There is a normal and rational expectation on the part of a nation that when chaos hits the rulers will work towards bringing order and clarity so that the country is not left in a state of uncertainty and befuddlement. But, as with everything else in Pakistan, ours is always a unique predicament. Here we have gone through a democratic revival but there is a disconnect between the government and the rulers, or ruler – for, in practical terms, one unelected man rules the roost. Decisions are made, with no official record, behind the confines of Zardari House, with the cabinet and parliament becoming mere reflections of his will. If this is not continuity with the Musharraf-Aziz tradition, then what is? The result is becoming ever clearer with chaos reigning supreme.
Take the case of our external relations, especially with the US and specifically in the context of the so-called “war on terror.” Because of our vacillations, we are now facing our own mini-wars not only in the tribal belt but also in the NWFP. Sectarian wars have come to the fore once again and efforts to dialogue with our tribal people and “militants” are constantly being sabotaged by the centre – at whose behest is not difficult to guess! That is why, despite our “strong” verbal response to the US military attack against our security forces, the attacks against our people and territory continue unabated. So far we have taken no action in our defence against our attackers – amidst it all our military seems to have no stomach for fighting to protect our western borders. In fact, these attacks have increased in frequency post the last Karzai diatribe.
Meanwhile, with the NWFP government continuously asking the federal government to rethink our US policy, no one in Islamabad seems to be listening. So the result is a growing and dangerous chaos. But why should Islamabad listen, given the deals that have sanctified the present rulers politically? In any event, the US has ensured that its people are there as fifth columnists amidst us – be they national security advisers or ambassadors.
Equally critical, if decision-making has been privatised then institutional inputs will be missing or unrecorded, so no one knows how much substantive information is actually being made available, or what advice is given, before a decision is made. Surely for all their political wiliness, neither Zardari nor Rehman Malik has a monopoly on intelligence or wisdom? The worst of it is the fact that when state decision making is privatised one witnesses the wielding of power without responsibility.
Yet the problem of militancy and violence in FATA and NWFP can be dealt with in an orderly fashion if there was some coherent long term policy which has clear end goals of bringing the FATA into the mainstream of the Pakistani polity by eventually making it a part of the NWFP. This would automatically call for a strategy which would allow all political parties of the country to operate in the FATA and would also require political dialogue with all groups – militants and others. At the same time, short-term economic benefits need to be brought in along with schools, hospitals and so on. In other words, if the state wants to convince one’s people to renounce violence and isolate those dedicated to this form of action, the state has to give people a viable stake in the system. Also, while respecting local traditions, the state has to ensure a respect for the law of the land.
But the problem of terrorism and violence is a difficult issue so some chaos surrounding the rulers’ actions is understandable given the time factor and the inherited deals with the US. However, the chaos within the mainstream of national politics seems to be self-created. Take the judges issue. We have finally seen the PML-N, Ayaz Amir and Ahsan Iqbal notwithstanding, play its politics of compromise in their silence on the passage of the finance bill. Post the passage, the PML-N leaders at the centre have been ranting and raving about how they do not support the PCO judges and so on – but this is spin being given after the event. The only clarity is that the PML-N leader, Nawaz Sharif had a clear and defiant stand on the judges issue, including the expansion of the Supreme Court, but the troubling question is why his views were shrugged aside by his party members in the National Assembly.
In any event, we now have these PML-N politicians speaking with multiple voices in a manner similar to the PPP – so that at the declaratory level there is a deliberate chaos while deal-making leads to decisions which have little reflection in the verbal diatribes. But timing is everything and one has to credit the Zardari camp with perfect Machiavellian timing. The Lahore High Court verdict on Nawaz Sharif’s eligibility to contest elections comes ‘after’ the passage of the finance bill. A mere coincidence? Can one not envision what would have happened to the finance bill’s passage had the LHC decision come earlier? But are the PML-N leaders really that naïve to unwittingly continue to play the Zardari-Rehman Malik game? Or is there something else going on behind the smokescreen of chaos that is being sustained by the rulers? Or perhaps the phenomenon of a new and seemingly revolutionary Nawaz Sharif is not being understood by his own party members?
Ironically, as some PML-N members have charged, the coalition partners are playing silent spectators to what happened at the LHC and only Farhatullah Babar has issued a statement, whereas normally the much-vocal Sherry Rehman would have held forth on such a crucial development. Surely we now have the ultimate irony with one lot of politicians being pardoned all past sins of commission and omission through the NRO, while another lot is constantly being held to account for the same! How unique are we in our political machinations?
The games being played with the Pakistani nation as it continues its uncertain drift, are truly bizarre. And as long as President Musharraf remains in his position, everyone is ready to cast him as the villain of every piece of absurdity. So we saw him being accused of masterminding the pressure on Geo from the UAE, even though it would be more logical to have assumed this pressure had come from the government which now has more access and power with the country’s external allies. Now Musharraf is also being cast as the villain in the LHC decision.
If for no other reason but to expose the ground realities, it is time for President Musharraf to step down. For as long as he remains in the presidency, the new Machiavellians will get away with murder, literally. Whether this was part of the US-brokered deal with the US or not, President Musharraf’s continued holding of office is providing the present political power holders (both official and non-official) a convenient whipping boy for all the deliberately created chaos that we are witnessing at present. It is time the rulers of the past were held responsible for their sins of omission and commission and the new leaders took responsibility for their actions. While the prevailing chaos may benefit the rulers, it undermines the nation as it engulfs them with uncertainty and confusion. This is too steep a price to pay for the politicians’ (the uniformed and the civilians) war games.
Tailpiece: It was amusing to discover the limited tolerance some Europeans have for satirical cartoons. While Muslims were told that sacrilegious cartoons in Europe were a reflection of “freedom of speech”, two Spanish newspapers are on trial for poking fun at the Spanish King and Crown Prince. Makes you wonder!
The writer is a defence analyst. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: The News, 25/6/2008