WEB DESK: For a meeting as crucial as the one the prime minister had with the Army chief on Monday the statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office was rather bland and sketchy. “Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif presided over a high-level meeting on security.
Matters related to national and internal security were discussed during the meeting,” it said. Given that the meeting was in continuation of ongoing discussion between the political and military leadership on the security situation in Punjab which touched a high watermark in the wake of the Easter Sunday massacre the Prime Minister’s Office was expected to be a bit generous in use of words. But it was not, as if not much of commonality could be obtained in this third meeting between the two sides. Earlier, Army Chief General Raheel Sharif had met Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif before he met Finance Minister Ishaq Dar.
But the perceptional mismatch over the issue of invoking military power in aid of civil administration in Punjab remained. If that is no more there following the third meeting, it is in the realm of the unknown – as aptly reflected from the statement. However, unidentified sources tend to suggest that the impasse as to ‘ownership of the operations’ the military leadership launched the very next morning of the incident largely persisted at the third meeting. While some say the military leadership insisted on continuing with the ‘same scale and strength’ with which they initiated operations in some districts of Punjab the others say that the prime minister agreed to only ‘intelligence-based operations’ and that too for a limited period.
What is it that’s holding out the political leadership on the question of requisitioning services of Rangers to eradicate the militants’ hideouts in Punjab? Is it that by consenting to deployment of paramilitary forces the minders of the Fortress Punjab would be accepting their failure? Or, is it that the rulers in Lahore don’t want to be addressed ‘you too, Brutus’ by their once-upon-a-time comrades-in-arms?
We have no answers to these questions. But we do know that given the enormity of threat posed by militants and extremists to the lives of ordinary people of Pakistan there is just no room for nonchalance on an issue as critical as growing incidence of terrorism in Punjab. From this third brainstorming session a definitive plan to effectively counter the ever-looming threat of terrorism was expected to emerge. Police is largely politicised everywhere, including Punjab. Once a while it would conduct deadly encounters with dacoits, but fighting hardcore terrorists is not its forte. Its credibility as a trustworthy force is also being questioned.
Therefore, it has not been able to eradicate the curse of extremism and terrorism from the soil of Punjab in an effective manner – just like in Karachi. And if in Karachi it fell to the lot of Rangers to fight out extremists and terrorists and revive peace and tranquillity of the megacity why not in Lahore or any other city of Punjab. Perhaps, what stands in the way of political leadership agreeing to operations by Rangers is the proven-right apprehension that keeping some of the elected members beyond the reach of the paramilitary forces may become problematic. Seemingly, the PML (N) government doesn’t want to commit the ‘folly’ the PPP government in Sindh did by letting in the Rangers.
But that’s a myopic perception, and counter-productive to the idea of obtaining durable peace which serves a sitting political government better than another consideration. Of course, the military leadership would not like to impose its diktat, but it would definitely like the political leadership to comprehend the enormity of the challenge and accept reality that there is no option other than a comprehensive plan to secure peace in the Punjab.
Source: Business Recorder