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Sunday, June 9, 2024

A paradigm shift in Pakistan’s politics

In 2018 Imran Khan rode his anti-corruption stance to office. He won the election and became the Prime minister. The office of the PM allowed him more access to information and he went full blast on the corruption of both the ruling families of the past. By 2020/2021 after a decade of 24/7 screaming about corruption Pakistani masses now fully believe that Sharifs and Zardaris are corrupt. 

There are two things that separate the Pakistan army & distinguish them from any army in the world. It’s not professionalism or intense training, or discipline which they have in abundance and probably can be counted amongst the world’s best, but a number of other countries can also justifiably make the same claim. Pakistan army, always trained with the Sandhurst style of training, can match any army in the world in professionalism. That’s a recognized fact but there are still two factors that completely distinguish them from any country of the world and in case of any conflict will always be an advantage.

So, what is it? First of all, it’s the concept of Shahadat that distinguishes the Pakistan army. In the west when the army receives its dead from the battlefield they are usually hidden, the whole affair is conducted in a cloak and dagger process, extra media access is not allowed, and the dead numbers and identity are not publicized for fear of demoralization. The whole thing reeks of matter put under the carpet. Compare that with what happens in Pakistan. Any army jawan killed becomes a martyr. The dead body is brought back to the ancestral village or town accompanied by army brass.

Read more: Pakistan Politics: Race to the bottom

Understanding the matter better

He is honored as a “shaheed”, his dead body is wrapped in the national flag, and his funeral is given a gun salute before he is buried. The nation believes that Shaheed or martyr never dies and the village attains honor because of the martyr. Emotion runs so high that usually, the parents vow to send other sons for attaining shahadat or martyrdom. Every person killed by the enemy becomes a huge recruitment advertisement for the army and actually gets them, new cadets.

Pakistan being the only country in the world made in the name of religion can justifiably claim any defender of its territory to be Shaheed or martyr. There are families revered in Pakistan as they have sent their sons into the army and have attained martyrdom or the status of a shaheed. This can not be matched by any army in the world.

What’s the second thing? The Pakistan army is absolutely adored by Pakistanis. Usually, armies all over the world are liked by their countrymen. It is but natural but in the case of Pakistan, it goes a few steps beyond that. There are families who put it into the mind of their youngsters that it’s the army for them. It has prestige, honor and respect associated with that. The reason for that is very simple. Right from day one Pakistan has confronted enemies all around it. India, the mother country which gave birth to Pakistan never reconciled to the fact & from day one conspired to destroy them.

Read more: Senate Elections – Welcome to Pakistan Politics!

These two countries have fought a few full-fledged wars and many skirmishes

Plus the geopolitical situation, the presence of Iran with some claim on Baluchistan, the presence of Afghanistan with cloudy Durand line, & always the threat of the erstwhile USSR moving to our border which they once did. the Pakistani masses know that the army is our last line of defense. They know that without a strong army the enemies will carve up and eat Pakistan for breakfast. With all these factors and the great honor of shahadat associated with the army, the Pakistan army is seriously adored by its masses. Pakistan is literally living with the enemy from the day of its birth, always in danger, always fighting to survive. That’s why the Pakistan army is really loved by its masses.

It sounds rather strange when we consider that there have been four army generals that have ruled Pakistan as a dictator: Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Ziaul Haq and Pervez Musharraf. Almost half of Pakistan’s history has been spent under army dictatorship. Pakistani masses, with their peculiar logic, never fully associated the perpetrators of this crime with the institution of the army.

They have always, rightly or wrongly, believed that the army as a disciplined organization must adhere to hierarchical discipline and thus the army chief’s orders must be followed whether liked or not. The pride that Pakistan takes from its army, its discipline, its honesty, its institutional integrity never wavered in the face of any dictatorial oppression. In the 75 years of Pakistan’s history, one of the few absolute constants has been this love for the army.

Read more: How politics has crippled Pakistan’s economy?

Army dictators after taking over floated different types of camouflaged justification rationale including corruption. Pakistani masses, street smart by the reasoning of the need to survive never took all those efforts or propaganda seriously. In the back of their mind, they had the inkling of realization that this is just an excuse to justify their takeover & create space for prolonging it. However, everything started to change after the final ouster of the last dictator Pervez Musharraf.

Two things happened almost simultaneously

One third-party emerged in the Pakistani political landscape led by Imran Khan a former cricket player cum philanthropic with a clean financial image who started really harping on the corruption theme constantly claiming that both the dynastic parties ruling Pakistan are financially corrupt. The second thing was that the army directly or started lending its voice to the concept that both the political parties are corrupt.

Initially, it was vague & more concentrated on the Pakistan Peoples Party who was in power. The subtle hint, the talk of financial corruption, with the third political entity PTI making a hue and cry over it, the army lending its voice to the cacophony gradually increased and increased. The newly unmuzzled multi-channel Pakistani media went full blast presenting, depending on their inclinations either PPP or PMLN or both as corrupt. The intensity increased all the time & with the Panama papers coming in exposing the political elite’s hidden wealth abroad & with the new party in power PMLN badly exposed the cacophony was now shrill in nature. Politicians not having any vision to see past their noses added to the clamor accusing each other of corruption. The only party untouched by this muck being thrown around was PTI as they were never in power and thus could not have done corruption.

The army’s voice lent to the intense clamor about our political elites’ corruption and really found a resonance in the Pakistani masses. The reason was simple. The army was not in power so it was accepted that they don’t have an ax to grind. There was no question of the Pakistani masses who adored their army not to believe them when they did not have any reason to lie. Then we have the saintly figure of Imran Khan who has never been involved in any financial scandal shouting about the corruption of two families Sharif and Zardaris from the rooftop.

Read more: Secret of prosperity of dynastic politics in Pakistan

In 2018 Imran Khan rode his anti-corruption stance to office. He won the election and became the Prime minister. The office of the PM allowed him more access to information and he went full blast on the corruption of both the ruling families of the past. By 2020/2021 after a decade of 24/7 screaming about corruption Pakistani masses now fully believe that Sharifs and Zardaris are corrupt.

Now in April 2022 PTI government was thrown out

In a democracy, it happens but the people who came back are the people that were propagated as corrupt for more than 10 years. This time there is a serious question in the minds of the masses who are more politically aware. Were these people corrupt or not? If not, why were they persecuted? If they are, why are they brought back? Why did the army lend its voice to vilify these people if they were not corrupt? Why did the army allow them back if they are?

The credibility of a much-loved institution is at stake. It’s the seriously well-read middle class who are raising these questions. These people can’t be fobbed off with a lollipop. Some answers must be given. Answer that satisfies logic and restores credibility. It beggars belief for the Pakistani masses that their much beloved adored army can lie. So there is and must be a logical explanation.

Read more: Behind the façade in Pakistan’s politics

The masses are waiting for that explanation. Power & bullets have the capability to deny any answer. That is true that can happen and happen very easily but then someone like me who loves his own army and saved me from death at the age of 11 in the East Pakistan war can not claim with pride misting eyes that there are two things that distinguish Pakistan army from the rest of the army of the world anymore.


The author has worked for Unilever for 25 years. He is a professional translator/interpreter of five languages and is also a certified computer trainer. He is currently living in Virginia, USA. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.