Honorable Prime Minister,
I am going to apologize in advance for the length of this letter, but you have given me a great deal to talk about in the last 18 months and 18 days of your government. I am sure that you will have an aide read this because I am not one of your friends in the media, blue-eyed boy investor or member of your party.
No, I am just a Pakistani. Just one of the many Pakistanis that love this country and can’t stand seeing it going through these pains over and over.
During the election campaign, you all presented yourselves as being capable to guide Pakistan out of its problems. On election day, Mr. Sharif, you were given the mandate to govern the country as the ruling party for the third time in Pakistan’s history. We all hoped that this time you would be ready for the new challenges that Pakistan faced and would compose a cabinet of those who were suitably capable in their respective fields to assist you with the tough task ahead and that you would deliver on your election promises of solving the electricity crisis, improving the economy and ending the terrorism problem in the nation that has been allowed to grow and festered for decades prior to it rearing its ugly head. We hoped.
In June, when you and your cabinet took your respective oaths of office, we waited to see where the country would go under your leadership. You, unlike President Zardari and Prime Ministers Gilani and Ashraf, were not new to the position, having held it twice before. We expected more from you and your cabinet. You, in fact, promised us more.
We have watched with horror, the sheer viciousness and brutality of the attacks the terrorists have carried out with the burning of Quaid-e-Azam’s home, the attack on the Christian church in Peshawar, the suicide attacks in Peshawar, Mardan, Lahore, Quetta, FATA and Karachi, the attacks on Quaid-e-Azam International and Bacha Khan International, and the indiscriminate attacks on schools, masjids and shopping centers throughout the country, ending in the brutal cold-blooded murder of 141 people at Army Public School in Peshawar.
After each of these attacks we heard the same statements, that the government will form a comprehensive strategy to counter terrorism in Pakistan. There were in-camera session in the Parliament with the heads of the armed forces and intelligence services that raised our hopes that the government was actually going to do something concrete to stop the tragic loss of life that Pakistanis were seeing almost daily. Yet, after the in-camera session and the numerous committee meetings, nothing changed. Nothing got more secure other than the protection surrounding elected officials, which meant less police to protect common citizens.
We watched as you tried to push the Pakistan Protection Ordinance through your majority Parliament, promising to give the needed tools to law enforcement agencies to stop terrorism, hate speech and incitement. We watched as you passed this draconian law and then watched as it disappeared into the files of Parliament, unimplemented. That law alone would have given our law enforcement agencies significant powers and authority to move quicker to stop potential terrorist attacks and threats against the people. Sadly, it still sits in the files of the Parliament as another failed initiative to stop terrorism in Pakistan.
We waited and continued to collect our dead from the streets of Pakistan’s urban centers, small towns and villages, while the government promised to deliver a counter-terrorism strategy. Sadly, nothing has been done. No concrete action has been taken and we return to ground zero after each terrorist attack, each more horrific than the previous.
Mr. Prime Minister, we are tired of the promises. We are tired of listening to the government’s mantra of “we are working hard to stop terrorism in the country.” We waited when the government chose to follow the direction of some parties and engaged in negotiations with the terrorists that were killing our citizens. We were shocked when you agreed to release terrorists from custody without any concessions from the other side. We listened to politicians on television make their case that there are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban or that not everyone wants to kill us. The Peshawar Church attack happened during those narratives by a splinter group from the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, who had been able to re-arm because no concrete action was taken against those who were ‘misguided brothers’, in the words of another politician.
But the time for pointing fingers is over. The time for twiddling our thumbs in the air and singing the same chorus is over. It is over.
After the attack on Army Public School, we listened as you lifted the moratorium on the death penalty and ordered executions of terrorists to start immediately. We applauded the decision.
We listened as you announced military tribunals for all terrorism cases. We knew this was the best move forward.
We listened in amazement as you, with Imran Khan sitting by your side, announced that you would need seven days to develop a plan to counter the terrorists. 18 months and 11 days since your government took power, numerous in-camera sessions, parliamentary committee meetings, and your government needed another 7 days to draft a strategy that had not come forward in 18 months and 11 days.
Days have passed since the Peshawar attack and the expected has happened. Six executions in, you backed away from the death penalty on the insistence of domestic and international human rights organizations. I wonder, Mr. Prime Minister, where your humanity was when a lynch mob executed a Christian couple for alleged blasphemy? Or the daily execution of Shias and other minorities across Pakistan? Are they not humans in your eyes? Do their executors not deserve death as well?
Are the human rights organizations willing to move their offices to Pakistan and live among us, without police protection, to prove that executing terrorists who take pleasure in brutally killing our citizens is not the best choice for Pakistan? Would they be willing to move them into their homes as a form of house arrest to prove that it’s inhumane to execute those who take pleasure in indiscriminate murder?
Personally, I am not a supporter of the death penalty in normal criminal cases, but these are not normal criminal cases. These are people who have been indoctrinated, encouraged and led to believe that indiscriminately killing tens and hundreds of innocent men, women and children is what Islam teaches. They feel they are justified by the teachings of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), that this behavior is acceptable. They have given Islam, and Pakistan, a black eye internationally because we, as Muslims, are unwilling to take real action against them. Is this the Islam that you believe in, Mr. Prime Minister? Are our lives expendable, while yours is precious in the eyes of Allah?
18 months and 18 days have passed and you have revoked the call for military tribunals, choosing instead to have the Pakistan courts hear the cases. The insistence of the human rights organizations have clouded your vision into believing that the same courts that have seen fit to release every terrorist in custody will now be able to change their attitudes and send these individuals to their death.
Seven years of democracy and three Prime Ministers have not seen one terrorist convicted in the Pakistani courts. Even the likes of Maulana Abdul Aziz, who has openly pledged his allegiance to both al-Qaeda and ISIS in video messages, is walking free in Islamabad threatening citizens again because the courts of Pakistan have not been able to convict him for the actions he and his brother inspired at Lal Masjid.
Mr. Prime Minister, at the same time you were making commitments to stop terrorism on our soil, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi leader Malik Ishaq is being released from prison because of ‘lack of evidence’, the same reason given in every case where a known terrorist has been released back into the population to plan and carry out more attacks against Pakistani citizens.
How much more are you willing to blacken Pakistan’s eye as you say one thing and do the complete opposite? How much more blood needs to be shed before you realize that the courts aren’t capable of delivering justice to the most brutal animals in our country? I would apologize for using the term animals, but anyone who takes glee in playing football with the heads of our soldiers is not a human being and has lost all right to be treated as one.
18 months and 18 days have passed and the committee has not provided any real actionable steps to counter the ever-growing violence that the terrorist groups have espoused against Pakistan. We watched Chaudhry Nisar’s press conference on the eve of the 8th day where he asked that people watch tandoorwalas to see if anyone was purchasing a large quantity of naans. In today’s Pakistan, where a joint family system is the norm, someone buying 20 or 30 naans isn’t a mark of a terrorist. Is this what we waited 7 days for?
We listened as he told us of one person having multiple SIMs issued in her name from a single mobile operator, which were being used by terrorists and wondered how it was possible that after demanding that all mobile operators ensure biometric verification of every connection, the process still had not been completed. We wondered how PTA, who passed a legislation and the government paid for the advertisements on television and newspapers banning more than 5 connections on any CNIC card, that one person was able to purchase 7 from the same mobile operator. The mobile operators, according to press accounts, have even refused to participate in the verification process, with one saying that they will pull their business from Pakistan.
Is there no penalty in the legislation passed by your government for those who refuse to complete the verification of their SIM holders? Will you again make a deal with the mobile operators who have plenty of money for non-stop advertisements to give away Corollas, return tickets and free late night calling packages to incite people to buy a pre-paid connection? I should mention that the courts have also ordered these practices must be stopped, but as with all judgments from the Pakistani courts, this was not followed.
We listened in shock as the Interior Minister told the nation that anyone willing to pay Rs. 25,000 for a room that is usually Rs. 5,000 should be considered suspicious by the property owner. Was this a recommendation of the committee that was formed? Look out for those that overpay for rental property? May I ask, how many rental contracts are actually checked for valid CNIC cards or filed with the relevant authorities? Most who rent their property to tenants are writing 11 month leases to avoid paying taxes on the rental income, so who is going to turn down extra money from a potential tenant?
We listened in confusion that it had taken 18 months and 18 days to enact a terrorist hotline for citizens to be able to phone with information about suspicious behavior. Should that not have been the first action taken by your government when you took office? Telling us that we are the best intelligence sources is like slapping us in the face with your incompetence. With 26 civilian and 2 military intelligence organizations, are you just realizing that the citizens might have information that you don’t have?
Mr. Prime Minister, why has no information source been provided by the government so we know whom the police, Army and intelligence services are looking for? Why are the nightly news programs not running pictures of wanted terrorists at the beginning and end of their news broadcasts? Your government saw fit to run advertisements to congratulate yourselves on a variety of economic projects that honestly mean nothing to Pakistan without security; why haven’t advertisements been started in all the national newspapers with pictures of the most wanted? Why are we not getting the information that we require to adequately assist the government and law enforcing agencies in eliminating this threat from our country, and to protect ourselves in the process?
Mr. Prime Minister, I wrote this letter with a heavy heart as I thought of my fellow Pakistanis that have suffered for your government’s inaction to secure our lives. I thought of my fellow Pakistanis that have joined funeral processions for their loved ones and friends. I struggled to find the words to explain to you that we need action today. Not seven days from now. Not a month from now. Now, Mr. Prime Minister.
We have waited 18 months and 18 days for your government to take the action promised against terrorism and to secure Pakistan for Pakistanis. I understand that we are not the primary concern for your government because we are just the “bar, bakra” as your colleagues said in Parliament during Imran Khan’s protest. We, however, are not expendable. We are not a sacrifice that can be made to the terrorists in return for extra days added to your government’s lifespan.
The next attack, and there will be another attack Mr. Prime Minister, will put more blood on your hands. It will put more people in the ground as martyrs to the cause of your democratic government that has waited 18 months and 18 days to secure their lives from the biggest threat to them. These are the true shaheeds, Mr. Prime Minister. These will always be the true shaheeds.
We demand that your government make concrete decisions and move forward with them. We demand that your government show the world that Pakistan is a peaceful country that has been laid siege to by terrorists who are not Muslims by any definition o the religion. We demand that your government take action according to the Pakistan Protection Ordinance to cease the hate speech and incitement that comes from the extremists and terrorists to those who are already wondering if they will make it home tonight. We demand that your government either step up or step down because we have had enough over the last 18 months and 18 days of do nothing politics.
Now is the time to act, Mr. Prime Minister. Our blood is just as precious to Allah as yours is, you can count on that.