Pakistan Politics: Neither mission nor vision: anarchy

Dr. Farooq Hassan

A memorable quotation comes from the erstwhile highest leader of the PPP who until his visible displacement by the government was the heir apparent to Benazir. Amin Fahim said in a press conference: “The party is being kept in habeas corpus by the incumbent leaders and the country’s overall situation is worsening.” In emotional terms the Makhdoom stated that the party had been taken hostage by a few “new entrants and elements with vested interest” in its ranks. Clearly the current administration’s joy ride into the Pakistani roller coaster of power has neither any mission nor vision. Anarchy seems to be everywhere and ominously for Pakistanis their lot is getting worse by the day.
Many unpatriotic elements are progressing daily to strengthen Musharraf’s dying regime. Not much can be said to be demonstrative of a new republican regime in harness. The power of the coalition in the early days of parliament seems to be totally, as before, lying outside the elected chamber. Formerly all powers vested in Musharraf who to this day remains unelected under the constitution. All actual exercise of authority vests with Zardari and Musharraf, both non-members of the House that represents the Will of the People. Musharraf formerly had the assistance of a Quisling Muslim League created by him; now the PPP is doing the same service.
My description of this being “Musharraf’s’ proxy” warriors is vigorously being reaffirmed. It has been adopted by leading columnists writing for established western media such as the CNN and BBC. So what we now have is this Zardari-Musharraf regime to reckon.
Bereft of any consistency, all important policy decisions and the entire direction of the state seem to be adrift and utterly rudderless. It is easily forgotten that that there was a mandate for the parliament to undertake at least the following actions within 100 days of its inaugural session (1) the implementation of the Charter of Democracy signed personally by Benazir, (2) to achieve the reversal the ethos of 17th amendment, (3) restoring November 2 judiciary, and (4) ending the fundamental effects of military dictatorship of October 12 so as to ensure that any future coup d’ tat does not occur. This is what was categorically stated unequivocally by the PM in his inaugural address to the parliament. However nothing of this nature has come about; the Islamabad administration is completely oblivious of this simple reality. Even its own supporters are now clamouring for it to act. The raison d’etre of the February mandate was to make Pakistan more democratic. Instead what are we seeing?
The country and indeed many abroad who are conversant with Pakistani political culture are aghast at the time serving manner in which the Islamabad administration is governing from Dubai! It was astonishingly noted by the press that even the PM went to Dubai to confer with him; the law minister is going there on frequent summons.
The true nature of this mis-governing mechanism has been made emphatically clear by Makhdoom who said, “mission of Bhutto and Benazir had been lost by Zardari and his cronies.” All they were interested in was to grab whatever they could! Asked to explain as to how the party was being kept “hostage”, Makhdoom said “the government’s policies reflected an appalling overall state of affairs and there was a mess.” everywhere. “The law and order situation is worsening, people are committing suicide along with their children, frontiers are unsafe, prices are rampantly rising and terrorist acts are increasing in the country.” The PPP president agreed in reply to a question that the popularity graph of the party was constantly falling and what is in store if the present state of affairs continues is not difficult to evaluate. “Ironically, the government has done nothing to improve these problem areas despite the passage of over a hundred days.”
Clearly the bane of our society is dictatorship, whether it exists openly as under martial laws or indirectly as it is currently operational in Pakistan. Military rulers are consistently presenting the assertion that they had to come to “save” the country. Most regrettably for Pakistan when they had to leave, the country stood irreparably damaged.
In 1971, it was reduced to less than half its size. The inquiry conducted by the CJ was never made public and to this day Hamoodur Rehman Commission report officially remains hidden from the eyes of the people. In fact when we ignore incidents such as March 9, the massacre of May 12, BB’s death, sacking of judges on Nov 3, and the terrible repercussions on the Pakistani army in the tribal areas, and we deny the reality of the real causation of these crucial mattes, we are doomed to be rightly called a dysfunctional state.
I think the major reasons for this very lamentable state of affairs are two fold. First is the quest for job grabbing and the second is the fact that GHQ remains under the praetorian patronage of the Pentagon, irrespective of the political realities of any given time. Take for instance, the current bureaucratic set-up. From the advisor on interior, to the new ambassador in Washington or the current National Security advisor to the PM, can one ask how were they appointed? Such public holders were not even in the country when they earned their appointments to such absolutely key positions. The first two were factually wanted by the authorities and took advantage of the NRO to cleanse themselves; the last one actually spoke against Benazir on TV in Washington and now he is occupying the position of highest significance in the government.
How and why this pattern of evolution emanates is a matter that requires a separate and bold investigative journalist and I hope some one actually undertakes such inquiries in national interest.

 

The second reason for this malaise continues to be the army’s actual connection with the Pentagon. For instance, Pakistan received around US$ 12 billion during the period 2002 to 2007 under the Coalition Support Funds (CSF). That money was directly paid to the army high command. Under the constitution all moneys received by the government must be a part of the State Revenues under the Federal Consolidated Fund but that reporting never occurred. Even the parliament was never informed as now publicly noted by several members.
The US-Pakistan relations have been largely transactional: the exchange of aid for services. That transaction is not working. Accordingly a fresh bipartisan legislation introduced in the senate US$ 1.5 billion annually is authorised for development purposes, for five years and advocates a similar amount over a subsequent five-year period, beginning 2009. Biden who recently went to Pakistan says that the bill urges reorientation of engagement towards the Pakistani people rather than merely towards the government (civil or military). It also calls for transparency in aid classified as CSF since its advent in 2001. It appears the Congress is conscious of the realities of this Pentagon-GHQ rapport and this seems to be an attempt to break that equation.
So are going do to something about it? Of course not. In Pakistan, the army functions independently of the constitution. Otherwise how can one explain the importing from the US of two PM’s, Quershi and then Aziz? It has to be this reason that even Bhutto could not dare to publicly announce the details of the Report.
The US can never find a more pliable or indeed dependable “friend” than anyone who happens to be in ostensible control of the government. So when Nawaz did what he did in 1998 he had to go. Many therefore believe that for nationalistic elements the only hope is now Mian Sahib and that he has the opportunity to serve this country.
Apart from the major security and political matters alluded to above in which the Zardari-Musharraf regime is badly faltering there are the economic woes of this poverty stricken nation. Nothing worth mentioning has been done, even less is promised. This week in an unprecedented show of anger investors attacked the Karachi Stock Exchange in protest at plunging Pakistani share prices. The situation is likely to worsen as the new government, presently caught up in political troubles, fails to focus on the economy. Last week, the country’s central bank increased interest rates to 12 percent to curb inflation and stabilise the rupee. The parity rate between the US dollar and the local currency has fallen from 60 to 1 to nearly 73 to 1 in open market. Inflation is over 12 percent and the cost of essential good rising at an alarming rate.
Initially lawyers had pinned high hopes in the government that it would not only solve the masses problems but would also address the burning issues on priority basis so that the system could go on smoothly. However lawyers while continuing their protest over the non-restoration of the deposed judges are now openly shifting the blame in this respect to the sitting government from Musharraf. They feel that the government is not willing to restore the judges because of its complicity with Musharraf over the NRO issue and Zardari is trying to put the restoration issue in the backburner in the same fashion as the government did about the release of Dr Khan.
The law and order situation in the country is most disconcerting with one big blast in Islamabad followed by 7 smaller ones in Karachi simultaneously. It is clear that the would-be saboteurs can do what they wish. During the last few months, military personnel have increasingly become targets of ambushes and kidnappings. However, US air strikes in Pakistan’s troubled tribal belt are “seriously undermining” public support for the government.
In this atmosphere, there is anarchy on the horizon as much as it seems to be on the ground. I feel there are remedies for these ailments, one being that the army should become the defender of the freedoms of the people and not merely of the country’s borders. Otherwise there is utterly no vision or mission that Zardari-Musharraf regime has for Pakistan and we are heading fast into utter anarchy.
The writer is barrister-at-law (UK), attorney-at-law (US), senior advocate Supreme Court of Pakistan, and professor Harvard University

Source: The Nation, 24/7/2008

 

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