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.
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