The WikiLeaks saga has reconfirmed the status of Pakistan as a client state. Its leadership — civilian and military — as a matter of routine, involves external actors in matters of domestic policy and power plays. We knew this all along but the semblance of documentary evidence confirms the unfortunate trends embedded in Pakistan governance systems. However, the orthodoxy that it is the West which interferes is not the full story. The inordinate influence exercised by ‘friendly’ Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia, is also a sad reminder of how warped Pakistan’s way of living is.
India is the principal enemy; and our Saudi and Gulf friends wish the other neighbour, Iran, to be bombed. We are obsessed with “legitimate” security interests in Afghanistan. This is a dysfunctional state of being and has made us addicted to western aid, leveraging global great games and denying that regional cooperation is in our ultimate self-interest. Such delusional ways of looking at the world has made the state splinter and devolve authority to non-state actors, which can advance its security policies.
What is the picture that emerges from the cable-mess: A president lives in fear of being assassinated; the army chief ‘considers’ options to dismiss the elected president and then changes his mind because he “distrusts” the alternative — Nawaz Sharif — even more! The state benefits from American largesse and hates it at the same time. Civilian leaders regularly reiterate their support to the US — the second A in the power trinity of ‘Allah, America and the Army’. Sadly, nothing new. Yet, deeply disturbing. Continue reading
A natural disaster, largely unavoidable, has provided a glorious opportunity to all those who have been hankering to reverse Pakistan’s fragile transition from an authoritarian to quasi-democratic rule. There is hardly a new script for the much-touted change and its proponents are using the same old tricks out of their worn out hats to prepare for a rollback of the democratic process. Therefore, the intense rumour-mongering, which has gripped Pakistani psyche over the last fortnight, is a tried and tested success formula: create the perception of change and then turn it into reality.
Even though Pakistan’s military remains unwilling to intervene, regime-change seems to be the flavour of the month. Ironically, this time large sections of the electronic media are hyperactive participants in the process, which is most likely going to push the country towards another man-made disaster. It is appalling to note that TV talk shows are focusing on extra-constitutional remedies. For instance, a Mr-Know-It-All anchor, whose acrobatics are well-known, posed a question to his (utterly uninspiring) guests to discuss the merits and demerits of the Bangladesh model and the so-called ‘General Kakar formula’. While the responses of the guests were entirely predictable, the most shocking response came from none other than former minister and Senator Iqbal Haider who has been a dyed-in-wool democrat. He confidently and at times vociferously advocated the “General Kakar formula” which essentially relates to the intervention by the army chief in a situation where a political deadlock emerges. One had always sympathised with this reputed lawyer’s position on the problems with the way his former political party – the PPP – was led and managed but to hear pleas for an extra-constitutional intervention was shocking to say the least. Continue reading
The cat is finally out of the bag. The MQM chief has issued a statement on how the country needs to be saved from corrupt politicians. This was followed by his arch-foe Imran Khan who assured the military of his support should they choose to rescue the country. The PPP has issued muted condemnation of this statement while the PML-N has been categorical in rejecting any extra-constitutional intervention. The ISPR has been silent (unlike its vociferous denunciation of the Kerry-Lugar Bill) and so has the apex court that is usually prompt in taking suo motu notice. Overzealous TV anchors have had a field day in proving how terrible the current ‘system’ of democracy is without indicating what the alternative is.
Several wise commentators have also pointed out public frustration over the alleged mismanagement of the floods by the civilians as a genuine reason for a no-confidence in the system of governance. Pakistan’s chatterati, especially its depoliticised, affluent classes, have perfected such an ahistorical discourse to an art form. There seems to be amnesia about the fact that although all military interventions were sought to get rid of the ‘corrupt politicians’ each of these autocratic spells weakened Pakistan. Furthermore, centralised military rule is incompatible with federalism. Pakistan’s existence was, and remains, a compact between its constituent provinces. Continue reading
Three weeks after the floods have broken Pakistan’s back, the international community is yet to show its resolve in helping a drowning country. The reasons for such a slow response are erroneously being understood in the context of the Pakistani government or the current crop of civilians in power. However, this is a narrow twist to the reality. The real angst and distrust being displayed by the world is at the Pakistani ‘state’. The situation is also reflective of the duplicity of international opinion makers and power-centres in labelling Pakistan as a country with an ‘image problem’.
One is sick of reading nauseating reports on how the post-earthquake assistance was ‘diverted’ or squandered. The truth is that in 2005 a military dictator was ruling Pakistan and the entire world was doing business with him. At that moment, the issues of democracy, transparency and human rights all took a backseat and strategic imperatives prevailed.
Pakistani, and by extension the global media, are regurgitating tiresome cliches about corruption without talking about reforming state institutions. For instance, not a single commentator has said that we have a new accounting system in the form of the Project to Improve Financial Reporting and Auditing (Pifra) in place. But it has not been put into place effectively at the provincial and district levels. This is the way we will ensure transparency and good tracking of money received and spent. Continue reading
By Adnan Syed
The existential threat comes from disowning the democratic structure, giving up on it and looking yet again for another instant messiah in face of tremendous adversity and hopelessness.
We were wrong in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1990s when the elected governments were overthrown. And if we continue with our mindless obsession with artificial stability, we would be wrong in 2010 yet again.
Filed under Army, baluchistan, Constitution, Democracy, Judiciary, Pak Tea House, Pakistan, Politics, poverty, public policy, Rights
Far from perfect and with all its weaknesses, the democratic process is delivering. Pakistan cannot afford to give space to extremists and lose the war against extremism, … This is time for international community and liberal democratic Pakistanis to wake up
Ahmad Nadeem Gehla
Political leadership in Pakistan, is generally considered to be corrupt and inefficient. Although, perception is not entirely baseless, same is widely fed to public by establishment friendly intellectuals in electronic and print media. With democratic collation government in Islamabad, we have witnessed a new trend in political culture. Since, terrorism has become an unwanted curse, we have to live with, Minister for Interior Rehman Malik and brave leader of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa Mian Iftikhar made their presence felt, at incidents of terrorism and while facing media to gather popular support against extremists. Former Mayor of Karachi Mustafa Kamal and Chief Minister Punjab, Mian Shahbaz Sharif have actively been approaching the effected families in terrorism incident and cases of natural calamities.
The critics of culture of political activism, claim it to be an ‘eye wash’ and cover-up for government inefficacy and lack of planning and same can not be entirely brushed away. At the same time one must remember that government can not function effectively in absence of functional and efficient institutions. Thanks to dictatorships, institutions of state are broken, inefficient or even altogether absent . Political activism is becoming intense in presence of hostile media. For sake of adding ‘spice’, anchorpersons of TV talk show would gather political opponents and make them accuse each other of being responsible for everything ranging from climate change to natural disasters. Although some groups sympathetic to extremists have been using same medium and approach to confuse public but has not been able to create a space for their violent ideology in masses.
War of words turned in to a competition between Minister for Law, Babar Awan and Present Chief Justice of Punjab Khawja Muhammad Sharif making visits of Bar Associations. Although some sections of media accused this activity as ‘trading’ of lawyers sympathies’, fact remains that many Bar Associations were first time able to get basic amenities like public wash-rooms. Even Mian Nawaz Sharif had to call the terrorism victims of Ahmadi community as ‘brother Pakistani’s’ inviting criticism of extremist groups in order to to counter the visits of Governor Taseer and Rehman Maliks. The current floods has turned this ‘political activism’ in to a positive competition. Mr Nawaz Sharif accused President of leaving the country at time of natural disaster while touring flood victims which fuelled the presence of Prime Minister and his party leaders in effected areas.
On direction of their leadership, the members of Parliament, never accessible to their voters in past, are participating in rescue and relief efforts. President faced sharp criticism for his overseas visit while his daughter Bakhtawar Bhutto, was quick to launched a donation campaign, attracting a huge response from youth, collecting rupees five million in first hour of its launch. The major political parties are trying to reach more areas in order to earn a favourable public image. It would be premature to judge their sincerity and effectiveness but at the same, this is a beginning of new culture which can only grow in democratic environment. Those doing photo sessions, would ultimately be eliminated in next polls and those making a sincere effort would be rewarded duly by people. Continue reading
In a hurried non-speech, the prime minister has confirmed that the incumbent army chief will stay on for three years. Unprecedented as the decision might be, it is perhaps the best option under the current circumstances. Pakistan is battling against domestic and external terrorism. Given how the army works, it is clear that the military establishment wants a continuation of national security policy.
Lack of policy continuity has been the hallmark of Pakistan’s governance. At least with General Kayani’s extension, the military operations in the northwest and approach to the Afghanistan imbroglio will also remain unchanged. This is good for Pakistan for three reasons. Continue reading
Filed under Afghanistan, Islamabad, Islamism, Kerry Lugar Bill, Pakistan, Politics, Power, public policy, secular Pakistan, Taliban, Terrorism, USA, violence, war, War On Terror