If you refer to a fight or contest as a fight to the death, you are stressing that it will not stop until the death or total victory of one of the contestants. Such mortal fights are exemplified by those fought between gladiators. They were professional fighters who fought in ancient Roman times, in front of a crowd, usually in large amphitheaters, including the Coliseum. A Roman gladiator defeated in the arena would usually be killed or executed by the victorious fighter.
Such a situation now exists in Pakistan where the politicians are locked in a fight to the death, a fight where the judiciary and the army have also been, wittingly or unwittingly, dragged into the fray. If we summarize the present situation, this tumult is caused due to the chronic political stability that has inflicted this jinxed country since it was carved, in 1947, out of the fine kettle of fish called India. Democracy, in the context of Pakistan, has always behaved like a faulty electrical connection that keeps turning off and turning on.
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Understanding the matter better
The present political crisis started when Imran Khan’s opposition, allegedly backed by the establishment, tried to poach some of the ruling party’s legislators and kept them in the Sindh House to engineer a no-confidence-motion against Imran Khan’s government. This horse-trading was a deception though. The actual blow was delivered when the small political parties in Imran Khan’s fragile coalition government changed sides and voted against his government during the no-confidence-motion. In the face of it, the sitting government was toppled constitutionally. This is the narrative of the coalition government that is presently in power.
Contrary to what Imran Khan’s opponents say, he accuses them of bringing down his government through a foreign conspiracy and massive horse trading. This is his narrative. Unlike his predecessors who, when shown the door, meekly left the PM House, Imran Khan has generated a robust movement aimed at delivering a counter-blow to the present government. He has based his political movement on a single demand – fresh general elections in the country. The large crowds that throng his political meetings indicate that majority of the people believe in Imran Khan’s narrative. This is a vicious cycle. What is ailing Pakistani society?
There are three stages through which a society evolves- tribal, agricultural, and industrial. Each stage conforms to a different form of economy. Pakistani society is a patchwork of tribal, agricultural, and semi-industrial economies. However, instead of evolving from one stage to another, the mindset of various segments of Pakistani society has, over the last seven decades, regressed into a tribal mindset.
As a result of this social regression, Pakistani society has been split up into three main centers of gravity: 1) Politicians; 2) Judiciary;3) Army. There are sub-centers of gravity also like the business community, media, and lawyers who, depending upon expediency, hitch their wagon with one of the three predominant centers of gravity. The polarization between these centers of gravity is increasing. What may happen next?
When the organs of the state, instead of supplementing each other, start fighting and declare themselves above accountability, the country gets fragmented into autonomous zones, each ruled by a warlord. This is what has happened in Afghanistan, Congo, Sierra Leone and Somalia.
When a state collapses, foreign armies, in the garb of peacekeeping forces, start arriving. They remain in the fragmented country, supporting one private army or another, fleecing the country for a couple of years, and creating their respective spheres of influence. Then, after having extracted their pound of flesh, leave the country. This is what is currently happening in Afghanistan. Somalia, officially the Federal Republic of Somalia, is a Sub-Saharan country in the Horn of Africa.
Somalia has been in the throes of a civil war since the early 1990s. As late as November 2020 there were still 600 US troops in this civil war-torn country. During this long period, various armed factions, headed by powerful warlords have remained embroiled with each other in endless fighting for power. Somalia is still fighting a civil war even after the UN peacekeeping forces exited in 1995.
Where does the Pakistan Army stand in this catch-22-like situation?
I had written earlier that politicians always use the army’s shoulders to shoot down their opponents. General Waheed Kakar, an ex-army chief, is on record saying that both Benazir and Nawaz Sharif, when out of power, would visit him and asked for helping them in toppling their opponent’s government. These same politicians, after involving the army in seizing power, then started criticizing their benefactors and accused them of Bonapartism. The army’s decision-makers should ask themselves what is the net result of their honest brokering in the personal feuds between the politicians.
The first Martial Law in Pakistan was declared by President Iskander Mirza, an ex-civil bureaucrat who had spent some time in the British Indian Army and then had him transferred to the Indian Civil Service. When looking back, how many people remember that it was Iskander Mirza and not General Ayub Khan who started Bonapartism in Pakistan?
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The second Martial Law in Pakistan was slapped by General Zia when the mayhem caused by the politicians left him with no other choice. The third martial law was proclaimed by General Musharraf when Nawaz tried to hijack the former’s plain. Musharraf was Nawaz Sharif’s appointee. Today, Nawaz, and Benazir before him, criticize Musharraf and Zia. People forget that Generals Ayub and Zia were ZAB’s and Nawaz Sharif’s mentors respectively. As for General Musharraf, Benazir congratulated him when he toppled Nawaz’s government. Later on, both Benazir and Nawaz joined hands against Musharraf. These wily politicians would sell their mothers for the sake of power and money.
Saleem Akhtar Malik is a Pakistan Army veteran who writes on national and international affairs, defense, military history, and military technology. He Tweets at @saleemakhtar53. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.