…by Brig. General (ret.) Asif Haroon Raja, Pakistan
[ Editor’s Note: We have another deep look into the current political state of Pakistan, a country given little coverage in US media despite its have been involved, willingly and unwillingly, in the US-Afghanistan war, where Pakistan has suffered far more than the US.
But despite endless foreign intrigues against Pakistan, it has no shortage of domestically produced ones, as domestic politics is a hard ball game, and where sometimes everyone loses.
We have found no one in Pakistan with the talent to tell his country’s story better than Raja. We are honored to bring his work to our VT audience… Jim W. Dean ]
– First published … June 10, 2019 –
Quaid-e-Azam MA Jinnah had dwarfed the political giants of the Indian Congress and had defeated the Hindu-British intrigues due to his extraordinary leadership qualities and matchless character traits.
He not only made Pakistan but also envisioned it to be a truly welfare state. No other leader in Pakistan – civil or military – could fit into his shoes or even come close to him.
Pakistanis are still looking for a leader of his caliber, who can alleviate their socio-economic sufferings, and also stand up to India’s jingoism boldly, stay clear of America’s poisonous magic spell, and make Pakistan a self-reliant and dignified nation.
They want an honest, upright and strong-willed leader who shouldn’t make any compromises on core national, security and ideological interests and should maintain the dignity and integrity of the nation.
Unfortunately, successive leaders have put self before national interests and plundered the national wealth with both hands to further improve their ostentatious lifestyle. They unhesitatingly lay prostrate and go to any extent to please and appease India, USA and the West, naively thinking that this is the only way to stay in power.
Fruitless talks with India
Field Marshal Ayub Khan, ZA Bhutto, Gen Ziaul Haq and Gen Musharraf were authoritarian rulers, but none could rid Pakistan of the social diseases despite possessing full power. They also vied for friendship with India in spite of lack of reciprocity from the other side and its evil designs to undo Pakistan.
All our leaders yearned for a dialogue with India and considered it a big diplomatic victory whenever India finding itself in difficulty agreed to hold talks. Umpteen rounds of bilateral talks have been held since early 1950s, but no headway could be made on any issue due to intransigence of India and Pakistan’s refusal to accept India’s hegemony in South Asia, or to tone down its stance on Kashmir.
Kashmir – bone of contention
The bone of contention between the two arch rivals is the lingering Kashmir dispute over which the two countries have gone to war thrice besides several conflicts and military/diplomatic standoffs. No breakthrough could be achieved since India refuses to honor the UN resolutions by giving right of self-determination to the Kashmiris to decide their future.
India fully knows that a plebiscite would surely swing in favor of Pakistan. Hence, India continues to stubbornly stick to its stance that Kashmir is the integral part of India. To retain its illegal hold over the disputed territory and to suppress the freedom movement, 750, 000 Indian security forces have unleashed a reign of terror since 1989.
Under the rule of Modi, India has broken all records of torture, human rights abuses and state terrorism against Kashmiris, and has also kept the Line of Control (LoC) hot unabatedly, but have been unable to subdue the indigenous freedom movement.
Pakistan’s incoherent Kashmir policy
Pakistan on its part has pursued incoherent Kashmir policy with unclear goals and objectives. What to talk of providing essential military support to the marooned freedom fighters operating under most adverse conditions, Pakistan’s political, diplomatic and moral support leaves much to be desired.
Its performance on the media front is also poor since India has successfully built a narrative since 1990, projecting freedom struggle in Indian occupied Kashmir (IOK) as ‘Islamic terrorism’ and Pakistan abetting terrorism in Kashmir. This was a clever move to hide its abuses against the hapless Kashmiris. Pakistan has done little to expose the ugly face of India in IOK.
The main reason is Pakistan’s passivity and policy of appeasement. Our leaders remain worried not to cross the limits of India’s patience and hence remain defensive.
ZAB and Benazir Bhutto’s tenures
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was instrumental in disrupting Ayub Khan’s golden period of progress and development. He and Sheikh Mujib injected the germs of secularism and liberalism in the two wings of Pakistan and introduced politics of agitation and defiance.
Bhutto also played a key role in truncating Pakistan in 1971 and later on signing Simla agreement with India in 1972, which put Kashmir issue in a cold freezer. He got so inspired by Lenin-Stalin communism and Mao-Chou socialism that he raised the slogan of Islamic socialism, terming it as a panacea to end the tyranny of feudalists and industrialist. He set aside the tried out economic model of Ayub Khan and opted for nationalization which ruined the fast growing industry.
The US had helped Benazir Bhutto in taking over power in 1988, 1994 and in her return to Pakistan from exile in October 2007 through shameful NRO. Each time she had pledged to roll back the nuclear program.
While her marriage with Asif Ali Zardari promoted culture of corruption, her IPP venture laid the foundation for energy crisis which ballooned up when Zardari was in power from 2008 to 2013.
Benazir provided list of insurgent Sikh leaders in 1989, which enabled India to crush the Khalistan movement in East Punjab at a time when it was well poised to get linked with Kashmiri movement.
Gen Musharraf’s rule
Gen Musharraf docilely submitted to the seven demands of USA in September 2001, the negative fallout effects of which are still being borne by Pakistan and its people. 75,000 human casualties together with financial loss of $125 billion and the trauma suffered by the people in the last 17 years are a direct result of Musharraf’s decision to join the war on terror.
He blindly relied upon USA and India and considered them as friends of Pakistan. He gave full liberty of movement to CIA and FBI, which later on enabled the two to create proxies in FATA and Baluchistan, induct Blackwater and establish a big CIA spy network in which HH played a key role.
He gave a deathblow to Kashmiri movement by suggesting an out of box solution to the dispute in which the UN resolutions were sidelined, allowing India to fence the LoC, reining in six Jihadi groups that were assisting the Kashmiris in IOK, disallowing AJK to be used as an operational base camp, and dividing the APHC leadership. Between 2004 and 2008, the Kashmiri freedom struggle had almost died down.
Throughout his 9-year rule, Musharraf never realized that the so-called friends had marked Pakistan as a target and were constantly bleeding the security forces through paid proxies and ‘do more’ policy, depleting Pakistan’s economy, tarnishing the image by hurling false accusations, and at the same time spinning a web around the county to strategically encircle and isolate Pakistan.
Nineteen administrative units were taken over by the foreign manipulated TTP, and Swat had been turned into a state within a state. Insurgency in Baluchistan had morphed into a separatist movement and RAW cultivated MQM under Altaf Hussain had taken full control of Karachi.
Zardari’s sordid rule
When Zardari became a strong president and co-chairperson of PPP in 2008, in his bid to please India, he termed the Kashmiri freedom fighters as terrorists. He appointed American/British agents Hussain Haqqani (HH) and Wajid Shams as ambassadors in Washington and London respectively.
HH in connivance with interior minister Rahman Malik and with the blessings of Zardari and Yusaf Raza Gilani facilitated thousands of CIA operatives and security contractors into Pakistan between 2008 and 2011 thereby enabling CIA to establish a huge spy network and Blackwater. Raymond Davis who had mapped the nuclear sites and had established contacts with some senior army officers was among the HH’s inductees.
When Army chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani and DG ISI Lt Gen Shuja Pasha presented whole evidence of government’s collusion with USA in the Abbottabad helicopters attack on May 2, 2011 to get Osama, Zardari saw his seat and PPP rule slipping out of his hands. Feeling threatened, he crossed the red lines of national security by directing HH, who was practically working as American ambassador since April 2008, to seek assistance of USA.
HH with the help of friend Mansoor Aijaz handed over a Memo to the US CJSC Admiral Mike Mullen. A firm commitment was given that the keys of nuclear program will be handed over to USA, American troops will be allowed to carry out hot pursuit operations in FATA, promotions and postings to sensitive posts of military officers of Brigs and above will be approved by the government and counter approved by Washington and lastly Pakistan will cut off linkages with Afghan Taliban and will establish friendly ties with India. HH suggested a new security team headed by him. In return Washington was asked to restrain Kayani.
Mansoor Aijaz spilled the beans in his article published in Financial Times in October 2011. HH was put on trial and Kayani and Pasha submitted their affidavits in the Supreme Court. It was proven that HH was the architect of Memo but he was allowed to fly off to Washington on bail in January 2012.
Memo scandal has been forgotten and ignored but HH and his wife Farah Isfahani continue to spew venom against Pakistan and Pak Army. He supports Indian narratives against Pakistan, maligns Pak Army and ISI, supports the separatist movement in Baluchistan, is well linked with MQM London and other anti-state elements and is now supporting PTM.
PML-N under Nawaz Sharif (NS) has also been soft toward India. NS cultivated personal friendship with Inder Gujral, Vajpayee and Modi in his three tenures. He also developed an understanding of ‘live and let live’ with the PPP after signing charter of democracy (CoD) in May 2006.
Conversely, he locked horns with all the army chiefs during his three stints in power. In his 3rd tenure, he ruffled the feathers of Gen Raheel Sharif by blaming the Army for covertly supporting certain militant groups which came out in the shape of Dawn leaks.
Arrest of Kulbushan in March 2016 was a godsend opportunity to expose the misdoings of India and to prove to the world that Pakistan is the biggest victim of terrorism abetted by India and Afghanistan, but NS didn’t exploit it and never mentioned his name. He subscribed to Indian contention that Pakistan was involved in Mumbai attacks.
He and his two sons maintained business ties with India through Indian nationals Ambani and Jindan and employed Indian nationals in Ramzan sugar mills and in the process multiplied their wealth and properties at home and abroad.
He had also granted MFN status to India and was eager to give land excess to India through Wagah but was restrained by the military establishment which wanted it to be linked with resolution of Kashmir dispute.
Due to better governance and financial management, PML-N fared better than PPP. During its third tenure, it managed to overcome menaces of energy crisis, rural/urban terrorism, and also stabilized the sinking economy. However, at the same time it kept increasing the debt burden at an alarming scale mainly due to massive development works and import of heavy machinery for the CPEC.
It made no efforts to carry out critical reforms, or to undertake accountability and plug the corruption holes. Another serious failure of PML-N when in opposition was its lackluster approach towards PPP’s policy of loot and plunder. It made no effort to recover the looted wealth when it came to power in June 2013 and failed to pass an accountability bill.
Probable reasons were CoD, threats from PTI, Tahirul Qadri, Establishment, and judicial activism. Focus was on CPEC and development projects to be able to win next elections. The economic indicators began to slump as a result of Panama scandal trial of NS and his disqualification in July 2017.
Uncertainty intensified after the imprisonment of NS and his daughter Maryam in July 2018. From that time onwards, there has been a constant economic downslide which persists to this day.
PTI’s fledgling rule
PTI under Imran Khan (IK) had been struggling to come in the forefront since 1996 but gained recognition in 2011 because of poor performance of the two mainstream parties and their policy of taking turns and amassing wealth.
When IK promised Naya Pakistan which will be corruption free and will provide equitable justice, jobs, houses and prosperity, it created space for the third force. However, the vote banks of PML-N in Punjab and PPP/MQM in Sindh were so heavy that PTI could manage a breakthrough only in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) in 2013 elections.
Ultimately it won elections in the Centre, KP and Punjab in July 2018 but couldn’t even get simple majority in the Centre and Punjab. Perforce PTI had to rely on tainted allies like PML-Q, MQM (P), BNP (M) and electables to muster simple majority and form governments. This has become a big handicap and a drain on IK’s mission to build Naya Pakistan.
The other big constraint is the deplorable state of economy and heavy tax burden inherited by PTI. All key sectors are in poor health and GDP has slumped to 3.3%. What is worrying is that the PTI government seems to have made no economic roadmap and had relied on wishful assumptions.
It is faced with current account deficit, budget deficit, circular debt, debt servicing, low exports, narrow tax base, low revenue collection, menaces of money laundering, fake accounts, terror financing, black money, hostile opposition and media. Government has so far not been able to do any legislation or to carryout critical reforms, and process of accountability is selective. External front has become grave for the security of Pakistan due to dangerous Indo-US-Afghan agenda.
Owing to lack of preparation and poor team selection, the ruling party’s performance in its first 10 months is dismal. It has encouraged the opposition to gang up and malign PTI.
PML-N and PPP leaders are shouting that so-called thieves and looters were far better than clean PTI which has made the lives of the deprived class unbearable due to high inflation, depreciation of Rupee, bearish stock exchange, low exports, price hike, joblessness, increasing terrorism, uncertainty and surrender to IMF’s dictates.
Looking back, one finds that in the last 71 years, none cared to improve literacy and level of education, develop state institutions, build character and refurbish moral turpitude, bridge the ethnic, sectarian and religious divides, abolish feudalism and absentee landlordism, build patriotism and nationalism and to integrate the nation.
No effort has been made to carryout electoral, educational, judicial, bureaucratic, police, economic, tax reforms and have remained content with the systems left behind by the colonial British. 1973 Constitution was brutalized several times.
Till 1988, Pakistan’s economy was reasonably stable. GDP and other economic indicators were much better than other South Asian states including India. The rot began to set in during the ten-year democratic era during which Pakistan began to come under the weight of IMF debt.
Besides the factors of weak governance, culture of corruption and political polarization, sanctions applied by the US also impacted the economy and made Pakistan’s economy dependent upon IMF.
Musharraf stabilized the economy but since it was consumer oriented, it didn’t prove lasting and whatever gains made in macro economy, were washed away by the parasitic PPP rulers led by Zardari.
Merit was shelved, cultures of kickbacks, commissions and graft spread like a virus, corruption broke all records, practice of opening fake accounts and money laundering and mega corruption scandals gained currency, debt burden doubled, energy crisis scaled new heights, too many Mafias gained strength, black money overwhelmed white money, and economy touched the brink of collapse.
Terrorism together with financial terrorism and ethnicity peaked, foreign direct investments dried up, industries became sick due to acute load shedding, and state corporations were put on oxygen. Karachi which is the economic lifeline of Pakistan was made lawless by MQM, Mafias and banned militant outfits.
Sindh under PPP-MQM rule became anarchic due to absence of accountability and corrupt civil administration and law enforcing agencies. Such murky conditions gave ample opportunities to hostile foreign agencies and their agents to fish in troubled waters and widen the existing societal divides and foment unrest.
The entire political class, civil bureaucracy, lower judiciary, legal fraternity, police, FIA, FBR, Customs, irrigation department, Patwaris, clerks, peons, state institutions, corporations, businessmen, shopkeepers etc. got involved in mal practices. Corruption was institutionalized and consequently, it seeped into all layers of society. Laws are bent or broken by the elites.
Pakistan is afflicted with dozens of chronic diseases some of which are nepotism, favoritism, hoarding, smuggling, black marketing, land grabbing, extortion, pro-rich laws, pomposity, immorality, regionalism, sectarianism, ethnicity, religious divides, Baradari system, hereditary politics, feudalism, nexus between Mafias/criminal gangs and the ones in power or the feudal lords.
There is no dearth of Mir Jaffars in the country. CIA, MI-6, Mossad and RAW have penetrated into each and every department of the country including the military.
Apart from their yearning to befriend India, our leaders have also desired to remain in good books of USA irrespective of the fact that it has betrayed Pakistan repeatedly, and is even now playing a double game. In close collaboration with India and Afghanistan, it is trying to harm Pakistan.
The leaders addicted to foreign aid remain more worried how to keep USA and India in good humor and are least concerned about the plight of the people. The loans were utilized to uphold the extravagant lifestyle of the affluent or to service the debts. Resultantly, external debts have crossed $100 billion mark. There is a big void between the elites and the poor and this gulf is widening and more and more people are falling below poverty line.
Due to dependence on the US controlled IMF, World Bank and ADB, our leaders do not mind Pakistan becoming a convenient scapegoat and a favorite whipping boy. Landlocked Afghanistan also whips Pakistan at will. They receive insults and slaps without a whimper and offer their second cheek in the hope of receiving a pat.
So far no change
There is no change in the self-defeating policy of appeasement in Naya Pakistan, and there is no change in our diplomacy/foreign policy which is defensive, apologetic and at best reactive. India is maintaining its aggressive posture and rudely turning down Pakistan’s supplications to hold talks.
So far no step has been taken to expose Indian terrorism in Pakistan and IOK in spite of collecting tons of hard evidence and having Kulbushan and Ehsanullah Ehasan in the bag. Dangers of Hindutva to minorities in India, particularly Indian Muslims have not been drummed up.
There is no plan to unleash our long arm or to win back Afghanistan, Nepal and Iran and even Bangladesh. No move has been made to draw Russia into the fold of CPEC and to create a security umbrella. Development works have been put on hold due to financial constraints and progress on CPEC has slowed down.
For the first time, Pakistan finds itself in the tight grip of US controlled IMF, which has a black record of ruining economies of many countries. Economic uplift is the only way to make Pakistan self-reliant and dignified.
At home, IK finds himself in a tight corner and is faced with a predicament whether to make compromises with the leadership of PPP and PML-N by letting them off the hook and concentrate on reforms and fulfil his promises, or else put his government’s survival at stake.
No roadmap to tackle complex issues
So far, there is no clear-cut economic roadmap to break the begging bowl and steer the country out of worst ever economic crisis. There is no plan in the offing how to counter the deadly hybrid war and economic meltdown program conceived by the enemies aimed at splintering Pakistan from within.
No plan is in the offing how to defeat Indo-US-Afghan narrative that Pakistan is abetting terrorism and the trio are victims. No policy has been devised to deal with PTM threat which is fast morphing into a new monster, and how to recover the $200 billion looted wealth.
No move forward is possible without critical reforms, but no move has been made. People are kept in the dark how the stranglehold of Indo-US strategic encirclement and isolation will be broken, how the dignity and honor of the nation will be restored, and how contaminated Pakistan will get converted into Riyasat-e-Madina.
There is thick smog over the horizon of Pakistan because of Indo-Afghan collusive hostility, Iran’s closeness with India, military standoff between USA and Iran in the Persian Gulf, Trump’s aggressive posturing against Pakistan, IMF-FATF swords hanging on Pakistan’s head, and possible agitations by political parties and the lawyers. The rulers have nothing to offer except for promises of a better future.
Armed forces and ISI provide glimmer of hope and confidence
Under uncertain conditions, armed forces and the ISI are the lone entities which stands firm, united and fully charged up to face the internal and external challenges squarely. They have rendered huge sacrifices in defeating umpteen plans of our adversaries to unravel Pakistan.
Despite suffering over 6000 fatalities and injuries to thousands, their spirits are high, their dogged resolve to defend the motherland is unwavering, and their motivation to face the challenges is matchless.
The near three million veterans have pledged to stand by the armed forces in peace and in war and honor their pledge they had given at the time of their passing out parades that they will defend the country till the last drop of their blood.
In spite of vicious campaign launched against the Army by the adversaries of Pakistan and their moles and soul sellers in Pakistan, the people remain impervious and are reposing full confidence in the defenders of Pakistan.
The writer is retired Brig, war veteran, defence analyst, columnist, author of five books, Vice Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre, member CWC and think tank Pakistan ex Servicemen Society, and member Council Tehreek Jawanan Pakistan. [email protected]