May 9, 2011

Ask no questions…

Why some institutions are more sacred than others in this country?

By Abid Qaiyum Suleri

I have no sympathies with Osama bin Laden and feel that he had written his own death warrants through his ‘deeds’. Perhaps the operation leading to his killing might have been carried out differently. However, this is not what I am going to discuss today. I want to share my sheer frustration and disappointment. I am not disappointed of the way the US government treated us, but on how we are getting treated by our own civil and military leadership.

It would not hurt much if the world does not trust us. However, it is extremely painful feeling that our own government, our own army and our leaders do not trust us. Despite this, we the ordinary citizens of Pakistan kept on supporting them out of loyalty, optimism, and hope.

Despite the suicide attacks in our streets, mosques, churches, and graveyards; we kept on saying that it is only the matter of getting caught in wrong place and at a wrong time, otherwise Pakistan is a safe place to live in.

Despite record inflation, worst energy crisis, natural and man made disasters, and increasing economic challenges we agreed to a reduction in Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) budgets as we were told such reductions were necessary to beef up country’s defense budget which was a must to ensure our security, safety, and sovereignty.

Despite various broken promises of our civil and army leadership we always gave them the benefit of doubt. We thought they really meant it when they talked of watching national interests; working for economic sustainability through macroeconomic reforms, and not accepting foreign assistance at the cost of national sovereignty.

We really believed that unlike our previous rulers this time the government was seriously interested in curbing religious militancy and getting rid of decade-old “strategic asset”. We were made to believe that after getting rid of militancy menace government would focus on human development and conflict transformation. This was one of the rare occasions when broader society and all political forces were supporting a strict action against religious fanaticism.

But what did we get in return for our unconditional support to efforts towards eradicating militancy? Plain lies. Hang on; even to lie they had to say something. They opted to keep quiet. The head of government and the head of state behaved as if nothing had happened. When President Zardari left for France during 2010, one quarter of Pakistanis were facing storms and floods. However, when Prime Minister Gilani left for France, after Osama’s killing, the whole of Pakistan was facing a diplomatic storm. The bad timing of their visits reveals their “who-cares” attitude.

We trusted them when they made us to believe that the war on terrorism was not imposed on us rather Pakistan was fighting its own war. The death of Osama should have been an important milestone in this war which was very much “our own”. What a pity that our civil or military leadership did not bother to take the nation into confidence and formally inform about the events that led to the killing of Osama.

It is the same silence, due to the fear of extremists’ backlash, which led to the killing of Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti. This silence proved useless in the past and it would prove useless in future too. The government will have to put its foot down, say enough is enough and show its full resolve against religious militancy. The government may not do so and the reason is that we 180 million ordinary citizens of Pakistan are silent. More than the silence of government, it is the silence of the people which has disappointed me a lot.

Let us believe in the official statement released by the ISPR four days after the killing of Osama. The statement said that Pakistan was not aware of Osama’s presence in Abbottabad; it was unaware of American action against Osama and could not detect and stop the activities of foreign choppers in its garrison city.

Having believed in this statement, let us break our silence and humbly ask if all of the above-mentioned is true then why some institutes are more sacred than others in this country? Why should we reduce our public sector development programme budget to beef up our defense budget? And, finally, if we have proved to be inefficient and unreliable to the US in war on terrorism then on which grounds will we be able to stop activities of Black Water and CIA operatives in Pakistan? Will they not come to capture more high level targets in other garrison towns of Pakistan?

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