M Alam Brohi
With the news emerging in bits and pieces from the recent huddles of the Corp Commanders and the National Security Council for the trial of the arsonists and rioters suspected to have attacked and set ablaze the security and public properties in military courts under the Army Act, and the ongoing crackdown on the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, the dye has been cast. This is being done regardless of the consequences the country and its body politics would suffer in the short and long terms. However, the Human Rights Commissions and the legal minds of the country have expressed their strong reservations against the trial of civilians in military courts whatsoever charges against them.
The Game of Thrones has entered a decisive phase. The coalition regime of PDM has been adamant to complete its constitutional term notwithstanding the glaring fact that the political and economic stability which it had promised to herald in the country has eluded it. Rather, the situation has gone from bad to worse with the dwindling foreign exchange reserves; the skyrocketing inflation; the falling Pak currency; the deepening stagflation in the manufacturing industry and the shrinking private sector. Political polarization is the traditional elephant in the room to create and perpetuates the messy economic situation.
The regime was clearly under pressure until the Chairman of PTI, Imran Khan committed the blunder of dissolving the Provincial Assemblies of Punjab and KPK where he had its provincial administrations. The PDM outmaneuvered him in installing the interim governments particularly so in Punjab. His political advisors were very bad. The PDM coalition started showing its teeth with the avalanche of criminal cases against the PTI chairman and other leaders coupled with coercive and oppressive acts unheard of in democratic dispensations. However, the history of this hapless country is replete with this strong-arm governance with the exception of the three-year rule of the late gentle Prime Minister Muhammad Khan Junejo. However, D-day was the 9 May 2023 witnessing violent mobs ransacking the Jinnah House and some other security installations.
The Army has been very dear to the people of Pakistan with the exception of certain phases of our checkered history. The long military rule of General Ayub Khan, the blunder of military operation in former East Pakistan and the fall of Dhaka brought the people face to face with the Army. The subsequent Martial Law regimes of Zia-ul-Haq and Pervaiz Musharraf further damaged the image and the prestige of the Army as an Institution. Though the gerrymandering of the electoral process and managing the civilian political administrations from behind the scene have always remained an integral part of our political discourse, the people of Pakistan never lost their respect for the Army.
Almost all the political leaders since 1970 down to this day have indulged in bashing Generals for their personal and political woes. Cast a glance at the political history of any leader, you would find him at times in his career inimical to the Army Generals. At the same time, they have had no qualms in profiting from the covert or overt support of the security establishment for political power. They remained comfortably settled in the saddle of power as long as they remained on “one page” with their facilitators. The day they dared to step out of this equation, their alternative, nurtured and kept ready in the wings, would be heralded in the corridors of power.
The partners of this “One page” keep on changing. The selected of yesterday become bashers, and the yesterday’s bashers become selected. This cycle has been going on since the very inception of the country impeding the political process and democratization of the body politics and rendering the representative rule, political and economic stability as a distant dream. No strong political party and popular political leader has ever survived this vicious cycle, and the people of this country have suffered all the bad consequences of the forced political and electoral changes stoically because the political leaders keep on falling for the crumb of power throwing their ear splinting slogans of civilian supremacy to dust.
This process of cyclical political changes and the power behind them has been amply exposed by the ongoing political discourse, events and the judicial battle the country is seething with. The unannounced restrictions on the country’s media have made no difference with the political adversaries using optimally the social media against each other. The monologues of Imran Khan on social media almost every day reach hundreds of thousands. The onslaught of Vlogs – certainly a mélange of facts and fiction – has further added to the political confusion in the country. It has become really difficult for people to sift the wheat from the chaff. This excessive use of social media had whipped up the pent-up anger of political workers and triggered the riots of 9 May. Notwithstanding the political analyst pointing to the infiltration of miscreants into the crowds of the protesting political workers for a special task, the PTI leaders, however, should have been alert to any such possibility.
We have repeatedly used coercive power against popular leaders to pave the way for more amenable ones. This has always backfired creating political martyrs and legends. The list is long and notably includes Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Faiz Ahmed Faiz and his colleagues in the Pakistan Communist Party, Bengali leaders including A.K. Fazal e Haq, Khwaja Nazimuddin, Suharwardi, Shaikh Mujeeb, Abdul Rab Nishtar, Muhammad Ayub Khuhro, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Khan Abdul Wali Khan, Ghous Bukhsh Bezenjo, Sardar Attaullah Mengal, Muhtarma Benazir Bhutto, and Nawaz Sharif. Some of them have become legends and inspire thousands of followers even today.
It seems all set to add to this long list another political martyr who has politically become too formidable to be defeated in the electoral arena and whose name inspires awe and fear in certain quarters. The nation would have to live with this political tragedy.