Hamlet’s governance?

Yasmeen Aftab Ali

ArticleYAAThose having read Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ would have been sorely reminded of him in the past few months. For those who have not read it; here’s a brief run-down. Hamlet was the Prince of Denmark. His father, the King was murdered. One night, in his dreams, he is visited by a Ghost. The Ghost looks very much like his dead father and tells Hamlet that his murderer is no other than the King’s brother himself; Claudius. This brother murdered the King later taking over not only the throne but also marries the brother’s wife Gertrude.  The Ghost incites Hamlet to avenge the murder of his father by taking Claudius’s life.

Hamlet, facing an uphill responsibility is plagued by his indecisiveness. He is shown to be overly analytical. Analyzing options upon options but being unable to take a decisive action. Interestingly, one of the reasons for this may be his own reasoning based heavily on religion. His focus on achieving the end of Claudius is overshadowed by his confused thinking of its methodology. Eventually, he realizes that in order to achieve his goal, he will have to take some risks. The turnaround comes when he hears opinions by others who feel that either Hamlet should take revenge for his murdered father or go for an all-out war against Claudius. It is this struggle within Hamlet that leads to the deaths of many characters in the play, though he does manage to kill Claudius, eventually.

The plot of this drama was built up on Hamlet’s indecisiveness that takes the play forward, but what is happening on ground in Pakistan, in terms of acts of terrorism is very much real and no play. Just as Hamlet had to put aside everything else in his life in order to deal with Claudius, our government too must prioritize to make terrorism its main challenge to be tackled.

The talks with the Taliban had stalled.  Many predicted that the talks will fail as the militants are ‘buying time’ as they have done in the past. The society stands divided over this issue. Taliban is opposed by a huge segment of moderates yet supported by some on grounds of ‘ideology’ and by some because it fights the United States and NATO forces in Afghanistan; a dangerous posture as it may tend to ignore what actually the Taliban stands for. The failure of recent talks may have been a result of a) An uncompromising list of demands as a pre-condition to beginning talks by Taliban and b) Reporting of every ongoing step or lack of it in media, making rigidity of positions inevitable.

Whether or not Taliban were serious in the process has also been analyzed, “Analysts said the Taliban wanted to start the talks but then prolong them, believing that while talks were underway the government would hold off taking any major military action against the group.” (NYT February 4, 2014) This may well be true and attacks and killings by Taliban never stopped when there was an effort to hold talks- in one incident executing 23 soldiers in the tribal belt. Jets of Pakistan air Force have attacked the Taliban hideouts on many instances since, as a result.

A local newspaper reported, “As Pakistan’s military braces for an expected targeted crackdown against the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and its allied offshoots in North Waziristan Agency and other parts of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), the issue of the TTP militants fleeing to the other side of the border makes a thorny area to step onto.” (February 20, 2014) There is cognizance of the fact that the target is a moving one, definitely not stationary.  The same report goes on to share, “A number of high-valued TTP commanders including Fazlullah are said to have taken refuge in Afghanistan’s Kunar and Nuristan provinces.”

The twist in story came as military operation got underway. A predictable twist if I may be allowed to state. Taliban announced a one month temporary ceasefire. A report in a local newspaper states, “The government has formally announced to stop air strikes against militants, reciprocating Tehrik-I-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) declaration of a month-long ceasefire to resume peace talks.” (Published March 02, 2014) However, government retains “reserve the right to respond to violent attacks”.

There are both pros and cons of this temporary ceasefire, needing dispassionate analysis. First; is destroying the hideouts in FATA and elsewhere   enough? Will the Taliban pose as willing targets like a sitting duck? Or, will they scurry to other habitats? Have the routes been secured to stop this exit? If not, is the destruction of hideouts sans majority of Taliban and their leaders on Pakistani soil, good enough? Second, with networking across borders, access to state-of-the-art weapons and training, funding from vested interests; it will be a long haul. The factors that are the cause of their strength must be addressed. Third, should the uphill nature of the task lead to shying away from taking the bull by its horns? A very crucial question here that must be closely viewed is whether the Taliban have agreed to ceasefire in order to deflect military operation aimed at gaining time to recoup and attack more viciously? Should this be the case, no amount of sincerity on part of the government will deliver. It does take two to tango after all! Another question; were the surgical strikes themselves meant to bring about heat on the militants aimed to bring them to the negotiation table?   In order to talk, government must be seen as a strong stakeholder willing to take action against miscreants. Talks after inflicting heavy damage will make the opponent more willing to accept the writ of the state than without. How the government deals with the multidimensional issues that will arise should the talks continue will depend heavily on the Taliban’s perception of the government’s strength- and their own! The outcome of ‘peace talks’ after ‘one month ceasefire’ needs a hard look. What exactly is hoped to be achieved here by both? The outcome desired may be at odds with each other? What then?

The war we fight is not a traditional one, Pakistan must think of diverse tactics in order to deal with terrorism; out-of-box solutions with traditional ones. I am reminded by what Hamlet said to Horatio, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,

Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Good advice for our government and military strategists!

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ Her mail ID is yasmeenali62@gmail.com and tweets at @yasmeen_9

NOTE: This article is a cross post from’Pakistan Today’ where it was published on March 4, 2014

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  • A. Magnet  On March 4, 2014 at 2:22 am

    A brilliant analysis with great insight into the indecisiveness of establishment using Hamlet something interestingly far rare.

  • Inayatullah  On March 4, 2014 at 2:22 am

    Ur oped ‘ Hamlet’s Governance’ has reminded me University Life of 2k8 when late Pali sb was teaching us that.

  • The Count  On March 4, 2014 at 2:23 am

    To B or not to B victims
    That is the question

  • Shaista  On March 4, 2014 at 2:24 am

    Our govt dithers & we suffer.A well written assessment!

  • Pharanaz  On March 4, 2014 at 2:25 am

    The ‘Hamlet Syndrome” of our government Well compared! 🙂

  • Amrinder  On March 4, 2014 at 2:26 am

    A Serious, thoughtful analysis and profound insight into the indecisiveness of Pak Establishment’s dealing with terrorism.What is more fascinating the writer has brought in Hamlet’s enigma to argue her case is interestingly rare. All in all brilliantly written article

  • Ahmer  On March 4, 2014 at 2:27 am

    Read @yasmeen_9 on govt indecision & inaction. Born, in my view, of a desire to #KeepDoorsOpen.

  • Brig Samson Sharaf  On March 4, 2014 at 3:02 am

    Yes and add to t the suicide syndrome. To be or not to be and it becomes Shakespearian Dramatic Irony

  • Shahmeer  On March 4, 2014 at 11:54 am

    Had Socrates being a PAK citizen he would have turned into a Ghazi Salahudin & forgotten the meaning of intellectual

  • Shahmeer  On March 4, 2014 at 11:55 am

    2. pursuits after reading your article of today. Absolutely spot on!

  • Shaheen  On March 4, 2014 at 11:58 am

    MNS is giving a chance to the Talbans to re-group, I fear. Yesterdays killing showed that up…

  • N. Khan  On March 4, 2014 at 11:59 am

    Ms Ali, You are a brave lady, in a segregated society, that believes woman’s place is hearth and home. Keep up the good work.
    I have seen the castle in Denmark, which was inspiration for Shakespeare’s Hamlet – “To be or not to be.” I have also seen cottage of Shakespeare.
    Civilians are indecisive, inefficient, and corrupt along the way – keeping major portion of business activity, financial pie, for themselves, and their courtiers. In this ‘enlightened age,’ men in uniform, no matter how honest, realistic, and effective, are out of style, at home and abroad. Putin is not a man in uniform, though KGB, but takes quick clear cut decisions. He makes a lot of people uncomfortable. Watch Ukraine. Recent ‘proportionate response’ showed that armed forces, the only world class institution, can tackle the issue. Just today 3/3, they gave the PM, three options, and what they will cost. The problem of civilian rule is, that 60 percent of the country is already being managed by armed forces, so eventually a question will be asked, “Then why civilians ?” The society is really not divided. It has never voted for a conservative, or a mullah, to be PM. It is true, that post Zia, Pakistan has too many turbans, and too many interpretations. We need them, but in a milder form – Diet Coke. They tell us, who we are, but those of us, who have access to the Internet, which is point two percent, that is 1/5th of one percent, have to take Pakistan forward, with ‘enlightened moderation.’ Better Intelligence, after all targets have to be marked for Drones strikes, Pakistani Drones, the only weapon the gangsters are afraid of, are the out of box solutions. In the mean time air strikes will do. I would rather talk of consistent snow fall, and other basic issues of life.

  • Jehangir Keramat  On March 4, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    Great. Marvelous summary of Hamlet and excellent questions at the end–!!!

  • Foozy  On March 4, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    Well written, I enjoyed reading it.

  • Shomu(Sameer)Bhattachariya  On March 4, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    The right and correct answer to this problem is undeed very difficult to find. It could also become a catch 22 situation. But a totally miltary solution to the problem is not the answer. All the tribes of the FATA must be taken into confidence because eveybody is not part of the TTP. In Feb 1908 during the military expedition against the Zakha Khel Afrides the Afrides were brought to their knees by their very own people from the famous Khyber Rifles that was led by none other than Colonel Roos Keppel and there was not a single case of desertion. Therefore a humane approach with a give and take attitude could be the only answer I guess.

  • Siraj Khan  On March 4, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    Why do I feel that the PK Govt’s policy with the militants is that of appeasement. “Talks” with terrorists are an exercise in futility. Why do I suspect that there is a de facto alliance with them to spare Punjab and in turn the rest of the country (incl Karachi) is all for them to do their dog and pony show.

    The Talban continue to call the shots – whether it is to fire or activate cease-fire. The PK leadership says OK to everything. Back to Sheikh Spear…

    “Do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe?” Hamlet (Act III, Sc II)

  • Faiqa  On March 4, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    excellent.. very well written, indeed these talk shows are making the whole nation confused on very clear issues

  • Faiqa  On March 4, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    The out-of-the-box solution requires Patience and Wisdom. UNFORTUNATELY we don’t grow that crop in Pakistan.

  • Freds  On March 4, 2014 at 1:45 pm

    Procrastination, which was the cause of Hamlet’s tragic end, could also lead this country to even further disasters.

  • M.N.Khalid Major  On March 4, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    Salamun Alaikum!

    I agree with conclusion.

    “The war we fight is not a traditional one, Pakistan must think of diverse tactics in order to deal with terrorism;”

    Take Care – Thanks

  • Anwar  On March 4, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    it was an excellent article but would hv been much better if role of india and other agencies, kinds of different Taliban gps op interest of different stake holders in eliminating somes gps and saving others plus way forward like diplomatic effort to cut the support of Taliban and insurgents avail to them from various countries then necessity to free police and IB from vip protection and political tasks, making police responsible for combating terrorism in cities instead of military agencies which Is not their role need of getting all pol parties and religious groups on one page, fearless leadership to make decisions with being scared from Taliban ….

  • Anwar  On March 4, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    Creativity at its best ..

  • Afzal Rizvi  On March 4, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    Federal Government Negotiator Group is a pendulumic team and has no idea what haunts them. Why a settlement is needed. Keep Americans convinced or to be fool them or control masses at home.
    One means of regulating Inflation and keeping masses shut and all jobs blown off for women especially.

  • Adeel  On March 5, 2014 at 10:56 am

    Well written. Every day the government, because of its indicieness, seems to inching into a black hole.

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