Pakistan in Cauldron of Internal Crises
Though short history of Pakistan since independence in 1947 is riddled with crises, the horrendous storms that lurk now on the horizon of the fragile government create awe and shock among the civil society that so desperately and sincerely yearns for peace, tranquility, rule of law and justice. One would sound refuting the realities of geopolitics and statesmanship if one is enthused by a wishful phenomenon that crises never occurred to sovereign states. The tragedy for Pakistan had been that after the mysterious demise of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, our founding father of the country, the leadership at the helms of affairs could never measure up to the challenges it faced. Woefully the leaders were found sinking in the sloth of their petty self-greed and ambitions. Each came up with charming slogans to keep the country 'first' and above 'self.' Ironically in my country, 'first' has become synonymous to 'last.'
It is also true that the span of our survival has abundance of patches of military rule. On the contrary, the plight and performance of politicians had been so pathetic that military rulers, chastised by civil governments had performed comparatively better and thus were popular among the masses as well as the world community for reasons beyond national spectrum. Our traditional ally, U.S. so embroiled in bloc politics during Cold War in post World War-II scenario and there after in war on terror, embraced our dictators with open arms. Field Marshal Ayub Khan, General Yahya Khan, General Zia-ul-Haq and General Pervez Musharraf had been conspicuous in sequential power grab. While first three of the four dictators were afforded an excuse as if the responsibility to 'dictate' was imposed on them by the circumstances, the fourth dictator engineered an excuse for the power grab himself.
Our U.S-blue-eyed President (Musharraf) inflicted damage to the country beyond fancy. The U.S found his support for Afghanistan and Iraq expedient and in concert with their expansive agenda. On the home front, he ripped off the constitution, reduced the legislation instruments as meaningless by securing the most greedy and malicious politicians. He never hesitated to eliminate his opponents for personal reasons. He retired some Army officers arbitrarily, without giving them even a hint who reel in post retirement crises till today. The fascinating slogans, he raised after sacking his super ordinate, constitutional and people-mandated Prime Minister, Mr. Nawaz Sharif, in 1999 through a well orchestrated conspiracy, were soon flouted through and through when he declared himself as 'President' after a sham referendum. All government employees, federal as well as provincial were instructed to vote for him.
The evil of horse-trading, floor crossing, extra judicial killing, coercing and buying judiciary to sing to his tunes, selling state assets at throw away cost and then shoving mega scandals like sale of Pakistan Steel Mills under carpet, presiding over the cartelism of sugar cartels and engineering heavens for business magnate amidst the dripping misery of the masses are unpardonable crimes he committed to his own people. He holds the shameful distinction of once sacking the sitting Chief Justice of Pakistan and second time the whole of the Supreme Court of Pakistan including Chief Justice, making exception to those who took fresh oath to remain his loyal, only because the Chief Justice of Pakistan had opted to dispense justice, even if it hit Musharraf. While U.S. drew flak of hate from Pakistani masses, major share of it crystallized at middle and lower middle class level, the opinion as well as trend setter of any society who focused on U.S. patronizing of a dictator despite being the flag bearer of the democratic values of the Western societies. It was superb display of dichotomy between its acts and facts.
At the fall of the dictator through blizzard of masses frenzy, in came Mr. Asif Ali Zardari (AAZ) in the power arena in early 2008. Unfortunately, before he stepped in the Presidential Palace in Islamabad, he had already sowed extensive minefield himself, lethal enough to dismantle his least popular rule. Thanks to the 'friendly opposition' dominated by the second largest party called PML (N) and tolerant Army Chief who abstained from triggering his self-destructive devices. During two of his spouse's (Benazir Bhutto) tenures as prime minister, if she faced formidable foes, AAZ was single handedly on top of the list to erode her credibility through his corruption. Soon he was named as Mr. Ten Percent because the deals he would conclude with 'guests' in Prime Minister's house, he would extract his share from them. The corruption charges snow-balled to the extent that she was sacked twice, once by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan, an honest bureaucrat and second time by her own party President, Farooq Ahmed Khan Laghari. Both wielded an axe the way Gen Zia-ul-Haq had crafted it to render his Prime Minister, Muhammad Khan Junejo toothless through notorious 8th Amendment of 1973 Constitution and later removing him in May, 1988.
Assassination of Benazir Bhutto on 27 December 2007, an elegant lady of grace, manners and integrity, in dubious way, afforded AAZ a chance, not only to become party co-chairman but also jumping to presidential slot, dumping old party stalwarts overnight. Ridden by the sense of guilt and crime when even the murder of his spouse is being whispered to have, by implication, traces leading to some top most collusion, he entrenched himself behind controversial Presidential immunity and notorious NRO (National Reconciliation Order), brokered with ex President Musharraf as quid pro quo. In ultimate analysis, it has proved that NRO was an instrument to divide the society in detail, creating a class that was virtually above any kind of accountability whatsoever. The mockery of justice consummated in 21st century by AAZ-Musharraf intrigues had neither any parallel nor any moral justification. It stunned the observers to see Mr. Richard Halbrook, shuttling to Pakistan to ensure unsuccessfully that these devices as well as dictators stay in place, more frequently than he perhaps visits his family. Even more odious sounding comes at the time when U.S. diplomats question Pakistani scholars and diplomats, why do you hate us? A big joke!
In a recent judgment, Supreme Court of Pakistan struck down the entire NRO apparatus. Since then AAZ is on collision course to find out loopholes and neutralize the judiciary that has risen to the occasion, perhaps for the first time since creation of Pakistan. People have come to believe that AAZ, emulating Musharraf, has become worst kind of a civilian dictator, an assumption unfortunate though but not without substance. In other words, he has left his soul at a certain rung against which Dr. Fritz Kraemer had advised, " My fear regarding the inner corrosion of the very successful politician is not.........but that he will leave part of his soul on every rung of the ladder leading him to the top." His defiance to the highest court decisions is being viewed with concern that could generate a tsunami of events at great risk to the national integrity. Amidst these nifty gritty, selfish maneuvers, he flaunts Sind-card, assuming that people of Sind province he hails from, would support his survival despite his crimes. Fortunately the card has been tested before and is a fired case now. During Zia-ul-Haq regime, PPP, after ZA Bhutto was hanged, stimulated a movement under charming name of MRD (Movement for Restoration of Democracy) in early eighties but other than in a few rural areas of Sind, it could not pick up steam. The Sind-card of early eighties thus flopped and it has no potential to go by AAZ design because Sindhis (people belonging to Sind province) are more Pakistanis than any Pakistani.
Win by PML (N) National Assembly by-election candidate in Rawalpindi constituency from a political stalwart and a crony of General Pervez Musharraf on 24 Feb 2010 by vast margin is not a simple arithmetic. It must send shudder to PPP Government that its soft posturing on the deposed dictator and supporting a candidate that bore stigma of remaining long time in dictator's kitchen-cabinet, have been rejected by the people. Therefore, PML (N) was right to claim that it was a contest of popularity against 'Ali Baba' meaning (chief thief) Musharraf and "his forty lesser thieves/companions" that included the colluding leaders of PPP, covertly supporting Sheikh Rashid. The public has stamped the legitimacy of the values whether Government practiced it or not and hence rejected once most sought for Pakistani Nostradamus, Sheikh Rashid who had been tweeting under Musharraf's wings.
What haunts the common man in Pakistan? It is ever increasing violence in urban areas, a deplorable sense of insecurity, sky-rocketing prices of essential commodities, absence of rule of law, total break down of functional capacity of the institutions (except judiciary and Armed Forces), rampant corruption, nepotism, stray youths, gang wars, cartelism, expanding mafias, alternating scarcity of sugar and flour, energy crisis with constant upward shooting price index, tax evasion by the rich and putting poor in the grind instead, corrupt federal and provincial ministers stashing money for next round of elections(as they openly remark, who knows we would be there tomorrow or not), monstrous traffic jams, unavoidable body and vehicle searches, persisting tussle between the provinces, flouting of court orders by persons as responsible as the President himself and his crony, Salman Taseer who has made mockery of judiciary and the federal symbol he represents as a governor. Yet more, the party corrupt officials take pride like their leaders who beat their chests emotionally and defiantly to claim, "hum nay jailain katee hain', meaning, "we remained locked up in jails." Every reasonable citizen knows that to be in jail is not an award winning exercise and gentlemen would loath to enter, let alone taking false pride in it. One is often struck by ominous parallel history has. Lenin to start with and finally Stalin after Lenin's death had by design 'Gulag-ized' the majority of their people through out the country to ensure that even a slightly suspected resistance to the Bolshevik ideology was ruthlessly eliminated. Does People Party has the same agenda and aims turning the whole country in Stalin mode? When expanding monster called 'hunger' is gobbling up vast numbers, the country is becoming ripe for Bolshevik-like treatment whether incumbent government admits or not. One hopes, AAZ knows that Russian war casualties in Europe and Far East were in millions but barely one third of the people who perished in Soviets 'Gulags' and labor camps at Stalin's behest. Can we afford a Stalin? Grasp of the answer is certainly well nigh.
The situation in Pakistan is worrisome but not hopeless if one knows the history of world class democracies that dominate the scene today. Britain monarchy gradually transformed itself to a democratic essence. Today it has the best part and that is, it has no written constitution. American democracy emerged through some historic events. Germany sprang twice in 20th Century; not from debris but smoldering ashes. Do we assume that Pakistan would need to fight and emerge from the debris/ashes of civil wars? Should we expect that Oliver Cromwell like leader would arrive to challenge opponents and instill a notion of propriety in their hearts? But when history tell us clearly the circumstances that led to such episodes, why not recover from irresponsibility and make use of past experience, prosperous nations of today learnt through hard trial of follies.
The price of liberty mandates that for the emergence of a peaceful and vibrant society, individual interests must be sacrificed. What would make the present climate recover, perhaps is simple to diagnose but would need bitter decisions by Pakistani nation. See that crises of any sort, proportionate to its intensity are to be given collective response at national level by the government, opposition, political parties large or small who act as watch dog and above all the civil society that must demand an unmatched efficiency from the government at each bend of crises. Without discussing the means that can have several modes and approaches, the ends that Pakistan must achieve:
- If 'jihad' is to be declared, take on corruption, drug trafficking, nepotism, mafias, hoarders, poverty and sectarianism to stem out these evils, that eat up the soul and stamina of any society.
- Restore rule of law and dispense justice at every level.
- Enforce a mechanism of accountability across the board, no matter how hard it hits big wigs.
- Establish and promote good practices through self example. Resign from the position of whatever status of the accused is, to allow law of the land take its course till allegations are proved right or wrong.
- The culprits who hold high portfolios should bring back billions of dollars stashed in foreign banks voluntarily.
- Respect judiciary and encourage it to pass non-partisan judgment. Appreciate its role even if an axe falls on 'self'.
- Never malign the defense forces to cover own follies. Instead keep them in the best state of readiness to counter threats to our national and territorial integrity.
- Discard the politicians who have been involved in any kind of degrading act or crime. Bring new and honest faces to the highest institutions to make difference. Pakistani politicians, some exception apart, are more of opportunists than sticking to any code of ethics. Enforce political ethics in letter and spirit.
- Lastly bring back truly, as I referred earlier, the present crooked 'last' to straight 'first'.
Dr. Makni has doctorate in IR, with focus on Eurasian Studies. Also a member of WSN International Advisory Board and an author of a book: The New Great Game: Oil and Gas Politics in Central Eurasia. [email protected]