During a court proceeding on Tuesday, the Peshawar High Court (PHC) Chief Justice, Dost Muhammad Khan, expressed reservations on the matter of troops’ pullout from Malakand division. He remarked that the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government must consult the federal government and the army, before proceeding. He feared that the withdrawal will create a vacuum, and the militants might stage a comeback to the concerned areas.
While, the court’s keen observation is much appreciated, it would be very helpful if executive authority is only exercised by an executive body, which happens to be the provincial assembly. There can be no dispute over the fact that the country generally, and the province in particular, faces serious challenges. Difficult decisions, that are bound to have lasting consequences, need to be taken.
But, the question is: Whose job is it to make these hard choices? The people of KPK, in defiance of the TTP, stood for hours in cues and successfully elected their representatives. They risked their lives for the purpose of enabling certain individuals to take crucial decisions on their behalf; such as the one in question. Now that a civilian government is in power, no institution should create hurdles in its way, and it should be allowed to function freely within the boundaries defined by the constitution.
One of the reasons because of which the democratic leadership has struggled to perform, is the complete disregard of the doctrine of separation of powers; a fundamental principle strictly adhered to by all functioning democracies of the world. It is about time that civilian supremacy is established, and the reckless blurring of lines comes to a complete halt, even if, one disagrees with the actions of the government.
An accurate prediction of post-withdrawal situation is impossible. There was a time when the TTP enjoyed support in the local community, but learning from the brutal rule of TTP in Swat, the people now stand behind their civilian government and the armed forces. So, if the militants wish to regain control, the only way is to penetrate through FATA. In the first phase, security forces would be withdrawn from Shangla and Buner districts, situated further away from FATA, as compared to the districts of Swat, Upper Dir and Lower Dir, which will be evacuated later.
Let the first phase be the test. If the civilian government can maintain law and order in the less sensitive districts of Bunerand Shangla, only then, it would be wise to proceed. The security forces, once relieved from their duties in the districts, will find more resources at their disposal to control intrusions from FATA. Certainty, understandably so, is very desirable, but is a luxury which the country will have to do without for now.