The ghost of a military umbrella


Zaheer Bhatti
Instead of showing unanimity and a message of national solidarity in the face of the jittery Indian response to universal condemnation of its vain illegal attempt at merging Kashmir and threatening nuclear first strike, which only reflects its nervousness over the global reaction, Pakistan’s political opposition seems hell bent on becoming irrelevant in the scheme of things with Imran Khan and his external affairs team stealing the limelight on the Kashmir front as the Issue was brought alive like never before. “It is the beginning and a first step”, said expressive Maleeha Lodhi just relieved Pakistan’s Permanent Representative at the UN, whose diplomatic moves had so unnerved the Indians that they launched a smearing campaign against the mercurial lady over the social media. Little did they anticipate that she would make way for an even more seasoned Munir Akram, who with his diplomatic parlance, is already beginning to hurt the Indian Camp.
World parliamentarians including former US Deputy Foreign Secretary of State Richard Boucher condemned Indian attempt at changing the status of occupied Kashmir which he said was tantamount to erasing history and a ploy to avoid self-determination in Kashmir. Boucher rightly indicated that this step could jeopardize peace efforts in Afghanistan, which is the other objective of India, cut up over being left out of the process.
Chairperson Pakistan Caucus of the US Congress Sheila Jackson urged the Security Council to de-escalate rising tension between two nuclear-armed nations on war footing. So have the US and European parliamentarians in voicing deep concern over the siege which points to Universal sensitization of the Kashmir Issue where restrictions and continued deployment of over 800,000 troops can no longer fool the world over Modi Government’s declaration of normalcy in the State. With State after State seeking self-rule and Modi’s BJP already losing control of Maharashtra, its biggest Business hub, and beginning to get a taste of its own medicine, this was the time to showcase the misery of the people in Kashmir to stir global conscience to meaningful action.
Ironically, instead of capitalizing on Indian infirmities, the ghost of the military umbrella seems to occupy and haunt politicians in Pakistan; no matter what the Khakis do to assure them that they were dutifully subservient to legitimately elected civilian rule because most of them were nurtured in the cradle of the Armed Forces. But the worst fallout of this lack of self-assurance has been an inconsistent foreign policy, with symbolic unity displayed only on occasions of misadventures and faux pas by Pakistan’s obsessed neighbour India the new-found strategic partner of the US which having been erratically considered its all-time non-NATO ally continues to ditch Pakistan at critical junctures.
Domestically, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, picked by Field Marshal Ayub Khan as a promising young lawyer made his mark as country’s Foreign Minister in his regime, only to eventually form a political party which made its mark in a couple of years as dejected people in the then West Pakistan drew to his charisma after his famous speech vowing struggle for Kashmir even if it meant a thousand years. Stealing the limelight walking out of the UN Security Council after the East Pakistan debacle, following which he and his political party prospered wresting power by default in what was left of a truncated Pakistan in the West, launching his attractive manifesto promising Food, Shelter and clothing to the masses, succeeding in framing the 1973 Constitution unanimously, initiating the famous Islamic Summit in 1974 and ordering Pakistan’s nuclear Program in response to Indian detonations in 1974.
But Bhutto fell foul of his ambitions over which he was accused of clandestinely facilitating cessation and ceding power in the Eastern Wing to Sheikh Mujeeb in exchange for West Pakistan, followed by his disastrous Nationalization of Industries which backfired economically besides his failure to fulfill his slogan of relief for the common man and made him face a mass movement as he hung on to power after a partially manipulated poll; only to be ousted by a military coup by Zia Ul Haq, but becoming immortalized for being sent to the gallows through a historic miscarriage of justice engineered by the dictator. His promising daughter Benazir swept to power thereafter, but by then had lost control of the power base of the Punjab Province.
Another political Party namely PML(N) had in the meantime been reared in the bosom of the Khakis to challenge Benazir’s PPP, this time Nawaz Sharif, scion of an Industrial family being inducted as a finance minister in the Punjab cabinet of the military regime, to be soon elevated to Premiership vowing to break the begging bowl. But thereon taking turns in shortened terms in self-seeking musical chairs between the two which lasted a decade before another Military adventurer Gen. Musharraf sealed the civilian fate for another decade, the civilian dispensation returned to power after the commando had sold out to American diktats and landed Pakistan in a quagmire from which it was still struggling to extricate; the only difference being that this time the Khakis took a back seat and let the civilian incumbents enjoy a fuller term each.
Still weary of the alleged notion of remote controlling, the civilian set-up has continued to take the common man for a ride; the country getting worse placed economically due to rampant corruption sinking deeper in mounting debt burden, as a third force in the shape of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf led by Imran Khan a clean man, allegedly ‘selected’ by the khakis has taken the saddle in the hope of resurrecting something for the common man.
Sadly though, the accountability syndrome appears to be losing focus with Khan’s obsession targeting his two major political opponents rather than allowing across the board accountability. This has resulted in political polarization instead of the direly needed message of unison which demands putting everything else on hold against the ghastly step by India attempting illegal annexation of its occupied territory of the State of Kashmir, which is Pakistan’s lifeline.
—The writer is a media professional, member of Pioneering team of PTV and a veteran ex Director Programmes.