Shenanigans, dangerous shenanigans

Published: December 23, 2011
The writer is a columnist, a former major of the Pakistan Army and served as press secretary to Benazir Bhutto

The writer is a columnist, a former major of the Pakistan Army and served as press secretary to Benazir Bhutto

It should come as no great surprise to those of us who live in Pakistan, and who daily see the shenanigans of the all-powerful Pakistan Army and ISI generals, that the government of Pakistan in the defence ministry has announced that it has no control over the army or the ISI. Well done, I say to the government, for once more saying it like it is: the first time being when the matter of the missing persons was agitated before the Honourable Supreme Court, no less. And when a notice of the Honourable Court to the DG ISI was answered by the appearance of a Lt. Col. of the army’s legal branch! So much for the majesty of law.

But more than that, kudos to the prime minister for so clearly saying that every institution of state (here obviously referring to self-same Pakistan Army and the dreaded ISI), is subservient to parliament and through parliament to the chief executive of the country: the prime minister. This needed to be said much earlier, when the army first began to destabilise the elected government very soon after the 2008 elections, and when it issued a press statement criticising the Kerry-Lugar Bill in complete violation of good order and military discipline. Had a gold braided peak-capped head or two rolled then, mayhap we would not have seen the present machinations.

Whilst the PM’s bold and much-needed attempt to put the generals in their place might not have any effect on a spoilt and used-to-power coterie which is not accountable to anyone, and while they may even now do what is their wont i.e., kick the government out as they have done many times heretofore, it is good that he has said what he said in the words that he said it in. Enough is enough, and for all I care let the devil take the hindmost.

So then, back we are at base zero with our out of control security establishment aka the Pakistani Deep State (see above) sitting back and enjoying the spectacle of the politicians doing its dirty work: going for each other’s jugulars. It is pleased as Punch, licking its chops at the prospect of reinforcing its pre-eminence as the most powerful force in Pakistan; and seeing the two large political forces, the PPP and the PML-N at each other’s throats is much relieved that its preferred so-called ‘Third Force’ will have a relatively easier time gathering more lotas and turncoats to its bosom.

Nothing could be sadder; nothing more tragic for those of us who lived through the 80s and 90s and saw up close the rancour and the bitterness that ruled Pakistani politics in those years, during which the two major parties alternately destabilised the other with the help of the establishment, no holds barred. Those shenanigans only made the Deep State ever stronger, and the political class ever weaker: the PPP government being dismissed by its ‘own’ president inside of three years and, just three years into its government, the PML-N’s being thrown out by the Commando and its leaders jailed and then exiled.

For God’s sake, will our political leaders never learn? Will they forever be hostage to the Deep State and to the conspiracies spun by it? It is all very well for the PML-N to take the Murky Memo Matter to the Supreme Court, but have its leaders who I consider my friends, ever considered the fact that whilst Mansoor Ijaz’s allegations against the federal government and its officials were immediately ‘investigated’ by the top spook himself and a public indictment issued, the same person’s allegations against Shuja Pasha weighing the possibilities of carrying out a coup against a sitting elected government have been laid to rest by a mere press release of the ISPR denying any such thing?

While it is much exercised by the Murky Memo, does the PML-N find nothing wrong in the allegations against Pasha? Will it not ask for a thorough investigation by an agency/agencies of state, say the IB and the FIA? The ISPR says Pasha did not visit any of the countries mentioned on the stated dates, but did he visit them on other dates? Has anyone forensically examined his cell phones? Or his passports — if he goes through the usual procedures of travelling abroad like the rest of us, of course?! Am I right when I say that our generals are Teflon-coated; that nothing sticks to them; that they are faultless, blameless, and doubly-blessed? That the only bad is in the ‘bloody civilians’?

I have now written for many years that the only way that the politicians can see off the great threat to themselves posed by the Deep State is to stick together come hell or high-water. They must stand shoulder-to-shoulder to prevent that scourge of democracy, the Deep State, from always driving the agenda: giving a dog a bad name and then hanging him. The most effective weapon in its arsenal is spreading rumours about a government’s corruption and ineptness. In this they make no exceptions: exact same allegations were placed at the PPP’s door as were placed at the PML-N’s. I have long said too, that if this present government does not complete its tenure, neither will the next one. But is anyone listening?

No one is, because the fact of the matter is that the real aim of what is going on is to deny the PPP the majority in the Senate that will surely be it’s if it is allowed to stay in power until the elections in March. Simple, but very bad politics, for will the PPP not destabilise the PML-N government when IT comes to power?

A quick question to my friends in the PML-N who so want the government to be rolled up immediately if not sooner and elections held in the next two months: Do you really think that the powers will allow a snap election when its preferred ‘Third Force’ is still girding its loins?

I am most sad.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 24th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (32)

  • Mahmood Saeed
    Dec 24, 2011 - 12:02AM

    Write about the record of this Government also! It is not a very pretty picture and as you know Allah’s ways are not linear. Therefore, the curse on the present government is for all the sufferings that have invited upon the citizens of this country………………..kindly tell us the figures of external debt today and when this governmnt took over, ditto for local debt, ditto for prices of all the essential commodities and ditto for our exchange rate. And, if you would please Sir, kindly also talk about corruption in say rental power plants, Haj, NICl, steel mill, railways etc etc.

    You champion civilian supremacy and i support you and applaud you. But I have never read you writing a critical piece on how the civil-military relations work in normal and sane societies. Was not Ayub invited by the civillian government of the time to join the cabinet? Did not Bhutto join Yahya and before that Ayub? Did not the politicians write and visit Zia to remove Bhutto? Did not the politicians lend hands and shoulders to Musharraf to ppepetuate his rule?

    The issue Sir is that most of our politicians are either straight illiterate and incompetent or educated incometents. And, they have llittle if any appreciation of their roles, do not learn about it and do not work at their joobs

    And, lest you should think, I assure you that I am not writing this on behalf of anyone. You can email me and I will give you any proof that you would want that I am an ordinary 70+ years old Pakistani nationalist.Recommend

  • omar
    Dec 24, 2011 - 12:31AM

    Hear hear! great article..


  • Dec 24, 2011 - 12:39AM

    sir, i totally agree with your point of politicians sticking together but don’t you think of what will be the circumstances if elections are held under Mr. zardari ?
    Isn’t he the one who tricked everyone and became president did he tell anyone what were his real motives after removing musharraf with the help of PML (N).
    P.S. everyone knows the view point of Mr. zardari on judges restoration and the subsequent handling of the honorable court at the hands of present government. WHAT is the court also playing at the hands of establishment.PLEASE
    Is Mr. Zardari all the democracy in this country isn’t he the one handling PPP while being president which has to be an impartial office.Is it ?
    please i would request you we wont have another chance current army leadership is pro democracy or they would have it long ago. YES investigate the allegations against Mr. Pasha who is stopping nawaz shareef ?
    P.S. read the contents of MEMO again and tell me what was offered to the americans.why did the govt. said initially there wasn’t any memo at all and then admit it and saying it is a non issue PLEASE PPP is the one who let the democracy down this time while they had the perfect chance :(
    But still there is hope
    Kindly be impartial yes i am totally against military interventions in politics but all they want is an inquiry is that too unconstitutional to ask ?
    but then again we live in a Praetorian state dont we ;) HAHA


  • Anonymous
    Dec 24, 2011 - 1:15AM

    We expect u to be balanced in terms of analysis of Situation. criticizing Army even in matters of National interest and supporting even corrupt practises of so called politicians makes u sound Army Centric.. Sir ppl like you and Ayesha Siddiqa represent a group which is anti state and only one commodity I.e. is Bashing Army, come what may….Recommend

  • Falcon
    Dec 24, 2011 - 1:22AM

    It seems that you are too kind to politicians, taking into consideration their mistakes. These are not “rumors” that they have under-performed, these are plain facts that are evident from economic and social indicators. Establishment should stay where they belong, but let’s not give a free card to civilians, for all their blunders are too evident.


  • Shahbaz Asif Tahir
    Dec 24, 2011 - 1:59AM

    Your beloved PPP, and Bhuttoism, are a curse for every Muslim, who loves Pakistan. Today PIA, Railways, Steel Mill, WAPDA,
    are bankrupt, because your beloved ravenous rulers, have plundered this country, to
    almost annihilation, and humiliation. You think these looters and money thirsty
    have any feelings for Pakistan. It is our noble army, always ready to deter any aggression.

  • Arifq
    Dec 24, 2011 - 2:42AM

    To perpetuate status quo, Pakistani establishment is re-engineering the socio-politicl contract between state and the people. Shafi Sahib, all praise to you for keeping the beacon of democracy alive, unfortunately your friends PML-N appears to be jumping in bed with establishment.


  • Amjad Cheema
    Dec 24, 2011 - 3:45AM

    Very well written KS, kudos


  • Sindhvoice
    Dec 24, 2011 - 4:02AM

    Thought proving and right on the spot. This articles remind me very famous Sindhi couplet of Shah Bhittai: To propagate truth is my duty and listening ( understanding) the message is your work.Wish our political class listens to this call and they unite for the stability of democracy and they dont allow any third hidden force to dictate them. Together they can and Should stand for democratic and stable Pakistan.


  • A Shahid
    Dec 24, 2011 - 5:59AM

    I am sorry but it is a disappointing piece as I could not find any solution to the problems of the people in this whole twaddle. Except for the hollow slogans of ‘supremacy of parliament’ read hands off the corrupt government no matter what, nothing else was worthwhile.

  • DG
    Dec 24, 2011 - 6:09AM

    To the several of the commenters :

    Choose how you like yourself to be governed : Democracy or Dictatorship

    If Democracy then

    A. Support the Government through thick and thin – as democracy is nascent in Pakistan

    B. Ensure that the Governement is above all in all imporatant matters – Economy, Foreign affairs, defence, home, etc. without being forced fed by Establishment.

    If Dictatorship then be ready to accept autocratic rules and do not crave for democracy.

    Check out any forum of Pakistan – you will find you the people of Pakistan do whatever is required to weaken the Governement but at the same time curse them.

    May be continuous dictatorship over major part of your existence has taken an absolute toll on your judgement – as to what is right and what is wrong

    We outsiders can only hope that you will stay as a responsible country in the comity of nations


  • Adnan
    Dec 24, 2011 - 7:28AM

    Kamran Shafi Sb.

    My Regards and Solutes to you once again!! We all are very sad but will the deep state will ever change?


  • N
    Dec 24, 2011 - 8:34AM

    Why can’t we call them a crime syndicate?


  • Mirza
    Dec 24, 2011 - 9:58AM

    KS, once again spot on. I am still hopeful that the democracy would continue in the country. It is the 21st century and after Arab Spring. Even the all powerful army cannot turn back the clock. The whole world has come closer and nothing can be hidden anymore even OBL’s presence in the safest of places. In todays inter dependent world no country can survive by keeping the terrorist safe havens. We would have to change, there are no other options.


  • Qasim
    Dec 24, 2011 - 10:28AM

    What a master stroke; for now PPP has forced army into retreat and judiciary into denials that it would not baptize takeovers as before.


  • ashok sai
    Dec 24, 2011 - 11:11AM

    As usual well done sir, you have put on enormous effort in your writing to get rid of the deep state from holding the power clutch, let us hope for democracy strengthening its roots.


  • Jp
    Dec 24, 2011 - 11:43AM

    I think pak politicians are a different lot. They dont show unity even at the cause of their mere existence. But in India it is entirely different. They show solidarity & forgets all hate and form a strong wall in the event of any threat to their identity. Anna Hazares movement is a classic example. All politcial parties are united in opposing the civil movement which deplores the politicians their importance and reduces their cult


  • PP (Punjabi Pakistani)
    Dec 24, 2011 - 12:04PM

    I Solutes to you, KS.
    It is good to see a punjabi pakistani is also talking with mind.


  • S.R.H. Hashmi
    Dec 24, 2011 - 12:54PM

    Many people in Pakistan, either intentionally or unintentionally, have very simplistic views about dictatorship and democracy. To them, if the rulers wear military uniforms or come from military background, it is dictatorship, but if they don civilian clothes and come even through an election where 44 percent of the registered voters remain unverified and most probably dubious, to put it mildly, it is democracy. Moreover, they talk only of the rights of the elected representatives in government and the responsibilities of those in opposition. Surprisingly, the duty of the two lots towards downtrodden masses does not seem to merit much attention. They also are not perturbed over the attitude of the so-called democratic parties, which is anything but democratic. There is something definitely wrong with a system where party chairmanship is for life and its eligibility is determined not through some democratic process but through a name conversion process or by dubious wills and people establishing their entitlement to the throne by being biological or spiritual son / daughter of deceased leaders or by number of years spent by them in prison, while ignoring the huge pecuniary benefits, mostly through illegal means, obtained by them during their reign, which in many cases, have been their near full-time occupation while in office. Whatever the military dictators did, they never stopped leaders from improving their party-structures to bring these in line with democratic traditions What is even worse is that there does not seem to be even a move towards this reform within their ranks despite major parties having had a few decades to do so.

    Again various forms of government like pseudo-democracy that we see in Pakistan as well as dictatorship are not things of art, to be enjoyed for the beauty of their own. Their utility lies in what they deliver to the country and to the people. Here, what we see is that while more and more people are going below the poverty line, the so-called democratic leaders’ fortunes are increasing at a rapid rate. It is for this reason that when a government is sent packing, people jubilantly welcome the new-arrival, later celebrating its departure just as enthusiastically, hoping the next one will be better, only to be disappointed once more.

    Personally, I prefer democratic setup and so do the majority of people, provided it is made up of capable and honest persons and not these inept, self-servers who are imposed on us in the name of democracy.. I hope the great advocates of democracy convince various party leaders to institute democratic traditions and checks and balances within party structures so that they become a blessing, and a matter of pride for the people. Such a set up will not fear any threat from internal or external sources because masses will stand by it.


  • Parviz Sani
    Dec 24, 2011 - 1:22PM

    I am very much like Kamran Shafi’s articles on current affairs but unfortunately our nation is divided so do the writers ,no one has the courage to write or tell the truth.We are all master in creating confusion. .Memogate case is in the supreme court of Pakistan & let the court decide .


  • Parvez
    Dec 24, 2011 - 2:42PM

    Interesting as always.
    According to you the deep state’s most effective weapon is spreading rumors of government’s corruption and ineptness. Sir, are you so naive as to think that these are just rumors ???


  • Mahmood Saeed
    Dec 24, 2011 - 3:05PM


    Well said.


  • Syed Younus Shah
    Dec 24, 2011 - 4:00PM

    I am not impressed with the column. Democracy for the sake of democracy is not what people want. Mr. Shafi, tell me one good thing that this so called democracy has done for the country? Forget achieving anything, tell me if they have intiated anything? The answer to this is they haven’t done anything. All they are doing is plundering and looting money. The president and the PM has spent years in jail and think that was the sacrifice they gave and now it is their right to be at the helm of affairs. Fair enough, however that doesnt mean that they make the country bakrupt! They are the same people who gave imunity to Musharaf and let him go free. I am sure it was on the behest of Army, why did the so called democracy allowed it? Wasnt there a state within state then? Last week the PM said that all is well between them and the Army. What happend now? The PM said that we are the servants of the people and will fight for the rights of the people, well said! What about first giving the rights of people to them. The Government is so shameless that nothing bothers them. The present government is no less than a dictatorship, they do what they feel like and do not care for the public and even the Supreme Court. Having said that, Army is no angel too.Recommend

  • Satya Issar
    Dec 24, 2011 - 4:51PM

    It is pity that most people have missed the point Mr Shafi has written about. He has clearly alluded to the failings of corrupt and inefficient politicians of both major parties and the deviousness of the Deep State in keeping each other at their throats. This bickering and blaming the opposition while in power has enabled the Deep State to prosper. Please wake up unless you want temporary glory for each party and then fall prey to the wiliness of the Deep State through their guns resting on the shoulders of the parties.


  • Jabbar Ashraf
    Dec 24, 2011 - 6:07PM

    The thing is why it’s so that each time there is a takeover, the people at the helm remain in charge for a decade, no less. And each time there is a civilian dispensation, we start hearing of corruption and malpractice stories of politicians from day one and so they are never allowed to complete their term. Are those in khaki necessarily angels, and people in mufti inherently evil? And just what wonders have these angels done to this country in their plus 30 years of governance?


  • Truth Teller
    Dec 24, 2011 - 6:09PM

    Bravo! I salute KS for writing so boldly.


  • Meekal Ahmed
    Dec 24, 2011 - 6:22PM


    Let’s face it. EVERY government in Pakistan, no matter of what stripe and color, has let the people down. Sure there have been periods of normalcy and tranquility and the economy has done well and that is pro-poor.

    But by and large and looking at the broad sweep of 64 years, the record of ALL of them is crappy. And in an important way, the trend has been down-hill and not up.


  • MJT
    Dec 24, 2011 - 6:30PM

    The government has not performed. Simple as that. U can sing all the laurels of democracy but democracy is not practiced in its essense in Pakistan, by these politicians.

    Have they been able to impose tax on the land lord? they’ve just plundered and looted. People are utterly disappointed by them


  • Haseeb Ahmad
    Dec 24, 2011 - 7:50PM

    KS, you write exceptionally well and with convincing logic. But above all, your bravado is most remarkable. Keep on and I assure you that there is a huge silent majority who understand the rationale behind your writings. And which is, there just can’t be true progress in our country unless democracy is firmly rooted. Plain and simple.
    To those who have little faith in democracy, I’ve only one question to ask. Name a single country in the whole wide world with autocratic rule that has truly progressed?


  • patriot to the bone
    Dec 24, 2011 - 8:27PM

    Dear Adnan Sahib and Shafi Sahib! There is no need to be disappointed! but let me tell you untill and unless every one of us become a responcible citizen there is offcource no hope. the faults does not lie with the politicians or the army! it lies within us! Give me the name of any politician whom you can describe as leader. You will find none, it is you and us who have selected them. It is very easy to sit on the corner and criticize the army who has always come upto the task. let me tell you till the time we will not wake up and chose good people as our leader to run this country army has all the right to kick out these corrupt people out of office who are destroying the country from whithin.Recommend

  • KB
    Dec 24, 2011 - 9:19PM

    That’s a self-defeating logic. When everyone needs correction–and I do agree to that for “Afraad Kay Hathon Mein Hay Aqwaam Kee Taqdeer–Her Fard Hay Millat Kay Muqaddar Ka Sitara”–how can a particular section of the society assume the role of a savior? What else is autocracy? Democracy is the only way forward. It may not be the best system around, but a better system has yet to emerge.


  • zaheer sahito
    Dec 26, 2011 - 11:02PM

    Mr Anonymous, You have perhaps never tried to understand the concealed extremely patriotic motive connoted in the articles of these two writers you have named. You are probably far from clearly understanding the blessings a citizen under a democratic and a sovereign state can enjoy. Your ideas are perhaps not transparent about the continuity of a democratic regime and the benefits that it entails. Democracy, according to Plato, has a special virtue of ameliorating itself should it is given the chance to survive a definite period, but what we have been inculcated with is a venomous approach towards politicians and their corrupt ways; an idea that morally legitimizes the coups by the State Servants the Army Generals. You are perhaps far from seeing through the spectacles of objectivity to note down the Army bureaucratic corruption. The all type loss that these military coups has inflicted upon the country will remain always irreparable, but a few like Mr Kamran and Ayesha Siddiqa can understand it, and in a much better way than an ordinary politics conversant mind can. @Anonymous:


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