Pakistan Under ThreatMir Jamilur Rahman
The writer is a freelance columnist
The air strikes against Afghanistan has evoked global sympathy for the hapless Afghans. Even in Israel, which is considered enemy number one of the Muslims, a demonstration demanded an end to the air strikes. The protestors were carrying placards asking America 'how many Afghan children you killed today'. In the Muslim countries, people in large numbers took to the streets to protest against the American bombing. But nowhere except in Pakistan the crowds resorted to violence.
Pakistan is under the military rule and yet President General Pervez Musharraf has not tried to curb the right of free speech and free press. His decision to co-operate with the international campaign against terrorism has been endorsed by the vast majority of the people. The leaders of the mainstream political parties have supported him at this critical juncture. The PPP, MQM, ANP and PML (Q) have proved by their positive stance that despite political differences with the military rule they hold national interests supreme. Sadly, the leaders of the religious-political parties give no importance to national interests.
President Musharraf is not playing politics; he is simply trying to steer Pakistan to safe waters. A senior journalist had suggested to him to reverse his decision of aligning with the international community and become a hero. President's response was succinct but to the point. Yes, he would not mind becoming a hero but not at the cost of the country. To him the country came first, all else was trivial.
President Musharraf could have declared emergency to stop the hard liners from criticising his decision. He could have banned pro-Taliban rallies. He could have imposed press censorship. His predecessors, military and civilian, had taken all these steps on the slightest of excuse because they were unsure of themselves and their actions were motivated by self-interest. In contrast, President Musharraf is rightly confident because his actions are geared in the interests of the country. So the ulema are free to express themselves, to stage pro-Taliban rallies and to make fools of themselves. But they would not be allowed to become violent and thus harm the peace and security of the country.
The misfortunes of Taliban flow from their virulent and stubborn policies. The Afghans are suffering because Taliban overcome by their sense of self-righteousness have antagonised the entire world. Even the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) finds it impossible to criticise America and Britain for bombing Afghanistan. It has even refrained from expressing a word of sympathy for the Taliban. Pakistan had warned the Taliban rulers of the impending danger advising them to hand over Osama bin Laden to justice. But they played deaf to the sane advice.
The religious-political parties, with some noble exceptions, want to gain political advantage from the suffering of Afghans. They have every right to protest against America, stage pro-Taliban rallies and criticise the government policies. However, that right does not extend to disrupting life and destroying public and private property. The leaders of the religious parties think that they cannot have their presence felt unless they show their muscle. This is outrageous and outright unpatriotic.
The pro-Taliban protestors are doing great damage to Pakistan by putting public and private property to torch, by destroying restaurants that bear American names and by screaming abusive slogans against heads of states. They have rendered hundreds of thousands of people jobless by burning vehicles, cinema theatres and restaurants. Their unruly assemblies and processions deprive daily wage earners their livelihood. There could be nothing more cruel and criminal than destroying the jobs of ordinary people.
The TV cameras have captured a mulla shouting most traitorously that they - the pro-Taliban protestors - will finish Pakistan. The torching and destruction of property is the start of that sinister mission. Obviously, their loyalties lie with Amir-ul-Mominin Mulla Omar and not with Pakistan. As they hate Pakistan so much, therefore, they should cross over to Afghanistan and shout their venomous and mutinous slogans from there. Their exodus to Afghanistan will also enable them to help Amir-ul-Mominin in his jihad against the infidels. Surely, Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider would not obstruct their journey to Kabul.
The national strikes called frequently by the pro-Taliban elements form an important part of the 'Finish Pakistan Mission'. The strike serves two purposes. First, it gives agitators the excuse to attack those establishments that do not observe strike. Second, the strike deals tremendous blow to the economic activity. The first element breeds violence and the second breeds poverty, a lethal combination meant to destroy the country. The strike forced on Karachi last Friday by the so-called Pak-Afghan Defence Council resulted in 50 percent loss in industrial output. The majority of the workforce did not turn up because the strike had crippled the movement of public transport. Even the private vehicles remained off the streets for fear of violence and arson.
Many factories that tried to function were attacked by the agitators and forced to shut down. That all boiled down to less productivity and less exports. A Customs source revealed that only 17 shipping bills for exports were handled as compared to average 100.
The September 11 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington DC have hit the US economy very badly, which was already facing recession. The US, whether anybody likes it or not, is the economic leader of the world. When its economy slumps, the rest of the world feels the pain. The big Asian exporters to US - China, Malaysia, Taiwan, South Korea, India and Singapore - have had their export orders cancelled or reduced. Pakistan being a frontline state is taking the major brunt. Its sea is dotted with huge armadas virtually blocking the Karachi Port. Its exports are dwindling at a rapid pace with no quick solution in sight. On top of all that the pro-Taliban mullahs in Pakistan are working overtime to bring the industrial and commercial activity to a dead halt by calling strikes and staging violent rallies.
Pakistan is going through a critical time as is evident from the events unfolding in our neighbourhood. The people are with the government and approve its policy of siding with the anti-terrorist campaign. It becomes incumbent on the government functionaries, whatever position they may hold, to implement the government orders and policy honestly and efficiently disregarding their personal likes and dislikes.
Sometimes it seems that there is no commitment in the government functionaries and some of them have been found working at cross-purposes as if no chain of command exists in the government. The district officers and police should be extra vigilant in maintaining law and order and the institutions like ISI and IB should keep their eyes and ears open and carry out the government policies in letter and spirit.