Terrorism, parliament and the PM


In this atmosphere full of fear when bomb blasts and targeted killing have become the norm, the silence of the government about its position on terrorism is making the environment even more eerie. The situation in the country is becoming exceedingly disappointing, while there is no policy about how to get out of the pit that is getting wider and deeper with every passing day. Yesterday’s PML-N meeting and the National Assembly’s (NA’s) session both ended on a dismal note. The former failed to decide the way forward: dialogue with the terrorists or military action. So much so that the fresh offer of negotiations by the Taliban was reportedly not even touched upon. In the NA the prime minister as usual did not bother to show up. The house was once again left at the mercy of Chaudhry Nisar. The opposition put its foot down and walked out of the session until and unless the PM comes to the house and gives a briefing on the situation in the country with a policy framework. The opposition had a valid point that the PM could participate in the PML-N parliamentary party’s meeting but did not have the time or inclination to come to the NA, especially when the country is passing through such a precarious situation. The PML-N government has a typical governance style, keeping parliament subservient to other centres of power. The PM is available for every cabinet meeting but not for parliament. His continuous absence has left the house leaderless. The opposition has demanded from the PM to either leave his post as a Member of Parliament or take the country into confidence through the house on these critical issues. The opposition has given an assurance to the PM that they would stand by the government on any decision it would take to combat terrorism. The time has perhaps arrived for the PML-N government to start giving respect to parliament and for that the PM has to show his presence there. It is strange that the mantra of the All Parties Conference (APC) keeps resonating, and people from various parties are invited for talks on terrorism with the PM or his party, but the actual sovereign forum, parliament, is avoided. All the political parties that matter are sitting in the house. Calling more APCs or contacting them personally is simply disrespecting parliament and rendering it weaker. Already parliament is not taken seriously by the restored judiciary and the powerful armed forces. With the kind of attitude shown by the PML-N when most of its ministers are also not interested in showing up, the house will lose all that it has achieved during the former PPP-led government. If nothing else, the previous PPP-led government was at least serious about giving NA the strength, reputation and decorum it deserved. 
The PM himself has said that the country is passing through crucial times. There is complete consensus on the issue of the danger facing the country. However, the strategy to deal with the internal enemy effectively is nowhere to be seen. If the operation in North Waziristan is being carried out with the consensus of the government and the armed forces, then why shy away from approving it in public? Even without acknowledging this intent openly, people in the Agency are already assuming the worst and fleeing in increasing numbers to safer areas beyond North Waziristan. And if, as speculation goes, operations are being conducted in retaliation for the consistent attacks on the armed forces, even then giving it the democratically elected representatives’ support through a debate in parliament will strengthen the cause.
The change in public opinion vis-à-vis the terrorists is visible, if only the PML-N government wants to see it. The killing spree has rallied people to one option, gutting the Taliban and its terror affiliates. Talks with a splintered organisation like the TTP cannot succeed unless their back is broken, their leadership eliminated, their financial linkages are severed and they are deprived of the oxygen of publicity through the media. It is about time the PML-N leadership takes a decision along with other parties in parliament and gets down to work on scotching terrorism.   *

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