January issue 2016

By | News & Politics | Published 8 years ago

As the clock struck 12 at Port Grand, Karachi, and a burst of fireworks lit up the night sky heralding the dawn of a new era, a TV anchor dived into the exuberant crowd, mike in hand, and posed a solitary question: what’s your wish list for 2016?

Peace… No  violence… Peace… No terrorism, please… Peace… that was the recurring refrain.

When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew into Lahore from Kabul to wish Nawaz Sharif a happy birthday on December 25, the peaceniks rejoiced as they saw a sliver of hope. But there were rumblings of discontent in the camp of the war-mongers. And as if on cue, the deadly attack on Indian’s Pathankot base (purportedly by Jaish-i-Mohammed) happened, followed by yet another, on the Indian Consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif, putting the Indo-Pak secretary level talks in jeopardy.

Fears are being expressed that the scheduled Pakistan-Afghanistan-China-US talks to thrash out a road map for peace in Afghanistan may be similarly thwarted by vested interests. Earlier, just when the Pakistan-brokered peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban were ready to take off, belated news of Mullah Omar’s death was leaked, scuttling the peace process.

Pakistan is truly trapped between a rock and a hard place. Besides its border feuds, it is fighting its own internal demons — militancy, crime, corruption.

On the face of it, the statistics for 2015, post the National Action Plan, look impressive: Target killings are down by 53%; murders by 50%; robberies by 30% and terrorism by 80%. But peace, in its entirety, continues to elude us. What’s more, the threat of a new player, more wily, more brutal, looms large on the horizon: The Punjab law minister admitted that 100 Pakistanis have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join IS, and that an IS recruiter was arrested from Karachi. Earlier, Jamia Hafsa students had sworn allegiance to the IS chief. But, shockingly, their head honcho, Lal Masjid’s Maulana Aziz continues to roam free, even as he preaches his extremist brand of Islam.

So much for the National Action Plan. It still falls far short of its avowed aim of eradicating the menace of terrorism.

When the army laid the blame for this squarely at the doorstep of the political dispensation, a livid prime minister, who has yet to master the art of balancing his relations with the army, gave a stinging reply, sending alarm bells ringing. Would one Sharif oust the other Sharif? The rumour refused to die down for most of 2016.

Also rampant was the rumour that governor’s rule was being introduced in Sindh. The PPP government is in a state of war with the Rangers, whom it accuses of overstepping its brief, a case in point being the arrest of Dr. Asim Hussain.

‘Wada Sain’ Qaim Ali Shah professes to be the captain of the Rangers operation in Sindh. Meanwhile, his party’s captain chills out in Dubai, and the actual captain, the Rangers chief, sits pretty in Karachi.

And while on captains, our real life ‘Kaptaan’ Imran Khan, post Reham Khan, appears to have more or less buried the hatchet and finally realised that his ‘dhandli’ mantra was beginning to grate on everyone’s nerves. Fortunately, his blue-eyed businessman Tareen’s win in the by-election for NA-154 gave him a much-needed shot in the arm. Meanwhile, his other friend from the dharna days, Tahirul Qadri, is back in Lahore, promising the Sharifs more heartburn and providing light relief to assorted TV channels.

Incidentally, there’s another contender for the TV slot: the former chief justice of the Supreme Court, who announced the formation of his own party — Pakistan Justice Democratic Critic Party (What’s in a name!)  And only the non-corrupt need apply.

Does that leave son Arsalan out of the fold?


Rehana Hakim is one of the core team of journalists that helped start Newsline. She has been the editor-in-chief since 1996.

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