Upstarts' startling demolition debut

September 20, 2008 like March 9, 2007, is amongst the defining moments in Pakistan's contemporary history. It would also ranks amongst its bleakest. Future destiny of this nation could well be determined by facts as they happened on this day. The attack outside the five-star Marriott Hotel - not far from key government buildings - happened early in the evening shortly after iftar and only few hours after Zardari as president addressed a joint session of the two houses of Parliament where he said rhetorically that Pakistan would not allow the use of its territory for terrorist activities. It was supposed to be a triumphant week for President Zardari who made his debut in national politics by making his presidential address to Parliament, a feat Musharraf could not perform for years. On the day of the blast he was to fly to New York to make his debut on the world stage by addressing the UNGA. Startlingly within days of his election he has been to Dubai, London and New York on non-official work while a patent demolition process is underway within the country. He has not helped his already affected image by his over friendly greetings to Sara Palin, the Republican vice-presidential candidate. A startling phenomenon is evident when it is realised that he finds himself struggling to maintain his political footing in the face of contending pressures that threaten to knock him off balance. Certainly a political upstart, having done himself no service by surrounding himself with a bunch of other rank upstarts to face the nation's multifaceted problems. His credibility is still suspect given his reneging on three written agreements with PML-N to restore the deposed judiciary. The complexity of problems is formidable. Pakistan's international credit ranking is now lowest in Asia. Economically in the last six months - inflation is touching 30 percent - there is hardly any wheat to feed the people, electricity is going on and off as it pleases, law and order is palpably abysmal and there is no sign of good governance starting with the dragging on of judges' issue which brought down the Musharraf junta. In an address to the nation, Zardari vowed to "continue to fight terrorism and extremism." The horrific bombing at Marriott is only the latest sign that it would require for both the US and indeed Islamabad working a lot harder to come up with a policy that bolsters Pakistan's fragile civilian government while enlisting its full support in the fight against militants. On this fateful day in a startling manner the fundamental realities of the political dynamics of this nation were unfolded. On the one hand we witnessed the much awaited presidential address of Zardari after assuming the highest office; on the other hand we saw the utter demolition of the Marriott by an act of such terrible ferocity as to leave many just dumbfound. Since this attack was presumably by elements referred to by Zardari as "extremists", no emphasis is required to emphasise that it is a direct result of the recent actions in the FATA areas in this war against terror. While it remains to be scientifically established whether it was 'in simpliciter' an act of terrorism or was it a communication expressed in extreme savagery designed to convey a message on an important day? If so then to whom and by who was this message sent? In parenthesis it may be added that on the same day five other acts of terrorism against security personal also took place including the ambush of a military convoy in FATA killing seven soldiers. In sum this day on which the administration was jubilant at finally acquiring all the major political offices, there was in process, widespread disgruntlement against the incumbent regime as well. A number of fundamental questions require answers. Could it be said that the country is really faced with the prospect of a widespread and violent civil war with regional secessionist tendencies? Or are these acts a sign of revolt against the incumbent government by certain identified elements? Or is that the killings of civilians by the security forces in FATA and the adjoining regions have created a mindset of revenge in the peoples of such areas? It was after all pointed by the interior advisor in a press briefing given immediately after the Marriott bombing that all previous cases of terrorism were linked to Waziristan. More importantly the people have a right to know that who are they fighting? Suicide bombing as a modality of terrorism is amongst the most terrible legacies of Musharraf to this country. Until his regime came to power in 1999, as a phenomenon, it was unheard of in this country. Is it possible to locate the genesis of such reckless killings of public at large? Could it be said that it emanated by following the state actions undertaken by Musharraf in notoriously publicised cases such as the murder of Nawab Bugti and the attack on Jamia Hafsa? It is axiomatic that violence begets violence. In many parts of the world particularly in the Third World it is a cultural mantra to emulate the conduct utilised by the upper echelons of the society. Such behaviour, howsoever odious it may be to the moralist, then assumes acceptability and consequently permeates the entire society. Musharraf's policies which I persistently criticised over the years have wrecked havoc to the country institutions, principles of federalism and to the concept of nationhood. His tenure in office regrettably prompted dire predictions projected by two US agencies, the CIA and Rand Corporation that geopolitical Pakistan by 2015 may not be the same as it is now. During the Musharraf era, political parties and leaders were hounded, persecuted, terrorised, exiled, abused and deprived of their genuine rights. Musharraf shattered the very foundations of the judicial apparatus of Pakistan. Hundreds of citizen and others on Pakistani territories were arrested without lawful authority and then handed over to other countries to placate the desires of other third party actors. Accordingly when the current political process began in October 2007, Zardari was the last person expected to climb the political ladder as fast as he has done Within eight months of his wife's assassination, he is now the supreme arbiter of the power structure now prevalent in the realm. Under our system of parliamentary democracy, it is the PM who does what is now being undertaken by the president. Such personal de facto usurpation of authority does not augur well. The president in our system of governance is not supposed to go on unofficial or official tours for negotiations. Have you seen the Indian president or the governor-general of Australia or Canada or indeed the Queen of UK go on such visits? Just when many Pakistanis believed that a democratic order was ushering in a new civilian government, a new president and the end of eight years of military rule, they are confronted with the darkest moment in the country's political evolution. Axiomatically for long counted as a 'failing state', this dangerously poised country is now in a downward movement towards becoming a 'failed state'. Pakistan is internationally isolated and generally condemned by the most of world community because of its lack of consistent policies Pakistan's tribal territories have become a free for all firing range for US troops even as the domestic threat from the Pakistani militants' multiplies. I do not recall anytime in recent times when almost everyone in the country who cares to give his views and opinions is utterly dismayed and demoralised at the manner of developments of late in Pakistan. In sum, the starting up velocity of the up starts is on the anvil of the stalled democratic locomotive. What happens from now on is really any body's guess. We have lost clear lines of distinction between friend and foe, between nationalism and opportunism and between dignity and valour with timidity and rank obsequious demeanour. I think the time is now ripe for taking accountability of all those who have treacherously sold out the fortunes of this nation to accumulate personal wealth and fortunes. Besides this, it would be unfair and totally unjustified to expect President Zardari to clear the nine-year old backlog, and debris of serious problems in less than seven months. But since he has now the opportunity to discuss the issues with the elected representatives or call an all-party conference and invite the army leadership to reach a consensus on diversified issues articulated above. The massive explosion that played havoc with the lives of hundreds on September 20 has to be objectively analysed. How did a suicide bomber managed to enter the capital without being hindered or checked with around 1,000 kilograms explosive material in a heavy truck and finally blew him up in the heart of Islamabad? The area is considered as the hub of corridors of powers and is surrounded by the offices and residences of high profile dignitaries. Frontier, Balochistan, Punjab, Sindh and Kashmir houses along with ministers and judges colonies are located at a stone's throw from the blast site. The eyewitnesses of the incident say that the security personnel were in a position to stop the attack. Sniffer dogs had smelled the presence of explosive material and had started barking at the truck when it was some 100 yards away from the hotel's entrance. The fire that broke out after the attack strangely started as there was no direct contact with the higher floors of the hotel building with the blast. How did the fire begin on the higher floors? There is even evidence that just a day prior to this blast, US marines had been allowed to take steel boxes inside the hotel without any screening by the hotel security people. However, it may be noted that Malik's inconsistent statements have not been very helpful as he contradicted both the government and indeed the PM about the real target of this attack being the Marriott. Moreover if he knew that Marriott was the intended target, why he did nothing to prevent it? With the exception of Imran and Qazi Hussain Ahmed no one is really raising the tough questions that need clear answers from the government. The writer is a barrister-at-law (UK), attorney-at-law (US), senior advocate of the Supreme Court, and professor Harvard University

The writer is barrister at law (US and UK), senior advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and professor at Harvard University.

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt