Saleem Shahzad is dead – his writings live -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Saleem Shahzad is dead – his writings live

Babar Ayaz

Why are all the fingers, whether belonging to foreign governments or Pakistani political and human rights activists, only directed at our premier intelligence agency? Why is it increasingly becoming the usual suspect?

First we were sliding down as a country, but now, for the last few years, it seems as if we are rolling down and the momentum is accelerating each day. It seems as if the dark hole is bottomless. Look at the eventful month of May: the world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden, was found in a cantonment town and US helicopters entered our borders, ostensibly unnoticed. The US SEALs killed him and took him to Afghanistan before we could say “Scramble!” The Pakistani anger against the failure of the intelligence and security forces was redirected at the Americans by the establishment to save their skins. The parliamentarians abetted. Many in the media played their assigned roles, excluding the few brave-hearts.

We were struck by another blow on May 22. Terrorists attacked the PNS Mehran before we could fully debate whether the resolution passed by our ‘sagacious’ parliamentarians was an emotional outburst or a realistic policy statement. People were shocked by this second conspicuous intelligence failure. This time, even the sympathisers of our intelligence agencies could not hold themselves back from lashing out at their incompetence.

Even those of us who are no more a part of investigative reporting could say from day one that the terrorists who attacked the PNS Mehran must have had insider support. Any person who has common sense and the ability to analyse the available facts can confidently say that the ideological and organisational infiltration of the terrorist groups into the security agencies is deep. Our agencies and the western press call these insiders ‘rogue elements’. Boy! It seems there are too many of them, necessitating a purge.

Investigative journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad, who exposed the arrest of some terrorist sympathisers in the navy, was tortured to death. Saleem was eliminated but the facts of his story live and have not been denied. However, perhaps, for the first time, the ISI’s unidentified spokesperson directly denied, in an official statement, that they had any hand in the killing of Saleem Shahzad. Nobody is buying this denial in the country or abroad. This time it seems that our not so intelligent agency has crossed all limits. For the first time in the history of Pakistan, the APNS president and chief executive of the most respected media house has rebutted the ISI’s denial forcefully. And he is not alone; many of Saleem’s friends, including Human Rights Watch, have also alleged the ISI’s involvement on the basis of circumstantial evidence only.

Why are all the fingers, whether belonging to foreign governments or Pakistani political and human rights activists, only directed at our premier intelligence agency? Why is it increasingly becoming the usual suspect? For those who strongly believe in self-deceiving propaganda, it is the American-Jewish-Indian conspiracy.

First, the Indians started blaming the ISI for its connections to the Pakistani insurgents in Kashmir and the groups that attacked their parliament and Mumbai. Our establishment said India has been our declared enemy from the day Pakistan was made and hence they were trying to defame us. Some even say that this was a message to the Indians not to support the Malakand Taliban and Balochistan militants. These are contradictory statements.

Let us accept this for a minute. What about our other neighbour, Afghanistan, who accuses us of supporting the Taliban who attack their country? Oh rubbish! The Afghanistan government cannot manage its own country and is passing the blame right onto us. Right, what about the US and other NATO countries that support Afghanistan’s view? Are they are also making the Pakistani establishment their scapegoat to justify their failure?

What about the opposition leaders, journalists, human right activists and the Baloch and Sindhi nationalists who blame the agencies for missing people and the killings in Balochistan and FATA? Counter-reply: all those who are making allegations are Indian or CIA agents.

Should we believe in the famous Urdu saying “Zuban-e-khalq ko naqaar-ae-Khuda samjho” (Consider the voice of the masses as God’s herald)? If we are realistic, then the circumstantial evidence cannot be dismissed in our nationalist fervour. The country is already paying a heavy price with its blood for letting the military establishment and its agencies run national security policies unchecked. No civilised country allows this.

There are the starry-eyed among us who think that this is the time for the PPP-led government to take the initiative and establish the writ of the civilian government over the overgrown military arm. This issue of imbalance in the civil-military relationship is finally being discussed openly. It is not just a few sane journalists who have been saying this for many years, now it is also the Punjab-based party, the PML-N that has taken a lead on this issue.

For the second time in the history of Pakistan, the PPP-led government is going to miss an opportunity to push the military establishment out of the policy-making domain, which, under the constitution, is not their job. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto lost this chance when the military government lost half the country and ended up giving India 90,000 prisoners of war (POWs). Initially, he snubbed the general’s interference and chucked out General Gul Hassan, maintaining that no “Bonapartism” would be tolerated. But then he resurrected the army to its grand position and made the mistake of using it against the National Awami Party. The same generals later hanged Bhutto and ruled this wretched country for two decades directly and continue to rule the civilian governments indirectly.

The Present Zardari led PPP has the short-term political goal of completing its term and winning the next election. They do not want to annoy the military establishment. Secondly, there are too many corruption scandals in their cupboards to take a principled stand. So, to expect any courageous political move from them is unrealistic. Zardari is happy that the PML-N is not liked by the military establishment. Mian Nawaz Sharif’s bold stand that the military’s interference in policy-making and politics should be stopped has made amiable Zardari a ‘good chap’ for Kayani.

If the opposition is serious, it should move a well-drafted bill under which a parliamentary oversight committee is established for the ISI so that it is made accountable to civilian governments. Even the appropriation of funds should be under this committee as it is done in the US and other developed democracies. The other bill should clearly mention that any support to jihadi organisations for destabilising our neighbours is a constitutional violation and punishable by a life term. Please mark, I am not talking about toothless resolutions that cannot be implemented, I am talking about a constitutional act. If any amendment is needed in this respect we should do it. Unless the entire security establishment is cut to its natural size, we may see more of us dying Saleem’s way and the country bleeding more each day. Put the present government in the dock by moving such bills Mian sahib, otherwise all your rhetoric will be lost in thin air.

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Source: Daily Times