Mir Mohammad Ali
If after a self-created disaster, instead of remorse, reflection and compunction there is a brazen and unabashed attempt to call it a victory, to score points and look smug and satisfied, the bankruptcy of that system of governance stands categorically exposed. This is exactly what is happening after the Lal Masjid fiasco but then, I suppose, there is nothing to be surprised about because we saw the same response after the May 12th carnage and even after the agonizing ignominy of the loss of Bangladesh. The moral and political bankruptcy of the rulers and system of governance is inexcusable and indefensible.
The Lal Masjid saga has been labelled as a ‘drama’, ‘engineered’, ‘farce’, ‘charade’, etc, but there is much more to it. It was a tragedy with a lot of suffering for the people during its course and is bound to be more tragic in its aftermath. It exposed the gross ineptitude and inefficiency of this and past governments, whose only achievements have been tyranny and bumbling through 60 long years. It signifies the crass incompetence and brutality of the existing system and it was a disaster waiting to happen.
The Lal Masjid saga is the reflection of how this country has been run as a fiefdom by anyone who happened to be in power. It is an indictment of the way this country has been apathetically run by the rulers; in fact it is one of the most forceful indictments to date of the system of governance in this Godforsaken country.
It has exposed the bogus nature of the system that has been running under fancy clichés since the rulers think that the hollow and shallow slogan mongering of ‘Pakistan first’, ‘writ of the State’, ‘in the interest of democracy’, ‘roti, kapra aur makan’, ‘breaking of the beggar’s bowl’, ‘enlightened moderation’, ‘national interest’, etc, are a satisfactory replacement for good governance and the rule of law.
This saga also proves how out of touch with reality the defenders of ‘national integrity’ and the ‘writ of state’ are, as right under their noses heavy arms, foreign and local militants and everything required for insurgency were accumulated. It has thoroughly exposed the limitations of those who have been claiming to be the ‘defenders of the ideological and physical frontiers’.
If we examine the reasons for the Lal Masjid saga and other frequently occurring catastrophes, we notice that from day one the rulers decided to use religion to suppress the demand for national rights and all other rights. The employment of religion for suppressing dissent is always hazardous because this is a double-edged sword.
It was this very sword which was arbitrarily used for depriving the provinces of their rights and summarily rejecting their legitimate demands. They attempted to beat the Baloch, Sindhis, Bengalis and Pashtuns into submission with the religious stick. This fateful policy has now come full circle and threatens to destroy the very basis that it was supposed to protect. Fundamentalism was made the foundation of the state’s existence and now it is proving to be the very reason for its undoing. The sword has started cutting those who have long wielded it.
The rulers, blinded by their very narrow, shallow and sinister aims, used this double-edged sword without scruples and instead of achieving unity, they sowed seeds of disintegration and chaos. It would be wrong to assume that with the suppression of Lal Masjid the pervasive rot will be stemmed because the well nourished fundamentalism and gangsterism have now taken a stranglehold on the body politic and many more Lal Masjids and May 12ths are waiting to happen. Those who sow the wind, reap whirlwinds.
Another significant reason for the insidious rot that is slowly eating away the entrails and foundations of the state is that the Establishment and its accomplices have been instrumental in eroding and subverting the principle of the rule of law, because institutionalizing of this principle would have undermined their unbridled powers and forced them to act lawfully.
The most abhorrent thing for the rulers has been to act legally and lawfully because if they were to act lawfully, they would neither have Swiss bank accounts and lockers nor the Surrey Palaces, Raiwind Palaces, Gandhara Industries, the billions from the Afghan Wars, luxurious exiles in London, cheap privatizations and the ownership of prime real estate.
Under the rule of law, there would be no ‘enforced disappearances’, no illegal detentions, no rampant corruption, no usurping of national rights, no procuring of 500,000 acres of land at Rs. 1/acre, no unjust exploitation of natural resources, no arbitrarily constructed dams and cantonments, no imposition of languages, no wilful dismissals, no rigged elections and more importantly, no military adventurers to indefinitely and interminably lord it over the hapless people. The absence of the rule of law has meant they can ride roughshod.
The rule of law would have stopped them from looting the country and oppressing the people. The extension of the Jamia Hafsa complex from the original 500 Sq. yards to the present mammoth 18 acres would have never happened. Their need for illegality made them turn a blind eye towards all that was illegitimate. They have assiduously patronized illegality and unlawfulness to protect their illegal privileges, gains and interests. This has resulted in bringing this country closer and closer to a ‘failed state’ situation with each passing day.
The third and equally significant reason for this sinister rot that now pervades the body politic like a malignancy is that both military and civilians rulers have not hesitated to set up political, religious, industrial, feudal and institutional vassals to perpetuate their rule and to intimidate those who oppose them. The Lal Masjid, the Jihadis, the Taliban, MQM, FSF, the intelligence outfits, special police forces, special anti-terrorist courts, the House of Gujrat, the Sharif empire, the Jams and Jellies in Balochistan and of course the IJI and MMA are some of those obsequious vassals. The rulers have always been guided by a quid pro quo of the most reprehensible nature and form. They condoned and abetted the setting up of these satrapies, which now threaten the existence of everything dear to them.
Now let us come to the present saga. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was the Lal Masjid complex. All the rulers, including the two-term PMs Benazir and Nawaz Sharif, are equally responsible for all that has transpired. Being busy amassing illegal wealth for themselves and their cronies, they hardly noticed what was going on right under their noses. This regime, which prides in calling itself the frontline terror fighting government and wins accolades from its mentors, remained wilfully oblivious to the buildup. The General could see no protestors during the CJP demonstrations from Olympus; how can he be expected to see the friends of Chaudhry Shujaat and Ejazul Haq building fortifications and amassing weapons?
The facts suggest that the blindness was by choice because a news item says, “CDA Member (Estates) Brig (r) Asad Munir said on Wednesday that the Interior Ministry had directed the CDA on July 4 to demolish the structures built illegally at Jamia Hafsa. The two Madrassas encroached on a total of 90,094.45 square yards (18 acres),” Munir said, adding that the CDA had been struggling to get back the encroached land since 2001, when the Lal Masjid started building illegal structures on state land. He also said, “The government had initially allotted 660 square yards of land to Lal Masjid in 1988 to establish a madrassa for women. An additional 138.8 square yards were allotted to Jamia Hafsa in 1993.”
Criminal complicity and connivance allowed the Lal Masjid administrators to build fortifications, smuggle in so many sophisticated weapons and bring the militants inside; comprehensive planning must have been in motion for a long time. All this is less of credit to their brilliance and more of an unequivocal and vigorous condemnation of what passes here as governance.
If this sort of strategy can be planned and executed right next to the founts of power, one shudders at what must be going on in inaccessible places or what the partners of this regime like the MQM in Sindh may be busy with. The people should brace for tougher times ahead.
This disaster is being trumpeted as a glorious victory for the General although in fact it has simply helped to highlight the bankruptcy of this regime. Many have praised him, but that praise is tainted and suspect because Benazir, Altaf Hussain and Bush have a personal interest in his survival. Some have been carried away by emotions, but they don’t understand that for the last eight years this country has been run by him and him alone; how can he be forgiven for letting this Lal Masjid become a militants’ stronghold? There has to be accountability, not praise for disasters.
This regime is hiding the true figures of those killed because a long casualty list would tarnish its supposed victory. This saga has polarized the already divided country and very dangerous fault-lines have developed. We are already seeing the repercussions.
There is a real danger that the government, boosted by the misplaced acclamation for its supposed victory, may consider ‘Operation Silence’ to be the most appropriate approach to solve the problems that it faces from the nationalists, civil society and fundamentalists. It is of utmost importance that the people see this saga in its proper perspective and strive to curb any attempt by the government to make ‘OS’ a universally applicable solution.
This government is certainly capable of applying this technique for resolution of all its problems regardless of their nature. The danger of implementation of ‘Operation Silence’ against the nationalists, civil society and fundamentalists is very real and substantial now, and it will push the country into the abyss of ‘civil war’ on whose edge it has long been tottering.
Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He can be contacted at email@example.com
This article was first published in The Post on 24 July 2007
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