Democ­racy and Dic­ta­tor­ship

The mil­i­tary in Pak­istan is not will­ing to play the regime change game any­more, nor will the ju­di­ciary com­pro­mise on its new-found in­de­pen­dence while the op­po­si­tion has shown pa­tience in wait­ing for 2013 to con­test the elec­tions.

Southasia - - Front page - By Gen­eral Mirza As­lam Beg

South Asia is home to a va­ri­ety of democ­ra­cies

and serves as a clas­sic ex­am­ple of po­lit­i­cal plu­ral­ism. Our cover story this month high­lights the ups and downs the re­gion has faced while

trav­el­ing the bumpy road to democ­racy.

The Pak­istani nation has had very painful ex­pe­ri­ences of democ­racy, for rea­sons, not dif­fi­cult to iden­tify if one re­mains fo­cused on the Po­lit­i­cal Fault Line. The Mus­lim League was the plat­form from where Quaid-e-Azam launched the Pak­istan Move­ment and won the po­lit­i­cal battle, with­out blood­shed. Blood­shed started only af­ter 14th of Au­gust, 1947 and un­der chaos and con­fu­sion, Pak­istan came to be gov­erned by in­sti­tu­tions, par­ties and in­di­vid­u­als, who never had strug­gled for Pak­istan, nor made sac­ri­fices, such as the mil­i­tary, the civil bu­reau­cracy and the feu­dals. The re­li­gious par­ties, who op­posed the very cre­ation of Pak­istan, de­clared them­selves as the de­fend­ers of the ide­o­log­i­cal fron­tiers of Pak­istan. Mus­lim League, weak and frag­ile, pro­vided the foun­da­tion for po­lit­i­cal struc­tur­ing. Its main base was in East Pak­istan and the sec­ond base was in Sindh, in West Pak­istan, that pos­sessed the mil­i­tary and eco­nomic power. Thus the po­lit­i­cal, mil­i­tary and eco­nomic power dis­per­sion dis­turbed the power bal­ance of the fed­er­a­tion. The sep­a­ra­tion of East Pak­istan re­sulted be­cause of this fault.

The ethno-na­tion­al­ism of the fed­er­at­ing units added to the prob­lem of na­tional in­te­gra­tion and con­tin­ues to haunt us more se­ri­ously even now. The de­mands for po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic rights of the prov­inces were taken as ‘revolt’ to jus­tify use of force, which ul­ti­mately led to im­po­si­tion of the first mil­i­tary rule in 1958, es­tab­lish­ing the dan­ger­ous Nexus be­tween Amer­ica-ArmyJu­di­ciary and the Po­lit­i­cal Op­por­tunists, as the cat­a­lyst for ‘Regime Changes’. Thus ev­ery mil­i­tary regime, de­based and de­graded the demo­cratic process, cre­at­ing long pe­ri­ods of po­lit­i­cal empti­ness, and re­tarded the growth of po­lit­i­cal cul­ture. This was the sce­nario in 2008, when the Nexus de­cided for ‘Regime Change’ through the demo­cratic process and made plans to prop-up a choice gov­ern­ment, with the help of the Army in­tel­li­gence, as it had done in 2002 un­der Mushar­raf, with ‘Q’ League as the rul­ing party. The mil­i­tary re­fused to be a party to the crime. The con­spir­acy thus failed and the vot­ers were free to make their choice. It shocked Wash­ing­ton, as Wash­ing­ton Times’ lamented:

“Wash­ing­ton’s Pak­istan kib­itzers will soon rue the day, they squeezed Pres­i­dent Pervez Mushar­raf to re­store democ­racy. “Democ­racy” is what has now emerged, or an un­holy al­liance of long-time Amer­ica haters. Acting as be­hind-the-scenes cat­a­lyst are two prom­i­nent Amer­ica-haters, Gen As­lam Beg, for­mer army chief of staff (1988-91) and Gen. Hamid Gul. Both Beg and Gul are strongly op­posed to mil­i­tary ac­tion, en­cour­aged by the United States, against Tal­iban and Al-Qaeda safe heav­ens in the tribal ar­eas along the Afghan bor­der. What the United States and Bri­tain de­scribe as Tal­iban “ter­ror­ists”, ac­cord­ing to the two gen­er­als, are the “free­dom fight­ers” of a Mus­lim world fac­ing un­prece­dented op­pres­sion and in­jus­tice.

The new be­hind-the-scene god-fa­ther of this broad-based, anti-U.S. coali­tion is Nawaz Sharif, chief of the Pak­istan Mus­lim League. This also puts Kiyani in a quandary, Mushar­raf has handed over his mil­i­tary pow­ers, along with a Ru­bik’s Cube.”

The present regime, de­spite its weak­nesses, in­ex­pe­ri­ence and weak po­lit­i­cal cul­ture, is strug­gling to sta­bi­lize the demo­cratic or­der, whereas the anti-demo­cratic forces are de­mand­ing change through un­demo­cratic means. But, the mil­i­tary is not will­ing to play the regime change game any more, nor the ju­di­ciary will com­pro­mise on its new found in­de­pen­dence and the op­po­si­tion has shown pa­tience in wait­ing for the year 2013, to con­test the elec­tions. At the same time a very sig­nif­i­cant change has taken place, in the Pak­istani so­ci­ety, that is, the very high level of aware­ness about our prob­lems, high­lighted by the free me­dia. Com­pare it with 1971 pe­riod, when the me­dia was sup­pressed and so was the pub­lic aware­ness about the im­pend­ing fall of Dacca and the peo­ple in West Pak­istan were rais­ing the slo­gan, ‘Crush In­dia’ and In­dia was all set to break Pak­istan. This is not the case now. The me­dia has kept the peo­ple in­formed about the weak­nesses and the strength of the present demo­cratic or­der. The civil so­ci­ety is vis­i­ble and ac­tive and the mid­dle class is grad­u­ally emerg­ing with greater con­scious­ness of na­tional mat­ters. And the way the me­dia and the civil so­ci­ety re­cently as­serted them­selves in case of Ray­mond Davis mat­ter, is sig­nif­i­cant, as it has placed the gov­ern­ment of Pak­istan in a po­si­tion of su­pe­rior diplo­matic ori­en­ta­tion, to ward-off the Amer­i­can pres­sure. As a con­se­quence, Gen­eral Pe­traeus now is de­ploy­ing coali­tion forces to guard the in­fil­tra­tion routes along the borders than to de­mand mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion in North Waziris­tan by Pak Forces and the ISI is de­mand­ing dis­clo­sure of the names of CIA op­er­a­tives de­ployed in Pak­istan in vi­o­la­tion of the law of the county. These ob­tain­ing con­di­tions thus pro­vide the op­por­tu­nity for de­vel­op­ing bal­anced Pak-U.S. re­la­tion­ship.

Some el­e­ments in the coun­try are paint­ing a dooms day sce­nario and are call­ing for rev­o­lu­tion­ary changes in Pak­istan as the Arab World is now ex­pe­ri­enc­ing, not re­al­iz­ing that, rev­o­lu­tions are dan­ger­ous be­cause they gen­er­ate en­er­gies which must be con­trolled and given proper direc­tion, other­wise they turn in­wards, caus­ing very se­ri­ous dam­age to na­tional unity. The ex­am­ples of Cze­choslo­vakia and Yu­goslavia are there. Pak­istan suffers from se­ri­ous in­ter­nal con­tra­dic­tions, such as, con­fronta­tion be­tween the state and ju­di­ciary, ethno-na­tion­al­is­tic di­vide, po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity, so­cial vi­o­lence, ide­o­log­i­cal con­tra­dic­tions and se­ri­ous eco­nomic dis­par­i­ties, and dis­tor­tions. Pak­istan can­not sus­tain a revo­lu­tion, par­tic­u­larly when there is no lead­er­ship, worth the name, to rally round the peo­ple for a com­mon cause.

Rev­o­lu­tions dis­man­tle the ex­ist­ing or­der and es­tab­lish the new sys­tem of gov­er­nance. Is there any other sys­tem in sight, bet­ter than the present one we have opted for, un­der the con­sti­tu­tion, ap­proved by the nation? There­fore the present demo­cratic or­der must pre­vail, un­der the Peo­ples Power. It is bet­ter to wait for the elec­tions 2013 and re­ject or ac­cept this gov­ern­ment, on the ba­sis of their per­for­mance. That would be the best bet for Pak­istan, to let process of democ­racy draw strength from con­ti­nu­ity, ex­per­i­men­ta­tion and ex­er­cise of rights of the peo­ple guar­an­teed by the Con­sti­tu­tion. The writer is the for­mer Chief of Army Staff of Pak­istan Army. Upon re­tir­ing in 1991, Gen­eral Beg went on to es­tab­lish the Foun­da­tion for Re­search on In­ter­na­tional En­vi­ron­ment, Na­tional De­vel­op­ment and Se­cu­rity (FRIENDS). He is an avid com­men­ta­tor on na­tional po­lit­i­cal and se­cu­rity is­sues.

Pak­istan has had an in­ter­est­ing mix of lead­ers.

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