Kargil first then, and I have to report that it was extremely gratifying to see an Indian TV channel broadcast a programme in which there was an audience listening to, and questioning, Gen V.P. Malik the then chief of staff of the Indian army; a retired colonel who had lost a son in Kargil; the widow of a havildar; a retired young officer who was wounded in Kargil and was down categorised, and who therefore went back to college and joined the corporate world.
The person who impressed me the most was the general, who sat there and took harsh criticism from the audience which was again made up of some who had lost their near and dear ones in Kargil and retired soldiers. A bereaved mother of a captain actually shouted at Malik for not even providing proper boots for the army in Kargil. Indeed, some retired officers blamed the army (and therefore Gen Malik directly) for not standing up to the government and ‘lobbying’ for better service conditions.
The ISPR should collect all our Rommels and Guderians, sit them down in the GHQ auditorium, and show them a recording of this TV programme (aired on CNN-IBN, incidentally). They will see the humility, but also the gentle firmness with which Gen Malik answered the questions and the criticism; they will see how a former COAS of the Indian army spoke with respect when he referred to the Indian government as the preponderant power in the country.
Why pray, may one ask our army brass hats, can’t we have open discussions on what happened in Kargil? With the Commando absconding, the next senior generals involved with the operation could attend and answer people’s questions. Mayhap some mothers of those poor souls killed on our side should like to ask questions too. For example, why did we not, for weeks on end, accept that the dead being shown by the Indians to the world were our dead?
And here we have the Commando actually insisting that Kargil resulted in forcing the Indians to the negotiating table, blithely dancing around the Lahore Declaration signed by prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Atal Behari Vajpayee which Jawed Naqvi has so well written about in yesterday’s edition of this paper. The Commando is obviously not facing up to the truth, as he is wont to do most times.
Which is not all when it comes to Kargil. He now wants us to believe that Kargil which brought nuclear-armed India and nuclear-armed Pakistan dangerously close to an all-out war and made Pakistan an international pariah was a great victory for Pakistan! Beggars belief, this Commando, especially when, as mentioned in this space earlier, his best buddy Gen Anthony Zinni tells us otherwise.
Yes, what the devil is going on in Swat/Buner, even in Peshawar, let alone in Waziristan and the rest of Fata, where every indication seems to spell out only one simple fact: that the murdering terrorists still hold sway in vast areas of the northwest of our country. If Nato tankers are blown up in the upscale locality of Hayatabad, how in heaven’s name can the IDPs feel safe in Swat and Buner?
If, as evidenced by friends I can trust, the terrorist Mangal Bagh can shake down businesses in Peshawar itself by asking for protection money, how can anyone say the situation is anywhere near ‘under control’ in Swat? How underground could this terrorist be anyway, considering the blatant manner in which he is running his protection rackets?
Will no one wake up and do the right thing even now, and finish off these terrorists? Do our Rommels and Guderians not realise that we are running out of time?
As for Mr Gilani, whose heart seems to be in the right place, one day he says ‘enough is enough’ as if he were about to look President Zardari in the eye and defy him on a host of matters, not least sacking certain Zardari loyalists from the cabinet. And then to go on and repeal the dictatorial aspects of the 17th Amendment, i.e. to emasculate the presidency. Less than a week later his daughter writes a piece in the same newspaper, eulogising the young Bilawal Bhutto Zardari as a leader with vision. Why bite off more than you can chew, Mr Gilani?
Whilst one empathises with Mr Gilani completely, and while one wishes the 17th Amendment were repaired yesterday, one must caution both the president and the prime minister. Democracy is too new after the nine rollicking years that the Commando had, kicking this country about; the problems he has left behind, not least of which is the power crisis, are immense; law and order is non-existent, and baddies roam the land. This is no time for infighting.
To the president one can say that he has been misguided enough by the likes of Fauzia Wahab and Khosa and Awan, in whose acts one can see neither sagacity nor sense. The president should have, and I have said this before, held tightly to the friendly hand offered by Nawaz Sharif and both of them together could have long hence put the country firmly on the road to parliamentary democracy after ridding us of the awful legacy left behind by the Commando. It is not too late even now.
To the prime minister, this: please ask yourself how many people you can bring on to the streets of Multan on your own? You are a member of a political party which has a recognised and established leadership, by virtue of which you are where you are. Likewise for members of the PML-N and the MQM and the ANP: where would any one of them be without their parties and their leaders? Beware the machinations of the establishment, Mr Gilani.