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Is a military coup imminent in Pakistan?

16 September, 2010

By Amjad Malik


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Different reports in British press sniffs an imminent coup de tat in Pakistan, and looking at the melodramatic performance of Govt of the day at flood camps, and gauging from the polls and the perceptions the Govt is badly failing in a befitting recovery, relief and repatriation of flood victims. All at sundry are fearful of the saturation point of those 20 million outside their homes in the wake of winter weather which is in the offing. I cannot blame the world for not giving a "dime" to the current rulers who lack credibility, and are short of capacity, vision and intellect. Their acts are still condemnable and stories notorious. So far they have not been able to control the mal practice clouding the good governance claims & dreams and accountability laws are yet uncertain under their Govt. and without a leadership as current NAB is acting like a headless chicken.  

Can Pakistan afford yet another coup is a million dollar question. In principle Pakistan progress is hidden in strengthening one man one vote rule. Progress is hidden in Democracy, rule of law, justice, impartial policing, fair election commisionerate and free media, not in martial laws. But in almost 3 years all above are missing in the civil dispensation in Pakistan. In the past 63 years the Nexus of our weaker judiciary with military has hindered democratic flow and process, where politicians have not left worth remembering legacy either, and disappointed the general public who honoured their calls for a change. But in true sense neither we could attain true democracy nor we ever had a genuine dictatorship with some targeted aims cleansing the rubbish and paving way for a truly accountable democratic process emanating from general public from grass root level. We are either stuck with a greedy general or a civilian autocrats who do not believe in elections in their parties and act like saints despite being tainted of gluttony.

In the testing times, political parties are ready to end election clauses in their parties mandatory to smooth running of the democratic flow in any political party. If those election clauses were not there, Tony Blair and George Bush  would still be in their offices, had they followed Pakistani leaders mantra. So we must remind ourselves, that the struggle of masses in Pakistan was and must be in future for strengthenin g the institutions remaining in civil structure, as people m! ust keep in mind that worst piece of legislation (NRO) was arbitrarily introduced by a retiring General who came on October 99 to rid Pakistan from Corruption and corrupt leaders. Critics view that if a system is strong enough and is allowed to run at its full capacity with free media, judiciary, as its monitors, coupled with transparent accountability laws, impartial police, it will automatically start chunking out truly representative leadership. So far that may be sound an illusion or a dream. 

Having said that, it is utmost public desire that Pakistan re-establishes its control over corruption ridden institutions. That can be achieved without implementing unlawful extra ordinary measures remaining in civil form of the Govt. If the robust and reliable system is introduced by parliament which enforces law in the country where poor public are living without sugar, electricity, gas, and where millions are on street due to heavy floods. That will go one step further to ease their pain & suffering(s). If a few thousand guilty corrupt are held to an account by a court of law as a starter, that will send a good will message on all forums that Pakistan does not condone corruption and civil system is robust enough to root out these complaints. Public perception is that Pakistani politics is but a means to achieve greater influence, plunde r wealth and hit and run. In general Pakistani society collectively needs to change that public perception. Match fixing scandal and poor performance of Cricket Board, Pakistani govt and Cricket players inability to feel ashamed on their actions and offer apology to the nation but is a depiction of the scale of moral gravity in the society and if anything is left, that is compensated by the unlawful extra judicial killing of Sialkot teenager brothers Muneeb & Mughees. That inhuman side of the society has startled many independent well wishers of the current day leaders, govt, and the state. 

The new law to curb corrupt practices whilst at public office and a truth and reconciliation commission separately to filter all backlogs of cases addressing the anxiety of public and grievances of the accused is a way forward. Political settlement is a way out if the politicians are ready to saving the system, democracy and retaining balance of power between institutions through consensus, otherwise, a little late and unconstitutional steps follow where constitution fails to address the issues of the public anxiety on priority basis. Millions are already out on street sitting on a pylon to burst and allegations are ripe of conspiracies. 

In short, time is right t o demand from the rulers an "accountability process" which is robust not relaxed and it is not an executive tool to settle scores with rivals and the opposition but an independent autonomous non-political body, duly protected by a legislation with full financial autonomy, which carries out investigation in a fair and transparent manner ensuring the public that corrupt public officials and practices are duly detected, investigated and brought for a fair trial in Pakistan. Powers of the new accountability process should include all of the public & political office- holders, including that of military and judiciary.

However, if a prima facie case is made, then the matter may be referred for a court martial of a military officer and to the supreme judicial council inquiry, for judicial officials respectively keeping the existing institutional mechanism intact, but retaining the active "watchdog" characteristic. This suggested accountability process may ensure rule of law, fairness, and a transparent accountability of all. Pak! istan ma y even go one step further to introduce death penalty for 10 years for corruption or corrupt practices at a public office at a larger scale to deter those obstinate elements who will not leave bad habits.

In the past, long term military dictatorships, shorter civilian rules, where accountability of politicians takes place on the name of corruption with the nexus of judiciary with establishment reminds us of the pattern and a bitter reality in Pakistan. Can Pakistan afford another military coup is not a question at all as martial laws do not come after seeking consultations and as a result of public polls, they happen. Pakistani history is bleak in stopping those happenings. But can we avert it, yes we can, if political classes bring radical changes in their perception of public services, and mind set about governance and their long and strongly held belief about corruption and accountability. If no change, then they must be ready to face the music, because who knows how much time they have if British Press reports are sound, but alarm is surely sounding. Surely not the desire of many well wishers of Pakistan like me and the general public who did not struggle post 9 March 2007 to witness these days. It is an Utter and sheer disappointment, hopelessness and embarrassment to masses that these villains beat General Musharraf in their villainy.   

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