Dawn Editorial August 21, 2019

Another term for the army chief

The extension of tenure given to army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa had been predicted by many observers.
The move, when it came, was justified by a reference to the ‘extraordinary circumstances’ that apparently could not allow another general to be elevated to the position of chief at this juncture.
However, even though it was an expected decision, the move was certain to draw criticism over a couple of important points that have long been a hot topic of debate in the country.
The first of these involves the absolute necessity of establishing a tradition of uninterrupted succession in an institution which is widely hailed as probably the finest in the country.
The principle of a smooth change of command merits utmost respect, otherwise there would have been no room in the rulebook for the provision of succession.
But it seems that instances of a routine transition are hard to come by in our case.
When Gen Ashfaq Kayani got an extension in 2010, the country was in the middle of a terrible war against militants for everyone to see and factor into any discussion related to Pakistan’s security.
However, even today, the situation is far from peaceful.
The Americans may be planning to withdraw from Afghanistan, but we now have a very tense situation with India, especially with the Kashmir crisis exacerbated by the Modi government.
Given the long history of turmoil in the region, it is unlikely that the situation will ever be perfect, but if regular, unhindered succession at the top is a worthy enough objective, the political leadership and the country’s arguably most organised and efficient institution will have to learn the ways of allowing the normal process to go on, even in times of regional troubles.
The second, much-discussed point pertains to the political class.
In 2010, the then-PPP government drew a lot of flak for allowing Gen Kayani to stay for an additional three years.
Among the strongest critics of the move was the current Prime Minister Imran Khan, who argued that under no circumstances was such a departure from principles justified. That was then.
In power since August 2018, Mr Khan has taken so many steps against his own, earlier principled positions that indulging in any kind of defence of his stance now would be a sheer waste of time.
He has indeed come a long way since the days when he struggled to appear unhurt by criticism about his alleged U-turns. At this time, his government has a number of pressing concerns to deal with.
Surely, it must try and live up to its own vision of itself as a powerful setup that is capable of taking on all challenges that previous governments before it dared not — not least because of the proximity between the prime minister and the army chief.

 

 

Trump’s efforts

US PRESIDENT Donald Trump’s advice that Pakistan and India must “work towards reducing tensions” in the wake of the abrupt cancellation of the special status and autonomy of India-held Kashmir shows just how grave the situation is between the two nuclear-armed states.
For historically, the Americans have only woken up and rushed to the region when the two neighbours have been on the brink.
And this is exactly where, Pakistan insists, the problem lies.
“A tough situation, but good conversations”, is how Mr Trump described the current state of affairs in this region through his tweet on Monday, after speaking by phone to the leaders of the two countries in the space of a few days.
Many on this side of the border would have taken Mr Trump’s latest attempt to disentangle Pakistan and India as a rudimentary effort at firefighting — not quite the mediation he offered over Kashmir during Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to the White House last month.
It is intended to de-escalate present hostilities to avert a potential war in the region that would have long-term repercussions for the entire world.
It is not aimed at facilitating a resolution to the decades-old Kashmir dispute.
This is not for the first time that America has intervened to ward off possible military conflict in the region. But this time, Washington should play a more proactive role and make good on Mr Trump’s ‘offer’ to mediate on the Kashmir dispute for long-term peace.
A constructive American engagement with both sides focused on finding a solution to the Kashmir dispute is important to ensure lasting peace in South Asia for the sake of its people as well as for international security and order.
The world has seen the two sides not being able to resolve the issue bilaterally.
The composite bilateral dialogue initiated in the late 1990s with the active facilitation of the world powers, including the US, is dead with no chance of its resurrection.
There is no doubt that India, which has always been averse to any suggestion of mediation over the Kashmir dispute by a foreign power or even by the UN, will put up strong resistance to such efforts.
Nonetheless, it is important to convince New Delhi to listen to the voice of reason once the international community, led by America, realises that peace and an improved relationship between India and Pakistan is in the best interest of all those with stakes in this region.

 

 

More than statistics

TODAY, the second International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism, represents an opportunity to recognise, honour and support the individuals, families and communities impacted by this evil scourge. The world over, terrorism remains a serious challenge to lasting peace and security. In countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, deadly attacks continue to plague all aspects of civilian life — from markets to workplaces, schools to places of worship, sporting to election events. Only days ago, the Shia Hazara community in Kabul was targeted yet again; turning a wedding celebration into a mass tragedy in an instant. It is not inaccurate to say that the world will soon forget about these casualties. All too often, we hear statistics, and move on.
So it is within Pakistan too. While terrorism in our country has decreased significantly in recent years, tens of thousands of lives have been cut short or forever altered by the lasting impacts of such attacks. Yet, while the apparatus exists for supporting the families of our fallen servicemen, a holistic, institutionalised response mechanism for civilian victims still eludes us. Pakistan often prides itself on its resilience, but it might be more accurate to say that we are inured to violence. If one of the objectives of terrorists is to alienate and divide communities, a befitting response would be to honour our bonds by providing long-term financial, legal, medical and psychosocial support for survivors and victims’ families. If terrorism thrives in the absence of justice, it is our moral duty to not only provide peace, but to preserve and protect the rights of victims by upholding the rule of law, ensuring transparency and accountability, and building victim-centred mechanisms into our criminal justice system. And, if individuals and communities scarred by terrorism are made involuntary experts by virtue of their experiences, including their voices in conversations about counterterrorism is essential. Today, let us pay tribute, pledge support and justice, and listen to victims of terrorism.
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