Will 2010 be worse then 2009? (Dec 29, 2009)

Sadly the political forecast for 2010 doesn’t look any better than the bloody 2009. On the contrary 2010 has all the indications of being worse. Why? Let’s take my last year 2009’s forecast published by Business Recorder in this space and examine objectively why there is hardly a reason to celebrate the dawn of 2010.

Last January I wrote: “So far the democratic system has faired well by developing consensus on the national security issues. It is for the first time all the parties discussed the national security issues in the parliament, they were briefed by the armed forces on the challenges and they decided to give a clear message to the militants that Pakistan’s territory cannot be used for interference in other countries.”

We all know that this year this consensus is no more. The coming weeks are going to see a direct conflict between the President House and other more powerful institutions of the establishment. Political Pundits are predicting that in a few weeks the President would be declared ineligible to hold this position by his neighbours next door and then he will have to step down to face the corruption charges. Those who are more charitable believe that he may get away by giving all the powers he has at present in a trade off for immunity. But this latter view also means that the PPP-led alliance will have to accept the perilous National Security Policy of the establishment which has brought the country to the brink of disaster. So may God save the people of Pakistan!

Last January I also said that “there are doubts that the establishment and the civilian government fully agree on National Security issues. This would mean we will keep beating around the bush, and militants would continue to operate with impunity. As a consequence we would land ourselves in an international nutcracker. Though the belligerent Bush government would give way to the change-oriented Obama government, there would be pressure on Pakistan to deliver Afghan Taliban either at the negotiating table or back the surge against them in 2009. Remember Obama has declared that the Afghan war is just, while Iraq was the wrong war.”

Obama has already announced his policy putting the burden of success on Pakistan’s support. Thus the situation is much more serious as the international pressure is going to be stifling this year and the establishment’s clever tricks would not work. It is true that the US-led alliance needs Pakistan to be successful in Afghanistan. But we should realise that this demand can only be met by taking on or atleast withdrawing shelter to the Afghan Taliban and by winding up the India specific Jihadi organisations. The political government wants to deliver this but the establishment does not. The present political conflict is the consequence of this conflict on national security policy, resurrection of President’s corruption cases is only the wrapping.

In this backdrop the probable scenario for 2010 is that the country would not only see more terrorist onslaughts but political instability as well. If the President is forced to step down by the over-zealous men in black coats and gowns, the Khaki co-evolutionists believe the democratic system would not be damaged and a new angel politician can be elected. They may be right but what they do not comprehend, consciously or unconsciously, is that the more crucial and urgent issue is the paradigm shift in the country’s national security policy and not finding some Mister Clean as the president. Please try to see through the thinly veiled tricks of the establishment. They have always used the corruption stunt to bring down political governments, as if the military rule was kosher.

Ramifications of this political conflict would be that the short-sighted establishment of Pakistan would be forced to fight the terrorists at the one hand. On the other they are going to loose the support of the largest political party which had the courage to come out openly in support of the military operation against the Jihadi terrorists. Benazir Bhutto was the only national leader, not discounting some of the regional leaders, who had the courage to take on the Jihadi terrorists. Even in her last speech before she was assassinated she thundered against the Swat Taliban. Her party has followed this policy and provided support to the army in its operations in Malakand and South Wazirstan. They are the one who are clear about changing the threat perception of Pakistan, which is in conflict with the faulty establishment theory. Policy of non-interference in the affairs of Afghanistan and India is wise; establishment’s outdated strategy to support the non-state actors against these neighbours is indeed otherwise.

Alternate scenario could be that President Zardari moves quickly with the constitutional amendments. It is not just some of the controversial clauses of the 17th Amendment that need to be chucked out of the constitution, as PML (N) and some political analysts like us to believe, the provincial autonomy related amendments are also equally important if not more. This might get President Zardari the support of Nawaz Sharif and the leaders of smaller provinces making it difficult for the establishment to force him out of office. The court can then grant him immunity in the same spirit in which it had not touched the swearing in of the President by Justice Dogar.

Perhaps the only silver-lining for 2010 is that the government has been able to stave off the economic fall and the economy is expected to grow by 3%. But the political instability and further deterioration of the internal security threatens any revved up growth and may cast dark clouds to hide this silver-lining too.

For the last two years I have been writing political and economic forecasts at the beginning of the year. Some of my readers complained that these columns were depressing. I am also not happy that much of what I wrote sadly came true. The problem is political forecasting has to be on the basis of objective analysis of available facts and trends and not on a subjective wish list. We all wish every night that tomorrow may bring peace and progress to our country. I have done it for many years every day. And if this wish would come true, I would ride a horse. My apologies my friends – the agony of knowing is tormenting for me too! (ayazbabar@gmail.com Blog: babarayaz.wordpress.com)

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