Asif Haroon Raja |
On October 12, 1999, a democratically elected government of PML-N was toppled by the military under Gen Pervez Musharraf. Nawaz Sharif (NS) was jailed and awarded life sentence on charges of hijacking and terrorism. Saudi Arabia came to his rescue and he was exiled for ten years. Benazir Bhutto (BB) was already in self-imposed exile. The Supreme Court legitimized military rule and authorized Musharraf to amend the constitution to his liking. With two mainstream leaders in exile, it became easy for Musharraf to carve out a King’s Party comprising turncoats from PML-N and PPP by applying coercive and blackmailing tactics.
Pakistan has been striving hard to combat the existential threat of terrorism, achieve political stability, and improve its economy and to sail towards the shores of safety, security, progress, and prosperity.
Pakistan came under the black star after 9/11 when Musharraf agreed to become a coalition partner of US-NATO, render assistance to topple friendly Taliban regime in Afghanistan, and to help in installing the US selected Northern Alliance regime led by Hamid Karzai, which became anti-Pakistan and pro-India. Pakistan also agreed to become a frontline State to fight US imposed war on terror. Musharraf and his team didn’t realize that Afghanistan had been occupied by the USA under a preplanned strategy to destabilize the region and achieve its geostrategic and geo-economic objectives and that Pakistan was not an ally but a target.
Since then, Afghanistan is being bled by the occupying forces and the collaborators and Pakistan bled through proxies and drones. Pakistan has been striving hard to combat the existential threat of terrorism, achieve political stability, and improve its economy and to sail towards the shores of safety, security, progress, and prosperity. Terrorism couldn’t be eliminated since the ones demanding the elimination of terrorism secretly support terror groups in Pakistan and seek destabilization of Pakistan to achieve their hidden objectives.
A well-orchestrated hate campaign was unleashed by politicians, lobbies, media and social media against NS within one year of his rule to discredit him.
The socio-politico-economic situation became abysmal during the five years rule of the PPP under Zardari. The coalition of PPP-MQM-ANP installed by USA-UK in March 2008 with an ulterior motive reduced the country to a carcass. The rot was stymied when NS led PML-N government took over power in June 2013.
Improvement of internal security and the economy as a result of dedicated operations in Karachi, FATA and Baluchistan, better financial management and forthcoming CPEC couldn’t be digested by adversaries of Pakistan since it hampered their agenda of disabling Pakistan’s nuclear program. Likewise, development driven agenda didn’t suit the politicians in opposition.
A well-orchestrated hate campaign was unleashed by politicians, lobbies, media and social media against NS within one year of his rule to discredit him. Vilification campaign and demand for accountability should have been logically directed against massive wrongdoings of Zardari and company and anti-Pakistan MQM under Altaf working on RAW-MI-6 agenda, the effects of which are still being borne by the people of Pakistan.
One reason that Pakistan has not overcome its multiple difficulties is the negative role of detractors within Pakistan that have constantly been creating hurdles in the way of progress and development.
Instead, the tirade has remained focused on ruling PML-N regime which has lifted all economic indicators from negative to positive, stabilized macro economy and restored the health of the sick economy to some degree. It has pulled out the country from the worst energy crisis and hopefully by March 2018 it would overcome power shortages. The lawless regions of FATA, parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Baluchistan and Karachi have been made stable and peaceful and the genie of terrorism controlled to quite an extent. Large numbers of mega development projects are in progress and foreign investment that had dried up is flowing in. Socio-economic deprivations of smaller provinces are likely to be addressed by the game-changing CPEC. Pakistan’s image that had sunk low has risen among the world comity and it has again become relevant.
While the ruling government has made substantial progress in the last 4 years, however, a lot is still to be done. Pakistan is still not out of the woods since internal and external security situation is tense, debt burden and trade deficit have increased and exports have dwindled. One reason that Pakistan has not overcome its multiple difficulties is the negative role of detractors within Pakistan that have constantly been creating hurdles in the way of progress and development. Secondly, PPP-led Sindh government is not serious in carrying out reforms and controlling corruption which is bleeding Karachi, the economic lifeline of Pakistan. Thirdly, RAW, NDS, CIA, Mossad, MI-6 nexus based in Afghanistan continues to abet terrorism in Pakistan and induce political instability.
By tearing up Polish resolution at the UN, Bhutto made sure that the armed forces suffered immense humiliation at the hands of archrival India.
Turning a deaf ear to the impressive progress made, power hungry and disgruntled politicians assisted by media downplay the positives by finding faults in development projects and drum beat the weak areas. They are leaving no stone unturned to disparage the image of NS and block the progress through negative tactics. This phenomenon of vilification campaign and impeding growth and development is not new.
Awami League led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and PPP under ZA Bhutto disturbed law and order situation by resorting to street agitation to overturn the stupendous all-round developments made by Ayub Khan during his 10-years rule. Economically and militarily strong Pakistan was unacceptable to the adversaries of Pakistan. After forcing Ayub Khan to resign, the duo deliberately created a political logjam for politically naïve Gen Yahya Khan. By tearing up Polish resolution at the UN, Bhutto made sure that the armed forces suffered immense humiliation at the hands of archrival India. Mujib and Bhutto were instrumental in the breakup of Pakistan into two in 1971. All this was done at the behest of foreign powers to cut Pakistan and its armed forces to size.
Ironically, since the early 1990s, successive governments in Pakistan have been begging foreign investors and offering lucrative terms to induce them to invest in Pakistan, build industries, buy lands and install thermal power projects.
While Sheikh Mujib had galvanized Bengali nationalism by blaming West Pakistan for the backwardness of East Pakistan and had promised the moon to the Bengalis, Bhutto cast a spell of magic on the downtrodden people of West Pakistan by chanting the slogan of Roti, Kapra, Makan. Both brought people on the streets to paralyze and derail the system. Both lacked sincerity of purpose and their sole ambition was to gain power. While Mujib wanted the whole cake, Bhutto wanted half of it. Lust for power overrode national interests.
ZA Bhutto during his 7 years rule became a dictator. To curb political dissent, he created FSF and opened Dalai camp to torture his opponents. He washed away the gains made by Ayub Khan through his highly anomalous policy of nationalization which gave a deathly blow to the burgeoning industry of Pakistan, banking, and education. Indiscipline was inculcated by Bhutto by inciting the labor and working class to rebel against their employers. He misled the masses by blaming 22 rich families for keeping Pakistan backward. He ignored the hard fact that Indian leaders had predicted that Pakistan would collapse within six months under the weight of economics. Pakistan developed its economic legs to stand on because of the financial assets brought by these very industrialists who had opted to shift to Pakistan. Ironically, since the early 1990s, successive governments in Pakistan have been begging foreign investors and offering lucrative terms to induce them to invest in Pakistan, build industries, buy lands and install thermal power projects.
Politics and Politicians at a glance
Zia crushed the PPP-led MRD movement in 1983 with dangerous connotations since it had the full support of India. He had to deal with foreign supported Al-Zulfiqar movement together with KGB-RAW-KHAD nexus involved in terrorism.
Bhutto intensified New-Sindhi and Old-Sindhi antagonism in Sindh by introducing quota system and making the Sindhi language a compulsory subject in Sindh. He incensed Baloch and Pashtuns after he sacked provincial governments in Baluchistan and Frontier provinces and mounted an operation against the Baloch rebels. He supported Islamists in Afghanistan to counter the belligerence of Sardar Daud thereby stoking religious extremism and Jihadism in Pakistan which later on accelerated during the 10-year Afghan war and uprising in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK). Bhutto promoted secularism which triggered religious extremism, deepened Islamic-secular divide and gave birth to PNA movement and led to his ouster.
While Bhutto started the Kahuta project to develop a nuclear bomb, uranium enriched nuclear program could not have seen the light of the day had Afghan war not taken place. Gen Ziaul Haq took full advantage of it and pursued it relentlessly and carried out cold tests in 1984. Fear of bomb in the basement kept India at bay. Zia crushed the PPP-led MRD movement in 1983 with dangerous connotations since it had the full support of India. He had to deal with foreign supported Al-Zulfiqar movement together with KGB-RAW-KHAD nexus involved in terrorism.
Pakistan under Zia single-handedly managed the Afghan war and emerged victoriously. Zia had made up his mind to make Pakistan a truly Islamic State in the light of Quran and Sunnah and had envisioned a clear strategy how to go about playing up the Khalistan movement and Kashmiri freedom movement and taking the two movements to their logical ends. Had Zia lived longer, Afghanistan could have saved itself from the bloody civil war and would have remained ever obliged to Pakistan. Prejudiced PPP and seculars, however, portray him as the worst dictator and blame him for loading Pakistan with all the misfortunes.
As opposed to two shortened PPP regimes led by BB, two short-lived PML-N regimes under NS were comparatively better which saw some development works including motorway and above all Pakistan becoming the 7th nuclear power.
The PPP under Benazir Bhutto (BB) symbolized poor governance, immorality, and corruption, thanks to her husband Zardari who became Mr. 10% in her first tenure and Mr. 20% in 2nd tenure. Both the civil and military establishments viewed BB as a security risk owing to her extraordinary softness towards her Oxford buddy Rajiv Gandhi and her commitment given to the USA that she would roll back the nuclear program. But for the provision of a list of Sikh leaders to India, Khalistan could have become a reality and IOK might have achieved independence since the Khalistan and Kashmir movements had almost linked up and Afghan Mujahideen under Gulbadin Hikmatyar had promised physical help. Thermal power drove IPP agreement signed by BB in her second tenure amounted to giving control of electricity to foreign powers. It paved the way for the energy crisis.
As opposed to two shortened PPP regimes led by BB, two short-lived PML-N regimes under NS were comparatively better which saw some development works including motorway and above all Pakistan becoming the 7th nuclear power.
PPP under Zardari scaled new heights of corruption, nepotism, and ineptness. An abortive attempt was made to civilianize the ISI. The ill-omened Kerry-Lugar Bill opened the doors for NGOs, Blackwater and CIA agents which triggered urban terrorism. Helicopters assault in Abbottabad to get Osama bin Laden was aimed at tarnishing the image of Army and ISI. Hussain Haqqani at the behest of Zardari signed the Memo to virtually give Pakistan on contract to the USA. Gen Ashfaq Kayani and Lt Gen Shuja Pasha blocked the ominous effort and regained 17 administrative units in the northwest under the influence of RAW-NDS-CIA controlled TTP.
PTI under Imran Khan (IK) gained political space in 2011 as a result of misdoings of PPP and MQM, but instead of training its guns on the PPP and MQM, it locked horns with PML-N in Punjab since it knew that power resided in Punjab and nowhere else.
PPP and MQM looted and plundered national wealth with both hands and sucked the blood of Karachi which generates over 60% of Pakistan’s revenue. Corruption-ridden ANP derailed the railway and did nothing for KP. While Karachi became lawless, the separatist movement in Baluchistan gained considerable strength. All State Corporations were systematically destroyed and Pakistan’s external debt doubled. Pakistan got caught up in worst energy crisis because of which industries began to close down and many industrialists shifted to other countries. The country was brought to the brink of economic collapse and yet the PPP government was allowed to complete five years.
PTI under Imran Khan (IK) gained political space in 2011 as a result of misdoings of PPP and MQM, but instead of training its guns on the PPP and MQM, it locked horns with PML-N in Punjab since it knew that power resided in Punjab and nowhere else. The only silver lining in those dark days was the Shahbaz Sharif-led government in Punjab which kept things going despite highly unfavorable environments. Indefatigable Shahbaz’s outstanding performance paved the way for PML-N’s impressive victory in May 2013 elections.
Imran never reconciled with 2013 election results and for reasons best known to him imagined that he deserved to win. He married up with dubious Tahirul Qadri led PAT and single seater Sheikh Rashid to drumbeat the issue of rigging. They discounted the fact that PPP and not PML-N was in power that had made the transitional government to hold elections and that PTI had no roots in rural Pakistan. IK chose to emulate politics of agitation and defiance of Mujib and Bhutto to achieve his political ends. Following in their footsteps, he chanted the catchy slogan of ‘change’ and ‘Naya (new) Pakistan’. Like Bhutto, he too promotes liberalism and is germinating seeds of indiscipline among the youth. Previously his slogan was ‘justice’ and now his slogan is ‘corruption’.
If IK is so concerned the about the eradication of corruption, why has he not agitated inside and outside the parliament to pass the accountability bill and make National Accountability Bureau (NAB) more effective and independent?
Imran has all along pursued politics of defiance and agitation to undermine the State and its institutions and freely indulges in mudslinging and unsubstantiated accusations to defame NS and his family. After failing to oust NS by staging a 126-day sit-in in Islamabad in 2014, and then trying to lock down Islamabad in October 2016, IK is now pinning hopes on Panama Papers case handled by Supreme Court Bench. He refuses to admit that name of NS is not included in the list of account holders in Fonseca Mossack Offshore Company, and that PML-N government will remain in power until next elections even if NS is sacked or he resigns.
While giving long sermons on the ills of corruption, Imran completely skips the fact that cupboards of most of his party leaders are filled with skeletons. He is oblivious of the enormous moral degeneration of the society as a whole. Moral turpitude of the nation has hit rock bottom and corruption is one small part of it which has permeated into the blood of all segments of the society. The ones accepting graft and the others doling out graft are equally guilty. IK has no plan for moral refurbishment of the society or how to eliminate corruption.
How will the corrupt be taken to task in the absence of effective accountability bill which is lying pending since 2010? If IK is so concerned the about the eradication of corruption, why has he not agitated inside and outside the parliament to pass the accountability bill and make National Accountability Bureau (NAB) more effective and independent?
PTI is a collection of turncoats from other parties. Each and every defector in his party has a blemished track record.
If he strongly feels that all elections including the 2013 elections were rigged, has he made any effort to reform electoral laws to prevent rigging in future? Without comprehensive electoral reforms, same lot of immoral politicians will get elected and keep shifting from one green pasture to the other to derive maximum material benefits.
Likewise, he has not pressurized the government to reform the criminal justice system and functioning of lower courts. Unless the judicial system is reformed, justice will remain confined to the elite class only and the ones involved in white collar crimes and mega corruption will never be netted. Similarly, crime and corruption cannot be tackled unless the police are depoliticized and investigative/prosecution systems streamlined.
PTI is a collection of turncoats from other parties. Each and every defector in his party has a blemished track record. How IK expects to make New Pakistan with such opportunists who have brought him under their sway? When he couldn’t convert KP into a role model province, how can he change the destiny of whole of Pakistan with a King’s Party, particularly when he has no political standing in Baluchistan and Sindh?
Upset by the achievements made by Pakistan, the adversaries that had been collectively trying to destabilize, de-Islamize, denuclearize and balkanize Pakistan since 2002 have intensified their efforts to block the development programs.
PTI, PPP and other political parties in opposition are ganging up to derail the political system by creating chaos and hampering growth and development. This is being done at a time when Pakistan is at an economic takeoff stage as a result of better governance and financial management and commissioning of CPEC. At the same time, it is up against external enemies and local detractors that are trying to sabotage progress. CPEC is an eyesore for India, USA, Iran, and Dubai.
Upset by the achievements made by Pakistan, the adversaries that had been collectively trying to destabilize, de-Islamize, denuclearize and balkanize Pakistan since 2002 have intensified their efforts to block the development programs. The only option they are left with is to topple the ruling regime and foment political bedlam. This task has been undertaken by PTI and PPP.
Balancing the Odds in the Middle East
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) led the Gulf States have still not forgotten and forgiven the slight inflicted by Pakistan when its request for military support to tackle the threat posed by the Huthis in Yemen last year was impolitely turned down. The government had whittled under pressure of PTI and PPP. The fissures that were contracted with a lot of efforts are once again being widened by Iran inspired lobbies in Pakistan. Led by PTI, these lobbies in concert with media are applying pressure on the government to detach Pakistan from the 41-Member Islamic Military Alliance (IMA) sponsored by KSA to fight terrorism and to call back Gen Raheel Sharif, selected as head of the Alliance. The Same old logic of Iran’s sensibilities and misplaced danger of Shia-Sunni rift in Pakistan is being put forward.
Gone are the days of Reza Shah Pahlavi. Attitudes in Iran have changed since the arrival of Ayatollahs and their officials have adopted an arrogant posture.
Recently concluded Arab-Islamic-US Summit in Riyadh gave strength to these lobbies to state that their fears that the IMA was Iran-specific have come true after the vitriolic speeches made by Trump and King Salman. They upped the ante by painting a very dark picture with ominous ramifications for Pakistan. Pressure has been intensified to force the government to opt out of the Alliance, not realizing that such a step would fulfill the dream of India to isolate Pakistan. We have seen how KSA and its close allies have offensively reacted against Qatar, and it can treat Pakistan in a similar manner.
Read more: Gulf crisis and the future of Middle East
It must not be forgotten that KSA has always come to the rescue of Pakistan in its testing times, and has always been sympathetic towards Pakistan regardless of which political party or military ruler has been in power. It has taken pride in Pakistan’s armed forces and nuclear capability and has never threatened Pakistan. Same is not true for Iran. Gone are the days of Reza Shah Pahlavi. Attitudes in Iran have changed since the arrival of Ayatollahs and their officials have adopted an arrogant posture.
Iran will never annoy India to please Pakistan but will annoy Pakistan to please India as was evident from Iran Army chief’s threat to Pakistan last May. It is closer to India and Northern Alliance ruled Afghanistan than with Pakistan.
Under what pretext and logic the Iranian lobbies in Pakistan lobbied to stop Pakistan from dispatching troops to KSA when it was threatened by Iran supported Huthis? What moral right Iran has to militarily support Huthis in Yemen? In what way we were pitching ourselves against Iran? Pakistani troops would not have jumped into the cauldron of Yemen war but at best would have deployed a division size force along the Saudi-Yemeni border to defend the integrity of KSA. Has Pakistan not been sending troops in the past to KSA for training purposes and for the defense of Khana Kaaba, and when KSA was threatened by Iraq in 1991?
Once our myopic leaders opted to annoy KSA and the other Gulf States to please Iran, how did Iran reciprocate our gesture of staying out of Yemen war? Soon after, Iran stood with India and Afghanistan and signed Chahbahar agreement. Iran will never annoy India to please Pakistan but will annoy Pakistan to please India as was evident from Iran Army chief’s threat to Pakistan last May. It is closer to India and Northern Alliance ruled Afghanistan than with Pakistan.
Another storm stimulated by USA and Israel is building up in the already turbulent the Middle East as a result of heightened Iran-Saudi hostility and KSA-Qatar confrontation, which is giving shape to new alignments. Pakistan cannot remain unconcerned by these hazardous developments and its diplomacy is under test.
This very lobby which a is in a small minority but has also influenced many veterans has been consistently tarnishing the image of former COAS Gen Raheel Sharif with the sole purpose of forcing him to resign or compelling Pak government to call him back from Riyadh. It has been repeatedly stressed by the government that the IMA headed by Gen Raheel is directed against terrorism and is not against Iran or any other country and that whenever it transgresses its mandate, Pakistan will detach itself. But the lobbies are unprepared to buy it since they are solely worried about Iran’s interest and not of Pakistan and its armed forces and keep playing sectarian card. One may ask as to why they drum up proxy wars of KSA and not of Iran. Why do they want the IMA to fight Al-Qaeda, Daesh, and Taliban and to spare Iran’s proxies? KSA and not Iran is vulnerable to threats from proxies as well as from Iran-Iraq-Syria-Yemen-Hezbollah nexus.
Pakistan is faced with foreign funded proxies and Hybrid War. India wants to teach Pakistan a lesson. Afghanistan has become a hostile country. Indo-US-Afghan nexus has not changed its dangerous agenda against Pakistan. Iran is not friendly. Another storm stimulated by USA and Israel is building up in the already turbulent the Middle East as a result of heightened Iran-Saudi hostility and KSA-Qatar confrontation, which is giving shape to new alignments. Pakistan cannot remain unconcerned by these hazardous developments and its diplomacy is under test. Pakistan cannot afford to take sides and it will be its diplomatic success if it manages to stay neutral and act as a moderator to defuse KSA-Qatar tension and scale down KSA-Iran animosity.
It is, however, most unfortunate that our power hungry politicians backed by paid media are oblivious of the precarious geopolitical environments and are wholly interested in snatching power by hook or crook. Devoid of political power, they first provoked the Army to boot out NS and are now expectantly looking towards the Supreme Court to disqualify him whether he is an offender or not. Like PTI, PPP has also begun to flex its political muscles and is somehow very hopeful that it will regain power in the Centre and in all provinces.
Asif Haroon Raja is a retired Brig Gen, a war veteran, defense and security analyst, author of five books, Vice Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre. Takes part in TV talk shows, delivers talks and take part in seminars. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.