PML(N), please adopt an open mind

In its editorial on 10 October 2008, Daily Dawn deplores the undue haste with which some political leaders including those belonging to PML(N) (as well as Jamaat-e-Islami) declared the in camera briefing unsatisfactory. This suggests that PML(N) is busy in political point scoring instead of helping the people of Pakistan in their war against terrorism at this crucial stage in the history of Pakistan.

An open mind, please

AS if to punctuate the severity of the militancy threat, a suicide bomber struck in Islamabad as legislators gathered for the second day of the special in-camera session of parliament. Unfortunately, some opposition MPs have acted in unseemly haste in declaring the classified briefing unsatisfactory and lacking depth. As the briefing to parliament, governors, chief ministers and other specially invited guests is classified, there is no way of specifically assessing the disgruntled MPs’ claims. However, there is no doubt that they have spoken with undue haste and disregarded the historic nature of the briefing. Consider the background to this week’s in-camera session of parliament. After eight years of direct and indirect rule by an army chief, on whose watch the so-called war on terror began, a popularly elected civilian government has taken the reins of the state at a moment of acute crisis. Pilloried for months for not taking the nation or its legislators into confidence on its strategy for dealing with militancy, the government finally summoned the army to explain its strategy for countering increasingly emboldened militants in Pakistan. While it is certainly parliament’s legal prerogative to summon state officials — uniformed or otherwise — to explain their conduct, the ongoing classified briefing is a very positive sign for democracy given the history of army supremacy over parliament. Only the most churlish of opposition MPs would fail to appreciate this gain for politics and politicians.

The criticism of the content of the briefing itself was similarly misguided. The briefing given by the director general of military operations was criticised for being too focused on military operations rather than the strategic threat from the militants. This is very confusing. First, the criticism came even before MPs asked questions in the scheduled question-and-answer session. Second, the supremacy of parliament — which is what opposition MPs have claimed is the need of the hour — demands that parliament decide the strategy that the military must execute. Opposition MPs have kept their heads in the sand when it comes to recognising the militancy threat. The suicide blast in Bhakkar targeted none other than the scion of a political family that supports the PML-N. Punjab, a stamping ground for militants, is governed by a coalition led by the PML-N. Some APDM leaders, meanwhile, have continued with their rejectionist politics, turning their backs on a special government invitation to attend the parliamentary briefing. Democracy is about debate and choosing from a menu of alternatives. Everyone invited had a duty to step forward and make a case for their own strategy of defeating militancy. Rather than reflexive opposition to the government, opposition MPs have a duty to uphold democratic values and protect the people of this country. (Dawn)