Speaking at the important Vision 2025 Consultative Conference, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan, our country that is under attack from terrorists, made an intriguing statement. Just when we are all demanding that the government come up with a viable counter-terror strategy, it seems our elected Prime Minister decided to throw the ball of security up in the air. This time it was specifically about judges. As the media reports indicate, when he was asked about the security of judges who would be hearing cases against terrorists, the Prime Minister suggested that for security they could “wear masks”!  Guess he means they can hide their identity.

Well, can anyone tell the Prime Minister this camouflage game isn’t easy in a porous society like ours. The judges entire entourage knows and tells. Plus transparency is a big issue, this - literally - burqa-clad solution is no answer.

The Prime Minister is well meaning, but that is not enough. Some hard thinking too is needed. He must not give himself the license to throw lose balls at the public. Leading a Nation in deep trouble, the PM has to convey determination and confidence to overcome.  This determination has to be backed by wise consistent action. There is no other option available.

We all know it is never an easy time for governments and particularly at present these are exceptionally testing times. Much within Pakistan’s national security construct, especially at the regional level, is unraveling: structures, the collaborations, the networks, the justifications and the myths. This unraveling is no different from the collapse and crumbling of physical structures, that generate tons and tons of rubble. Collapsing of constructs, upon which a society and State’s vision, self-image, safety, well-being and narratives rest, also generates tons of rubble in the shape of confusion, loss of direction, low self-confidence, hurt, sense of betrayal, etc.

This, of course, is in addition to the physical and material mess that unraveling creates, in the form of insecurity, breakdown of law and order, and in our case the external interventions and recriminations. Illegally attacking drones and “failed State choruses from abroad are all the fallout of the fundamental unraveling.

But the point of this writing is not to talk about drones. Rather to point out that the rubble of our confusion, low self-confidence, hurt etc. unless handled wisely, will snowball into much greater chaos that we now witness in public debate. It is abundantly visible on all platforms, on the mainstream and social media especially. In a flat pyramid of information exchange that the new Information Age provides us fear, millions of views are being exchanged among Pakistanis of all ages, political orientations social backgrounds, motivations etc.

But this exchange of a million thoughts is not positioned to collect this rubble of confusion, low self-confidence, anger, hurt etc and weave it into a desperately needed new positive and forward-looking national self-confidence.

Pakistan is neither collapsing nor sinking, it’s a country to whose bright future millions are still committed. From successfully run and even globally acclaimed, from big enterprises to small organizations, working in many different fields, there are islands of excellence and competence, spread across Pakistan.

But the trouble with all these positives is that the broad all-encompassing curse of terrorism and violence that Pakistan is sunk in, these private organizations and private individuals cannot deal with. The inter-linked issues of security and rule of law, are the business of the State. Governments alone can and must deal with both.

The response from the government has to be two-fold. One, ensure the enforcement of law. Two, communicate with the people its plans, resolve and commitment to ensure rule of law which will translate into peoples’ security. It’s the second which is linked to weaving the rubble of confusion generated from the unraveling, into a positive vision of confidence.

Does the government understand this? While people have the license to express confusion, agitated and helpless, but not those who have been elected by us to lead us out of this mess.

Does the Prime Minister know what it does to peoples’ confidence when he says the judges fearing attacks by terrorists “can wear masks.” So Prime Minister burqa-clad judges? Is this your solution? Is this your message to those who are being targeted by terrorists? First we heard that faced with a Punjab and Raiwind-specific threat you had stopped the hangings of terrorists, and then there has been our keenness to dialogue while killings by them have continued. Now the whole of yesterday, first there was Sipah-i-Sihaba standing in the centre of Islamabad, unchecked declaring Shias ‘kafirs’, and then this news that you want judges to wear masks for their protection.

So what is the government’s game plan? Abandon the core mandate it is to fulfill, i.e. to protect the life and property of the citizens of Pakistan? Should everyone now look after their own security? Is the State not alive and kicking?

Tear a page out of what the Colombians did, Prime Minister. From late seventies to early nineties they lost they judges at the hands of bloody drug cartels. The government finally fought back. It did not send the judges to adorn courtrooms in burqas.

You surely don’t mean this?