Take the bull by the horns
No place for theocracy
The religious parties would be mightily mistaken if they think they can overthrow the PML-N government through a 1977 type movement. ZAB’s s short-sighted policy of nationalising even the small and medium sized enterprises had alienated the entire business community which was champing at the bit to come out into the streets to overthrow Bhutto. Today, despite the spat over bringing it under tax net, the powerful class considers no party other than the PML-N capable of safeguarding its interests. Bhutto had dismissed the Balochistan government leading the NAP government in NWFP (now KP) to resign. He then got the party banned, arrested its leadership and instituted the fake Hyderabad Conspiracy case against them thus alienating the nationalists in two provinces. The bureaucracy had gone overboard to rig the polls. To crown it all Ziaul Haq was waiting for an opportunity to impose martial law. The PML-N commands majority in Parliament. Any threat to the system would lead PPP, ANP, National Party, and PkMAP to come out openly in government’s support. The army chief is apolitical.
Opposition to the Women’s Protection Act is just a ruse. What rankles the religious parties is the National Action Plan fully supported by the nation and its army. The religious parties draw sustenance from seminaries and are unhappy over the prospect of independent oversight of madrassas’ finances or sealing of some of the seminaries for promoting terrorism. The arrest of prayer leaders and clerics over hate speech and for distributing hate literature is also unacceptable to them.
There is a need on the part of the PML-N to take the opposition parties into confidence over the Women’s Protection Act and if necessary get the Parliament pass a similar bill for the country. Any agitation at a time when Pakistan is fighting an existential battle against terrorists amounts to sabotaging the attempts to bring peace. It is in national interest to get rid of extremism and project Pakistan’s image as a moderate, progressive and democratic country rather than a theocratic state.
Loopholes still unplugged
Since the Peshawar bus attack was the third of its kind (and the second in Peshawar) it must be accepted as an established, and successful, method of attack employed by the enemy. Yet, precisely because of the continuing trend, security agencies clearly continue to be behind the curve on this one, and it represents a glaring loophole that remains unplugged. There are too many passenger busses in the country to look after individually, of course, but surely a minimum security protocol can enable greater foresight. Such steps, unfortunately, have not been initiated yet.
Peshawar, needless to say, needs a little extra care in this regard, not the least because of its proximity to the tribal area and the number of passenger busses that go back and forth daily. Transport vehicles evidently need better checking upon entering the city. And, at the risk of repetition, the importance of improving intel gathering cannot be stressed enough. Bombs are not easily assembled nor their ingredients readily available near all target areas. It is during the process of gathering inputs and personnel for such assignments that intelligence agencies pick up ‘chatter’, which they use for preemption purposes. This requires real time information sharing between the dozens of agencies that litter the intel landscape. This, too, has not happened so far.
Having been uprooted from their sanctuary, the enemy must not be allowed to stabilise from its shaky Afghan sanctuary. Attack methods that repeatedly hit soft targets do not reflect well on the ongoing war effort, which has been largely successful. Yet the new year has seen renewed determination on the part of TTP. The government must immediately cork all security holes that have been identified. Zarb-e-Azb is at a crucial stage. The military has more or less wound up the groundwork in Waziristan, and it is time to head for urban centres. Soon, therefore, intelligence gathering and preemption will become even more important.