Asif Haroon Raja
Pakistan is going through critical times and some are of the view that the obtaining geo-political environment surrounding Pakistan are worse than 1971. The US, UK, Israel, India and Afghanistan are working in unison since late 2001 to destabilize, denuclearize and balkanize Pakistan using covert and overt means. The gang has operationalized Cold Start doctrine, Af-Pak doctrine and 4th generation war against Pakistan for the achievement of their objectives. Besides, the nukes, CPEC is the major concern of the enemies of Pakistan. In the last 15 years, Pakistan has been inflicted tens of thousands of cuts and it has suffered well over 60,000 human fatalities and economic loss of $107 billion besides huge social trauma. But for the Herculean efforts of the military establishment and the ISI, the conspirators might have achieved their objectives particularly when the NRO cleansed dream team of the US-UK was in power from 2008 to March 2013.
Things began to improve when PML-N govt took over power in June 2013 and Nawaz Sharif (NS) became the PM for the 3rd time. Since then, PML-N has adopted the path of development to make Pakistan economically and democratically strong. Imran Khan (IK) leading PTI has somehow not reconciled with the 2013 election results and has been making efforts to oust NS by hook or crook. He launched his first frontal attack in August 2014 in concert with Tahirul Qadri (TuQ) led PAT by staging a sit-in (Dharna) at Islamabad which continued till mid December 2015. During this period, the vagabonds of the two parties physically attacked the Parliament building, the PM House and the TV Station and also resorted to a malicious vilification campaign. IK also exhorted his followers to stop paying taxes. But for the gruesome terrorist attack on Army Public School in Peshawar on December 16, 2015 perpetrated by Jamaat-e-Ahrar, based in Nangarhar and masterminded by RAW-NDS, IK in all probability would have continued with his dharna. He and his party leaders are of the view that NS had a hand in the attack to force them to abandon the dharna.
After failing to achieve any political gains through dharna, IK continued with his policy of accusations and kept playing the rigging card despite the fact that the Election Commission and Judicial Commission found no role of PML-N in rigging of 2013 elections. Instead of concentrating on Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) where PTI had formed a govt and making it into a role model province, IK diverted his entire energies towards making NS controversial and unpopular. His character assassination campaigning could have produced results had the performance of federal govt or Punjab govt waned and that of KP govt improved. Turnaround of economy and all the macroeconomic indicators moving from negative to positive and the sick corporate enterprises becoming healthy made the task of IK difficult. Apart from the impressive improvement of economy and tackling of energy crisis, Pakistan also made remarkable progress on the front of terrorism which was acknowledged by the world.
These factors kept the popularity graph of PML-N and NS high and as a consequence the party won all the bye-elections, local bodies’ elections and Cantt Board elections in Punjab. PML-N also won elections with big majority in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and AJK. The main reason that PTI couldn’t win any seat against PML-N was that it pursued politics of agitation and negativity. Having experienced the horrors of black rule of the PPP led coalition, the people see NS as a reformer and a builder earnestly trying to save the ship of Pakistan from sinking and making it prosperous. Notwithstanding the large following of IK, most people find his behavior childish. His critics say he is reckless and he mindlessly drills holes in the ship by pursuing politics of agitation. Promotion of music, dance and songs culture during his public meetings are censored by Islamists. IK is brazenly claiming that he will bring a healthy change and make “Nia Pakistan”. He incites the youth to break laws and resort to violence and bring the govt machinery to a standstill so as to force NS to abdicate power and clear the path for him to take over the reins of power. This unwise policy is being followed at a time when the hordes of enemies of Pakistan are looking for an opportunity to scuttle the game changing CPEC, steal the nukes and fragment the country. Elements within PTI, ANP, MQM, PKMAP, segment of media, human rights activists, NGOs and terrorist groups TTP, BLA, BRA, BLF are facilitating the foreign anti-Pakistan agenda.
While the gullible public has always been successfully duped by the wily politicians by making false promises during election campaigns and then betraying them, what is not discernible is the role of the educated lot which seem to have also fallen prey to the dicey and catchy slogan of “Nia Pakistan”. Fascinated by the charisma of IK, they are convinced that once IK takes over power, he will bring revolutionary changes in Pakistan and the age-old diseases of Pakistan will get cured in a jiffy and Pakistan will become an Asian Tiger. They ignore the dangerous designs of Indo-US-Israel-Afghanistan nexus which will not change once IK seizes power and the implications of 4th generation war and war on terror imposed upon Pakistan. The snakes in the grass will remain ever poisonous and militant outfits ever ready to play someone else’s game to stoke terrorism for money. Political polarization will reach perilous heights making political climate uncertain.
Panama Papers scandal has given a new lease of life to PTI and it is clinging to it fervently hoping that it will help in forcing NS to resign or in his disqualification. IK and his cohorts are not prepared to buy the argument that since NS is not named in the list of 150 who have accounts in the offshore company, he should not be subjected to accountability. They want accountability to start from him and his family and not of the ones whose names have been mentioned. It implies that PTI is not interested in across the board accountability to root out scourge of corruption, but its interest reside in ouster of NS only. The mantra of corruption is not new in Pakistan. All govts had fallen because of corruption scandals together with lack of governance. Never before the sitting govt was challenged and the PM pressured to quit at a time when war threats were looming on the horizon.
Having no confidence in the Parliament, Supreme Court, Election Commission, NAB, and FBR, IK plans to cure the cancer of corruption through undemocratic and violent methods. Cupboards of some of the senior PTI leaders who are singing tunes of corruption are filled with skeletons. IK and his senior colleagues are connected with offshore companies. Ironically, the PTI solemnized marriage of convenience with the Zardari led PPP notorious for record breaking corruption, PML-Q whose top leaders are biggest loan defaulters, TuQ who has a dubious record, and one-seater Sheikh Rashid who has become a chronic instigator and troublemaker. Gen Musharraf who had been booted out in August 2008 after he became the most hated man is marking time to join the team. This is the possible collection which hope to contest mid-term elections in early 2017 and then form a coalition govt. This lot possibly led by IK hopes to change the destiny of Pakistan.
These disgruntled politicians are hoping that ejection of NS on charges of corruption will fragment PML-N, and it will vanish in thin air. They do not realise that PML-N is still most popular party in Punjab which has strong roots in Baluchistan and has made inroads in KP. It has its popular govts in GB and AJK. The Sharif brothers are still the most popular leaders. Conversely, the popularity graph of PTI and of IK has declined in KP and in Karachi, while it has no seat in Baluchistan. In mid-term elections or in June 2018 elections, PML-N is most likely to win again on the basis of its performance.
If mid-term elections take place, those in all probability will be rowdy and bloody and may have to be postponed for a considerable length of time. If we grant victory to PTI hypothetically, it will at best win with thin majority and will have to make a weak coalition govt. PPP will never accept a second position under PTI. What will happen when the aggrieved PML-N prematurely ousted from power decide to pay IK in the same coin by resorting to policy of non-cooperation and politics of agitation/dharna? How will IK carryout his reforms in the face of stiff opposition and when Punjab gets paralyzed? On whose side will be the foreign powers hostile to Pakistan? Will India and Afghanistan become friendly? Will foreign paid militant groups and terrorism melt away? Under uncertain political conditions will China be as enthusiastic to risk with its huge investment on CPEC?
IK in his ambitious quest to seize the seat of PM seem to have lost his sense of balance. He held a public meeting at Raiwind on September 30, from where he had intended to hold a sit-in at Jati Umra. He had to reluctantly call it off because of the tension created by India in Kashmir. PTI once again blamed NS alleging that India was resorting to war mongering at his behest to torpedo their march. IK refused to attend the 2-day joint sitting of the Parliament on Kashmir and thus isolated his party and also disrupted PTI-PPP blossoming relations. He has now announced that he will block Islamabad on October 30 and will not lift the siege till the PM steps down or offers himself for accountability. He has taken this solo flight at a time when the eastern and western borders are hot and daily cross-LoC firings are taking place in Kashmir.
India is beating drums of war and is breaking all records of atrocities to quell the uprising in Indian occupied Kashmir (IOK) which had erupted on July 8. Failing to suppress the sustained unarmed movement, India has stepped up its smear campaign against Pakistan by alleging that protests in IOK are Pakistan inspired and that Pakistan is abettor of terrorism. False flag operation on an army camp at Uri on 18 Sept followed by bogus surgical strike in AJK on night 28/29 Sept (which in reality was cross-LoC firing), were aimed at diverting the world attention from Indian atrocities in IOK, discredit Pak Army and blunt Pakistan’s diplomatic offensive. USA is openly siding with India.
Pak armed forces are on high alert since anything can happen to trigger war. Gen Raheel has repeatedly warned India that any form of aggression will be responded with full force. The situation warrants national unity but IK has disrupted it and to an extent damaged the cause of Kashmir. IK’s march toward federal capital will shift the gaze from Kashmir to Islamabad and will also help India to revert to offensive mode and Pakistan to defensive mode. IK is inadvertently fulfilling Indian agenda.
IK is leading the country toward a political impasse which seem similar to the one created by ZA Bhutto in early 1971 when he told Sheikh Mujibur Rahman: “Idhar hum udhar tum” (We here, you there). He also threatened to break the legs of political leaders attending the Constituent Assembly session in Dacca on March 01. Mujib on the other hand stuck to his six points, which bordered secession, saying that the constitution will be framed his way only. Earlier on, Bhutto had led the people up the garden path by his fiery speeches promising them ‘Roti, kapra, makan’, and ownership of factories, mills and lands once he came to power. Mujib pledged that East Bengal will be decolonized from the shackles of West Pakistan and milk and honey will flow in rivers of East Bengal once he took over power. The duo used charisma and power of oratory to mislead the people but their uncompromising attitude and sabre rattling paved the way for dismemberment of Pakistan into two. Both Mujib and Bhutto met horrific deaths and so did Indira Gandhi who had dug the last nail in the coffin of united Pakistan by authorizing military intervention.
IK is following the model of Bhutto and Mujib. He is projecting himself as ‘Mr. clean’ and all others as advocates of the devil and NS the chief Satan. He is promising moon to the people by chanting the slogans of ‘change’ and ‘Nia Pakistan’, but fails to realise that if he has not delivered in KP, how could he change Pakistan.
Other than the political upheaval being created by IK, anti-CPEC forces in Pakistan have become more active and are spreading falsehood that CPEC has no benefits for KP and Baluchistan. They are trying to give it an ethnic color by saying that the two smaller provinces are denied their due share and that it is China-Punjab Economic Corridor. KP CM Khattak misquoted China’s Ambassador by alleging that he had told him that there was no western route in CPEC. Journalist Salim Safi also spreads doubts and misgivings.
China has now refuted this allegation through a rejoinder which appeared in October 06 newspapers. It is a slap on the face of the accuser. China’s deputy chief of Mission Zhao Lijian has dispelled the misconception about less share to smaller provinces. He has stated in categorical terms that the projects assigned to each province within CPEC are as under: Baluchistan=16. Sindh=13. Punjab=12. KP= 8. Work on western route is being developed with full vigor by the FWO and it will be completed by 2018. Army chief Gen Raheel has given a commitment that CPEC will be made operational by November this year by moving the first cargo consignment from China to Gwadar. Details of all the projects in 4 provinces have been listed in 05 October newspapers.
The gravity of the situation demands sanity, patriotism and unity. Let the parliament and the institutions get reformed through process of evolution rather than through violent means.
The writer is a retired Brig, war veteran, defence analyst, columnist, author of 5 books, Director Measac Research Centre, Director Board of Governors Thinkers Forum Pakistan. He delivers talks and takes part in TV talk shows.