Taseer’s Assassination Shows Shocking Trends
By Salahuddin Haider
Karachi , Pakistan
The assassination of Punjab governor Salman Taseer in Islamabad by a member of an elite police force, was not only tragic but showed shocking trends among security agencies, deployed for the safety of VIPs in a country, torn by violence and terrorism.
A young bearded police man, picked from a carefully selected band of security hounds, Mohammad Hussain Qadri, pumped nine bullets in the body of a person, whose life he was supposed to protect from attack by outsiders. That he himself chose to be the killer, is scary and gives a lot of food for thought for those running the country.
First, and most importantly it confirmed a dangerous trend of fanaticism having crept in security forces because the guard shot Governor Taseer for his criticism as bad law of the Namoos-e-Risalat, containing clauses meant to show respect to the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
Late Salman Taseer had described it as a bad law. That statement infuriated the guard and when the late governor came out of an Islamabad restaurant after taking lunch with a friend, he shot him dead. After that he laid down his gun and turned himself over to the police.
The declaration of three-day mourning by the prime minister in the country, and two weeks mourning by the ruling Peoples Party, is a befitting tribute to the departed soul, but such decisions can, at best be categorized as ceremonial. The vital factor, demanding proper evaluation is up to what extent has this fanaticism afflicted our security forces, be it police, elite force, military or the para-military rangers. That question needs thorough and dispassionate investigation.
A proper policy must now be laid down to screen out security force members, before recruitment, and during their service. Even the Pakistani military has not remained unaffected. Former President General Pervez Musharraf had forcibly retired two of his senior three-star officers, General Mahmood and General Osmani. One headed the all-important triple brigade of West Ridge near Rawalpindi, and the second was commander of 5th Corps in Sindh. They both had played crucial roles in saving Musharraf when his aircraft, bringing him back from an official tour of Sri Lanka, was ordered to be diverted to an alternate airport in Pakistan. General Osmani had taken control of the Karachi airport to make sure that Musharraf remained safe and in saddle, General Mahmood had led the squad of over 50 officers and soldiers to seize power from the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Oct 12,1999. Both were very close to Musharraf but when the time for bombing in Afghanistan came on 7th November 2001, he got rid of them because of American pressure. Both were known for their sympathies for the Taliban.
Americans considered them as fundamentalists, and advised Musharraf to strip them of their control over the Pakistan army. It was done without hesitation because Musharraf needed American support to ensure his place in power.
It is now a common knowledge that there is considerable sympathy among the army, and other branches of the military, for Taliban because of their firm faith in religion. General Pervez Ashfak Kayani exercises extreme control over such elements and since he commands respect among his soldiers and officers because he got them the latest arms and ammunition to strengthen their fighting capabilities, he is obeyed. However, there is always a thin line between showing respect and obeying orders willingly. That line needs to be protected, which Kayani has succeeded in winning loyalties of his men in uniform.
It is because of this and several other factors which has held back Kayanai from extending the army operation against the Taliban in North Waziristan and in Balochistan. The military’s argument is very simple. First it did not wish to over-commit its men towards Afghanistan issue alone, and secondly, such a policy would leave our eastern borders with India unsafe.
The situation in Indian-held Kashmir is explosive and can lead to any kind of eventuality. Kayani and his colleagues are conscious of that, and have purposely resisted US pressure to move into North Waziristan and commit forces in Quetta and other towns of Balochistan, the country’s south-western province, already in turmoil since the murder of eminent Baluch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti and because of the stories about the miseries of the missing persons. Reportedly they have been in army custody. Partly this has been confirmed by the Punjab home secretary in his testimony before the Supreme Court in Islamabad, and partly the army has also now begun to admit, but seems reluctant to release them for unspecified reasons.
Believably these reasons must be very cogent and must relate to security of the country, but then the government must give these people a fair trial to restore confidence of the people in the administration’s ability to deal with tricky situations such as the one prevailing in Balochistan where only till a few months before, the provincial chief minister was warned against delivering a pro-Pakistan speech, and where playing of the national anthem was either banned in certain extremists strongholds or was detested by the young radicals.