Tag Archives: Army

Unpacking the governance debate

If the intent of the unregulated media and a recalcitrant establishment is to dismiss the government to achieve better governance then this is at best a delusional goal
Recent weeks have witnessed a supercilious debate on how the current government’s misgovernance is a potent reason to boot it out. Governance is about decisions, resources and management of public affairs. The sad reality is that Pakistan’s media now controls and spins the public discourse on these issues. The popular media never wanted this government to begin with. Since 2007, it sided with the ‘clean’ and morally correct lawyers’ movement that presented an alternative to the corrupt politicians and shunned the 2008 election. First, it vilified Benazir Bhutto for making a deal with the Generals on initiating a transition towards a power-sharing arrangement. This was a classic worldview of the urban middle class, which has never been a keen participant of the messy electoral politics that brings rural politicians with fake degrees at the helm of affairs.
The second critical moment was the election of the President, which sparked an unprecedented media trial with stories (mostly unsubstantiated) of Zardari’s corruption. There was a strong alliance between the local and the global media churning out a thousand stories highlighting his insanity, fallibility and venality. This happened despite the full confidence expressed by Zardari’s party and its allies. A rare federal consensus over the election of a President was undermined and the media perception intensified how all the crooks stand together to rob the country once again.
Now the third moment in the aftermath of the floods has arrived; and the high-pitched voices against the politicians have reached their peak. The charge-sheet is long but, in a nutshell, states that the feudal politicians were inept in handling the July-August 2010 disaster and harmed the poor to save their lands. This is a simplistic conclusion that has emerged without proper inquiry and mainly through anecdotes from the urban anchors visiting rural victims and interpreting their anguish as a condemnation of the politicos.
Discussions around regime change have strongly articulated the displeasure of the unelected institutions of the state on ‘governance’. The media has faithfully reported that the Army is unhappy about the corrupt ministers still in office and the looming economic crisis. The Judiciary is perturbed, as its judgement on NRO remains partially unimplemented and key appointments reek of illegality. The perennial power-seeker class of politicians has started to reconfigure the political landscape while fringe parties like Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf and the right wing Jamaat-e-Islami want to seize this opportunity for short term gains. The ever-ready crop of technocrats is also getting anxious due to the anonymous contacts being made by the invisible elements of the state.
This display of crass opportunism by Pakistan’s traditional elites is nothing new. Since 1947 (including that fateful year), they have cared little for the ordinary citizens. But the alarming aspect of our present dilemma is the way Pakistan’s much-touted free media has become an instrument in spurring political instability. The endemic problem with Pakistan’s governance is that regardless of the government in power, the state (if we were to include all the dominant classes in the wider definition) remains disconnected and disengaged with the citizens. What is more worrying is that the state no longer is a monolith as it has delegated the state’s monopoly powers to faith-based militant groups which are ready to exploit its increasing inability to ‘govern’.
With 20 million people still struggling to reclaim their livelihoods, entitlements (such as land), shelter and security, Pakistan’s establishment and its politicians are all but willing to do anything about it. It is therefore problematic to see a legitimately elected government preparing a summary on NRO cases for 34 out of 8,000 beneficiaries and the Supreme Court chiding it like an accused party. Or, to read about the panicky meetings of the PPP while the latter should be strategising about re-enacting the NDMA legislation or preparing a resource mobilisation strategy to rehabilitate the flood victims and reconstruct the damaged infrastructure.
Equally disturbing is to witness the saga of Courts in effect suspending new Constitutional provisions while they are expressly not mandated to do that; and placing abstract notions of people’s will above the Constitution. In a similar vein, the Army has a separate fund for flood relief and the elected Public Accounts Committee cannot be given the details of how and why a Rs 5 billion supplementary grant was given to the country’s premier intelligence agency.
The argument on misgovernance by a coalition government is bogus when unelected institutions of the state are unaccountable, non-transparent and unwilling to accept the oversight of public representatives. Until the Army budgets can be audited, and judges are appointed through parliamentary commissions and the bureaucracy is answerable to legislature, we will continue to swirl in a vicious cycle of political instability.
If the intent of the unregulated media and a recalcitrant establishment is to dismiss the government to achieve better governance, then this is at best a delusional goal. Pakistan cannot afford another upheaval and the recent signals by the Army that it wants stability are welcome. But then Pakistan is an unpredictable polity with a growing constituency for suicide missions. Strange times, indeed.
Raza Rumi is a writer and policy expert based in Lahore. He blogs at http://razarumi.com. Email: razarumi@gmail.com
Advertisements

5 Comments

Filed under Army, Pakistan, Politics

Pakistan’s disaster could lead to a systemic collapse

Raza Rumi

The colossal humanitarian tragedy and the imminent economic meltdown, will now shape a new Pakistan or rather, exacerbate its predicament in the months and years to come. Pakistan’s chronic political instability, structural economic constraints and a warped national security policy are all going to be affected by the unfolding drama of the national disaster, perhaps the severest, in the country’s history. Whilst the challenges have snowballed within a short duration of ten days, the response of the Pakistani state and society underline extremely dangerous trends and make us wonder about future of the country, as we have known it for the last 63 years.

Systemic shock:

Pakistan had reverted to quasi-democratic rule after a decade of dictatorship in March 2008. Since the resumption of the electoral process in February 2008, the traditionally powerful unelected institutions, had acquired both legitimacy and unprecedented powers. The power troika of the 1990s had transformed into a quartet comprising the army, judiciary, the media and the civilian government which was represented by a ‘discredited’ president who has been a constant punching bag for the unelected institutions of the state.
Continue reading

26 Comments

Filed under baluchistan, disaster, Pakistan, strategy, Terrorism, violence, Zardari

Floods’ management: A perfect script for a black comedy

Raza Rumi

As I write these lines, millions are stranded and vulnerable to disease in the wake of perhaps the greatest natural disaster of recent times. Communities in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa are stranded, Sindh is facing the wrath of gods and parts of Muzaffargarh and Kot Addu have been washed away. Citizens across the country are perturbed and doing whatever they can. But the power centres including the free media are busy in point-scoring and blowing their little trumpets as if the devastation was a playground for political mileage.

They say that individual and collective characters are exposed in times of crisis. Indeed the Pakistani ruling classes have exposed themselves for their historical myopia and lack of vision. Political parties are fighting over optics, media perceptions and wasting their energies. TV channels and wise anchors on the other hand are competing who got there first to show the mammoth destruction and who fired more salvos at Asif Zardari. Adding insult to injury, the media remained busy for hours as to the alleged shoe-throwing incident at the president as if that was the topmost priority of this country.

Yet again we are also hearing how the civilian administration failed (and what is new about that) and how the only organised institution, the Pakistan Army, is saving lives. This is propaganda since the army is not something separate from the state. We are proud to have such a disciplined army but the media spin-doctors need to inform the people that it functions through the public exchequer and is an institution under the civilian government. Continue reading

17 Comments

Filed under Democracy, disaster, Pakistan

Redefining national interest

Raza Rumi

Courtesy The Friday Times: —
The elusive quest for peace between India and Pakistan remains hostage to the military-industrial complex at both the global and regional levels. Such is the dynamic unleashed by two imagined “nations” that their existence as states is dependent on a perpetual state of confrontation. More so for Pakistan, given its deeply embedded paranoia, which has assumed a reality of its own. Sixty-two years ago, it was hardly envisioned that the two states would erect an iron-curtain and fight forever. From actual wars to propaganda campaigns the task seems complete now. The oft-repeated phrase ‘trust deficit’ is a natural culmination of this ugly process. Of late, another dimension has been added, i.e. information-deficit as India had marched towards a new phase of its economic development, it has stopped taking interest in transitional Pakistani society and kept the time-warped framework of understanding Pakistan. However, the situation cannot remain static. Policymakers are slow to catch up on both the sides.

Mumbai factor: Twenty months ago, the Mumbai attacks changed the atmosphere created by President Zardari’s unprecedented offers of peace, dialogue and cooperation. The day Zardari made his remarks in a conclave organised by the Hindustan Times in 2008, many observers saw a Mumbai coming. The jihadis of Pakistan and perhaps their counterparts in India were quick to stop this process. Ironic that PPP, a party fed on the Pakistani nationalist rhetoric, thirty years down the road had read the writing on the wall. Pakistan’s future and survival is dependent on a reduction of hostilities with India. More importantly, this also holds the key to correcting the endemic civil-military imbalance.

Zardari’s stride: Why would a national security state apparatus bloated by an Indian threat not react to Zardari’s statements: “I do not feel threatened by India and India should not feel threatened from us…today we have a parliament which is already pre-agreed upon a friendly relationship with India. In spite of our disputes, we have a great future together.” As if this was not enough, Zardari declared that Pakistan will not be the first country to use its nuclear weapons, thus undermining a carefully constructed Pakistani nuclear doctrine of first-use. Continue reading

68 Comments

Filed under Pakistan

Good luck, General Kayani

Raza Rumi

http://tribune.com.pk/story/30713/good-luck-general-kayani/

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

57 Comments

Filed under Afghanistan, Islamabad, Islamism, Kerry Lugar Bill, Pakistan, Politics, Power, public policy, secular Pakistan, Taliban, Terrorism, USA, violence, war, War On Terror

REFLECTIONS POST-MAY 28

An exclusive post by Aamenah Yusafzai for PTH

The recent attacks on two Ahmadi mosques in Lahore demonstrate the urgent need to strengthen the rights of Pakistani minorities. Pakistan is not a country inhabited by Muslims only, or even Sunni Muslims. This is represented by the green and white of the Pakistani flag, a fact often taken for granted. The three quarter green represents the majority Muslim population, while the one quarter white represents non-Muslim minorities.

The preamble to the Constitution provides that provisions be made for “minorities freely to profess and practice their religion and develop their cultures.” Furthermore, it provides for guarantees to “fundamental rights, including equality of status, of opportunity and before law, social, economic and political justice, and freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship and association, subject to law and public morality.” Article 36 further reiterates the security of minorities by the state by stating that “the State shall safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of minorities.”

The state is required to protect sectarian and religious minorities. Yet it is doing the complete opposite. Section 295B of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) calls for life imprisonment for anyone who “willfully defiles, damages or desecrates a copy of the holy Quran”. Section 295C imposes the death penalty or life imprisonment on anyone who defiles the Prophet Muhammad. Although not enacted to undermine the rights of minorities, unfortunately, that is what Section 295 is often used for. Continue reading

10 Comments

Filed under Activism

Acknowledging our mistakes; a step in the right direction

A small headline made its way to the newspaper today. Mian Nawaz Sharif admitted that the proxy policies that Pakistan pursued in Afghanistan during the 1990s were wrong and destructive for Afghanistan. He realizes that “’Our policy in the past has failed. Neither will such a policy work in future. We have a centuries-old relationship, and we can maintain this relationship only when we remain neutral and support the government elected there with the desire of the Afghan people.”

In between bleak and despondent atmosphere that comes from reading Pakistani news, we tend to forget our land is still governed by a working democracy, free press and free judiciary. While we never cease to malign the very leaders that we elect (and they do leave a lot to desire at times with their short sighted actions), we have two major parties that have worked together on charter of democracy, NFC accord, and are in general agreement against the scourge of religious based extremism that has morphed into a existential threat for Pakistan itself.

For the first sixty three years of our existence, we are still in the process of finding our footings. Our geographic location is a mixed blessing as we found ourselves right in the midst of the great conflict that raged between the Red Russia and the ascendant West. The Muslim nationalism that formed the basis of our existence did include our religion as one of the major influences. As the twentieth century rolled on and more Muslim countries gained independence from the colonial rules, Islam-as-a-political-system ideology started finding proponents in the Middle East and the Indian Sub Continent. Pakistan as a new state gained for Muslims fell progressively to the vague and undefined relationship that Muslim nationalism and Islamic theocracy engenders. In the absence of a prescient leadership, Pakistan never was able to segregate the role of religion from its political system. The confusion morphed into a full blown infection as decades rolled on.

Continue reading

16 Comments

Filed under Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, Army, Islam, Islamabad, Liberal Democratic Pakistan, Pakistan