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Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Will they go peacefully? – Lt Gen (retd) Tariq Khan

If anyone thinks that by having a ‘mela’, on the GT Road for the next 5 or 6 days concluding with a musical evening in Islamabad in some isolated park, enough would have been demonstrated to this government to step down, then this thought, expectation or hope is totally misleading.

Every country has a ‘Center of Gravity’. This is the one sacrosanct element that holds a nation together and if demolished brings the country down with it. Thus all nations have such a Center of Gravity and it is usually found in their democracy or their people, maybe in their government or even in their economy etc. but in Pakistan, it has been the Pakistan Army. This was always by default rather than design.

Misrule and poor governance automatically extended space to the Army who at times influenced and administered foreign policy, economic plans, administrative activity, political dispensation, and even judicial decisions, simply because no one else would.

It was always the question of ‘saving the State’ as opposed to the government, which came into the equation. Pakistan gradually and slowly became an Army-dependent nation, with the Army responsible for almost everything. The Army, a reluctant partner to every government and an unenthusiastic consultant, convinced themselves, that their input and advice, which was often solicited – was necessarily needed and was thus given freely as a national obligation and duty.

Read more: Tyranny of Misrule – Gen. Tariq Khan

However, would Pakistan have been a better place if this had not happened; is a debatable point and an interesting discussion. Yet it goes into the unnecessary domain of hypothetical scenarios just like, how would the world have looked, had Germany won the Second World War?

Love for PTI or hate for PDM?

Today, with political activism at its peak, people on the streets confronting a beleaguered government, who have placed themselves into a self-imposed siege, ensuring that their authority astride 27 km of road is neither disrupted nor disturbed, gives a look of chaos and uncertainty. The Coalition, cobbled together for vested interests, coerced, bribed, and appropriately gratified, is in power, as opposed to a popular majority party that is condemned to the streets.

I have serious reservations about many issues with the PTI but I would always place my opinion secondary to the wishes of the people. The people should always be sovereign. PTI was on a downward graph on the popularity scale when it was removed, it was sliding even lower, and had it remained in power, it looked to me as if they were looking at a disaster in the next elections. This was amply demonstrated by the public in the local bodies election in KP where PTI was adequately put in its place by the power of the people.

Yet, after its removal, there was a perception that it had been wronged and public sympathy caused it to garner support. It acquired the David and Goliath syndrome, singlehandedly championing the cause of the people. It was seen standing up to a skewed media, a blatantly partial ECP, a castrated NAB, a lop-sided – tilted FIA, corrupt and immoral police, and what appeared to be, a prejudiced, judiciary. A lone representative of the people, fighting for State supremacy against an artificial government, that the people had learned to associate with all their immediate troubles.

Read more: The New Great Game – A Pakistani Perspective – Lt Gen (r) Tariq Khan

So, though, the PTI’s current popularity may be attributed to the energy of its leader and his immense stamina and capacity to reach out to the people yet this admiration is far more a product of the hatred that people have for the PDM, what it stands for and for what it has done than anything to do with the PTI. It was translated, in no uncertain terms, into the result of the Punjab by-elections and then in the National by-elections, where the sitting government, obstinate even when humiliated, lacked the grace to be embarrassed into a resignation. This deep dislike for the sitting government, the way they were ushered in, and the support that they were given by the State apparatus has now angered the people enough to take measures into their own hands. (No democracy can exist unless each of its citizens is as capable of outrage at injustice to another as he is of outrage at injustice to himself’, Aristotle.)

So now, as we see this new phenomenon in disorder and disruption, it is simply the cry of an outraged public, finding its voice, in an environment where there is a natural but gradual shift of authority from the military to the civilians – the pendulum is swinging the Center of Gravity towards the people. This is how it should be and this is what everyone wants – even the Army. We are now witnessing a transitionary period due to which strange things are being witnessed. Everyone is out to explain his point of view, people are defending their position, others are justifying theirs – there are narratives, some invented, some created by half the facts, others downright lies. No one believes what the other is saying, every institution has lost credibility, and every government domain has forfeited trust.

There is chaos on the streets, law and order is breaking down, and the government is preparing to lock itself up in Islamabad while the Long March takes off. In time maybe, when the cycle of this ‘center of gravity’ completes its transition, from the military to the public at large, we may see order and peace but till then, matters will remain confused, ambiguous, and contradictory.

How will this Long March conclude: will it lead to early elections? The Coalition Government lacks the empathy to be swayed by humanity demanding their ouster. They are immune to shame and lack of grace will become their strength as they cling on to power by ‘any means or method’. Their purpose to be in government does not focus on the people, justice, morality, or administration; we know what their purpose was and is: they have themselves demonstrated it.

Read more: Arshad Sharif: A symbol of the long march – Lt Gen (retd) Tariq Khan

So if anyone thinks that by having a ‘mela’, on the GT Road for the next 5 or 6 days concluding with a musical evening in Islamabad in some isolated park enough would have been demonstrated to this government to step down, then this thought, expectation or hope is totally misleading. Nothing will move them except a physical threat.

The road ahead

So I see a stalemate developing if matters remain peaceful but there will be musical evenings and entertainment galore – interesting times, but no change in government. Will this activity shut down life and disrupt normal routine – it possibly could. With the country still struggling with the aftershocks of a devastating flood, an economic breakdown, and threats upon its borders, not having a functional government in place, asserting itself, would be suicidal for Pakistan.

Some form of authority would have to be mandated and we may be looking at interim measures in the form of a caretaker/technocrat/NSC-style Government to stabilize the country before we choose to destabilize it again. If this were to happen, I strongly recommend, that being an apolitical entity, it should be empowered to undertake necessary national reforms since no political party today has the political will, determination, or sincerity to undertake them.

But in the event, these reforms are not undertaken, it does not matter, when we hold elections or who wins, we shall simply be suffering more of the same as we always have been. The reforms that are most needed and which no political party has the will to undertake are:

  1. Judicial Reforms for a home-grown system, including juries rather than one man as a judge.
  2. De-politicization of the Police and allowing them independent functioning.
  3. Creating more Provinces, so that polarization is reduced.
  4. Putting the Maulvis back in the bottle and tackling ideological extremism and exceptionalism.
  5. Economic reforms, by introducing new methods and means to acquire financial sovereignty.
  6. Revisiting the Constitution, considering removing the Objectives Resolution.
  7. Introducing merit in every department as opposed to parochialism and nepotism.
  8. Proper Accountability.
  9. A New charter of Education based on international acceptability and recognition.
  10. Holding a referendum for a Presidential system of governance in cognizance to what has recently been displayed as to how much our national character is unsuited to a parliamentary system of governance.

‘You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete’. Buckminster Fuller.

Read more: The Oligarchy State Pretending Democracy -Lt Gen (Retd) Tariq Khan

Gen Tariq Khan retired as head of Pakistan’s Central Command and has led Frontier Corps to victory against TTP. He has written and lectured extensively on the issues related to Afghanistan, the United States, and the Taliban. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.