May Issue 2007

By | Editorial | Opinion | Published 17 years ago

Last month, on one of his many trips around the world, General Musharraf, in an interview with the Dubai-based Al Arabiya TV channel, offered to mediate on the Palestine issue.

Impressive, except that back home there are several pressing issues that demand his immediate and undivided attention. And it would help if General Musharraf were to cut down on his “foreign engagements” and stay put at home to get a feel of the situation on the ground.

The political temperature of the country is hotting up. The lawyers refuse to say die, and their pro-Justice Chaudhry campaign is fast developing into a “Go Musharraf, go” movement, as it draws more supporters to its fold.

And that’s just one of the general’s manifold irritants. The Jamia Hafsa burqas and beards continue to pose a major threat to his agenda of “enlightened moderation.”

Emboldened by the government’s hands-off policy, other mullahs are following suit and drumming up support for the extremist tune. In Swat, the maulana who persuaded 4,000 parents to refrain from getting their children vaccinated under a government-sponsored polio vaccination scheme is now forcing lady health visitors out of the workforce by threatening them with dire consequences.

Rather than confront these reactionaries who are posing a challenge to the writ of the state, all the government has done is sent mullahs within its ranks, like Chaudhary Shujaat and Ejazul Haq, to negotiate with them. On the other hand, it has continued to wield the whip on lawyers — and the media, which has, of late, become its favourite punching bag. In a blatant show of muscle, PEMRA slapped Aaj TV with a show-cause notice, threatening cancellation of its broadcast license, for straying out of line on the judiciary issue.

The government can attempt to zip some lips, but other lips will continue to tell — and there’s nothing PEMRA can do about it.

Take the cross-border terrorism issue, for instance. First India, then Afghanistan, and now Iran are accusing Pakistan of fomenting trouble within their respective countries by harbouring and sending terrorists across the border. For far too long, we’ve continued to rubbish these allegations and turned a blind eye to the human bombs being bred in our own backyard, which are now threatening to destroy the fabric of the nation as they turn their sights inwards. A sitting president, a sitting prime minister, a sitting interior minister and a corps commander have all been targeted, causing colossal collateral damage.

And if the general is still hesitant to sever his umbilical cord with the ‘patron saints’ of these extremists — the religious parties — on the advice of his intelligence agencies, who have always used them as the second line of defence, then he is refusing to see the light. Unless he fears that his purported deal with Ms Bhutto could become unstuck and he may have to call upon his B-team to put him in the driving seat. But at what cost?

The society is fragmented, fanaticism has reared its ugly head, lawlessness is rampant and the masses are beginning to lose their patience with the current dispensation and its half-baked strategies.

Time is running out for General Musharraf. He has to seize the moment and listen to the calls for a free and fair election, which allows the people to vote for the leaders of their choice.

A uniform should not be allowed to stand in the way.

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