Structural Damage Irreparable 

The system has lost its relevance for the people

The turn of events witnessed by the masses of Pakistan; who are the most important component of a nation state created in 1947, in modern definitions of a political system; since 2018 to April 2022; and then to date, has left few incentives for them to renew their faith in the system. Whether any political commentator calls it a circus, a game of thrones or political vendetta; it demonstrates that the nation state visualized by a terminally ill father of the nation; constantly heaving bouts of bronchitis; was all in vain.

In a country, where the mutually agreed document called the 1973 Constitution first double-figure clauses guarantee that the sitting dispensation or government preserves the basic human rights and identification of responsibilities of the state functionaries; where the country is witness to surgical political adjustments; which in a functioning democracy is an evolutionary process. International instances can best vouch for that assertion.

Here it would not be out of context to say that national security is equally imperilled if there are so many stomachs, which are undernourished. The lines of ICBM warheads, Sukhoi fighters and IL series transport jets production lines could not save the Soviet state from disintegration, when the common average person was distraught. There are lessons for the Pakistani deep state. Vulgar display of power and might will only generate hate and centrifugal tendencies. Pakistan as a nation state is best served, if a sincere return to the rule of constitution is allowed and the violators of the same are shown the door and possibly gallows. A fearful nation can help a colonialist instead of a renewed faith in the system; consequently, it is counterproductive for a dream gone sour like Pakistan

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As feared a number of times in these columns, during the crisis in place since last April 2022, the hybrid experiment within the confines of the 1973 Constitution was a recipe for disaster. It was only a matter of time before it would lead to a political crisis unprecedented in the political history of Pakistan.

The 1973 constitution, the only credible document the Pakistani nation state could agree on after 27 years of its existence, was exposed to devouring by the political and non-political forces alike. Its suspension in 1977 as the result of the coup, its restoration on the assumption that it was to suit the late dictator’s whims, was in fact the start of its systematic abuse. Many legal community apologists called the presidential power as envisaged in Article 58 (2b) to dissolve the system for new elections as a one-step safety valve to avoid military takeover. That assertion by these apologists slowly made it normal for the masses that military concerns about the system and their ideas about them were legitimate concerns and could not be brushed aside. They argued that the continuity of the system without any big reset was the biggest dividend of Article 58(2b), or an acceptance of a civilian mode of martial law. They forgot that the annexure of oath at the end of the document strongly discourages any Bonapartism.

The very the first victim of that acceptance of interference in the form of a President; supposed to be the symbol of federation, but under the new creeping realities, the representative of the establishment, was the handpicked PM Muhammad Khan Junejo in 1988 post-Geneva Accords & Ojhri Camp scenario, followed by the PPP government in 1988-1990. The scale of human rights abuses meted out by the caretaker government installed by the establishment on the PPP was unprecedented. Indiscriminate torture of unimaginable dimensions in the case of female student activists of Peoples Student Federation meted out by the then CM Sindh; Jam Sadiq Ali can be compared with the most recent crackdown on political movements, not in the good books of the powers who matter; ‘now’.

The political forces of that time tried to undo that through constitutional amendments made during the 1997 era by the PML(N), and the ones done during the PPP tenure in 2008-2013. The civilian governments, despite trying to assert their will, were still not courageous enough to make things clear in constitutional terms.

The handling of the 1999 Kargil fiasco by the then political leadership was the point, which allowed the powers-that-be to make a comeback of a sort, which still haunts the corridors of power; down to the interference in a common person’s life for bad or for worse.  The handling by the political forces was so pathetic that instead of going for a well-deserved trial over a military adventure; over which neither the Air Force, nor the Navy was on board, the political government lost power. The rest is history.

Jumping to new catch 22 scenarios like the 9/11 incidents; the choices; rather hard choices for Pakistan during the weeks leading up to US invasion of Afghanistan were not civilian-inspired; rather were the direct outcome of the extra constitutional forces in guiding the domestic as well as foreign policy. The aftermath of 9/11 made misery descend on Pakistan in a way seldom discussed. The 9/11 fallout was a blessing for the retreating national security state which could have gone back to the allowed limits. However, it grew out of proportion.

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Obviously, the established order manipulated each incident of its former allies in the domain of terrorism to intimidate the civilian partners to do things in a hurry, without much brainstorming. Over that, the space provided by apologetic civilian setups allowed much space to the established order to finetune and forward its fifth generation solutions.

The systematic encroachment and the 2018 formal launch of the hybrid was a natural outcome of the things in motion since one decade. The modalities and arrangements between the then PTI government and the established order resulting in ‘one page’ held much of the other political players in awe. Not knowing that the hybrid was here to stay and it preyed on new victims for prolonging its nuisance value.

The events of April 2022, which were hailed as another demonstration of the supremacy of Parliament, inf act turned out to be another hand-in-glove arrangement of hybrid. The hybrid arrangement witnessed during the last one year in general and the last one month in particular demonstrated the fact that the civilian set up was only around for implementation; with the condition of no questions being asked. It goes without saying that the human rights situation; where a political party is disbanded; not as the outcome of a state executive order like a cabinet decision. It is not even the outcome of Supreme Court hearing or any legal forum, rather as the result of force of the state in an undefined manner; is deplorable and embarrassing when viewed with a 360-degree snapshot of the region and the world at large.

As things stand, the situation is uncertain as the communication channels between the rulers and the ruled have broken down. Further dent made through a mutual trust deficit. In the international scene, the state is an embarrassment for even the international stakeholders; who might have some roles defined for Pakistan. Likewise, the investment scene for the multinationals is fraught with uncertainty. Similarly, the IMF programme is yet to be finalized. The economic downturn in the form of stagflation has hit the individual kitchens so hard that public frustration is bound to rise.

Here it would not be out of context to say that national security is equally imperilled if there are so many stomachs, which are undernourished. The lines of ICBM warheads, Sukhoi fighters and IL series transport jets production lines could not save the Soviet state from disintegration, when the common average person was distraught. There are lessons for the Pakistani deep state. Vulgar display of power and might will only generate hate and centrifugal tendencies. Pakistan as a nation state is best served, if a sincere return to the rule of constitution is allowed and the violators of the same are shown the door and possibly gallows. A fearful nation can help a colonialist instead of a renewed faith in the system; consequently, it is counterproductive for a dream gone sour like Pakistan.

Naqi Akbar
Naqi Akbar
The writer is a freelance columnist

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