COMMENT: Pakistani response to Osama killing —Prof Farakh A Khan
Instead of point scoring, politicking, futile parliamentary debates, saving heads or rolling them and fixing responsibility, we should be focusing on change in our battered institutions. The army is the first on the list
There has been foreign media and American administration uproar against Pakistan’s ISI for allegedly harbouring Osama in Abbottabad, the stronghold of the army. In Pakistan the response was varied. On the other hand the civilian government is caught in a vice between the mighty American ‘rage’, Pakistani public opinion, and the powerful politicised Pakistan Army. The whole episode of Osama’s killing has caught the Pakistani army in a particularly difficult position since it has remained the guardian of our ‘ideology’, security, and foreign policy (mainly anti-India). Was it ‘connivance or incompetence’ on their part that Osama remained undetected for over five years by the army intelligence agencies, particularly the ISI? Again, a large American force was allowed to enter undetected and attack Osama’s compound in Abbottabad with the army napping. Our sovereignty lay in tatters.
Unfortunately, the media and the people in parliament missed the crucial point in the whole affair of Osama’s killing. First and foremost, we should admit that this was Pakistan’s institutional (both military and civilian) failure. This episode should not be limited to only a power struggle between the army and the civilians. We have faced institutional failures since the inception of Pakistan and each successive government made it worse. We now have a legion of failed institutions and we repeat the same mistake with each new government. We need reforms in the army and civilian organisations to transform them into functioning institutions. Unfortunately, our present tainted government is only concerned with self-preservation and is not in a position to execute changes in governance.
In general the Pakistani population is anti-US, Israel and India. The general religious beliefs of many are in line with al Qaeda/Wahabi ideology, though not in a jihadi sense. The murder of more than 30,000 innocent people of Pakistan in terrorist attacks is often blamed on the secret agencies of the US, Israel, and India.
In a local channel’s polls regarding Osama’s killing, most Pakistanis feel unhappy over his death. The US is considered as an enemy by 77 percent. According to the Pew Research Centre survey conducted before Osama’s death, only 11 percent Pakistanis had a favourable view of the US. Most Pakistanis are not convinced that Osama is dead. Many feel that Osama was killed many months or years back and his body was brought out from cold storage and thrown into the sea. All sorts of conspiracy theories are floating in the public, projecting an anti-American mindset.
The attitude of religious parties and religious groups is different to the government policy on Osama’s killing. They are harping on the breach of Pakistan’s sovereignty and security lapse in detecting the American attack. Osama has been praised as a hero and declared a martyr. Then there is also severe anti-American rhetoric for attacking Muslims around the world. Maulana Abdul Aziz of Laal Mosque in his interview with CNN (May 16) went a step further when asked what should the US do to avoid Muslim wrath. He suggested that Obama should become a Muslim and all problems shall be solved! Osama also wanted to conquer the world through his jihad.
Jamaat-e-Islami chief Syed Munawar Hassan wants the government to expel US diplomats along with other Americans from Pakistan. He wants Pakistan to leave the American camp and shoot down drones. He again drummed the notion that the US has launched a ‘crusade’ against Pakistan, which should be countered. These religious-political parties see India, Israel and the US as the real enemies.
The JUI-F demanded suspension of NATO supplies immediately as agreed in the 12-point declaration in the joint session of parliament. The JUI-F is cautious regarding its statements against the American invasion of May 2. It was claimed by the ISI chief in the joint parliamentary session that the JUI-F was on the payroll of Libya and Saudi Arabia in the past.
What they and the 12-point in-camera joint parliamentary session resolution failed to do was to condemn the killing of innocent people around the world by Osama and his organisation. Instead of point scoring, politicking, futile parliamentary debates, saving heads or rolling them and fixing responsibility, we should be focusing on change in our battered institutions. The army is the first on the list. It seems that they are not answerable to anyone and are proud to do their own internal accountability. We have no clue what the army is up to in Balochistan. We do not know what the army is doing in FATA. It is about time independent observers were sent to these sensitive spots to ascertain the real picture. We should have a commission headed by judges to reform our armed forces and make them more efficient and less expensive. Most of all, the foreign policy, especially regarding India and Afghanistan, has to be taken away from the army and they should be made answerable to parliament. We need to stop the madness in Siachen and the Sir Creek standoff against India. The Kashmir issue has to be resolved soon. There are other failed institutions; to name a few: the police, administration, PIA, Railways, Steel Mill, etc, which need urgent reforms. We need to end or minimise corruption at the lower and higher levels. Unless we reform our institutions we cannot tackle the horrendous problems of poverty, education, health, corruption, power shortfall and a declining economy. Who shall initiate change and how this can be done remains an unanswered question.
We had three unique opportunities in the past (1947 partition, 1971 war and after 1990 when the US left Pakistan ‘orphaned’) to reform ourselves but we never went in that direction. Today we again have an opportunity to fix our bombed-out institutions. Personally I feel that we are going to miss this opportunity as well and continue our ‘daa’ (subterfuge) politics for personal gains. The present leadership does not have the capacity to discern the basic issues facing Pakistan nor is competent to change our course.
The writer is a leading urologist