Dawn Editorial : March 20, 2012

Source : http://www.dawn.com/category/today-editorial

No end in sight

THE ‘memogate’ inquiry refuses to end. When Husain Haqqani offered on Sunday to expedite the proceedings by giving his testimony via video link from London, the inquiry commission ordered Mr Haqqani to appear in person before it, as per the terms of his departure from the country. It is not hard to fathom Mr Haqqani’s reasons for offering to testify via video link: he cannot really be relishing the circus that will be his return to Pakistan and his appearance before the commission again. But whatever the former ambassador’s reasons, anything that could help expedite the end of the memogate saga ought to be grabbed as eagerly as possible.

After all, the performance that Mansoor Ijaz has put in as the star witness has been so bizarre and underwhelming that the possibility that Mr Haqqani is in serious legal jeopardy has almost evaporated. Mr Ijaz’s penchant for making an outrageous allegation one day and then quietly suggesting he isn’t sure of its veracity the next has shredded his credibility to the point of nothingness. The latest bizarre claim that Mr Ijaz came up with under cross-examination on Sunday was that Mr Haqqani was dreaming of becoming the president of Pakistan with the help of the US. Many things are possible in Pakistan, and much bizarreness has been recorded in the history of this country, but the possibility of Mr Haqqani becoming president, even with outside help, must surely be regarded as one of the more ridiculous theories. The former ambassador may be a political chameleon and has always known how to land on his feet, but some political feats are surely beyond even the wiliest of minds.
The country, which has taken a look at the meat in memogate and collectively yawned, now has to wait another week for Mr Haqqani’s testimony denying that which hasn’t really been proved against him in the first place, no matter how lax the evidence standard employed. Perhaps it is helpful to remember the opportunity cost of the memogate commission hearings. Three serving chief justices of high courts are spending long hours wrestling with borderline silly claims and counter-claims in Islamabad while the infinitely more serious work of managing high courts weighed down by myriad administrative problems has been sidetracked. Because they are under orders from the Supreme Court, the high court chief justices on the memogate commission have to try and do their utmost to fulfil the SC’s orders. So perhaps the SC may want to think about issuing fresh instructions to the memo commission to wrap up its work as quickly as possible.

Khyber operation

ALARMING news has been coming out of the ongoing operation in Khyber Agency. Fourteen bodies found on Sunday raised suspicions that men in custody had been killed, a charge denied by security agencies. This followed the discovery of 12 bodies last week that locals claimed belonged to non-combatants. Civilians continue to be caught in the crossfire or in shelling. Meanwhile, Mangal Bagh and his Lashkar-i-Islam remain undefeated, holding onto control in certain areas of both Bara and Tirah and continuing to attack security forces. But this story is a longer one — military action in Khyber has been going on since the autumn of 2009. More than two years later, LI remains a threat, tens of thousands of residents remain displaced and security forces continue to get killed at the hands of militants. Largely independently of other domestic militant groups, and despite his enmity with the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, how did Mangal Bagh, a small-time transporter who got involved in a local religious dispute and later took over the LI, become such an intractable problem?
The issue appears to be not so much with the power or resources of Mangal Bagh himself as with the nature of the ongoing military activity in the agency. All kinds of resources were brought to bear when troops went into the settled areas of Malakand — the political leadership, the media and, of course, the army itself. IDPs have returned and, although security forces cannot yet leave, the state has largely restored its writ. The same commitment is lacking in Khyber. Those with knowledge of developments in the area claim the operation has been piecemeal and mismanaged. Little knowledge is shared about its progress besides occasional statements about the numbers of militants and soldiers killed. The political set-up in the area is reportedly kept out of the loop.
Meanwhile, the methods used in the operation, including shelling, mean that civilians continue to die and IDPs cannot return. It is time for committed and strategic action in Khyber, and greater transparency about why one man has been able to keep our security forces engaged for so long.

Sectarian vigilantes

AS reported in this paper on Friday, police officials believe that in Karachi, gangs of four to five men usually carry out targeted sectarian killings without any planning or formal instructions from major sectarian outfits. The rise in this trend of communal vigilantism is cause for concern, especially considering the extent of sectarianism in this country. Police officials say that Sunni sectarian groups such as the Sipah-i-Sahaba/Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat and its deadly offshoot Lashkar-i-Jhangvi have begun to target ordinary members of the Shia community, whereas in earlier decades mostly Shia professionals and scholars were killed. Conversely, Shia militants, apparently working under the banner of Sipah-i-Muhammad, have concentrated their attacks on SSP activists. Until 2008, most victims of sectarian violence in Karachi were Shia; however, as the report notes, the past two years have witnessed an increasing number of SSP workers killed, indicating that Shia militants have begun to strike back.
As the state has failed to punish sectarian killers, this is the natural outcome. Sectarian demagogues — often with blood on their hands — have been set free by the courts due to ‘lack of evidence’. This perhaps results from the fear of consequences of convicting a terrorist, as well as shoddy investigation methods. The state — particularly the law-enforcement and intelligence apparatus — is squarely responsible for letting the situation reach such alarming proportions. Justice has not been done, which has opened the door for sectarian operators who are often more radical than organised sectarian outfits. Perhaps there is still a small window of opportunity for the state to shake off its slumber and clamp down on sectarian groups by demolishing their infrastructure, cutting off their funding and prosecuting and punishing sectarian killers. The million-dollar question, of course, is whether the state has the courage and will to do this.

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