It took a gruesome tragedy at Army Public School (APS) Peshawar to irk the sleeping conscience of the Rip Van Winkles of Pakistani politics. These men with small hearts, metallic smiles and big ambitions intoxicated by power, greed and tantrums of self-preservation, forever exploit for political largesse. Set in the environments before the American Revolution, Winkle dozed off to awaken after twenty years to realise that the revolution had changed everything. In Pakistan, it took ten years for some politicians to realise that the nation was indeed at war. As events indicate, they are preparing to doze off again.

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18 months down the line and eradicating terrorism has moved back full circle. This proves my thesis that “parties representing the status quo and familiar with the contours of these suggestions would prefer to work quietly towards this objective in the guise of national reconciliation” (The Nation, June 8, 2013). My new fear is that the political class entrusted with the broad spectrum security of Pakistan will soon retreat to rest rooms of reconciliation. The Counter Terrorism Political Committee that Chaudary Nisar heads will, like NACTA, become the second step towards this slumber. The manner in which the issues are being handled means that the inertia will resist change. I am forced by events to quote from an article I wrote using the story of five blind men describing an elephant:

“National security policy, or counter terrorism policy or whatever is being drafted with subjective experiences shall elude the national consensus. It will open cracks and wounds that shall take ages to heal. The weakness demonstrated by the state in acting against militancy has emboldened militants and Pan Islamists in Pakistan. In some ways, some politicians are the soft face of militants.” (The Nation, Jan. 25, 2014).

The battered, bruised and decimated nation was awake but clueless. Yet it responded and the entire country went voluntarily into a shutter down. This character reflects the winds of change. The future of political parties will depend on how they read these winds. This is vindicated by my analysis in 2013 that parties that built their electoral campaigns against the ownership of this conflict will consent to a military option only after all other options are exhausted (The Nation, June 8, 2013). Reconciliation means that some undisclosed options exist. If not, the APS carnage provides for the logic of a Declaration of War.

I hope the tone set by Sherry Rehman of Pakistan People’s Party on counter terrorism is manifested during the committee meetings to sift grain from the chaff. PPP in opposition will find many allies if it remains true to this mission statement. It will be a test for the status quo parties to take a tangent and tackle the terrorism bull by the horns. Will cracks between PPP and PMLN widen? One must wait and see.

Rulers who occupy the constitutional avenue and provincial capitals like the fabled Winkle are oblivious to nation building. They are clueless about how nations are galvanised against challenges and how national character and morale can be harnessed to tame the impossible. The knee jerk reaction of removing the moratorium on death penalties is no solution. In a policy vacuum, this reaction will invite blowback. The remedy lies in a National Counter Terrorism Policy.

The fact that non-professional representatives cum career politicians will once again sit in committee rooms to describe and re-invent a wheel is ominous. It also proves that the mantra of a counter terrorism policy spelled by the interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan was meaningless. The entire governance machinery while seeking civilian supremacy is disconnected from FATA operations. Yet, the government is quick to latch on to the success of military operations. Drawing political mileage was and will remain the norm. The fissures and disconnect that stand exposed are most likely to widen.

Imran Khan was right in suggesting the formation of an experts committee to draft a policy that could be ratified by the Parliament. The Prime Minister side stepped the issue into a delaying stratagem in the name of political consensus that means status quo.

Mr. Prime Minister, you have the requisite majority in the lower house to make any legislation. The upper house with its inherent character will surely support you. By holding a long joint parliamentary session against Imran Khan and Tahir ul Qadri, you sent an impression that the entire Parliament was with you. Your henchmen used the podium to bash the army and expose a non-existent London Conspiracy. The media house and anchors that support you moved in tandem. The judiciary does not wish to entertain anything against you. You apparently have your rigging tracks well covered. With all this support and a carte blanche, why don’t you act like a man of crises and lead the way? Why is collective decision making so important to you? Or will you hang around looking the other way to counter terrorism operations to claim the last lap to victory as you did in nuclear explosions or disown failures like you did in Kargil?

Imran Khan made a big sacrifice by willing to attend the conference and stop agitation politics. As compared to Nawaz Sharif, he occupies higher moral ground by ceding the energy mass he had generated tediously for an immediate national cause. He made a suggestion for making an expert group on terrorism. The Prime Minister ridiculed it with his unpunctuated wit before an audience in mourning and in no mood to hear a joke. His smile and relaxed demeanour indicated that he thinks he has won one more battle. Like the crocodile tears he shed on Benazir Bhutto’s murder, Peshawar was the venue for his drama. His next move is to sit in recusal over the terrorism committee and engage the nation in Winkle’s yarns. The overwhelming shadow of the tragedy prevented Imran Khan from making a forceful rebuttal and walking out. His mind was not on a victory lap but rather on the misery of his people. The body language of both reflected two different paradigms. But now that he is there, he must assert his presence and galvanise likeminded Parliamentarians.

Footage of a grim looking Nawaz Sharif during a national security briefing in GHQ is in contrast to his smiles in Peshawar. The latest round of victory was short lived. The battle of Civil-Military supremacy will go on. 

The writer is a political economist and a television anchorperson. He can be contacted at samson.sharaf@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter