Politicians, army both on trial
Army ruled the country for major part of its history, and yet failed to deliver. Not its fault. Military, by nature and training, and if Altaf Hussain, the MQM leader calls upon honest and patriotic Generals to side with people instead of supporting the feudals or the tribal chieftains, is only picking a page from history. Popular movement in Egypt and Tunis, and now in Libya are only matter of days and perhaps a couple of weeks. The military there, refused to fire at people, to help bring down the decade-old power structures in the Arab world. Army, by nature and training, is incapable of producing results without the help or guidance from the political leadership. In peace time, if it takes over control of a territory, it invariably lands itself in the rigmarole of administrative complexities, and since it is forced to create an artificial political cadre for putting up a democratic face, it goes on committing blunders, one after the other, because it is totally unwilling to part with real authority. Similar is the situation in times of war. No army, on its own, has ever won the war in modern history. Churchill won a losing war for England, and though a matter of shame for us, yet it has to be recalled for the sake of strengthening an argument, that Indira Gandhi won the 1971 war against Pakistan. General Yahya Khan, despite being a good soldier, heaped humiliation and disgrace on his nation. In Islamic history, Muslims have only twice been a major loser on the military frontófirst in Jerusalem in 1967 and secondly in the then East Pakistan. The political leadership in India rightly claimed the credit for that, retiring with honour and decorations, field marshal Maneckshaw who commanded the Indian army in the war against Pakistan then. The Indians never gave credit to the military for winning laurels for the country. It was the right of the politicians because they were at helm and hence the Congress party in India was called victorious.
General Ayub Khan, a self-styled field marshal, lost what seemed a winning war. He and General Moosa lacked courage to take advantage of a coded cable from the then Chinese Premier Chou En-Lai to take over Kashmir during the fighting in NEFA in 1962, and again went for a ceasefire in 1965 without even consulting the Chinese who had assured them unstinted support on almost every front. Beijing was bitter about that. So was late President Soekarno of Indonesia who had sent his powerful navy to guard any possible Indian tricks in the bay of Bengal against almost defenceless former East Pakistan. Ayub feared American pressure for moving forces into Kashmir. His instance is cited here to prove how helpless army leadership finds itself in testing times.Had Pakistan had Suhrawardy or Bhutto at that time in power, subcontinent history would have been different today.
General Kayani is quite conscious of his limitations and the handicaps of being in the saddle himself. He has been a true soldier, and had tried successfully so far not only to keep his forces apolitical, but also defended the countryís case before Americans and their allies on Taliban actions and about dealing with insurgencies. He too has been firm on David Raymond issue, in turn, lending strength to both Zardari and Gilani. He has saved the country from ruination on various occasions. So has the supreme court chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhury. Both, nevertheless, must surely be feeling irritated by the governmentís incompetence to rectify mistakes, and put the country on correct path. Neither Zardari, nor Gilani have been heeding the Supreme Court directives, and look indifferent to the saner advices, which is a sad story.
Pakistan has been in mess, economically, politically, and diplomatically. Yet no attention is paid to crucial issues of foreign policy, economic recovery or to providing stability to the country. President Zardari handles the principal issues himself, going to Kuwait and Japan, and yet returning empty handed. The Japanese are ready to finance projects provided corruption and kickbacks are dealt with sternly. Nothing of that sort is happening. Investors and aid agencies have held back themselves till such time cobra or corruption is crushed. But will that happen and who will bell the cat is a million dollar question.
Petrol prices is another major issue, printing or Rs 200 crore currency notes daily to meet expenses of the State and incendiaries would only bloat the inflation to a level from where recovery will be impossible. The government , the prime minister and his cabinet still seems indifferent to that, which is tragic. Under such circumstances, and where Peopleís Party is thrown out of the Punjab, and Nawaz Sharif is weighing the options for mid-term elections. He and Imran Khan may decide to ignite agitation, and once it sparks off, it might gain momentum, though it is too early to predict whether Egypt or Tunis or Libyan like situation will develop on Pakistani streets. Yet the recipe for agitation is right. Any minor matter can ignite an unbearable situation, which is already loaded with all kinds of eventualities.
If that happens, which may occur sooner than expected, then can army remain indifferent. Officers in their messes are already showing their discontent over the countryís abysmal situation. They have held back themselves but may well be putting pressure on their chief. How long could he resist remains to be seen. IMF aid package and other agencies involved in helping Pakistan have been dilly dallying over release of money already promised, obviously because of strained Pak-US relationship, at its lowest ebb following the Raymond David issue.
But if the agitation does start, the MQM role will be crucial. It is holding all the cards in its hands, and may in fact be called upon to call the shots, though for the present it seems unlikely. But MQM and its leaderís role will be the deciding factor. Any movement without the support and backing of Altaf party will be meaningless. Unless Karachi joins in anti-government moves, then it will be a different story. Clearly Altaf Hussain appears disenchanted with the handling of state affairs by the present government, and has already spoken openly about it. He does not mince words and has been warning the government of likely repercussions because of petrol and rising prices of other essential items, about corruption and mismanagement. He once saved Gilaniís government to avoid a chaos in the country, but for how long will Altaf Hussain keep quiet, or keep himself away from rising discontent, is a crucial question which only he can answer.