April Issue 2007

By | Editorial | Opinion | Published 17 years ago

Hello, is anyone in charge in this country? The ‘holy spirits’ are raising hell in the federal capital, but the men in uniform do not appear to be unduly concerned.

Their failure to handle the Jamia Hafsa issue with an iron hand has emboldened the veiled brigade to further test the waters.

After occupying the children’s library, some of the Jamia’s baton-wielding women are venturing into the field to spread their brand of Islam. Accompanied by menfolk (whatever happened to the concept of namehram?), they have been making the rounds of music and video stores, demanding that they be closed and, worse, acting as the custodians of everybody’s morals. In short, playing God.

In a shocking display of unwanton behaviour, they took three women — reportedly the wife, sister and mother of a government employee — hostage, accusing them of running a brothel, and released them only after they read out a written confession before the media. Incidentally, two police mobiles that went to rescue them were confiscated and set free only when some of their jailed colleagues were released. Now the puritans are threatening to take the women captive again if the authorities do not release another six of their colleagues, including a former ISI official.

Elsewhere in Tank in the NWFP, worse things are happening: children are being kidnapped from government and private schools and moved to undisclosed locations to train them for jihad against NATO and US forces. A conscientious principal, who resisted the militants, has been kidnapped along with his brother and is being threatened with capital punishment. Tank has now been reduced to a ghost town, with the militants calling the shots and the police proving to be totally ineffective against this brutal assault.

So, are we to assume that Musharraf and his men are losing the battle against Talibanisation? Or is it that they are far too preoccupied with the other battle front they’ve opened up — the judicial reference against Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. Incidentally, while they’ve handled the Jamia Hafsa issue with kid gloves, they went ballistic vis-à-vis the lawyers, politicians and civil society. They tear-gassed and lathi-charged them, and even resorted to putting them behind bars. Fortunately, the media was on the spot, giving a blow-by-blow account, much to the discomfiture of the government, which then decided to hit back with a vengeance.

Channels were taken off the air for showing clips of lawyers bleeding from police-inflicted injuries, programmes were banned and Geo Television’s Islamabad office was vandalised. And true to its reputation, the government continued to feign innocence and ignorance.

The acting chief justice should take suo moto notice of all the lies this government has fabricated to cover its tracks, the last one being that the attack on Geo was a “conspiracy” against the government and that the police official who ordered it is “absconding.” Asked by the channel’s anchorperson, if he was contemplating resigning, Information Minister Mohammad Ali Durrani hummed and hawed.

Unfortunately, not everyone has the moral courage to resign. In a show of maturity, Inzamam-ul-Haq, captain of the Pakistani cricket team, Wasim Bari, chairman, Cricket Selection Committee, and Nasim Ashraf, chairman, PCB, all decided to call it quits after Pakistan’s dismal showing in the World Cup. Why, even the chairman of the national airliner handed in his resignation after questions were raised about his competence following the EU’s ban on a certain segment of PIA’s fleet.

Perhaps Geo anchorman Kamran Khan should’ve gone a step further in his wide-ranging interview with the chief executive of Pakistan and addressed the same question to him. If this government cannot establish the writ of the law, shouldn’t it be vacating the seat for somebody who can?

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