Thoughts on political imbroglio in Pakistan (Part – 2)
By Asif Haroon Raja
“For Pakistan state to collapse, it is basically the Pakistan Army, which has to collapse. For better or worse, I do not see that happening”. Christine Fair
Points to ponder over
The widely held hearsay that the military establishment whether in power or out of power called all the shots is true and not a conjecture.
The establishment helped the PTI to enervate the PML-N leadership through the judiciary in 2017-18, paved the way for its success in the July 2018 elections, and then watched the harrying and hunting of the PML-N leaders by the courts and the NAB from 2018 to 2021, hoping that it would help the ruling PTI fill up its numerical deficiencies in the Centre and in Punjab by inducting PML-N legislators. It didn’t take into consideration that if the third-party experiment failed, there would be no national party with roots in all the federating units available to fill the political void.
Not reconciling to its defeat, the PML-N is of the view that the July 2018 elections were managed by the establishment and it was due to this perception that IK was nicknamed ‘selected’, and the establishment labelled as ‘selectors’ and ‘aliens’. If the establishment was prepared to earn a bad name, why did it opt for controlled management, and why couldn’t it go a step further to garner two-thirds majority for the PTI? This weakness led to the premature downfall of the PTI regime.
The establishment betted on a clean and agile horse with no skeletons in his cupboard, hoping that their ‘selected’ would outsmart and outpace all other competing horses carrying heavy baggage. Midway, they realized that he had become a lame duck, and they were being castigated for their poor choice and it would be suicidal to keep backing the losing horse.
Is there any remorse that disqualification and incarceration of Nawaz Sharif under managed court proceedings merely to give a try to the third party experiment was unwise and imprudent? If it had to make a new experiment, the right time was 2013 elections and not 2018 since the PML-N’s performance was much better than the PPP.
Was it wise on part of a segment of senior army officers and the veterans to develop fondness for IK in end 2011 and to help him in gaining power in 2018, in getting IK and his party addicted to the one-page mantra, and then abandoning him midcourse without plausible reasons, well knowing that there was no viable option as a replacement?
Lack of performance and not neutrality was the key factor for the early downfall of the PTI regime. However, the establishment or the judiciary could forestall its fall by stemming the foreign interference/conspiracy, or scuttling the no-trust-motion.
IK kept repeating that he will not give NRO, not because of the demand of his indicted opponents, but because of the repeated advice of the establishment.
Had the PTI been allowed to complete its tenure, its inanities would have been fully exposed! Untimely deposition gave a new lease of life to the party on ventilator, allowing IK to take the battle from the parliament to the public meetings, re-energize his fading charisma, deflect the concerns of the people from socio-economics to his slogan of ‘foreign conspiracy’, and to win back their sympathies.
The people forgot about the rosy promises made by him, record breaking inflation and the price hike, and they got overwhelmed by the magnetism of IK. They are glorifying him as a super star, and the current rulers as disciples of Satan. Great majority of the urbanites, especially the youth support IK and are on a rampage.
But for the regime change, there would have been no conspiracy card, no horse trading, and no upwelling of anti-army emotions and character assassination of the army chief. IK’s popularity wouldn’t have touched the zenith inside and outside the country. Pakistan would have been saved from a national regime of ill-reputed parliamentarians. Barring the newcomers, almost all other cabinet ministers are on bail and court cases are pending against them.
IK riding on the pinnacle of popularity wave is demanding early elections and is buoyant that his party will achieve landslide victory. The ad-hoc regime in power on the other hand wants to delay elections as much as possible under the plea of electoral reforms, delimitation of revised constituencies by the ECP and stabilizing the sinking economy. It wants to buy time to deflate IK’s popularity through a smear campaign and by initiating corruption charges against the former regime. It is banking upon the decision of the ECP on foreign funding case on April 27-29.
In the next political battle, the proven thieves and looters but equipped with some experienced hands and capacity to deliver would face a party whose leader is clean but other party leaders are not only corrupt but also lack good governance and management skills. Outcome of the battle between the PTI and PML-N will depend upon the performance of the incumbent regime.
With the existing polluted electoral system, the possibility of holding fair and free elections would be next to impossible. The losers will not accept the results and the tug of war will recommence with greater vengeance.
It will be naïve to hope for early elections within 90 days. Leaving the revised constituencies un-demarcated wasn’t the fault of the ECP but of the former regime. Delimitation cannot be completed before Oct 2022, and after its approval by this government, the interim setup will conduct elections within three months.
With compromised institutions, and ill-reputed politicians and bureaucrats, no tangible progress is possible, whether the next regime will be of PML-N or the PTI. It will suffer a similar fate with zero results. Pakistan will continue to lurch from one crisis to another and the foreign conspirators will continue to play the game of snake and ladders with our mini mind leaders.
The only way out is to carry out electoral, judicial, bureaucratic, police, economic and education reforms. These cannot be done by a single political party or a weak coalition. The incumbent regime comprising politicians from different parties, backgrounds and ideologies, with some branded as anti-Pakistan, looters, money launderers and criminals, not much can be expected. The case is akin to the adage, “too many cooks will spoil the broth”.
If the incumbent regime tries to delay elections, the PTI will again repeat its old tactics of long march after its public meeting in Multan on May 10 by staging a sit-in at Islamabad and disturbing law and order in provincial capital cities in an attempt to paralyze the state machinery. If so, will it be possible for the law enforcement agencies to block the sea of people, particularly when the sentiments of the law enforcers including the armed forces are mixed?
After its fall, the PTI has launched its first battle against the ECP to forestall its decision on foreign funding case and to force it to arrange early elections.
Taking into consideration the intensifying political polarization, growing hatred, exceptionally high emotions of the people, quarrels within families and friends, mounting tendency to lend ears to rumors and fake stories spread by social media which is escalating intolerance, and voices of sanity getting subdued under the humdrum of party affiliations and hero worshipping, the stage is getting set for chaos and anarchy. The explosive situation has become ripe for Pakistan’s adversaries to exploit to their advantage and to plunge the nation into a civil war.
The debauched and self-serving lawmakers sitting in the corridors of power do not have the moral capacity to curtail rising popularity of IK, subdue public anger and to save the country from the looming gale?
If the establishment maintains its posture of neutrality, will it afford to remain aloof as a bystander when the law and order breaks down and the people take law into their own hands?
The foremost need is to cool down the passions which are rising with every passing day and let sanity prevail. However, news of an electoral alliance between the PML-N and TLP in return for the latter helping to counter the street power of the PTI doesn’t bode well.
SS’s speed and efficiency would be hindered by the myriad of problems, selfish coalition partners, near empty national kitty and confrontational politics of the PTI. He can at best keep jumping sprightly from one branch of tree to the other. If he is serious in producing results, possible ways are to drastically cut down state expenditures, curtail development works, enforce austerity and frugality, ban import of luxury items, make it compulsory for the current federal cabinet of proven looters to declare their assets, bank accounts, tax returns and business details and thus put a check upon them.
Would the conciliatory comments of Gen QJB and change in regime ease tensions with the US and alter the interventionist and bossy policies of Washington? The answer is a big NO.
The only possible change could be that the US, IMF and the EU might become a bit softer, and the FATF removes Pakistan from the grey list. Generosity of the US will of course not be cost free. Is Old Pakistan foreign policy or New Pakistan policy beneficial for the country and the people?
Would falling back into the infatuating lap of the US change the objectives of the Indo-US-Israel nexus against Pakistan? Do we still consider the trio harmless and friends of Pakistan?
In spite of harsh comments by Gen QJB, Vladimir Putin instead of reacting, showed grace by congratulating the new PM. Would he still provide oil and grains at a cheap price, and resolve gas shortages which he promised to IK?
Drawing strength from the positive vibes from China, rejuvenation of CPEC at a faster pace is the only way to recover our economy and to make Pakistan self-reliant.
The writer is retired Brig Gen, war veteran, defence, security & political analyst, international columnist, author of five books, Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre, takes part in TV talk shows, and delivers talks