In the last decade or so the Pakistan Army has realised, to its absolute delight that it can enjoy all authority without any responsibility by installing a puppet democratic regime and that has become the bedrock of its political strategy
It is very sad to see the country now forsaking all ideas of its founding fathers by shaping itself as Sunni Muslim centric Islamic State with an authoritarian political dispensation remotely controlled by the Army
Pakistan is going through its biggest existential crisis and political challenge since its inception as a Nation more than seven decades ago. The General Election slated for July 25 has created a situation of all-out war within the various power centres that seek to control the country. In Pakistan authoritarianism of the Army has remained omnipresent with or without the garb of democracy. The all-powerful Pakistan Army has always followed a policy of controlling things from the shadows or instituting military rule at will. This time it has put all its eggs in the basket of Imran Khan openly; it has also taken on board its spy agency the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and all fundamentalist militant organisations that are under control of the latter.
It is well known that the former Prime Minister of the country, Mian Nawaz Sharif, is embroiled in a corruption case along with most members of his family. It is very much possible that the corruption charges for which Sharif has been awarded a ten-year jail term are factually correct. It is, however, the timing of the award, coming so very close to the election date that raises a finger of suspicion on to the motives of the judiciary and its collusion with the Army authorities. The fact that even Maryam, the daughter and political heir of Nawaz Sharif, has also been implicated and awarded seven years in jail adds to the conspiracy theory.
Nawaz Sharif has chosen to catch the bull by the horn at great risk to his life. In a do or die decision he has opted to come back to the country along with his daughter and court arrest. The intention behind this move is to create a sympathy wave that could possibly get his party back into power. He has not been allowed to address the people even though a big crowd awaited his return at the airport; however, many videos of his own and those of his daughter speaking of their sacrifice and requesting for all-out public support have been widely circulated. It is quite apparent that the PML (N) is not ready to go down without a fight.
Not satisfied with the literal coup that has been orchestrated against the ruling party, the Army zealously aided and abetted by the judiciary, has put other competition of Imran Khan also in the dock. Asif Ali Zardari, former President of the country and the tallest leader of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has been put on the run with the issuance of a “restriction of movement” order in a case of money laundering being investigated by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). Both Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur have been barred from flying abroad. Their close aides, Hussain Lawai and Taha Raza have been detained by the FIA on the accusation of facilitating the opening of 20 fake accounts in different banks.
Pervez Musharraf, another former President and Army chief who harbours ambitions of becoming Prime Minister of the country, is also running around to save himself! The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has summoned him and his family members in connection with a pending inquiry into, “Misuse of power and accumulation of assets beyond known means of income.” This process has been set in motion on the basis of a complaint filed by a retired Army Officer, Lt Col (Retired) Inam-ur-Rahiem, who is nothing but a small pawn in the larger political game being played out by the Army. NAB summoned Musharraf and his wife Sehba Musharraf on July 10, while his children Bilal and Ayla and his son-in-law Asim Raza were summoned on July 11. All okay and above board if it was not so tantalisingly close to the General Elections.
Terror cannot stay far being from politics in Pakistan! It is no wonder that campaigning for the elections, the jailing fiasco, and politically motivated terrorist attacks are going on side by side. The terror attack on a rally of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has led to a death toll nearing 150. Among those killed is the BAP candidate for the election, Nawabzada Siraj Raisani, the blast was triggered on his corner meeting. The carnage in Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is widely perceived to be a blatant attempt to clip the chances of the local parties – BAP and ANP. The fact that none of the rallies held by Imran Khan has witnessed any such violence is not lost to the people.
PTI has also been accused by the PPP of giving advertisement of defamatory content against its leader Asif Ali Zardari. The complaint has been lodged with the Election Commission of Pakistan but no cognisance has been taken of the same. Adding fuel to the fire, the Islamabad High Court has adjourned the hearing of the appeals made by both Nawaz Sharif and Maryam against their conviction till the last week of July. By then the General Elections will be over and the results would have been declared.
Imran Khan, having literally sold his soul to the devil, is playing with fire! Among his well-wishers are such militant leaders who are acclaimed international terrorists. Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil is one such example; this Muslim cleric has been placed by the United States on the Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT) list on September 30, 2014, for his association with the militant organisation Harkatul Mujahideen (HuM). It is notable that at one point of time HuM was very active in J&K and its remnants are still present over there. Pakistan media has now reported that Khalil, along with his political party Ansarul Ummah has joined Imran Khans political party – PTI.
Despite the pressure being exerted on the leaders, there is speculation of the PML (N) returning to power with the PTI emerging as a close second. Under these circumstances widespread rigging aided and abetted by the Army remains a strong possibility. Pakistan has already abrogated two Constitutions while the third which is now in place has been suspended twice by military dictatorships. Now the existing Constitution is being usurped in a novel manner by the installation of puppet governments while the military rules the roost. This time Imran Khan is the scapegoat.
Pakistan was created by its founders like Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Liaqat Ali Khan with the ideology of secularism and democracy within a Muslim majority set up. It is very sad to see the country now forsaking all ideas of its founding fathers by shaping itself as Sunni Muslim centric Islamic State with an authoritarian political dispensation remotely controlled by the Army. Many political thinkers in Pakistan like Shahid Javed Burki are openly advocating a more authoritarian approach to governance by terming the same as an emerging option globally. Such a thought process is being generated to give to the Pakistan Army a shot in the arm for continuing with its manipulations.
India has every reason to be concerned by the political development in the neighbouring country since they point towards a continued era of internal instability, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and a muscular policy with Kashmir as the centre of gravity.
(The writer is a noted columnist, security expert, and author)