The fight for the PM slot

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It goes on while the country is in deep trouble

Nawaz Sharif is now saying that he no longer accepts the legitimacy of the PM. He has now launched a protest movement to oust the PM and has announced that it is now do or die. The PM has hit back that the judiciary cannot disqualify an elected representative and that he would remain PM till he was constitutionally removed. He also appended his statement with this sense-defying tidbit: the PM said that he had been punished only for a few seconds whereas Nawaz Sharif was sentenced to nine years imprisonment.

While this back and forth goes on, a sane voice that knows the criticality of the situation has said that justice should be equally applied, have faith in the continuity of democracy, institution should function as per the constitution and that the ultimate end of a democratic system is the welfare of the people.

The person who has uttered these words is not a professor, intellectual, a social science expert or a politician but Pakistan’s chief of army staff, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. This is the chief of the same military that jumped to take over power when the slightest opportunity presented itself. This is the same military that took over even when the opportunity didn’t present itself. For instance, when Yahya Khan took over, Pakistan was close to being dismembered. Distrust between the two wings was very high and the people of East Pakistan were demanding their democratic right. If Ayub Khan had handed over power to the parliament’s speaker (as per democratic process) instead of the military at that time, then maybe Pakistan could have been saved from what followed. But Yahya Khan usurped power and the rest, as they say, is history.

I’ve mentioned this Pakistan is again at a very critical juncture right now. The slightest misstep, and our politics could be in grave danger. The leader of the army, cognisant of this fact, is trying to convey it to our political elite as he witnesses the vicious flux in Pakistani politics. The text of his recent speeches and statements is laden with clarity and foresight. Why does our political leadership lack these very things?

The COAS has groused that the army is a frequent target of criticism. In my opinion, the policy of abstaining from taking over power directly may be a reason for that. The people who have been egging on the army to take over for the past four years have been sorely disappointed and have now stooped to criticising the army to get back at it for spurning their call to arms. Now they find reasons to ridicule the army. Such is the state of their anger that neither do they properly acknowledge the sacrifices of our soldiers nor do they say a good word about the army for staying away from politics.

On the other hand, many do not differentiate between military leaderships past and present and criticise the current leadership for sins of their predecessors. Every one should be judged on the basis of their own deeds and the current military leadership has tried its best to protect democracy. But it should not be forgotten that the military leadership is comprised of mere mortal human beings who are also part of our society.

Much like our society, there are differences in their thoughts and ideas as well. The approach of the military leadership will remain effective insofar that the environment for it remains conducive. But if the army’s policy of ignoring political crises and desisting from meddling in politics comes under debate and various opinions among the leadership come up on the matter, then it will become hard for the military to continue with this policy. More or less during every government’s tenure in Pakistan, many conspiracies of subordinate officers have been caught. Some came to the fore; other remained hidden. But it has also happened that a general who punished rebellious officers himself rebelled against a constitutional government. Thus, one shouldn’t rest on the fact that the current army leadership has had a ‘hands off’ policy till now.

The unfortunate thing is that politicians have now additionally turned the courts into a battleground. The way the latest judgment of the apex court has become a cause celebre is a unique case on our legal and political history. One decision of the courts has pushed the country into a state of extreme tension and upheaval.

One party interprets the decision in its favour while the other does the same. A decision like this from the apex court (and that too on such a sensitive matter) is nothing but misfortune. It is common sense that only the legal minds of the highest calibre reach the apex court. Thus, a decision that is the fruit of their labours should be free of any ambiguity and room for controversy. But it could very well be that there is no ambiguity in the decision itself but the people interpreting the judgment have ulterior motives. But there shouldn’t also be room for ulterior motives between the lines penned by a judge.

As a Pakistani diplomat has said, our rulers have turned a democratic country into a joke. First, we pressed the majority to fight for its rights after being hard done by a minority. We killed one erstwhile PM and two PMs-in-office at the same place; Liaquat Ali Khan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto, they were all martyred on the same spot. And our judiciary has given a 30-second punishment to a sitting prime minister and wrote the decision in such a manner and language that it has engendered much controversy. Maybe, we have given up on our present and future. We have made up our minds to promote this filthy political culture whose muck has polluted our lives.

We are not the first country to have relations with the US or to be its ally. Now, I can say with certitude, that the US is considering the option of relegating us to the status of an outright enemy, leave alone restoring our ally status. This is a time when we should be united on the internal front to agree on an agenda for Pak-US relations and their future of terms of engagement. But we have virtually disabled all our decision-making centres. The Americans are at a loss about who to talk to. If we aren’t ready to talk, the world’s only superpower will not wait for us to put our house in order and the situation to improve but it will create a situation of its own liking. I see the unrest in Karachi, FATA, Balochistan, Gilgit, Swat in this backdrop. A ‘do or die’ protest movement in this context will only be a blessing-in-disguise for the US.

Despite pulling out of Afghanistan, the US will continue to have bases there. According to reports, they aren’t because of China, Russia, Iran or Central Asia but because of Pakistan. If anyone has any doubts about that, they should be dispelled by the news that F-22s have been deployed at Qatar airbases. Moreover, according to an analyst who is an expert on South Asian affairs, India is asking the US for the same status in South Asia that Israel has in the Middle East.

If we remain in a state of perpetual turmoil, then it is a distinct possibility that this US-India collusion will be done on India’s terms. In that case, we will then become the Palestine of South Asia. The strategic assets that we rely on i.e. nuclear bombs and terrorists will not afford us victory over anyone. Though they will push us towards further destruction.

When a country is in such dire straits, it’s not hard to imagine the fallout of the tussle between ‘I-will-remain-PM’ and ‘I-will-become-PM.’

The writer is one of Pakistan’s most widely read columnists.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Nazir Naji has answered his question in his column. Yes, three prime ministers were killed at the same spot Laiqat Ali Khan, ZAB and BB, One was exiled Nawaz Sharif and two were asked to resign, Junejo and Jamali. Not to mention several were dismissed after Jinnah died. So, what it tells you. Democracy is the best way to go and people of the country can progress in their lives in this system, however the record is that Military governments have run the affairs of the country, more than the political machinery. So, when the people get so used to with one system it is difficult to digest another totally opposite system. I think no one would say that democracy is not good for the country, but at times the country needs to have a milatary government in a democratic form, like the one Ayub Khan had in his later years after 1963.

  2. leaviung aside the court orders about Gillani, what the PPP government did in case of Raja Pervaiz Ashraf,who is held responsible in rental power case………… he sowrn in as federal minster

  3. Why there is ambiguity in the decision? A clean decision would have made things much easier for all the parties concerned. Something fishy.

  4. Mashallah dear writer. You look like a writer of all seasons. Now, you hug the army to take over.

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