- Save the constitution
Pakistan is still struggling to bring its institutions under control. The major consequence is the weakening of the state. A failed state is the one wherein the government authority breaks down to open space for chaos surfacing through the actions of local gangs and armed militias. Somalia, Haiti and Rwanda experiencing civil strife since the 1990s are perfect examples. However, a weak state is one where government authority exists along with its complementary military power to defend borders, but it remains compromised in capacity by tolerating the existence of uncontrolled societal spaces and ungoverned territories within its borders. Pakistan can be subsumed under this category.
Since 1947, tribal areas of Pakistan remained out of the writ of the government, as these areas wanted to live by their own cultural norms. Over the years, they became a hotbed of proclaimed offenders, drug peddlers and arms smugglers. The post-9/11 era also witnessed the gathering of al Qaeda and other militants taking refuge in these areas owing to its lawlessness. After 2004, the same area brought humiliation for the rest of the country when the question of sovereignty arose after each drone strike.
The precedent of lawlessness in tribal areas prompted Swat to ape the same. Running a local government independent of the sway of the central government must be an empowering idea. Interestingly, the kind of thinking which abided the absence of government’s writ in one part of the country carved out space for countenancing the same in the other part of the country. The cost was the meting out of punitive punishment to citizens on even petty offences and the beheading of the police personnel on treachery. In short, the government kept on waiting for the loss of human lives to spring into action and, in late 2007, Operation Rah-e-Haq was launched.
In case of Swat, the government could have acted earlier to forestall the falling of authority but it feared that the consequent action would be used against it politically – even as an excuse to dislodge the government. The thinking that the prerequisite of the legitimacy of an action is human blood (or at least the descent of any part of the country into chaos) is a norm now. Military operation, Zarbe Azb, in North Waziristan was launched on June 15, 2014, but after a deadly June 8 attack on Jinnah International Airport, Karachi. The National Action Plan (NAP) followed it in January 2015. Similarly, Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad was launched in February 22, 2017 after resurgence attacks and in pursuance of the NAP.
- Since 1947, tribal areas of Pakistan remained out of the writ of the government, as these areas wanted to live by their own cultural norms
The same thinking worked in the sit-in staged in Faizabad, Rawalpindi, in November 2017. To everyone’s surprise, DG Rangers Punjab Maj-Gen Azhar Naveed was found distributing envelopes amongst protestors. The encouraging remarks by the DG Rangers that there was more money to distribute were also heard on the video clip peddled around. Various explanations are given except one: was DG Rangers authorised to distribute money of whatever amount without prior approval of the government? The answer is in the negative, though he might have done in good faith. This is the space where religious elements seek liberty to take law into their own hands and this is the space where the army oversteps its constitutional limits.
It was an obvious attempt of the army to improve its image amongst religious elements, even at the cost of the image of the government. This is how people see space of conflict of interest existing between the army and the government open for exploitation. This is legacy of the past. Instead of showing strength, the DG Rangers showed the weakness of the government. One can view this soft corner harking back to the rift between the Punjab Rangers and Ahsan Iqbal, interior minister, in October this year outside the accountability court, Islamabad. DG Rangers’ action of exposing himself to protestors in the background when suicide bombing was a practice required either valour or bonhomie. Nevertheless, the message the DG Rangers tried to give to the protestors, the government and people at large is still open to debate. One of the messages is that one institution can stand in front of the other institution with impunity. This is one of the major signs of a weak state.
The difference between the Long March of 2012 and 2014 (launched by Allama Tahir ul Qadri) was the London Plan. The former was inspired from Tahrir Square (a protest in January 2011 in Egypt) to get certain political and legislative demands met, whereas the latter was inspired from the London Plan to dislodge the government. The plan invited notoriety when it was known that, in September 2014, certain retired army generals cultivated the plan by cobbling together Tahir ul Qadri, Imran Khan and Chaudhary brothers in order to bring the sitting government down. The target locale was D-chowk, in front of parliament. The failure of sit-in in dislodging the government made the planners to think of an alternative way. The Faizabad sit-in (in November 2017) is an improved version of the D-chowk aborted sit-in (in December 2014).
In November 2017, the Lahore High Court came into action to hear a petition on smog, which has neither to do with the court nor with the government. On Orange Line Metro Train project, the Supreme Court of Pakistan kept its decision pending for almost eight months without any cogent justification. The mere pendency cost the national exchequer millions of rupees in terms of an increase in the cost of construction besides causing inconvenience to general public. This is how the third institution of the state is playing its role to weaken the state.
In short, every non-democratic group and institution is out to play its role as is convenient to it overlooking the significance of the constitution. The desire of each such player is how to dismantle the government, whether in the name of religion or nationalism. The desire is a major source of the weakening of the state of Pakistan. Certainly, the only factor which is averting Pakistan descent into a failing state is the constitution. Save the constitution; save and strengthen the country.