Civil-military dialogue

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So far the US is pursuing the same carrot and stick policy for Pakistan. Both parties are playing different cards to keep pressure on each other. However, there is no serious and real clash between them. Behind the scenes relation between the two countries are now becoming positive. The CIA and the ISI are now getting close. The so-called parliamentary recommendations are not anything but a stamp that would be sealed over the real recommendations agreed between the establishments of the two countries.

This behind-the-scene homework and preparation already surfaced in the recent meeting of Hillary Clinton and Hina Rabbani Khar. So by the middle of March it is probable that a core group of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the US will restart working and the hawks in the media again opt for silence. It is also possible that the Difa-e Pakistan Council will prefer to change its target from the US to the other “threats” to Pakistan.


All this is fine but the problem is that 2014 is approaching. The year when the US will need Pakistani help no more and the carrot will be removed from the carrot and stick policy. This challenge demands a serious effort for internal peace and harmony. It is a challenge for state policymakers, to eliminate the causes that result in a civil-war situation in Pakistan in all seriousness. However, as 2014 is approaching, we are more divided and frustrated. In Pakistan the media and politicians select issues on the basis of “ratings.”


Thus, nowadays the only issue is Balochistan, which is heard about and discussed everywhere. Indeed, this does not mean that every other issue in the country has been solved. Balochistan is burning, and must be given top priority. However, this does not necessitate ignoring all other issues of the same urgency and importance.


In Fata and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa the issue of militancy is still very serious. Every Pakistani has the same importance and respect, but the Baloch are not receiving the importance they deserve, and this is unfortunate. After the Swat operation the government announced it had detained 2,500 persons. The figure, according to unofficial sources, is higher. However, so far the state has persecuted less than 200 persons. The rest of them are missing. In Fata military operations are being conducted for the last eight years. Balochistan has never seen bombardment, while Fata has regularly experienced bombing from jets.


There is not a single district in Balochistan where access is blocked, but Kurram Agency has experienced total blockade for many years. There are many zones in Fata where no official person could enter. The total number of killings in Balochistan in a year cannot match the number of people killed in a month in Fata and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. All this does not mean that everything is fine in Balochistan, but Fata and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa are also burning.


However, Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa are not the only issues confronting the state of Pakistan. People living in the Pakhtun belt of Balochistan are also frustrated. Under the leadership of Mehmood Khan Achakzai they may soon demand a separate province of their own. Karachi is still a huge ammunition depot, where warring parties are prepared for an ultimate war. In interior Sindh people are living under the threat of dacoits and their patrons. People in the Saraiki belt and in Gilgit-Baltistan are also desperate.


And Punjab is also experiencing anxiety because of this entire situation. Sectarian, linguistic, ethnic and territorial biases could be seen everywhere. At the macro level there is an ever-growing divide between the rich and the poor, and there is no bread, no shelter and no respect for the common man, and this has turned the whole society into a boiling pot.


In this bleak scenario, the only safe way of escape was an open and positive dialogue between the military and civil leadership. However, it is a fact that at present the two parties have the worst relations in Pakistan’s history. In public both issue statements of mutual trust but in private politicians accuse the military of wrongdoing and military personnel accuse the civil leadership of being the centre of corruption and bad governance.


The establishment considers the judiciary as being the main hurdle in efforts for the removal of extremism and militancy in Pakistan while the judiciary considers the establishment’s policies as being the main hurdle in the dispensation of justice. The media is a critic of the establishment but also is fearful of it, while the establishment dislikes media criticism. It is fashionable to raise slogans against India and the US, but in the present conditions we really need no external threat or enemy.


Cosmetic smiles and courtesy calls cannot change the situation. The only way out is a serious and open dialogue between the civil and military leaderships. This is the only way to reach a new social contract, a plan that could remove mutual distrust, mark boundaries of authority, and an agreed-upon plan for all major issues Pakistan is facing right now.


The writer works for Geo TV. Email: saleem.