Politicians are biggest enemies of democracy
India’s unabated belligerence forced both civil and military regimes to remain India focused and to turn Pakistan into a security state. It in turn retarded economic and democratic growth. National security and unresolved Kashmir dispute being of prime concern enabled the military to maintain a domineering position even when it was not in power. The civil government was restrained from crossing the red lines drawn by GHQ. This unwritten restriction motivated by national interests irked the civil leadership when in power. Sense of unease and irritation among the civil elite led to a cold war between the civil and the military. This controlled exasperation at times spoiled civil-military relations.
Failure of successive civil regimes coupled with security concerns forced or tempted the military to step in and rule for long years to cleanse the mess left behind by the civil government. The politicians in opposition after failing to bring down the ruling civil government coaxed and provoked the Army Chief to takeover, assuring him their full support in dethroning the elected government. They have traditionally distributed sweets on the fall of democratic government.
The military regimes did improve the economy, maintained semblance of order and speeded up development works because of relatively better governance and financial management, but impeded growth of democratic institutions. As long as the military ruler ruled the country without acquiring the services of politicians, output remained at peak. In its bid to acquire legitimacy by giving a façade of democracy, each military ruler inducted the same lot of condemned politicians in his government. The mix whitewashed whatever achievements were made and brought bad name to the Army. The judiciary legitimized the military rule under the doctrine of necessity. Forcible takeovers by Army chiefs were validated by the judiciary. Yahya was declared a usurper once he was no more in power and because of the 1971 debacle. The military dictators were allowed to suspend, abrogate and amend the constitution and issue Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO). The judges willingly took oath under PCO. Bureaucracy always molded its working in accordance with the wishes of the rulers and served them obediently. It has been hand-in-glove with corrupt political elite and has also been misused by the military.
Media was vastly expanded and liberated by Musharraf and it became a force to reckon with, but in the aftermath of sacking of Chief Justice Iftikhar on March 7, 2007, which triggered lawyer’s movement, the media became hostile. Secular journalists and pseudo intellectuals, mostly on payroll of foreign powers maintain aggressive stance against the Army as an institution, but feel pleased in promoting Indo-western themes. Besides negative role of own media, Indo-US-Jewish-western media has traditionally bad mouthed Pak Army.
PPP Jayalas joined by the liberals and secular elite as well as media continue to upbraid Gen Ziaul Haq mercilessly and unjustly hold him responsible for all the ills in the society. Gen Zia in his 11 years rule added several feathers in his cap and raised the image of Pakistan in the world comity very high. However, PPP in its four stints gave nothing to the nation except false slogans. The PML-N blames Gen Musharraf for inflicting a severe blow to the burgeoning democracy. It forgets that Nawaz Sharif had sacked Gen Karamat on flimsy grounds and bypassing Gen Ali Kuli Khan, appointed Musharraf as his successor. Instead of sacking him when he was in a weak position after Kargil conflict, he retired him when he was strong. Nawaz also forgets that Musharraf was fully supported by PML-Q led coalition consisting MQM, ANP and MMA from 2002 till end 2007. He was allowed to hold two portfolios of President and COAS. Even Imran Khan supported him till 2002. Benazir struck a secret a power sharing deal with Musharraf in July 2007 which enabled her and her cronies in exile to return home.
The secret deal was inked two months after the Charter of Democracy was signed by Benazir and Nawaz Sharif in which the foremost point of agreement was never to invite Army generals to takeover. But for infamous NRO issued by Musharraf, Benazir and others couldn’t have returned to Pakistan. PPP returned the favor by letting Musharraf win 2nd term on 6 October 2007, but once it gained power, it joined hands with PML-N to unseat him in August 2008 and allowed him to go in exile with full honor. Now when he returned to take part in elections, the PPP has joined hands with those wanting his trial under Article 6. After seeing the poor governance and record breaking corruption of the last government, it has now been established that politicians and not Army are the biggest enemies of democracy. The Army leadership maintains that the Army seized power only when the country got derailed and each time the Army took over the reins it put the country back on the rails. The blame game continues even when the Army under Gen Kayani showed exceptional restraint and refused to takeover when huge calls were made repeatedly urging him to free the people from the clutches of parasitic rulers and save the country from getting ruined. Reportedly, ATC Judge Kausar Abbas Zaidi who cancelled pre-arrest bail of Musharraf is brother of Capt retired Mansur Zaidi, who was court martialed by Gen Musharraf. Mansur was caught running a security company in Islamabad in 2008 and supplying weapons to Blackwater. Another revelation that has come to light is that Judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui who cancelled Musharraf’s bail was a Mutahida Majlis Amal candidate in 2002 elections and a lawyer of Lal Masjid case. Supporters of Musharraf are saying that the judiciary has become vindictive and is bent upon punishing him and are egging on Gen Ashfaq Kayani to step forward and save ex Army chief from humiliation. The last PPP regime managed to pull on with Gen Kayani since he lent full support to democracy and showed no Bonaparte’s tendencies. Finding him reliable he was given three-year extension to secure its five-year tenure. Notwithstanding several frictions which erupted from time to time on national security matters, a near breaking point reached after the memo scandal in 2011 took an ugly turn. The headlong clash averted due to PM Gilani’s retreat. Gen Kayani has set a good precedence of keeping the military detached from politics and keeping it supportive of democracy. Had he intervened and sacked the PPP regime, there would have been huge rejoicing and Kayani would have been declared a hero. However, within six months situation would have reversed. The PPP would have regained sympathies of the people by acting as a political martyr and Kayani branded as a usurper and enemy of democracy. He did well to let them stew in their own juice and let the people to decide the true worth of politicians.
Hopefully this hands-off tradition will be maintained in future as well. Likewise, the politicians should also show greater sense of responsibility by not inviting the Army to takeover or maligning the Army as a habit to cover their own failings. Both the military and civil leadership should develop better understanding and try to improve civil-military relations and strengthen democratic institutions. This can happen only when the politicians recognize their own failings and carryout self-correction and start behaving more maturely rather than continuing to parrot hackneyed themes and portraying military rulers in poor light and blaming them for every wrong that takes place. Bureaucracy which has remained part of the problem also needs to mend its ways. Media can play a constructive role in harmonizing civil-military relations. Lastly, now that Musharraf has comeback at his own despite advice given to him by his advisers and Establishment, and is out of political race, justice demands that he should be given fair trial. The writer is a freelance columnist and a defence analyst. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org