold a meeting on 18 May in Islamabad to decide the future line of action for the movement to restore judiciary in Pakistan.
according to a report by The News:
“Experts from all segments of the society would be invited to the conference. They would take into account the current situation and express their views to chalk out the future line of action,” sources in APDM told The News here on Friday.
The sources further said the committee, which included Liaquat Baloch, Akram Shah,
Dr Hameed Memon and Sardar Zaheer, would hold a session to decide a date for the conference, prepare the draft of invitation and alsofinalise the names of those
who were to be invited to the forum.
A great display of solidarity and the commitment to the cause was shown by the citizens of Karachi.
In the protest march the protestors(starting from just few they turned out to be in tens of thousands in just few hours) also passed resolutions for the restoration of judiciary, against the unjustice being done all over the world, high inflation, protection of our cultural heritage, release of our true national hero DR Abdul Qadeer Khan and conveyed the message to National Assembly,UNO and OIC to stop the efforts to invoke the clash of civilization by the anti-peace forces all over the world such as the cartoonists who draw the blasphemous pictures,news paper which publish them and the people who are behid the anti-Quran documentary in Holand.
40pc outsiders join Shan-e-Mustafa march(The Daily Times)
KARACHI: The Shan-e-Mustafa march, organised by the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), had over 40 percent outsiders and non-party participants.
The march started on schedule from the Mazaar-e-Quaid around 4:00 p.m. with only 100 to 150 participants. By the time the march reached Sea Breeze Plaza reciting ‘Durood-o-Salam’ around 5:15 p.m., the number of participants had multiplied.
Despite terrorism threats, and despite heavy contingents of law enforcers present, people were being allowed in the march without any checking. All the routes leading to the march were blocked by police mobiles and empty passenger buses as the JI traffic control committee along with law enforcers maintained the flow of traffic.
A lot of religious and political parties also joined the march, as well as large numbers of women and children.
Participants carried placards, posters and banners, saying, “Aey Mohammad (PBUH), dekh terey Ummat kis taraf ja rahe hai,” “Politicians, don’t forget that we are all answerable,” “Aey Ummat-e-Muslima key jawanon, ab waqt agaya hai key sub mutahid ho jao”. A majority of participants wore yellow bandanas which said, “Our parents are sacrificed on you, Muhammad (PBUH)” in Arabic.
The non-JI participants were content with their participation in the march. Ahmed Ali, a computer engineer, said, “Of course, this march was held by JI but it was not exclusive. I came here because I am a Muslim.”
Another participant, Mumtaz Khan, 55, said that there were two motives behind this march. First, to boycott Danish and Dutch products, and the second, to show a strength of Muslims.
An official from the Karachi Port Trust, Jawad Shah, said that he joins all marches which have anything to do with Islam. Although he is a Shia, it is his responsibility to attend this march, he added.
Aitzaz Ahsan in Lahore said that the decision to hold a long march against Musharraf’s dictatorship and to
support the cause of justice is not withdrawn.
He also urged people to observe black flag week from 9 March to 16 March 2008.
He was addressing the representatives of civil society,lawyers , workers of PTI and PPP who were there outside
his residence to celebrate his release.
He warned if the newly elected parliament did not reinstate the judges and ensure independence of the judiciary
then it would be a fragile parliament and its prime minister and members will be weak. Time will come a dictator
will again sabotage it, he added. Members of assembly will be arrested and they will contact people to
solicit their support. Then no one will join hands with them, he underlined.
He also added that former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was in favor of reinstating the judiciary reffereing
to her November 10 statement in which she said that CJP Iftikhar is the Chief Justice of Pakistan.