It appears that the joint session of the Parliament meant for Pakistan Army’s briefing about the Abbottabad killing of Osama Bin Laden dodged the issue it needed to focus on. From the very beginning, through media manipulators the opinion environment was influenced in favor of the incompetence theory: that Army and intelligence agencies never knew Osama was hiding in Abbottabad, and it was after the US helicopters were out doing their operation successfully that they came to know about it and that it was due to the lack of required technology. That is forgivable!
Is the incompetence, issue at all? Not in this case! That 9/11 blatantly implied incompetence on the part of the US security services is more than true. However, it was something human imagination could never dream of and their intelligence services too did not pry out about. But Osama’s Abbottabad hiding is not something human intelligence could not find, and it did find him finally.
So the real issue is complicity and overstepping the constitutional mandate! The information got out of the Parliament’s closed session tells a different story of sovereignty sentimentalism eclipsing all other issues, as is borne out by its outcome, the resolution. Probably none took up the issue of Pakistan Army’s grabbing of civilian powers of formulating defense and foreign policy. None dared ask the security leaders about their past and present interfering in the political affairs of the country, and intelligence agencies’ meddling in civilian affairs, and more than that intervening in public and private sphere of political and civil society leadership, and their penchant to control media. None found courage of challenging their complicity with the Taliban and other brands of extremists in Pakistan, and giving safe heaven to Osama in Abbottabad’s garrison area. In sum, making a defense and foreign policy of their own.
This if true makes the whole exercise ‘enacted’ in the Parliament, futile, and stuff for the public consumption only. The structure of the tinted state of Pakistan with its security establishment sitting at the top stands intact in the same old mould. The Parliament and the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party government do not seem interested in bringing any change in the current set-up of policy- and decision-making. Though the Peoples Party government knows well that the Osama’s hiding and killing by the US Special Forces in Abbottabad cuts the security set-up both ways, it is too afraid to rein it in to move towards a sovereign democratic government in Pakistan. Instead it is more prone to help it out of the crisis this time again, like the Peoples Party’s founder Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto did in 1971 when in the wake of Dacca defeat about a hundred thousand Pakistani soldiers were made war prisoners by Indian Army.
This is where the US needs to work and deploy its diplomatic forces and pressure. It should strengthen the civilian government in Pakistan, negotiate with the elected rulers as representatives of the sovereign citizens of Pakistan, and treat them as the sole decision- and policy-making body of the Pakistani state, instead of its security set-up. This is what Kerry-Lugar Act took to ensure.
The long-term democratic stability in Pakistan will ultimately benefit US war not only against the local terrorist organizations but global terrorist networks also. Osama’s hiding and other such structures supporting terrorist outfits are, no doubt, in the eyes of the Pakistan constitution, unlawful and unconstitutional.
As the US must have learned some hard lessons from its fast friends, now it must see Pakistan through the long-term prism if it really wants to see no terrorist structures live and flourish within its boundaries. It should come to the constitutionally legitimate civilian government to look for anything it needs to fight the global terrorism. That will strengthen constitutionalism in Pakistan, and in due course bring rule of law not tolerating any unconstitutional actors and flouters of the law of the land, which ultimately shrink the space for terrorist adventurism.
The writer is founder/head of the Alternate Solutions Institute.