A farewell to arms

Following article by Farrukh Khan Pitafi  is a cross post from Express Tribune. The writer hosts a show called ‘Capital Circuit’ for News One and tweets @FarrukhKPitafi

Between heroism and history, exist such blood-soaked gashes that can drive any person crazy. In an impressive ceremony commemorating Youm-e-Shuhada (Martyrs’ Day) this year, these latent scars hiding in the vestiges of our collective subconscious were brought back to life. And my young nation, my nascent underdeveloped overburdened nation, has been through such horrors that cannot be summed up in just a piece or a ceremony. And yet, here it was, all pomp and style, the memory of those who had passed, nerve-shattering sobs of a mother and a rich tribute paid to Bashir Bilour shaheed.

It was a welcome relief to listen to our chief of army staff speak so vociferously in support of democratisation and against terrorism. To an outsider, an army chief commenting on political matters might be incomprehensible but a student of Pakistani history, acquainted with the anatomy of our civil-military relationship, can appreciate the true potential of this watershed moment. And if there was any doubt about the army’s resolve to fight terrorism, it was cleared in a heartbeat. It was a befitting rejoinder to the apologists of terrorism who keep insisting that it is not our war.

However, as we gingerly approach the polling day, fear mounts that our counterterrorism agenda may come in direct conflict with the democratic process, as our two major political parties have time and again shown aversion to the war. And other major parties keep bringing up crimes of the past as the sole cause of our present-day woes. Call them crimes if you will but to this scribe, they were and still are desperate moves of a desperate state. It is a measure of our bewildered sadness, perpetual isolation and tragic history that we have not been able to confront the demons of our past and pledge renewal.

But the lives of 40,000 martyrs cannot just amount to nothing. Battle-scarred as we are, we cannot afford to become a prisoner of the Stockholm syndrome and end up bonding with our own assailants. War fatigue is one thing but not to notice the existential threat posed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is downright criminal.

Yet, let us not trivialise the programmes of the parties hinted above. These parties have presented good answers to a number of national questions. It is only in this crucial sector that they have been reluctant to advance some cogent solutions. There is a serious chance that these two parties may adopt a more prudent course of action against terrorism once they rise to power. But with only seven days remaining in the elections, I implore the leaders of these parties to not let petty thugs of the TTP define who they are. The TTP have already dealt a deathly blow to these parties’ campaigns by implying that there exists an understanding between them and the terrorists. The people of Pakistan, after all, are not fools and can identify the enemies of this country. They also value the blood of their 40,000 brethren killed by the terrorists. The party, viewed as an apologist of terrorists, I am afraid, will not be given the mandate to rule the country, no matter how many people attend its public gatherings.

We also need to appreciate the genuine desire to bid farewell to arms and build peace. But peace cannot come when negotiated from a position of weakness. In order to bring the enemy to the dialogue table, one first has to bring it to its knees and squeeze it so hard that it fails to see any other option but to throw in the towel. Leaders of major parties may not think much of each other but to a common voter, they are all national leaders of huge stature. If they really want to do justice to the expectations of their constituents, they need to take ownership of this war and bring it to its logical conclusion. If you don’t want to listen to folks like me, pay some heed to the chief of your own army. And the army also needs to value those who categorically support its struggle.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 4th, 2013.

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