Asif Haroon Raja
Pakistan’s years of infancy
The establishment of Pakistan on August 14, 1947 was the result of the democratic struggle of Indian Muslims during the Pakistan movement under the leadership of All India Muslim League. After the creation of Pakistan, various domestic and international factors impeded growth of democracy in Pakistan. After the untimely demise of Quaid-e-Azam in September 1948, it had to struggle hard for its existence and survival because of innate animosity of India and that of Afghanistan espousing Greater Pakhtunistan and former Soviet Union’s tilt toward India. Heightened security concerns and political instability after the murder of Liaqat Ali Khan disallowed earlier leaders to achieve specific goals to make Pakistan politically stable, economically strong and secure. Tense geo-political environment also impelled Pakistan to place all its eggs in the basked of USA. It was owing to leadership crisis, east-west political wrangling and frequent change of prime ministers which delayed constitution making for nine years and impelled President Iskandar Mirza to impose martial law in 1958.
Gen Ayub and Gen Yahya eras
The 1956 Constitution was abrogated and the National Assembly was dissolved. After deposing Mirza, Gen Ayub Khan assumed power and became President through a referendum in 1960. He gave the new constitution in 1962 which introduced Presidential system, vesting all powers in the institution of President. The political parties made various types of alliances against Ayub Khan, who resigned in March 1969 and handed over powers to Gen Yahya Khan who imposed martial law and held first general elections in December 1970. Pakistan went through the traumatic experience of severance of its eastern limb by India helped by former USSR in 1971.
After the separation of East Pakistan, PPP under Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) formed its government. Charismatic and popular ZAB galvanized the depressed nation. He terrorized the military through Hamoodur Rahman Commission probe, terrified his political opponents through FSF and Dalai torture camp. Pakistan then carried the baggage of ruinous nationalization scheme of ZAB. To get rid of him, an alliance of political and religious parties known as PNA movement espousing Nizam-e-Mustafa sprouted in April 1977.
Gen Ziaul Haq’s rule
When the two sides couldn’t arrive at a political solution to break the logjam, the Army under Gen Ziaul Haq seized power in July 1977 and imposed martial law in Pakistan. In reaction to hanging of their father on April 4, 1979 after the verdict of Supreme Court, Al-Zulfiqar, a militant wing of PPP led by two sons of ZAB came into being and it was assisted by Syria, Libya, Russia, Afghanistan and India to undertake sabotage and subversion in Pakistan. PPP man Mustafa Khar during his exile in London was in contact with RAW to smuggle arms into Pakistan and when Soviet forces occupied Afghanistan in December 1979 he stated that if Soviet tanks roll into Pakistan he will garland them and come riding on them.
Zia had to face 10-year Afghan war, RAW-KGB-KHAD-AlZulfiqar sabotage, series of political disturbances including MRD movements in 1981 and 1983, but he remained firmly in his saddle and kept Islamizing the society till his death in a mysterious air crash.
Although the ten-year Afghan war helped Gen Zia in legitimizing his regime and prolonging his rule to 11 years, Afghan war ended on a mix of happy and unhappy notes for Pakistan. It enabled Gen Zia to complete its nuclear program and carryout a cold test; victory in Afghanistan enhanced his and Pakistan’s prestige substantially; it enthused the entire Muslim world; it drew in over $ 3.5 billion US assistance, which helped in upping GDP to 8% and in inducting F-16s.
On the negative side, Pakistan was callously ditched by USA and put under harsh sanctions. Pakistan was burdened with 5 million Afghan refugees and fallout effects brought in Jihadism, Kalashnikov and drug cultures. Abandoned Afghanistan became more explosive because of infighting among Mujahideen groups for power with negative consequences for Pakistan.
Benazir Bhutto (BB) during her period of exile in London had made friends in UK and US higher circles. CIA and MI-6 cultivated her and once she fell in line and agreed to tow their line if brought to power, pressure was mounted on Gen Zia and PM Junejo to let her return to Pakistan and start her political career. She was welcomed by a mammoth crowd at Lahore in April 1986. Her growing popularity didn’t upset the military as long as Gen Zia held the reins of power. But the situation took a dramatic turn after his death in a plane crash on August 7, 1988 which was masterminded by CIA. There was a power vacuum since the country was without a president and PM. Military vacuum was quickly filled up by vice army chief Gen Mirza Aslam Beg, and Chairman Senate Ghulam Ishaq Khan (GIK) took over as acting president, but in order to fill the political vacuum, it was decided to hold elections in October that year.
Benazir Bhutto’s first stint in power
Alarmed by the rising popularity of BB owing to success of her narrative that her father had been judicially murdered by the military dictator which had generated a huge sympathy wave in Punjab and Sindh, the civil and military establishment decided to form a countervailing force in the form of IJI in 1988 to prevent PPP from gaining two-thirds majority and usher in controlled democracy. The ISI under late Lt Gen Hamid Gul played a key role in this regard. Main reason for taking this unpalatable act was that it had been ascertained that BB had been fed with an agenda to roll back nuclear program, roll back the victory of Afghan Mujahideen, keep Kashmir issue on a back burner and to befriend India. Despite the IJI, PPP managed to win simple majority but found it difficult to form the federal govt. BB was allowed to take the reins of power under the conditions that GIK will be allowed to contest presidential election, Lt Gen Sahibzada Yaqub will continue as Foreign Minister, there will be no change in Afghan and Kashmir policies, and that the military will control nuclear program.
After assuming power as first woman PM of a Muslim country, BB appointed a retired general as DG ISI, closed the Afghan and Kashmir desks in ISI and curtailed funding to nuclear program. She fraternized with her Oxford friend Rajiv Gandhi, and provided list of Sikh leaders involved in Khalistan movement to India in 1989. The list helped India in crushing the movement which was well poised to get linked with the liberation movement in Kashmir. To appease the army, she awarded democracy medal to all ranks of army and also initiated guided missile program. Zardari dented her popularity after he earned the nickname of Mr. 10% due to his craze for corruption. Mounting complaints of corruption, inefficiency and security concerns impelled GIK to apply the draconian Article 58 (2-B) and sack the govt in August 1990.
Political engineering in 1990
In order to make sure that the PPP doesn’t regain power in next elections, GIK directed COAS Gen Mirza and DG ISI Lt Gen Asad Durani to arrange money and buy the loyalties of politicians. The ISI arranged Rs 140 million through Mehran Bank manager Habib Yunis, who obtained loan from Habib bank. The amount was distributed among several politicians. Political engineering enabled IJI under Nawaz Sharif (NS) to win the elections and form a govt. NS fell from grace of the president and he was booted out in April 1993. He was restored by Supreme Court Chief Justice Nasim Hasan Shah, but he and the president had to abdicate power once Gen Wahid Kakar umpired the match between the two titans.
PPP second tenure
PPP once again captured power in the next elections in 1994 but could survive only till 1996. This time her own party loyalist and handpicked President Laghari dismissed her since Zardari’s corruption rating had upped to 20% and Surrey Palace, diamond necklace, Swiss bank accounts, and several other high profile mega scandals had surfaced. At his behest, DG FIA Asghar and Additional DG FIA Rahman Malik handed over Arab militants and Pak Jihadists involved in Afghan war to USA and also fed information about Kahuta plant.
In 1996, Lt Gen Asad Durrani who had been appointed ambassador in Germany by PPP govt, handed over signed affidavit to Rahman Malik acknowledging that he had distributed money to politicians to ensure defeat of PPP. The then interior minister retired Maj Gen Naseerullah Babar stated on the floor of the parliament that money had been doled out to politicians in 1990. Based on this revelation, late Air Marshal Asghar Khan heading Tehrik Istiqlal of which Imran Khan was the member, informed Chief Justice Nasim about pre poll rigging and distribution of money to politicians to manipulate election results in 1990. The apex court however didn’t pursue the case and put it in a cold storage till it was reactivated by chief justice Iftikhar in October 2012. He ruled that 1990 elections were rigged and directed FIA to proceed against the two generals involved in the racket. GIK by then was no more in the world.
Gen Mirza and Gen Asad went into appeals against the court decision and the case was once again frozen. The 22-year old case was re-energized by incumbent chief justice Saqib Nisar on May 4, 2018 in spite of the fact that the plaintiff Asghar Khan had passed away in January 2018. Notices were sent to the accused to restart the proceedings. On May 7, Saqib and other two judges after reviewing their petitions against October 2012 judgement, rejected them. The Govt has been asked to inform the court how to proceed against the accused.
Events from 1996 – 2018
In the intervening period between 1996 and 2018, major changes that had taken place on the political front were, victory of PML-N in February 1997 elections with a heavy mandate. Ehtesab Commission was opened and corruption cases against the royal couple and others were initiated. In May 1988, Pakistan became nuclear. NS rightly took the credit and also of the first ever Islamabad-Lahore Highway and for terminating floor crossing by passing 13th Amendment. However, by making Pakistan a nuclear power, he as well as Pakistan became eye of the storm. He was demonized by his opponents, captioning him as Ameerul Momineen.
Kargil route was taken by his own appointee Gen Musharraf to dethrone his two-third majority govt on October 12, 1999. NS was awarded life sentence but was rescued by Saudi King Saud and he and his family were deported and banished from politics for next 10 years. It was during his period of exile in which he and his sons purchased Azizya steel mills and Gulf steel mills Saudi Arabia/Dubai and Avenfield apartments in London.
Democratic era (1988 – 1999)
The chaotic ten-year democratic era, nosedived the economy, increased debt burden, made Pakistan dependent upon foreign financial institutions, heightened sectarianism, ethnicity and religious extremism and decomposed moral values of the society. PPP and PML-N ruled two times each but only for shortened tenures ranging from 20 months to 2 ½ years.
Gen Musharraf’s nine-year rule
The Supreme Court legitimized Musharraf’s take over and gave him 3 years to amend the constitution and then hold elections. His 7-point agenda had germs of success and the potential to rid Pakistan of its chronic diseases, but it was never implemented. So was the NAB that was created for across the board accountability.
9/11 changed the whole dynamics of global politics. New laws were framed by the US and its strategic partners to undermine Islam and neo-colonize the Muslim world through Muslim specific war on terror. Pakistan was among the listed target countries but it was made an ally and a tactical partner to achieve short term objectives and subsequently was to be destabilized and denuclearized and Balkanized through covert war. Gen Musharraf in his quest for legitimacy and to gain goodwill of USA readily accepted all the seven demands of Washington for which Pakistan had to pay a very heavy price and is still paying. Having roped in Pakistan to act as a frontline state to fight war on terror, insurgency was ignited by CIA and FBI in FATA and interior Baluchistan and subsequently the flames of terrorism were gradually spread to all parts of Pakistan.
While Pak security forces got engaged in fighting the foreign funded and equipped terrorists, India under a pre-planned program blamed Pakistan for all the acts of terror in India from 2001 to 2008, starting with an engineered attack on Indian Parliament in December 2001 and culminating in Mumbai attacks on November 26, 2008. Likewise, Afghan President Karzai blamed Pakistan for all the attacks in Afghanistan from 2004 onward. Purpose was to build a narrative that Pak Army and ISI were rogue outfits and Pakistan an abettor of terrorism while India, Afghanistan and ISAF were victims of terrorism.
Musharraf committed the same mistake of his military predecessors by inviting the discarded and corrupt politicians to form a King’s Party in 2002 and leaning upon the shady bureaucrats and foreign imported finance minister cum PM Shaukat Aziz. Relief given by consumerism oriented economy proved short lived. None realized that a country ridden with corruption, terrorism and moral decay and devoid of genuine leadership and true democracy can never progress.
2007, a precarious year
2007 proved to be a heavy year for Musharraf. The downslide in law and order, urban terrorism, economy, energy, and extremism began after the lawyer’s movement in March 2007. Lawyers, civil society, politicians and religious forces ganged up against Musharraf. The year saw May 12, 2007 carnage in Karachi, Lal Masjid episode, birth of Punjabi Taliban, creation of TTP, sudden upsurge in urban terrorism, signing of NRO which dry cleaned PPP-MQM leaders and imposition of emergency. Civil-military relations soured and Musharraf became the most hated man while Army’s image dipped. It became difficult for officers and men to go to market or travel in uniform, or display star plate/flag on official vehicle.
NRO allowed Musharraf to rule for next five years in uniform. Thanks to patronage of Musharraf, MQM gained full control over Karachi-Hyderabad and expanded its influence in other urban centres in Sindh. Insurgency in Baluchistan morphed into a separatist movement. There was total intelligence vacuum in Karachi, Baluchistan, FATA and settled areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), allowing full liberty of action to proscribed groups to strike targets of choice. Murderous attack took place on BB on October 17 in Karachi and on December 27, she was murdered in Pindi. There was mayhem in Sindh; over Rs 4 billion worth property was destroyed by the hooligans and Pakistan ‘Na Khapey’ slogan was chanted by angry Jayalas in Sindh.
PPP returns to power
Zardari’s slogan of ‘Pakistan Khapey’ dimmed the volatility in Sindh, enabling him to hijack his party with ease and take part in elections after getting himself absolved of all charges. Fragility of the state enabled USA to install a dream team after March 2008 elections and in making Zardari all powerful president. PML-N govt in Punjab was the only eyesore. The coalition govt of PPP-MQM-ANP zealously pursued the US agenda to civilianize ISI, emasculate Army, disable nuclear program and make Pakistan wholly dependent. Rahman Malik and NSA Mahmud Durrani docilely accepted Indian claim that Pakistan soil was used for launching non-state actors into Mumbai in November 2008. Former admitted that the sole surviving accused Ajmal Kasab was a Pakistani and Anchor Hamid Mir traced his village Faridpur. Although NRO was nullified by the Chief Justice in 2009, Zardari protected himself behind immunity shield and used his authority to bailout Rahman Malik and to let Hussain Haqqani (HH) fly out in 2012.
The Army couldn’t dismantle terrorism even after launching big operations in Swat, Shangla, Malakand, Dir, Buner, and six tribal agencies in FATA from 2009 to 2011. The reason was obvious; the proscribed militant groups had full support of foreign agencies, but Pakistan danced to the tunes of USA. Gen Kayani put a break on ‘Do More’ mantra by refusing to enter North Waziristan despite extreme pressure. Pakistan was punished for its defiance by way of raid on Abbottabad on May 2 and Salala attack on November 26, 2011. Arrest of Raymond Davis in January that year followed by these two incidents, Memogate scandal, and monitoring of HH, Pak ambassador in Washington, opened the eyes of security establishment. They realized how deeply the CIA and Blackwater had established their network in Pakistan. Over 8000 CIA contractors in different guises had been secretly settled in Pakistan between 2008 and 2011, and 400 houses rented in Islamabad, besides expanding the US Embassy in Islamabad beyond all proportions. Interior Minister Rahman Malik assisted HH, and several MNAs/MPAs in KP were in touch with CIA.
What could the military do when all its so-called allies were playing a double game in the garb of friends and own government was in cahoots with enemies of Pakistan wanting to enervate the military?
How could terrorism be defeated when the regime was aligned with USA which had marked Pakistan as a target and was using terrorism as a tool to disable Pak nuclear program? How terrorism could be reined in when the judges had no heart to hang terrorists and target killers and get hold of those financing terrorism? How could corruption be curbed when the ones indulging in loot and plunder could not be convicted? Chief Justice Iftikhar’s suo motos were aimed at self-projection only.
The dangerous plan to denuclearize and balkanize Pakistan was scuttled by the Army and ISI, but the vultures clawed away the meat and reduced Pakistan into a carcass in their 5-year inglorious rule.
PML-N captures power
When PML-N took over power in June 2013, it had inherited empty national kitty, heavy debt burden, crippled state corporations, depressed economy teetering at the edge of collapse, worst energy crisis and sunk image of the country. Law and order and security situation was dismal and morality of the society had degenerated. In short, everything was topsy-turvy. It was an uphill task for the new govt to put everything back on the rails. NS wore the crown studded with thorns.
To the utter surprise of his critics, things started to improve dramatically within one year which alarmed his political opponents. Tangible results were achieved in the fields of economy, terrorism, law and order, energy crisis and development due to better governance, financial management and launching intelligence based targeted operations in Karachi, Baluchistan and North Waziristan.
Nawaz Sharif’s downhill journey
PML-N’s Development agenda made visible progress despite series of impediments created by PTI from June 2014 onward through politics of agitation and non-cooperation. Worst was when the judiciary unseated NS in July 2017, deprived him of his seat of party head and disqualified him from politics for life on Iqama and not in Panama case. Law Minister Zahid Hamid was forced to resign, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar implicated in a corruption case sought refuge abroad, while foreign minister was disqualified. Several leading lights of ruling regime have been charge sheeted on account of contempt of court, while NAB has become super active in Punjab. Railway Minister is under the axe, while interior minister was shot and injured but he narrowly survived. An orchestrated campaign was launched to defame NS and his family.
It looks as if a willful effort is underway to fragment the ruling party and pave the way for others to gain power in next elections. Political coup in Baluchistan and Senate elections have reinforced this impression.
For the judiciary, PTI, PPP and segment of media allegedly backed by the establishment, NS is the target. Sufficient progress has been made in maligning NS and his family in a corruption case and he has been unseated from two seats of power and disqualified to hold any public office for life. Decision on three references filed against him and his family and his conviction is round the corner. As a consequence, PML-N which till April had stayed intact has begun to crack and over two dozen MNAs and MPAs have deserted the party.
NS was expected to throw in his towel after his unseating on July 28, 2017, but despite the hard blows he and his party leaders have suffered, he is still in a defiant mood. Since August 2 last year, he is on the offensive trying to build a narrative of innocence to garner sympathy of the people. He is repeatedly asking as to why he was ousted and inciting his voters to help him in restoring the sanctity of vote that was frequently dishonored. Encouraged by the response, he is urging the people to wait for his call and then ask his detractors as to why he was wronged. He is exhorting the people to return his party to power with heavy majority so that the constitution could be suitably amended to clips the wings of overactive judiciary. After targeting the judiciary he is now openly blaming the establishment and tags it as ‘celestial beings’.
It is this fear of amending the constitution that had in all probability impelled the unseen powers to carry out a political coup in Baluchistan in last January and then resort to horse trading in Senate elections to disallow the incumbent govt under Abbasi to perform the surgery. This apprehension together with reported linkage of NS with India as was exposed in the Dawn leaks scandal has brought the judiciary and establishment together. Hung parliament leading to making of a weak govt comprising several parties is probably what is desired. It is to this end that BAP and JSNM have come into being. PTI is treated as a Ladla while sins of PPP are being handled softly. PTI is fully supporting the judiciary and NAB and pressing them to speed up completion of trials against NS.
What was not taken into account was NS counter offensive and his narrative of ‘Mujhey Kyun Nikala’, which initially made him a laughing stock but gradually generated sympathy wave in Punjab. In spite of the hurdles, injuries incurred and smear campaign, PML-N remains a popular entity. In case Shahbaz Sharif remains in his chair, in a fair contest PML-N stands a good chance to again win in next elections even if NS is jailed.
Nawaz Sharif’s desperation
Pushed against the wall and realizing that time for his landing in jail has drawn near, it has made NS fidgety and desperate. After consistently naming the establishment as ‘celestial beings’, in desperation he has fallen to cheap tactics to degrade the military. On May 3, he said he had many secrets tucked away in his heart, and that when it becomes too unbearable for him to hold them, he will begin revealing them one by one. According to Dawn newspaper dated May 12, in his interview to Cyril Almeida at Multan, NS stated: ‘Militant organizations are active. Call them non-state actors; should we allow them to cross the border and kill over 150 people in Mumbai. He questioned, “Should we allow them?” He asked as to why no action has been taken against them. These were calculated salvos against the military and the judiciary.
Mumbai attacks were a false flag operation jointly enacted by RAW-Mossad-CIA to get Pak Army and ISI declared as rogue entities. This was admitted by Indian Home Ministry officials in 2012 and recently by a Jewish German journalist Elias Davidsson. He has given out full details of the gory drama in his book ‘The Betrayal of India’, concluding that the whole drama was cooked up and enacted with specific objectives to undermine Pakistan. India has so far not furnished any proof to substantiate its allegations, but NS cockeyed statement given in angst which is being hyped by Indian media will bolster Indo-US anti-Pakistan narrative. What is most worrying is the possibility of NS receiving a pat from enemies of Pakistan to issue this statement.
There is an uproar in Pakistan and NS who was already under heavy fire of his opponents and haters is being fiercely censured. They eye him as a traitor promoting the sinister Indo-US agenda to gain sympathy of the international establishment. Many are demanding his trial under Article 6.
NSC meeting – May 14
Dawn story was so damaging for Pakistan that a NSC meeting presided over by PM Abbasi was held on May 14 at the request of Army. Before the meeting, Abbasi held a meeting with NS and the latter informed him that his interview had been distorted and he had never said that Pakistan had sent non-state actors to India. As regards his mention of non-state actors and need for their control, NS told Abbasi that this had frequently been cited by Musharraf, Rahman Malik, Mahmud Durrani and lot many journalists and academicians and there was nothing new he had said.
The press release issued after the NSC meeting termed the interview published in Dawn malicious, misleading and incorrect. The participants unanimously rejected the allegations and condemned the fallacious assertions. It was recalled that it was not Pakistan but India that had delayed the finalization of the case.
Abbasi held his own press briefing a little after the NSC meeting in which he tried to further tone down the negative effects of NS’s blooper in the light of his clarifications and stated that NS assertions were distorted and hyped by Indian media. NS in his public meeting in Buner in the afternoon didn’t express any regrets and stated that a national commission should be formed which should ascertain as to who all acted against national security, carryout trial and those found guilty should be publicly hanged.
Taking advantage of the hullabaloo, the US managed to whisk away its black listed Defence Attaché Col Joseph involved in killing a Pakistani under the pretext of diplomatic immunity.
Blunder will prove costly for Nawaz
Whatever be the case, no amount of explanations will absolve NS of this blunder since his interview can have grave repercussions for Pakistan. He cannot justify his interview to Almeida, ill-reputed for distortions. It seems NS has fatally shot himself in the foot at a wrong time when he was gaining an upper edge over chairman NAB on account of latter’s issuance of unverified press release insinuating NS for transferring $4.9 billion to India. This ill-timed stupidity will prove costly for him. His future plans of energizing his voters to create law and order situation in Punjab may be jeopardized. It may also make a negative impact on PML-N performance in elections. This inanity has brightened the chances of PTI, which has already gathered support of 70 electables in Punjab.
In case PML-N loses the race in a peacefully conducted elections without political engineering in July, it will still retain Punjab. The next federal govt will possibly be a mix of several parties which will find it exceedingly difficult to pass bills for carrying out critical reforms. It will inherit a relatively healthy Pakistan and not a sick Pakistan as it was in 2013. GDP stands at 5.8 % and is likely to increase to 6%. Economic indicators are still in positive. CPEC by itself is an economic booster which has already sucked in $ 62 billion investment and much more is to come. Once CPEC becomes operational in next one year or so, with over 7000 cargo vehicles plying every month, and new investors flocking in, bags of money will pour in. Hence the prospects for the next set of legislators are much brighter.
This factor is watering the mouths of power seekers, particularly PPP, and hence their desperation to seize power. They want to be in control of inflowing investments, taxpayer money and remittances from abroad so that they can undertake future development and social projects as well as personal enrichment. In next five years, the ones sitting in corridors of power will multiply their fortunes. In their mad lust to amass maximum wealth, they will again lose sight of welfare of masses for which they were elected. Service to people to better their lives will as usual be relegated to lowest priority and funds wasted on maintaining regal lifestyle, pomp and show and foreign visits. Tall promises will once again remain unaccomplished and gullible people would again wait for the arrival of a messiah.
The writer is a defence analyst, columnist, author of five books, vice chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre. [email protected]