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Thursday, February 15, 2024

Pakistan in the midst of chaos

For weeks, Pakistan has been gripped by a political showdown between the ruling establishment and Mr. Khan, the former cricket star turned populist politician who was ousted from the prime minister post this year. Former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s allies have been arrested. Media outlets and public figures considered sympathetic to him have been intimidated or silenced. He has been hit with charges under Pakistan’s antiterrorism act and faces the prospect of arrest.

The Quaid e Azam had laid down the yardstick of simplicity and austerity to save government resources. What to talk of free lunch, no tea or coffee was served to the parliamentarians during official meetings. Only water was served and no one dared to object. Expenditures of the governor’s house, the PM House and other official residences of the state were strictly controlled and there was no question of pilferage, misuse, or lavishness. All the legislators and officials were told to live within their own means and not to waste government resources.

That was how Pakistan started its journey from scratch and managed to stand on its own feet in spite of the concerted efforts of scheming India to derail Pakistan in its infancy.

Read more: Non-Traditional Security Threats and Institutions’ Role in Pakistan

After the murder of Liaquat Ali in Oct 1951, all checks and balances went for a six and it was free for all. Wastefulness and show-off became a norm. The government resources were misused and plundered with both hands without remorse.

Moral turpitude dipped to the lowest levels in the 1990s

Immorality degenerated the whole society including the political class, the bureaucrats, judges, legal fraternity, the military, civil servants etc.

The two major parties which changed hands from 1988 onward had a big hand in contaminating society and making the economy dependent.

Corruption is not confined to the upper class only but has seeped into all layers of society. It has become malignant and incurable like a cancer. Armed forces that are part of society couldn’t possibly remain unaffected. In 1993, I organized an army-level seminar and the title of my study was, ‘The Declining Morals of the Army’. After feedback from all the Corps, I formulated a comprehensive paper with detailed recommendations. No action was taken.

No sincere effort has ever been made by any leader to cure moral diseases and to refurbish human values and Ikhlaaqiat. No effort was made to bridge the gap between the rulers and the led.

The three military rulers vested with full power and prolonged rules had paid no attention to the morality factor and had focused only on improving the GDP and extending their rules by sharing power with corrupt politicians.

Read more: The power game and the future of Pakistan

Imran Khan was brought to power by the military establishment in 2018 to demolish the two ruling dynasties and cleanse the Ageans stables.

He promised to make Pakistan corruption free in 90 days and to make Pakistan an Islamic welfare state, but he failed completely. His accountability drive produced zero results. In fact, the scale of corruption increased during his four years of rule. His failings on multiple fronts gave space to the PDM to oust him through a vote of no confidence on April 9.

After his ouster from power by the PDM comprising 13 parties on April 9, 2022, the isolated IK has succeeded in building a rapport with the people. He has gained their support by selling the narrative of a US-inspired conspiracy in which the establishment was involved and that he was punished on account of developing ties with Russia and making an independent foreign policy.

He gained popularity by projecting himself as anti-status quo and promising to make Pakistan genuinely independent. He is drawing strength from the power of the people.

The incumbent governmencxt comprising 13 parties has lost credibility since all the cabinet ministers have cases of corruption and money laundering registered against them. It was due to their tainted past that the people rejected them and once again gravitated towards IK.

His supporters argue that out of all the devils, he is a better devil and view him as a Messiah. They overlook his habits of making u-turns, telling lies, using foul language, making false allegations, raising the emotions of the people, inciting them to resort to violence and adopting a policy of confrontation with the state institutions. In fact, they love his policy of defiance.

Read more: India’s provocative intrusions in Pakistan

A whole lot of other political parties including the establishment are status quo lovers due to which they have lost the support of the people. This trend could be seen from the results of by-elections in Punjab on 17 July and in Karachi on 21 Aug.

Mind cloned by IK, the intolerant cult followers hate the ruling regime and look down upon even their good deeds.

All the political and military leaders had relied upon the power of the state machinery and had neglected the people. ZA Bhutto had captured the hearts and minds of the people, but his charisma was confined to Punjab and Sindh only. He made too many enemies and got isolated. No political leader came forward to save him from the gallows.

IK’s charisma is countrywide and for the first time, the Pakistani expatriates have come under his magic spell. Their fancy for IK was seen during the huge rallies after 12 April.

When Bhutto was put in the death cell in Pindi jail in 1978, the jayalas didn’t come out on the streets in protest the way people have come out to prevent the arrest of IK on the night of 21 Aug.

The battle of power struggle

The battle between the government and PTI intensified after the power struggle in Punjab, followed by the arrest of Shahbaz Gill on 9 Aug. The latter was arrested on charges of sedition, inciting junior ranks of the army to defy the orders of the seniors.

In support of Gill, who was perceived by the PTI leaders to have been tortured in police custody, IK took out a rally in Islamabad. During his speech, he threatened IG police Islamabad and the lady magistrate who had given another two days remand to Gill.

In response, a FIR was lodged by Islamabad Police against IK on charges of terrorism, and the government decided to arrest IK.

Apart from blocking ARY and Bol TV channels, Pemra imposed restrictions on the speech of IK on TV channels. PTI is now making use of u-tubes. Bol News anchor Jameel Faruqui has been arrested in Karachi. PTI operatives involved in negative campaigns against the army on social media have been identified and reined in.

Read more: Pakistan’s leadership role in the Ummah

A large contingent of Islamabad police surrounded the house of IK at Bani Gala on the evening of 21 Aug, while the workers of PTI and supporters including women stood in between throughout the night.

The entire PTI leadership started assembling at Bani Gala and are expressing their resolve to save IK from arrest. It was due to their charged-up emotions that IK couldn’t be arrested.

IK’s application for bail before the arrest was sent back by the IHC with objections, but then was admitted and a temporary protective bail was granted for 3 days. PTI lawyers are now trying to quash the case.

Seeing that the noose has started to tighten, the Punjab, KP and GB governments are keen to give a tit-for-tat response in their respective provinces by way of arresting PDM leaders. Punjab government threatened to lock down Lahore and its police are hunting the listed PMLN leaders.

The beleaguered ruling regime has lost the ability to disable IK’s popularity politically. The other option is to use the legal weapon and arrest IK to bottle up the genie of the emotionalism of the PTI and fans. It is also working hard to get IK disqualified for life through ECP. Some are contemplating his trial by a military court on charges of sedition and terrorism. Extrajudicial killing cannot be ruled out. IK is fearing that he might be poisoned.

While the political forces are oblivious of the menacing geo-economic environment, and are locked up in mortal combat to eliminate their opponents, and have lost their sense of balance, the people of Baluchistan, Sindh and South Punjab in particular are caught up in the rains and floods and are crying for help.

Read more: Can Pakistan’s foreign policy planners rebuff the US after their misadventure in Afghanistan?

People are groaning under the weight of the price hike

The army is once again at the forefront to provide rescue and relief to the affected people. For the politicians and their supporters and the media, the futures of Gill, IK and Nawaz Sharif are more important than the miseries of the flood-affected families. Hypocrisy prevails all around.

Backdoor channels have become active to defuse the volatile situation, bring about a rapprochement, and create conducive conditions for a grand dialogue aimed at a political settlement. Major stakeholders will be IK, NS, SS, Zardari and Fazlu, while the military establishment would act as a facilitator and a moderator. The sticking point will be early elections without electoral and judicial reforms, or first reforms and then elections.

Apart from the myopic self-centered political leaders, social media is the biggest villain of the peace. It is the most potent weapon of the handlers of hybrid war and is instrumental in creating fissures in society, within the military forces and families. More steps are required to sort out this evil poisoning the minds of the people.



The writer is retired Brig Gen, defence & security analyst, international columnist, author of five books, 6th book under publication, expresses his views on TV, Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre. He can be reached at asifharoonraja@gmail.com. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.