And now the Istehkam-e Pakistan Party

Will its fate be different from the PML(Q)?

Sycophancy is a norm in Pakistan. If someone wants to seek an example what sycophancy looks like, one has to read the label, the Istehkam-e Pakistan Party (IPP): the title denotes the stabilization of Pakistan in comparison with the destabilization of Pakistan, as if connoted by its former self, the Pakistan Tehreke Insaf (PTI).

Almost all politicians who resorted to holding press conferences and denouncing the PTI on its May 9 act have gleefully joined Jahangir Tareen’s political group, which has got transformed into the IPP. Being dry-cleaned through acts of publicly decrying the PTI, the hodgepodge of opportunists– more than 100 PTI deserters– would now work wholeheartedly for the stability of Pakistan.

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The IPP, the improved version of the Tareen group, is confident that it would woo voters in the next general elections which may be held in October. Confidence is one thing but history is a different thing. In the recent past, the PML(Q) could not compete with the PML(N) and got reduced to a “tonga party” – for “tonga” is a light carriage drawn by a horse for transportation of around six passengers.

It is yet to be seen how the Army-sponsored IPP entices PTI voters, besides general voters, to make its mark in the next general elections, though the chances are dim

History is replete with such otherwise inflated “tonga parties” formed in drawing rooms or on grassy lawns, as is the case with the IPP. However, on the polling day, they foundered on the issue of legitimacy. Voters see such parties as offshoots of the mother parties with which they had associated themselves originally. Nevertheless, the strength of the “tonga parties” lies in the plentiful supply of money flowing from its members who are mostly landlords and industrialists, ever ready to earn victory through generous spending. This is where they become attractive outlets for unemployed artisans, who earn money in one election season to survive adequately for at least one year. In this way, the presence of any “tnga party” in its bloated projected form is beneficial for the economic health of the country. The passengers become a source of the circulation of money in society.

The phenomenon also means that politicians refuse to learn from history. They are the willing prey of the experiments performed by the establishment. As political guinea pigs– the experimental rodents– they are ever ready to be sacrificed at the altar of certain interests, be they institutional or national.

Ask Ch Pervaiz Elahi, who is on the horns of a dilemma. Elahi forsook the “tonga party” of the PML(Q) and jumped on the bandwagon of the PTI, but now reeling under May 9, the PTI is approaching collapse. Elahi is left with two choices: first, stay in the fast reducing PTI; and second, join the newly formed IPP. Whereas further association with the PTI is fraught with troubles, relationship with the IPP is unproductive, as its fate would be no different from the PML(Q).

The challenge before the establishment– the emerged ultimate political mentor– is how to reduce the stature of Imran Khan, the PTI Chairman. The incumbent political government has already registered dozens of cases against Khan, to keep him busy with the exoneration process. This is typical of Pakistan’s political system. Register as many cases as possible to defile the name of a politician and exhaust him into making a compromise.

Khan is also needed in at least two murder cases. To elaborate, he is accused of murdering two persons. If Khan is blamed for making wrong political choices, the point is understandable. However, if he is accused of murdering people (or harbouring a conspiracy to murder a person), no one is going to believe in the allegation. This is the point where things go counterproductive. The wise step would have been to register only genuine cases against him.

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Generally, PTI voters condemn May 9, but they do not consider the act a turning point of their association. They are lying low, but they are observant. They are not dissociated from Khan– and this is bad news for his opponents of any hue.

The point is simple. If arson and plunder on May 9 had been pre-planned, it was also the intelligence failure– both military and civil– not to discover the wicked planning and preclude the malevolent acts. Was the intelligence in place for getting wise after the event? What are they paid for?

Then, it was the administrative failure– both military and civil– not to foresee the repercussions of Khan’s arrest and that too by the Rangers, despite the fact that the violent potential of PTI workers was known. Moreover, raiders were given a free hand to move around unchecked and unhindered. In cantonments, military police were simply absent or they offered no resistance. Were they employed for being bystanders?

Now, the Army’s resolution is being expressed by the huddle, the Formation Commanders’ Conference, which has expressed a resolve to punish this person and that one qualifying the criterion of a conspirator, mastermind or perpetrator.

The current year is 2023 and not 1923. The Conference has to admit first the failure of the Army’s intelligence and then the failure of the military police. Has the Conference announced to have removed the intelligence heads and authorities (from their positions) running military police? The answers are in the negative. The reason is that no step has been taken to do introspection but all measures are adopted to reduce the PTI to extinction. Commentator Hasan Nisar is right in asking: Is May 9 an event bigger than 16 December 1971?

In 2014, the Army (and its intelligence agencies) had been leaving no stone unturned to raise the stature of the PTI. In 2023, the Army is all set to dismember the PTI. Has the Conference announced the Army’s resolve not to plunge into politics again? The answer is in the negative.

With all these noes in the pocket, the purpose of the Conference is nothing else but instilling fear in the hearts of civilians. The Conference has overlooked that Pakistan is a parliamentary democracy, where people rule the roost. Human rights are neither a misnomer nor are they so-called claims. Human rights concerns are genuine and relevant to this age. In this regard, the dictate of the Conference is deplorable. The point is simple: Civilians should be tried only in civilian courts under the civilian law.

In short, it is yet to be seen how the Army-sponsored IPP entices PTI voters, besides general voters, to make its mark in the next general elections, though the chances are dim.

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Dr Qaisar Rashid
Dr Qaisar Rashid
The writer is a freelance journalist and can be reached at [email protected]


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