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Thursday, July 18, 2024

A peep into Pakistan’s chequered history

No government in Pakistan has completed its five-year tenure. So, what was so exceptional if PTI couldn't complete its tenure? In fact, it was the first time that a ruling party was shown the door through legal and constitutional methods.

Nowadays, the common talk is that all the political and military rulers have done nothing for Pakistan but only looted it. They say so in order to glorify Imran Khan, terming him as the only leader who has all the qualities of a good leader and equating him with a Messiah.

If it is true, then we should look back at Pakistan in 1947 and compare it with Pakistan in 2022. Pakistan has made all-round impressive improvements. Ayub Khan’s ten years of rule are still regarded as the golden period of our history.

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Pakistan’s economic indicators till 1992 were much ahead of all the regional countries in spite of the three wars with India, the division of Pakistan due to ruinous nationalization by ZA Bhutto and the ten years of the Afghan war.

No leader wanted to earn a bad name by doing nothing and enjoying life

They could have done much more, but we must not ignore the hard reality that Pakistan was born under the most troublesome conditions and it became the most difficult and most dangerous country in the world due to the deep-rooted meddlesome roles of India, Afghanistan and the US. Successive regimes had to contend with external threats, internal rifts, and fifth columnists.

Our adversaries never wanted to see Pakistan prosperous from the time of its inception. America has been meddling in the affairs of Pakistan since 1954.

Every leader including Imran Khan committed mistakes

The level of mistakes varied. Nawaz won a two-thirds majority two times and became PM for the third time in 2013 which was exceptional. He too committed mistakes but he could have done much more had PTI not created hurdles in his way from 2014 to June 2018.

No federal government has ever completed its five-year tenure in Pakistan. So, what was so exceptional if PTI couldn’t complete its tenure? In fact, it was the first time that a ruling party was shown the door through legal and constitutional methods. Otherwise, elected regimes were packed up through military coups, political agitation and misuse of Article 58- 2b.

The first accountability drive against the corrupt, named PRADA was launched by PM Liaqat in 1949. Then came EBDO. Thereafter, Ayub, Yahya, Bhutto, Zia, Benazir, Nawaz, Musharraf and Imran undertook accountability drives against corruption and none could achieve any results since the drives were selective and not based on sincerity. Under the guise of accountability, witch hunting was done against the leaders of the ousted regime.

Corruption is otherwise an international phenomenon and is ingrained in the capitalist system.

All governments in Pakistan were deposed on charges of corruption

It was common for the party in power to term the opponents as thieves, corrupt and looters since it was the easiest way to malign them. None carried out in-house cleanliness or looked inwards for self-correction. The rulers assumed themselves as angels and the others as devils, whereas both camps were and are chips of the same block.

No one wanted to convert the sham democracy into true democracy by carrying out reforms of institutions and stuck to the British inherited Westminster democracy and Anglo-Saxon laws. Without reforms, no headway can be made. Even now, Imran is least interested in reforms and his sole ambition is to regain power.

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The creation of Pakistan was a miracle and its survival for 75 years is also a miracle and a blessing of Allah. I am sure Allah will continue to protect Pakistan. So to say that Imran is the lone savior would amount to transgression in divine matters.

As regards the opinion in a fashion that Imran is superior to all other political leaders, I may agree to the extent of saying that among the current lot, he is more charismatic, magnetic, energetic, dashing, handsome, full of drive and initiative, and is a crowd puller.

Are these qualities good enough to become a successful ruler? He suffers from egoism, arrogance and superiority complex due to which he views all others as misfits and scums of the earth not worth shaking hands and talking with. He has little experience in governance, economics, diplomacy, international affairs and security dynamics.

Had he remained in the parliament from 2002 to 2008, and become CM of KP in 2013 or opposition leader, he would have gained rich experience. But he believed in ruling through remote control like Altaf Hussain. That’s why, when he became the PM in 2018, he was clueless and was guided like a baby by the establishment, his foreign advisers, the lotas within his party and the crooked allies. They all failed him.

He has made no changes in his party and is still hooked with PML Q which has a shadowy past. He has yet to spell out a new economic and reform plan as to how he intends to take the country out of the woods.

Rhetoric is certainly not the remedy to our maladies

Had PTI completed its full tenure, there were speculations that Pakistan might have defaulted since the IMF upon which he had made the economy wholly dependent had stopped giving loans and other countries had also done the same. The US, China and EU were unhappy. So, what could he do without their support and cash and foreign exchange reserves going down?

GDP which had dipped from 5.8 to zero % had bounced back but it couldn’t have been sustained due to the financial crisis. Oil and gas at a cheap price from Russia was a delusion since we do not have the wherewithal to put it to use. The great majority was of the opinion that Imran and his team had ruined the economy.

His lack of performance gave heart to the PDM to depose him. His US-tailored conspiracy theory has gone for a six after his overt steps to mend fences with the US.

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Compared to him, Shehbaz Sharif is among the best administrators in the country. He performed very well even during the dark rule of Zardari. His competence has been acknowledged by other countries and he earned the reputation of being a go-getter and a speedster. Even Gen Musharraf wanted him on his team. He inherited a slumped economy with negative economic indicators, and no country including the IMF was prepared to extend loans.

He has managed to stave off default and opened the blocked avenues of financial support, and prospects are getting brighter, although the road is still bumpy. Had he not been lumped with 11 parties, his performance would have been better, and the PTI slogan of Chors, Dakus and Traitors would have soon melted. He has several pending court cases, which he thinks are politically motivated, but tomorrow IK might be faced with a similar situation.

The PPP and PML N leaders went through prolonged periods of trial and tribulations while the PTI still has to taste this bitter medicine.

IK’s indecent haste to hold early elections and to return to power is to prevent the present regime from showing progress, to stop the PTI-specific accountability and to once again turn the guns of NAB against his opponents.

Just by naming someone a thief repeatedly doesn’t make a person a thief unless proven. IK couldn’t prove it and as such he has no right to cast aspersions on others. It is now his turn to be on the dock and face the music.

The way forward

If IK is not involved in any of the crimes for which FIRs are registered, he will come out of the ordeal stronger. So his priority should be to first clean his own slate particularly when he has been declared Sadiq and Ameen.

He should be more worried about the victims of ongoing floods and the economy which is still in the woods rather than wasting his energies on political point scoring and holding jalsas to further increase his popularity graph.

Zia wanted to bury the PPP but he couldn’t and Bhuttoism is still alive under the most censured Zardari. The people reduced it to a regional party in 2013. The MQM though factionalized is still existing minus Altaf. PML N couldn’t be broken and is once again at the helm of affairs and Nawaz is bracing to return to Pakistan. Religious parties are thriving and their followings haven’t lessened. So is the case with the power of the Peers and Faqirs over their worshippers.

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No political leader was hanged or sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of corruption. Corruption is flourishing. No Mafia could be reined in. The sectarian and ethnic fires couldn’t be extinguished, nor the religious divides bridged, or the seeds of provincialism rooted out. The ones who can bridge these divides are themselves polarised and fully engrossed in power struggles.

All the four military rulers as well as most army chiefs were castigated in one way or another and now it is the turn of General Bajwa. Bitten many times by the politicians, the military establishment is on the defensive and has no heart left for another military adventure, or another experiment.

As long as civil-military relations remain strained and social media remain active, the army’s senior leadership will be maligned. This time the trend has become nasty due to hybrid war and participation of the veterans and segment of serving officers.

Only the Islamic system under Shari’ah laws can remove the menace of corruption and other social vices and improve our moral turpitude and none else.

How IK is walking a tightrope

IK is certainly politically the most popular leader but presently the legal cum judicial dice are loaded against him and his party. He is walking on a tightrope and he needs to take each and every step forward with utmost care and discretion. There are several hawkish elements around him who are firing their guns of hate using his shoulder and are pretending to be more loyal than the king.

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Popularity and big jalsas would neither help in deposing the ruling regime nor would save him from the tightening grip of the hand of the law. Foreign funding case, Toshakhana case, sedition case and now terrorism case are a reality and all are menacing. The military is not prepared to change its stance of neutrality and is giving a helping hand to the incumbent regime to improve the economy.

Under the changed circumstances, should the PTI not change its posture from wild accusations and confrontation with the state institutions to peaceful coexistence, reconciliation and accommodation?

The former course is full of risks, while the latter course has a better chance of survival to fight the political battle a bit later after cooling down the high temperature. Those who play with fire often burn in it. Discretion is the best medicine to overcome difficult times.

Whatever I have stated doesn’t mean that I have some kind of malice against Imran or have a soft corner for the current rulers. Being a historian, I have all along appraised the evolving situation dispassionately and objectively with no element of emotions. I apologize if I have hurt anyone’s sentiments and emotional attachments.



The writer is a retired Brig Gen, war veteran, took part in an epic battle of Hilli, defense & security analyst, international columnist, author of five books, Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre, & Member CWC PESS & Think Tank. He can be reached at asifharoonraja@gmail.com.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.