Pakistan Enters Defining Moment for Change

Reluctantly but finally, Pakistan has been drawn into an inescapable battle that it ought to have initiated many moons back. The reality is that we have entered a defining battle that would decide if Pakistan will emerge as a strong, tolerant and law-abiding nation or be overrun by a barbaric militia. For both sides, the only acceptable solution would be a complete meltdown of the other party. The government and the people of Pakistan must therefore understand that the long, hot season of ineptness, indecisiveness and deception is over. It may just be the final roll call to stand up and deliver — for history is never kind or forgiving to those who default on this account.

Extraordinary developments place extraordinary expectations on the government and the people of Pakistan. While the army engages the militants, there is simultaneously a need to organise and push for real reforms and accountability within the lifeless body of our trumped-up democratic order. The election commission, a collection of archaic bureaucrats, needs to be replaced with a structure that can prevent the same lot of corrupt, fake and criminal elements from taking turns. All this would not be possible without a massive peoples’ movement for electoral reforms.

Despite persistent demands by members of the civil society, the state has emphatically refused to understand and act upon the deep link between crime, militancy and the instruments that are used to execute these unlawful acts. Weapons, illegal vehicles, untraceable SIMs and a hugely unprofessional and politicised police come together to form a lethal combination that breeds and promotes crimes of all shades. A nationwide programme to forcibly withdraw weapons from all individuals and private militias and cancel all gun licences must be the first logical step in our fight against violence and militancy.

It is heartening to note that the government has designated ‘surrender points’ for the TTP militants who wish to bid farewell to arms. This, however, needs to be massively advertised by newspapers, radio, TV and by dropping pamphlets from air. Also, the ‘surrender points’ should be extended to all towns and cities of Pakistan. Need we remind ourselves that the war against militancy will remain a facade unless we force every urban, rural and tribal militant to lay down weapons.

Pakistan’s police force became dysfunctional a long time back. It has now graduated to being a partner in most crimes. An SSP working in a remote town of Sindh can have five policemen accompany his son in Karachi to go and kill an A-level student — all in the line of duty. An organisation doing more harm than good must be shut down and replaced by a completely new structure.

Finally it is time for Pakistan to take charge and establish its writ uniformly over all territories that constitute the state. All tribal territories must be brought under complete state control and state laws. An effective civilian management system must be in place to take over from the army, once the militants are flushed out. Biometric verification of citizens, telephone SIMs and vehicle owners must be put in place for all territories, including the tribal areas. Pakistan’s thoughtful and committed citizens must come together for change and reform a system that its ruling class is hell-bent to preserve. If there was ever a time to push for change and reform in Pakistan — it is here and now

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