Saturday, January 11, 2020
While I was on-board flying back from Karachi to Islamabad, I met several parliamentarians including Member of National Assembly Syed Agha Raif Ullah, who while sitting on the right side asked me a number of questions regarding our ‘political ethics’. The questions he asked were, why there is so political polarization in our country even on national issues and why our political leadership has so far failed to bring consensus on our national issues including our national security? I was glad to know the concern of a young MNA from Karachi. Though I responded to him on it however I decided to pen down my thoughts in an article.
I think everybody will agree that nations rise with unity and actions with the collective wisdom. Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had laid the foundation of growth and development of this country upon three words ‘Unity, Faith and Discipline’. It is unfortunate that as a nation we ignored the real benefit of these magical words because if we remember Quaid’s principles well and accordingly act upon those, this could have changed our fate as a nation. We as a nation have lost the importance of national interest. It is a national tragedy that we failed to follow the Quaid’s principles in full spirit as we are mostly directionless in building our Economy, Foreign policies including our National Action Plan. We are out of discipline as politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen, students and even as a common members of our society that we are hardly on the same page over any issue.
The collective strength of a nation is drawn from the Parliament whereas today, we hardly see any discipline in the house as per the given legal course to be followed to lead the nation and resolve the public issues through continued processes of various legislations. However, the public now seems to be all disappointed, losing the faith in our unruly democratic institutions including the Government. It is high time that we build national consensus rather than playing blame games that we can win the confidence of our public.
Faith is something that comes from within the social fibre which solely depends upon the honest behaviours and transparency. There should be a fair practice of the criminal justice system coupled with a political ethical code of conduct to homogenize the nation and thus take it forward. This can happen only when there is an effective and unbiased rule of law with the provision of easy justice to a common man. The rule of law is not possible unless there is an element of strong and definite deterrence of law which cannot be brought about until we have an efficient system of law enforcers free of political influences and also corruption.
The nations like China, Japan, and other developed countries are already experiencing the magic of these three words coupled with their national security programs. These nations have never compromised on their discipline and national security and their internal national unity bond is exemplary. The political polarization has dented our national security since we are habitual of bringing our national institutes to disputes and instead of backing them we have seen the anti-Pakistan odd voice being backed by certain political factions. I have also dealt with such anti -Pakistan elements as a law enforcer and Interior Minister.
I can only appeal to all political parties that for the sake of our future generation, let us end our political polarization and we should always follow an agreed political charter whereby we must work with the collective mind to give the nation flawless policies to take the country out of the crisis. Let us all move our directions to a permanent ‘Political National Charter’ collectively on the following main terms of reference; National security, National Economy , National Foreign Policy and National Political Ethics. Let this charter be discussed in the parliament and it should be signed with an SOP to be followed. Let there be a debate in the house to ensure the enactment of the charter as per the national interest. The proposed charter is the need of the time to make our country stronger and prosperous. Let us name it as the ‘Political National Charter’ duly agreed by all political parties of the country that we can give confidence to a common man and all factions of the society.
Let this become a well-defined and nationwide accepted document to become SOP between the politicians and the common man. Let there be ownership of the people of Pakistan. I hope one day this national dream will come true and I will move a motion for discussion on in the Senate and an act of parliament shall be moved to the house.
Pakistani politicians who once pushed for control over policy-making have accepted that they can’t have that control. So they chose to hand it over to the military. Only a few brave politicians and intellectuals objected to the overwhelming vote by Pakistan’s parliament to extend the tenure of Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa for another three years. Little debate or discussion preceded the vote, as if parliament was rubber-stamping a decision rather than making one.
General Qamar Bajwa now has a free hand to run Pakistan, with a minimal civilian façade, backed by apparent parliamentary consensus and little opposition.
General Bajwa’s confidantes say he will concentrate on enacting reforms that Pakistan’s divided elite has failed to enact. He would like to use his position to create circumstances to end future military interventions.
Given Pakistan’s history, there remains a lot of scepticism. But the army’s de facto primacy in Pakistan has long been recognised and one wonders what difference, if any, would be made by providing it de jure sanction through nearly unanimous legislation.
For the few supporters of civilian supremacy in Pakistan’s public square, the conduct of mainstream opposition parties – the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) led by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) headed by former president Asif Zardari – was disappointing.Both parties have spoken in the past against the Pakistani military’s political role. But they conceded consolidation of power by the current military chief, ostensibly in return for having criminal proceedings that had kept their leaders in prison. Some politicians argued rather incredulously that by bringing the matter to parliament, the Pakistani military was conceding civilian supremacy.
A total of 315 legislators from various political parties in both houses of parliament effectively voted in favour of General Bajwa’s extension. This marks the end of the assumption that the military is content with ‘being on one page’ with the weak and ineffective prime minister, Imran Khan, and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). The two major parties, PML-N and PPP, are expecting fresh elections and would probably be happy to be General Bajwa’s new political partners.
Failure of political class
The military has been the anchor for the ship of state in Pakistan since 1951. But after the collapse of the military regime headed by General Pervez Musharraf in 2008, people thought the generals had understood that soldiers alone cannot ensure a country’s progress. Instead of assuming power directly, they seemed willing to share responsibility with the elected politicians in running Pakistan.
Relations between Pakistan’s generals and politicians have never been smooth under dyarchy, or dual control. There was always deference to the military’s concerns in foreign policy and matters pertaining to national security. But the politicians’ performance was far from exemplary even in their own domain.
The politicians who pushed for greater control over policy-making in the last decade now seem to have accepted that they cannot have that control. Mainstream politics in Pakistan has become an arrangement for distribution of patronage, in which opposition to the military is voiced primarily when a leader or a political party faces allegations of corruption and bad governance.
Had Pakistan’s politicians been able to keep their hands relatively clean and abided by constitutional norms and democratic traditions, the gradual democratisation of Pakistan might have been easier.
Pakistan’s generals are rightly blamed for their part in the country’s difficulties. But the political class, too, has obstructed Pakistan’s transition along the lines of Indonesia or Chile, where sustained civilian rule has successfully followed military dictatorship.
Also read: Pakistan needs to stop thinking of Kashmir as an unfinished business of Partition Military’s image makeover When General Qamar Bajwa became army chief in November 2016, he apparently decided that Pakistan could not afford to be pulled in different directions by the military and the civilians. There is considerable potential in stable civil-military relations and Gen Bajwa expressed a desire to make Pakistan a ‘normal country.’ Unlike General Raheel Sharif, Bajwa did not want a personality cult for himself, nor did he focus solely on getting an extension in his three-year tenure, as General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had preferred. After getting the three-year extension in tenure, Bajwa’s interest is now said to be in correcting the country’s course from General Headquarters (GHQ) through parliament and civilian institutions. As is often the case with well laid out plans of absolute control, Pakistan’s current dispensation has had its share of setbacks. The Supreme Court’s outgoing Chief Justice, Asif Saeed Khosa, waited until the last few weeks of his tenure to deliver a series of judgments that challenged Bajwa’s plans. The extension of Bajwa’s tenure as army chief by three years was determined by the Court as not possible under existing laws. The Supreme Court allowed a six-month extension to enable a legal fix, which has come in the form of the latest amendment in the Pakistan Army Act. Consensus among disparate parties in parliament to enable Bajwa’s extension was worked out to help recover the military’s image. That image had been somewhat dented by the Supreme Court’s challenge to Bajwa’s extension as well as another court sentencing former army chief General Musharraf to death for treason over his suspension of the Constitution in 2007.
Gen Bajwa vs Gen Ayub Khan
Having secured his extension with parliament’s blessing, General Bajwa would now like to focus on straightening out Pakistan’s economy, suppressing Jihadi terrorism, working out a peace deal in Afghanistan, finding a balance in ties with China and the US as well as between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and normalising relations with India without giving up on Pakistan’s claims on Kashmir.
That daunting agenda ahead might need more than a general’s sincerity and patriotism. Bajwa stands now at a point similar to where General Ayub Khan stood soon after taking over the reins of power in October 1958. Hardly anyone opposed Ayub Khan’s authority in his first few months as Pakistan’s absolute ruler.
As he progressed towards becoming Field Marshal, he found that his solutions to some problems generated new issues. Some of his decisions turned allies into critics and critics into virulent opponents.
Ayub Khan made the mistake of assuming that diverse opinions and policy prescriptions were damaging for Pakistan; that politicians and independent-thinking civilians were untrustworthy and lacking in national spirit; and that learning from the past meant determining whom to blame rather than figuring out what those mistakes might have been.
Can General Bajwa move past those assumptions?
By Salman Masood and Zia ur-Rehman
The bomb, which tore through Friday evening prayers at a mosque in Quetta, Pakistan, also injured at least 18 more, with many in critical condition.A bomb blast inside a mosque in southwestern Pakistan, believed to be frequented by senior Taliban figures, killed at least 15 people on Friday and wounded at least 18 more, according to police officials. Several of the wounded were in critical condition, and hospital authorities feared the death toll could climb further. The blast tore through a mosque during evening prayers in Quetta, the provincial capital of Baluchistan Province, which borders Afghanistan and Iran. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the bombing, according to the SITE intelligence group. A local leader of a religious political party in Pakistan, who is familiar with Taliban networks in the country and spoke on condition of anonymity because of fear for his safety, said that the mosque was sometimes used by a Taliban leader, Mawlawi Abdul Hakeem, but he was not present at the time of the attack. The Taliban and the Islamic State have battled each other for control of territory in Afghanistan, and Afghan Taliban leaders have long used sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan. But Qari Muhammad Yousuf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, said that no Taliban leader was present and no meeting was taking place at the mosque when it was struck with the bombing. The head cleric of the mosque and a police officer were among those killed. Paramilitary troops reached the mosque soon after the bombing and cordoned off the area for further investigations. Pakistani civil and military leaders condemned the bombing, calling it an act of terrorism. “Those who targeted innocents in a mosque can never be true Muslim,” said Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, the Pakistan army chief, as quoted by a military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor. Quetta has a history of sectarian and militant-related violence. Sunni militant groups there have in the past targeted the country’s minority Shiite Muslims. And a secessionist group, the Baluchistan Liberation Army, has waged a low-level insurgency for years. The secessionists are demanding more autonomy and a greater share in the region’s natural resources, such as gas and oil. On August 16, 2019, a bomb exploded near Quetta at a mosque frequented by the Taliban’s supreme leader, Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada. He was not in the mosque during the explosion but one of his brothers was killed.