The State Adrift?
By Shireen M. Mazari

Is the state adrift in terms of clarity over policies? It would seem to be so if we examine recent pronouncements from different levels of leadership and actual actions by the state.
On the home front there is the challenge to the writ of the state by the violent extremists of Jamia Hafsa and Fareedia right in the capital itself. At the declaratory level, the president himself has assured that extremism will not be tolerated since the greatest threat to the country is from within, especially from extremists threatening terrorism if their will is not accepted.
Unfortunately, on the ground, actions being taken by the state are in clear contradiction of the presidential statements in that law and order have been cast aside and dialogue with the lawbreakers is being indulged in even as the extremists continue to up the ante. Worse still, a cabinet member has declared that he saved a terrorist from arrest.
The result has been terrorization of civil society and threats of more violent terror in the form of suicide bombings. The latest in this connection was the horrific news that members of a banned extremist organization, specializing in suicide attacks, have sent some of their leaders to the Lal Masjid to abet those holding the state to ransom. Worse still, if the news item is to be believed, one of the leaders on being arrested was ordered to be released by some powerful quarters.
To add to the confusion, bizarre and unfounded rumors abound that the state has itself engineered the whole Jamia Hafsa crisis to detract from the judicial crisis in which the state is now in a clearly no-win position regardless of the eventual outcome. Even the factor of damage control is being minimized as the crisis drags on. But the Jamia Hafsa crisis has long-term damaging consequences for civil society at all levels -- far worse than any political crisis -- in that it touches the very essence of our and our future generations' social, moral and political fiber. In any event, as we see the crisis unfold, what is visible is the lack of the state's writ rather than any cleverly engineered government or "agency" plot.
Nor is the drift of the state only limited to critical domestic issues. On the external front also, there seems to be a disconnect between what is happening on the ground and statements emanating from some political leaders. The most visible example of this drift is with regard to India and the existing conflicts -- not just Kashmir but also Sir Creek and Siachen. In the case of the latter, we had the bizarre situation where before the last Pakistan-India meeting on the issue, the Pakistani Foreign Minister was announcing with surety that an agreement was at hand, or about to be initialed. Yet the last round of talks got nowhere since the Indians clearly are unprepared to move an iota from their new, hard-line position that Pakistan must authenticate Indian troops' withdrawal positions before any Indian movement out of Siachen. The Indians know full well that any such authentication would be tantamount to Pakistan recognizing India's claims on the glacier.
In addition, Indians are not only bolstering their military facilities in Siachen, they are also reportedly raising another brigade for the glacier. So India has no intent of moving out permanently from Siachen. Yet, again relying on extremely reliable sources, it has been learnt that our Foreign Office, in an unofficial or "non-paper" paper has suggested that Pakistan would add an annexure to a Siachen agreement where we would take note of the Indian withdrawal positions. As had been discussed in detail in an earlier column, such a move would also legally, under international law, imply recognition of India's claim on the glacier. So who is being fooled here?
Beyond Siachen, even on Kashmir, while President Musharraf, in genuine effort to move out of the stalemate, suggested possible ways to move the two sides towards eventual conflict resolution, India has shown no interest in responding positively. Instead, it has sought to reassert its control over Occupied Kashmir while seeking greater access into AJK through demands for greater economic access from Indian-Occupied Kashmir (IOK) into AJK. It has also sought to hold out political concessions to the Kashmiris in IOK but within the confines of the Indian Constitution and state. Despite these very visible developments, the Pakistani foreign minister last week declared that soon Parliament would be presented with proposals for a settlement of the Kashmir issue. Unless we are prepared to accept the Indian position of the status quo and are prepared to get into the rut of CBMs for the sake of CBMs alone, there is nothing new from the Indian side to make us believe that a settlement is in sight. This is the reality on the ground so on what is the state basing its assumption that a settlement is near? Equally important, the president's proposals, the core of which is a sequential order, seem to have been all but ignored by those in a hurry to what amounts to an appeasement of India. Or perhaps here again there is a certain disconnect and drift within the state.
This is even more glaring in the case of Sir Creek where unilaterally we have accepted the India position to delineate the border from the water moving inland, as India had been demanding. Only when we made this unilateral concession, India moved forward towards map surveys and so on. What prompted this unilateral concession? Where are we headed in terms of dialogue and peace with India within a wider context if unilateral concessions are going to be the hallmark?
Even on the issue of the war on terror, which has effectively degenerated into a perceived war for control of energy resources and strategic territories, the writ of the Pakistani state is seen as wavering. Again, while the president has once again come out forcefully, and quite correctly, to declare that without trust the war against Al Qaeda will fail and if the US/NATO/Karzai histrionics against Pakistan continue, we may simply opt out of the cooperation on the war on terror, however developments on the ground are undermining the president's position. The Pakistani state has been unable to assert its biometric program at Chaman as a result of Afghan opposition; and, even on the issue of the fencing, which is our sovereign right, we have not retaliated assertively to Afghan forces' use of violence along the international border against Pakistani posts.
In the case of the US alliance with the terrorist group Jundullah for covert operations against Iran in Sistan, the US media is replete with reports of Pakistan providing its territory for this purpose. While the Pakistani state is not suicidal to allow this, is the US exploiting its lack of writ in the border region with Iran? Is the state adrift here as well?
While the drift may be merely a perception -- and an incorrect one at that -- perceptions become as important as the reality and the state needs to show the civil society that its writ is strong across the land and it will not succumb to violent blackmail from within and pressure from outside. Equally important, institutional records must be there, accompanying institutional inputs into policy-making. Most important, though, the leadership must never allow itself to be isolated to an encircling coterie of sycophants.
(Dr Shireen Mazari is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. Courtesy The News)


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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