We are publishing another piece by Bilal Qureshi authored for PTH. We are publishing it with the disclaimer that the views expressed are those of the author’s. PTH Admn
I have been studying, talking about, discussing, speaking about and writing about Pakistani politics for about 20 years and I have to admit that I still don’t have a clue about who runs the show in Pakistan. However, now, I have started to understand why almost every Pakistani is obsessed with the role of intelligence agencies in Pakistan’s politics.
For example, after 17 years, Brigadier (Retd) Imtiaz has told a television channel that the army chief, the intelligence wing of the Pakistan army and other people in uniform had conspired (not sure how else to describe it) against Mutihada Quami Movement (MQM) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in the past. Specifically, the charges against MQM were that MQM is interested in carving out a new county for itself, Junah Pur with the help of India. And against PPP, the army gave millions of rupees to all other parties to stop PPP from first coming into power and when despite all the hurdles, PPP was able to form the government, to topple Benazir Bhutto. This statement and these charges have literally opened Pandora’s Box in Pakistan. I have called journalists, people in the government and opposition to find out more about Brig. Imtiaz and almost everyone had awful and extremely negative things to say about him. The overall feedback about Brig. Imtiaz is that he is a dishonest man with a very dark background. His entire life he has been involved in funneling money to political leaders in order to buy their loyalties.
For those who don’t understand Pakistan’s politics, let me make this simple. In American context, it s just like the FBI or the CIA start actively participating in plans and conspiracies against the Democratic Party. Imagine the FBI or the CIA giving money to the Republican party to topple Obama presidency! Yeah, it is just like that. However, of course, in America, or any other mature democracy, this is unthinkable, but in Pakistan, this has been the norm.
At this point, I have to say this with great sadness that regretfully almost all the television channels and anchors working for these channels tilt towards right wing nationalist parties. Worse, these television anchors don’t even attempt to hide their admiration for right wing politicians and parties and openly attack the credibility of progressive and secular political parties and their workers and leaders. This is a very painful truth about contemporary political landscape in Pakistan. But, I digress; let’s get back to the problem at hand.
Now, after the truth has come out and it has been established that both MQM and PPP, currently coalition partners are not unpatriotic and/or corrupt, we have to examine why did the army tried to stop Benazir Bhutto from coming to power and why was MQM the target and we will have to go back in history and start from 1977.
When Bhutto’s elected government was toppled and Zia, the then Army Chief took over the country, he imposed Martial Law in Pakistan, arresting all political leaders, banning political activities and gave this impression that the country was in danger. While in power, Zia actively promoted extreme right wing religious parties and prevented secular parties from challenging the religious parties in political arena. (By the way, America’s current darling and Pakistan’s next Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif was a favorite of Zia!) Anyway, after 11 years of Martial Law when Zia died, the country had totally changed. Pakistan Army, an institute knows of secular and progressive outlook became a right wing institution. First, second and third tear officers were in deep contacts with religious parties and these officers viewed every other political party as an agent of American interest and therefore, these officers actively promoted people who were in sync with the ideology of these officers.
So, this is background for what Brig Imtiaz is saying today. The army in 1988 was of the view that MQM and PPP are not patriotic and in the view of the army, these two political parties were a security risk for Pakistan. And yes, it had everything to do with being progressive and secular because both these parties were a direct threat for the right wing parties and army officers in the country. Therefore, the extremely religious army officers and right wing political parties started promoting Nawaz Sharif, who was the right hand man of the military dictator, Zia.
A four start active duty general, who was also heading ISI at the time, brought all the political parties together except for MQM and PPP and formed an alliance called I J I, or Islami Jamhoori Itehad, which can be translated in English as Islamic Democratic Alliance.
Now, imagine, before the 2008 presidential elections, GENERAL PATRIAUS, while in uniform, brings everyone opposed to Barack Obama together, gives them millions of dollars to stop Obama from winning the election. Even more pathetic, once failed to stop Obama from becoming president, GENERAL PATRIAUS continues to conspire against Obama and finally succeeds in overthrowing Obama Presidency, while claiming that the country was in danger because of Obama and the corruption was on the rise, etc. You can’t imagine Patriaus doing it, right? But this is exactly what happened here in Pakistan. The army chief, the head of ISI and countless other civilians and active duty military officers participated in this plot to overthrow Benazir democratically elected government.
But Benazir and MQM proved too tough and too resilient and their workers refused to give up on democracy. So, a new strategy was adopted. First, attack Benazir’s husband (currently Pakistan’s President, Asif Zardari) as a corrupt man and attack MQM as a party that thrives on violence and wants an independent country like Singapore with the help of India. For this purpose the establishment approached two major news organizations in Pakistan to plant fake stories about Zardari’s corruption and MQM’s alleged ties to India, but these two news organizations refused to play along. As a back up, a small, local (not even regional) paper in Hyderabad, Sindh was approached and because of massive cash infusion, this paper started carrying stories about Zardari’s corruption without providing any sources or evidence.
Once in print, even in a no-name paper like this one, every other paper across Pakistan would pick up and re-print these fake corruption stories and this became the standard practice. These attacks on Zardari were repeated with such intensity that people, both in Pakistan and abroad started buying into this line of attack and a big part of Pakistan actually started viewing Zardari as a man who takes money; kick backs, commission, even though, to this date, not even a single charge against Zardari has been proven in court of law.
So, with this background, the intelligence agencies and the army chief at the time successfully defeated progressive political parties and paved the way for Zia’s reminisce, i.e. Nawaz Sharif. And this is precisely what Brig Imtiaz is talking about. It is hard to understand why Imtiaz came forward with this, but after talking to people who know something about Imtiaz, I know that it is not because he wants to set the record straight. There is something else at play, which don’t know, but sooner or later will come out.
Till then, stay tuned!