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
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
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