More senators back ‘constitutional’ fight in Malakand
By Raja Asghar
ISLAMABAD: More senators on Tuesday backed what a noted legal figure among them called a constitutional military action against Taliban rebels in Malakand division on the third day of a debate in the upper house.
But the harmony among the supporters of the month-old full-scale operation, which authorities say has cleared most of the Swat valley and some other districts of the barbaric militants, was marred by an angry outburst from government ally Awami National Party over perceived reluctance of some parties and politicians of Sindh to accommodate some of about three million people displaced by the fighting in Malakand.The special debate on “the situation in Swat and other adjacent areas”, which began on the first day of the Senate session on June 5 and was originally due to last two days, has been extended and will continue on Wednesday.
Veteran lawyer S.M. Zafar, whose opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Q supports the Pakistan People’s Party-led coalition over the Malakand campaign, was the first in the debate to provide a constitutional justification for the action which, he said, was in compliance with the Constitution in aid of a democratic government rather than being extra-constitutional.
He referred to the decision of the PPP-led federal government and the ANP-led NWFP government to call the military to launch the operation in aid of civil power as provided under the Constitution after the failure of a controversial peace deal and said: “So long as this political decision stands, this operation will enjoy the support of the nation.”
But he asked the government to take care the displaced people did not become dependent on doles after the end of the military operation and were able to stand on their own feet and urged political parties to convert their all-parties conferences into “all-parties cooperation” to help the sufferers together rather than individually.
ANP’s parliamentary leader in the house Haji Mohammad Adeel rejected suggestions from some religious parties to stop the military operation and have dialogue with the militants even after the failure of the deal and said: “Now when the war has begun, dialogue can be held after victory.”
He said while his ANP and the PPP had in the past usually opposed military actions, “the Pakistani military this time is really fighting Pakistan’s war”.
But the Senator from Peshawar became overly emotional when he referred to what he called refusal of some political parties and politicians of Sindh — he named PPP vice-chairman and Commerce Minister Amin Fahim among them — to accommodate the Malakand refugees in their province.
“If I am stopped on the G.T. (Grand Trunk) Road (from going anywhere in Pakistan, then I will have to go back to Darra Adamkhel and Landikotal and I will also become Taliban and then you will also be unable to live in Karachi or Lahore,” he said in a rare fit of anger from the treasury benches that seemed to raise many eyebrows but, strangely, drew cheers from members of anti-operation Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI).
Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s Abdul Khaliq Pirzada, who also used his usual emotional oratory to denounce the Taliban militancy on religious grounds, sought to contradict and pacify the ANP member, saying that Karachi or the Sindh province could accept any number of displaced people if they accepted a process of registration so the provincial authorities could arrange for their stay there in what he called an acceptable norm of hospitality.
But he invited more angry remarks from Mr Adeel and JUI’s Maulana Gul Naseeb.
Jamiat Ahle Hadith’s leader Prof Sajid Mir, who has been elected to the Senate on the Pakistan Muslim League-N ticket, blamed “intelligence failure” for the emergence of Swat Taliban, whom he accused of being responsible for the failure of the peace deal with the NWFP government, and urged the government to counter what he described as Indian involvement in the affair via Afghanistan.
JUI’s Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri said the government could have captured Swat Taliban leader Mullah Fazlullah and his associates even without a military action of this scale and that “there is still time to terminate the operation and have dialogue”.