Sunday, January 16, 2005

Pakistan and Musharraf Have Reached a Point of Fatal Implosion

By Wajid Shamsul Hasan/ The writer is a former Pakistan High Commissioner to UK

LONDON, January 17: Pakistan's Bonapartist generals have played, and continue to play, havoc with the fate of the people and the country.

Ever since its creation, their direct rule, extra-constitutional interventions, their overt and covert machinations have been responsible for the break up of Quaid's Pakistan, fracturing of Pakistani nationhood, fostering violent religious sectarianism, unleashing of ethnicity, nurturing of local Jihadis and patronage to foreign religious extremists.

They have done this not to strengthen Pakistan in whose creation they had no honorable role to play nor have they contributed any feat that should have made it stronger. In every war with the external adversaries they have always lost. In peace, they have kept their teeth sharpened by conquering their own unarmed people, time and again, while looting the national wealth by acquiring precious government lands and riches for their personal aggrandizement.

Pakistan today under General Pervez Musharraf with civilian boot-lickers, sunshine patriots and summer politicians hanging around him, has reached a point of fatal implosion. And for once the main character responsible for it has spoken the truth. He claims that Pakistan has no external threats and its future is endangered because of its grave internal conditions. Nothing could be more true. Pakistan's military establishment has pushed the civil society to the edge of the precipice, rendering life short, brutish and nasty.

All this has come about under the cover of Khaki democracy, in the name of good governance and enlightened moderation with hitherto elusive promise of peace, progress and prosperity.

The Gilgit sectarian explosion that continues to take its toll despite heavy presence of the Pakistani military and the eruption of armed insurrection in Balochistan, where a new but extremely lethal phenomenon of BLA (Balochistan Liberation Army) has been asserting itself as a challenge to Islamabad's armed might, are nothing but fatal signs of a socio-economic and political Tsunami-like disaster threatening the very existence of the country.

On top of everything, one should not ignore the oft-repeated declarations of those who have not only reached the conclusion but have been saying it so without any regrets or reservations that Pakistan's creation was a blunder, that Allama Iqbal and Quaid's two-nation theory was a hogwash and that there is no need for this "failed" state to continue to exist.

What lends credence to their views is the fact that these elements seeking undoing of Quaid's Pakistan are not only Musharraf's coalition partners but are also pillars of his strength in his suicidal power game.

Pakistan's obdurate Praetorian power elite is nothing but a pack of ostriches. They are blind to the writing on the wall and they seem to be hell-bent on repeating history. The language General Pervez Musharraf has been using these days is similar to that of Yahya Khan and perhaps his state of mind and physical condition too are much similar to the General who showed preference to surrender to the Indian army rather than to the electoral and democratic will of his countrymen.

He is treating the explosive Balochistan problem as one of law and order and as a situation created by a handful of armed miscreants. He fails to understand that it has a long history and what we see today is the ugly manifestation of a deep-seated sense of deprivation, socio-economic and political step-motherly treatment inflicted upon a proud people.

There is also a perception in the Pakistani GHQ that Balochistan is not East Pakistan and it can quash any rebellion in this sparsely populated, but largest geo-strategically important and natural resources rich province. I have often heard army officers dismissing Balochistan as a non-issue.

A senior army chap discussing the insurgency once said: "Remember, Balochistan is a geographic continuation to the rest of the country. East Pakistan was separated by thousands of miles of hostile territory. When we were in a state of war everything had to be detoured via Sri Lanka and over international waters, a very expensive affair. Besides the Bengalis were more in numbers than us in West Pakistan and all the 'bingos' were hostile to us. They were aided, trained and armed by the Indians in guerrilla warfare. Balochistan with a little more than five million population, can be overwhelmed with force in no time, if Islamabad has a will to enforce its writ."

In the overall grave situation, it has been clearly established that in today's Pakistan battle lines have been clearly drawn between liberal and democratic forces that want to secure and preserve Quaid's federal, democratic Pakistan with equal rights to the federating units led by Benazir Bhutto and those who are opposed to it. The latter includes the Praetorian
establishment and the Bonapartist generals wanting to convert Pakistan into a garrison state as a personal fiefdom. Besides them, the Mullahs and ethnic political elements have their own agenda. For Mullahs Pakistan was "na-Pakistan" and the Quaid was a "Kafir-e-Azam" and for the ethnic elements Mr Jinnah's Pakistan is a "blunder land" and they want to undo it.

Time has indeed come to launch the last ditch battle to save Quaid's Pakistan. The fraternity of liberal and secular political leaders should join hands not only to confront the generals to go back to their army barracks but to come up with a unity of thought to provide a sense of direction to the nation for resolving issues pertaining to Balochistan, water problem, resource and power sharing between the Center and the federating units, much in the same fraternal spirit that had led to the drafting of the 1973 Constitution and its unanimous acceptance by the elected representatives of the four provinces. They should also ensure that the Constitution of 1973 is restored in its original shape and form.

Last but not the least, they must take on those religious elements who are determined to re-invent Mr Jinnah's Pakistan and convert it into a theocratic state. By re-establishing and re-asserting Quaid's original concept of a modern, secular and democratic nation-state we can be sure of mobilizing the masses, irrespective of their caste, creed or color, in a national effort to combat sectarianism and terrorism.

It needs to be reiterated here that demilitarization of civil society in Pakistan is sine quo non for combating both sectarianism and terrorism. Some Muslims live under the misconception that a Muslim cannot kill another Muslim. It is time to face the reality. Sectarian dissensions have been part of Muslim religious polity and I think more Muslims have killed their religious compatriots than those who do not believe in Islam. In this context one has to state with a heavy heart that Pakistan's military establishment and its intelligence apparatus have been using sectarian and ethnic forces to keep the masses divided in order to protect their vested political and commercial interests.

While attempts to reinvent Mr Jinnah's Pakistan's as a theocratic state had been initiated since after its creation, they blossomed into a serious threat following General Ziaul Haq's coup ousting Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in July 1977. Zia used Islam, Mullahs, sectarian and ethnic politics to counter ZAB's awami politics and his power base in the masses by dividing them. It was he who in order to convert Pakistan into a Sunni-Wahabi garrison state, fit only to be ruled by the generals, tried to masquerade his Praetorian concept of democracy as part of the dogmatic stance of the ulema akin to a coherent ideological formula. For him in an Islamic democracy religion could not be separated from the business of the State.

Although Zia's mortal pieces lie buried in what is popularly known as Jabra Chowk in Islamabad, his legacy of three AAAs, (America, Army and Allah), remain an albatross around Pakistan's neck and recurring sectarian violence in which Muslims kills Muslims with impunity keep reminding of the curse that he was.

His Praetorian successor, General Pervez Musharraf, continued his policies until 9/11. It was President Bush's ultimatum to him: "it is they or us" that forced him to change his spots. No doubt much after after 9/11 he continued to play ducks and drakes and even manipulated MMA's electoral triumph in October 2002 to keep it as his trump card to blackmail Washington. "After me, it is the Mullahs who would hold the key to Pakistan's nuclear arsenal," he told the Americans.

After two near missed attempts on his life and still remaining on top of the hit list of the Jihadi terrorists he is now paddling his Doctrine of Enlightened Moderation and making sounds on the issue of national reconciliation to seek consensus politics sans Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. In other words he wants to have the cake and eat it too, in the name of reconciliation and national consensus.

There are some analysts who believe that Musharraf be given a benefit of the doubt vis-à-vis political reconciliation and that PPP being the largest federal party, should provide him a decent exit route to get out of the Catch-22 situation rather than wait for yet another C-130 to happen. I have strong reservations.

I think genuine political elements who believe in Mr Jinnah's secular politics and who think that Pakistan can only survive as a non-theocratic state where religion will have nothing to do with the business of the state, should stand up and say no to both military's dual role and to the religious parties who abuse Islam for their political ends.

It needs to be realised that there is rethinking in the United States and the West about Pakistan. There is a growing realization that a democratic Pakistan backed by its people, can more effectively contribute in the global fight against terrorism than does a Pakistan under a military dictator. This is being forcefully brought to the fore in the American and western media. In its last 2004 issue the London Economist had strongly pleaded that the leader of the largest and strongest political party Benazir Bhutto be allowed to return to Pakistan to play her role in building consensus politics.

In this context one finds comments by a major American newspaper Los Angeles Times (Jan 9) very significant. It has urged President Pervez Musharraf to let Ms Benazir Bhutto back into the country and permit her and the "secular Muslim League" choose their own candidates in elections. In an editorial, the Los Angeles Times wrote, "Musharraf has rigged elections, proclaimed himself President and constantly insisted to Washington that it's him or terrorism. After turning to hard-line Islamic parties for support, he is now trying to use the secular Pakistan People's Party to undercut the Islamists. The best thing for Pakistan now would be for him to let the PPP's leader, Benazir Bhutto, back into the country and let her party - and the rival but also secular Pakistan Muslim League - choose their own candidates in elections."

The editorial said: "Pakistan has alternated for most of its 57 years of independence between rule by corrupt civilian governments and by army generals. If Musharraf does nothing to improve his country, Washington should call him to account. The US has billions of dollars worth of
leverage; leaving it idle does no one any good."

The Los Angeles Times recalled that on September 11, 2001, the "main protector" of the Taliban - and Al Qaeda - outside Afghanistan was the government of "next-door Pakistan." But by the next day, President Pervez Musharraf had responded to Washington's "with us or against us" ultimatum by throwing in with the United States. "Sort of."

These are some samples of the growing rethinking in the West. As a patriotic Pakistani I would not like democracy to be delivered to us at our doormat in a United States gift box. We should act maturely and learn to act our own. General Musharraf, instead of acquiescing into American, Western and Commonwealth pressures, should voluntarily extend his hand to the leaders in exile and strive to build a genuine atmosphere of national consensus on the principle of true reconciliation so that confrontation between the military and the people is brought to an end. It is late but never too late.

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