A troubling new development has taken place in Pakistan that has been called an existential threat to the nation. This new development suggests that secret conversations and deals have been taking place about sacrificing some provinces for the good of others. Back room deals between politicians and armed foreigners that would result in the sacrifice of some citizens to protect others. Of course, I am talking about the PML-N Taliban nexus that threatens the very stability of the nation.
As much as Zaid Hamid and Ahmed Quraishi might want to create some ridiculous conspiracy theory from a fake map that plans the breaking up of Pakistan, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif (PML-N) has been actually suggesting in the open that Taliban form a separate peace with Punjab.
The outpouring of anger at these developments has been loud and clear. As the blogger Sana wrote so eloquently,
In a shocking display of callousness, Mr. Sharif publicly requested the Taliban cease targeting the Punjab province…but to carry on business as usual elsewhere in the country. This “Spare Punjab Doctrine” gives extremists a free pass to extremists and essentially justifies their actions throughout Pakistan!
There aren’t many words that can capture the CM’s utter lack of humanity or its shocking implications? Has he turned a blind eye to the people the Taliban have massacred in Lahore’s sister cities of Karachi and Islamabad? Does he not consider the grief and anguish of residents in Peshawar and the NWFP to be genuine? Is he accepting of the blood of Pakistanis – so long as they are not in his province?
All Pakistanis are equal. The Taliban and other extremist groups do not discriminate; their purpose is strike fear into the hearts of all Pakistanis and to destroy our culture and spirit. In a previous post, we wrote about the pain suffered by the people of Lahore. We understood the extremists’ desire to attack large cities and called for a spirit of unity.
The editors at the Daily Times have rightly called this willingness by PML-N leaders to resort to the sort of provicialism that would lead to the balkanization of Pakistan “an existential threat.”
The PML-N’s right wing ideology is an open secret. Thus it is not surprising if the party has now come clear on its stance vis-à-vis the militant outfits. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has finally exposed the real face of his party by giving an inane statement in a blatant show of provincialism. Taking a narrow provincialist stance while totally ignoring the national crisis, Shahbaz Sharif pleaded with the Taliban to spare Punjab from its terrorist attacks. He said that since the Taliban opposed foreign dictation and were pursuing the policy of terrorism to fight against a foreign invasion (i.e. the Americans) and the PML-N too opposed General Musharraf’s policies, Punjab ruled by the PML-N should be spared terrorist attacks. Mr Sharif said, “Musharraf planned a bloodbath of innocent Muslims at the behest of others only to prolong his rule, but we in the PML-N opposed his policies and rejected dictation from abroad.”
The absurdity of these comments cannot be overstated. Not only is this statement a foolish one, it is a highly insensitive one. Has Mr Sharif forgotten that Punjab is only one province of the country and there are three other provinces — Sindh, Balochistan and the NWFP? The whole country is on fire and reverberating with terrorist attacks left, right and centre. The Punjab chief minister realised his folly and tried to make amends a day after giving this statement by saying that his words had been taken out of context and that he “lauded the brave people of the NWFP for their fight for the survival of Pakistan”. This belated amendment did not help matters much. Nighat Orakzai, an MPA from the NWFP Assembly, strongly protested at this statement and threw her dupatta away on the floor of the Assembly, saying that Mr Shahbaz Sharif should now wear it. Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer also condemned the chief minister’s remarks and was of the view that Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah must be turning in his grave right now at seeing this injustice being done to his beloved country.
At a time when Pakistan is fighting militancy on its soil, the PML-N taking a pro-militant stance is rubbing salt into the wounds of the Pakistani nation. Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has dug a pit for himself by passing these callous remarks, exposing his true character and that of his party’s in the process. The suspicion against the PML-N that it has been harbouring ties with banned militant outfits has now been all but proved. We sBut aw in the by-elections in Jhang how the Punjab law minister was hobnobbing with a leader of a banned outfit and when confronted with the news, he showed no remorse. Such is the level of politics being played by the PML-N at the cost of this nation’s future. The Punjab government has long been in denial over the presence of militants in Southern Punjab. It needs to wake up before it is too late. The news of the TTP offering to stop these attacks if the Punjab government assures that it would stop the crackdown against the militants further highlights the implicit nexus between the terrorists and the PML-N. It would not be far from the truth if we were to say that the PML-N is proving itself to be the greatest existentialist threat to the remaining part of Jinnah’s Pakistan. Spare this country, Mr Chief Minister — we lost half of it in 1971, do not pave the way for another disaster by supporting the terrorists.
This historical reference to 1971 is sadly important to consider in this instance. East Pakistan was lost largely as a result of the exploitation of intransigence by Sheikh Mujib. Is Shahbaz Sharif taking the role of a new Mujibur Rahman, willing to sacrifice the nation for his own political aspirations and the aspirations of the PML-N?
This was not some simple mistake, some small misstatement being blown out of proportion. Saeed Minhas reminds us in his article, “From Osama to Taliban, where are the Sharifs headed?” that this new development is another chapter in a long history with an unwritten ending, but many chapters that reveal serious questions about the loyalties of some powerful men.
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s careful treading through the power corridors received a severe blow as his public appeal to the Taliban for avoiding his fiefdom raised an unprecedented hue and cry in the National Assembly.
If the CM’s actions are not enough, the younger Sharifs meeting with Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani in Rawalpindi was taken as another political blunder made by the ambitious prodigy of a family known for its love affair with the Army GHQ and extreme-right entities – known as non-state actors in modern politicking.
Revisiting the past is always painful for most of the players in our treacherous political history, but facts cannot be denied, said a soft-spoken parliamentarian hailing from the ANP. He said that following the first secret call-on of Shahbaz, Mian sahib had taken a back seat when he was told by party hawks that power remains the ultimate goal of the younger ace of the family. This was exactly the reason, why the late Sharif never introduced Shahbaz to Gen Jillani back in the 80s and offered Nawaz for induction in the Ziaul Haq set up.
From meeting with Osama Bin Laden to toppling Benazir’s 1988 government to formation of the IJI, the ANP leader claimed that Mian sahib had been in close contact with NWFP and FATA parliamentarians. Before the MQM, our parliamentarians used to be key to making governments, he recalled, adding that the Sharifs love for “Jihad” and his efforts to impose himself on the nation as Caliph are all part of our recent past. “I vividly remember the Jamaat-e-Islami’s advertorial campaign against Sharifs in which they relied on the slogan of “Qazi Aa Giya” (Qazi Hussain has arrived) and alleged that Nawaz had betrayed the cause of the IJI,” he added.
It is up to us to write the ending to this history. It is only we who can decide if Pakistan is to live a long and prosperous life. Taliban have already made clear to the PML-N that they are willing to create a separate peace for Punjab, but we know too well how much trust can be placed in the TTP. Today it will be Punjab that is spared while Balochistan burns. Tomorrow, though, Punjab will meet the same fate.
Pakistan has suffered too much to be sold out by the very leaders that already enjoy the most comfort, the most safety. Spare the common man, woman, and child from your sacrifices. We do not want leaders who make side deals with the people who are trying to kill us so that these rich and powerful can sacrifice their nation to save their own skin. We want our Pakistan. And we want it whole.