The ruling elite is blind to the writing on the wall

Despite being in a constant state of denial the IS (the Islamic State or Da’ish) is here. In cahoots with the TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan), Pakistan is emerging as their new killing field.

Shi’a minority is being slaughtered like sitting ducks. Jindullah, a splinter group of the TTP, has brazenly accepted responsibility for the most recent attacks in Shikarpur, Peshawar and Islamabad.

The Shi’a organisation Majlis-e-Wahdat-ul-Muslimeen is seeking written assurances from the government and its LEAs (law enforcing agencies) for their protection. But, the state in no position to reassure them has proved to be completely impotent in confronting the existential challenge.

The Shi’a are a formidable Muslim minority of the country, by some estimates numbering as much as 35 million. Other minorities like the Ahmedis have also been fair game for years. And owing to years of apathy, society as a whole has somewhat become desensitised to their plight.

The Shi’a, however, are not only formidable but also enjoy regional support. Hence systematically targeting them has grave ramifications in an already complex matrix of our national discourse.

Da’ish and its local proxies, by bringing their onslaught against the Shi’a community from Iraq to Pakistan, have virtually declared war on the state. In cahoots with the TTP it intends to wreak death and destruction on the Pakistani society.

Various spokesmen, military and civilian, unabashedly boast that the operation against terrorists holed up in North Waziristan is bearing fruit. They had also somewhat prematurely claimed that settled areas have been virtually cleared.

But ground realities tell a different story. The recent terrorist attack at the police lines in Lahore, claimed by al Ahrar, another TTP group, amply demonstrates that militants belonging to different hues and colours are on the rampage with a vengeance.

The Shi’a, however, are not only formidable but also enjoy regional support. Hence systematically targeting them has grave ramifications in an already complex matrix of our national discourse

With state institutions and LEAs now being on high alert, the terrorists have found the Shi’a and their worship places an easy targets. The prime minister and COAS are ostensibly on the same page about how to deal with the menace. But as the verse says: Marz barhta gyajoon joon dawa ki (Despite the medicine being administered regularly, the malaise became graver and graver).

Marathon meetings and photo ops, fiery speeches, and tweets expressing the resolve to root out terrorism will not suffice to reassure the citizenry. Since the Peshawar tragedy, despite resolve to the contrary, the security situation instead of improving is fast deteriorating.

The so-called apex committees, instead of engendering action on the ground, have only contributed to the confusion worst confounded. The other day a number of high profile meetings were held in Karachi presided by the prime minister, with the COAS and DG ISI in tow. The PPP supremo Asif Ali Zardari and the Sindh chief minister also attended these high level parlays.

General Raheel Sharif hit the nail on the head by declaring that the apex committees headed by the corps commander should overview politically motivated police recruitments and postings in Sindh. Of course the police force, being recruited and posted by their political masters, is part of the malaise.

But politicians are no longer part of the solution, instead they are part of the problem. With the ruling PPP and MQM again reaching an understanding to share power, de-politicisation of the police and disarming militant wings of political parties operating in the province will be an uphill task.

While addressing a Summit to counter violent extremism recently organised by the White House, US President Barack Obama, while acknowledging Pakistan’s terror woes, underscored that Muslims around the world including Pakistan have stood up for the protection of minorities in their countries.

The interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, presented a five-point strategy at the summit, claiming that such a plan could form bedrock of a global action plan in dealing with the menace. Strengthening local communities and winning the trust of mainstream peace-loving majority were part of his five-point agenda.

Someone should have asked the interior minister what has his government done back home to even start implementing such a plan? Nisar Ali Khan, who as interior minister is mandated with conceiving and implementing counterterrorism efforts, has been woefully long on words and short on actions. Being an erstwhile proponent of talks with the TTP, to the extent of sounding like their apologist, he is hardly the person to apply his heart and mind to the complex task.

Since the Peshawar tragedy it has become an element of political correctness to talk about changing the narrative. There have been half-hearted attempts by the Punjab chief minister to initiate a debate by forming various committees to evolve a new narrative. The Punjab information secretary, Momin Ali Agha, conferred with a select group of media persons on the matter a few weeks ago at a five star hotel in Lahore over a sumptuous lunch. Period.

Minister of planning, Ahsan Iqbal, is also embarked on a similar exercise. His focus is on reforming the media. What his expertise in the field is, apart from giving elusive targets of Pakistan reaching its nirvana, no one knows.

But neither any change from the top nor a societal reformation is visible. Despite terrorists on the rampage and Shi’a minority being targeted with impunity, hardly any outrage has been expressed by the so-called civil society or for that matter society as a whole.

I was shocked the other day to see a photograph of a signboard on a mosque forbidding entry of Shi’a on its premises

After the Charles Hebdo massacre in Paris the French came out in thousands to protest against what they considered an outrage. But nothing shocks us anymore.

Neither does the ubiquitous clergy go out on a limb to unequivocally condemn terrorism. How many ‘khateebs’ in Friday sermons even dare to mention the TTP, leave alone condemn them?

The malaise is only partly fear of the terrorist backlash. More so, it is an ideological commitment or rather lack of it. I was shocked the other day to see a photograph of a signboard on a mosque forbidding entry of Shi’a on its premises.

As a result, the government, our security apparatus and the society, by and large, have become ‘be-hiss’ (insensitive). As for changing the narrative, apart from a minuscule minority no one in the echelons of power has the political will to tinker with it.

According to the state mantra, Pakistan is a victim of terrorism with the Indian intelligence agencies fanning it and not a problem festered by decades of flawed policies. Of course we claim (and now tweet as well) that there are no good or bad terrorists for us and we are pursuing them without any distinction or discrimination. But are we really walking the talk?

Under the twenty-point National Action Plan hate speech is deemed to be a crime. But those heading so-called proscribed outfits unabashedly spew intolerance and hatred from the media as well as the pulpit.

To talk about imbibing secular and pluralistic values in consonance with Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s teachings has perennially remained a no-go area. The so-called protectors of a mythical Pakistani ideology pounce on such ‘wayward elements’ with full force.

Our ruling elite refusing to read the writing on the wall is the real tragedy of Pakistan. Is there any light at the end of the tunnel?

For Pakistan

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