Far from perfect and with all its weaknesses, the democratic process is delivering. Pakistan cannot afford to give space to extremists and lose the war against extremism, … This is time for international community and liberal democratic Pakistanis to wake up
Ahmad Nadeem Gehla
Political leadership in Pakistan, is generally considered to be corrupt and inefficient. Although, perception is not entirely baseless, same is widely fed to public by establishment friendly intellectuals in electronic and print media. With democratic collation government in Islamabad, we have witnessed a new trend in political culture. Since, terrorism has become an unwanted curse, we have to live with, Minister for Interior Rehman Malik and brave leader of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa Mian Iftikhar made their presence felt, at incidents of terrorism and while facing media to gather popular support against extremists. Former Mayor of Karachi Mustafa Kamal and Chief Minister Punjab, Mian Shahbaz Sharif have actively been approaching the effected families in terrorism incident and cases of natural calamities.
The critics of culture of political activism, claim it to be an ‘eye wash’ and cover-up for government inefficacy and lack of planning and same can not be entirely brushed away. At the same time one must remember that government can not function effectively in absence of functional and efficient institutions. Thanks to dictatorships, institutions of state are broken, inefficient or even altogether absent . Political activism is becoming intense in presence of hostile media. For sake of adding ‘spice’, anchorpersons of TV talk show would gather political opponents and make them accuse each other of being responsible for everything ranging from climate change to natural disasters. Although some groups sympathetic to extremists have been using same medium and approach to confuse public but has not been able to create a space for their violent ideology in masses.
War of words turned in to a competition between Minister for Law, Babar Awan and Present Chief Justice of Punjab Khawja Muhammad Sharif making visits of Bar Associations. Although some sections of media accused this activity as ‘trading’ of lawyers sympathies’, fact remains that many Bar Associations were first time able to get basic amenities like public wash-rooms. Even Mian Nawaz Sharif had to call the terrorism victims of Ahmadi community as ‘brother Pakistani’s’ inviting criticism of extremist groups in order to to counter the visits of Governor Taseer and Rehman Maliks. The current floods has turned this ‘political activism’ in to a positive competition. Mr Nawaz Sharif accused President of leaving the country at time of natural disaster while touring flood victims which fuelled the presence of Prime Minister and his party leaders in effected areas.
On direction of their leadership, the members of Parliament, never accessible to their voters in past, are participating in rescue and relief efforts. President faced sharp criticism for his overseas visit while his daughter Bakhtawar Bhutto, was quick to launched a donation campaign, attracting a huge response from youth, collecting rupees five million in first hour of its launch. The major political parties are trying to reach more areas in order to earn a favourable public image. It would be premature to judge their sincerity and effectiveness but at the same, this is a beginning of new culture which can only grow in democratic environment. Those doing photo sessions, would ultimately be eliminated in next polls and those making a sincere effort would be rewarded duly by people.
A serious challenge is emerging from extremists organisations, responsible for nation’s destruction. Taliban offered amount of US $20 million, in case, government rejects the same amount of aid offered by USA. Although, we might witness international community playing a more effective role in coming days. The attention of international community and aid pledges still remain too little and too late while extremist organisations are already on ground. JuD, an organisation on UN terror list, claims of helping 250,000 families do far, each with Rs.5,000 in cash and household requirements. There are also reports of other extremists sympathetic to Taliban being involved in rescue operations. The NGO’s involved in relief efforts should also carry out the impact study on activities of extremist groups and and suggest counter measures. They are saving people so that they can recruit ‘human bombs’ by polluting minds of innocent,as famous saying of Bubdah, “An insincere and evil friend is more to be feared than a wild beast; a wild beast may wound your body, but an evil friend will wound your mind”.
There is an immediate need for an organised effort from government and international community to make their presence felt on ground in relief efforts. Although, USA has deployed 13 heavy lift helicopters for rescue operation and extended US$ 55 million in aid, still help from international community remains too little, given the magnitude of disaster. Much glorified, Islamic Ummah and OIC, as always remains limited to extending their collective prayers for the victims. Far from perfect and with all its weaknesses, the democratic process is delivering. Pakistan cannot afford to give space to extremists and lose the war against extremism, which we have won with blood of our soldiers and sacrifices of public. This is time for international community and liberal democratic Pakistanis to wake up and play their role in helping flood victims and government to overcome the biggest disaster of nations history.