Brig Naseem Akhtar Khan (R)
WRITING on governance in Pakistan, which has
been a mix of political and military rules, is an
exceedingly difficult proposition. Having the opportunity to closely watch the rigmaroles for more than 30 long years, it is a sad tale to share. While the politicians and their beneficiaries blame military rulers for the worsening governance, military on the other hand, has very few to publicly defend them. I am not here to participate in any kind of blame game, but to present my opinion as a patriotic Pakistani with credible information and personal knowledge.
The story in my mind starts from some old pictures and videos from the sixties in which Gen Ayub Khan, so called a military ruler, is seen receiving red carpet reception and rousing welcome in Washington, London and other foreign capitals, with thousands lined up, chatting slogans of Pakistan Zindabad. Unfortunately, these are the same countries where our present political elite makes every endeavour to visit but practically receives no respect. The era of industrialisation during those ten years, needs no elaboration. Decline in Gen Ayub’s governance started when he tried to introduce politics in his setup. It was during the same period that Bhutto found his way into cabinet and exploited the situation as it came. Corruption sneaked-in through monopolisation of wealth and authority, leading to a rule by jaghirdars and industrialists. Bhutto’s era started as an authoritarian and corruption flourished under the cover of democracy. However, conceiving the nuclear programme and its initiation, was his contribution that can never be undermined. On the political front, the opposition ganged up against him and their protests forced Gen Zia ul Haq, to impose Martial Law in the country. I still remember, how scores of well-known politicians used to line up in front of the office of the Chief of Staff to the President, and offer their services for petty political gains. It was interesting to watch politicians with big names, eagerly waiting for vehicles with tinted glasses, to take them for meetings with the higher military brass. Stage was again set up for crony capitalism, just to give a democratic outlook to the regime.
Gen Zia’s role in forestalling Russian invasion in Afghanistan, had far-reaching after-effects. It is always quite easy to comment or write thesis, but the actual scenario can only be judged by the people who are familiar with realities on ground. We must remember that in a global war, smaller nations are always used as chess pieces and their leaders have to sail through or gain an opportunity for their country to take a second chance. I think, Gen Zia managed it quite successfully. The period between Zia’s downfall and Gen Musharraf’s takeover, was a complete elite capture, being deliberately, and formally “inducted” as a political tool of governance. While, Sharifs did it artistically, Benazir Bhutto took the shelter of Bhutto’s legacy, western face of a liberal democrat and a woman leading her country out of dictatorship. She started off under the cover of a battle against the establishment, gradually allowing her husband to play through front men for kickbacks/commission.
Nawaz Sharif believed in buying out those who matter and neutralise others through harassment and coercion. Expansion of personal business empire and consolidation of his power base were always his priority. Unfortunately, national interests too, were by-passed on occasions. It was he, who as the Prime Minister, succumbed to US pressure and deflected it to the military leadership who tactfully managed to handle and ensured successful conduct of these tests as per the schedule. After resignation of Gen Jahangir Karamat, Nawaz Sharif selected Gen Musharraf as COAS, considering him a weak man to deal with. Having found him a hard nut to crack, he secretly planned to replace him by Gen Zia ud Din. Resultantly, Nawaz Sharifs fell prey to his own follies.
Gen Musharraf had a perfect start and soon became a leader of international repute. Pakistan made a tremendous comeback, both at internal and external fronts. Everything went smooth for almost three years, till the idea of giving the government a civilian look, again erupted in the minds of the planners. That was a big loss to the credibility of his government. On external front, Pak-US partnership also experienced a set-back when Gen Musharraf refused to make compromises on some issues of national interest. NGOs were launched to discredit the government and anti-Musharraf forces were encouraged to create internal disturbances. An NGO which had initiated anti-Musharraf campaign in Islamabad through posters and rallies, when traced back, was found to have been established by a lady and a male, who had immediately left for Washington after the completion of the task. NRO was a side trap, staged through BB-Musharraf dialogue and US secret links with Zardari.
With the departure of Gen Musharraf, returned the rule of loot and plunder under the umbrella of Charter of Democracy which meant” you scratch my back and I will scratch yours”. Resultantly, today we live in a society totally controlled by mafias with institutions corrupted, divided, politicised, and penetrated by the vested interests. I think, we all are to be blamed for this mess. We have become addicted to the corrupt governance or have become immune to its effects. I too, realize that we should support “democracy of the people, by the people, for the people”, but not “to eat the people and destroy the institutions”. To end up with a positive note, there does exist a ray of hope. While, US has learnt from history and has practically rejected new aspirant in politics, army too, has seen enough of it, to be trapped again. We have a credible man, presently in power and with right kind of support, he has the capacity to deliver. All he needs is, selection of right kind of team-mates and a counter strategy to deal with the corrupt mafia.
— The writer is Security Management Professional, based in the UAE.