Why not extend the axe to other provinces? Asks Faisal Karim Kundi
The army chief’s decision to retire on time has stirred quite a storm. Once again civ-mil imbalance is back at the top of the news. And nobody, at least in the poplar media, takes the chief’s statement at face value. There is always something behind such statements, it seems, and the truth – going by most analysts – is always closer to what has not been said.
And, truth be told, the government is clearly not in control of most things that are most important. The war is one example. Everybody remembers how the government wanted to keep talking to the Taliban, yet the military put its foot down and initiated Zarb-e-Azb after the Karachi airport attack a little over a year-and-a-half ago.
The same is true for foreign policy. That these are pressing times diplomatically amounts to over-simplifying the issue. There is tension with Afghanistan; there are opportunities as well as setbacks with India, and ties with the US are in unchartered territory, especially with Washington looking to wind up in Afghanistan. Yet Pakistan – arguably the pivotal country in this mix – is still without a full-time foreign minister; another factor that has fuelled the notorious civ-mil imbalance.
Predictably, though, Gen Raheel’s announcement has been received favourably across the political spectrum. To make sense of the emerging situation, DNA talked exclusively to Faisal Karim Kundi, central secretary of information of the PPPP, and one of the party chairman’s closest aides.
He brings rich political history with him. He was elected as the youngest National Assembly deputy speaker in March 2008 (33 years).
To his credit, he contested the election for NA-24 against Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman in February 2008 and got 85,000 votes with a victory of 40,000 votes.
His father, Mr Fazal Karim Kundi, defeated Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman in 1990 on a PPP ticket. His maternal grandfather, Justice (R) Faizulllah Khan Kundi, served as a federal minister with PPP founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
Faisal Karim Kundi’s great grandfather Barrister Abdul Rahim Kundi was the first deputy speaker of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly.
Question: With the benefit of hindsight, do you think the announcement regarding the army chief’s retirement was meant to quell speculation or trigger it?
Faisal Karim Kundi: I think the announcement was a timely move by the army chief. I believe this shall help quell speculation once and for all. Let me say that not only the army chief has set a new precedent but he has also taken a break from all those generals who had sought extensions in service.
This reflects the professional approach of General Raheel Sharif. The essence of his statement is very clear: Institutions are bigger than individuals.
Q: Why does talk of ‘Muk Muka’ between the PML-N and PPP do rounds every now and then? Was there really some behind-the-scenes understanding between the government and the opposition? And, if so, has it come to an end now?
FKK: Let me put things in perspective. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has a history of hatching conspiracies against the governments of Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) — be it when Shaheed Benazir Bhutto was the prime minister and Mr Nawaz Sharif was chief minister of Punjab — or our government from 2008 to 2013.
This reconciliatory approach has been referred to as some ‘Muk Muka’ or underhand deal. But would anyone talking about ‘Muk Muka’ tell me if it was a deal, why on earth are all the state institutions only targeting leaders of PPP?
We have been at the receiving end. Despite all these bitter realities, it was the vision of the PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari that we would not conspire against an elected government.
But this reconciliatory approach has been referred to as some ‘Muk Muka’ or underhand deal. But would anyone talking about ‘Muk Muka’ tell me if it was a deal, why on earth are all the state institutions only targeting leaders of PPP?
Why are the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Rangers and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) — the three federal agencies, only targeting the officials of the Sindh government? Why no action is taken against corrupt officials in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan? Why is only Sindh being targeted?
If we had to strike a deal, we would have preferred those who are the real source of power. We could also have struck a deal with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) than the federal government so Sindh could remain calm.
But the PPP leadership has never been afraid of any challenge. We believe in serving the people at large and especially the poor segments of society. We are never afraid of any individual or government. We are answerable to Allah and the people who vote us into power.
Yes, the PPP leadership wants to cater to the interest of the state of Pakistan. PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari believes in peaceful coexistence and he also wants that this democratic dispensation should continue.
The vision of Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is that as a responsible opposition PPP must play the role of a robust opposition party, but it should not jeopardise the democratic system.
Chairman Bilawal has directed the party’s members of parliament (MPs) to play a constructive role in the House. PPP lawmakers would never support any piece of legislation against the interest of the people at large. At the same time, they would also not support any act beyond the constitutional ambits which could lead toward the derailment of the democratic system.
We have learnt from the past. So often you saw democratic forces pitched against each other and the tussle led to a situation where the democratically elected government was sent packing. The tug of war between the government and the opposition has always harmed the democratic system and later the politicians have been blamed for their irresponsible acts.
But let me tell you that the PPP can’t be blamed for ‘Muk Muka’ or ‘friendly opposition’. Yes, we know that it has been the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) who has been going soft on the PML-N. They have never resisted against the government’s anti-poor legislation.
You might remember that the recently passed ‘mini budget’ was not opposed by the PTI and only PPP had put up resistance against the bill.
Q: There is a lot of concern about the security of educational institutes in Punjab – and disagreement about preferred policy between the Punjab government and interior minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan. How do you think this situation should be handled?
FKK: The law and order should be the top most priority of every country and the interior ministry is the most important organ of any state in this regard. But unfortunately Pakistan’s interior ministry is in the hands of a person who has been blamed for having a ‘soft corner’ for the terrorists. He is the man who had condemned the drone strike against top Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) kingpin Hakimullah Mehsud. He was instrumental in convincing the prime minister to hold talks with the TTP leadership.
He is also the man who is protecting the Red Mosque cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz. It was him who remain absent from scene when TTP terrorists played bloodbath in Bacha Khan University at Charsadda. Now the same jester is trying to fool the nation by making emotional speeches to the media, trying to place the blames on others.
As far as Punjab is concerned, I think the provincial government has been unable to rise against terrorist networks since the martyrdom of Col Shuja Khanzada. In my view, Rana Sanaullah’s role has been suspicious as he has been backing the terrorist outfits in Punjab and the terrorist networks have been working under his shady character since long.
I believe King Salman is not ready to accept any reconciliation and rather believes in playing proxies against Iran. However, being a frontline state in the war on terror, we know the value of peace
Until and unless the Punjab government cleanses its house, Pakistan cannot get rid of the terrorist threat. Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif needs to come clean on this. Otherwise, the lives of our sons and daughters would remain on knife’s edge.
Q: Now that Gen Raheel has once again promised to push the Karachi Operation through, how do you see it unfolding from here?
FKK: It was none other than the Sindh government which welcomed the Karachi Operation when Rangers had been tasked by the federal government. It was also the Sindh chief minister who gave several extensions to the Rangers to purge Karachi of terrorist networks.
Being the worst target of terrorism, we want complete eradication of the scourge of terrorism from Karachi. But we also stress that every institution should exercise its authority within its mandate. Unfortunately, the Rangers have time and again acted out of their mandate, which has been forcefully objected. We would not allow any state organ to go rogue.
Q: It has been two years since the talk of PPP’s reorganising after the ’13 election rout, especially in Punjab, yet nothing tangible has emerged. Now, we are again hearing chatter about a thorough overhaul in the party? Can you provide any insight?
FKK: Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has decided to revamp the party structure. He has been visiting Lahore and Islamabad frequently to meet workers from all over the country to get their suggestions in this regard. In the near future you will see major changes taking place in the party and the chairman will address public gatherings in different cities in preparation for the 2018 general elections as well.
Q: Do you feel the Prime Minister’s peculiar peace visit to Saudi Arabia and Iran has been snubbed by Riyadh? Why did the Saudis reject mediation offer? And why is the government so silent now?
FKK: I believe King Salman is not ready to accept any reconciliation and rather believes in playing proxies against Iran. However, being a frontline state in the war on terror, we know the value of peace. Being the only nuclear Islamic country, we have taken a good initiative by offering mediation between Saudis and Iran. It is also obligatory for Pakistan to leave no stone unturned to bring both the Muslim states to the negotiation table, otherwise the Muslims across the globe and especially in Middle East have been facing the consequences of proxy war between Saudia and Iran.
However, Pakistan must continue its efforts for peace and tranquillity in the Middle East as this policy would not only help push the reconciliation process forward but also it would help us maintain a balanced stand without siding with either Iran or Saudi Arabia.
Source: Pakistan Today