Sunday, 7 September 2014

War is not over yet, Dr Shabir Choudhry

Dr Shabir Choudhry      7 September 2014

No doubt Nawaz Sharif is battered, weakened and had to make compromises, but he has weathered the storm with help of the Political parties, especially PPP. He had almost won the battle by exhausting the trouble makers and by exposing them; but the script writers have other cards up their sleeves. What this means is that the war is not over yet. A new attack is on the cards; and that could me more lethal and troublesome. The new attack will be more organised, with some new players, new slogans and will have many dimensions.

In any case, script writers must be commended who meticulously planned and implemented the Azadi March and Revolutionary March to destabilise Pakistan, defame Pakistan and tell the world that Pakistani Parliament is corrupt, Pakistani Prime Minister and Ministers are corrupt, Pakistan’s election Commission is corrupt, and even Pakistan’s top judges are corrupt. Their hard work and dedication to damage Pakistan and send message to the world community was successful; and China, very close friend of Pakistan decided to cancel their President’s scheduled visit to Pakistan.

Prior to this, Presidents of two other friendly countries cancelled their visits to Pakistan because of the situation in the Red Zone of Pakistan where writ of government was absent, and thugs in name of revolution were calling the shots. In order to economically cripple the government of Pakistan, one revolutionary leader declared civil disobedience, and urged people not to pay taxes. He even urged Pakistanis and Kashmiris to break international laws regarding money transfer to Pakistan, in other words commit a crime of money laundering, which is a serious crime in the West.

The Pakistani Capital, especially the sensitive area known as Red Zone is under attack not because the Nawaz Sharif government is any worse than the previous governments; if anything the Nawaz government was taking steps in the right direction to solve problems of Pakistan, especially with regard to economy, energy, combating terrorism and pursuing friendly policies with neighbours.

Apart from that he tried to strengthen democracy by recognising mandate of other parties. He did not interfere in matters of Pakistani controlled areas of State of Jammu and Kashmir (Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan) where PPP governments were in place. He allowed PTI led government to take place in KPK and sacrificed in Balochistan by allowing a political space to Baloch nationalists; and for the first time in 9 years the Pakistani flag was hoisted in Dera Bugti in Balochistan.

The root cause of the present trouble is Nawaz Sharif’s endeavour to asset the civilian rule. In Pakistan army generals are perceived as holy cows, which are to be adored and not criticised. Charging any army chief for treason in Pakistan is unthinkable. Nawaz Sharif, however, was determined to discipline the army, teach a lesson to the former army dictator; and tell the army generals that they have no role in determining the foreign policy of Pakistan.

In Islamic Republic of Pakistan generals call shots in all walks of life. Either they rule directly or they rule from the back seat by controlling levers of power. On 23 May 2014, I wrote: Men in Khaki only allow civilian rule to continue if they do not challenge army’s writ in certain areas of policy. Any civilian ruler in Pakistan who thinks he is the real Chief Executive and acts like one as well is asking for trouble; and Nawaz Sharif has asked for the trouble.

He is trying to assert the civilian rule, which the army cannot tolerate. He is working hard to provide Pakistan economic stability and make peace with the Pakistani Taliban and insurgents of Balochistan. Also he wants to have friendly relations with India and have mutual cooperation in many areas including trade and commerce. He has also abandoned this policy of previous governments to have a strategic depth in Afghanistan, and have a government in Kabul which Pakistan approves or likes.

The army has serious disagreements with some of the above. Although Army Chief’s name is Sharif and he is handpicked by the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for this post, but once the wooden stick that symbolise the change of command was passed on to him, he became loyal to his constituency; which means leave sharafat at home, and use the stick to get the desired results for the army....The army started asserting themselves some months ago; hence we see the turmoil in various walks of life in Pakistan, including in media. 1

It is generally believed, and many things support this view that men in Khaki were the script writers and some of them were serving generals. According to Reuters report the anti-government protests in Islamabad had, at least, convinced five Corps Commanders out of 11, that it was time to play their role and force the embattled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign. But the Army Chief Raheel Sharif was not convinced that it was ‘right to overthrow the civilian leadership’. One defence analyst said: "It's hard to imagine an army chief trying to actively intervene or do something drastic when he isn't 100 percent sure his team will back him". 2
Mehreen Zahra-Malik notes that the Raheel Sharif’s cautious approach could be linked to ‘the strong show of support for the prime minister this month in parliament, where politicians lined up to back him. Furthermore, General Sharif does not have his own team of generals in place yet, as he inherited the current team of commanders from General Kayani who resigned last year. His top five Generals, which include powerful Chief of ISI, are due to retire next month. According to the government sources, ISI chief Zaheer-Ul-Islam was among those pushing for the prime minister's ouster. In any case, next month Raheel Sharif will have new ISI chief and he will appoint four Corps Commanders next month; ‘Then he'll be a man to watch out for.’ 3
Both heroes of the drama, Dr Qadri and Imran Khan – cousin bothers had a common agenda which they were pursuing from different platforms, and adopted different tactics. When the going was not good they decided to throw away their masks and became one team. Both so called revolutionaries urged their followers to break national and international law and still insisted that they were peaceful. List of their illegal acts is far too long to be included here.

What astonished majority of Pakistanis is the attitude of the army which was called in by invoking article 245? They decided to remain ‘neutral’; which in practise meant supporting the law breakers? ISPR issued on 31 August 2014 did note express any concern about incitement to break law or stop ransacking the State symbols in the Red Zone. ISPR said, ‘While reaffirming support to democracy, the conference reviewed with serious concern the existing political crisis and the violent turn it has taken, resulting in large scale injuries and loss of lives.’

One may ask why corps Commanders’ Conference only reaffirmed its support to democracy; and why it did not affirm its support to the constitution and the parliament. ISPR did not mention that the Corps Commanders would not support any unconstitutional act, or support any demonstration that aims to undermine the parliament and other state symbols. This deliberate ambiguity was perceived as a clear support for those who wanted to topple the elected government.

Whether one likes it or not, Nawaz Sharif is an elected Prime Minister of Pakistan. One can dislike or even disrespect Nawaz Sharif as a leader, but appropriate respect must be given to the office of the Prime Minister. It is so unfortunate that there is no respect for any post holder in Pakistan, be it the post of PM, President or Chief Justice. And what worries people is that ISPR issued on 19 August asked both parties to show ‘patience, wisdom and sagacity from all stakeholders to resolve prevailing impasse through meaningful dialogue’, practically put both the elected PM, leader of the Parliament and those who wanted to unconstitutionally topple him on  the same footing. This was perceived as a clear support for those who have held the Red Zone, the government and the people of Islamabad hostage.

Pakistani writer and thinker Pervez Hoodbhoy wrote: ‘It shall be a grim day for Pakistan should Cricketer Khan become Prime Minister Khan. Khan had openly supported the Taliban even under the brutal occupation of Swat in 2009, and refused to condemn them when they shot 14-year old Malala Yousafzai in the head for wanting to go to school. Khan went into a frenzied fit after the killing of TTP supremo Hakeemullah Mehsud by a US drone, making it clear that he would rather shoot at drones than terrorists. Whether out of a serious perceptual disorder or political ambition or to atone for his playboy past, year after year he has sided with those who have been blowing up our children’s schools, killing Pakistan’s citizens, police, and soldiers. This is why the Taliban wanted him as one of their representatives in the failed peace talks, and why he carries the nickname of Taliban Khan’. 4
Another writer, Dr Qaiser Rashid, while commenting on the political immaturity of Imran Khan said: ‘From the top of his container, Khan kept on exposing his political naivety and stubbornness. Khan’s words and acts were a blessing in disguise for the political system of Pakistan. One can imagine what would have happened if Khan’s party had secured an overwhelming majority in parliament. The tendency in Khan to listen to no one could have put the whole region in crisis. Did the corps commanders think about that?’ 5

The establishment wanted to teach a lesson to the elected Prime Minister for challenging the military might; and humiliating the former army Chief. In return, they wanted to humiliate Nawaz Sharif, and take away some of his powers. In order to stay in power, Nawaz Sharif despite his Parliamentary majority has to share his power with the army. He has to let general Musharaf go. He has to keep his hands off Kashmir dispute; and forget about establishing friendly relations with India and grant them most favoured nation. Apart from that he has to keep his hands off from policies related to Afghanistan, nuclear, strategic assets and programmes related to Jihad.

Whatever the outcome of this power struggle, history of Pakistan will remember Nawaz Sharif as a man who in order to assert the civilian supremacy deliberately and sincerely challenged the military might 3 times in Pakistan. His message is clear and loud: Men in uniform have no legitimacy to rule Pakistan; and rule of political leaders, despite their shortfalls must prevail. Democratic values and norms cannot be imposed, they evolve with time.


3.    ibid
4.    Siege of Islamabad what next? By Pervez Hoodbhoy, Dawn, 6/9 /2014

Writer is a political analyst, TV anchor and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.

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