Can any Pakistani honestly imagine Pakistan holding together without its army? I do not know of any who answers this question in the affirmative, and the implications of this are devastating i.e that every major institution of the country is non-functional, and but for the discipline and cohesion in our army, we would have been another Iraq–a chilling thought, if there ever was one.
So who is responsible for fixing the dysfunctional institutions which together constitute the
This duty obviously rests with the parliamentarians, more so with those who sit on government benches.
But will they fix them?
No, they will not.
But why not?
The answer should be quite clear. Functioning institutions get practically translated into the rule of law. And people whose primary motivation is power, the longevity of it, looting the wealth of the nation, and doing it with total impunity and guaranteed immunity, cannot abide a functioning judiciary, police, and bureaucracy, because these institutions, if fully functional, are impediments in the way of the motivating design of the rulers. And so these institutions must be whittled down and destroyed.
It is this motivation to gain and hold on to power, and plunder with immunity which has given a lie to the theory that more and frequently held elections will put the system back on the rails. Our practical experience shows that in the wake of each election the perniciousness of the attacks on these institutions has only increased. And as these institutions have progressively eroded, so have the foundations of the state. And in direct proportion to this erosion, there has been an increase in the wealth of those at the helm of affairs.
The mother of all our ills, in which are rooted all the others, is corruption, particularly corruption in high places, mega corruption, and unless this is forcefully countered, the country does not stand a chance of survival.
Economically hollowed out, ravaged by multiple insurgencies, and with rabid self-interest masquerading as governance, the tottering state of Pakistan was recently thrown a lifeline by the Chinese. Should their investment come in, and the planned economic corridor becomes functional on ground, we may breathe a new life. We may even turn a corner and start making progress in various fields.
But will this happen?
The sad answer
Not a penny from the Chinese will come in, till the law and order situation is first brought under control, and the police and judiciary become substantially functional. And following this, the bureaucracy, which will have to implement plans on ground, is culled and reformed in order to be made effective.
And none of this is about to happen precisely because those who have progressively destroyed these institutions with total commitment, will have to muster twice the commitment to turn things back in the opposite direction. And such about faces happen only in fairy tales.
So who in Pakistan has the power to turn things around sufficiently so that Pakistan will get a chance to use the lifeline thrown out by the Chinese promise?
The answer is clear: it is the army, the only major functional institution of Pakistan, who has the power and credibility to lean on the rulers to make the desired changes; to depoliticize and reform the police, and to delink the bureaucracy from the politicians to make them independent, by statutory guarantees, so that these institutions have at least half a chance to deliver.
But the army can only make suggestions. At best it can make these suggestions with urgency, anger, and exasperation. But no more. Going beyond that will be violative of the constitution.
And here lies the Dilemma of Pakistan: the leaders of the country have wrought a situation where the people must make a choice between retaining the constitution or saving their country.
The two stand at cross purposes. The interests and survival of the country stand in opposition to the way the constitution is being made to function today. The constitution today secures in power and thus gives immunity to the most powerful criminals of the land who are taking the country to the cleaners. It gives an alibi to a system of political prostitution masquerading as “democracy”. While the country, to survive, has no choice but to get rid of those to whom the constitution is providing this alibi. But in the total absence of the rule of law, these criminals and the constitution are so joined at the hip that in order to bring these criminals within the ambit of the law, the constitution will have to be violated. There simply is no other choice.
The huge majority of the people of Pakistan would rather have their country saved, than a constitution which today stands as a guardian for misrule,chaos, massive corruption, and injustice. But the people cannot redeem themselves and so they look, as always in the past, to the army to do that. So what position will the army take ? The choices are stark indeed. The irony is that, had total power been the ruling motivation of the army, it would have made its choice months earlier. But it is an army which quite clearly is not so motivated. It is therefore a measure of the criminality of the politicos that they have brought about a situation where a reluctant army must choose between Pakistan and what is struggling to pass itself off as “democracy”.
There is not too much time left for the army to make this choice. Thus far operation clean- up in Karachi was being tolerated by all the political parties, because it was the foot soldiers that were being targeted. Now that it seems that the turn of the “economic terrorists” is next, there is a discernible clutter in the dovecots of the powerful beneficiaries of the largess of unopposed plunder. And so the greatest beneficiary of all, Asif Zardari has made it clear that this will not be allowed to happen, and that he is not affrighted by the magic stick. And it seems indeed he is not, because there has been no let up in the boat loads of funds fleeing the shores of Pakistan to make home in his bank accounts in Dubai and elsewhere. His next step will be to stop the military operation in Karachi. The army must know that this moment is around the corner, and it must also know that it simply cannot allow it to pass.
The army must also be quite clear that deep down Zardari has the full support of Nawaz Sharif, exactly as laid out in the “Charter of Democracy” i.e that each will guard the political privilege of the other, which means the unhindered reach of either into the coffers of Pakistan.
Before the final call comes to the army to act, it must make two decisions:
a. It must decide as an institution that it will not allow its destruction by the appointment of a facile chief to head it. One shudders to think what would have happened if Nawaz Sharif had appointed Kayani’s nominee as the Army Chief. That this did not happen was solely due to the perception in PML that Kayani was a pro PPP man!
rmy must not ever rule the country again, as indeed it should never have done so to begin with. Because when it takes politcal power its motivating considerations and prescriptions for the ills of the country will invariably parallel those of the politicians it displaces. One has just to cast a look at the sorry Musharraf to get this point.
It is only when not using its considerable power directly, that the
rmy can use its power most effectively for the good of the country. And this must be legitimized by the constitution i.e the army must be brought in, in order that it is kept out. There is no other way around the army’s de facto power and the need to keep it at bay.
If I were the Army Chief I would be very conscious that very soon one event or the other will take place, probably in Karachi, which will suck in the army more than it would like to be sucked in. The army will have no choice left but act in the highest national interest and against the forces which are undermining it. But because these forces are protected by the constitution, this protective cover will have to be breached or set aside, because Pakistan is more important than the constitution.
rmy as an institution, represented by its highest ranks will have to make and record the decision to stand by the ultimate national interest, against the constraints imposed by a vitiated and compromised constitution well before its call to duty is sounded. And when it is, its first step should be to file an in-camera reference with the supreme court based on the reams of evidence in the ISI files.
The government must go, and the best must form an interim government which must then issue some urgently required ordinances. The most important of these should be that no one can stand for elections, against whom a criminal investigation is pending. That will be the time to charge the biggest thieves and scoundrels with corruption, to clean out the augean stables of Pakistani politics, and all those who cannot justify their wealth should should be deemed guilty. The political parties, meanwhile, should be told to reorganize and prepare for elections.
But what if the judges do not go along with the army?
My guess is that when it is clear to them that the army is in it for the whole hog, they will do right by their country. And if they don
t, they should be prepared to be shoved off to make way for others.
In the end, for once, it should all be for Pakistan and its survival. And if this is the motivating spirit, it cannot fail. Our crooks have been able to withstand everything, but they have never once been confronted by honesty of motive. I have no doubt when at long last they are so confronted, it will be their end, eventuating in the survival of our country.