Existentialist threat

The PML-N’s right wing ideology is an open secret. Thus it is not surprising if the party has now come clear on its stance vis-à-vis the militant outfits. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has finally exposed the real face of his party by giving an inane statement in a blatant show of provincialism. Taking a narrow provincialist stance while totally ignoring the national crisis, Shahbaz Sharif pleaded with the Taliban to spare Punjab from its terrorist attacks. He said that since the Taliban opposed foreign dictation and were pursuing the policy of terrorism to fight against a foreign invasion (i.e. the Americans) and the PML-N too opposed General Musharraf’s policies, Punjab ruled by the PML-N should be spared terrorist attacks. Mr Sharif said, “Musharraf planned a bloodbath of innocent Muslims at the behest of others only to prolong his rule, but we in the PML-N opposed his policies and rejected dictation from abroad.”

The absurdity of these comments cannot be overstated. Not only is this statement a foolish one, it is a highly insensitive one. Has Mr Sharif forgotten that Punjab is only one province of the country and there are three other provinces – Sindh, Balochistan and the NWFP? The whole country is on fire and reverberating with terrorist attacks left, right and centre. The Punjab chief minister realised his folly and tried to make amends a day after giving this statement by saying that his words had been taken out of context and that he “lauded the brave people of the NWFP for their fight for the survival of Pakistan”. This belated amendment did not help matters much. Nighat Orakzai, an MPA from the NWFP Assembly, strongly protested at this statement and threw her dupatta away on the floor of the Assembly, saying that Mr Shahbaz Sharif should now wear it. Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer also condemned the chief minister’s remarks and was of the view that Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah must be turning in his grave right now at seeing this injustice being done to his beloved country.

At a time when Pakistan is fighting militancy on its soil, the PML-N taking a pro-militant stance is rubbing salt into the wounds of the Pakistani nation. Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has dug a pit for himself by passing these callous remarks, exposing his true character and that of his party’s in the process. The suspicion against the PML-N that it has been harbouring ties with banned militant outfits has now been all but proved. We saw in the by-elections in Jhang how the Punjab law minister was hobnobbing with a leader of a banned outfit and when confronted with the news, he showed no remorse. Such is the level of politics being played by the PML-N at the cost of this nation’s future. The Punjab government has long been in denial over the presence of militants in Southern Punjab. It needs to wake up before it is too late. The news of the TTP offering to stop these attacks if the Punjab government assures that it would stop the crackdown against the militants further highlights the implicit nexus between the terrorists and the PML-N. It would not be far from the truth if we were to say that the PML-N is proving itself to be the greatest existentialist threat to the remaining part of Jinnah’s Pakistan. Spare this country, Mr Chief Minister – we lost half of it in 1971, do not pave the way for another disaster by supporting the terrorists.

(my editorial in the Daily Times)

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