There are good tidings all round. The looming confrontation between the PPP and the military establishment over the writ of the Rangers in Sindh has been averted. Pakistan’s interior ministry and the British government are cooperating in investigating the murder of Dr Imran Farooq in London. Pakistan and India have broken the ice in Ufa, Russia, where Pakistan has been admitted as a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). Most significantly, the army chief, General Raheel Sharif, has approved the direction of Pakistan’s relations with China, USA and Russia and thumped his resolve to make Zarb e Azb not just a military operation “which will be carried to its logical end” but a new and dynamic concept in the making of a better Pakistan.
A timely intervention by Bilawal Bhutto has saved the day in Sindh. He sought and obtained a one-on-one meeting with the Corps Commander Karachi and DG Rangers before he was joined by the Sindh CM and then Governor Sindh. In the meeting, Mr Bhutto was at pains to stress full support to the military operation in the same fashion as Mr Asif Ali Zardari after his recent outburst against the military establishment but cautioned that it was inadvisable for the Rangers to target the PPP’s political base via media briefings and inspired leaks. He pledged to beef up and reorient the Apex Committee so that the Rangers would be helped rather than hindered in their tasks. It now remains for both sides to fulfill their part of the bargain so that the task at hand can be achieved expeditiously and the mandate of the Rangers extended to its “logical end”. If neither side had budged, the federal government would have been compelled to impose Governor’s Rule with adverse unintended political consequences.
If the PPP can breathe easily for now without eroding the objective of the clean-up operation, the same thankfully cannot be said for the MQM that is in the eye of the storm because of its reliance on terrorism as an unacceptable political tactic to leverage political power. The MQM leadership is in a shambles following revelations of MQM leaders’ contacts with India’s intelligence agencies and the shocking ouster of Mohammad Anwar from the very top echelons of the MQM in London akin to the earlier expulsion of Dr Ishratul Abad, Governor Sindh, from the ranks of the MQM. Now a decision appears to have been taken in Islamabad to extend full assistance to the British authorities to uncover both the money laundering trail and the secret hand behind the murder of Dr Imran Farooq. It is time the continuous murderous mayhem in Karachi is finally and unequivocally brought to an end in the national interest even if it means tightening the noose around the MQM leaders who have brought it to this pass.
The meeting between the two Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan at Ufa is also a good development even though the usual suspects in Pakistan are decrying the lack of mention of Kashmir in the joint statement by Pakistan as an undue concession to the Indians. But the fact of the matter is that it is in Pakistan’s interest more than in India’s right now to reduce tensions so that the Pakistani military is not diverted from its more immediate task of fighting terrorism on its own soil. Recognition of the world’s right to demand and expect more from Pakistan by way of bringing the Mumbai accused to justice is also in line with our stated policy-determination to uproot all forms of terrorism based in Pakistan, whether against Pakistan itself or against neighbours India and Afghanistan. Indeed, the insertion of the clause in the joint statement relating to Mumbai is a Pakistani quid pro quo to China that recently vetoed the Indian push to have the UN sanction Pakistan on the basis of the “fact” that the Lakhvi trial hasn’t gone anywhere in years and the main accused has recently been released by a court for lack of prosecutor interest in the matter. If Kashmir wasn’t mentioned in a joint statement, it certainly wasn’t for the first time in the last twenty years and it certainly has no bearing on the long-term search for an enduring compromise on the dispute.
Finally, the army chief’s determination to end the role of armed non-state actors as adjuncts in the state’s national security policy is long overdue and most welcome. It is both an admission of a national security policy facing adverse returns and a reiteration of the progressive way forward now. The fact that the civilian rulers and the military establishment are genuinely on the same page on this issue is a sign, finally, of the long awaited paradigm change. All that remains now is for the civilians to accept the dire need for good and clean governance as public service so that these gains are not lost.