A soft intervention by the military institution similar to Kakar formula exercised in 1993 is needed to fill the breach created by the paralysis of civilian authority now being filled by the army, says Ayaz Amir in his latest opinion piece.

“Men of limited ability, but with vast commercial and business interests, are trying to steer the ship of state and they are only succeeding in running it further aground,” writes Mir.

Rather than a military takeover, Mir proposes a soft intervention by the GHQ as solution to overcome civilian leadership’s indecisiveness and incomprehensions. His thesis could lead to several things, claims Mir in his op-ed titled “Solution is known…the words fail us”.

For example, Nawaz Sharif should be relieved by being asked to step down. Secondly, a ‘national government’ should be formed as it would be “slightly better at its job than the present mime performance”; Thirdly, the Supreme Court should be approached to allow for amendments in the constitution to give the office of president more powers and to allow for the direct election of the president; and lastly fresh national elections should be held followed by immediate local elections.

“The alternative is three more years of this circus, a prospect enough to send a shudder through the stoutest heart,” writes Mir.

Read below Op-ed by Ayaz Amir:
ayaz-amir-smWe are transfixed by the symptoms: power cuts, gas shortage, petrol crisis. We are not getting the measure of the underlying crisis, the true problem: this is a clueless and incompetent team, its capacity to run things at an all-time low. Turn this argument around a hundred times, the conclusion will still be the same: more than any energy shortage, we are facing a shortage of governmental capacity.

Men of limited ability, but with vast commercial and business interests, are trying to steer the ship of state and they are only succeeding in running it further aground.

So what’s the use of doling out gratuitous advice in such a climate? What’s the use of saying that the prime minister should bestir himself? That he should sack this or that minister and improve decision-making? This is a meaningless exercise. We have reached the point where even criticism has become an exercise in futility. What’s the point of repeating the same old things?

Each crisis, every road-turn, shows the prime minister looking more bewildered and clueless than before. For inspiration or divine enlightenment he goes up to the hills, there to hold long meetings with the same advisers and family members who collectively are responsible for the mess his government is in. Even the bracing climate of Murree provides no solution, because all we get is more indecisiveness, more incomprehension.

So we have a situation which every child can read: the breach created by the paralysis of civilian authority is being filled by the army. Do we need any doctored Gallup poll to tell us who the most popular figure in the country is today? Let me not name him, lest by the Democracy Brigade I am accused of subverting the holy fount of Pakistani democracy.

(By the way, seldom has there been a more skilled PR operator than the ISPR chief, Maj Gen Bajwa, who uses social media better than most professionals. He accompanies the army chief everywhere and whether from Washington, London or Beijing, his tweets become headline news.)

This is the imbalance we are facing: the military’s stock on the rise, civilian ratings down to zero, Nawaz Sharif now being lambasted as worse than anything that the PPP and President Zardari had to offer – this in itself quite a feat as the conventional wisdom was that at least in this world if not the next it was impossible to outbid the legacy left behind by President Zardari. How long can this situation last?

If these were normal times the inadequacy on display would be endurable. But the mantra which even former peaceniks now recite is that we are in a state of war. Government performance therefore cries out to be better.

In 1993 when the then army chief Gen Waheed Kakar saw to the stepping down of both President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from their respective offices, thereby paving the way for fresh elections, Pakistan faced a political deadlock, nothing more. Today, we face governmental paralysis, the breakdown of civilian authority, resulting in people questioning not just the competence of individuals but the relevance and usefulness of democracy.

If back in 1993 that deadlock necessitated some kind of an intervention leading to the resolution of that crisis, does the present paralysis call for nothing? Can the various centres of power, in a show of what can only be called masterly inactivity, just wait out events in the expectation that without doing anything this crisis will blow over of its own accord?

This is delusionary thinking. The country is suffering because of poor governance. A dozen Narendra Modis would not be the threat to Pakistan that our continuing failure to put our house in order is. So what are we to do? The government is past self-improvement and self-correction. So what are we to do?

To bring about a slight change of direction we don’t need anything as drastic, and in the long term as potentially destructive, as a hard intervention. We’ve had enough of those in our history. But a soft intervention of the Kakar kind is different: it would be a better option, and indeed something virtually dictated by our current circumstances. We either have that or a continuation of the present drift, and more meetings in Murree leading to nothing.

A soft intervention could lead to several things: 1) Nawaz Sharif relieved of his misery by being asked to step down; 2) the formation of a ‘national government’, slightly better at its job than the present mime performance; 3) recourse to the Supreme Court to allow for amendments in the constitution to give the office of president more powers and to allow for the direct election of the president; and 4) fresh national elections and immediate local elections. The alternative is three more years of this circus, a prospect enough to send a shudder through the stoutest heart.

Touting the virtues of democratic continuity, the knights of the Democracy Brigade reclining on their sofas marshal some facile arguments in defence of their thesis. In the long term democratic continuity will ensure stability and progress, failing to add that in the long term we will also be dead.

Yeltsin’s democracy nearly ruined Russia, Putin’s authoritarianism arresting Russia’s precipitous decline as a world power. Margaret Thatcher was eased out of power by her own party after ten years in office, when the grandees of the Conservative Party saw her as a political liability. The Labour Party got rid of Tony Blair even though he had led his party to three election victories.

If the PML-N was anything like a democratic party Nawaz Sharif and his inner cabal of family members and close advisers would have been thrown to the wolves long ago. There is a measure of inner-party democracy in the Communist Party of China, which is why we see leadership changes in China every ten years or so. There is more democracy in our corps commanders’ conferences than in our political parties. In such a milieu democratic continuity is less an affirmation of democracy than a justification for party dictatorship.

This is the problem we face today: how to bring about a change without recourse to an undemocratic intervention. The PML-N can be pushed out of power by a hard or soft intervention but within itself it has no mechanism for self-correction. The same holds true for the PPP, as indeed for most other parties.

This would be an academic discussion with no practical consequences if the national situation was not so precarious and the stakes not so high. But governmental paralysis is a fact. It is not only stoking public anger but also undermining the nation’s new-found resolve against religious extremism, the number one problem the country faces.

Whether Gen Raheel can play the role that Gen Kakar played in 1993 we do not know. In August last year at the time of the Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri dharnas, power had come out of the PM’s House and its pieces lay scattered on Constitution Avenue. If the army had wanted it could have picked up the pieces but wisely did not. Our misfortune is that political performance, far from showing any improvement from that point on, has gone further down the drain. How long can the country afford this luxury?

Tailpiece: The resignation of the Punjab governor, Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar, is another blow to an embattled dispensation. No indictment can be sharper than his departing remarks about the absence of justice in our society and the state’s failure to protect the rights of the poor.