Last month I predicted that Army is playing Nawaz for a fool on the Yemen crisis. At the time, I wrote that “If Pakistan joins a Saudi attack on Yemen and it goes well, Gen Raheel will be celebrated as a hero of Pakistan and the Ummah. If Pakistan decides not to participate, it will be Gen Raheel seen as injecting sense into a belligerent Nawaz.” As we know, Parliament backed neutrality in the conflict, a sensible position supported by most Pakistanis, though sparking vocal anger from Arab allies. Parliament has been praised for its sensibility and courage in taking a tough decision that is in Pakistan’s best interest, but there are signs that certain forces are acting behind the scenes to change this.
Yesterday’s post about Pakistan Rangers raid against Nine Zero has received a lot of attention. Much of it, unfortunately, negative. I saw unfortunately not because I am opposed to debate. Actually, I think it is sorely needed. But because the quality of the responses indicates a serious problem with the way we approach certain controversial issues.
Pakistan Rangers raid on MQM headquarters in Karachi has taken over the national discussion. By Wednesday afternoon there were no less than four different hashtags related to the raid trending on Twitter. Unsurprisingly, attitudes are divided about whether the raid was a positive or negative. I find myself in the second camp, not because of any love for MQM but because I think the action will do more harm to democracy and the armed forces than it will against any criminal elements hiding in 90.
We can argue about whether what happened to Jibran Nasir and fellow peace activists on Thursday was ‘arrest’ or ‘detention’, but this will be arguing over semantics and entirely missing the point of the incident. Similarly, many immediately took to terming the action as evidence of government siding with militants – an understandable response at first glance. But taking a moment to consider the larger context, the actual meaning may be way worse.
The Foreign Office gave a briefing that appeared to be cleverly designed to provide the illusion that the state was putting actions behind its words about ‘zero tolerance’ policy against militant groups. Media dutifully reported that govt had imposed a ‘ban’ on Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Haqqani Group, but journalist Salman Masood and many others were quick to note that the Foreign Office’s statement was actually hollow. Never mind, though, because Jamaat-ud-Dawa released its own statement almost immediately afterwards saying that the state’s threats were meaningless and they will continue to operate without interruption regardless of what the state says or does.
JuD’s statement has far-reaching implications for the ‘writ of state’. If the state is unwilling or unable to back up its words with actions against JuD, every other militant group will receive the clear message that Pakistan has become an effective ‘free zone’ for terrorists.