Existential crisis | By Nazim Uddin


Existential crisis 

IT looks Pakistan’s situation is no different from a third-world country where the elite’s war of power is in full swing. All stakeholders are poised to burn the whole edifice only to disgrace the other. Be it the army or judiciary and, above all, parliamentarians, the game of the throne has clouded the inevitable déjà vu of the 1971 dismemberment of Pakistan.

What happened to the country on 9 May is not only condemnable but also another blow to the sustainability of the system. Equally regrettable is the way the PTI workers and leaders have damaged the already dilapidated country. While the politics of agitation finds no moral support in any section of society, what ensued with the violent protests has made Pakistan anything but a normal country. Blaming security establishments misses the nuance here: each time, political leaders volunteer to dance to the music of the boots knowing well that their grotesque can’t last long. In other words, in their myopic vested interests, the incumbent always tries to pander to the whims of the security establishment at the cost of democracy, civil liberty and human rights. The powerful use them and afterwards come up with another political party and the same pattern repeats itself without a scintilla of change. An elementary student of Pakistan history will second it.

This original sin to cede political space to undemocratic forces began no later than the demise of the founder. If Justice Munir achieved infamy for causing irreparable damage to not only the institution of democratic government in Pakistan but also the judiciary itself, there is much literature showing that political venom was also spewed unendingly. Needless to state that Mr. Bhutto had no qualms in shaking hands with the army to shatter not only a simple democratic process but the very country itself.

Even after the departure of Zia Ul Haq, whose policies still haunt us, no lesson was learned. Subsequent years witnessed the stupidity of our political elite who had been used by the establishment against each other. Despite all the damage and disasters, finally, the Charter of Democracy in 2006, gave birth to the 18th Amendment and other productive things because of a democratic process. Parliament became a significant place for the political future of the country.

With the arrival of Imran Khan, this progress came under the wheel. With the help of the army like others, he rose like a phoenix from the ashes and in the end the so-called hybrid regime reached full fruition in 2018. He did everything to malign politicians from all political parties except those who had joined them after getting blessings from the army. Surprisingly, the then ISPR came to Imran Khan’s rescue when the PTI-led government showed profound incompetence in its early months. Much more like other politicians in Pakistan such as Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan muster the courage to have his way in the appointment of the Chief of Army Staff which was unacceptable to the institution. Predictably Imran Khan was sacked via a democratic process under the duress of the Spatial Creature. The captain cried foul for a couple of months changing his narrative from time to time, but after wasting much of this time, he started accusing the establishment.

Today, it appears that Imran Khan has parted ways with the army in a way no leader has done before. Unlike his predecessors, he openly names not only the retired officers but the serving chief and others. He calls intelligence officers names such as Dirty Harry, Madman, psychopath, and murderer. Although Imran Khan doesn’t have any principle except a burning ambition to get back to power, he has assaulted those who come between him and the premiership.

Now, the army has no options. If Imran Khan was eliminated, the defence forces would get a lion’s share of the blame; all the problems of Pakistan would be put on their shoulders and the credibility of the institution would fracture. If the man of crisis resumes power, he will ill-treat the army. Worse so, there are patent divisions within the army regarding the treatment of the PTI or Imran Khan.

Almost 8000 PTI workers including women have been put behind bars, a media blackout is in place, and no hope of relaxation is in sight. In the meantime, the economy is in a tailspin, institutions are divided and political polarization finds no bounds, yet no one seems to care about the future of this hapless country. Everyone cries for the burning of the Jinnah House, but there is complete silence as Pakistan is burning in hell. The only way forward for Pakistan is in the constitution and rule of law. All institutions should function within their constitutional boundaries otherwise the power struggle can denude the country of decency and functionality.

—The writer is contributing columnist, based in Islamabad.

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