Pakistan News Service

Wednesday Jul 28, 2021, Zul-hijjah 18, 1442 Hijri

Time to give army permanent place

16 August, 2005

By Farzana Shah

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"The continuous intervention by the army has derailed democracy in Pakistan --- Army has mutilated the constitution --- Army must go back to the barracks. Army ---  ".  Hmmm,  sounds familiar!  Sure, we often hear the politicians castigating the military for all the ills of the country and shrugging off their shoulders for their own follies. Their oft-repeated excuse for their inadequacies is that the democracy is allowed to nurture, to take its roots here in Pakistan. Every Tom Dick and Harry, in a bid to prove him/herself the biggest champion of democracy issues statements crying her/his heart out by blaming the Army for everything wrong in the country without even remotely admitting any of their own follies. But why has the army to intervene in the first place if the political forces claiming to be the true custodians of democracy in the country perform transparently and efficiently?  Why are the men in Khakis considered by all as the last hope to clean the Augustan stable every time it is left by the murky politicians? Even a cursory look at our history will point out that the not-much-enviable performance of the greedy politicians coupled with their apathy towards strengthening the democratic institutions in the country had always paved the way for army take-overs since the inception of Pakistan.

The country has been faced with the perpetual crises - both democratic as well as constitutional – and is still suffering from the malaise owing to the elitist class' insatiable avarice for grabbing the top slots in every institution of Pakistan. Soon after the creation of this land of the pure young men from the nouveau riche and the elite classes started joining the bureaucracy and the Army knowing well that these two would play the most dominant and affective role in governing the country. The early demise of the father of nation coupled with the assassination of  its first Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan, in dubious circumstances,  opened the doors for the feudals and the army  adventurists to enter into the political arena in a marked manner. The politicians due to their political diverseness and other petty self interests failed to frame the constitution of Pakistan soon after the independence. Ch. Mohammad Ali’s constitution of 1956 did not see much light of day and was abrogated in 1958 by General Muhammad Ayub Khan.  (Now) Field Marshal Ayub  set aside his own very constitution of 1962 in 1969 while passing on the mantle of power to General Yahya Khan. The most eulogised and talked about constitution of 1973  framed during Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto era and somehow still surviving though amended umpteen times,  is considered by some as an instrument of strengthening feudalism further in the country who dominate the politics and consequently the power in a big way.  As the time passed, the feudal politicians in cahoots with the bureaucracy realising the inevitable intervention of the army, took certain extra constitutional measures which they considered would be the panacea to resolve the political crises, but in fact these further confounded the confusion.. Most of the elected parliamentarians - both Provincial as well as National - belong to the upper class and are  Chaudhries, Makhdooms, Pirs, Maliks, Sardars, Nawabs, Nawabzadas, etal.  They form the inalienable part of every government – be it military,  civil, coalition or even just a Shoora  or a care taker!  No government can run without them.  And the DEMOCRACY can not repeat cannot flourish in an atmosphere where politics is a family affair.

Unfortunately for Pakistan most political parties that matter; PPP, PML, ANP and other nationalist as well as religious parties barring a very few, whether this faction or that faction are just a family affair. The party leadership is always succeeded by the heir who is automatically elected from the hereditary constitution and becomes the party leader, of course without any elections ever held within the party!  Benazir Bhutto installed herself Chairperson for Life of the PPP and Bilawal is the heir apparent.  Whether Makhdoom Fahim or Shah Mahmood like it or not, they have no chance ever to  lead the party as long as there is even a Bhutto son-in-law or a daughter-in-law not necessarily of Pakistan origin (Ghinwa) around. Likewise the ANP is Bacha Khan family affair. Despite the tussle between the mother -Begum Nasim Wali -and  the son -Asfandyar Wali - for the top slot in the party, intellectuals and the founding members like Ajmal Khattak  have either to sit on the back benches or part ways with the party.  Maulana Fazal -ur-Rehman of JUI is grooming his son and the grandson of Mufti Mahmood to step in when the time comes. So is the order of succession religiously followed by others, be they be Bugtis, Mangals, Jatois, Somoroos, Jams, Lagharis, Jamalis, Makhdooms and now the Chaudhries or Sharifs.

Talking of democracy, the country saw the worst political period from 1950 to 1958 which was marred by grave political instability. The country had as many as seven prime ministers in as many years. During the later democratic sojourns the impact of parochial and ethnic politics was so pronounced that almost all  successive governments had been weak due to lack of majority in the legislator of any political party. Collation governments had to be resorted to which are  inherently instable.  This weak collation phenomenon gave rise to the ignominious ‘horse trading’ where the members change loyalties for political and materialistic gains. To thwart such naked bargaining "Changa Manga" and ‘Swat’ operations had to be enacted. In 1988 elections MPAs were virtually held hostage at Manga rest house and Nawaz Sharif who was then the Punjab Chief Minister managed  support of more than 50 independent MPAs to form the government. The practice still goes on and the political forces claiming to be the well-wishers of masses do not let go any opportunity of safeguarding their interests.

As for as tempering of the constitution is concerned people at the helm of affairs
in every elected government laid their hands on "constitutional engineering"
making it more suitable for their particular interests.  The main architect of the 73 constitution incorporated four amendments to it in the very first week of its signing by all the political parties of the day!  The Prime Minister with the heaviest electoral mandate showed scant respect for the constitution and terrorised the judiciary by attacking the most sacred institution Supreme Court of the country.

Such practices are not in the least becoming of the politicians who decry of not being allowed to nourish and nurture the democratic institutions in the country.  Every time they got the opportunity, they flouted it recklessly. They served themselves and at that served very well too, instead of serving the masses and ameliorating the lot of their constituents.  At times their ‘dictatorial’ behaviour invoked mass protestations from the opposing parties nearly sparking off ‘civil war’.  At other times, they themselves invited the army to intervene. Jamaat Islami, the greatest opponent of General Musharraf’s quasi democratic regime was the greatest proponent of the purely Martial Law regime of General Zia!  

By considering all these factors it comes to the fore that the self serving interests of the politicians and their mutual sparring made it easy for the army to intervene in the absence of any other organised force. Ironically, during all these years, right from the days of independence,  army has also learned the art of  intricate politics and emerged as an alternate and a wiser political force ready to steer the country out of crises. Usually the armies are not meant to indulge in politics the world over. However, keeping in mind the situation in Pakistan the politicians can no longer keep the Khakis away due to their own lack of interest in honestly working for strong democratic institutions and untiring efforts for filling their own pockets inflicting heavy losses to the national exchequer.

The 1999 coup was not only self-invited but also an indicator of the fact that army could not be sidelined anymore and the politicians should refrain from tempering with it or trying to domesticate it for perpetuating their own power.  Nawaz Sharif tried to domesticate the most disciplined institution and paved the way for another military take over. On the other hand all  state matters could not be left to the irresponsible political leaders like Benazir Bhutto and others who had been issuing statements abroad regarding some sensitive policy matters and defence related decisions of the country jeopardizing  its safety and integrity creating more problems.

Looking at the present state of the political parties one has to conclude that there is no coherence even among the major political parties. PPP is divided into PPP and the PPPP, the latter being part of the present government. Again PPP has other factions like Shaheed Bhutto group headed by Ghinwa Bhutto and the Sher Pao group. The main faction party leader Benazir is abroad under self exile.  Similarly PML is divided into a number of factions and groups each having its own leader. ANP is no better. Likewise are the MQM and the religious parties who cannot  claim majority  strong enough to form a government on their own.

Echoes of the backdoor negotiations by the leading political parties have also been circling the media which means they have accepted the military rule as a legitimate entity. It’s time that either the politicians got united and refused to be part of the military governments or  accepted the army as a  partner in national politics. Formulation  of the National Security Council by General Musharraf is a step in this direction and its acceptance by the politicians will tantamount to their acceptance of the army partnership in running the affairs of the land.  The world scenario and present situation in the country where internal disorder takes precedence over external threats, also call for Pak-Army’s permanent place in the politics. Similarly the country is faced with the political disorder where almost all the parties  seem to be directionless. None of them is in a position to deal effectively with the internal sources of insecurity and political disorder without the active support of the army. The political forces should avoid pushing and pulling the military off the sidelines and should rather accept the ground realities.  In that let army play its stabilising role in reinstating the political process in the country.   On the other hand the military should also make it more appropriate for itself to lend all support to the duly elected democratic government and guide the civilian bureaucracy and political forces at the macro-level polity decision-making, leaving  peripheral issues to political forces. Now that  the present control of the army has also been validated as per Constitution and the military has found politicians as its partners and interlocutors, the military leadership should avoid taking them for granted. The army is fully aware of the civil supremacy and should show visible respect to the civil authority. The military leadership has also to avoid militarisation of civil institutions and delegate the authority to them for their self administration. The National Security Council will have to play a dual check role. Stop the military from interfering in the affairs of the civil governments, and, keep an oblique eye on the civilians from falling prey to temptations leading to corruption and unethical practices.

Although we had found Musharraf through La force de choses--the force of
circumstances, who luckily has vision and some immense leadership qualities to handle the political issues but for how long can we rely on luck, its time to take the leadership crises seriously as:
{Leaders are Like Eagles,
You Don't Find them in a Flock
You Find them One at a Time.}

We have to have Institutional Leadership.  Strong institutions producing strong leaders. Not the type of dynastical leaders that we find in abundance.


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