Pakistani nation: Get rid of the martyr syndrome. The militants, being very powerful, are pursuing an independent agenda. An analysis by Talat Masood

Fighting for the future —Talat Masood

Pakistan is a pivotal country which can be a source of great strength to the region and the world. Equally it can be the most dangerous country. It is for us to decide what we want it to be…..

Given the way democracy has been throttled in Pakistan for all these years, there are serious problems with the quality of our leadership. But no country can import leaders. The best way of compensating for this deficiency is to develop institutional strength within the existing socio-political and economic framework. It is in this context that the parliament session is so important.

The PMLN was being unfair to the nation and itself when it refrained from questioning why the briefing given by DGMO/DG ISI to the parliament was so elementary and did n cover policy issues. Is it right to expect the military to give policy briefings?

Politicking has no place in a serious national crisis. There are of course occasions when politicians around the world use politicking to present their competing visions and gain advantage but not when there is an unmistakable crisis threatening the state.

The PMLN leadership has justifiable reasons to be angry with former General-President Pervez Musharraf but that anger should not be misdirected towards the military. If the briefing to the parliament was too basic then clarifications should have been sought.

The army briefing covered only the security aspect. There are several other dimensions to the war on terror that need to be covered by the Ministry of Interior and the Foreign Office. It is a contradiction for parties like the PMLN to vocally object to the army’s role in policymaking, which is the correct approach, and then turn around and ask the army to formulate policies. The current army leadership is genuinely supporting the transition to democracy but the political parties, by showing lack of interest in national issues are discrediting democracy and lowering their stature.

The attitude of the opposition parties, notwithstanding, it is crucial for the government to bring the PMLN and the JUIF on board as that would alter the balance of psychological and political power against the militants. Moreover, it will help the government deal with American pressure and Washington’s highly controversial policy of air and ground incursions.

Without the support of political parties the country would remain polarised and deeply confused about the nature of conflict. Further, the army and other security forces would be deprived of support from the people, which is vital for their morale and motivation. A divided nation would only benefit the militants and make us more vulnerable to external pressure.

The task of developing a national consensus on combating terrorism would require deft handling by our leadership. Currently there is a wide divergence in the viewpoints of the PMLN, the JUIF, the PMLQ and the secular collection represented by the PPP, the ANP and the MQM.

The JUIF and the PMLN attribute the rise of militancy to the US and NATO presence in Afghanistan and insist that Pakistan review its relationship with the US. They also insist that the army stop all military operations and engage in a dialogue to bring an end to militancy. But the government is of the view that peace agreements have only strengthened the Taliban hold in North and South Waziristan in the past. And for that reason, selective use of force is necessary to make any dialogue with the militants meaningful. Negotiate the government would, but from a position of strength.

It is also felt that the militants, being very powerful, are pursuing an independent agenda and will not surrender to government authority. The multiple incidences of insurgencies in different units of FATA are evidence of this.

To co-opt the PMLN and other parties on these vital issues, the PPP should demonstrate greater sensitivity in their overall attitude towards them. The widespread belief that the PPP leadership wants to destabilise the PMLN government in the Punjab still persists. The PPP must erase this impression by genuinely pursuing a mature policy of political tolerance and fair play. Political parties need to gain each other’s trust so they can develop a non-partisan approach to handling national threats.

Moreover, as a nation we need to get rid of the martyr syndrome and persecution complex from which we are suffering. It gives rise to absurd conspiracy theories. Pakistan is a pivotal country which can be a source of great strength to the region and the world. Equally it can be the most dangerous country. It is for us to decide what we want it to be.

The writer is a retired Lieutenant General of the Pakistan Army. He can be reached at (Daily Times)