Pakistan’s current major political crisis is the result of the failure of hybrid experiments in the past and the present one in 2018, bringing PTI in the power. Imran khan was on container with his cousin Tahir-ul Qaderi duly supported by the establishment when Nawaz Sharif was in the government. Now he is again on container alone, against the government of Shebaz Sharif, in the wake of stiff resistance from military establishment after his removal on 10 April 22, through a successful no-confidence motion.
Khan claimed it foreign conspiracy and neutrality of the selectors. Imran Khan ended his first long march in Islamabad on May 26, this year, to achieve two clear political objectives, one is to force the ruling coalition to announce fresh elections immediately. The other is to somehow influence the appointment of COAS in the month of November.
But it took Imran Khan nearly five months to launch his decisive Haqiqi Azadi second march to Islamabad. It seems that Imran Khan delayed the second march for months to strike a deal with the establishment through back channels but the unprecedented DG ISI and (ISPR) Director General joint press conference on 27th September, in Rawalpindi over the death of senior journalist Arshad Sharif, raising finger on the political manuring of Imran khan, speaks the volume of the political turmoil facing the country in its history. Since then, both Imran khan and military establishment is at head on collision, trading blames against each other. However the military recently repeated and candid approach that they have now decided to stay absolutely out of politics, as ordained by the Constitution, if implemented both at provincial and federal level is a very welcome development, which will definitely resolve most of the chronic challenges facing the country.
Historically speaking, the role of establishment in regime change is not a new phenomenon in the country. Interference of the establishment, both real and perceived, had been a major reason for stalled progress on the evolution of democracy in Country. Pakistan’s current political turmoil is one of the manifestations of such political engineering since beginning. The causes are deeply rooted in the very foundation of the country. Since independence the establishment with collaboration of ruling elites of their choice are governing the nation with colonial mindset in a post-colonial country. In fact, Pakistan was born as a state without a nation and over a period of years while we may have developed into a nation, we still lack due to flawed internal and external policies. Further we in Pakistan have confused nationhood with religion. All thus have slowed down our emergence as robust nation.
On external front, the self-inflicted adverse decisions particularly hitching its wagons to the US bloc in the cold war to contain communism, and not remaining neutral in the very beginning of our journey as a nation proved futile, in fact attributed to our development as a security state rather than welfare one. From then on, to comply with the US wishes, Pakistan has signed treaties like SEATO and CENTO and also provided its territory as a front-line state twice for the military operations of NATO against former Soviet Union and Afghanistan after 9/11. Albeit it proved profitable for some while in a sense that Pakistan received economic support, worth billions of dollars, but that threaten our sovereignty from within until today.
Internally, the pillars of the State — legislature, judiciary, executive and the media — are all crippled by self-centred politicians and individuals in the civil and military bureaucracy. We have a history of taking temporary fixing measures but never focus on taking cogent steps that can permanently reform our flawed governance system. For last 75 years, those ruling the country, constitutes a minority of hardly five presents of population but owns almost 80% of national wealth and resources. Recently removed Finance minister Mufteah Ismail has rightly termed the country a ‘one percent republic’ that offers no upward social mobility to an overwhelming majority of its citizens. He cited the example of how Rs 580 billion was distributed among the “one percent of Pakistan” , under the Temporary Economic Refinance Facility.
This elite class become rich due to floundering of national resources, building luxurious houses with a fleet of domestic servants with in the country and abroad. It has become a general practice to build farm houses. Being hardly 20% in numbers but rich and powerful, they dominate politics and national wealth. The irony is that they represent the poverty and illiteracy-stricken majority in the parliament. Further the politicians are comfortable with establishment while in power but turned against whenever ousted like Imran khan and mobilises the public sentiments by using anti-establishment, anti-American and religious cards to regain power
On the other hand, above 80%, majority of the people live in kachi abadis or shanty towns where the houses have only one or two rooms often accommodating the entire family consisting of six to 10 members. There are no facilities for running water, uninterrupted power or gas supply. Their homes are surrounded by garbage heaps causing pollution and disease. Deprived of their basic amenities of life, like education, health, sanitation, opportunities of livelihood but they are expected to sacrifice their lives and property for the country?
The Constitution of Pakistan in its essence is egalitarian, but exploitation of all kinds continues unabated though Article 3 says otherwise. Today’s Pakistan is captive in the hands of indomitable military-judicial-civil complex, landed aristocracy, industrialist-turned politicians, wealthy traders, ulema (pseudo-religious scholars), pirs (so-called spiritual leaders), media tycoons and a powerful clique of anchors. Flouting the rule of law with shameless impunity is their hallmark. They though openly indulge in vulgar ostentation of money and power but hoodwink the general public by lofty slogans and false narratives only to prove that they are the actual patriot, survivor and owners of the state.
In fact, unfortunately, the real saviours, patriots who neither exploited the national wealth nor have had hands in glove with colonial masters in the pre partition period or with establishment after independence and struggle for their constitutional, political and economic rights are being punished, branded as traitors, intimidated, excluded and in the worst scenario eliminated but sycophants, dacoits, drug peddlers, arms smugglers, hardened criminals are patronized. Consequently, the whole system is rotting around the country, it stinks from a thousand miles away but the elites are hardly concerned about it.
There is consensus that lack of universal education, political and economic stability, judicial reforms, merit coupled with improper implementation of existing laws, bed governance, political engineering, nepotism, over dose of religion, absence of pro public policies and sheer ignorance of climate change are some of the causes of uncertainty, and societal degeneration in the country. Further, Pakistan has been a victim of violence and terrorism over a period of years challenging Pakistan’s national security. Our economy is in bad shape, we owe $55 billion to multilateral organizations. The IMF is in no mood for any concessions. The IMF wants fiscal consolidation. The World Bank is in no mood for any concessions. We need at least $34 billion just to keep our country afloat for the next 12 months. We need to reschedule $27 billion worth of our bilateral debt.
The only way to get through the recent challenges is that We as a nation, need a mature and uninterrupted political culture, strong elected institutions with proper checks and balances. institutions must take precedence over individuals. The police, judiciary, civil armed forces, intelligence agencies and the military must have the courage to uphold the rule of law and eschew any individuals who think themselves above the law. All these institutions need to get together and carve out a charter of governance that defines their roles and restraints within their constitutional mandate.
we must strengthen our institutions of governance and make them answerable and pro public. cultivate tolerance for national harmony. Our strength lies in being a diverse polity. Pakistan must stop harbouring a massive insecurity complex. As a nuclear state with the world’s sixth largest army, we should be confident about the national integrity and end the constant worrying about survival. Rather, we should be a trading nation particularly with our immediate neighbours that takes advantage of its geographic location for economic prosperity.
Pakistan can’t afford further political uncertainty, insecurity and polarisation, particularly economic disasters. All stakeholders particularly the ruling elites must learn from the writing on the wall, they must listen to the voices raising from the smaller provinces and address the difficult issues facing to helpless and weak segments of the society and atrocities inflicted upon them as pointed out in the 4th Asma Jahangir Conference held on 22nd November 2022 , at Lahore, hosted by AGHS Legal Aid Cell, the Asma Jahangir Foundation, Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan and the Pakistan Bar Council.
Sher Khan Bazai, Retired from civil service as Secretary Education. Post graduate in international relations. Writer can be reached at [email protected]