Kuj sheher dey log vi zaalim san. Kuj sanu vi maran da shauk si (Azim Muneer Niazi)
The kind of government Pakistanis want is entirely their choice. Democratic, dictatorial, camouflaged military, Islamic, socialist or controlled. The rest of the world may like one or the other but will have to deal with the reality, in its own way. Attempts by others to change systems are messy, with little guarantee of success or permanence.
However, if the people of the country have decided that they wish to follow the route of free and fair elections and to be ruled by a democratically elected government then the present turmoil in Pakistan is not only inexplicable but also dangerous for Pakistan. When political leaders rely on unconstitutional support for political survival and encourage their followers to disregard established norms and institutions then they encourage chaos and unending violence. This ultimately destroys them because the institutions that protected them have ceased to exist.
Chaos rules in Pakistan as conflicting reports come from Rawalpindi and the streets are controlled by the followers of Tahirul Qadri and Imran Khan while the Prime Minister remains invisible. The Army’s initial ambivalence,instead of a forthright support for Nawaz Sharif, indicated weakening support for him. Quite obviously, Nawaz is being punished for pursuing former Army chief General Musharraf.
There are conflicting reports emanating from Islamabad about the future of a democratically elected Nawaz Sharif. The highest judiciary has stepped in with its advice, the parliament has been called to session tomorrow and Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri have been booked for treason. The entry into PTV offices and the PM’s house despite the Army’s presence in Islamabad indicates a seriously dysfunctional government.
Meanwhile, Nawaz Sharif announced he is not quitting after his three hour long meeting with the Army chief General Raheel Sharif seems to have strengthened Nawaz’s position. Latest reports indicate that protests in Islamabad have resumed. The protests have lasted 18 days and requires considerable organisation and cash flows to sustain this campaign. The Khan-Qadri duo must be flush with money or have unknown benefactors. The disclosure by PTI President Javed Hashmi that Imran Khan had decided to move to the Prime Minister’s after receiving a ‘message’ via Sheikh Rasheed and Saifullah Niazi, is telling.
There are many in India who seem to exult at Pakistan’s predicament. This is dangerous schadenfreude. As a country with our many languages, regions and religions, and despite
our poverty we have done remarkably well in strengthening our democratic credentials. But there are dangers for us if we do not learn from the Pakistani experience of mixing religion with politics or reduce our politics to street blackmail.
There is a danger of some of this happening or beginning to happen, although so far we have been able to ensure an orderly transfer of power. We do despair at times when Lok Sabha sessions are adjourned, where leaders of parties rush to the well to block proceedings, there is dismay at the lack of content in our debates, but we still cannot imagine that General Dalbir Singh or his successor in the Indian Army would be mediating between two or more warring political parties. That would be the end of democracy as we know it. Our democracy is imperfect but democracies are like that. The Indian election process itself is a global marvel that happens every five years. We, the people of India, need to retain this gift from our Constitution makers.
Over time India and Pakistan have continued to evolve differently. We have become multi ethnic multi religious and multi lingual. A review some time ago, concluded that India was the safest place in the world for Muslims. We must be doing something right, although not always. But while we may congratulate ourselves for this, we cannot afford complacency as there are enough bigots on both sides that seek to ghettoise the mind. Societies have a way of evolving helped along by its leadership. Pakistan and India have evolved differently. Pakistan stressed on a homogeneity that had to be Islamic and non-Hindu. Ours has been inclusive. There can never be any Pakistani Hindu equivalent to APJ Abdul Kalam, Amir Khan, Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan or an equivalent of a Lt. General Syed Ata Hasnain (XV Corps Srinagar) commanding a Pakistani corps facing India. These things come to us naturally.
Pakistan’s main problems were the adherence to the Two-Nation myth which prevented it from enriching its minorities along with its not-India approach. A nation is as strong as its minorities. West Pakistan had to secede from the majority in what was East Pakistan, indicating clearly the inability of its western part to live with the majority. This by definition meant an inability to accept majority rule the cardinal principle of democracy. Add to this the recurrence of military rule which is by definition and its own work ethos, not meant to be democratic. Finally, the use of religion by the Army and the politicians to retain power which meant that criticism of Islam was criticism of Pakistan and vice versa. Islamisation and radicalisation became an inevitable process.
There are, on the other hand, many Don Quixotes in our country who feel that they can tilt at the windmills in Rawalpindi by pandering to the weak in Islamabad, thereby hoping to bring eternal peace to the subcontinent. This is as wrong as the theory of some Indians who base their adversarial relations with Pakistan simply because the majority there is Muslim. We are wary ofPakistan because of their policies towards India, not because of the religion. For an Indian, the cardinal principle has to be “my religion but our country”, where the state is secular and the individual is tolerant.
Nevertheless, while Prime Minister Modi talks of a special relationship with Japan as we learn that Japan will invest nearly 35 billion dollars in India in the next five years while Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif struggles for his political survival. Therein lies the contrast but let us not be smug.
The views expressed in the above article are that of Mr. Vikram Sood, Advisor, Observer Research Foundation.