Pakistan’s political kaleidoscope

By Asif Haroon Raja
Muhammad Ali Jinnah achieved the miracle of 20th century by creating Pakistan on August 14, 1947 against gravest odds but breathed his last on September 11, 1948 and orphaned people of Pakistan. Survival of Pakistan became doubtful since Hindu leaders in league with the British had not given up and hatched conspiracies to undo Pakistan. Hindu and British economic wizards had predicted that Pakistan will collapse under the weight of economic problems within six months. Pakistan which had to start from a scratch was loaded with plethora of compound problems by India. In October 1947, a war was imposed upon Pakistan after Indian military landed its forces at Srinagar and annexed two-thirds Kashmir.
After the early demise of Quaid e Azam, Liaqat Ali Khan ably handled the state affairs and managed to pass Objectives Resolution which became the basis for the future constitution. He was murdered in October 1951 when he was addressing a public meeting at Liaqat Bagh Rawalpindi. It has now been revealed after the declassification of US archives that his murder was planned by CIA. His departure created leadership crisis and from then onward this vacuum of leadership couldn’t be filled. All those who ruled the roost during the formative years had feet of clay. Six PMs changed hands in next 7 years.
During this doleful democratic era, Pakistan veered towards the US to seek security from overweening India and hostile Afghanistan and never got out of its influence. Another thing which happened was the political-bureaucracy divide. The military entered the political brawl in complicity with the bureaucracy. Once Gen Ayub Khan was taken on board by making him the defence minister in addition to his post of C-in-C, the bureaucracy-military oligarchy aligned with the judiciary called all the shots. The seat of Governor General/President was made more powerful than the PM. Palace intrigues obstructed growth of democracy. It took nine years to frame a constitution, which was abrogated by President Iskandar Mirza after declaring martial law on October 8, 1958 and sacking Feroz Khan Noon’s govt. External threats and alignment with the US when seen in context with weak political leadership and civil institutions helped the military to attain salience in national politics.
The military under Gen Ayub Khan seized power on October 28, 1958 to put the derailed nation back on the rails and make it affluent. He kept the bureaucracy on board but sidelined corrupt and inept politicians through EBDO which brought strains in civil-military relations. Ayub Khan made good use of the US lavish military and economic assistance to strengthen Pakistan’s economy and military and in his first 5-year development plan he upturned the economy and transformed Pakistan into a role model, envied by the developing world. His ten-year golden rule undoubtedly made Pakistan strong and prosperous. In his second 5-year development plan (1965-1970), when the economy was at the take-off stage and set to make Pakistan an Asian Tiger, ZA Bhutto and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman inspired agitation created political chaos. Agitations continued even after the surfacing of Agartala conspiracy. When the combined opposition demanded Ayub’s resignation in spite of the fact that he had agreed to all their demands, he resigned in March 1969 and handed over the baton to Gen Yahya Khan. In his farewell speech he said that he could not preside over the disintegration of Pakistan. To say that he sowed the seeds of disintegration of Pakistan is travesty of truth. Release of Mujib at the behest of politicians and making him a hero sowed the seeds of fragmentation.
Gen Yahya Khan during his 2 ½ years calamitous rule committed several political blunders in his bid to appease the Bengalis, and one of them was the abrogation of 1962 Constitution and not reverting to 1956 Constitution. The country was run on Legal Framework Order. Absence of constitution, dissolution of One-Unit, one-man-one-vote and joint electorates facilitated the agenda of secessionists led by Mujib and backed by India. Pakistan had to pay a very heavy price of Bhutto-Mujib intrigue and lost half of the country in December 1971.
FM Ayub Khan’s successful economic policy which was adapted by South Korea, Japan and Malaysia was sidelined by ZA Bhutto after he took over power on December 20, 1971 and wore the hats of CMLA and President. Impressed by Karl Marx-Leninist ideology and China’s socialism, he opted for Islamic socialism. His nationalization policy aimed at providing bread, clothes and shelter to the poor ruined the budding industry, education and banking system and impoverished the economy. He authored the 1973 Constitution but soon after its unanimous passage, he carried out several amendments to become all powerful. Insurgency in Baluchistan triggered in 1974 as a result of sacking of Baluchistan and KP Ministries. His autocracy and rigging in March 1977 elections led to Dhandli (rigging) chanting PNA movement (a conglomeration of nine parties), demanding Nizam-e-Mustafa. Despite imposition of martial law in Karachi, Hyderabad and Lahore, the tempo didn’t die down and resulted into complete political logjam. It is wrong to assume that an agreement was agreed to.
Under the circumstances and egged on by the politicians, Gen Ziaul Haq seized power on July 5, 1975 and placed ZA Bhutto under house arrest at Murree. An FIR registered in 1974 in which Bhutto was implicated by Kasuris for the murder of their father was unfrozen and reactivated. Miffed by Bhutto’s arrogance, Lahore High Court led by Judge Maulvi Mushtaq awarded death sentence to Bhutto. The Supreme Court under chief justice Anwarul Haq confirmed the sentence although it was a split decision. During PPP 4th rule, it was declared as a judicial murder and Gen Zia was blamed for it.
During his 11 years rule, Gen Zia faced the USSR challenge and handled the Afghan war most skillfully which ended in a classical victory for the Mujahedeen. He also took full advantage of the Pakistan’s strategic alignment with USA and completed the manufacture of nuclear bomb in the basement secretly. He uplifted the GDP to over 7% as well as the image of the country. He died in C-130 plane crash on August 17, 1988 along with several generals, US ambassador and defence attaché. The crash was engineered by CIA since he had become too dangerous for the US on account of his strong influence over Afghanistan, his weapon-grade nuclear program and his decision to introduce Sharia. Had he lived a bit longer, Kashmir could have become part of Pakistan, Khalistan turned into a reality and Afghanistan aligned with Pakistan could have become stable.
The ten-year democratic era from October 1988 till October 1999 was another bleak period of Pakistan’s political history in which no government could survive beyond 2 to 2 ½ years period. Reasons were poor governance and corruption. The US sanctions added to the woes and economy slumped and debts swelled up. Fall-out effects of the Afghan war militarized the society and extremism, sectarianism and ethnicity up surged. Pakistan became a nuclear power during the second stint of PML-N and had to face additional sanctions.
The military rule under Gen. Musharraf which commenced its journey from the night of October 12, 1999 uplifted the sagging economy, filled up dwindling foreign exchange reserves, lifted GDP to 7-8%, improved image of the country and made the expanded media more independent and glamorous, although with ill-effects. However the gains made didn’t make a lasting impact on the economy since it was a rentier economy instead of a developmental economy. Other factors which impacted the economy were the unproductive war on terror and the lawyers’ movements which triggered in March 2007 after Chief Justice Iftikhar was sacked.
Though the US doled out few billion dollars in economic aid and repayment of CSF, it disgraced Pakistan by giving humiliating names such as “Pakistan is breeding ground and nursery of terrorism’, ‘it is aligned with terrorists’, ‘it is playing a double game’, ‘it is either complicit or inefficient’, ‘it is the most dangerous country in the world’. Fighting the US imposed war and doing more without grasping the hidden objectives behind it was at the cost of eroding Pakistan’s sovereignty and dignity of the nation and weakening Pakistan from within.
Learning a lesson from their rough experience in the 1990s which had paved the way for the military to once again step in, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif (NS) during their exiles signed Charter of Democracy at London in 2006. Important clauses of this agreement were that both will take turns and each will be allowed full 5-year tenure, none will encourage Army to takeover, and that the Army will be bridled and brought under civil control. It’s a different matter that Benazir disregarded the agreement and entered into a secret arrangement with Gen. Mush to share power. This agreement brokered by USA and UK at Dubai in July 2007 led to the issuance of infamous NRO on Oct 5, 2007 and Mush getting another five-year extension. The NRO dry cleaned the top leadership of PPP charged of multiple mega corruption cases pending in law courts and absolved 8000 MQM criminals involved in heinous crimes.
Whatever impressive economic gains made by Gen Mush regime were frittered away by the incoming democratic regime led by PPP and partnered by MQM and ANP. Asif Ali Zardari, known as Mr. 10% was elected president as well as PPP head after the murder of Benazir Bhutto. Terrorism became an uncontrollable monster since it was secretly fed by the ones pressing Pakistan to ‘do more’. The military had to launch major operations in Swat-Malakand region, Bajaur and South Waziristan in 2009 to push back the forward rushing TTP terrorists that had snatched control over 19 administrative units in the northwest. Having lost control over 17 units, the TTP managed to convert North Waziristan (NW) into its major base in 2011 with its auxiliary base in Tirah Valley. Insurgency in Baluchistan morphed into a separatist movement, again backed by foreign powers. Karachi became lawless due to MQM’s programmed militancy to bleed Pakistan’s economic lifeline.
While the Indo-US-Afghan nexus based in Kabul accelerated the pace of terrorism in Pakistan, the rulers indulged in record breaking corruption and nepotism. Corruption was institutionalized and accountability sheathed under the garb of national reconciliation. Corporate sectors were systematically destroyed and institutions politicized. Crime, corruption, politics and terrorism got interconnected. In Sindh alone, financial terrorism touched Rs. 240 billion a year. Kerry Lugar Bill in 2009 and Memo-gate scandal in 2011 were recipes to civilianize ISI, bring the Army completely under civil control and to disable nuclear program.
By the time the PPP regime departed in February 2013, the country had become bankrupt, heavily debt ridden and immersed in worst ever energy crisis. Foreign masters had allowed their dream team to loot and plunder to their heart’s desire and complete full five-year tenure so as to financially and morally weaken Pakistan from within. Financially and energy starved Pakistan suited the adversaries since it helped them in accomplishing their hidden objective of defanging Pakistan’s nuclear program and stall the work on Gwadar seaport by China. Handover of operational control from China’s Company to US-India influenced Singapore Company by Mush had already slowed down the development of the port.
NW housed over 60 militant groups including Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and Turkistan Islamic Movement under the umbrella of TTP led by Fazlullah, himself based in Kunar. Pakistan was virtually in a nutcracker situation since apart from internal threats stoked by RAW and NDS, India embarked upon a drive to encircle and isolate Pakistan and then deliver the military hammer with its Cold Start doctrine.
Pakistan was faced with triple threats from India, Afghanistan and from within and was wholly dependent upon the crutches of USA, IMF, World Bank to keep its economy floating. The entire elite class including the ones in corridors of powers had stashed over $200 billion in foreign banks and had thus become subservient to the dictates of USA. It was owing to this perverse master-client status that the US could pressurize Pak leaders to get Raymond Davis released in March 2011, launch a brazen helicopters raid on Abbottabad on May 2, 2011 and a bloody attack on Salala on November 26 that year, and then free their man Hussain Haqqani.
When PML-N regime took over in June 2013, the country was teetering at the edge of catastrophe. In its little over 4-year tenure, it has managed to improve macro economy, almost overcome energy crisis, controlled terrorism in three conflict zones, launched National Action Plan and development works including mega projects, initiated CPEC which is rightly called as a game-changer and improved the image of Pakistan. But for the obstructionist policy of Imran Khan led PTI and meddling of foreign powers, more progress could be made particularly on CPEC which got delayed for six months owing to the sit-in at Islamabad in 2014. Disqualification of PM NS on July 28, 2017 by the apex court has also impeded the forward flow but mercifully the PML-N government is still intact and carrying forward the same development policy.
However, what is worrying is that foreign debt has risen to $75 billion, exports have dwindled and import bill has inflated, remittances from expatriates, foreign exchange reserves have reduced and circular debt has again piled up. Propaganda against CPEC to defame it has become bitter. What is encouraging is that Tump’s jingoism has started to gel the divided nation as well as political and religious forces and power centres together.
Harking back into our 70-year old history, there have been four democratic eras including the present one and four military rules spread over 34 years. Political leadership has failed to measure up to the challenges of state building and national integration. Pakistan can be described as a Garrison State striving to map out a democratic course and achieve real democracy, but has so far produced a hybrid or sham democracy. Owing to lurking security threats, the military retains control over foreign policy and national security whether in power or out of power. This factor has bred distrust and resulted in never ending civil-military stiffness.
Coming few months are very critical for Pakistan since the political temperature is still high due to PTI-PML-N acute antagonism, bye-elections in NA-120 seat vacated by NS on September 17 which has become a do-or-die battle for the two parties, PPP’s desire to regain power, Far-Right flexing its muscles and Jamaatud Dawa entrance into political arena, PML-N-judiciary tussle due to former nurturing a grudge that it has been wrongly harmed by the judiciary. There is also simmering civil-military tautness, although the ruling regime under new PM Khaqan Abbassi has stated that both are on one page.
Amidst the political wrangling and tug of war between power centres, Donald Trump’s policy speech on Afghanistan in which he singled out Pakistan and threatened it has made the overall situation explosive. Joint declaration of BRICKS Summit in China in which certain Pakistan based Jihadi groups (Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad) were named has further vexed Pakistan. Till this declaration, China was the only country which stood behind Pakistan whenever accused of terrorism.
The evolving grim situation in which Pakistan is fast getting isolated and unjustifiably blamed for exporting terrorism has impelled our policy makers to dispassionately revisit our national and foreign policy and make suitable changes to meet the future challenges. There is a need to transform Pakistan from a Garrison to a Developmental State and to strengthen civil institutions. Cabinet Committee on National Security and National Security Council should be made more effective. Defence Minister should not be a dummy, but must know the dynamics of strategic planning of defence matters and should exercise effective command and control over the three services.
Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif rightly called the conference of our Envoys, framed conclusions, and then embarked upon a tour to China, Afghanistan and Iran. Based on their inputs, he will then visit Washington to put forward Pakistan’s well-considered viewpoint. What is important is to convincingly and forcefully impress upon the US leaders that Pakistan has done more than anyone else and cannot fight Afghanistan’s war, and that all along the US has pursued a discriminatory policy by backing all wrongful acts of India and Afghanistan and censuring each and every act of Pakistan. The misperception that the US has spent billions and billions of dollars must be dispelled by highlighting the correct figures of gains and losses incurred.
The US leaders should be told clearly that Afghan soil and not Pakistan soil is being used for exporting terrorism. They should be asked to specify the safe havens and to refrain from hurling allegations based on conjectures. They should be informed that Pakistan is the sole country which is constantly suffering since 1979 due to instability in Afghanistan, while India has stayed away from it. They should be educated that India is the spoiler and villain of peace, as had been underlined by Gen McChrystal, Gen Petraeus and Chuck Hegel. They should be asked as to why they have closed their eyes to India’s state terrorism and massive human rights violations in Indian Occupied Kashmir and its continuous firing across the LoC in Kashmir.
It is now up to the ability and acumen of Khawaja Asif whether he will make his hosts listen to him and make them change their prejudiced posture, or he adopts the usual defensive and apologetic stance and remain on the receiving end. He should live up to his reputation of a hawk and speak with conviction that terrorism is flowing into Pakistan from Afghanistan and not vice versa. He need not fight but convey the truth forthrightly based on facts and say that Pakistan must not be taken for granted and will from now onward not become a convenient scapegoat and a whipping boy. He should shun all offers of aid and hypocritical pats on the back and reiterate Gen Bajwa’s stance that Pakistan only needs its sacrifices to be acknowledged and to be treated with honor and dignity.
The American leadership should be apprised that Pakistan will be forced to react if its space is intruded by land, air or sea. They should be made to realize that Pakistan has suffered enough and will not do more and it is others including USA that needs to do a lot more.

The writer is a retired Brig, war veteran, defence analyst, columnist, author of five books, Vice Chairman Thinkers Forum, Director Measac Research Centre. Takes part in TV talk shows and delivers talks.

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