Sultan M Hali
BECAUSE of its strategic location, Pakistan has been the focus of international media attention for the past four decades. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which resulted in the US and Pakistan joining hands to recruit, train and launch jihadists from the Muslim Ummah into Afghanistan to combat the Red Army of the (erstwhile) Soviet Union also placed Pakistan on world radar. The subsequent defeat of the USSR, the emergence of Al Qaeda, internecine warfare in Afghanistan, 9/11 and the US-led invasion of Afghanistan all brought Pakistan into limelight.
Despite the fact that Pakistan again became a US ally in the 2001 war on terror, when the war went awry, the US started blaming Pakistan for its woes in the Afghan war. In its direct alliance with Pakistan’s premier security agency, ISI, US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) found the former to be a professional organization with the potential of executing operational tasks of immense proportions. Whereas the US led NATO forces failed to subdue the re-emergent Taliban in Afghanistan, on its side Pakistan Army managed to crush the terror mongers. Pakistan’s civilians and law enforcing agencies had to pay a huge price for taking on the terror groups but it managed to break the strongholds of the terror groups. Since Pakistan possesses nuclear weapons, many western powers fear that if terrorists lay hold of the nuclear weapons, they can wreak havoc in capitals of their choice. These conscientious objectors fail to take cognizance of the fact that a country whose scientists and engineers can design and produce nuclear weapons, can also plan and execute systems ensuring the safety as well as the security of the nuclear weapons.
Pakistan Army’s success in the war on terror has also been misconstrued maligning Pakistan and its Army. Contrary to Pakistan’s success in its military operations against terrorism, the US-led NATO forces have had limited accomplishment in Afghanistan despite their state-of-the-art weapon systems and massive air power. They have been blaming Pakistan for supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan and providing safe haven to their leaders. Again the western military and strategic planners remain oblivious to the factor that the Taliban control more than fifty percent of Afghan territory and they do not require sanctuaries in Pakistan. Yet Pakistan, its army and ISI continue to be scapegoats for western failures in Afghanistan. A political storm raged in Pakistan, wherein the former Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif was tried and convicted for charges of acquiring wealth beyond his means and failing to provide the money trail to acquire various luxurious properties in the west.
These cases were exposed by western sleuths under the aegis of Panama Papers. Since the Occident was wary of the success and power of Pakistan Army, its media started a campaign to malign it for interfering in Pakistan’s political systems with the help of the judiciary. There have also been reports of Mian Nawaz Sharif’s supporters funding campaigns to tarnish the image of Pakistan Army. Since no direct evidence is available to that effect, it may not be discussed here. General Elections 2018 saw a semi-hostile narrative from the western and Indian media claiming that the general elections in Pakistan were being influenced by the military with cooperation of judiciary, with the aim of defeating PML-N. This would have serious implications for our national security. This interference is considered nothing but part of the hybrid or fifth generation warfare being waged against Pakistan.
The charges are baseless because a team of international observers from the European Union and India were present during the elections. International media was also in Pakistan to cover the elections. The observers and local as well as international media was provided free access to visit polling stations, interview voters, polling staff and common people. They all concluded that they found no evidence of the Army trying to influence the polls. Pakistan Army was called to aid the civil power in maintaining law, order and security by the caretaker government. It may be remembered that 2018 has been the bloodiest elections in the history of Pakistan. Three prominent politicians and contestants in the polls and over two hundred people including Pakistan Army and Police officials were martyred in the run up to the elections. On elections day, at Quetta, a suicide bomber struck a polling station taking twenty precious lives. The army and judiciary did play an important role in providing a level playing field to the contestants. Since the Constitution of Pakistan permits it, a number of politicians switch parties or allegiances of their own volition.
This is not tantamount to rigging. A major upheaval was observed in the Pakistan Elections 2018. Old candidates, who either had a tainted track record of being involved in corruption or having remained callous to the needs of the masses, were rejected. This rebuff of some heavyweights has become unpalatable. They are not only crying foul but also trying to influence the western media with fabricated tales of Army playing favourites with Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). The youth of Pakistan and the masses who were disenchanted with feudal lords or business tycoons, whose only interest in getting elected was to amass wealth and power, decided to place its trust in Imran Khan, who has promised change. The west, which would prefer pliable rulers in Pakistan, whose lust for pelf can be exploited are also distrustful of the straight talking Imran, who cannot be bought.
—The writer is retired PAF Group Captain and a TV talk show host.