There is never a dull
moment in Pakistan. To say we live in interesting
times would be an understatement, the correct description
would be, "we live in timeless agony". The
economic situation and the terrorism problems would
be big enough by themselves, what we tried to avoid
by the Feb 18 elections is now upon us in spades,
a political quagmire. We are in quicksand upto our
necks! While one can understand that restoration of
the superior judiciary was the main PML (N) demand,
that the impeachment of the President would be given
precedence was a real shock. This was purely personal.
There is no doubt Asif Zardari has been pushed into
this by Mian Nawaz Sharif. Given our dire economic
straits and need to deal with the problems of the
poverty-stricken common man, the priorities should
have been different. Mian Nawaz Sharif seems to hate
Musharraf far more than he loves Pakistan. Zardari
chose the impeachment route as an easy escape, many
analysts say that it was done to deliberate delay
the judges issue and put it on the back-burner. Emulating
Henry Wilson, Asif Zardari managed to twice sell the
Eiffel Tower to the PML (N) President. The considered
view by most analysts is that the Coalition does not
have the votes necessary to impeach the President
in a Joint Session of the National Assembly and the
Senate. So if the impeachment does not take place,
what happens to the cause of Chief Justice Iftikhar
Chaudhry and party? The lawyers have seen through
this and that is why, led by Senator Aitzaz Ahsan,
they are yelling their lungs out. However there is
a silver lining in all this, hopefully in his defence
the President will fire the opening salvo by repealing
the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), at least
put it for scrapping by judicial review before the
Supreme Court. There is great public demand that the
black law must be removed from the statute books and
the convicted and the guilty face the course of justice.
If the NRO disappears, a whole lot of people in govt
who pull the strings of governance on Asif Zardari's
behalf will be out on the streets and on the Exit
Control List (ECL). This will necessarily test the
loyalties of quite a number of Parliamentarians in
the Coalition. The balance in numbers, already dicey,
will then shift to the President. If the impeachment
fails he is almost certain to use Article 58 2 (b)
and remove the Federal Govt. However, if he does this,
he will not last long, like Hector was followed by
Achilles who killed him, the President will also have
to go, sooner than later. For the benefit of readers,
I am re-producing my recent article, "A REFINED
Five major power centers exist in Pakistan today,
many smaller ones complicate the state of limbo we
are in. On Mohtrama Benazir's death, her "will"
was read out. With the party leadership in a state
of shock, no one questioned the document, giving Asif
Zardari space to stage-manage a stunning political
coup. Nearly all of late Mohtrama's close aides who
had rendered sacrifices within the country for over
a decade were shunted aside, unelected or indirectly
elected cronies were installed by Zardari diktat in
the Party's Central Executive Committee. Democracy
at its best? Unlike PPP, PPP (Z) are almost all beneficiaries
of NRO, the blackest of black laws, with a short unambiguous
agenda on behalf of their mentor, make money quickly
and leave Pakistan, or whatever is left of it, economically
and politically bankrupt.
The title and trappings of office make the PM, Syed
Yusuf Raza Gilani another power centre, most of his
authority is nevertheless exercised by others. A good
man with impeccable political credentials, he was
preferred over Ahmad Mukhtar because the Federal Defence
Minister would not be a rubberstamp. Put into government
to serve as camouflage, one cannot club genuine and
committed PPP party activists with PPP (Z).
The Presidency's powers have now diminished considerably.
Many want Pervez Musharraf out of office and prosecuted
on a number of counts, but he remains in contention.
What about the groundswell of public opinion comparing
him to the present lot and concluding he wasn't so
bad after all? Musharraf would do well as a constitutional
President if he does not interfere with governance.
The Sharif brothers political combine in the Punjab
is another major force. The only national popular
leader in the country today, Mian Nawaz Sharif's mass
support unfortunately does not translate into many
electoral seats in other Provinces. With capable and
elected leaders (as opposed to those surrounding Zardari)
to counsel him, the manic obsession about the superior
judiciary in exclusion of the many serious problems
confronting Pakistan causes reservations about Mian
Sahib's judgment and priorities thereof. The PML (N)
leader should shun confrontation, politics is the
art of compromise.
The most potent power center is in a state of ambiguity.
Engaged in a balancing act juggling options between
disparate forces and issues, Ashfaq Pervez Kayani
has managed to redeem the Army's image by withdrawing
lock and stock (if not barrel as yet) from civilian
life and ensuring free and fair elections. The no-win
situation includes counselling the US that "hot
pursuit" into FATA will further exacerbate anti-American
feeling, while keeping passions in the ranks from
reacting to bloody provocation. Pride notwithstanding,
the Pakistan Armed Forces can hardly take on US military
might. Having ensured "democracy", it is
hypocrisy to salute the rather crooked lot in "constitutional"
control of the country. When criminals function in
the name of justice, justice becomes a crime. The
perception of Kayani's constituency cannot be different
from that of the common citizens of Pakistan. Commitment
to democracy and the Constitution notwithstanding,
can the Army gamble with missing the fail-safe line
before the country dissolves wholesale into chaos?
Numerous challenges continue to pound the ramparts
of the State, viz (1) domestic terrorism with international
connotations and nuclear proliferation accusations
compounded by AQ Khan's latest outburst puts us on
collision course with the west (2) economic meltdown
along with rising oil prices and continuous downward
spike of the Rupee (3) an alarming food shortage causing
inordinate price rises (4) manufacturing shutdowns
force-multiplying unemployment (5) serious separatist
challenges in Balochistan and (6) endemic insecurity
among the masses because of rapidly eroding confidence
in the political leadership. With the buying power
of salaries rapidly croding and food prices inflated
astronomically beyond reach of the common man, Dec
27-type apocalypse will come when a man sees his children
go hungry. This is aggravated by our media testing
the limits of both freedom and licence by giving primetime
to terrorists spreading their bloody message, thus
serving as the terrorists' most potent weapon.
Few options remain to stem the rot, the foremost being
that the Coalition Government (or even the PPP content)
should start functioning instead of indulging in rhetoric
and posturing. Sincere long-term commitment requires
Asif Zardari to contest elections and become PM. And/or
let Yusuf Raza Gilani do his job and not be dictated
to! As for the blatantly corrupt, NAB can give names
for the Exit Control List (ECL) in less than one hour,
their presence a God-given opportunity to question
how they could afford their fabulous lifestyle abroad
for a decade on their salary as bureaucrats. One real
option must be reconciliation between the Presidency
and PML (N), for democracy to function and counter
challenges there is nothing better than a popular
leader running governments.
Musharraf's counter-coup imposed martial law without
calling it such. Lt Gen Moeen Ahmad of Bangladesh
refined Musharraf's "1999 Pakistan model"
into the "Bangladesh model" in early 2007
by not making the mistake of sending uniformed officers
and men into civilian jobs. Unfortunately almost every
military chief who takes over civilian power discovers
his own immortality in governance as "the saviour
of the nation" and his intentions become suspect.
Disappointing for me personally, Moeen is no exception.
With loss of credibility the "Bangladesh model"
will fail its primary aim, to cleanse the body politic
of the corrupt.
To quote my article of June 29, 1995, "Why do
martial laws fail?", "Martial Laws fail
because the initiators of all extra-Constitutional
rule ride into town on tanks with the lofty Aim of
saving the country, relying on that platonic national
purpose to make themselves credible. They soon adjust
the Aim to more material (and less patriotic) reasons
of self-perpetuation. The original Aim remains publicly
the same, becomes an exercise in self-delusion. This
diversion of Aim means that one individual or group
is simply replaced by another (or others), instead
of being a transition mechanism that provides for
and facilitates the process of the democratic system
being repaired and renovated to reflect the real genius
and aspirations of the people", unquote.
In both models, the Army went wrong, viz (1) not including
clean and above board electable representatives from
major parties in the Caretaker set-up and (2) its
Chief putting personal ambition over national interest.
The ultimate option staring us in the face is the
route of last resort, a refined "Pakistan model"
with both positive and negative lessons learnt from
the 1999 Pakistan and 2007 Bangladesh military interventions.
Uniformed personal must stay out of government, supporting
the honest and capable in running the affairs. Uniformed
persona must also shun a second life in politics and/or
government. With a swift return to democratic rule
(with continuing and fair accountability to include
the judiciary and the military), Pakistan has hope.
The country is not yet in a state of anarchy, the
Federal government is. As time goes by, in a rapidly
deteriorating situation, damage control and recovery
thereof of stable governance will be much harder.
One can only pick up the pieces if there are any pieces
left to pick.
While we are not a failed State, if we act too late,
options or not, we are doomed as a State.
M. Ikram Sehgal