I was born in Pakistan in the mid-80s. That is when there was a dictatorial regime in Pakistan led by the then chief of Pakistan’s army namely, General Zia. It was General Zia and his right-hand man General Akhtar Abdul Rehman who helped the United States take revenge from the Soviets for their role in the humiliating defeat America had faced in Vietnam a little over a decade ago. When I reached the age where I could vote, there was a military-led regime in charge again.
This time it was another American seasonal favorite strongman namely, General Musharraf. This general was helping America take another revenge; this time against the same ideology America had nurtured against communist strongmen around the world for decades. Both these generals’ utility in the American blood seeking resulted in an America that was willing to look the other way when the generals came down to throttle democracy in Pakistan.
Some years later, President Obama came on the scene and announced a resetting of American relations with the Islamic world. He even started his popular speech in Cairo with the Muslim greeting Assalamaleikom. But that was it. The bumpy road that followed saw the surge of US troops inside Afghanistan and an escalation of global drone warfare to where it broke almost all known man-made laws of armed conflict and peace. The tribal areas of Pakistan were drenched with drone missiles including what was known as signature strikes and double tap strikes. The dead, including women, children, and elderly, were almost always labeled as suspected militants.
Understanding the matter better
This was a time when I personally felt very strongly about how nobody really stood for Pakistan, including Pakistanis themselves. Pakistan bashing became the norm. Killing Pakistani citizens in drone strikes, Blackwater secret killings, and the relentless suicide bombings became so normal that the collective national sense of sovereignty and pride was almost numbed. I talked to several people in America during that time about what they thought of Pakistan. I asked them a very targeted question: what comes to mind when you hear the word Pakistan? And the answer almost always was as follows: “bombs, suicide attacks, broken down houses, bearded men with Klashnikovs, bearded men looking to kill the Americans,” and so forth.
The year 2011 was very crucial in shaping my personal opinion of Pakistan’s army. I shifted from hating them to loving them unconditionally. That year started with the CIA contractor Raymond Davis killing innocent people in broad daylight. Then came the Bin Laden raid. The Pakistan army was humiliated and criticized globally. However, the people in Pakistan stood hard with their armed forces. A few months later came the Salala incident where Nato forces made a night time attack killing 24 Pakistani soldiers while they were sleeping. This attack came just weeks after another revelation titled Memogate had rattled the country. The Memogate scandal involved the Pakistani ambassador the US named Husseiin Haqqani offering the US to rein in the military of Pakistan and put the entire military apparatus under civilian control. He had sent the memo right after the Bin Laden raid.
This was a time when every time I opened the leading American newspapers or magazine, there were pictures of Pakistan with destroyed streets, fire, bombs, bearded men with Klashnikovs scores of ceaseless articles raising an accusing finger at Pakistan. This is when only the Pakistan army stood hard resisting American pressure and more importantly the American and Indian narrative. Again, the people in Pakistan were with their army.
Fast forward to 2018. Imran Khan was elected as the Prime Minister of Pakistan
The massively popular cricketer-turned-politician promised a reformist agenda and drainage of the corruption-filled swamp if you will. The army, Khan, and the people were on the same page. Today, Imran Khan is an ousted Prime Minister. But that is a change that meets the eye. There is something more disturbing that needs some serious attention especially by the military top brass of Pakistan.
Today, it is Khan who has become the symbol of the fight for the dignity and sovereignty of Pakistan. This exactly was the trait of the army. Guess how the army’s public image is today? That of what the likes of Nawaz Sharif and Zardari had been. The letter gate scandal in Pakistan has changed some things overnight and I don’t mean the change in regime only. On one side are the opposition politicians such as the Sharifs, the Bhuttos (Zardaris actually), who are viewed as puppets of the west.
What the army establishment needs to realize is that the public has written them off in the same column. And on the other side is Imran Khan who has moved from being a loved leader to a messiah and a savior of Pakistan’s respect. In today’s Pakistan, it is the huge majority of the people led by Khan versus the tiny chunk of crooked politicians and the army kowtowing to America. This is unheard of in Pakistan’s history.
The writer is a political analyst. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @Imran_Jan. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.