August issue 2004

By | Editorial | Opinion | Published 15 years ago

It is not the enemy without, but the enemy within that is pounding on Pakistan’s door. Terrorists, militants, extremists, freedom fighters, angry young men — call them what you will — have declared war on Pakistan.

Bomb blasts, rocket fire and missile attacks in Karachi, Lahore, Quetta and Islamabad. Corps commander, minister, chief minister, prime minister-designate and the President himself — all have been in the range of fire.

Pakistan appears to be a country at war with itself, as it celebrates its fifty-seventh year of independence this August. And while most of the militants are ISI-trained mujahideen — remnants of the Afghan war — they have now been joined by another breed of jihadi: the educated young Pakistani professional — the cardiologist, the orthopaedic surgeon, the computer engineer. What unites the two widely disparate groups? A growing anger, impatience and frustration with Musharraf’s domestic and foreign policies and his pro-US tilt that “borders on servility,” according to his critics.

In his desire to fight the American war on terrorism on Pakistani soil, Musharraf has compromised national interest, to his own, and the country’s detriment. Political forces have been sidelined or coopted, and decisions are being taken at the GHQ, never mind democracy and parliament.

Few are in favour of sending troops to Iraq, but the Musharraf government has yet to come out with a clear-cut no to the US request. Two Pakistanis employed in Iraq have been executed as a consequence, but that barely matters. The government has been crowing about the fact that a Pakistani has been asked to head the UN mission in Iraq. Pakistani troops are expected to follow close behind. To what end? To fall in with the American strategy that a Muslim presence might blunt the Iraqi attacks on Bush’s boys, or worse still to use them as human shields?

Meanwhile back home, a political rebellion is brewing as the army battles the locals in Wana and Balochistan — bullet for bullet. Nearly 150 soldiers and several hundred people have lost their lives in what is being viewed as a battle between the Pakistan army and the Pakistani people. The last time that happened, we lost half the country. Are we destined to repeat past tragedies once again or will sanity prevail before it is too late?

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