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Pakistan cannot put its ‘house in order’ by forgetting the past

Earlier this month, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif made a statement about “putting our house in order” and “making a clean break from the past” — but forgot to elaborate.

And so began the guessing games: What did he mean exactly? How would this happen? Does our civilian government have the courage and confidence to do what he might be alluding to?

If you are still scratching your head, I don’t blame you. Policies formed on contradictions are often confusing. Now, unelected rulers already consider themselves above the law and scrutiny, hence, decisions they make do not take into consideration public opinions. As for democratic leaders, they have to consider what their electorate is thinking, even if they don’t want to. And when that happens, vague, convoluted or personally benefiting policies are made.

Take India for example, the world’s largest democracy that had rulers who paid with their life for policies that were shortsighted and self-serving. In 1980, when the Shiromani Akali Dal party demanded political and economic rights for poor Sikh farmers, the Indira Gandhi-led government ended up in hot waters. The rising might of the Akali Dal in Punjab was unacceptable. The party chief, Parkash Singh Badal’s government in Punjab was quickly dismissed and a presidential rule imposed. Leaders of the Akali Dal protested with even greater ferocity. Desperate and frazzled, Congress then gave its blessings to Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, a religious extremist suspected of involvement in terrorist activities. But the plan backfired. Bhindranwale’s Khalistan movement swept through Punjab and led to the 1983 massacre of the Sikhs in Amritsar. On Oct 13, 1984, Gandhi was killed by her Sikh guards to avenge the killings. It was a tragic tale of a secular party aligning with religious bigots. But the story could have ended in no other way.

The same fate befell on Gandhi’s son, Rajiv. Before India and Sri Lanka agreed in 1987 to end the civil war, India was actively financing and arming the Tamil Tiger militants. However, once an accord was signed, Gandhi sent his army to act against the same outfit he was earlier supporting. This contradictory behaviour did not go down well with the rebels who in 1991 planned and assassinated Rajiv Gandhi in a suicide bombing.

There are lessons in the history of our neighbour.

Terrorism has become Pakistan’s paramount crisis, only because short-term benefits were given more importance when tabling national plans.

It is true that the Americans and Arab countries coddled the Taliban, but are our hands clean? Some of the guns they hold in their hands today may look familiar.

We cannot clean our house by forgetting the past. We cannot clean our house by ignoring reality.

The foreign minister needs to be clear. He needs to state clearly, for us and for those watching us, that there will be no policy of the good and bad Taliban anymore.

What about the banned organisations contesting elections? What do we plan to do about them? We are winning militarily against terrorism. But are we winning the battle against the extremist mindset? Duplicity in our interior and foreign policies, by the unequal application of the rule of law, doesn’t help.

Javaid, Omar. Pakistan cannot put its ‘house in order’ by forgetting the past. Geo News, October 15, 2017.

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