Espying the Silver Lining

Spearhead Opinion – 07.08.2015

By Moiz Agha
Research Analyst, Spearhead Research

Pakistan ArmyIt was not too long ago when Pakistan was under a monolithic pall of gloom and darkness; when it seemed that the sordid state of affairs of the country would continue on indefinitely. It was a place where people had become so inured to loss of life that its sanctity seemed worth nothing more than a fleeting flash on the newsreel. There appeared an almost complete absence of the state’s writ in FATA; Baluchistan was hanging by a string with a secession seeming imminent, and the financial and economic hub of the country, Karachi, was enveloped by the tempest of violence and bloodshed. The spectre of terrorism thoroughly devastated every nook and cranny of the country and a lackluster economic growth stalled development.  All hopes of improvement seemed futile and it appeared that there was no rock bottom, but a never ending abyss into which the country seemed to be plunging ever deeper.

The politicians were completely befuddled as to how to counter the atrocities undertaken by terrorist organizations. Security was and still is the prime concern of the country; it is the bedrock on which the edifice of any state reposes on. With a Hamlet like indecisiveness, the politicians kept vacillating between deciding on whether to take military action or offer the olive branch; too much politics and too little action. It was not until a change of leadership amongst the Khakis was effected that changes started to appear. The post Operation Zarb-e-Azb Pakistan offers a different picture. Though the country is still fraught with challenges one can nonetheless espy a ray of light at the end of the tunnel. North and South Waziristan have after much struggle and sacrifice come under state control and terrorist groups have been successfully ousted from the region. Karachi which was choking under turf wars, extortion and target killings has after a long time breathed a sigh of relief. Though the Rangers Operation is still being carried out, drastic changes have already been brought about. Criminal activities have plummeted and supporters of such nefarious activities have been cut to the quick. The political party which has been historically alleged to be in the thick of all criminal activities of the city finds itself beleaguered and cornered; its pontiff has made the outlandish cry for NATO intervention in the region betokening his fear of the ongoing operation. The common man finally finds himself unfettered from the atmosphere of constant fear and repression which has for the past two decades characterized Karachi. A semblance of stability which had for so long eluded the metropolis seems to be finally taking ground.

Apart from India, foreign relations have also improved ever since the new government has come in power. The Quetta-Taftan railway link connecting Pakistan and Iran has been re-launched. With the lifting of sanctions around the corner, as a part of the US-Iran Nuclear deal, the development of the IP pipeline also seems to be in the offing. Despite a history of deep mistrust with Afghanistan, relations have improved. A major breakthrough was achieved when Pakistan managed to bring the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table in Muree alongside the Afghan government officials. Another session of negotiations in the near future has already been agreed upon. The country has finally ceased to receive the diktats of the US to ‘do more.’ The US in its annual report on terrorism has in the main commended the success of Operation Zarb-e-Azb and admitted that Pakistan has to a large extent managed to purge the country of terrorist elements. The bonhomie with China is ever increasing, with a myriad of projects of the much lauded CPEC already underway. Relations with Russia have also been completely overhauled and the recently friendly overtures between the two countries offer a stark contrast to the prevalent conditions of the Cold War era. The increasing camaraderie between Russia and Pakistan, with warfare machines and arsenal transactions to Russia’s display of support in the UN for Pakistan when it opposed India’s move of bringing Pakistan under the scrutiny of the FATF, seems to augur a change of regional alliances. Relations with Central Asian countries have also been on the rise with projects like CASA-1000 and other energy projects being envisaged for times to come. Even the acrimony between India and Pakistan seems to have a positive aspect to it. Previously only Pakistan was held culpable of undertaking covert operations, like the Mumbai attacks, in foreign lands; but now the egregious machinations purportedly carried out by India in Baluchistan, Karachi and Kashmir have come out in the open as well. Even the former chief of RAW Amirjit Singh Dalut has admitted undertaking certain covert operations of supporting extremist organizations. Such spilling of the beans will certainly provide Pakistan with a substantial amount of leverage in dealing with their pugnacious neighbour in times to come.

We should indeed be grateful to Providence that despite being deluged by terrorist activities at one point, not too unlike what much of the Middle East is presently experiencing, we have not ended up like Libya, Iraq, Syria or Yemen. After achieving such relative stability after long, tumultuous and chaotic periods what is needed is the entrenching and furthering of this stability and security. We need to build upon what we have achieved thus far and work on the chinks in our armour that still make us vulnerable to internal as well as external mischief. One such chink is reflected in the recent killing of Malik Ishaq, the founder and leader of the notorious Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. The entire backdrop which surrounds his death strongly smacks of an extra judicial killing. There are enough reasons for assuming truth in such a notion, since this wicked minded criminal who himself flagrantly admitted committing more than a hundred murders of Shias had for long been in the custody of the police but had so far been virtually untouchable because of the fear he instilled in judges, prosecutors and witnesses which prevented them from stepping forward. Though it might be argued that this world is indeed a safer and better place since his demise, nonetheless extra judicial killings are certainly not the path leading to progress. Deterrence should be created by the law and not by the whims of any individual in authority. From the need to establish military courts via the 21st amendment, to the meddling of the army in exposing the corrupt practices of politicians, to extra judicial killings; all such happenings are concomitants of a weak and inadequate justice system. Pakistan has in relative terms achieved much in recent times. If the state while building on current achievements manages to bolster our legal system as well by equipping it with the requisite paraphernalia, one might even start to contemplate the unimaginable; the ushering in of an era of peace, progress and prosperity in Pakistan.

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