With escape routes blocked, how comes the end?
The prime minister’s outbursts of December 22 have dashed any prospects that may still have lingered with regard to the government and the military continuing to co-exist. There is little to say by way of blaming the military for pushing the confrontation to a breaking point. As we recede back to square one, the surprise is not that we are there after all. It is what took us so long.
I say this not because I happen to be one of the group of eternal cynics. On the contrary, I say this because, ever since its induction into power, the government and its cronies did just about everything to provoke intervention, whether from the judiciary or the military. The manner in which it has persistently and blatantly flouted the Supreme Court’s injunctions with regard to innumerable irregularities and misdemeanours of the gravest nature gave enough reason to the judiciary to invoke the extreme. Its intransigence in refusing to restore the apex judiciary in open violation of the public pronouncements of its leaders and the subsequent long-march literally offered the government on a platter to the military. The systematic madness that has been on display in pushing all state institutions to the brink of destruction made a solid case for its ouster. Its presidentially-reprieved ministers and advisors continued to pour venom on the judges of the SC, but they somehow escaped contempt notices. The gross plunder that its functionaries have perpetrated, besides denuding the ruling political mafia of all legitimacy, raised serious doubts about the relevance and efficacy of the democratic system itself. The parliament was rendered completely irrelevant and the rule of law shred into bits.
The initial reverberations of discord were felt at the time of the appointment of Husain Haqqani to the coveted post of ambassador to the US. With a track record that smacked of a perceptible bias against the establishment, the rulers were rightly expected to have exercised restraint in nominating a controversial person. The bias became more pronounced during the formulation of the Kerry-Lugar Bill that contained clauses inimical to the way the military functioned in Pakistan. When a protest was registered by the concerned forces, a deceitful effort was unleashed to cloud the differences. The issuance of hundreds of unauthorised visas to the US functionaries became a serious bone of contention between the government and the security agencies. But the present collision course started taking shape in the wake of the US attack near Abbottabad. There were fears expressed that the president and some of his close associates were in the know of things. Under pressure because of the doubts expressed, the government plunged into a more-vociferous-than-usual support of the military and the security agencies. But the memo scam took the lid off the niceties that had hidden the government-military divide. While the military considers the memo a conspiracy against the security interests of the country and wants the SC to investigate it thoroughly, the government questions the very jurisdiction of the apex court in the matter and, instead, wants its hand-picked parliamentary commission to do the needful. The government tried vainly to force the military to change course. Its media barons even tried to give a convoluted twist to the PM-COAS meeting by projecting it as a tri-partite session including the president, but a one liner from the ISPR the next day belied that claim effectively.
There are other factors that need to be considered. Why was resignation from the former ambassador to the US secured when such has not been the practised tradition under the incumbent government? No one has ever resigned in the wake of scores of corruption scams unearthed over the last four years. Why Haqqani? Obviously, there was incriminating evidence. I also believe that the government could have lived with that by sacrificing a key member of its team, but fingers are pointed in the direction of the president and his close associates regarding their complicity in the matter. This is where the cookie began to crumble and the president took to falling sick – or, did he actually fall sick as he could not take the damning pressure? He did come back but, understandably, he is a defeated man seated uncomfortably in his corner waiting for the count. Will he have the mental and physical strength to stand up and fight?
The prime minister’s somersault is nothing more than a belated attempt to scare the perceived coup-makers away. Actually, no one is conspiring against the government. Its own deeds have become its worst adversaries. Whenever its corrupt functionaries have pushed it to the brink, it has cried foul raising the alarm bells that democracy was being assaulted. It survived only because the military was simply not interested in taking over. But, that does not mean that a government whose commitment to the country is seriously doubted should be allowed to continue without a transparent and exhaustive enquiry into the whole affair. That is where all the stakeholders including the leading political parties and the security establishment are agreed upon. Why is the government dithering and trying to give it a twist as if democracy were under assault? Simply because it has been a party to the nefarious attempt to weaken the state and its principal security institutions as also because it wants to run a ‘state within a state’ that would be above and beyond the precincts of the rule of law and where its members would be immune from accountability!
In Faiz’s inimitable words: “Surely this caravan of pain / Will come to a stop / Somewhere, sometime”. (Translation: Khalid Hasan)
The writer is a political analyst and a member of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. He can be reached at [email protected]