The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of PTH
by Ali Malik
The cat is out of the bag. Pakistan is heading for the most decisive moment of its political history. The issue at stake is not merely the survival of PPP government but also of future direction of Pakistani politics, foreign policy and social fabric. What bothers me the most is that all the debate around this bill is mere rhetoric. The opponents of this bill in Pakistan are playing on rhetoric and have no substance to offer. Not even one article or discussion has actually pointed to the sections of the bill on which the opponents of the bill have objections. The usual buzz words of ghairat, sovereignty etc are used without substantiating the points of contention in the bill.
In fact, the whole line of attack of the opponents of the bill is absurd and opportunistic. Shaheen Sehbai, Kamran Khan and PML-N etc a week ago were saying that US does not trust the present civilian setup of Pakistan and thus will not give them any aid. Now once the aid is here, the same elements are saying that the civilian govt. convinced Americans to insert these clauses. Now I am confused on which of their assertions should I believe. How could the govt. on which Americans were not willing to trust to give aid overnight convinced Americans to insert these clauses and what does this contradiction tell us about the credibility of opponents of this bill? More importantly, in the words of Sheikh Rasheed, is American Senate or House a “sola saal ki dosheza” who got swayed by Ambassador Haqqani to add these clauses to the bill? Come on, talk sense and give us a break, you propaganda organs of military establishment.
Also, the opponents, aligned with the Pakistan Army, say that we do not need aid on such humiliating conditions. Now, as the bill states and we can all read this that all the conditions are for military aid. Now if the military does not need the aid on these conditions why all this fuss. If there will be no military aid, there will be no conditions. And if military itself needs military aid, then sir beggars cannot be choosers is what your media mouth organs tell us day in day out.
From food aid coming on camels with placards of “Thank You USA” to the conditions of Pressler amendment, in which 12 Presidential certificates were required on issues ranging from democratization, to rollback of nuclear program, to human rights violations came under Zia Ul Haq regime and the Amir ul Momineen and father of these ghairatmunds accepted all aid (total $ 3.2 billion in 5 years, peanuts compared to $ 7.5 billion current aid) under it, it was not humiliating for these ghairatmunds. In 2003, under the regime of COAS Pervaiz Musharraf, $ 3 billion for 5 years (again peanuts compared to $ 7.5 billion) aid was sanctioned on condition of presidential certification on restoration of democracy, nuclear non-proliferation, and countering terrorism. Not only this, but under COAS’s regime, military aid was linked to Pakistan’s assurance of not letting “Pakistani Occupied Kashmir’s” territory to be used for terrorist camps. Neither media henchmen nor PML-N or Pakistan Army created any fuss about such “humiliating conditions” and accepted and consumed all the aid.
And how can we blame Americans for asking us to ensure nuclear nonproliferation, when under our COAS President, country’s chief nuclear scientist acknowledged his role in nuclear technology smuggling on national TV? Or how can we blame Americans for asking us to ensure that our land will not be used to export terrorism when our COAS president banned six outfits blamed to be involved in terrorist activities in India on January 14, 2002? Can these rhetoric machines talk any sense to start with? Is any honesty left in Pakistani journalism?
The fuss is not about aid or any of the rhetoric these clones talk about. Nor is it about Army’s concern for national security. It’s a power game where Army sees its power being seriously curtailed as a result of changing times and geo-political realities of the world and the region. The converged interests have made the Army under-siege by fundamentalist political forces join hand with the same forces. The target for now is Asif Zardari and in the hatred of the man both sides are overlooking what will await them, if they succeed.
I wonder how Army can be so short-sighted to have joined hands with the same elements whose websites even today have clips portraying it as a barbaric force committing human rights atrocities in Swat? Has Army forgotten how ruthless these elements have been in their propaganda against Army when their interests collided? Has Army forgotten the blowing up of Army convoys in the aftermath of Lal Masjid and the support by these same elements of these attacks?
On the other hand, these fundamentalist elements will at the best reach a regime like Musharraf regime even if Zardari is out of the picture. The fundamentalist forces need complete control of state and Army wants the same. Zardari for now is the common enemy but even if he is out, both sides will be up in arms against each other. If fundamentalist elements think that Army will give them the same political backing that they enjoyed in 80s and 90s, then this is not going to happen anymore for now Army and fundamentalist political forces need absolute power for themselves.
The role of PML-N in the whole episode has been highly disappointing. The party, who wanted to hang Musharraf for set an example for any future military interventionist and portrayed itself as flag bearer of democracy, ran on one call from COAS for a mid-night secret meeting. As Ahmad Faraz once said
Bus is kadar tha ke darbar se bulawa tha – gadagaran-e-sukhan ke hajoom samne hain
Also, Aitzaz Ahsan who would give us lectures on why this state should be turned from a national security state to social welfare state is silent when the emotional exploitation is on in the name of national security once more. I was expecting a dharna of Wukala bradari against the blatant interference of Army in the affairs of civilian government.
I personally think that it is a storm in teacup. Army just wants to stretch herself and see how far it can go in the wake of attempts to curtail its political dominance in Pakistan. They want to give a signal to US that they still have politicians in their pocket in Republic of Pakistan and also want to see how serious Americans are in their determination to democratize Pakistan? They also want to gauge the response of other international players in the wake of threat of military takeover in Pakistan. They will specially be looking for silent consent of China and UK for such action to see if they have the ability to do another coup or intervention in the future.
This, however, is a dangerous strategy. Army’s action has raised the stakes for all political players. And events might take turn where impulsive actions might lead to a situation leading to things which are not intended, including a military takeover or agitation on streets by elements backed by Army.
What options does the political government have? First and foremost, it has no room to budge. Budging now will be the beginning of countdown for this setup which cannot be afforded. What is at stake is whether Pakistan will become a modern democratic state or will it become a lawless jungle controlled by dictators. Govt. needs to stand firm. It needs to make sure that it gets the bill in its present form endorsed through the parliament and then take a massive restructuring of armed forces and intelligence agencies to assert its writ. As for masses, I am sure they do not care about conditions imposed by US.
Govt. should also initiate the proposed Anti-Terrorism Force under Interior Ministry. If Army decides to stage a takeover, this time it should be a final showdown. PPP should give call to masses to do dharna outside the parliament house to protect the civilian setup and should challenge Army to come crushing these masses. This is how Russians protected their newborn democracy in 1992 and this is what we should do in Pakistan. I, for my part, am ready to do this. It’s a make or break decision for us all. So get ready for this my countrymen. Unlike the media perpetrated dharnas of last one year, this time, if things come to this point
Tu jena hu ga marna hu ga – dharna hu ga dharna hu ga
If Govt. fails in getting this bill passed, the government should go for new elections. If it wins well and good, if it does not, then let us see how these ghairatmunds run Pakistan without the aid and loans for even 6 months in these turbulent moments of our history.
For some reason, I personally think that tide of time is in favor of us the people. Sooner the Mododites and Army realize this, the better they and Pakistan will be. In the words of Manmohan Singh, no force in the world can stop the march of an idea whose time has come. Time of Army’s exit from country’s polity, midnight GHQ deals and rhetoric based exploitation is over in Pakistan. We are moving forward. Join us or be left out.