Analysis: Be careful, the road is full of landmines!

Published: December 26, 2011

National honour, national interest and civilian corruption are the three main excuses the Army uses whenever they need to openly intervene and every time they do this the people at large find themselves accepting what is known as officially certified truth without applying their mind for obvious reasons.

ISLAMABAD: 

Imran Khan is a great achiever. And by Sunday he seems to have already achieved nearly half of what he had set for. He certainly faces a more formidable, uphill task on his way to achieving the next half, but for that he has 12 more months – enough to affect decisively the results of next general elections.

Meanwhile, let us go back to here and now. Notwithstanding the assurances held out by both the Supreme Court and the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), there appears to be no let up in the ongoing turf war between the elected government and the security institutions. The COAS has called the PM’s assertion that conspiracies were being hatched to pack up the elected government as a ‘bogey’ to divert attention from urgent security issues. The institution has also not distanced itself from the affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court by the Defence Ministry. Neither has the Supreme Court so far thrown out the affidavit, terming it as against the spirit of the Constitution and rules of business. The PM had meant what he had said. He had dared the security institutions to take over and face the music upfront rather than taking pot shots at the civilian set up every time it is held accountable for its failures. Stop passing the buck. That is what he meant when he said state within state is not acceptable.

These are the necessary pitfalls of transition – transition from dictatorship to democracy. The road to safety in such a transition is normally strewn full of land mines and you need to walk through almost as if you are taking a catwalk on a ramp. That is what our staff colleges do not teach – the required patience. Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Zia and Musharraf totally lacked the tolerance or patience that one needs to see through a complete transition. Even Gul Hasan, Aslam Beg, Asif Nawaz, Karamat and Kakar had failed to resist the temptation to intervene and set everything right in no time. The three year extension obtained by Kayani and Pasha’s two one-year extensions also indicate that they consider themselves as indispensable.

Interestingly, more than the national interest it is their urge to rule (not govern, which is messy) and to protect their privileges that more often than not makes them move. All military dictators allow the civilians to govern by holding elections and setting up elected governments without allowing them to rule by keeping the purse strings in their own tight grip. National honour, national interest and civilian corruption are the three main excuses they use whenever they need to openly intervene and every time they do this the people at large find themselves accepting what is known as officially certified truth without applying their mind for obvious reasons.

To govern efficiently you need efficient instruments of governance such as the civil service, judiciary, police, Army. However, during periods of dictatorship, these instruments normally take their dictation from the security institutions rather than using their own judgment and unlearn how to operate efficiently, remaining within the confines of scope and limits as laid down in the Constitution. So, when they are called upon to serve an elected government they tend either to over reach or under perform, bringing a bad name to the civilian dispensations.

It is while the institutions of governance are being rebuilt during these periods of transition that one needs, especially the security agencies, to show extraordinary patience.

It is not in the last four years that Pakistan lost its sovereignty. In fact it lost it bit by bit over the last 64 years. I remember when in 1952 we imported one million tons of wheat from the US which we transported from the port on camel carts with “Thank You America” hanging from the necks of the camels. India had earlier imported two million tons of wheat at much better terms but made no such show of American philanthropy.

Next, when the then-foreign minister Zafarullah Khan led Pakistan into SEATO without cabinet approval. And it was the first Muslim Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan FM Ayub Khan who discreetly negotiated leasing of Badbair base near Peshawar to the US and even the then-Air Chief Asghar Khan was not taken into confidence. No agreement was signed and no exchange of notes took place. And it was early 1960s when FM Ayub Khan told the then US ambassador William McConaughy: “Pakistan would be willing if necessary to be a US satellite if it protects Pakistan from India, but would never agree to be an Indian satellite.”

Imran seemingly is showing the way out. One hopes the security agencies would leave him alone.

(Read: Supreme Court holds the key)

Published in The Express Tribune, December 26th, 2011.

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