Correction of balance of power is a real issue
By Babar Ayaz
The spectre of covert and overt military intervention has haunted almost all Pakistani governments since the mid-fifties. Is this fear real, or it isn’t? That is the question.
If the chequered history of this state, which is still trying to find the right equilibrium between various institutions, is any reference then the politicians’ fears and reservations that there is state within a state cannot be brushed aside as unfounded. One of the major points of differences between the civilian government and its mighty military establishment has always been, over the control, on foreign and national security policy domain.
Within two years of the adoption of the first constitution of the country General Ayub Khan intervened with a martial law, abrogated the constitution and by 1965 pushed the country into war with India by starting a thinly veiled insurgence in Kashmir – all in the name of ‘National Security.’ Thanks to international intervention the war was stopped just before we would have lost it.
When President General Ayub Khan signed the Tashkent Accord with Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri a section of the army did not like it. Thus the anti-Tashkent bogey was led by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who boisterously talked about fighting a war with India for 1000 years. Again Bhutto and the military leadership under General Yayha Khan did not accept the peoples mandate and pushed the Bangladeshis to a liberation war giving India a chance to intervene in their support. Undoubtedly it was the failure of the military government’s national security policy that resulted in the loss of East Pakistan.
Instead of reducing the size of the military and stop its meddling with politics, Bhutto resurrected the tiger to ride over the Balochs. The tiger eventually killed him through a supposedly ‘constitutional way’ by doctoring a judicial decision. Bhutto was a benefactor of the army – he got the 90,000 Prisoners of War back from India, reclaimed the lost territory and above all started the nuclear bomb project. The project that has only strengthened the hawks in the country and is now used not only as a deterrent, but also a cover to Jihadi adventures as it gives them confidence that Indian will not enter in a full scale war fearing a nuclear attack. Kargil adventure is one such example. Still PPP and Benazir Bhutto were considered as security risks by these guardians of national security.
Benazir’s first government was sacked in the name of national security by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan but not without the support of the guardian angels of national security when she tried to normalise relations with India and called off the support to the Khalistan movement. Nobody gave her the credit of supporting the missile programme of Pakistan which provided it the nuclear bombs delivery system.
Next the fear of Nawaz Sharif about this spectre turned real when he tried to sack the General responsible for Kargil. He had to seek the US intervention, for which the present government is now being blamed. What Nawaz Sharif was trying to do was to change the Pakistan-India relations paradigm, but he was not allowed by the same spectre. Isn’t it real?
What followed was again a long military rule. When Musharraf started getting soft on India his opposition started. Then drunk on power he went ahead with a number of foolish political mistakes like sacking the Chief Justice of Pakistan without following the procedures. General Musharraf had lost the support in his constituency. He was out-maneuvered by Benazir Bhutto – most courageous leader of Pakistan. She stuck her neck out against Taliban in spite of real threats to her life and laid her life for a tolerant and democratic Pakistan.
When the present government came the PPP had the leadership vacuum. Asif Zardari, who is perceived as one of the most corrupt men, managed to get the party’s leadership. But he did not forget one lesson he had learnt from his wife, that the nation needs reconciliation. And he proved that in practice. Today Imran Khan is rightly given credit of bridging the gap between the Islamists and the liberals.
Firstly, everybody knew Zardari and his cronies’ reputation when he was elected. But the real onslaught started against this government when they started touching the issues related to foreign policy and national security – a sacred zone jealously guarded by Pakistan’s security establishment. Attempt of the government to tame the ISI shrews was dubbed as a threat to the national security. In all civilized and democratic countries across the globe intelligence agencies chiefs are appointed by the civilian government. These agencies are supposed to work within the parameters of the foreign and national security policies made by the civilian government. Their job is only to provide relevant input not to dictate the policy. But the reality here is otherwise.
Secondly, statement of the President that irked the security establishment was that Pakistan will not be the first to use the nuclear option in war with India. India has also stated this during Musharraf’s time. That is how civilized peace-loving states are supposed to be. But hawks in the establishment live foolishly on the policy that India fears us because they think we are ‘mad people’ who will use the nuclear bomb when pushed hard in any conventional war. It is that lobby which we see speaking through Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi. Unfortunately, this contention is backed by some journalists. Because the latest bogey now is that this government is a threat to the country’s nuclear programme. They are drawing support to their contention from the ‘Memo’ allegedly written by Hussain Haqqani on behalf of President Zardari.
Here I must say that change in national security and foreign policy is a must if Pakistan has to prosper and look after its people. However if the ‘Memo’ was written to the American administrations it was stupid. Even past precedence from Jinnah to Musharraf trading foreign policy and national security with the United States does not justify this rash move. PPP should learn to fight for its due right on the strength of people’s support not the ne-colonial power of the Americans.
History and recent happenings tell us that politicians are not paranoid their fears are legitimate. The authority to decide foreign and national security should rest with the people’s representatives. People are custodians of our national security. The foreign and national security crafted by the establishment has been a failure and it has today isolated Pakistan from the world. We are considered as the base for international terrorism. We the Pakistanis are faced with humiliation because of paranoia of our present policy-makers. The country’s economy suffers because of this policy. We have to build our policy exploiting our geo-strategic position for economic gains and not from military considerations only. That is if we want to take care of 72 million people who live below the subsistence line. It’s time to leave the foreign and national policy to the political government. It is the people who have to decide not the guards hired to do this job.
Coming back to the present power tussle between the PPP-led government and the military establishment, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani came out of the closet and expressed it from the floor of the parliament. Spat came the reply from the usually reserved COAS that army is not going to make any extra-constitutional move. The Supreme Court also assured that it would not endorse any unconstitutional move to remove the government as the law of necessity has been buried. The media splurged the headlines ‘back from the brink.’
But the big question is have we really turned around or this time the establishment will take the long judicial and constitutional course to remove President Zardari. This indeed is a longer arduous route to remove the present government before the March senate election. So it’s the opposition which should listen to the soothsayers’ cry “shriller than all the (media) music…‘beware of the Ides of March.’ (firstname.lastname@example.org)