EDITORIAL: Internal purge
DG Inter-Services Public Relations General Athar Abbas announced on Tuesday that a Pakistan Army Brigadier Ali Khan has been under detention since May 6. that Brigadier Khan has been detained for alleged links with a UK-based banned organisation Hizb-ut-Tahrir. There are contradictory reports that the detained brigadier had been targeted due to his concerted campaign to promote self-reliance and do away with the need for US assistance. The last straw is said to be his outspoken criticism of the US raid in Abbottabad after which he was arrested. Four majors have also been questioned, though not detained. Only impartial investigations would prove whether the brigadier indeed had links with the Hizb-ut-Tahrir that has been advocating the establishment of a caliphate, but there is certainly a growing perception that sections of the rank and file of the Pakistan armed forces have become radicalised. The investigative reports of slain journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad revealed infiltration of al Qaeda in the ranks of the Pakistan Navy, which came under two attacks before its airbase being finally targeted in Karachi.
The news of Brigadier Ali’s detention has been released at a time when members of the commission for investigation into the May 2 incident have been nominated by the government. Currently, the military is under severe pressure domestically and internationally for its perceived complicity and/or incompetence in the aftermath of the Abbottabad and Karachi incidents. It seems the army has been moved by this criticism to refurbish its image through portraying an internal purge of radicalised elements. This refurbishing of image has been the pet project of General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani since his swearing in as chief of army staff. That may be part of the explanation for this announcement, a full month and a half after the reported detention of the brigadier. However, the problem is far deeper and would require more than cosmetic measures such as this arrest of a suspected serviceman or even other individuals being targeted.
There is a perception that sections of the ranks are infiltrated by extremist organisations or are infected by an extremist religious mindset. This has a long history and did not happen overnight. Zia’s regime imposed religiosity on the state and society in the name of Islamisation. At the same time, Pakistan nurtured and unleashed jihad on its neighbours. This mindset, spread through religiosity, has by now infiltrated into all strata of society, including the armed forces, paving the way for extremism to creep in. The sympathies and conviction in the ranks of jihad and extremism being the correct path have manifested themselves time and again in several instances. One instance was the assassination attempts on General Musharraf by elements from within the armed forces. A more recent example of extremist ideas taking hold was the murder of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer by his own guard, who was lauded as a hero because his act was perceived as a ‘defence of the faith’. How can the armed forces remain uninfluenced by these developments that have been around for more than three decades? Given this history and its fallout, it is a welcome development that the military has realised the nature of the threat from within and is serious about eliminating it. In fact, it is necessary for the health and future of the military itself.
We are fighting a war against terror and cannot afford to have a fifth column within the ranks of the armed forces. A thorough purge of such elements is required and this is what the military’s intelligence arms should be focusing on. Painful as it may prove, this purge has to be carried out without fear or favour if the military is to be successful in combating the jihadist enemy that has declared war on the state. *
SECOND EDITORIAL: Balochistan Budget
The Balochistan Budget shows that due to the NFC Award, Balochistan too has more money to spend just like the other three provinces. But unlike other parts of the country, Balochistan is going through a nationalist insurgency (the insurgency in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA is of a different character altogether). It is for this reason that a substantial amount of the provincial budget has been set aside for the law enforcement agencies. The reason why the non-development expenditure has increased by Rs 21 billion for the next fiscal year is because of increases in the salaries and benefits of the police, Balochistan Levies and Balochistan Constabulary. While the Balochistan government wants to strengthen the provincial law enforcement agencies, these will not be able to replace the Frontier Corps (FC), a force that is hated by the Baloch and accused of running a parallel government and killing Baloch nationalists. Just this month, Prime Minister Gilani had announced Rs 2 billion to modernise and equip the provincial law enforcement agencies with weapons and provide them transport. If both the federal and provincial governments are so worried about lawlessness in Balochistan, they should spend more on the people of Balochistan and address their grievances instead of further arming the security forces.
Rs 19.2 billion have been allocated to education, which on the face of it looks good but is deceptive. The increase owes itself to the devolution of the universities to the provinces after the 18th amendment. Education, therefore, woefully inadequate as it is in Pakistan’s poorest province, will not necessarily improve. The provincial government wants to spend more on agriculture, livestock and industries, a sum total of Rs 18.3 billion for economic services. This may seem a good measure, but the modernisation and development model adopted by successive governments is being followed without any debate on the kind of society that exists in Balochistan. The Baloch in the ‘interior’ of the province are largely a tribal, nomadic society and unless they themselves own this kind of change towards a ‘settled’ community, imposition of a ‘modernist’ model from the top will not necessarily reap dividends. This model has been resisted by the nationalists for its colonial colour and insensitivity to the specific needs of a nomadic populace. Provinces like Balochistan need a special dispensation given the nature of their historically received traditional culture, while not ignoring the conflict raging there. Money alone cannot solve the crisis in Balochistan. It needs political will for a solution that offers consensual agreement on the long-standing grievances of the province. *