A Rough Road

With all its faults and short­com­ings, Pak­istan is on the rough road to democ­racy.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Shab­bir H. Kazmi

Among the South Asian coun­tries, Pak­istan has the sec­ond largest pop­u­la­tion af­ter In­dia. Both the coun­tries got in­de­pen­dence from the Bri­tish Raj with a dif­fer­ence of one day in Au­gust 1947. While In­dia has earned the distinc­tion of be­com­ing a secular state and one of the largest democ­ra­cies of the world, Pak­istan has spent most of its time un­der au­to­cratic rule, both mil­i­tary and civil­ian. De­spite be­ing a front­line part­ner in the war against ter­ror­ism, it has been the worst vic­tim of ex­trem­ism as well as ter­ror­ism it­self and this has ru­ined the so­cial fab­ric and kept eco­nomic devel­op­ment at the low­est ebb.

The younger gen­er­a­tion of­ten wants to know the rea­sons for the con­ti­nu­ity of demo­cratic rule in In­dia and Pak­istan stay­ing un­der mil­i­tary rule for a very long time. They also wish to un­der­stand the logic be­hind the ‘Char­ter of Democ­racy’ that was signed be­tween two of Pak­istan’s largest po­lit­i­cal par­ties, PPP and PML-N. There ex­ist two op­po­site opin­ions about the CoD: one, it is an un­der­stand­ing reached be­tween two po­lit­i­cal par­ties to avoid yet an­other mil­i­tary rule and, two, un­der the pre­vail­ing geo-po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion, the su­per­pow­ers wish to keep the reins in the hands of elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives rather than sup­port­ing any mil­i­tary rule.

Some cyn­ics say that po­lit­i­cal par­ties have learnt a les­son as­sas­si­na­tion of three elected Prime Min­is­ters i.e. Li­aquat Ali Khan, Zul­fikar Ali Bhutto (his fol­low­ers pre­fer to call it a mur­der) and Be­nazir Bhutto. They

also be­lieve that PPP and PML-N now re­gret lack of un­der­stand­ing among them­selves which led to dis­missal of the gov­ern­ments of Nawaz Sharif and Be­nazir Bhutto twice. Nawaz Sharif has earned the distinc­tion of be­ing elected prime min­is­ter for the third time af­ter the as­sas­si­na­tion of the charis­matic leader, Be­nazir Bhutto.

An­a­lysts watch­ing geopol­i­tics of the re­gion closely be­lieve that su­per­pow­ers in­stall and top­ple regimes around the world to pur­sue their for­eign pol­icy agenda and Pak­istan is no ex­cep­tion. The most talked about per­son­al­i­ties are An­war Sa­dat of Egypt, Benigno Aquino of the Philip­pines, Sad­dam Hus­sain of Iraq and Gen­eral Zia ul Haq of Pak­istan. All th­ese po­lit­i­cal lead­ers were as­sas­si­nated once the mis­sions as­signed to them were ac­com­plished. To this list, names of In­dra Gandhi, prime min­is­ter of In­dia and two Prime Min­is­ters of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujeeb ur Rehman and Zia ur Rehman could also be added. Sri Lanka has also been a vic­tim of this tyranny.

While it is al­most im­pos­si­ble to an­a­lyze Pak­istan’s his­tory spread over six and a half decades here, one point is very clear - that the three mil­i­tary rulers were in­stalled by the su­per­pow­ers to main­tain their hege­mony in the re­gion. The rule of Gen­eral Mo­ham­mad Ayub Khan (1958 to 1969) was fa­cil­i­tated be­cause of the cold war. At that time Pak­istan was made part of the South East Asia Treaty Or­ga­ni­za­tion (SEATO) and the Cen­tral Treaty Or­ga­ni­za­tion (CENTO), US-led de­fense pacts against com­mu­nism. Af­ter the fall of Dacca, Pak­istan had no op­tion but to pull it­self out of SEATO dur­ing the regime of Zul­fikar Ali Bhutto and CENTO died its nat­u­ral death in 1979. At one time, the USSR was highly an­noyed and wanted to attack Pak­istan be­cause US spy planes were us­ing an air­base lo­cated near Pe­shawar to snoop over the Soviet Union.

The sec­ond mil­i­tary regime of Zia ul Haq (1977 to 1988) was sup­port by the US in the name of avert­ing a Soviet attack on Afghanistan, termed an at­tempt by the USSR to get ac­cess to warm wa­ters. The Afghan war, spread over nearly a decade, was fought from Pak­istan’s GHQ and re­li­gious par­ties were given money to pre­pare the breed of Mu­ja­hedeen, now of­ten re­ferred to as the Tal­iban.

Once the de­ci­sion was made to pull out the US-led troops in the be­lief that the USSR had been de­feated, the en­tire mil­i­tary junta of the time be­came re­dun­dant. Zia ul Haq and his close gen­er­als died when their plane was blown up. The killers were so des­per­ate that one of the youngest and most out­stand­ing am­bas­sadors of the US and a Bri­gadier Gen­eral also died as they were trav­el­ling with Zia ul Haq and other gen­er­als on the plane.

It is of­ten said that Gen­eral Pervez Mushar­raf took over af­ter a failed at­tempt of the then prime min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif to get rid of him by not al­low­ing his plane to land in Pak­istan. But some cyn­ics say Nawaz Sharif pro­vided an op­por­tu­nity to the mil­i­tary to top­ple his gov­ern­ment. The su­per­pow­ers may not have liked Pervez Mushar­raf ini­tially but he be­came their dar­ling af­ter he de­cided to be­come a part­ner in the US war against the Tal­iban regime in Afghanistan.

Pervez Mushar­raf got ‘red car­pet’ re­cep­tions in the US and other west­ern cap­i­tals for be­ing their front­line part­ner in ‘war against ter­ror­ism’. He was kept in power till the de­ci­sion was made to with­draw the ma­jor­ity of NATO troops from Afghanistan by 2014. To give le­git­i­macy to his rule, gen­eral elec­tions were held in Pak­istan. His exit from power looked a lit­tle strange to those who are not familiar with ‘con­spir­acy the­o­ries’. Some crit­ics say he had also be­come re­dun­dant like Zia ul Haq.

The for­ma­tion of an elected gov­ern­ment un­der Pervez Mushar­raf was a replica of the elected gov­ern­ment led by Mo­ham­mad Khan Junejo, which was termed a ‘le­git­imiza­tion of the Zia regime’ but an un­cer­e­mo­ni­ous dis­missal of the Junejo gov­ern­ment opened the Pan­dora’s Box.

Pak­istan’s join­ing hands with the US dur­ing the Zia era to re­pel the USSR and fight­ing a proxy war in Afghanistan gave var­i­ous ‘gifts’ to the coun­try. Th­ese in­cluded - re­li­gious ex­trem­ism, drugs and arms. The presently pre­vail­ing pre­car­i­ous law and or­der sit­u­a­tion in Pak­istan can be termed as a com­bi­na­tion of th­ese stated el­e­ments. The democ­racy as preva­lent to­day is also a hostage of th­ese el­e­ments.

Some po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts say that dur­ing the lat­ter part of his regime and prior to the gen­eral elec­tions, Pervez Mushar­raf was ad­vised by the su­per­pow­ers to join hands with Be­nazir Bhutto to en­sure con­ti­nu­ity of demo­cratic rule in the coun­try as this would also pro­long his rule. Prior to her land­ing in Pak­istan, Be­nazir Bhutto was told to join hands with Pervez Mushar­raf.

But there were se­ri­ous dif­fer­ences be­tween Be­nazir Bhutto and Pervez Mushar­raf. She was later as­sas­si­nated and her wid­ower Asif Ali Zar­dari re­placed Pervez Mushar­raf as the Pres­i­dent of Pak­istan. It looked like a reen­act­ment of the as­sas­si­na­tion of Benigno Aquino in the Philip­pines and his widow Cory Aquino be­com­ing pres­i­dent of the coun­try.

Though, the in­fer­ence is highly sor­did but the fact is that politi­cians in Pak­istan know it very well that if they wish to come to power, they have to pur­sue the agenda of su­per­pow­ers and their lo­cal sup­port­ers. It is of­ten an elected or au­to­cratic gov­ern­ment but it re­mains in power due to the ex­ter­nal sup­port that in­cludes fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance from mul­ti­lat­eral donors like IMF, World Bank and Asian Devel­op­ment Bank or arms sup­plied in the name of ‘main­tain­ing min­i­mum de­ter­rence level’ against Pak­istan’s enemies.

Pak­istan has sur­vived many odds but the re­cent phe­nom­e­non of grow­ing ex­trem­ism, sec­tar­ian killing, elim­i­na­tion of po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents and even the killing of doc­tors and aca­demi­cians seems part of the grand agenda to plunge the coun­try deep into an­ar­chy. If the road to democ­racy leads from here, then it is quite a rough trail. The writer is an eco­nomic an­a­lyst. He writes for var­i­ous lo­cal and for­eign pub­li­ca­tions.

Pak­istan’s join­ing hands with the US dur­ing the Zia era to re­pel the USSR and fight­ing a proxy war in Afghanistan gave var­i­ous ‘gifts’ to the coun­try.

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