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 SAVING THE FEDRATION OF PAKISTAN

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MAJOR(R)KHALID NASR
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PostSubject: SAVING THE FEDRATION OF PAKISTAN   Sun Dec 30, 2007 8:17 am

ARTICLES, OPINIONS & NEWS
Pakistan Think Tank Invited Distinguished Commentator
Saving the federation
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Saving the federation

Babar Sattar

The menacing curse cast upon the federation of Pakistan continues to
play itself out in harrowing ways. Benazir Bhutto's assassination was
an abhorrent act that has shocked the entire world. Her demise is being
grieved not just by the Bhutto family, the Pakistan Peoples Party and
its members and supporters, but by the entire nation. The shock and
sorrow at Bhutto's killing quite expectedly aroused a violent reaction
across the country. Such violence will in all probability subside as
more time passes after the burial ceremony and the reality of this
tragedy sinks in. While in the immediate-term this one event will
characterize the politics of Pakistan, its medium- to long-term
consequences for the country cannot even be meaningfully fathomed at
this stage.

Bhutto's assassination is both a product of and has consequences for
the three fault lines that define the reality and the future of our
state and our nation: the extremist-moderate divide; the
centre-province divide; and the civil-military divide. Bhutto led
Pakistan's only mainstream liberal political party that dominated the
centre-left of the country's ideological spectrum and had mass appeal
across all four federating units. Her role was considered crucial for
the future of the country, at an exceptionally tenuous time in its
history, as she carried the promise of helping the country steer in the
right direction in relation to all three fault lines.

Bhutto was a liberal voice who had vowed to fight obscurantism and
terrorism in Pakistan. Her assassination has raised more questions
about the strength and influence of the forces of obscurantism within
the state of Pakistan. The question of responsibility for this murder
will continue to be raised in the days to come. Al Qaeda has reportedly
assumed ownership of this horrendous act. But irrespective of the
veracity of such claim, even if the state and security agencies had no
part in the commission of this crime, they cannot be absolved of their
liability for acts of omission that allowed the impending threat
against Bhutto to be carried out.

The threat to Bhutto's life was unmistakable. Before returning to
Pakistan in October she had written a confidential letter to President
Musharraf that identified four key individuals within the ruling regime
and the state security apparatus who should be held responsible in the
event that she was murdered. Her concerns were vindicated by the twin
bomb attacks on her convoy in Karachi that claimed 160 lives. The
country was baffled by security lapses that surrounded that gory
incident -- jamming devices malfunctioned and streetlights had been
switched off. Bhutto had claimed that the incident was not a random
suicide attack but a planned assassination plot and had demanded that
international forensic experts be engaged to conduct an impartial
inquiry into the incident.

The Musharraf regime rebuffed the demand off hand asserting that
Pakistan's security agencies had the capability to conduct an effective
inquiry. No significant information regarding the Karachi attack and
its perpetrators has been produced so far. The PPP continued to lament
the compromised security provided for Bhutto since the Karachi incident
without avail. It is now clear that a well-planned and meticulously
executed assassination plot claimed her life and not a random suicide
attack. The suicidal blow-up essentially functioned as a cover-up to
conceal the perpetrators. Even more shocking was footage of such a
major crime scene being washed up by state janitors along with the
murder weapon and all the evidence that could help trace the killers.

In retrospect one feels almost silly at being stunned by the successful
assassination. Were we not leading up to this eventuality? Bhutto was a
high-risk target. Her foes kept attacking her. The ruling regime did
little to safeguard her life and security. She kept protesting and the
ruling regime kept belittling her demands as 'politics'. (So effective
was the ruling regime's propaganda that many in the country were
actually convinced that she had orchestrated the Karachi attacks to
boost her support.) Eventually her assailants got her. And now we
wonder in shock and disbelief how all of this could transpire before
our eyes.

The issue of accountability for this national tragedy is not easy. But
the time to act is now before the simmering anger and resentment
acquires a form that begins to threaten the existence of our federation
and the soul of this nation. General Musharraf presides over this
country and the buck must stop with him and not any minions. Blaming Al
Qaeda or the Taliban or unidentifiable terrorists is a no-brainer. Al
Qaeda or the Taliban are not responsible to ensure the integrity of
Pakistan and the security of this nation, its leaders and its citizens.
The general assumed that responsibility and it could not be more
obvious at this stage that he has utterly failed to carry it out.

First of all, the general must own up his failure and step aside. This
nation must fight to save itself from the scourge of terror, but we
have a better chance without the general being in charge. Second, an
independent investigation team must be assembled to probe this murder.
Given that this will be a fact-finding mission, this team must have an
international component that can bring to the table not just forensic
and scientific expertise, but also credibility. Given Pakistan's failed
history of producing the truth in the aftermath of such calamities, a
local investigation team will be perceived as a cover-up ploy. And
third, we must form a non-partisan national commission to investigate
the influence of obscurantism and extremists within our security
apparatus.

Pakistan is in dire need for security sector reform. The powers
exercised by our state security apparatus is not always backed by
legislative mandate and is completely devoid of civilian oversight. In
the backdrop of the Lal Masjid saga, suicide bombings across Pakistan
(and even within a military establishment) and now the assassination of
Bhutto, it is essential to verify that there are no hold-outs within
our security agencies that are either complicit with or sympathetic to
the forces of extremism. We must engender clarity, certainty and
confidence with regard to the hierarchy, structure and functioning of
the civil and military security agencies, their mutual interaction and
their mechanisms for internal accountability. Without this doubts will
continue to loom with regard to their role in the state and conspiracy
theories will fester.

Bhutto's murder will further strain our already vulnerable state of
centre-province relationship. At this stage it is crucial for the PPP
to stay intact as a liberal force of national cohesion. With no
internal party democracy or succession planning, this will indeed be a
challenge. The remnants of the Bhutto family, Asif Zardari and
second-tier political leadership of the PPP shoulder the responsibility
of rising above parochial and personal interests the preventing the
party from degenerating into provincial factions. The death of Bhutto
will aggravate the insecurity of minority provinces and stroke fires of
separatism. Provincial leaders such as Altaf Hussain must resist the
temptation to arouse and capitalize on this growing insecurity by
hurling opportunistic accusations at Punjab.

Further, Nawaz Sharif as the leader of the other mainstream national
party -- that is identified predominantly with Punjab -- will have a
role to play in stemming the alienation of Sindh and other minority
provinces. Holding national elections at this juncture is simply not a
viable option. A government of national unity must be formed to rule
Pakistan in the interim period. The composition of such government and
the effective representation of the provinces therein could go a long
way in generating legitimacy for the political process that will
follow. As a prominent national leader belonging to the majority
province, Nawaz Sharif must fight for the representation of the
minority federating units in such national government.

This is a time in Pakistan's history when all state institutions and
individuals leading them must tread with care and caution and take
deliberate strides toward national reconciliation. And in this context
the role of the military and the army chief cannot be overemphasized.
They must understand that no administrative solution can rescue us from
the storm we are weathering. The army must strengthen and support
civilian political forces to embrace this challenge and steer the
country to safer shores by stepping aside from politics as a neutral
institution of national unity. Pakistan can only emerge as a moderate
democracy and functional federation once the rule of law and civilian
control of the military take root.

AJURIS, Advocates & Corporate Counsel
51-A, St # 63, F-8/4
Islamabad



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Reader Comments: [post comment]

Mohamed

A very good article, but I dont feel that the KING can listen such voice, This is a murder of democracy, assassination of centre-province relation and the nation-militry relations. And it has definitely been done for the same purpose. The general will never own up his failure and step aside, till he destroy the country. Nation is fighting to save itself from the scourge of terror of Musharraf and his criminal team. but at the same time peoples like Z.Hamid are countering such thoughts for his KINGS against entire nation's rights, I wonder, how such peoples are allowed here as THINK TANKS? Independent investigation team WILL NEVER be assembled to probe this murder. As peoples like Z.Hamid will be opposing on this forum also with nonsense puppits-sponsored propaganda. If the assassination was carried out by Al-Qaeda or Taliban then a fact-finding mission was possible and a team of international component that can bring to the table not just forensic and scientific expertise, but also credibility. Look into the so-called government statements, every statement conflicts with the other, what does it mean?, they have decided before any investigation what to prove by an inquiry, so, how it can be expected. No one will think about a non-partisan national commission to investigate the influence of obscurantism and extremists within our security apparatus because the present regime is more terrorist than Al-Qaeda and Taliban, I dont know these comments will be published or not, hence this is a truth





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