While redefining democracy, don’t make another Bangladesh

The COAS must play a role

The violent protests which erupted on May 9, after the arrest of the former Prime Minister-Chairman of the opposition party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), were condemable as in various cities and towns, protesters damaged the civil and military installations.

Once, Henry Kissinger said: “legitimacy is not automatic, it is acquired.”

In his various public rallies and addresses, the ex-Premier showed his contradictory statements. Sometimes, he appreciated the Pakistan Army and sometimes censured it, while targeting former army chief, Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, stating: “A major international conspiracy was carried out against his regime’s removal through America’s threatening diplomatic cypher.”Afterwards, he said that no conspiracy was hatched by the USA, while Gen. Bajwa was responsible for his regime’s removal.

Khan also held General Bajwa responsible for present political instability and severe economic crisis, and accused the PDM-ruling coalition of pitting him against the Army.

Imran Khan’s public rallies in various cities, “Haqeeqi Azadi March” (Real Freedom March) on May 25, last year at Islamabad and Rawalpindi on November 26, for early elections show how peaceful his approach was.

Under Khan’s directions, resignations of the PTI MNAs and decision to rejoin the National Assembly, dissolution of the Punjab and KP provincial assemblies show that he lacks political farsightedness.

While the coalition government’s several undemocratic moves such as a brutal crackdown against the PTI protesters—arrests, registration of almost 150 cases/FIRs against Khan and other PTI leaders, raids in their houses without warrants clearly proved that General Bajwa was fully supporting the PDM’s puppet regime which remained firm that elections would be held in October. So, General Bajwa is also accountable for economic murder of the poor people.

Besides, PDM leaders are also pursuing contradictory and conflicting statements. In the background of the May 9 incidents, recently, Khawaja Asif remarked that the government is considering disqualifying Imran Khan or to ban the PTI. Former PML(N) Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi categorically said he is not in favour of the ‘minus formula’, and does not want banning of the PTI”, stressing “let the voters decide about the fate of the PTI.” Foreign Minister also expressed similar thoughts.

Criticising Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s contradictory statements about IMF, former Federal Finance Minister Miftah Ismail pointed out: “Pakistan is on the verge of default”. Dar said that the budget will be presented to the IMF for approval. But, PM Shehbaz Sharif clarified on June 5, that an IMF bailout remained elusive.

Under General Bajwa, persecution of PTI workers and leaders like Azam Swati and Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, and pro-Imran journalists continued.

Khan challenged the coalition government’s amendments to the National Accountability Bureau Ordinance in the Supreme Court, contending that PML-N and PPP leaders had legitimised corruption, as their many cases of mega corruption had been closed.

In November 2020, when the PDM had launched a movement to topple the PTI, addressing a PDM rally in Gujranwala via a video link from London, ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif accused Army Chief Gen. Bajwa and head of Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed of toppling his government to install Imran Khan in his place.

Nonetheless, no political party must distort the Army’s image in such a way that the general masses should forget the sacrifices and services of the armed forces.  

General Bajwa used PPP Co-chairman Zardari who signed an agreement with the MQM(P) to support the then opposition’s no-trust motion against PM Khan. Jahangir Tareen and Aleem Khan were also used in this regard.

In fact, fearing the public’s massive support to the PTI Chairman, the PDM regime and the establishment who were already using delaying tactics and pretensions to prolong the elections by neglecting the Supreme Court’s verdict, the May 9 tragic events provided them with a golden opportunity in this respect.

In the recent past, Khan said that what the Indian Premier Modi is doing against the Muslims in the Indian occupied Kashmir through military lockdown, the establishment is doing the same against the PTI.

Khan hit out at the Army, saying: “It should be ashamed of jumping into politics and could form its own political party.” Notably, members of Hitler’s Nazi Party were well-penetrated in the German Army with the party’s monogram to control the people.

As regards the May 9 tragedy, analysts remark as to how protesters reached the gate of army’s General Headquarters in Rawalpindi, while after a deadly terrorist attack on army’s GHQ on October 11, 2009, there could be tight security.

About assault at Corps Commander’s residence in Lahore, analysts opine that there is also tight security as to how protesters entered the house.

Renowned lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan remarked that the Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah was behind the attack at Corps Commander’s residence, while PTI leader Dr. Yasmin Rashid was asking the protesters not to target his residence. Recently, a court in Lahore discharged Dr. Yasmin Rashid in a case pertaining to the Lahore Corps Commander’s Residence.

PTI Chairman Imran Khan demanded the Supreme Court-led an independent investigation about the May 9 events. But, without any investigation, PDM leaders, especially PM Shehbaz have started the propaganda against the PTI and to misguide the establishment, accusing that these assaults were preplanned. Now, they do not want to restart dialogue with the PTI about the date of elections.

More than 10,000 workers and suspects as well as key PTI leaders have been arrested countrywide. During raids at their houses, without warrants, the law enforcing agencies employed torture, even on ladies. In Adiala Jail and cells in other jails, besides men, brutal tactics were employed to torture the women.

PTI Chairman Khan revealed that rapes with the PTI lady workers were committed in jail, and business of the PTI workers and leaders have been destroyed.

Rana Sanaullah said that pro-Khan protesters and suspects arrested for attacks on Army installations have been handed to military authorities, who would face trial under the Pakistan Army Act and Official Secrets Act, while those who targeted public installations, their cases will be conducted in civil courts.

Meanwhile, PTI President-the former Chief Minister of Punjab Pervaiz Elahi has been arrested by the anti-corruption and police in various self-created cases.

Unlike the PML(N)’s leaders, strict restrictions have been imposed on TV channels to stop displaying Imran Khan’s statements even through video links. But, social media is releasing Khan’s video messages, while the PDM has started the propaganda against the PTI workers and Khan in wake of the projected rallies in support of the establishment.

Several PTI leaders, including members of the parliament who were released on bail, particularly by the Islamabad High Court were arrested again. But, who announced to quit politics or PTI, while condemning May 9 attacks, were not arrested. In this context, Khan stated: “People are not quitting; they are being forced to leave the party at gunpoint”.

Besides, the tussle between the Supreme Court and the Parliament has further accelerated the crisis among the key institutions. Hence, Khan remarked that judicial bodies were under pressure from the powerful.

Now, political activities are in full swing in Lahore where various parties’ leaders and Jahangir Tareen are busy in political bargaining. Notably, PPP leader Asif Zardari confidently stated on May 6: “They cannot conduct the elections within two months; they will only take place when I decide.” It created controversy about the elections.

However, as an anti-establishment PTI would not be in a position to participate in the elections or could be weakened in case it takes part. If Khan is disqualified or isolated, political instability and economic crisis will intensify.

Comparing his struggle with Bangladesh, Imran Khan reminded on 2 December 2022 that Pakistan had split into two after Awami League with a legitimate political mandate was denied its right to rule.

In fact, since the era of Field Marshal Muhammad Ayub Khan to that of General Bajwa, the Army has ruled over the country directly or indirectly (excluding the period of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto). Some generals established a puppet regime, showing democratic regime in the country.

Imran Khan and some analysts opine that Pakistan will become Sri Lanka.

In the case of Pakistan, some hostile foreign elements can further widen the gulf between the Army and the PDM on one side and the PTI supporters on the other. These elements also want to create a drastic situation so that martial law may be imposed and civil war may start in many cities, particularly in the KP where in former tribal areas, people possess heavy weapons and arms. Army cannot control KP where people could target the armed forces and their families.

Myanmar, where Gen Min Aung Hlaing seized power on 1 February 2021 after the military toppled the civilian  government led by Aung San Suu Kyi. Myanmar’s military junta is now facing fierce resistance from various joint ethnic groups, gives an example. Similarly Sudan offers another instance.

So, the COAS Gen Asim Munir must play a positive role impartially in defusing the present situation, and to avoid making KP another Bangladesh.

US President Abraham Lincoln said: “Democracy is a government of the people, by the people and for the people”. But, in the case of Pakistan, democracy is a government of the establishment, by the establishment and for the establishment.

Nonetheless, no political party must distort the Army’s image in such a way that the general masses should forget the sacrifices and services of the armed forces.

Sajjad Shaukat
Sajjad Shaukat
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations and can be reached at [email protected]


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