Battle for the Soul of Pakistan

Khalid Aziz speaks out about the ‘Battle for the Soul of Pakistan’, in the Express Tribune in New York on 1 December 2010:

There are significant developments taking place in Pakistan that will have a deep and abiding impact on the country as well as the region. If the[se] changes … happen through the democratic liberal route, and the rule of law underpins the new framework then there is nothing to worry about. However, if the obscurantist right and the feudal-military forces combine in resisting, then we will face political turbulence and unrest.

There is a common string running through issues:- the insurgency in FATA and Swat – executions and the discovery of dead bodies in Baluchistan and Swat – the petition for recovery of missing persons – prosecution of Christians under the Blasphemy Laws – daily reports about violation of human rights – refusal of state institutions to be accountable to lawful authorities, and reports of corruption in the government. …

…The raison d’être for the existence of any modern state is to provide freedom and human development. In Pakistan, we short sightedly turned the concept of nationhood into a driver of beliefs. In 1977, General Zia ul Haq changed the motto of the military to Iman (faith), Takwa (piety) and jihad fe sabil Allah (jihad in the name of Allah). Of the years between 1977 and 2010, the military ruled Pakistan for 20 years and changed its objective from the provision of freedom and development to international evangelism.

… The current standoff in the judiciary’s attempt to learn about the disappearance of Pakistani citizens from Adiala Jail is an explosive issue. The refusal of intelligence services to assist the Supreme Court in discovering the whereabouts of the missing, despite the allegation that they were charged with the attack on the GHQ, threatens the transformation of Pakistan into a civilized state. Unfortunately, instead of prudence we are witnessing the drawing of battle lines.

…During Musharraf’s regime, a large number of Pakistanis disappeared; estimates vary from 11,000 to many more.

…Before Pakistan becomes a people-friendly state, multiplying happiness and peace, it will need to clean its dirty linen that has gathered over the years… For that to happen, it is necessary for all state organizations to be answerable to parliament and to be accountable to the courts. In this context, two reforms are essential. Firstly, disclosure and discussion of the defence budget in parliament and secondly, the passage of legislation that prohibits the arrest and detention of civilians by the military. Under India’s counter insurgency doctrine, the military’s interaction with civilians can only occur under an authorisation of a magistrate, operating under the Criminal Procedure Code.

If, for security reasons, someone has to be detained, then this must take place under the law and the welfare of the detainee must be ensured by having a system of independent verification by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan or some other independent verifying body, so that the families of the arrested can meet their loved ones.

If Pakistan’s soul is to be saved, then let us begin our journey by implementing the reforms advocated above and provide relief to the many.


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