We need to concentrate on what is right and just. Cyril Almeida’s report in Dawn may have been less about fault-lines in civil-military relations in Pakistan and more to highlight the fact that the media in Pakistan was free while it was completely shut down in India and Indian occupied Kashmir. Reporter Cyril Almeida’s report was good in a way to let the international community know the reality about India and its strategy to mislead and misinform the world’s opinion on the situation in held Kashmir and Indian claims of its being the biggest democracy in the world. Anyway, it all depends on how one interprets a news item and a journalistic report. A prejudiced mind can hardly see positivity in anything. Being in a state of war, Pakistan has to concentrate on what is just and right. The country cannot afford to go for what may be politic or advantageous to some but not to all the people and the nation as a whole.

The dictates of political expediency harm democracy and progress to the extent of deconstitutionalising laws and damaging national interests, thus confusing the line between right and wrong. There is a need to gather courage and the will to redefine the basics of state policy. Let us be clear on what is good for Pakistan, what helps us improve our national image and gives us increasingly more effective space for an honourable place in the comity of nations. Courage in leadership is essential for institution-building for a dynamic balance to prevent destabilisation of economy and society. To my mind, the civil-military relations are not the issue. The real issue is to work for national unity and social integration, a must for preventing non-state actors from challenging the writ of the state. In the situation of a “state within a state” it becomes impossible to plan and act to invest in public welfare with full concentration and efficacy. Don’t tell me that this issue is because of the military. More than ever before, we need to strengthen our military power today.

There may be alternative approaches that can help us get rid of non-state actors. The democratically elected government and the parliament are the proper institutions to find the right solutions for the problems that confront us. Leadership with courage and dedication could surely deliver expected results. Where there is a will there is a way. Strengthening democratic institutions to build internal and external support would be the right line of action to deal with extremists and those defying the writ of the state.

Independent judiciary and an effective media have a very important relationship with our internal unity and strength and what is happening around us socially, economically and politically. The media can help Pakistan to deal with other countries from a position of strength. Image-building is one of the vital roles of the press and electronic media. Effective media presentations demand objectivity, fair play, balanced approach and professionalism.

Appropriate ways and means have to be devised to correct perceptions. Press, radio, television and internet are the available tools to help build bridges for inter-faith harmony and world peace. Such deliberations could also explain extreme behaviour and their roots. The media would do a great service to humanity if its efforts in this direction could end discrimination based on religious and cultural differences. Somewhat more disciplined and organised, the media can help counter political expediency and negativity that results out of decisions by the executive wing of the government.

Through programs and campaigns, the press and electronic media can build public opinion to deal with extremism and anti-state elements as well as non-state actors. Rationality and objectivity are the guiding posts that can help media and the public to overcome problems related to misuse of power by institutions and the uncontrolled power of the non-state actors. Real action and sincerity are the required norms to achieve results.

Politicians, administrators and judges are required to behave tastefully as well as the media and the public at large. We need rule of law, not the law of rules.

If the police and judiciary work sincerely in national interest, Pakistan can become a state free of problems, fully devoted to public service and welfare. The most important question is how the major institutions function and what are the values to be promoted in a given environment of public administration.

The question of credibility and legitimacy of government has emerged in Pakistan time and again. All this refers to is the process of decision-making, especially to political expediency and the harm it does to the structure and function of the government and the unanticipated consequences impacting the whole complex super-structure and the fast penetration of corruption and maladministration. The far reaching impact is seen in the form of displacement of goals, shifting priorities and increased cost of doing business for the government. Ultimately it affects the public, the people’s aspiration levels and the standard of living reflecting on multiple socio-economic, psychological and political problems. The extremists and non-state actors can exploit such situations to create law and order problems and often brutal violence.

It is important that our strategic planning takes stock of possible negative scenarios and the unanticipated consequences for the state and the people and dangers ahead. I am sure that the Pakistan army is fully aware of the internal and external security issues as well as the situation on our eastern and western borders. The enemy designs to see Pakistan failing on various counts have to be frustrated. Pakistan Army has to be seen as an institution that needs public support as was the case in 1965.

Our politicians, the public and three branches of the government plus media (the fourth pillar of the government) have to be fully convinced of the need for an army that can defend every inch of our sacred land. In spite of being a nuclear power, Pakistan faces threats which are existential in nature. The Pakistan army on its initiative, may train every Pakistani to defend our beloved country in case the enemy does not understand the language of cooperation and peace. If war is imposed on Pakistan, the world community would witness every Pakistani participating to defend the evil designs of the enemy. It would be a war for survival, a war for existence.

Our leadership may like to pay attention to Kissinger’s existential question for Pakistan. Pakistan, for much of its existence has lurched from one crisis to another, primarily wrought by its geographic location in a historically volatile neighbourhood, and the political naiveté’ of its leadership (both civil and military). Unfortunately, various state actors have consciously maneuvered at cross-purposes to the detriment of the polity. Securing Pakistan’s borders and stamping out the fresh wave of militant secessionism sponsored by hostile neighbours should be accomplished ruthlessly and without apologies. India and Afghanistan are the immediate external challenges as they partake in the same insidious activities.

The ground reality is not different from what Kissinger expressed. But he is not the one who has to make strategic decisions. It is up to our leadership to rethink. Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it is the only one you have.