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Where Is Pakistan Heading?

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If I was a citizen of the United States, I would simply demand of the US President Bush to resign after 9/11 due to his failed prevention of such a great tragedy.

Killing of 3000 people in a one incident I think is big tragedy.  Now again he has been failing in prevention of other terrorist attacks. The allies he has chosen in the world are keeping themselves busy in securing their seats.

Take the exmaple of Pakistan and Afghanistan. For the last seven years the US has put all at stake for elimination of terrorism, but still the terrorism has been strenthening.

In Pakistan, all the discussion is focussed on the issue of who will be the president. Here I present an interesting discussion of Pakistani businessman Munir Attaullah. He also is not clear whether the army may be given a role in politics or not. He said that should I be re re-considering my thoughts of last week (‘Re-considering the Deal)? Has not the recent presidential declaration of intent, revealing how he plans to get re-elected, thrown a spanner in the works?

Also, many friends (fellow columnist, Kamran Shafi, included) remain unconvinced by what I wrote. This is less of a worry. I take such criticism with equanimity, considering it as but another sad example of how, in human affairs, logic and common sense do not begin to match the persuasive power of perception. And, honourable disagreements have their own clarifying power for third parties. Anyway, is that not the very nature of the beast that is politics? Have I not also found some support for my views from other fellow columnists?

For KS it is simply anathema that our Army should have any kind of role per se in our national political affairs. I wholly agree with the principle, as few would not. But then that is only half the story. The other, probably more important half, is how best a desirable state of affairs is to be brought about. And it is here where the disagreements begin.

The institution has muscled its way centre-stage and it relishes that role and enjoys its benefits. It has every intention to resist, by fair means and foul, any attempts to be sidelined. This creates, in my opinion, more than a little local difficulty. Not so, according to KS. He believes (if I read him correctly) that all it takes to send the Army packing is for all politicians to be henceforth united in resisting Bonapartism. But is that kind of opinion any better than the type which says that if only all of us became ‘true Muslims’ all our problems will be solved? Should six decades of national political experience be dismissed so airily?

Nothing is inevitable, of course; and yet much is predictable. And we do ourselves no favours by presuming it is that easy to immediately eliminate the Army’s dominant role in our political life.

Yes, I think we are, slowly, headed in that direction. The new perceptions now seeping into public consciousness by the combined acts of the new media and a less pliant judiciary probably now make it extremely difficult for the Army to exercise de jure power in future. After all, the Generals and their families too watch TV and can gauge the new mood of the nation. Which serving patriotic Pakistani general now would want to be a pariah, loathed by everyone?

So the days of coups are probably already over. But wresting de facto control will take a while. In any case, it is easier, less problematic and less painful to gradually re-assert civilian supremacy from within the system than by an abrupt and forceful frontal assault that provokes an instinctive defensive response.

And then, crucially, one must factor in our current grave internal and external security considerations. These threats require the committed services of a confident and resolute Army. Will a sulking and demoralised Army unstintingly come to the aid of a possibly squabbling, timid, divided civilian dispensation that may well be imbued with Islamic fervour and isolationist tendencies? I doubt it. Better that, for the time being, it carries the responsibilities that come with power to do what only it can do.

And so it was that I had suggested (and I was not alone in so doing) the need for the right kind of a politico-military alliance as a transitional measure. Perhaps I was remiss in not spelling out in greater detail what I meant by the phrase ‘the right kind’. But I certainly was not thinking in terms of a dominant president and fully subservient politicians. Or, a set-up that was a marriage of mutual convenience and benefit between the Army and the conservative right of the political spectrum. Such arrangements can only prolong the national agony because in such cases there is neither a commitment nor a mechanism that puts the right kind of incremental but unremitting pressure on the Army to slowly and gracefully withdraw from the political arena.

The logic for a reluctant but necessary ‘deal’ by the PPP with the president was thus always clear to me. A reconsideration of all the aspects last week did not result in a change of mind. However, the president’s announcement that he intends to seek re-election in uniform from the present assemblies does present a new and more serious challenge to my way of thinking.

For how can the mohtarma sensibly persuade both her party and the people to swallow this most obvious manifestation of continued Army dictatorship? Moreover, such an uncompromising stance in the single-minded pursuit of maximum power, even in the face of mounting national indignation, reveals a mindset impervious to political niceties. Even if there is a private understanding that the political plums for the PPP (as quid pro quo for support in the presidential elections) will be forthcoming later, what guarantee is there that the General will not later ‘do a number’, as with the MMA at the time of the 17th amendment?

No. This announcement probably makes a ‘package deal’ unlikely, at least in the totality that I had envisaged. Part of the ‘understandings’ arrived at during negotiations however may survive, though what they might be remain a subject of guesswork. The president has again shown his true colours, prepared to brazen it out, the cost to the nation be damned. It is the usual case of two steps forward, one-and-one-half step back that we have become accustomed to.

How much better, and more sensible, it would have been, as Ejaz Haider argued, for the president to cut the mohtarma some slack in striving for political accommodation and announce now that he is giving up his COAS hat. It would make a significant impact on his political standing and reduce the judicial exposure to his ambitions.

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Muhammad Khurshid, a resident of Bajaur District, tribal areas situated on Pak-Afghan border is journalist by profession. He contributes articles and news stories to various online and print newspapers. His subject matter is terrorism. He is (more...)

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