Indian Subcontinent Politicians: Loyalty? – OpEd

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There are two unique characters of ancient times in Mahabharata and Ramayana. Karna in Mahabharata and Vibhishana in Ramayana.Karna, ended up fighting alongside the bad guys Kauravas in the Mahabharata. Vibhishana betrayed his country to join Lord Ram in the Dharamyudh (righteous battle) in the Ramayana against his own king brother Ravana. Vibhisana was a traitor to his people and the country Sri Lanka. He betrayed his people to become the next king in place of his brother. So he got something out of the deal. Hence he is remembered as “Ghar  ka bhedi Lanka dhaye”(an insider causes the maximum damage).

On the other hand Karna stood by his word. He knew Duryodhan wasn’t the best of guys but he never deserted him because of the word of friendship he had given him. Karna swore eternal allegiance to Duryodhan then and never ever went back on his word proving his loyalty till the end. 

Former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ascent to power is widely believed was orchestrated by the country’s powerful quarters. ; “Most countries have an army, but Pakistan’s army has a country.” Even when it is not formally in power — as it has been off and on for nearly half of Pakistan’s 69-year history — the Pakistani military wields tremendous influence as a kingmaker has proved right once again:  Meaning Imran Khan had Pakistan Gen Bajwa’s Army support to become the Prime Minister. Where is Imran Khan’s loyalty to his country and the Army especially when Pakistan is facing the chaotic floods in the country. It seems that incensed by the loss of power and the resulting frustration, Khan has lost all sense of loyalty to the nation, his ‘Naya Pakistan’ or ‘Sinking Pakistan’. By no means was the earlier commentary not to compare Imran with Karna from Mahabharata and Vibhishana in Ramayana. It was all about Loyalty!

Initially Imran Khan came up with the narrative that the US was behind the no-confidence motion against him and expected his backers to fully endorse him. Imran is a master of building false narratives and repeating them over and over. While he was in the prime ministerial chair, he took innumerable U-turns. Leaders are supposed to honour their words and act as an example for their followers. Imran is heading a path to gain his chair back at all costs be it fair or foul to assume power. According to him his sole aim is to bring the corrupt leaders to book and eliminate corruption from the system. Why did he not while in power?

Now his self-interest is driving Imran Khan against the Army, his mentor which got him the Prime Minister’s chair as commonly believed and alleged. His growing public utterances against the Pak Army are to hold early elections and get an Army Chief of his choice. He alleges that the two main parties of the ruling alliance Pakistan People’s Party [PPP] and Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz [PML-N] were opposing for fresh elections, because they wanted to appoint an army chief of their choice in November to save themselves from corruption cases. How does the Army Chief help in saving corrupt politicians? The leadership of the current governing coalition of the PML-N and PPP is widely believed to be corrupt and primarily interested in continuing their dynastic rule. Now in their own words it reflects the power of the Army over the politics in  Pakistan.

The tenure of Pakistan’s Army Chief General Bajwa is set to end in November. His extension was approved by Imran Khan when he was the Prime Minister after a special motion in the parliament. This is also why Imran Khan was known as a ‘Nominated Prime Minister’ by the Army as Quid-pro quo for the earlier favour to have him installed.

Imran Khan and Army Chief Bajwa fell out over an extension of tenure to Lt Gen Faiz Hameed of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) who had become close to Imran Khan. Imran Khan later also blamed the Army for backing the opposition coalition for his removal by engineering a political coup through a no confidence vote in the National Assembly in April 2022. Imran Khan would be keen to appoint Lt Gen Faiz Hameed as the next Army Chief if he has the way though not next in line!

The Pakistan Army has a state and not the other way around in democracies. The role of the Army though being denied as usual is now well established and in control. In fact, Army Chief Bajwa has been instrumental in managing funds from Saudi Arabia, UAE, China and his assurances indirectly led to approval of the Extended Fund Facility of the IMF. Bajwa is likely to have been instrumental in getting the decision reversed by the Biden Administration to approve the sale of F-16 and related equipment for an estimated cost of USD 450 million to Pakistan “for meeting the current and future counterterrorism threats”. F-16 for counterterrorism, what a silly excuse!

 Imran Khan’s rallies and statements come at a time when Pakistan is facing ‘Apocalyptic floods’. The flood is being described as the worst of this century with One-third of Pakistan under water, 33 million people displaced from their homes and over 1,300 dead. Lakhs of livestock has perished ending the livelihood of thousands of families. Nevertheless, in principle Imran Khan’s conduct in politics so far is unprincipled and unbecoming of a leader at a time when Pakistan is facing multidimensional crisis from floods to inflation and heading for an economic disaster. The country is already going through enough chaos for a political figure to indulge in unnecessary dramatics. He will have to change course if he desires to remain relevant in future political arrangements in the country. There are a large number of  politicians the likes of  Imran Khan on the Indian Subcontinent who continue to indulge in unnecessary dramatics in spite of the various crises their country faces with the only motive of remaining relevant to assume power.

Sajjad Ashraf a member of Pakistan Foreign Service from 1973 to 2008 and ambassador to several countries states “Pakistan needs a new generation of citizens that have been brought up under civic and ethical values that align with the national identity. Democracy as defined by the West is not in Pakistan’s DNA. To correct its course, Pakistan should follow the East Asian growth model”. This important reading about his own country sums it all up for the need to change.


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