The Pakistan Army – we may like or lament – does have a unique status in the Country’s polity. As an institution, it has known its limitations in politics, but every now and then, we get a junta that crosses the redline in the naïve belief that the state was created by the Almighty to serve as a lab, and the khaki leadership had divine sanction to experiment to its heart’s content. One catalyst that all these scientists found useful was a civilian façade to cover their flanks and to do the heavy lifting. In vernacular this exercise is called political engineering – and it has bombed always and every time. Nevertheless, true to his DNA, the man on the horseback would rather follow a warrior King, Bruce of Scotland, famously inspired by a spider to try and try again; rather than Einstein, the best of the innovators, who warned against repeating the same recipe and expecting a different outcome.
In the summers of 2018, I was in-and-out of GHQ for a number of unsavory reasons. But like all the earlier calamities, this one too turned out to be entirely to my benefit. Suspecting that the incumbent brass, like some of its predecessors, was looking for a frontman in Mufti, I pleaded with an important aide of the Engineer-in-Chief to step back since it had never worked in the past. His response left me speechless: “sir we’re going to clean up the country”. I will get hold of him one of these days to convey my compliments—yes it has been swept clean but not exactly the way the men at the helm had in mind.
Read more: Pakistan Politics: Race to the bottom
Imran Khan did not turn out to be the broom they hoped he would be
There is a long list of personal observations and empirical data to show that the man was a megalomaniac – more importantly, someone who was seeking a camouflaged parachute to land on the throne. Many a military leader had refused to bite the bait, but four years ago the conman broke through. Whatever happened thereafter is recent history, but an odd development must have taken even his detractors by surprise: IK has won over a good number of fans; educated but impervious to all logic and reason. Most of its members used to vilify him when he was in power, but after his ouster, remorsefully ruminate about the bad old days.
Imran’s credentials for the country’s premiership were built upon two arguments
He brought the 1992 cricket world cup to Pakistan, but one conveniently forgot that he had a great team, whom Imran ignored to thank in his victory speech. And yes, he did raise funds for the cancer hospital in Lahore, for which he was generously helped by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, an iconic artist of international fame, who performed pro bono on a global circuit.
After he passed away, Imran bragged that it was he who had introduced the Great Maestro to the world.
As if falling short on some important leadership criteria – taking blame in case of failure and sharing credit in success– was not bad enough, IK invented a disingenuous rule: to be a leader one should be able go back on one’s commitment; and he remained unflinchingly loyal to this devious principle. Worse still, he was spectacularly consistent on non-delivery in all fields of public good. Combating corruption was his leitmotif. Under his watch, Pakistan fell further on the scale. On some fanciful issues too, his record was perfect. No one asked him for an NRO (relief for any misdeeds), but he kept reiterating that he would not give any. He didn’t catch a single thief, but persisted with his resolve not to let anyone escape.
It was thus no surprise when he said “absolutely not” when asked if Pakistan might provide any military bases to the US to resume bombing Afghanistan – even though no one ever demanded them. Answering hypothetical questions was never a good idea but it was still more convenient than addressing the more substantial ones. True to his character, he pampered himself by claiming that he was such a great threat to the American designs that the sole-superpower was hell bent to see his back. Changing regimes is a favourite pastime of the Blob, but it never reveals its nefarious designs through diplomatic channels – which are essentially to posture and not to transmit a policy.
But where IK actually outdid himself was when he expressed his displeasure with the Army for going into the neutral gear, and postulating that only the animals would sit on the fence. Wrong, all the subhuman species are in fact more passionately committed than the mankind. The real cause for his disappointment with the uniformed clan was that after launching him into the corridors of power, it did not jump when he whistled. And then he completely exposed his perfidy by blaming the courts for keeping a round-the-clock vigil when his party was blatantly violating the constitution.
Indeed, the assemblies should not be dissolved when they’re in business. President Ghulam Ishaq Khan was asked why he was not responding to Benazir Bhutto’s request to call the National Assembly to session! Since he had already decided to sack the government and send the assemblies packing, he was not going to do so when the country’s highest forum was conducting affairs of the state.
Dissolving it when a no-confidence motion had been tabled would have been an act of profanity. And therefore, one understood why the PTI wanted the courts to remain in limbo.
But none of the above would make any dent in his loyal following that believes they have found a Messiah and is prepared to follow him to the bottom of the abyss. Look how in unison they’re clamoring for fresh elections – an option they considered absurd only a few months back.
Read more: Behind the façade in Pakistan’s politics
Hardly anyone can predict the outcome of elections in Pakistan
Based on the best available assessment Yahya Khan agreed to hold them in 1970. He had been assured that a hung parliament, which would let the military strongman continue ruling the roost, was the most likely outcome. The result was that he was left with no country to rule. In the elections of 1988, the agencies’ forecast went wrong in all respects except for the end count. In the present environment if the results would depend upon the size of the crowd on the street or the number not on Twitter but did turn out to vote, I have no idea. But the demand for early elections does serve one purpose – it deprives the successor government the time to stem the rot.
In the meantime, there is an urgent need to address a more serious problem
Military installed regimes are often described as a hybrid between the uniform and the civvies. The first recorded case, even though in fictional form, of a crossbreed was Frankenstein’s Monster. It devoured its creator*. Understandably, IK like many of his predecessors is now raring to consume his Godfather. The problem this time around is however a tad more serious. Because of the spell of insanity, he has cast, IK was more like a genie that has come out of the bottle. Anyone knows how to put him back!
The famous Urdu poet, Pandit Brij Narayan Chakbast had warned us against tinkering with the laws of nature:
zindagī kyā hai anāsir meñ zuhūr-e-tartīb maut kyā hai inhīñ ajzā kā pareshāñ honā (Life is about order in the elements – when they go haywire, we die)
Lt Gen. (r) Asad Durrani is a retired 3-star rank general in the Pakistan Army and presently a commentator and speaker. He is the author of “Pakistan Adrift (2018)” and “Honour Among Spies (2020)” and a prominent defence columnist. He served as Director-General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), DG Military Intelligence, and as Pakistan’s Ambassador to Germany. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space (GVS News).