Be­tween Wish and Re­al­ity

The armed forces have been wo­ven so strongly into the fab­ric of Pak­istani life that there are dim chances of their com­ing to the fore to ad­min­is­ter the coun­try.

Southasia - - COVER STORY - By Javed An­sari

Why is there al­ways a wish in some cor­ner of the aver­age Pak­istani’s mind that the armed forces should come and take over? Why is it that the people are al­ways fed up with the civil­ian rulers and hope for some army gen­eral to be­come their sav­ior, some­one who would deliver them from their daily grind, from the ram­pant cor­rup­tion and mis­gov­er­nance and from all the other ills that these give birth to? Per­haps this is why, when­ever the army has taken over in Pak­istan, get­ting rid of the civil­ian govern­ment of the day in the process, it has re­ceived an all round ap­plause of wel­come from the pub­lic at large as well as from those politi­cians who are out of power at that point.

The founder of the coun­try never vi­su­al­ized the armed forces as hold­ing power in Pak­istan. His was a civil­ian model that saw an elected govern­ment rul­ing the coun­try and cop­ing with the people’s needs in a demo­cratic polity while the armed forces strictly stuck to the role that any truly demo­cratic dis­pen­sa­tion would lay out for them. The prob­lem with Pak­istan, how­ever, is that it never tasted real democ­racy right from the be­gin­ning. Per­haps it was the ex­i­gency of the sit­u­a­tion at the time of the in­cep­tion of Pak­istan that forced Jin­nah him­self to run the coun­try in an author­i­tar­ian man­ner rather than al­low­ing democ­racy to take root. Per­haps he was stilted by the fact that he could not see men and women around him, who could take over the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of gov­ern­ing the state in the strict and hon­est man­ner that he de­manded.

Jin­nah did not live long and nei­ther did the only other per­son who could have done any jus­tice to his legacy – Liaquat Ali Khan. Fol­low­ing their deaths, the state Jin­nah and Liaquat had left be­hind did not have much to fall back on by way of tra­di­tions of a work­ing democ­racy and the coun­try slipped into chaos. Mil­i­tary gen­eral Ayub Khan sub­se­quently took full ad­van­tage of the sit­u­a­tion, first by be­stow­ing all power upon him­self and then by run­ning down any­one and ev­ery­one who was a civil­ian. In do­ing so, he achieved noth­ing be­yond pro­mot­ing author­i­tar­ian rule in the coun­try, es­pe­cially since the san­ity and growth it brought in its wake was in sharp con­trast to the civil­ian­man­aged bed­lam.

It is, there­fore, right from an early stage that the Pak­istan armed forces have been wo­ven into the na­tional fab­ric, whether di­rectly or in­di­rectly. In its over six decades of ex­is­tence, the gov­er­nance setup in Pak­istan may have looked like al­ter­nat­ing be­tween civil­ian and mil­i­tary rule but the fact is that even in those times when democ­racy has seemed to have the up­per hand – in the pre-Ayub civil­ian tenures and those of Zul­fikar Ali Bhutto, Be­nazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif, Asif Zar­dari and now again Nawaz Sharif – it is the armed forces that have had a fin­ger in ev­ery pie.

To say that the boots are likely to come march­ing in any time soon again would be over­stat­ing re­al­ity. The fact is that the boots are al­ready here. The only dif­fer­ence is that they are con­cealed un­der the garb of democ­racy, hid­den in the wood­work – and this is how it will con­tinue. There were so many oc­ca­sions dur­ing the five years of Asif Zar­dari that the army was said to be just around the cor­ner but, de­spite the cal­cu­la­tions and pre­dic­tions of many an arm­chair po­lit­i­cal pun­dit – and even astrologer - it did not hap­pen. Mr. Zar­dari and his cronies left no stone un­turned, so to speak, to cre­ate sit­u­a­tions in their ten­ure when a jeep and two trucks (in the words of Chaudhry Shu­jaat Hus­sain) could have headed for the

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