Badly Wanted: MOU On Terrorism

Since the glory days of the Zardari presidency, Pakistan’s premier industry, beating all others, has been the signing of MOUs (memorandums of understanding). The MOUs he signed with various countries would fill several shelves of any respectable library. But we should have no fears that with his departure this industry would decline. If anything, his successors, the Lord be praised, are well on their way to surpassing his record.
It’s a poor critic who says that nothing has been achieved in the first hundred days. Do MOUs count for nothing? MOUs with China, heaps of them, promising scarcely believable milestones of national development: fabulous rail links to put the Silk Road in the shade, economic corridors to make the Himalayas shake. MOUs with the Land of Smiles, Thailand, some to do (as ill-informed spies tell me) with the chicken industry. MOUs now with Turkey on things as varied as solid waste management and urban transport.
Impressive pieces of paper, MOUs remain just that without flesh and bone on them. But assuming that the dreams they stand for come true, a serious question arises. If we are to use foreign crutches for everything, and can’t even manage solid waste and municipal transport on our own, how on earth do we manage something far bigger: terrorism?
If paper could do the trick we would have licked the problem long ago. After all, no shortage of resolutions on terrorism, the bromides launched by the recent All-Parties Conference the latest in this series.
Alas, none of these fearsome missiles have had the slightest effect on their intended target, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). So much so that even the Amir of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Syed Munawar Hasan, diehard Taliban sympathiser, has had to cry out that the TTP’s attacks on the military (this after the death from a roadside bomb of Maj-Gen Sanaullah Niazi) were unacceptable.
Really? Is the Jamaat seeing the light only now? Khasadars and Frontier Corps personnel shot in cold blood, soldiers’ throats slit with blunt knives, many of these scenes filmed and uploaded on the net for all to see, nearly 5,000 casualties over the last few years suffered not by the Red Army, heaven forbid, but the Pakistan Army…and it has taken this long for a religious party leader to squeak out a small word of protest about TTP strategy and tactics.
But in today’s Pakistan, with its leading flavour of appeasement, even for small mercies we should be grateful. Coming from Syed Munawar Hasan this is a surprise but at least he has said this much. Which is more than can be said of the ruling party and that other doctor of our sorrows, Imran Khan: not an angry word out of them.
This only sheds a starker light on our problem. Solid waste we can’t manage, not even in Islamabad the Beautiful. Railways a shambles, urban transport a distant memory, the chicken industry needing a boost, perhaps because some of the younger Sharifs are displaying their skill in this field. The inescapable conclusion to be drawn from this: the terrorism problem is way beyond our present reach. Better to sign a memorandum on terrorism with some other country.
The APC was at least honest, launching a paper rocket into the skies and proclaiming our collective helplessness, leaving the onus on the Taliban to show some grace and accept the offer of the bended knee…coming, let us never forget, from the Fortress of Islam and the world’s only Islamic nuclear power.
PM Nawaz Sharif was right on the ball when he said in Turkey that Turkey’s advice would be sought on how to deal with terrorism. That’s right. We need urgent outside help to even think straight about this problem. Bullies don’t spare snivelling kids. If we look like a bunch of appeasers the TTP is not to be blamed if it plays tough with us.
We are also beginning to look like a bunch of fools. Do we need any reminding that whom the gods would destroy, they first make ridiculous?
In the aftermath of the APC, that homage to the paper rocket, nothing sounds funnier than Iqbal at his lofty best. The flight of the eagle he wanted us to emulate. Khudi, the pride of self-esteem…he tried to teach a supine mass of people the rudiments of that. The ostrich, its head in the sand, seems more appropriate to our condition today.
The appeasers of course have a point. Fighting terrorism is no Sunday picnic. To stick to our neighbourhood and go no further, the Indians managed to defeat Sikh separatism and then, with a good deal of repression, contain the Kashmir uprising because they were of no two minds regarding both these questions. On the necessity of arms the Indian state and public opinion were of one mind. Offer of talks was made neither to Sikhs nor Kashmiris. Soft words, if any, came only after gaining the upper hand militarily.
How bitter and long was Sri Lanka’s fight against the Tamil Tigers? Victory came at last when the room for compromise was closed…no quarter to the Tigers. Horrendous cruelties ensued…but then life-and-death struggles do not come cheap or easy.
The American Civil War was not about freeing the slaves…that only came later. It was about preserving the Union. And the man leading the war from the Union side was no traditional warlord but Abraham Lincoln. Huge bloodshed was involved but on the preservation of the Union he would not compromise. Peace came later, after the battlefield victories.
Pakistan’s present leaders, political and military, perhaps want to write a new kind of history, one in which the fate of nations is decided by paper rockets, not blood and iron. Nothing like it if they were to succeed. We would be spared so much pain and the nation would not have to mend its ways. The pampered classes could go on acquiring property, and squirreling their money, both here and abroad. And the luckless masses could go on doing what they do best: raising slogans and looking for unlikely messiahs.
If only the Taliban were the Salvation Army and not the Taliban.
We are in a bind, no two opinions about this. The Pakistani nation, as presently constituted and as currently led, is in no position to take on any barbarians. We lack the will…that of course is a given. But we also lack the gymnastic training. A military command sold on the attractions of real estate, a political leadership whose greatest skills lie in the commercial field, one factory after another, and now the chicken industry too, a nation divided between the haves – a small number – and the slogan-shouting masses, and this divide getting wider, is hardly in a position to take tough decisions and then see them through.
There is no getting away from this fight. It is upon us. There is nowhere to hide. We can put the biggest flowers in our barrels but the Taliban, stern warriors and with a sense of humour which is all their own, will only laugh the more.
As for mending our ways, reinventing the nation, if we are to be fit for this conflict, how many willing to bet that a nation used to taking things easy can do this?