Those who matter have made up their minds
That those who matter have decided to axe the government before the March Senate elections should be clear to all who read the newspapers. Which of the several weapons in their armoury is to be employed is yet to be decided. What remains to be seen is whether they want to wrap up the system also, thus throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
The military establishment has never been happy with a civilian government in this country, even when it willingly hands over a significant portion of its turf to it as was done by the PPP-led administration. It is understood that being an elected leader would turn the head of even a dyed-in-the-wool establishment fan who would then make claims considered by it to be preposterous. Even if the civilian leader subsequently recants and promises not to repeat the mistake, he is not forgiven.
Thanks to its abysmal performance vis-à-vis the felt needs of the people, the PPP-led coalition has already made the task of the establishment easy. The new government made itself vulnerable in no time, and for good reason. Out and out bad governance, insensitivity to the sufferings of the people, the outrageous pretence that corruption didn’t simply exist and should not be a part of the public discourse, the penchant for taking on institutions, losing friends and creating enemies were some of its biding traits. The evil the PPP-led coalition has done will live long after it while the good like the 17th amendment, the commonly agreed NFC award and pro-women laws would be interred with its bones.
The PPP could have had a smaller government with improved governance if it had not discarded the PML(N) for unreliable allies like the PML(Q) and MQM. What is more, with a partner having a common agenda spelled out in the Charter of Democracy, it could have moved more confidently towards changing the balance of power more in the favour of the civilian government.
It could have better managed the economy by sharing the manpower resources with the PML(N). With comprehensive planning undertaken right at the start of the ruling coalition’s tenure, it could have managed the gas-cum-power shortages that have broken the back of the common man and taken toll on the economy. With total reliance on establishment’s tested and tried tools, a wink from it and PPP’s coalition partners will desert the coalition, letting the government fall.
The PPP’s opponents will relish its administration being stewed in its own juice. Everyone will clap his hands – Nawaz, Imran, Fazlur Rehman – the day the government falls. They would all rue the day and that too not long after.
Every military rule has been different from its predecessor in detail. What remains constant is total subservience of the administration to the military leadership. Unlike Ayub Khan, Zia refused to undon the uniform and did not rely more on civil bureaucrats. Unlike his more liberal predecessor, he was a religious fanatic or at least acted as such. Musharraf relied more on political engineering undertaken through ISI and NAB than on military courts, public hangings and lashes. In essence, all the three administrations were the same. The military ruled the roost.
The new military rule could be in civilian garbs. It could take the form of two or three dependable parties ruling as a coalition though everyone would prefer to exclude Nawaz and Zardari from it. Imran Khan maintains that he will not allow military to overrule him. He has also promised to shun wheeling dealing needed to hammer together coalitions. He insists he would form the government only if his party gained clear majority, which he is not likely to get.
But once he wins a sufficient number of seats, he is likely to go back on his words. In fact, he has gone back on so many strongly held positions and publicly owned commitments (take his position on MQM) that one can safely predict that he would go back on this one also. The rare variety of job hunters he has collected – Qureshi, Kasuri, Sardar Assef et al – have not joined his bandwagon to sit on the opposition benches once they see the goal within reach through a coalition with say PML(Q), MQM and the independents, all acceptable to the military establishment for possessing vulnerabilities that it has used in the past as reliable levers to keep them under its thumb. They will all go for the coalition and hail it as it victory won out of the jaws of defeat.
Those who matter have yet to decide which of the Plans A, B or C is to be implemented once the government is packed off. It could be a rule through technocrats who sell expertise and hold no convictions. The can prove that Kalabagh dam is feasible and also that it is not with equal felicity without any qualm of conscience. It all depends on who has employed them. It could be a version of the Bangladesh template with the army pulling strings from outside. It could be a rule through an unstable coalition. Whatever the results of the next elections, the powers that be would ensure that no party, not even PTI, manages to win an absolute majority. The loser would be the federation, as it has always been, for under all military rules characterised by the total centralisation of governance, the genuine demands of the smaller provinces are invariably neglected.
The writer is a former academic and a political analyst.