The Looming Catastrophe – by Kamran Shafi

The looming catastrophe – By Kamran ShafiDawn, June 22, 2010

ON June 20, four terrorists, allegedly belonging to the murderous Jundullah, who were standing trial for bombing the Ashura procession in Karachi last December, were freed by six allegedly fellow terrorists from the Karachi courts in an armed attack in which hand-grenades were used.

On June 21, Iran hanged the Pakistan ID card-carrying Abdul Malek Rigi, the head of Jundallah — not to be confused with the group mentioned earlier — for various acts of terror including the killing of six senior commanders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

Please recall that in late February this year, Iranian air force warplanes forced the aircraft carrying Rigi from the UAE to Kyrgyzstan to the ground in Iran whereupon he was arrested. There you go, gentlemen: juxtapose Iran, a country that knows how to identify, apprehend and punish those who would do it harm with the Land of the Pure where all manner of horrendous monsters hold sway and swagger about with impunity due to ‘lack of evidence’.

Others of course do not even appear in court, such as the beauty Muslim Khan who used to pronounce death sentences from Mullah Radio’s FM station (that could not be found for four long years and more by the world’s fifth-largest army!) upon Swat’s poor people on a nightly basis. Sentences that used to be car ried out with impunity and chilling cruelty the very same evening, the headless bodies of the unfortunates hung upside down electricity poles, the head lying on the victims shoes beneath the body. Where the devil is Muslim Khan, please, gentlemen? Well, there you go … where indeed is Mullah Fazlullah who was said to have been killed last month?

Which is only one of the reasons that makes me say that a huge calamity is about to hit us with devastating consequences for our poor country and its helpless people. For, how possibly can we be rid of terror when we don’t rid ourselves of the terrorists? But who exactly are the ‘terrorists’ and who our ‘friends’? This is the greatest conundrum of all, is it not, specially when we let our preferences among the Taliban be known to the world: Haqqanis good.

Add to that the belligerence with which we demand a seat at the bargaining table to ensure a government in Afghanistan which would be friendly towards Pakistan post the Nato/Isaf withdrawal and you have the perfect recipe for unmitigated disaster.

For, how possibly can Pakistan demand virtual veto power over an Afghan solution when the vast majority of Afghans, Pakhtun and nonPakhtun alike, cannot abide us? Is it at all possible that our great security planners think that supporting the Haqqanis alone will get us enough leverage in all of Afghanistan? If so they need to get into their spaceships and come back to earth.

More than anything else, and I make the point once again, our last experience with the Taliban has not been an altogether pleasant one. None of Pakistan’s concerns, whether it was the Durand Line problem, or any other such as giving refuge to Pakistani criminals, on not one matter were the Taliban prepared to even listen to Pakistan’s entreaties let alone do our bidding. So why the continuing madness please?

In any case how can a poor, aid-dependent country which is riven with its own existential problems, become a player on the international stage? If we haven’t even now learnt that it does no good to box above one’s weight, we never will. If our brilliant planners do not drastically change course we will all be engulfed by fires the likes of which even we have not seen.

It is obvious that we must begin to look inward, to attempt to make our people a happy and a contented people by providing their children with good education and health facilities, and consequently, job opportunities. A contented populace is the best defence against all comers.

They will not, of course, despite the recent spate of articles and editorials and rumours and leaks about Afghanistan; Pakistan’s Fata and the baddies it hosts; and American patience running out in more ways than one which make for quite frightening reading. Frightening reading for all who do not live on another planet of course.

What Pakistan’s present stance on Afghanistan will get this country, only the Rommels and the Guderians who run Pakistan’s security (read foreign) policy can tell us. Which again brings me to implore our political leaders to stand together and defeat the designs of those who have too often taken the country down disaster’s way. The two large political forces, the PPP and the PML-N, simply must stand shoulder to shoulder, or, as predicted earlier, fall one by one taking the country down with them.

And now a bit more about Palampur, a most beautiful place with the most breathtaking surroundings. The most stunning aspect of the hills and mountains that lie to the north of the town is that there are three rows if you like, the first up to about 2,000 feet thickly covered in pine and deodar forests, just behind which lies another row of absolutely bare mountains soaring to a height of about 10,000 feet, behind which are the sheer slopes of the snow-covered mountains of the Dauladhar range higher than the highest mountains that can be seen from Skardu city.

Because the climate is temperate, Palampur is home to every species of bird you can imagine: from red and yellowvented bulbuls to sunbirds to mynahs to Alexandrine parakeets and peacocks, to every type of warbler and lark and finch. Palampur is full of birds and birdsong.

Black partridge can be heard calling on the road from Shimla to Palampur and flocks, yes flocks, of grey partridge can be found feeding on the road itself reminding me of Khojak Pass in the 1970s when flocks, yes flocks, of chukors could be seen on the road. It is a magical place, Palampur. ¦




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