Perspectives on Pakistan
Guest contribution: War on the Taliban
The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the author’s alone. The writer is the High Commissioner of Pakistan to Britain.
By Wajid Shamsul Hasan
Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had a vision of a modern, progressive and secular Pakistan. Yet some are trying to replace it with a Talibanised state in which schools are closed, heads chopped off, women flogged in public and a pagan religion takes over in the name of Islam that Allah the Most Merciful bequeathed to humankind through the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) to enlighten the darkened world.
Ever since its advent, Islam has been a religion of peace and compassion with no room for animosity for any other religion. Its fundamental tenet is Huququl Ibad – that is, you would not do unto others what you would not want to be done to you.
Not withstanding the ugly facts as to how we have come to the present tragic pass we must remember that the world is a stage where players play their part and fade away. However, when it comes to a leadership role, some leave indelible footprints on the sands of time. Others who play foul with the destiny of a nation are consigned to the dustbin of history or are acknowledged as unavoidable footnotes mentioned for their misdeeds.
While not condoning the questionable role of some of the civilian leaders of the past, members of the superior judiciary, civil bureaucracy and selective elite, the most devastating impact on Pakistan’s growth on sound democratic lines, in keeping with Mr Jinnah’s unequivocal emphasis that religion shall have nothing to do with the business of the state, was dealt by the constant direct extra-constitutional interventions by military dictators for over 31 years.
Indeed, had General Pervez Musharraf’s presidency lasted any more than it did, he would have surely led the funeral rites of Mr Jinnah’s Pakistan. In his last days – having pushed Pakistan onto the road to Talibanisation – he had the audacity to declare publicly that he was foreseeing the sad demise of the Quaid’s Pakistan. Had martyred Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and other democratic leaders not bulldozed through his bunkered existence and forced him to drop his uniform and hold elections, Pakistan would have had its swan song sung.
This government has been in power just a little over a year. It had not only inherited a bankrupt economy but found itself facing a civil-war like situation. Musharraf had left insurgency at its height in Baluchistan. Northern areas had been abdicated to the Taliban. Not only that, they were given a free hand to romp around the entire country brandishing their newly acquired AK-47s, rocket launchers, and well-mounted anti-aircraft guns on the latest four-wheel drives.
Suicide bombings, the chopping off of heads, the molestation of working women, the destruction of educational institutions and Sufi shrines, the execution of journalists and foreigners and rampant attacks on law-enforcers had become the order of the day. The establishment of the institution of the Red Mosque in the heart of the federal capital under the very nose of scores of intelligence and other agencies served as a role model of what was in store for rest of the country, along with the recovery of several tonnes of the latest weapons and pornographic material. All this was allowed to happen by Musharraf with a method in his madness – to tell the world it had the choice only between him or the Taliban – with control of nuclear weapons.
The new democratic government – while ushering in a peaceful and consensus-based transfer of power at the centre and in the provinces – had to save the country from being declared a bankrupt state and overcome the fall-out of sky-rocketing oil and food prices internationally. It had to carry out a flurry of economic and political diplomacy. The President, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, the Federal Financial Advisor and other top functionaries have been personally taking the initiative. In his just concluded visit to the United States, President Asif Ali Zardari won crucial support from the U.S. for his democratic government, socio-economic development and the war on terror.
Every journey abroad taken by Pakistani leaders has taken them to pastures new, to attract investment and seek assistance for the rapid economic development to fulfil martyred Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s vision of making Pakistan an egalitarian state. Never before in the history of Pakistan was so much mobilised in such a short time as now to pull the country out of the quagmire of socio-economic problems.
Billions of US dollars in aid committed to Pakistan by Washington, London, Japan, China and other Friends of Democratic Pakistan have plastered egg on the faces of those who wanted the nation to believe that frequent official tours abroad were merely pleasure trips. Indeed, they will soon know how sweet the pudding tastes once money pours in to power the wheels of industry left idle by the previous regime, leading to massive unemployment.
General Musharraf’s legacy was rapid Talibanisation in the country. While he spent most of the time flirting with them when the scourge could have been nipped in the bud, he left it as an Achilles heel for the democratic government.
Coming from a democratic dispensation, the government had to weigh the pros and cons of all the options available including dialogue and direct military action. Having failed to show the Taliban pagans the right path, President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, Army Chief General Ashfaque Pervez Kiani in consultation with other leaders and parliamentarians, have at long last launched the decisive battle to save Pakistan from Talibanisation. No doubt the cost of this operation has a gigantic enormity in collateral damage, the dislocation of hundreds and thousands – no price is big or small for protecting one’s motherland.
The bloodthirsty Taliban had left Pakistan no choice. It will be the Pakistani military’s finest hour when it successfully roots out for all time the Taliban scourge from the face of the country. They have to do it with full force not only to secure the country but to revive their image as one of the best fighting forces in the world – an image rusted by General Musharraf and his abuse of the institution.
Last but not the least, the government is carrying out on a war footing the relocation and relief of hundreds and thousands dislocated families. It is our national responsibility to ensure that those who have sacrificed their hearths and homes for the defence of the country are not only honoured but compensated and rehabilitated. All those who laid down their lives in the battle – whether soldiers or civilians – their families must be provided lifetime sustenance. And as soon the Taliban are driven out or eliminated, massive development work will have to be put into action to provide livelihoods, modern education and healthcare, and the local population made partners in the management of their affairs.
The writer is Pakistan’s High Commissioner to London.