I have a confession: I promised myself that I would not write any more on the OBL fiasco primarily because there have been some brilliant write-ups on the situation and secondly, overdosing on military jargon and conspiracy theories could be fatal. However, there is one thing that has stood out in this situation (and plenty others in the past), which deserves to be spoken about with clarity – the issue of our ‘sovereignty’. Keeping in mind the importance of this issue, I have compiled a quick checklist/questionnaire to help understand if one’s sovereignty is still intact.
Please feel free to suggest more changes to the list.
First things first: What is sovereignty?
According to Dictionary.com, supreme and independent power or authority in government as possessed or claimed by a state or community/ rightful status, independence, or prerogative.
Modifications of the above-mentioned definition include many acronyms, for instance: the US, CIA, Xe Services, RAW and sometimes even the ISPR
Now that the meaning is established, we must proceed to other more important factors in order of ‘priority’.
Was our sovereignty compromised by the US-led operation that killed b in Laden?
Yes. According to official records, the Pakistani authorities were not only clueless about the operation but were also unable to track the US helicopters during the 40-minute operation. Since the Pakistani military was not taken into confidence and permission was not sought for the operation, there is no doubt that our territorial sovereignty was compromised.
However, it is crucial to note that while the US copters and the US NAVY SEALs are guilty of robbing us off our sovereignty for at least 40 minutes on May 2, Osama bin Laden and his men have been violating it since the ‘90s, or at least for the past five years.
Instances of lost sovereignty: (all instances listed are mutually inclusive)
The US-led operation on bin Laden
Presence of OBL and other terrorist organisations within our borders
Suicide bombings across the country
Is asking questions regarding the competency of our intelligence agencies and military considered unpatriotic or worse, dishonouring an establishment?
No, not one bit. Patriotism is not blind or inclined to malice in the name of honour. In fact, patriotism should and must allow us to question everything and, we should have zero tolerance for negligence, especially in matters of national security and interest. Honour (more popularly known as Ghairat) should not be sought to avoid pertinent questions. When we raise questions with respect to competency; when we demand answers to some of the most pressing questions, it is out of concern for our country and its’ security, and definitely not intended to malign an institution.
It is ironic that the honour card is thrown in as soon as questions are raised – reflecting a weak relationship, riddled with insecurities and lack of faith. Is this healthy or showing our loyalty or even patriotic? I don’t think so.
Honour that is dependent on a fake sense of respect driven by absolving oneself of accountability is not honour, it is in fact, dictatorial proclamation of it. The sacrifices of both the army and the citizens cannot be undermined by a few incidents or criticism. No criticism can overshadow the loss of 30,000 men, women and children, and thousands others who were left homeless or disabled in the past decade. So, by all means demand accountability.
Instances of loss of patriotism:
Blame game between the state and the military
Absolving authorities from accountability and transparency
Refusal to take people into confidence in matters concerning foreign policy
The vicious cycle of lies that kowtow to the usual “We had no knowledge of this and consider it a violation of our sovereignty, and any such incident in the future will have grave consequences.” Rinse and repeat.
Assuming that Pakistanis, at large, are incapable of understanding the complexities of the global war on terror and that they are a lynch mob, which needs to be kept at bay.
Should we remain silent spectators while our sovereignty, honour and integrity is ripped apart?
Absolutely not; public discourse is needed now more than ever. There is a dire need to reconsider and understand the meaning and importance of sovereignity, honour and integrity. Right now, they mean different things to different people. For some, sovereignty is compromised by US interference in the country while others think it is the terrorists we need to worry about and not our allies. The debate is always about the drone attacks vs suicide bombings and Aafia Vs Aasia. Honour, on the other hand, is subject to change frequently ranging from what CNN said to whether the rape survivors be allowed to speak out. Integrity is sprinkled somewhere in between and Ghairat is more of an umbrella that covers all these aspects.
We should by all means stand up against injustices, mobilise and campaign but that would be more effective if we were not divided into carefully-crafted binaries. If we would just sit down listen to the other side of the argument without name-calling and labels, we may realise that no matter what our stance is, we are all in this together. It is possible to oppose drone strikes and condemn suicide bombings at the same time; both are responsible for civilian causalities, one more than the other. It is only fair to be outraged by the violation of the rights of minorities and the use of torture in detention centers inside and outside of Pakistan. What CNN said would not matter if we all started to focus on eliminating crimes and violence against women.
Instances of loss of honour:
Killings in the name of religion
Agencies involved in illegal detentions/abductions/killings
So, what exactly is the point?
Solidarity and patience. Some of us often joke about being called CIA, MOSSAD or RAW agents; these jokes are a norm amongst many of us. But they really are anti-jokes if you read in to it. A sad and unfortunate fact of our lives where faith within our people is so weak that any form of criticism reeks of infidelity. While we try so hard to retain the integrity and honour of our institutions, respect for individual choices have become secondary – diminishing almost. When we cannot respect another’s stance without doubting ones loyalties, how can we expect the world to have faith in us?
We are at war and the enemy is a familiar force from within. Insurgencies are not just fought by weapons and counter-terrorism strategies (never mind that we STILL don’t have one), it is fought in the hearts and minds of the people. We cannot win this war with doubts in our hearts and minds boggled with binaries. After all, sovereignty and honour are far diverse than just political ploys to be slipped in at regular and appropriate intervals to shape public opinion. Don’t be fooled, unite and break free.