What lessons has PML (N) learnt in their third tenure?
By now, after having three military rules in Pakistan, no one is left with an iota of doubt that martial law or the military rule is not at all a solution to the problems of the country. Currently different schools of thought are prevailing in Pakistan:
- let the military rule the country if they have to do every bit (a very minimal percentage of the population),
- military should not poke its nose at all and let the civilian handle the issues themselves, come what may (anti armed forces, mafias and corrupt part of establishment’s mantra),
- and finally a school that has a belief about the armed forces to be as good the stakeholder as the other quarters are, hence the army should always be there to watch the proceedings closely as a monitor and don’t let the wrong to happen (a more sane and logical voice and the majority of Pakistanis believe in it).
Unfortunately, this laid up phenomenon about a country ruled by the businessman is proven drastically wrong the world over. Almost every prominent name mentioned in the ‘Panama Papers Leak’ is somehow the other annexed to one or the other off-shore company mentioned in the historical leak, one or the other way. There are famous sayings, some authentic and others by unknowns that never entrust the country’s affairs to a businessman because he is basically a capitalist and not a leader. A satirical common notion, that is prevailing the world over is, if you make a businessman your ruler, he would prefer to sell the country than to sail it. Although it’s on the lighter tone, nevertheless, it does carry some credence.
Not a very old story from Thailand was of few years back, a business tycoon turned politician Thaksin Shinawatra was running the show between 2001 thru 2006. Today he is known as a great corrupt who used his richness to get permanent power. He was blamed to rule all of power in democracy system, parliament, government, and court by changing the current constitution for personal benefits for him along with his relatives. Thaksin betrayed his own country by persuading a country close-by to invade the northeast part of Thailand just for his own petroleum investment business purposes. He founded the IT and telecommunications conglomerate in 1987, that made him one of the richest persons in Thailand, joined politics in 1994, founded the Thai Rak Thai Party (TRT) in 1998 and as it was expected became the prime minister after a landslide electoral victory in 2001. However he was shown to door as a result of a citizens’ movement “yellow shirts”, accusing him of corruption, abuse of power and autocratic tendencies. Thaksin called snap elections that were boycotted by the opposition and invalidated by the Court. Eventually he was overthrown in a military coup on 19 September 2006. His party was outlawed and he was barred from political activity. Although one can’t agree with the dictatorial happenings of post coup d’état; however that’s what happens in case of political starvation and treachery anywhere in the world. Does not it sound like our own story; some familiar habits, unfamiliar moves and very familiar reactions?
Recently, the prime minister had invited a selected group of senior journalists and columnists at Governor’s House to brief them about his government’s development projects, though the main aim was to explain his stance on the Panama Papers leaks. When our editor, Mr. Arif Nizami, asked the prime minister about the status of the relationship between the civil and military leaderships, he, instead of responding to the question himself, asked an ‘able’ Federal Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique to answer Nizami’s query which was quite untoward and surprising for few reasons; whose guest was Mr. Nizami? Was the PM totally clueless about the civil/ military relations or was he showing his arrogance about the subject? Though, later it was confirmed by a close aide of PM Nawaz that the government was not on the same page with the military leadership.
Nawaz Sharif entered the power corridors in mid-eighties, after winning the general elections of 1985, he was sworn-in as Chief Minister of Punjab and within the next five years he was knocking at the door of premiership when in 1990 Benazir Bhutto was dismissed by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan on corruption charges. A businessman’s psyche is to consider his employees as his domain; hence Nawaz Sharif was no exception. While lacking the basic spirit of politics, he considered the trust conferred upon him by the people as power and authority and that has remained a dilemma all along that he always won the elections under the disguise of a politician but tried to rule the setup as a corporate head. Unfortunately, till date he has not been able to overcome his two main glaring weaknesses; holding grudge and bringing the armed forces under his thumb (at any cost). Ironically he is living on with the former, nevertheless, unable to fulfill his latter desire and that’s the burning issue.
As far as Nawaz Sharif is concerned, if we look back at his political career, it is all arraigning, annoying and antagonistic. It’s fine to forgive Nawaz Sharif for his first term, considering it a maiden experience but during the second tenure he had no justification to wrap up the affairs so abruptly. Unfortunately he has a fateful track record of locking-on horns with the institutions without realizing their sensitivity, sanctity or time. He would always be out of time and out of place. What he has failed to understand is the swerving difference between the soldiering and the soldering. Regrettably he lacks the ability to settle his priorities, hence has to pay a price, each time. During his first term as the Prime Minister he developed abrupt rifts with three successive army chiefs; with General Aslam Beg on Gulf issue, with General Asif Nawaz Janjua on Sindh Clean-up Operation and with General Waheed Kakar on former’s embarrassing bout with the President: Ghulam Ishaq. Eventually the old and the arrogant both had to leave their offices for making a mockery of Pakistan the world over.
During his second tenure in the office Nawaz Sharif saw the finest, professional, harmless and noble General Jahangir Karamat in the office. Unfortunately he had nurtured the grudge against the institution by now; hence fell out with him too. He, with roaring two-third majority wasted his energies to rein the institutions. After showing door to Farooq Leghari, the next on his hit list was General Jahangir Karamat whom he sacked in the most unethical way. Like any powerful dictator he couldn’t tolerate the General’s idea of a national security council and considered it a conspiracy against him, hence packed the general’s luggage just few months before his genuine retirement. His next choice was Pervez Musharraf whom he obliged to wear two hats; COAS and Chairman JCSC, despite Musharraf’s lack of seniority to Admiral Bokhari.
Relieving General Karamat was a blunder that was not appreciated even by his senior and seasoned colleagues. Sartaj Aziz was extremely confident and certain that CGS General Ali Kuli Khan would be appointed as the Chief of Army Staff being a very competent officer, on merit, and next in seniority to General Karamat. In his book, Between Dreams and Realities: Some Milestones in Pakistan’s History, Sartaj Aziz writes:
“Blunder of firing of General Karamat; others will blame Nawaz Sharif for many mistakes he made. But in my view, the most serious of these mistakes was Nawaz Sharif’s decision to remove General Jahangir Karamat as chief of army staff in October 1998. In relieving General Jahangir Karamat, Prime Minister Sharif had committed a “blunder”. He also failed to recognize that despite his heavy mandate, it was not advisable for him to dismiss two army chiefs in less than a year. In doing so he had overplayed his hands and effectively derailed the democratic process for nine long years”.
By 1997 Sharif’s love lost for his own choice Musharraf was also over. Soon he was seen taking the earliest ‘available flight’ for Saudi Arabia, as a result of a ‘quick draw’ between the two.
A renowned Political scientist Dr. Samina Ahmed once noted that since his re-elect in 1997 and success of passing the constitutional amendments, Prime Minister Sharif began to abuse his powers. The keen observers noted a mark change in their inclination and political behavior when in April 2009, while ignoring and violating all the diplomatic, political, and democratic – and the security norms of an independent sovereignty – the Sharif Brothers visited the US Embassy without any party member which was an alarming fact of the time. The other issue is haste in developing extremely friendly relations with India while shoving most sensitive Kashmir issue into the dusty draws. According to Wilson John of the Observer Research Foundation, the then Pakistani Army Chief General Kayani also told Sharif in his initial days to go slow on friendly relations with India. One wonders if elder Sharif has paid any heed to the advice.
Mian Nawaz Sharif is in the office for his third term now, a rare event, at least in democratically mature nations. During this first year – apart from the other blunders – the glaring one is silently turning against his own picked army chief General Raheel Sharif; a seasoned, balanced and mature professional, who is apparently indifferent to the ruling bunch’s threats and thwarts. One wonders if Nawaz Sharif thinks to readjust his priorities, before it is too late.