Pakistan at a crossroad
07 June, 2011
By Dr. Ghayur Ayub
Pakistanis are an emotional lot. Their emotions erupt easily, turning them violent. But in the mass movement spearheaded by the lawyers, the emotionally charged public remained non-violent despite physical and psychological intimidations. Reason? Rationality dominated emotions unifying people of different age, race, caste and sect. They demanded installation of an uncorrupted justice system. Democracy was second on the list. The Pakistan army, which is known as a symbol of national unity, became the centre of dubiety and hate losing public respect. For example, during Musharaf`s regime when Pakistan was hit by heavy floods, a civilian Suzuki and a military Jeep got stuck in rising waters in Lahore. A few passers-by jumped in to the water and rescued the civilians. When asked about the military men, one of the rescuers said. “Let them drown.” According to news reports, army officers had strict instructions not to go to the civilian places in uniforms for fear of being attacked. After gen Musharaf`s regime was ousted and judiciary restored, there was hardly any place where people were not seen dancing Bhangra and distributing sweets.
Against this background, gen Kayani became the army chief. He concentrated on professional uplift of the army and in a short span, he managed to stop the downward slide. Successful Swat, Dir, and Bajour operations gave a strong moral and professional boost to the army. The rescue operations in the floods improved the army`s image in social and humanitarian fields. His part in reinstating CJP and countering Kerry Lugar Bill restored army`s political function. His role in Brussels and in Washington highlighted army`s presence in foreign affairs and diplomacy. Soon the army was back on track, picking up its constitutional and non-constitutional duties. Gen Kayani achieved in a few months what Gen Musharaf lost in ten years.
As opposed to such a remarkable recovery, the politicians took a nosedive. They abused democracy by putting their personal needs ahead of the public`s, opening the door to rampant corruption, poor governance, rising poverty and of course, anarchic lawlessness (terrorism). The disgruntled public saw the civilian government crushing the beneficial policies of Musharaf and blossoming his harmful plans. Another phenomenon appeared in the framework of democracy. The opposition, which usually keeps a close eye on the wrongdoings of the government, started playing a docile role on pretext of democracy getting derailed. While this drama was going on, the revived high judiciary became active but instead of cleansing the lower courts for the benefit of the people at large, it went for the big wigs and sat back impotently when the Executive refused to implement their verdicts.
And something else also surfaced. The electronic media became active showing the mirror of the public miseries to the executives, legislators and the judiciary. It started exposing corruption in highest places that no one could think of in the past. From petty crimes to mega scandals, the camera reached the spots. As a result, the people, instead of registering their complaints in police stations, or going to their legislators or friends at high places started knocking at the doors of the media. TV talk shows became public courts, police stations, patwari offices and doctors surgeries. It effectively exposed the three pillars of the democracy telling the public know that the executive is corrupt, the parliament is toothless and the judiciary is bite-less. Through the same lens it also showed that the opposition being inapt limited its role to shouts only. Strangely enough, it remained non-critical of army, which according to some sources tried to topple the government of Asif Zardari but found no support from the main opposition of PML-N. The President, according to another report, complained to the Americans about the army. His complaint fell on deaf ears. They would rather maintain cordial relations with the disciplined army than out-of-control corrupt democrats. They kept working on building friendly relationship between the two armies. That relationship received a severe blow when a federal court in America called the ISI chief in a case pertaining to Bombay attacks. The cases of Jonathan Banks, Raymond Davies and Abbotabad attack buried that relationship. The last incidence proved to be a fatal blow to Pak army, degrading its image Gen Kayani built after a great deal of hard work. It was like a mini 1971 episode. People with knowledge in such affairs expected three problems arising as a result; a widening crack between politicians and army, a split between the army rank and file; and a complete breakdown between CIA and ISI.
Once again, Gen Kayani played his cards intelligently and brought his team to face the public representatives in a Joint Session of the Parliament. He got the result he wanted. The crack between the politicians and army was quickly sealed. Except for Ch Nisar, the rest accepted the army`s version and pardoned the ISI chief. A few days later, when the politicians were at each others throats on talk-shows, the army was busy in damage control by showing ordinary people coming on TV in its support. The difference between the two mindsets became blatantly visible. Being a very disciplined institution, the split in its rank and file needed more than the death of OBL in the backyard of Kakul Academy. Even the division of Pakistan didn`t split it in 1971.Lastly, the contacts between the chiefs of Pak and US armies brought fruitful results bringing back CIA and ISI on the working terms. Soon the top American political figures visited Pakistan patting the timid policy-makers on their backs, whispering `do more` mantra in their ears. What John Kerry said at the end of his visit in America was reflective of that mantra. It was also reflected by muted support of Obama as opposed to open support of Cameron in a joint press conference in London.
In a scenario when the government is weak and corrupt; the opposition is neutral and inept; and the public is ashamed and angry, the army, after a second fall is back on its feet working on the role provided by Gen Ayub some 60 years ago. The politicians within the government and outside the government have failed to realise that the May 2nd attack created an opportunity for them to cleanse the army from the rouge elements and give it the place provided by the constitution without humiliating it`s integrity. In situation like this, the responsibility falls on Mr Nawaz Sharif`s shoulders, now. In late 1990s, he went solo to give Pak army its constitutional role and as a result he not only lost his government but nearly his life too. But there is a difference between then and now. Then, he had no political and public support despite two third majority in the parliament. Now, he can muster political and public support without the help of the parliamentarians. All he has to do is to join the public and demand fresh elections with the promise to install honest and independent;
- Judiciary to cleanse the the lower judiciary which is still thoroughly corrupt.
- Accountability Bureau to go after the corrupts in the public and private sectors.
- Election Commission to close the door on the corrupt candidates entering the Parliament.
If these three institutions are put in order, Pakistan will prosper in; good governance (including giving army its constitutional role), controlling lawlessness (by tackling terrorism), economy (thus alleviating poverty), and in public well-fair fields.
Pakistan stands at a crossroad. Mr Nawaz Sharif can play a crucial role and show the frustrated public that he represents them by his actions not just rhetoric. It is a political `make or break` point for him. If he misses this chance and fails to come out with clear authority, history will not forgive him. Recently, he went through a simple cardiac procedure which went terribly wrong threatening his life. This was the second time he had a new life within eight years. The first time he escaped hanging. After recovery, he was reminded by his well-wisher in London that there must be a reason God gave him a new life. And that reason could be to steer the disappointed nation out of the whirlpool of discontent which is sinking the society. Only time will tell whether he will avail this unique chance given by the history. If he failed someone else will fill his place at this crucial crossroad.