Pakistan: Politicking on refugees

Daily Times
As the refugee problem intensified in Malakand Division after the military operation there, PMLN legislators in the National Assembly decided on Wednesday to criticise the government for not consulting parliament before launching the offensive. The answer from the PPP MNAs was that the government had no other option after the failure of the peace deal with the Taliban. Is this the beginning of a policy of isolating the government on a national issue of paramount importance for narrow party political ends?

A PMLN leader delivered a hard-hitting speech favouring the street rumour — and the line adopted by the opposition outside the parliament — that “the government had launched the military operation on the US dictate in order to earn dollars”. Surprisingly, the same leader, at a loss for a solution of his own, insisted that the government should still try “a negotiated settlement of the dispute”.

After that, a very dubious argument was deployed: “The government is trying to fool us. They sought the approval of the parliament for the Nizam-e Adl Regulation when it was not needed, but completely ignored it for the crucial decision of launching the military operation. The parliament has become irrelevant”. But the charge of naiveté on the part of Parliament is not sincere. The truth is that the refugee crisis after the military operation has created an opportunity for the policy of “isolate and oust”.

The PMLN is zeroing in — despite declarations of political piety by its leader Mr Nawaz Sharif. Why was an APC over the post-peace deal situation not called, he wants to know. The prime minister has already said that there was no time for it unless the unintended consequence was to give the Taliban time to consolidate further. However, he has promised to hold the APC now. But the objections have become more fundamental and hark back to the days of the lawyers’ movement and the slogan of “it’s not our war”.

“The Taliban issue has been mishandled. Our army cannot win this war. You (government) cannot win this war. If we continue on the way we are headed, this system will not survive,” said the PMLN leader at the National Assembly. Another said, “This operation will not reach a logical end because the government has zero credibility”. Yet another said the operation was a “drama” — “being staged to roll back Pakistan’s nuclear programme”.

All over the world, politicians go through this charade in times of crisis. In India, for example, after every flooding and displacement of its east coast populations, the opposition goes on the rampage. The only difference is that in Pakistan politicians aim at toppling the government before its tenure is completed. Popular opposition leaders burnish their popularity further by beginning to shine dangerously during crises. But this time it is not a natural calamity that threatens Pakistan, it is an alien terrorist presence that wants to oust democracy and replace it with despotism.

The media highlights the refugee problem, not to dishearten the public, but to spur the government to take a close look at its remediable derelictions. But unfortunately some anchors display an animus that is unworthy and disruptive of the national effort to stand behind our army as it battles with the terrorists and loses its precious manpower as casualties of war. Last time the media adjudged the state as a total failure in the face of the 2005 earthquake, the world turned around and praised the rescue and resettlement efforts made by it and quoted it as an example to the rest of the stricken states.

Pakistan is not fighting for American dollars, and no one is after its nuclear weapons; it is fighting the war of its survival beyond the point of “negotiating” with the terrorists. And the refugee problem is tough like all refugee problems anywhere else in the world. If the politicians stop undermining national unity at this stage, we are sure to win this war.

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