August Issue 2008

By | Editorial | Opinion | Published 16 years ago

Where in Pakistan’s Constitution is it stipulated that every new head of state must pay his respects to the US President after taking oath of office? And that he must take his cast of hundreds along?

And yet this homage-paying ritual is repeated, ad nauseam, by every incoming Pakistani ruler.

Where was the need for Prime Minister Gillani to fly off to Washington to lunch with (and be lectured by?) Mr. Bush, when a crisis of mammoth proportions is brewing inside the country which requires the leading stakeholders’ undivided attention?

It is scary, the lackadaisical manner in which the present set of politicians is conducting — or rather not conducting — the business of governance. They seem to have no clue about the gravity of the situation nor of the urgent need to tackle it.

The leading lights of the two main political parties spend most of their time in Dubai and London — ostensibly for personal reasons — and continue to quibble on the issue of Justice Chaudhry’s reinstatement and Musharraf’s impeachment. The task of conducting the war on terror has been passed on to the army and those in the hot seat do not seem to want to assume ownership of the policy on terrorism.

That is probably the most convenient stance to take when conditions seem to be spinning out of control. The burnings, the beheadings and the bombings rage on. The militants continue to threaten and extend their frontiers day by day. The ANP government is under threat from the militants. And the Jamia Hafsa is raising its troublesome head, once again.

The editor-in-chief of the Urdu daily Aajkal, Najam Sethi, has to move around with armed commandos. Hafsa has threatened him with decapitation: the letter sent to him carried a chilling photo of a beheaded man. They are seeking revenge for the publication of a cartoon showing Ms Umme Hasan preaching jihad to children.

Kidnapping, assaulting and confining women on charges of immorality by the Jamia Hafsa brigade was a “holy” act in Ms Hasan’s estimation, but a relatively innocuous cartoon in a newspaper is tantamount to “blasphemy,” punishable with death. Are we playing God here? Cartoons lampooning politicians and other sections of society are carried by the print media on a daily basis. So, should all those caricatured, demand beheading of editors?

We don’t need the spectacle of another Jamia Hafsa. We already have our hands full, with the regular threats being issued by the likes of Maulvi Fazlullah and Baitullah Mehsud. The politicians, both inside and outside the assemblies, need to close rank, and get their act together in order to establish the writ of the state.

Presently, the country seems to be running on autopilot, giving all self-seeking adventurists the courage to challenge the government with brazenness. The monster of militancy needs to be reined in before it devours the whole nation

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