Tahirul Qadri says that the PML-N government has killed his workers because of his support to the Pakistan military. He hopes that the dead bodies will hasten the revolution he has been itching to bring from Canada for some time and for reasons other than the dead bodies. At a time of war, stirring up a revolution on the streets is his idea of supporting the armed forces . And he’s not the only one with weird notions about how to support them at this crucial hour.

By delivering dead bodies to the shifty cleric, and adding fuel to his anarchic campaign, the PML-N Punjab government has done its bit of supporting the army as well. And not to be left behind, Imran Khan has announced to resume his protest rallies to add to the building chaos. As a sign of his support, Altaf Hussain is chiming in his innuendoes and vague invitations to the military from London. Along with the PML-Q and Sheikh Rasheed, his party seems all set to join the revolution of Tahirul Qadri a la Tahrir Square. The Jamaat-e-Islami is still not sure about its shaheeds.

The Prime Minister, who has the most important role to play among the political leadership, comes across as a reluctant warrior. He is supposed to articulate the national narrative that strikes at the heart of all that’s wrong with the TTP and its ilk and rally the nation behind this war. But his words lack the force of clarity and conviction, giving the TTP-apologists enough space to create confusion about what the TTP and its associates stand for. And though his government has sanctioned money for housing the people leaving North Waziristan ahead of a ground offensive, it seems to be unmindful of its responsibilities.

Instead of focusing on cleansing the religious parties, organizations and NGOs of TTP-collaborators and sectarian militants, and cracking down on banned outfits that serve as outposts of TTP-support in our cities, the ruling party’s Punjab government has created a needless distraction. Full of compassion for the ‘misled brothers’ bombing our citizens to death not long ago, the PML-N government has not made any effort to evacuate civilians from the war-zone through the cooperation of tribal leaders before the ground offensive begins. It has been reported that the army is facilitating people to leave. The political leadership could have lent its support to the operation by doing so but, as in so many other cases, it is proving to be the weakest link of the state yet again.

We have been conditioned to accept the deficit of democracy as a fact of life. The serious shortcomings of our political leadership, even when it comes to basic tasks of governance, are generally taken in one’s stride. We think: Just if we could bear it for a few more years, the blundering bus of democracy will bring us to a better place. Given the trajectory of democracy in the last six years, I have my doubts about that. Still, I’d go along with the generally held belief under ordinary circumstances. The present situation is not ordinary though.

Clearly, Zarb-e-Azab is not just another military operation. It is couched in the context of negotiations, ceasefires, serious TTP-infighting and, most recently, the Karachi airport attack. The changing geo-political context, planning of measures to check the blowback, the news from the area of operation, the stance of the military leadership, even its hollow rendition by the government, everything indicates that this is serious business. Meanwhile, our political leadership would like to treat it as just another day at the democracy circus, offering new attractions such as street revolutions and unprecedented police brutality.

With a few exceptions, every political party has announced its support for the military and its ongoing operation, but they have a strange way of showing it. Same is the case with many leaders of opinion and civil society. Habitual army-bashers say they support the military initiative but are finding round-about ways to create doubts about it. Those who cheered on the drones are all of a sudden most concerned about collateral damage. Instead of putting pressure on the government to do something about it, and do more for the IDPs, they would like to beat their breasts about it and blame the military for every loophole. These are important issues but they need to be tackled jointly by state institutions. There’s no point in using them as tools to corner those sacrificing their lives on the battlefront.

It’s true that a military solution should be the last option but, clearly, there were no options left. Ask the opponents of the operation about alternatives and they have no satisfactory answer. The TTP and its associated terrorists were not going to disappear by themselves one fine day. And nothing had worked to rein in the growing monster, whether it wasspineless appeasement by the government or devious cajoling of the maulanas in our midst, headless hysteria of anchor-persons or second-hand analysis of experts on TV talk shows, the drawing-room hatred of our liberal intelligentsia or the distracting discourse of NGO wallahs. The military has moved in when everything else failed. For it to succeed, others will have to do more.

Extra-ordinary circumstances call for extra-ordinary measures, and what we need right now to cover up for our deficit of democracy is a war cabinet that includes not only other major opposition parties in the parliament but also the military leadership. The government should also evolve a consensus around taking some emergency measures that restrict public rallies and demonstrations till Eid.

Like it or not, the commencement of Zarb-e-Azab has put the Pak armed forces in the driving seat and everyone else in a supporting role. The war against our number one security threat has finally started and the TTP barbarians have threatened to bring it to our cities. The only language they speak is violence and it is our soldiers who can speak it to them. For everyone else, this should be a time to take a pause and reconsider the way we support the Pak armed forces in taking on a menace that threatens to destroy us all.

 The writer is a freelance columnist.

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