Is ‘soft coup’ the answer?
It is quite unfortunate that while real democracy is said to have returned to Pakistan following the elections in 2008 and, subsequently, in 2013, the fruits of democracy have not reached the people and they continue to wait for their lives to change for the better. The PPP came to power after it rode on a wave of sympathy in the 2008 elections following Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. Then Asif Zardari became the president of the country and his PPP government completed 5 years of so-called democratic rule. The national GDP slid down to a very low level during this period and the country lost the many advantages that it had gained over the preceding decade. The people were disillusioned so they brought Nawaz Sharif back in 2013 and he became prime minister of Pakistan for an unprecedented third time. All through this, the people just waited with patience for the promised fruits of democracy.
Along with the people, Pakistan’s armed forces also displayed a high level of patience through this period and hoped democracy would at last be delivered. However, things worsened over time, the people continued to suffer and the patience of the armed forces wore out. It was at this point that the thinking may have developed at the GHQ that while the political leadership had been given enough leeway over the years, they had grossly failed to deliver at all levels and on all counts. There was awareness all around of the vast potential that Pakistan possesses and the role that it can play in the region. But the awareness may have set in that national resources were being unnecessarily frittered away and the privileged few were amassing wealth through crass and open corruption.
Apparently, there may also have been the feeling that the military rule route had become obsolete and would not be looked upon with sympathy or support in important capitals of the world. It was then, possibly, that the military stepped forward to quell the rot and to provide guidance to the nation on constructive lines. The move is being described in some quarters as a ‘soft coup’. Two incidents precipitated it: the Peshawar school massacre in December, 2014 and the JIT Report of the fire that killed some 257 people in a Baldia Town factory in Karachi two years back. Thankfully, the understanding is clear that it is the corrupt that are protecting and supporting the corrupt, with the result that national wealth is circulating at the top and is not trickling downwards. It is now clear that the leaderships of the PPP and PML(N) are the ones who are fanning the rot and only those people are benefitting from this mutual cooperation who are close to the top – next of kin, close relatives, ministers, bureaucrats and political workers.
With their ‘soft coup’, the establishment has made it clear that politicians of all hues, whether in power or outside it, would be given time to ‘clean up’ their acts. Beyond that, it has been communicated that no laxity would be tolerated and all corrupt practices would have to go. The process has been started from Sindh because this is where Asif Zardari and his cronies are most active. Once Sindh has been sorted out, the ‘cleaning-up’ would move to the Punjab and other parts of the country.
It would be good to understand that elections should not be considered a possibility at this juncture because they would again throw up the same corrupt elements. Instead, ‘an empowered government of technocrats’ should be drawn up and function for at least 5 years or at least till the time when things are back to normal and the country is well on the road to progress. Such a government should move forward with a broad, two-pronged strategy. It should immediately set about weeding out corruption at all levels and finding ways to deliver a really efficient and working government. Then, it should set before itself a restructuring and modification agenda which should cover basic areas such as terrorism, the economy, law and order, rationalizing the institutions like PIA, PSM, OGDC, Pakistan Railways, the Privatization Commission, etc. and bringing about electoral reforms backed by appropriate constitutional guarantees. It needs to be emphasized that since Pakistan has become mired in extraordinarily sorry conditions, thanks to a whole set of selfish, self-serving elements, extraordinary measures must be taken to put the country back on track.
Syed Jawaid Iqbal