Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
After the chief minister of Pakistan’s biggest province reportedly asked the Taliban to spare his region from attacks, he kicked off an uproar and earned the scorn of a woman member of a provincial parliament, who sarcastically offered him her scarf and said “the women of the frontier province” would protect him.
Shahbaz Sharif, chief minister of Punjab province, on Sunday said he didn’t understand why the Taliban were targeting the Punjab when his party — the PML-N — and militants alike opposed the policies of former military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, who allied with the United States after the Sept. 11 attacks.
“Gen. Musharraf planned a bloodbath of innocent Muslims at the behest of others only to prolong his rule, but we in the PML-N opposed his policies and rejected dictation from abroad,” the daily Dawn quoted him as saying. “If the Taliban are also fighting for the same cause then they should not carry out acts of terror in Punjab.” (Where the PML-N rules.)
Shahbaz’s reported remark at an Islamic seminary in the provincial capital of Lahore on Sunday was widely seen as an attempt to appease Taliban militants who have unleashed a wave of bombs and suicide attacks across the country. Just two days before, militants killed 45 people in twin suicide bombings in a high-security zone in Lahore.
If India is agonising over a book that seeks to demolish the conventional view that Muslim leaders forced the division of the subcontinent in 1947, across the border some Pakistanis are attempting a bit of introspection too.
The popular All Things Pakistan blog is running a poll this week asking readers a single question: which leader did the most harm to the country in the past 60 years, not counting the current administration which came into office only this year after elections in February.
U.S. military operations crossed another threshold in Pakistan this week when a Predator ‘drone’ aircraft fired missiles into Bannu area in North West Frontier Province (NWFP), away from the seven Federally Administered Tribal Areas where it has conducted raids with impunity.
Attacking the self-governing and semi-autonomous FATA on the Afghan border, considered a haven for al Qaeda and Taliban, is one thing. Targeting the North West Frontier Province, or settled areas as Pakistanis call it, is quite another.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari told a joint session of parliament last month he was committed to wide-ranging constitutional reforms including surrendering the power of the president to dismiss elected governments — a power that many Pakistanis feel has brought much grief to the nation. He also pledged his faith in an independent judiciary and said all outstanding matters would be resolved in line with the constitution.
Those promises have slipped somewhat from public view in recent weeks, preoccupied as the nation and those with a stake in it are with the multiple security challenges and a looming economic meltdown.
The recipient of this year’s prize will be announced in Oslo on Oct. 10 from among 197 nominees, with those fighting for human rights among those tipped to win in the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
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 Pakistan’s High Commissioner to London and a former advisor to the late Benazir Bhutto.
By Wajid Shamsul Hasan
With hindsight, it seems clear that a mass movement named after Mao’s Long March but also claiming Gandhi’s principles of non-violence risked disappointing its supporters. The failure of the Long March by Pakistan’s lawyers to restore judges sacked by President Pervez Musharraf, and its dispersal last Saturday, has prompted much debate about why its leaders gave up without at least staging a sit-in.
Defence analyst Ikram Sehgal called the Long March a logistical success in its ability to garner mass support without violence, but a tactical failure. “The tactical failure of this long-lasting tremendous effort founded on great principles has become a strategic disaster for Musharraf’s opponents,” he writes in The News. “About Pervez Musharraf, ‘with such friends who needs enemies’, one can paraphrase the saying for him: ‘With such enemies why does he need friends?’”