Muddy waters and blind fish

In the name of security, the state is silencing dissenting voices while other elements are using the weapon of blasphemy and stoking religious sentiments

One of the predominant theories about the origin of the state, outweighing the Force and Divine theories is, the‘Social Contract Theory. It fundamentalises the origin of the state and provides legitimacy to its monopoly of using force for the protection of life, property and honour of individuals.

The Social Contract theorises that, ‘individuals have consented, either openly or tacitly, to surrender some of their freedoms and submit to the authority of the ruler or magistrate, in exchange for protection of their remaining rights’.

Thus the state’s inability to protect the life, honour and property of its citizens constitutes a breach of that social contract. However, the worst violation is when the state authority is being misused for either taking life of its citizens or endangering lives of its constituent population for ulterior motives or vested interests or something which the wielders of the state powers consider ‘national interests’ and imposes it without consent and consensus.

The brutal extra judicial murder of the young Naseemullah, alias Naqeebullah Mehsood, by the notorious so-called encounter specialist, SSP Malir, Rao Anwar of the Sindh police should have sent shudders down the spine of a responsive state without street protests. God knows how many Naqeebullahs have fallen prey to such grisly tactics in the name of state security.

It seems that the state is no longer concerned about the social contract and is rapidly moving towards the Force Theory, which is aimed at political domination and imposition of certain policing choices in the name of narrowly defined conventional security

Any responsible state would have provided multiple check and balances through a monitoring mechanism after granting extraordinary powers to the security forces and law enforcement agencies under the justification of the so called, extraordinary situation.

In the name of the War on Terror, the entire country was turned into a security zone. But the state was rapidly losing its thin veneer of justification. With the release of Sufi Mohammad and arranging time on the media for him and Ehsanullah Ehsan after his surrender the irony of the WoT was not lost on citizens.

Every turn in life is scary. Crossing any security check post is not less than a nightmare. Everybody is suspicious in the eyes of the state. Any misreading of the sign can either put at risk one’s life or honour, particularly if a person belongs to a specific community like the Pakhtuns, by those manning the post.

The Pakhtuns, victim of their geography and alternate political voice since the partition of the subcontinent, are the subject of ruthless stereotyping and ethnic profiling. They are suspiciously looked upon even at their own door step, at work places, in their own country as well as abroad due to their image impaired by their own state.

Not only were they controlled politically, terrorism and militancy provided an easy cover for settling personal scores. They are living under extraordinary situation and harsh legal measures for a decade in their hometowns. And when they migrate they become an easy prey to predators like Rao Anwar.

So far civil rights and liberties are denied to them after multiple military operations in their home towns nor are they provided with a sense of protection in their own region or elsewhere.  With the passage of time the net has widened to other provinces and extended beyond the Pakhtun standardisation. For the last four years, particularly in the past one year, those raising voice for peace, tolerance and democracy in Punjab are also subjected to forced disappearance.

The perpetuation of the extraordinary situation and legal measures that infringes the civil rights, particularly in Swat and other parts of Malakand Division, foretell that the sword of Damocles is imminently functional.

Ironically, in the presence of huge security forces along with the intelligence apparatus, the people of Swat witnessed one after another layer of insecurity that did not let go of the sense of fear.

During this month many incidents of robbery and dacoity occurred in thesil Kabal of Swat wherein shops were burgled, houses trespassed and looted at gunpoint at night by the unknown. Instead of the state ensuring security by launching a search operation to arrest the culprits, the authorities asked the people to arrange their own watch and guard. Strangely, they were not allowed to carry weapons or open fire in case of any eventuality and were instructed to inform the security forces. This logic further instilled suspicions in the mind of the people.

Instead of getting help and to avoid humiliation, some victims did not report to the authorities about what happened to them. The situation is literally synonymous to the Persian proverb ‘the dogs are let loose while the stones are locked’.

Such behaviour on the part of the state not only creates frustration and resentment but gives rise to suspicion about the role and responsibilities of the state.

Sufi Mohammad, the proverbial godfather of the mindset that pushed Swat and Malakand Division into this inferno has been set free and encouraged to give a lecture laced with patriotism. But the hapless people of the region continue to suffer.

Using a familiar tone and tenor, as was used in Swat not too long ago, Pir Hameeduddi Sialvi gave an ultimatum to the government to enforce Sharia within seven days or prepare for the consequences.

The activation and political mainstreaming, a euphemism for political imposition, of religious extremist elements agitates many questions in mind.

If the state’s powerful quarters still, consider these elements as strategic and political assets how can it justify its War on Terror purportedly waged against a religious extremist mind-set? What sort of extremism is the state fighting?

It seems that the state is no longer concerned about the social contract and is rapidly moving towards the Force Theory aimed at political domination and imposition of certain police choices in the name of narrowly defined conventional security. Perhaps, the War on Terror has turned into an instrument for shaping and controlling the domestic political atmosphere. In the name of security, the state is silencing dissenting voices while other elements are using the weapon of blasphemy and stoking religious sentiments.

 

The writer is a political analyst hailing from Swat. Tweets @MirSwat

Published in Daily Times, January 25th 2018.