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Quo vadis Pakistan

New Delhi, Fri, 06 Jan 2012 ANI

New Delhi, Jan 06 (ANI): It is a year since Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer was shot dead by one his bodyguards as his other colleagues watched. In the time since then, judge Parviaz Shah, who pronounced Governor Taseer's assassin Mumtaz Qadri guilty, has had to flee Pakistan. During this period Salman Taseer's son, Shahbaz, was kidnapped in August last year and has not been found yet.


Many Pakistanis and others the world over watched in horror that month and subsequently when lawyers in Pakistan applauded Taseer's killer, the clergy refused to read the fateha janaza for Taseer, members of the retired fraternity like Khawaja Sharif former Chief Justice of Lahore High Court from the judicial bench were members of the Qadri defence team and substantial sections of the social media sites like Twitter and Facebook went up in support of Qadri.


Asiyah, the woman whose cause Taseer championed, is still in solitary confinement; the government will not or cannot help her. The assassination of Taseer was a high profile act meant perhaps to convey a message to everyone else that it was not enough to be staunchly pro-Pakistan; Pakistanis had to be pro-obscurantist beliefs.


They had to abide by the various Friday khutbas delivered across most of the country's 250,000 mosques. The common refrain here that has remained constant is often expressed in abusive language against the US, India, Israel, Christians and Jews, Shias and Qadianis. In fact the latter two are sometimes considered the biggest dangers to Islam. While Taseer was considered a deviant for his beliefs, so was former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who was abusively described as the keeper of graves and a 'lap dog' who stood cheek to cheek with Hillary Clinton. Possibly Qureshi is now buying insurance by joining with Imran Khan's PTI, which is known to be close to the Mullah right wing.


The reaction of the fundamentalist right wing was no different when Osama bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad in May. There was unconcealed anger against the US and the doctor who is supposed to have given the information about OBL is now undergoing trial. The space for this section has grown in the months gone by.


The Difa e Pakistan (Defence of Pakistan Council) rally in Lahore on December 18, 2011 would have frightened Pakistan's major political parties and liberal forces.


The rally was organised by about 40 Islamist and jihadist parties. It was a show of force by the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (the ideological mentor of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba) and threatened the US and NATO and India with jihad (with special reference to violent jihad in Kashmir) as that was an obligation upon all Muslims, that that there was no question of MFN status for India.


This combination is presented both as a deadly alternative to Tehrik-e-Insaf and a hardened version of either the IJI when Nawaz Sharif was being groomed to replace Benazir Bhutto in 1988 or the MMA during Musharraf's time - both right wing combinations. In a statement released in English (obviously to allow the right quarters to red and understand it quickly) in Lahore on January 1, Hafiz Saeed the chief of Jamaat-ud-Dawa lauded Pakistan because it provided the freedom to pursue jihad and that non-Muslim enemies of Pakistan could only be defeated by 'acting upon the methodology of the State of Medina' and the evil and sinister designs of the US, Israel and India would be defeated by the sacrifices of Muslims.


At the same time, other Islamic 'strategists' like Zaid Hamid have been given the platform of Duniya TV to spout similar venom with his own convoluted conspiracies-against Islam and Pakistan theories. The issue here is not that these may be the ranting of an individual; the issue is that people like Zaid Hamid and worse, Hafiz Saeed have been allowed or given a platform from where they are free to spread their world vision. Is the Pakistan State helpless in curbing or restraining these elements or is it complicit. It is also not an internal matter if the target of this rant is India. In the absence of any other evidence, it must be assumed that the State has become complicit. At a time when people like Hafiz Saeed are left free to spread radicalised thought, individuals like Husain Haqqani, the country's former Ambassador to Pakistan, fears for his life and takes shelter in the Prime Minister' house and can move around only with an escort.


The Supreme Court of Pakistan led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Choudhry which had played a salutary role in March 2007 in resisting Gen Pervez Musharraf which eventually led to his overthrow is today in a different mould. The CJP who is leading the hearings on the Memogate is being appropriately circumspect when he refers to General Kayani with the Persian honorific the 'sipah saalaar'. Not only that the CJ also advised Haqqani's counsel Asma Jahangir to show respect to the 'sipah saalaar'. Another disturbing aspect has been an observation by Justice awad Khwaja that the judiciary was answerable to the people not parliament.


Critics ask which people was Justice Khwaja referring to-the likes of lawyers who celebrated the murder of Taseer or Hafiz Saeed's Jamaat ud Dawa and other similar groups who spread the doctrine of violent jihad.


One gets the feeling that the Doctrine of Necessity first used in 1954 and officially buried by Iftikhar Choudhry in 2009, is now being re-invented to suit the military. As of now the judicial commission investigating the Memogate letter has called for statements from President Asif Ali Zardari, Gen Kayani and Nawaz Sharif. At the same time, the PPP has refused to follow Supreme Court's directive that the Swiss authorities should reopen corruption investigations against President Zardari. Another confrontation is apparently brewing here.


Even as PM Yousuf Raza Gilani sought to assert supremacy over the Army, the commonly held picture is that of a battle between Rawalpindi and Islamabad. The military would possibly dislike the idea of a direct coup but would not mind a change in Islamabad that is more amenable instead of the traditionally hostile PPP. For the moment even Nawaz Sharif is not a favourite with Rawalpindi, which leaves Imran Khan and his Tehrik-e-Insaf, after their successful rally in Karachi, occupying the pole position in the race to the finish, literally.


Gilani recently met PML (Q) leaders and Zardari is reported to have offered PML (Q) leadership of Punjab in case PML (N) seeks to force early elections through resignations. Nawaz Sharif would want elections before March - that is, before the Senate elections, which might give the PPP an advantage. In Karachi, the MQM has extended support to Imran Khan, probably to undercut the secular Awami National Party. It could be that this is being done as part of some arrangement between Karachi and Rawalpindi.


Politics like everything else in Pakistan is in a flux. (ANI)


Attn: News Editors/News Desks: The views expressed in the above article are that of Mr. Vikram Sood, former Secretary, R and AW.


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