Rise of Khakis again!

(Inam Khan, Karachi)

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (Lincoln)

What Lincoln has said portrays the true picture of political fiasco here. Democracy in Pakistan is once again going through a perilous situation where civilian authority is dwindling in the eyes of the masses. From foreign affairs to domestic issues, civil leadership appears to be on the back seat while men-in-uniform exercise more sway. The recent campaign initiated by NAB, FIA and Rangers against corruption has attracted massive support across the country. As they say in politics perception is important than reality, and perception in Pakistan is that this operation was kicked off on the call of military junta. This situation is perplexing not only for government but also for other political parties as they have witnessed interventions and foul play from establishment in the past. But the story does not end here. A fair analysis of our political history suggests that such interventions were the pinnacle of the chaotic phase, caused by politicians, our country was going through at that time.

Political instability is a prominent feature of our history. Pakistan has seen 34 out of 68 years of her existence in regime instability and constitutional deadlock. In the past, military adventurists never spared an opportunity to step in the politics with an infamous “Aziz ham watno” . But then came the democratic era of the 90s. After Zia regime, political parties could have flourished and strengthened democracy, but their vested interests restricted them to do so. Thus, it was the most turbulent and instable period for democracy as four governments came into power within ten years. The 90s era marked a peculiar shift from Army perspective that they preferred to remain behind the curtains while somehow managed to meddle with the limping democracy. They were able to do so because of 58(2b) which empowered President to overthrow an elected government. President Laghari used it against Benazir government. Also, judiciary was cooperative with military on political interferences.

But today, situation is different. After 18th amendment, only PM can dissolve the parliament and holding constitution in abeyance will be tantamount to high treason. Thus, in the presence of 18th amendment, 24/7 vibrant media and non-cooperative judiciary it has become impossible for a dictator to roll back democracy unilaterally. Keeping this in mind, the current political situation has created an interesting debate about the role of Army. Some are considering Imran Khan and Tahir-ul-Qadri as pawns in the hands of the manipulators. To them, Army is still vying to discredit and dislodge an elected government of Nawaz Sharif by backing up “Dharna” politics. In the light of previous adventurism from non-political forces, this doubt or rather apprehension holds some weight. But in my humble opinion, such apprehensions are futile in nature as they lack realistic analysis of the motives of all the political players in the arena.

It is beyond any doubt that democracy in Pakistan has failed to produce the desired results. Across the globe, democracy is meant to safeguard rights and collective interests of the nation. In Pakistan, the term has altogether different connotations. It is perceived here that politics and governments only concern about their petty interests. Everyone in Pakistan knew who was actually controlling Karachi, the mega city, in a mafia style; yet the system could not do anything. Corruption was becoming the hall-mark of our politics; yet no one was there to halt it. Terrorists and criminals were haunting our cities, but no one in the parliament showed serious concerns over it. Blasts and terrorist attacks were common everywhere in the country. No one was spared by terrorists and no one helped anyone. It all kept going till Gen Rahil Sharif was promoted to Army Chief who took tangible measures to clean the mess piled up for a long period. His activism created doubts in the minds of politicians who are wary of being brought to justice. Had they been sincere with the country, they would have cleaned the mess by themselves.

Apart from political fiasco, our state institutions failed to vindicate their own existence. We witnessed judicial activism in the past, but unfortunately not even a single terrorist was taken to task by the court. Same irresponsible attitude was shown by democratic governments. Our ambassador to the USA, Hussain Haqqani, allegedly gave thousands of visas to foreigners without the approval of concerned authorities in Pakistan. Our national legislative assembly from 2008-2013 remained dormant and did not legislate anything concrete to root up terrorism threat. Our crippled electoral system did not hesitate to allow and facilitate the felons and corrupt mafias to exercise their sway in the election process. Articles 62 and 63 became joke and no one was bothered about it. NAB and FIA were only to tear apart political opponents. These agencies deliberately prolonged prosecution and investigation of corruption cases of the big fishes.

When Nawaz Sharif came into power in 2013 he got an overwhelming 2/3rd majority in the parliament. It was expected of him to show political maturity and streamline preferences wisely, but he again let himself to sail with the waves of personal grudges that he held against Army. First he appointed Khuwaja Asif, not a good choice, as a Defense minister. Then he unnecessarily boasted about opening a treason case against Musharraf. Again it was a wrong move in the given circumstances. Later, the Geo episode and his tilt towards India, created distance between GHQ and Islamabad. This was the reason when Imran Khan called for dharna (sit in) against presumably rigged elections of 2013, government erroneously took it as a gambit staged by non-political actors against them. Whereas, it was government who deliberately remained dormant and exhibited “who-cares” attitude towards the demand of Imran Khan before the sit-in took place. It was not Army but government who did not give ears to the logical demands of opposition parties. It was government not Army who brutally launched operation against Tahir-ul-Qadri supporters resulting in 14 deaths and several injuries. Had the election of 2013 been investigated properly and had the victims of Model Town carnage given justice, we would have avoided the besiege of Islamabad in the form of dharna (sit-in).

There is another aspect that would give you a clear picture of what our government and Army are doing when it comes to national issues. Recently when Susan Rice, Obama’s Security Adviser, visited Pakistan in the month of August, she met with Army chief and PM, but our defense minister was absent from the scene. Though constitutionally, Khuwaja Asif represents our defense forces, but he was in Sialkot at the time of Susan’s visit. Similarly, he heads Defense Council, a committee to discuss defense issues, but ironically this council has never convened a meeting since Nawaz Sharif came in power in 2013. It shows the seriousness of our political forces. Modi-Sharif meeting in Ufa this year remained silent on the issue of Kashmir, though it was evident on media that new uprising against Indian forces is on the way to kashmir valley. Indian involvement in shoring up militancy in Pakistan is no more a secret; yet our democratic government never said a word about it publicly ( now they are, with heavy heart, lashing upon India). On the contrary, when APS attack happened, Army chief flew to Kabul on the same day and met with President Ghani in person. When Obama was paying a visit to New Delhi in January to augment strategic bilateral relationship, Army chief was present in Beijing to counter the move by holding talks on China Economic Corridor. When terrorists were at large, Army chief was urging PM to work on National Action Plan and not the vice versa.

I personally believe that compliance to authority comes from expectations. Sadly speaking, all the recent surveys suggest that people are looking for help to Army than government which means that they don’t expect good from governemnt. The heavy-weight 2/3rd majority government is losing popularity and credibility. This is where the show pinches. Civilian government needs to buttress its efforts to face the challenges. Our government must give hope and dreams to the seeking eyes because this is the last chance for them to show what capabilities they are blessed with. Unless they create a vacuum of effective administration, the democracy in Pakistan is out of danger. Political forces should comprehend that constitutionally they are well protected. So they don’t need to go panic and entertain “conspiracy theories”. The need of an hour is to introduce self-correction process in the existing system keeping the fact in mind that no vacuum is left on its own.

“Rise like lions after slumber

In unvanquishable number

Shake your chains to earth like dew

Which in sleep had fallen on you

Ye are many-they are few”

(Shelley)
 

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31 Aug, 2016 Views: 351

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