Anti-Terrorism Court in Quetta has acquitted Gen Musharraf in Akbar Bugti murder case. The outcome is not a surprise. Convicting any military officer, even those of lesser rank than General is nearly impossible. To convict a former Chief of Army Staff? Unthinkable. The fix was in since long, too, as police and other officials conveniently ‘lost’ most of the evidence.
With this acquittal, Gen Musharraf joins a long list of Pakistan’s “untouchables” – individuals who no court can convict and no amount of evidences can satisfactorily condemn. Others include Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, Amir Jamaat-ud-Dawa Hafiz Saeed, Jaish-e-Muhammad chief Masood Azhar, and former head of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Malik Ishaq.
This inability to convict certain people has been a disaster. Diplomatically, it has cast doubt among foreign nations about whether we are honest in our efforts to fight terrorism, feeding those who accuse the state of playing double games and using militancy as a strategic asset. At home, it has deteriorated law and order by causing doubt about the willingness or the ability of security agencies to go after certain groups. This only encourages others to commit the same acts.
In the case of Akbar Bugti murder, it is a doubly dangerous outcome because it sends the message to Baloch that the estimated 21,000 missing and 6,000 killed and mutilated are worth less than one General. Anger erupted in Balochistan after Bugti was killed. Do we expect our Baloch brothers to celebrate when his killer walks scot free?
When PEMRA issued its directive to media groups not to give coverage to Jamaat-ud-Dawa, journalists expressed frustration about how to do this when JuD works so closely with authorities. All attempts at enforcing the directive seem to have been forgotten, though, as now it is not only JuD working closely with officials that is being broadcast, but JuD amir Hafiz Saeed is in the media giving opinions on all major issues facing the country.
Hafiz Saeed is giving advise not only in print media:
He is also appearing on talk shows giving opinions on extremely sensitive matters also.
Is PEMRA taking a nap? And how is Hafiz Saeed given such attention by media when censors are removing entire reports from newspapers?
Is Hafiz Saeed being invited to project his opinions on sensitive issues an accident? Or is it another case of JuD working closely with authorities?
Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif has declared that 2016 will be the year when terrorism is eliminated from Pakistan. This is something that the entire nation hopes and prays for, but if it is to come true there will need to be a significant change in counter-terrorism operations.
Earlier this year, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar warned that “no Non-Government Organisation (NGO) working against the country’s national interest will be allowed to continue its work in Pakistan”. According to the Minister, “government cannot compromise on national interest”. This sounds very good, but it is interesting to note certain NGOs that have been allowed to continue working and ask what does this mean about how we define “national interest”. This is of particular interest when we observe how Jamaat-ud-Dawa is not only allowed to operate, but works hand in hand with Army.
In Pakistan, justice is often thought of as something elusive. Anyone who has experienced the labyrinthine, often unpredictable Kafka-esque process knows this all to well. Cases drag on, seemingly for eternity. For politicians, the process can literally be eternal. Cases registered, hearings held, then postponed – only to pop back up again years, sometimes decades later. However, justice is not always delayed, sometimes it is simply denied. And in these cases, the system can move fairly quickly.