Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Rise and help the IDPs By Masood Sharif Khan Khattak

Mr Masood Sharif Khan Khattak, Former Director General of The Intelligence Bureau, Government of Pakistan

Rise and help the IDPs By Masood Sharif Khan Khattak, dated Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Four years ago Pakistan was hit by a very destructive earthquake that shook all of northern Pakistan and Azad Kashmir. In a matter of seconds eighty thousand people perished and hundreds of thousands became homeless. Entire valleys lay lifeless. Those who survived were destined to lead a traumatized life.

The speed at which the destruction was caused by the earthquake was matched by the speed at which the whole Pakistani nation sprung to its feet in that hour of distress. Overnight, organizations began collecting relief goods and the way people contributed was just as good as the Pakistanis first did when the country went to war in 1965. Memory brings back how women threw their only gold bangles into boxes meant for the defence fund in 1965. Children broke their money boxes to donate towards the nation's 1965 war effort. Pakistan was then , indeed, a very cohesive and vibrant nation that valued its self-respect, dignity and honour. So much comes back to mind that one gets emotionally moved.

In the aftermath of the 2005 earthquake disaster, Pakistanis witnessed the 1965 phenomenon of Pakistani nationhood all over again. Political parties and their welfare wings, social workers, doctors, nurses, the military and all its relevant organs, schoolchildren, housewives, the poor and the rich, the NGOs, private organizations and business houses, construction companies, engineers, overseas Pakistanis, in short each and every Pakistani came forward to help. The 1965 spirit was indeed revived in full and one felt proud of belonging to a nation that responded as if it was one huge body, one soul and one heart.

In 1965, Lahore was gravely threatened by the Indian Army formations as they advanced all the way to the outskirts of Lahore. Despite the initial setbacks that Pakistan suffered due to poor anticipatory planning on its own part, the gallant men of the Pakistan Army could still ensure that Lahore did not fall to the Indians.

In all this time when tank battles were being fought on the outskirts of Lahore and when the PAF F-86 Sabres were shooting down the odd IAF aircraft that would venture over Lahore, the citizens of Lahore never evacuated Lahore. From their roof tops, just as if it was what we now know as Basant, they would cheer the PAF jets during the dog fights as if two kites were in the final stages of bringing the opponent down. The Lahoris thus earned the respect of the whole nation then which they still enjoy. I hate to think of what may have happened had Lahore been evacuated by the government itself or by its citizenry. One thing is for sure and that is that the army units battling it out would have lost their spirits thinking they can no longer defend Lahore. The resilience of the Lahoris to stick to Lahore despite the dogfights and the tank battles over and around Lahore won the day for Pakistan in 1965.

These recollected memories bring me to the present. In 1965 when Lahore was not evacuated even as the regular Indian Army was literally knocking at its gates, why then have we allowed Swat to be evacuated for an operation against a few hundred militants/insurgents and thus played straight into the hands of those very militants/insurgents when we know that they i.e. the militants/insurgents thrive when there is widespread commotion; irrespective of who causes that commotion?

Today, as a patriotic Pakistani and an equally proud Pakhtun my heart bleeds when I watch the pride of the Pakhtun being wounded, our women folk with children in their arms, looking for food and shelter. This is something that should never have happened. It would have been far saner to plan an army presence brought about in Swat without scaring the population out of their homes. The government at all levels would now be well-advised if it was told that these are very proud, honourable and self-respecting Pakhtuns that have been thrown out of their ancestral homes and that they should now be rehabilitated at the very earliest. The government should also ensure that in this transitory phase the displaced Pakhtuns are treated with the utmost of care in an extremely honourable manner because if this does not happen the scars may never heal.

For the Pakistani nation this may be the last call to stand together. The spirit of 1965 and 2005(earthquake) must be called upon just once more. When we do get over the current catastrophic conditions we Pakistanis must then ensure that we do not let this happen to our beloved Pakistan ever again as we may not be able to ride the crest too often and come out in one piece.

The writer is a former director-general of the Intelligence Bureau and former vice-president of the PPP Parliamentarians. Email:

SOURCE: The News International/Jang Group of Newspapers


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