Is ‘soft coup’ the an­swer?

Southasia - - COMMENT -

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

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