– Another dark period – by Dr Manzur Ejaz
Jamaat-i-Islami is holding rallies to condemn Osama’s death in the name of Pakistan’s sovereignty as if al Qaeda and the Taliban are not violating it.
Before Osama Bin Laden’s death in Abbottabad, Islamabad’s political orientation had shifted further to the right on every level. In retrospect, it is becoming clearer that the newfound unity between Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) had been forged with the military’s tacit support. No wonder that Prime Minister Gilani’s responses after the Abbottabad debacle were totally in sync with the military’s public face, Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR). By now all the primitive forces of Pakistan have forged an opportunistic unity barring any enlightened solution to the country’s internal and external problems.
After the Jamiat-i-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) had left the government of their own will or on someone’s prompting, the PPP was in a very precarious position. It had no solution other than bowing to the military and seeking its help. PML-Q, not a political party as such, but an ensemble of electable Pakistani aristocrats always finding it abhorrent to sit on the opposition benches, were keen to come back to the ruling group. PML-Q had served in the military-managed government of General Musharraf and got on board once they received signals from the right quarters.
Pakistan’s military had hardly any choice but to support the PPP government after exacting the maximum concessions from it. It has been reported by many insiders that the military hates to see a federal government run by Mian Nawaz Sharif and his party PML-N. The military is fearful of his independent approach and his strong belief in civilian supremacy over the armed forces. His firing of two army chiefs during his last stint as prime minster was more than the military could swallow. The military is said to believe that though the PPP government is inept and corrupt, it still listens to them and dares not challenge its will, while Mian Nawaz Sharif is going to do what he likes and may try to exert control over the ‘untouchable’ mighty institution.
A few months back the military was seemingly trying to corner the PPP and replace it with some other combination of political groupings including MQM. Mian Nawaz Sharif was being encouraged to play a role to destabilise the PPP government but, apparently, he did not oblige. Somehow, he seems to be wedded to the concept of not throwing out the democratically elected government when there is direct or indirect danger of military intervention. Since he did not take the military’s bait, the military had no choice but to work with the PPP.
A weakened PPP government due to lack of governance, incompetence and perceived corruption, had changed its patron from the US to the military. After the PPP-PML-Q alliance was put in place, Prime Minister Gilani has been issuing strong pro-military/ISI statements, owning up to all the mess that Pakistan is accused of creating.
PM Gilani’s reported suggestion to Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karazai to tilt away from the US and embrace China was also in accordance with the military’s cat and mouse play with the Americans. His out-of-place statement that the military’s intelligence agencies are following the civilian government was also an attempt at mollycoddling the GHQ. His statements after the US operation in Abbottabad followed the same pattern. In essence, the military has recreated a Musharraf-like civilian set-up, which will allow it to do whatever it likes in dealings with the US, Afghanistan, India, China and other key external partners. It also gives them a free hand to play duplicitous policy games if they like to.
Presently, the PPP is trying to outdo Imran Khan, religious parties and all other anti-US political formations in standing behind the military. Jamaat-i-Islami is holding rallies to condemn Osama’s death in the name of Pakistan’s sovereignty as if al Qaeda and the Taliban are not violating it. Some religious leaders are blaming the Yahood-o-Hunood (Jews and Hindus) for hatching a conspiracy against the Pakistan military as if Osama bin Laden had been planted by them in Abbottabad. Other random groups are even holding rallies in support of the military. This is happening at a time when the civilians, specifically the governing party, should have been asking some tough questions from the military. Instead, the political groups are competing with each other to win the trophy for being the ‘Best Military Apologist’.
Whether Osama bin Laden was living in Abbottabad with or without the military’s knowledge is a question haunting Pakistan. The world is asking if it should be considered a case of incompetence or mischief on the part of Pakistan. The PPP and all other apologists can woo the military in pursuit of their own agendas but they can neither satisfy the world (not just the US) nor force the military establishment to initiate a corrective mechanism so that, in future, Osama bin Ladens are kept away from Pakistan. In fact, the political environment has been so ‘militarised’ that the Abbottabad operation has turned out to be a blessing for the military. Now the military has proved that it is beyond scrutiny and will be more encouraged to do whatever it wishes. This simply means that the Pakistani state is going to deteriorate further with no self-correcting mechanism in sight.
The conditions in Pakistan were already bad but with the PPP-PML-Q alliance combined with pro-military noises indicate that Pakistan is entering another dark stage of history.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org