Pakistan's tryst with turbulence began at the time of its very inception. The polity, the armed forces, the people and the media are used to uncertainty, bloody coups and counter coups. The jingoism, war mongering, corruption and lawlessness are par for the course for the populace. Having said this, the current times seem more volatile and unprecedented.
As I write this, 60 people have died and over a 100 injured in a massive suicide attack in a police academy in Quetta, Baluchistan. Pakistan claims communication intercepted between terrorists and their handlers was traced back to Afghanistan. Only a few days ago an Afghan Taliban team was in Pakistan for talks. The threat to Pakistan's stability doesn't end there. Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf (PTI) has rather aggressively threatened to paralyze the nation on the second of November. He intends to hold a march to the Sharif family residence at Raiwind, demanding action against Nawaz Sharif for his role in graft case as exposed by the Panama papers. Imran Khan has also worryingly said that a 'third force' could emerge even as media reports suggest that the JeM and JuD have agreed to support his agitation. The future of Pakistan's polity stands at a precipice.
The stranglehold on Pakistan seems to be tightening from several quarters. Armed forces have been flexing their muscles amid suspense on the future of Army Chief Raheel Sharif. Sharif's acrimony towards India is a poorly guarded secret and that has seen the outlet through attacks like the one in Uri and also explains the Army's visibly hardened stance against the civilian government- punishment for engaging with India perhaps?
This is amply clear after the Army cracked the whip on journalist Cyril Almeida for revealing that Shahbaz Sharif, the Prime Minister's brother and Punjab Chief Minister had asserted his authority against the all powerful DG ISI and had asked him to rein in terrorists and reopen investigations in Uri, Pathankot and Mumbai terror attacks. This is significant as perhaps for the first time in the recent past the civilian leadership has challenged the military. The reaction, however, was on expected lines. The showdown was direct and absolute, thus distancing the government from the military.
That news report by Dawn has stirred the hornet's nest, emboldening the media to stand up and challenge the establishment. With the media, judiciary and the civilian dispensation on one side and the military on the other, Pakistan is clearly a divided house today amid pressure from the principal opposition parties on the government to cave in. Nawaz Sharif and his coterie can not live in isolation as a pariah state and are visibly struggling to remove the stigma of an outcast in the international community. With multiple problems already on the platter, Nawaz has limited options except to draw solace from a pledged Chinese support.
In the meantime, Sindh is also witnessing atrocities over minority tribes as evident from a recent case in Taluka Maula Dad, Jacobabad. With police complicity , internecine tribal clashes involving Saidan, Qambrani and Thaheem tribes are on the rise. Acting with brute force and scant respect for human rights, four tribal women have also been abducted by the police. Asian Human Rights Commission is writing a strong letter to the UN rapporteur to intervene to recover the abducted women and restore peace in Sindh.
Judiciary has once again stalled the resolution of the alleged blasphemy case of Asia Bibi. Two days prior to the hearing of Asia Bibi's appeal in the Supreme Court , fundamentalist organisations and Islamic fanatics published advertisements and video clippings warning the judiciary not to accept Asia's appeal. With memories still fresh of the murders of ex-Punjab governor Salman Taseer and ex-minister for religious affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti for speaking in favour of Asia Bibi, judiciary too is reluctant to award justice to the aggrieved minority. The criminal justice system is infiltrated with Islamic extremism and the trend is very disturbing .
Incidents of oppression against minority may look innocuous and isolated but analysts perceive them to be indicators of a larger malaise in the making which may eventually snowball into more problems for Pakistan- a state that is already fighting scores of enemies within.
As things unfold, it would be of immense interest to watch the future of Army Chief Raheel Sharif, Imran Khan's threat to take on Nawaz head on and media's relentless campaign and courage to speak the truth defying all diktats. If they succeed, Pakistan will be have on its hands problems which in all probability will be beyond its capacity to handle .
If the Quetta training academy terror attacks are any indication then the writing is on the wall look. Pakistan is now afflicted with a terminal disease in Baluchistan which is its own creation- a disease that is incurable till a precise, ruthless surgery is carried out.
The writer is a retired IPS officer and a freelance columnist on security issues. Views are personal
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Updated Date: Oct 25, 2016 16:12:45 IST