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Army Calling The Shots as Pakistan Awaits Results

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PAKISTAN-ISLAMABAD-NATIONAL DAY-MILITARY PARADE by .
Pakistani soldiers march past during the military parade to mark Pakistan's National Day in Islamabad, capital of Pakistan on March 23, 2018. (Xinhua/Ahmad Kamal)(rh)

A country where the Army decides what the civilian leaders should say, surely can not a democracy. Till about a fortnight ago, split verdict appeared as a possibility. Not any a longer. Analysts at home and outside see Imran Khan as the potential Prime Minister with many veering round the view that he would emerge with the largest mandate to form the next government. Even in the event of a split verdict, the dice is loaded in his favour since the screenplay is already ready….writes Dr Sakariya Kareem

PAKISTAN-ISLAMABAD-NATIONAL DAY-MILITARY PARADE by .
Pakistani soldiers march past during the military parade to mark Pakistan’s National Day in Islamabad, capital of Pakistan on March 23, 2018. (Xinhua/Ahmad Kamal)(rh)

Match –fixing is a popular sport in Pakistan, where the Army calls the shots, as Steve Coll asserts in his highly readable latest sequel to Ghost Wars. His views, based on more than 550 interviews, is a must read to understand why Pakistan Army has reduced the general election slated for July 25 to no more than a farce.  Both the lead players in the political theatre and the Human Rights Commission of the Country are unanimous that the poll outcome has been fixed days in advance.

The most serious contender for the Islamabad thrown, Nawaz Sharif who is also the leader of the biggest party, Pakistan Muslim League –Nawaz (PML-N) is in jail with his daughter, Maryam. Asif Zardari, the leader of the second largest party, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), is also under threat of incarceration. The field has been thus left wide open for the Oxford-educated sportsman–playboy, Imran Khan, who heads the Army-backed Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI).

 

Till about a fortnight ago, split verdict appeared as a possibility. Not any a longer. Analysts at home and Pakistani watchers from Washington to Sydney see Imran as the potential Prime Minister with many veering round the view that he would emerge with the largest mandate to form the next government.Even in the event of a split verdict, the dice is loaded in his favour since the screenplay is already ready.

Imran has nothing critical to say about the jihad-loving fundamentalists, who have also fielded their proxies in order to split the votes. His attacks on India, the eternal enemy of Pakistan have been getting sharper and sharper. These two qualities have made him a darling of the Pakistani Army which was getting wary of Nawaz Sharif whose support to the idea of using trade for rapprochement with India has no takers amongst GHQ Shura, the ‘real’ rulers of Pakistan.

With these twin qualities, Imran Khan has nothing to worry about his not so truthful or faithful marital life or the corruption allegations that his opponents have levied. Interestingly, some ‘sensational’ disclosures by Reham Khan, his wife number two married for less than a year, have had no impact on his poll prospects. On the contrary, his prospects got a boost!

If not his political rivals, the judiciary could upset Imran Khan’s apple cartat least on paper. But the Army has made sure that the judiciary does not become deviant by doing things that go against the khaki interests. For the higher judiciary, the military remains a holy cow; they have always watched silently all illegal and egregious acts of the military, including three coups by the Army chiefs. That alone should be enough to question the democratic credentials of Pakistan and the nature of its judiciary.

The Army is uncomfortable with the thought of Nawaz returning to power because he has been making noises against the continuous efforts of the Army to run most affairs of the country as the back seat driver. The final straw, so to speak, came when Dawn, a leading English daily, reported that the Sharif administration did not support the Army’s open flirtation with terrorists operating against India and Afghanistan. The Army felt embarrassed. The daily came under threat and so was the reporter who did the interview with Nawaz Sharif (on the basis of which the report was published). The Army has since virtually banned Dawn’s circulation in many parts of the country, especially cantonments.

Compounding miseries for the Pak media, it has been asked to ‘behave’ by the real power centre. And the entire print and electronic media appears to have meekly surrendered. No puff for Nawaz  and his party. Instead, build up for Imran Khan and his PTI. Suddenly, Nawaz and his party, believed to have a strong base in the country’s largest province, Punjab, were inviting hostile comments almost universally.

And who was being projected as the new messiah? Imran Khan, of course. Funnily he would fail miserably if he is to be judged, as laid down in a Constitutional amendment, for his trustworthiness and faithfulness to be eligible for membership of Parliament. Nawaz Sharif was jailed simply because his failure to stand a similar test held by a court while hearing corruption charges against him. That the judge found no concrete proof to support the charge was neither here nor there.

Thanks to the Army diktats, another Pakistani, facing an even more serious charge of treason, is able to freely divide time between his luxurious homes in Dubai and London. There is a warrant for his arrest and he even had promised to return to the country to face the charges being a ‘brave’ Commando. It is the former President Gen (retd) Parvez Musharraf. There is no effort to get him back because he is, after all, a ‘Fauji’ (Army man) but what makes him more privileged is that he is a former chief of the Army.

Pakistan’s former President Pervez Musharraf

Musharraf had first ousted Nawaz Sharif from power through a coup in October 1999. He was not happy to see Nawaz trying to improve relations with India and at the time the Pakistani prime minister was hosting his Indian counterpart in Lahore, Musharraf was ordering the Army to invade snowcapped Kargil Mountains where the Indian Army had vacated its posts due to winter harshness.

Pak Army in Pakistan is fixated with India; its generals have admitted it. Over the last seven decades Pakistanis have been conditioned to see India as an existential threat. Apparently, they are led to believe that their country’s large stockpile of nuclear arsenal is not enough to fight off India.

It is this India bogey that gives the Pak Army the excuse to lord over the civilian administration which is portrayed as corrupt, inefficient and incapable of saving the Islamic country from the “machinations” of ‘Hindu’ India. Democracy in Pakistan has always been controlled by the Army because the civilians in power actually made no attempt to retain their superiority.The civil society is dominated by Army supporters or people in awe of the military.

A false sense of democracy finally taking root in Pakistan was created when the PPP regime of Asif Zardari completed its full five-year term and handed over power to Nawaz Sharif after the polls. Zardari had little love for the Army but was tamed by the men in Khaki soon after assuming office. It was evident when Zardari failed to honour his word and send a team of Pakistani officials, including the head of ISI, to India to assist in the probe into the Mumbai terror attacks carried out by Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) headed by Hafiz Saeed. Zardari had made a public announcement that the Pakistani team would be dispatched to India but within 24 hours he had to roll back his offer to save his skin.

Zardari also annoyed the Army with his remark that India lives in the heart of every Pakistani. After being chastised by the Army, Zardari never made any conciliatory statement on India. A country where the Army decides what the civilian leaders should say, surely can not a democracy.

PAKISTAN-ISLAMABAD-PRESIDENT
Former Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari (Xinhua/Saadia Seher)