Rare meeting (The News International, Pakistan)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011
With the heads of all the principal civil and military bodies getting around the same table for the first time in this government, and a slew of visits by Americans carrying repair kits, it is clear that the political winds have shifted. The shock to the system provided by the Osama bin Laden raid and the attack on the PNS Mehran base has been profound. It has exposed weaknesses in our security apparatus and, at the same time, appears to have forced a re-evaluation of our relations with America. The military has stated in the clearest possible terms that it has no interest in governing the country, and at the same time offered support for what passes for democracy. The civil power has decided that the Bin Laden raid was a raid too far and seems to have put its foot down with the Americans. Taking these events together one can see why it was time all the guarantors of the existence of the state got around the table to make sure they were all reading from the same page and could present a unified voice to the population. In the end it came down to a single-line communiqué and a resolve not to ‘accept any external pressure’ regarding who or what we should be attacking, and where and when to attack who or what.

The American repair team of Clinton, Kerry, Grossman and Mullen has applied its toolkits with varying success over the last six weeks. They have persisted in their calls for military operations and reiterated their belief in the criticality of Pakistan in the fight against extremism. But it is the bigger fight that we hardly ever hear of that needs to be joined, fought and won. Whatever battle is fought militarily, it is the battle against the insidious creeping mindset of extremism that is of the greatest importance. There is no point in winning physical battles against extremists if the culture and conditions that produced those extremists are unchanged, and thus produce more extremists to fight yet another battle with. Battle, like much of the national debt burden, becomes circular. Extremism has been fostered by poor governance, the spread of corruption, a failure to invest in education at primary level and a chronic failure of politicians to collectively think, plan and act together in a way that guarantees our future rather than lines their pockets. Unless we fight extremism at its roots, every battle we fight in Waziristan will be the prelude to another battle we have to fight later.

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