Strong State Foundations or Individual Tales of Bravery?
Recently, Punjab’s Home Minister Shuja Khanzada was killed in a brutal suicide attack. It was certainly a big loss, making it extremely hard for Punjab Government to find his surrogate. He was seen as the man in charge of the anti-terror drive in Pakistan’s biggest province. It would not be an exaggeration to assert that his counter-terror strategies and their enforcement mechanism were mighty effective. Due to his unremitting endeavours Lashkar-e-Jhangavi and other banned terror outfits felt unbearable heat; especially the hunting down of Malik Ishaq jolted their foundations. The steps he took to curb hate speech and religious incitement in mosques were exemplary. He not only explicitly condemned extremism but also took concrete steps to wipe it out. His heartbreaking demise parallels the sacrifices of several heroic figures who lost their precious lives, solely due to the reason that they vehemently confronted hegemony of extremist elements in Pakistan.
Salmaan Taseer was ruthlessly killed by his own guard as he displayed the valour to stand up against unprovoked persecution of a Christian woman under the garb of blasphemy law. No one can overlook the legend of Chaduhary Aslam. Unquestionably he was Karachi’s most feared cop ever. He tried his level best to guard citizens of Karachi from vultures of TTP; the man simply stood up against them and genuinely threatened their very existence. Few years have passed since the tragic death of top police officer Safwat Ghayur, and with his departure a prime threat to militants in Peshawar and the adjacent tribal areas was gone. During his tenure, every assault on law enforcement agencies was strappingly repelled. He left no stone unturned to hunt down militants and ultimately paid with his life for it.
Unforgettable heroics of Aitzaz Hasan astounded the whole world, the brave heart kid who lost his life in an appalling encounter with a suicide bomber. In school going age he saved his schoolmates, classmates, teachers and school staff from terrible death by sacrificing his own life. People like Sanaullah Niazi, Hilal Ahmed, Fayyaz Sumbal, Malik Saad and Bashir Bilour also displayed highest form of courage. Apart from them numerous soldiers, countless policemen and innumerable civilians have sacrificed their lives. These heroes were a special class of people, very different from our conventional heroes. They were intrepid and selfless who preferred to die rather than succumbing to extremist monsters roaming around in every inch and corner of Pakistan.
The audacity of aforesaid heroes cannot be doubted and their contributions will be remembered forever. However, a question arises that if we want to nip the evil in the bud and ultimately win the war against terrorism, are these individual tales of bravery adequate? The answer is certainly in negative, because to win this war we need a strong state system where law takes its course and those trying to challenge the writ of the state are held accountable and any aberration from legal course is strongly dealt with. In the long term, reliance on individual heroism is a catastrophic idea as it not only increases the fragility of the state’s law enforcement machinery but also results in unjust loss of priceless heroes.
The theory of ‘Social Contract’ encompasses the idea that the relationship between an individual and a state is governed by rights and obligations defined in it. The theory further illustrates that the reason behind existence of state itself is protection of individuals from arbitrary and ruthless exercise of power, whether by government or private individuals. Social Contract creates a body politic in which laws of the jungle are replaced with laws and norms of a civilized society, where life, property and liberty of an individual are safeguarded.
Social Contract in Pakistan exists in the form of a sacred document called the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan 1973. The Constitution in Article 9 declares: “No person shall be deprived of life or liberty.” Its interpretation by superior courts make it clear that this article not only restricts arbitrary actions of state agencies but also places a positive duty on the state agencies to ensure individuals are protected against threats to life and liberty. Fundamental rights as enshrined in the constitution are self-executing provisions of law; they not only confer the rights but also provide for their protection. It is the duty of the state to ensure compliance of the constitutional provisions and ensure constitutional guarantees are well guarded.
Social Contract is interrupted and constitutional guarantees are infringed when a state fails to provide a system where individual feels secure and his life, liberty and property are protected. Due to frequent incidents of security failures, a large number of people in Pakistan possess strong dislike against the state for its failure to protect the rights of its people, especially right to life. Episodes of religious extremism and terrorism have escalated over the last decade, the state as a whole has failed to present and execute a full-fledged counter terrorism programme. When Maulana Aziz openly challenged validity of the constitution by declaring it as un-Islamic and refused to condemn attack on Army Public School, Peshawar, the response of the state was very disappointing — it sat idle and paid no heed to his mutinous statements. The Maulana only represents small part of the big picture; there are scores of hate preachers in Pakistan and surprisingly the state for long time had turned a blind eye towards them.
In past few months, after the initiation of Operation Zarb-e-Azab under the de facto control of the army chief, we have witnessed some improvements in counter-terrorism plan and its implementation. The state has finally shown signs of its existence, major chunk of militants has been eliminated in tribal areas, effective operation is under process in major cities and also some hate preachers have been arrested. Currently, it seems like that the general is calling all the shots and steering the anti-terrorism drive, but the question is what will happen when he will retire? Will he leave a legacy in the form of a strong state system or the improvement is temporary and is solely due to his individual presence? The answer is uncertain but one thing is certain that “individual messiahs” approach never provides ultimate solution. Individual excellence is transient solution, only the existence of a powerful state can ensure effective and rigorous enforcement of counter-terrorism laws, strategies and plans.
We have a constitution guaranteeing fundamental rights, penal laws, detailed criminal procedure code and anti-terrorism laws, the problem is with their enforcement mechanism i.e., arms of the state are feeble depicting frail writ of the state. Only pragmatic solution is robust writ of the state with super effective enforcement machinery. As Nicollo Machiavelli rightly said, “The main foundations of every state, new states as well as ancient or composite ones, are good laws and good arms — you cannot have good laws without good arms, and where there are good arms, good laws inevitably follow.”
Previously published in Pakistan Today.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of any organization with which he might be associated.