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Ten years for each, the generals and the Taliban

17 April, 2007

By Muhammad Ahsan Yatu


Since the past sixty years we have been experimenting mainly with two governing systems — the democracy and the martial laws. However, we did not use these systems in their entirety.  We mixed them with each other and also added to them a bit of the Sharia (Islamic law). The amalgam did not work; rather it did the reverse, and added to the political, economic and social uncertainties. Time has come to turn to ‘purity’, to give all three systems the democracy, the martial law and the Sharia a fair and absolute chance, time and action wise, separately — without mixing them with each other. Ten years for each should suffice. Whichever among them succeeds should stay for all times to come or till such times we survive!

With which one of these systems should we take a start? It must not be democracy. If we do so we will stall or fall at the gates. We will fail before we begin. Our constitution does not allow man made laws; whereas the democracy is by definition and by dynamics people centric and secular. Democracy is not an election activity only. It is a process through which people make their own laws and change them if they fail to deliver. No one and no party can dare act democratically while following the present constitution. If some one thinks it can be done, he or she is either innocent or befooling the nation. Moreover we do not have effective secular political parties around. The nationalists of Balochistan, Sindh and the NWFP are no doubt the secularists and perhaps the only available real political stuff, but they have no nationwide support. They are rather taken as anti-Pakistan, and as such are on the hit list.

The PPP the most popular political party is thoroughly religious due to its affluent feudal leadership, though at peoples’ level the reason for its strength is its liberal and socialist image. Its leaders did use to wear a liberal-leftist mask, but that is a thing of the past.  Today they repeatedly pronounce that they are not secular and will make laws in accordance with the Sharia. The second most popular party the PML (N) is led by the undisciplined affluent sections of the nation.  It is openly in favour of an Islamic rule based society. However, its popularity has major reason in the sanctity of the ‘Punjabi pug’. The ruling party the PML (Q) and its allies are flexible in all areas. Most of its leaders are rich stalwarts. They will side sincerely with a thoroughly secular system provided they get a share in power. The MQM in its outlook is a liberal and non-religious party. Factually it is sitting on the other extremity. It is so far a race based pressure group that pressurises the rich and the middle income groups alike, and also the state when needed. It will remain by composition anti-democratic. However, if its present efforts to expand its support base through out Pakistan succeed, and if it is supported by a tiny disciplined rich class that we have, it may emerge as a democratic force. So in the absence of strong democratic political parties, it is better to give the army or the politico-religious parties a chance first. It is also necessary because no political party can dare to divert national wealth from defence to development and change policies on Kashmir and Afghanistan. The army and the religious parties will allow no one to do so.

Given the numerical, material, technical, disciplinary and dynamic skills that the military claims it has, it would be best if we give first ten years to the army. No doubt the Islamists too are equally loaded with all types of skills, but they are not still as powerful and rich as the army is. They do have resources; the Pakistani, the Arab and the American rich and the agencies and the mafias do support them financially, but not to that extent that would help them match the wealth of the corporate army of Pakistan. So if they are given a chance first, the powerful army will not let them ‘succeed’. For another experiment with the destiny of Pakistan, they are the second option.

During the test period of ten years, the army should begin with the law of necessity. It should be declared as the mother of all laws. Next it should concentrate on taking over total control of the state machine. The joint chief of staff should act as the president, the chief of army staff as the prime minister, the chief of naval staff as the chief minister of the NWFP, the chief of air force as the chief minister of Punjab, and the corps commander in Quetta as the chief minister of Balochistan. The rest of the top political and bureaucratic and managerial posts in the secretariat and other national organisations should be distributed among the remaining corps commanders, lieutenant generals, major generals, the brigadiers and the colonels. Even for many tasks the suitable persons from the retired military cadre can be engaged.

The lieutenant colonels, the majors, the captains and the lieutenants can replace the deputy secretaries, the directors and the section officers. The rest of the posts can be taken over by the other ranks and the jawans. The military accounts directorate can run the financial institutions including the CBR, State Bank etc. The NAB has already replaced most of the FIA. It can take over the entire control. The police services should not be touched. The people out there are the brothers in uniform.  Moreover, if removed they will do much more than what they are doing now, and that will create a situation which even the all-powerful army would watch helplessly. Having acquired control on every thing that matters in Pakistan, there will be no hindrance to the military in implementing its reformative agendas. It can do any thing it likes.  It may even go through a metamorphosis and change its image of the army in business to the army in barracks; and revise its policies on Kashmir and Afghanistan, and also on defence allocations. It would be in the interest of the political leaders — or whatever they are and wherever they are — to sit quietly and watch the grand military show from outside.

Let us hope the military would succeed. We the people of Pakistan should support wholeheartedly whatever the military would do. What else the wretched ones can do. If the army succeeds, the experiment would stop. Onwards the army will rule smoothly and the people will live happily. The politico-religious leaders would return to the mosques, and the democrats would join their leaders in exile. If army does not succeed, which is likely, then the next is the Taliban’s turn — to do the rest. The Taliban have every thing, the divine laws and the will to implement them, their own army of male and female soldiers and hundreds of thousands of ulema who can take charge of every thing from the on ground secretariat to the planes flying in the skies. They would deliver. Even if they would not deliver anything else, they would certainly deliver the ‘peace’. They did it in Afghanistan, and this is what our army, intellectuals, political leaders and the media tell us. If peace comes to Pakistan, no matter what kind of peace, the political certainty will follow. What else will follow is anybody’s guess.

Should the political parties be given a chance after the Taliban’s ten-year test rule over Pakistan?  No, if they remain without meaningful, well-defined and workable manifestoes. No, if they are not ready to change the fiscal equation in favour of the people. No, if they are not able to give financial autonomy to the provinces. No, if they are not powerful enough to change Pakistan’s disastrous policies on Kashmir and Afghanistan. No, if they are not ready to turn to social democracy — to provide food, shelter, healthcare, education and an intellect enhancing environment to every Pakistani. No, if they are not able to secularise the constitution. No, if they are not capable of saying ‘no’ to America on the matters of peoples’ interests. No, because not much of any worth would be left to renovate after the twenty-year test rule of the army and the Taliban. If the Quaid’s Pakistan is destined to decay and degenerate, why should it happen through the peoples’ votes?

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