EDITORIAL: ‘Foiling’ terror attack in Europe
According to reports in the British media, the American CIA has attempted to foil Mumbai-style terror attacks in France, Germany, the UK and the US by ramping up missile strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The source of this information is a German citizen of Afghan descent. A US official confirmed the reports of an al Qaeda plot to carry out attacks in western Europe and the US. He said: “The threat is, at this point, credible but not specific.” Just this year, there was a failed attempt to bomb Times Square in New York by Faisal Shahzad, a naturalised US citizen of Pakistani descent. The US took a hard stance after the Times Square incident and warned Pakistan of dire consequences if a terror attack originating from our soil takes place in the US. In the light of the rise in attacks in Afghanistan by the Taliban, the US appears to be losing patience with Pakistan.
US top commander in Afghanistan General David Petraeus has given a veiled warning that the US can eventually launch ground operations in FATA. According to a New York Times report: “Petraeus wants to turn up the heat on the safe havens...He has pointed out to the Pakistanis that they could do more.” Such thinking brewing within the US security establishment could have serious consequences for our country.
North Waziristan has been a hot issue for quite some time now for the western forces. The notorious Haqqani network is accused of providing safe havens to foreign terrorist networks. It has also been alleged that the Haqqani network has the covert support of Pakistan’s military establishment. With endgame in Afghanistan approaching, the military establishment thinks that it can pursue its ‘strategic depth’ policy without any repercussions. What it does not envisage is any international terror plots emanating from our soil. The Haqqani network itself may not be involved in pursuing such attacks outside the region, but its affiliates like al Qaeda are being provided with shelter and training in North Waziristan. Now that such plots are being uncovered, it is time to scrap this deadly foreign policy. A recent drone attack killed al Qaeda’s operational chief, Sheikh Fateh, in North Waziristan. It shows that the al Qaeda leadership is indeed hiding inside Pakistani territory. It is time that the Pakistan Army stops giving a free rein to the Haqqani network and launches a crackdown against all such elements that can lead to the destabilisation of the country, the region and the world at large.
The shelf life of our policy of protecting the Afghan Taliban has ended. If any terror attack takes place in any part of the world and has its origins in Pakistan, it could lead to serious consequences. We can hardly afford this. Pakistan is a dependent country. Our economic model is such that if the west decides to stop giving us loans and monetary aid, our economy will collapse. A ‘client state’ like Pakistan cannot afford to annoy its benefactors. Besides, by rooting out terrorism from our soil, we will be helping ourselves the most. Terrorist attacks on our soil have crippled the economy and made the life of every citizen all the more difficult. Political stability will be ushered in as well when we are rid of all extremist elements and can then work on getting our act together. Let this anticipated terror attack in Europe incident be a lesson for us to move forward and scrap all such policies that have increasingly diminishing returns. *
SECOND EDITORIAL: Indefinite postponement?
Although the Sindh government indefinitely postponed the local bodies’ elections in view of the devastation caused by floods in interior Sindh, it cannot overlook the first and basic tier of governance at the grassroots level for too long. Coalition partner in Sindh MQM, which is a keen supporter as well as the past beneficiary of the local government system introduced by General Musharraf, could not have been very happy over this development, although it voted for the Sindh Local Government (Fifth Amendment) Bill, 2010, on the consideration that it would be impossible to hold elections in a situation when entire villages have been wiped out and large swathes of population stand displaced. Even holding elections partially may not have been feasible. The entire government machinery is focused on providing relief and rehabilitation to the affected. The people of the non-affected areas are also involved in relief efforts and the dynamics of elections would have distracted attention from the job at hand. Opposition PML-Q members, on the other hand, urged the government to announce a tentative date and also tried to move a motion to this effect, which was rejected on technical grounds.
It is hard to understand the logic of indefinite postponement. Pakistan does need a local representative system. Over the years it has been demonstrated repeatedly that federal and provincial authorities, in and by themselves, cannot deliver at the doorstep of the citizen. The most immediate example is that of flood relief efforts, which were made doubly difficult because of the absence of local bodies to deliver goods and services to the affectees. Without a local representative system, the problems of the people remain unheard and unaddressed, and service delivery through the bureaucratic system inefficient. The government might like to amend the system crafted by Musharraf’s National Reconstruction Bureau; it is nevertheless necessary to have a system in place. Agreement on a tentative date of elections would have been far more practical than postponing them indefinitely. As soon as the crisis abates, it would be advisable to announce a schedule of elections and go ahead with it. *