Friday, March 13, 2009

Imploding Pakistan! by Shamim-ur-Rahman

Mr. Shamim-ur-Rahman is a Senior Correspondent with Daily Dawn - Pakistan

With their daggers drawn at each other, the short sighted, corrupt, and inept leadership of Pakistan, which is unconcerned with the problems and sensitivities of the nation and internal and external threat to the country, has once again pushed Pakistan to the brink of disaster and betrayed the confidence reposed by the people in them for a change in February 2008 general elections.

Nothing has changed for the common man except the faces, and more intrusive interference of the Americans and other Western countries in matters of essentially domestic jurisdiction, due to petty political disputes between major players, cobbled up in a coalition by the West to serve its agenda on war on terror, even at the cost of domestic displacement and killings of innocent people and increase in terrorist activities even in the settled areas.

When Gen Musharraf became the prime target of anti-Americans and political opponents, because of his involvement in the American war on terror, and the realization that the people here did not consider it as their war, Musharraf was eased out and a new constellation, led by the Pakistan People’s Party was ushered in to give the impression that war on terror had the backing of the majority of Pakistanis. Thus the façade of so-called liberal parties was created which has not been able to deliver and stabilize the situation.

Dismissal of government, long march and sit-in, road blocks and crackdown on opponents is common, casting dark clouds over the country. People’s voices are being muffled by the so-called democratic government.

Many had thought that after the easing out of military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf, things will improve and there will be rule of law and independent judiciary, and the intelligence agencies will be reined in. But that is not the case. Parliamentary system, and perhaps the country itself, are facing the inevitable danger because the leadership is playing Trojan horse to elements of intelligence agencies and foreign players.

After the assassination of Pakistan People’s Party leader Benazir Bhutto when the PPP leadership under Asif Ali Zardari and Pakistan Muslim League, led by former Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif decided to work in a coalition, along with some other liberal parties, people at large had welcomed it, and hand hoped that they will steer the country out of the woods. But soon they fell apart as neither side was playing game fairly.

Many analysts believe that pro-jihadi elements in the intelligence agencies and the right wing Jamat-i-Islami and Tehirk-i-Insaf of cricketer turned hard liner politician Imran Khan, who had boycotted the elections, were not pleased with the situation.

Many top leaders of the PML (N), having links with the military, were also not happy being number two party in the calculus of political scenario after the elections. They were looking for opportunities which were provided to them by Mr. Zardari when he did not keep his agreement on the restoration of judiciary, constitutional amendments to clip presidential powers, and other issues. Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, and younger brother of a retired military General, and some others were leading the group within PML(N) which wanted this dispensation to be wrapped up as soon as possible, despite knowing the “serious external and internal” terrorist threat .

Be that as it may PPP provided that playing turf to the opponents while indulging in politics of expediency. Mian Nawaz Sharif reverted back to politics of IJI times and invoked the Punjab card when the Supreme Court upheld the judgment of his, and brother Shahbaz Sharif’s disqualification. The questionable imposition of Governor’s rule in Punjab and dismissal of Shahbaz government, added fuel to the fire and it was shocking the kind of uncivilized language the two brothers and other senior leaders of the PML (N) used against Mr Zardari and tried to create a cleavage between him and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani. PML (N) leadership singled out Mr Zardari for allegations, in the same manner as was done against him when Mr Zardari was arrested and implicated in many cases during his two earlier stints. But Mr Zardari who has played it cool and not responded to the allegations in the same manner, is also to be blamed because, he has not brought the much promised change, and in fact is accused of giving in to the Americans. The continuing drone attacks also contributed to the erosion of trust in him. He has so far acted in the manner in which he is portrayed as indispensable for the Establishment. But how long that will last, only time will tell. His advisors are hated by many of the jiyalas of PPP and loyalists of Benazir Bhutto. They believe that “these outsiders in party have destroyed the PPP and its character. In fact these people have delivered the PPP to the Establishment minus Bhutto.”

Once again the heartless Establishment has put up barricades and blocked all the roads to Islamabad to foil the lawyer’s long march, which despite their claim, has been subverted by the political agenda of PML (N) and hardliner Jamat-i-Islami who are determined to have a clash with the government even it meant the military takeover by elements who are sympathetic to Jihadi elements who are involved in the killing of innocent people. Already there is talk of possible martial law and interim set up on the pattern of Bangladesh and a new Presidential form of Constitution on Turkish pattern to ensure military’s permanent role.

A newly elected PML(N) Senator recently told me that “we will a create a situation that will force Mr Zardari to resign and flee, before the sit in Islamabad”

In their lust for power they are not realizing that by indulging in politics of deceit and broken promises, they are being made to carry their own cross to the gallows, and are being used by the Bonnapartists.

The government, especially the person of President Asif Ali Zardari is being targeted by the PML (N) in a well planned manner, in which they have won over a leading private TV channel and newspaper group. Those elements that were active against him after the assassination of Benazir’s brother Murtaza Bhutto are once again active.

Already SMS and emails are being circulated advocating imposition of martial law and take over by General Kiyani for at least 10 years, without realizing that in the current scenario military would not like to be drawn in governance directly because of the two front threats. It would, and with the support of the US, certainly like to stabilize the political situation as was done in Bangladesh.

Military takes its own decision but many options are being discussed. One does not know when the military and the US decided when to ease out Mr Zardari. According to information military commanders are divided on the issue and for the time being it seems those who want give him some time are in majority, but no one knows what will happen during and after the long march and sit in. If someone killed in the process, it can turn into an ugly blood bath. No one would like that to happen. There are reports that leading political leaders and lawyers are being detained even before they set on the long march. Perhaps the government may succeed in crushing the opposition protest but its aftermath does not appear to be good for Pakistan. It may be noted that the situation exacerbated soon after the dismissal of National Security advisor by the Prime Minister Gilani. But some elements are suggesting that two serving army Generals, one each President House and one in Raiwind, the estate of Mian Nawaz Sharif should be posted as advisors.. Both the generals should be having powers to say yes or no to every political move and political decision taken by them.

It has also been suggested that the army chief should call for a high profile meeting involving President Asif Zardari, Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif, Chief justice of Pakistan, Prime Minister Gilani, Justice retired Iftikhar Chaudhary, etc. and explain to them the dangers to Pakistan These elements have suggested that the army chief should demand that provincial government of Shahbaz Sharif should be restored, Nawaz Sharif should leave the country and also ask Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary to give up his divisive plans and also ask the President to say good bye to some unwanted subordinates.

They also want the army chief to take over the terrorism related issues and also encourage Prime Minister to move a resolution to curtail the Powers of the President of Pakistan.

But it seems the hawks backing Nawaz Sharif are encouraging Sharif brothers to hold on for a few days because they believe that Zardari will be forced to leave by their tactics.

Restoration of democracy was expected to be irreversible process because it was brought about by averting “unmanageable civil unrest forcing the army back into the barracks” despite Benazir’s assassination. But the present situation seems to have exposed the country to full scale civil war and Balkanization that will suit the Americans, Indians and Al-Qaeda militants.

Despite more than eight years of tyranny of Gen Musharraf many in Pakistan have voiced the opinion that a military dictator would be preferable to the rot induced by the politicians Systematically politicians are slandered to pave the way for the Turkish model. But political parties should not blame others. ENDS

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