By Agha Iqrar Haroon
Shareholders of Democracy like politicians, journalists, writers, thinkers and leaders of Civil Society are chattering that Democracy is facing threats rather Parliamentary System has practically ceased to work in Pakistan.
Such stakeholders believe that they are protectors of Democracy in Pakistan and they must raise voice that Parliamentary system has been non-operational as technocrats (like under several apolitical governments in past) are being hired to run country’s economy (Ministry of Finance, State Bank, Economic Affairs Division), internal security (interior Ministry) while Foreign Affairs and Defence since long are run by military establishment of Pakistan.
A strata of Pakistani media which has been working for foreign media outlets in past or still working with foreign media as writer, consultants, experts or stingers, tries to tell people that Westminster Democracy must not be replaced with Presidential Form of Government in Pakistan.
Different school of thoughts in our media including followers of Realism and Utopian State are borrowing meanings of words like Democracy and Freedom of Expression from history books written in Europe in 20th century while our realities are too harsh to accept in 21st century.
Alas, one of the painful reality is that our so-called intelligentsia does not consider Pakistan Army as a part of our democratic system and our society. By using obsolete terminologies of “Civilians” and “People in Uniform”, intelligentsia says that only Civilians have “Right of Expression” for criticizing governments, civil institutions, parliament and politicians. They do not give this basic civil right to Pakistan Army to express views about what goes on in our society. Actually so-called intellectuals believe that there are two kinds of Pakistanis —- “Citizens in Uniform” and “Citizens without Uniform”.
Intellectuals of Pakistan must remember that citizens in uniform and citizens without uniform stood together and fought against the worst kind of terrorism for 15 long years and won this war together because this war was not fought only at borders rather in every city of Pakistan.
The success story of war against terrorism is simple— Pakistanis are a Nation and they stand as One Nation. However, our certain intellectuals are trying to justify that people in uniform have right to vote and right to elect politicians and have duty to give their lives to protect this country but they do not have right to comment if something goes wrong in the country. Is it not illogicality of our system?
What a mockery of a system in which we have component of society (citizens in Uniform) which has Right to Vote as Pakistani but has No Right to express its viewpoint about state of affairs in Pakistan. There is a catch —– why intelligentsia does not want to give right of criticism to Army against Civilian System?
Intelligentsia believes that military first talks bad about democracy in Pakistan and then takes over democracy —–Yes it had been part of Pakistani political history since its inception. Yes, we had such history in Pakistan. Nevertheless, what about a democracy which enjoyed total supremacy to rule the country several times since 1988, but practically failed to consolidate itself to protect itself from any possible military adventurism.
There are several examples, I can give from my 33 years I spent as journalist when I felt that politicians practically handed over right of governance to military– sometimes due to incompetency to manage economic and defence issues, sometimes due to intra-party rifts and sometimes due to adventurism to snub and try to ridicule the most powerful and disciplined institution of the country—The Military.
Two times during my profession career as political and Defence Correspondent, my fears had been realized and military went for adventurism but at several times, my fears were subjugated by calm, mature and sober moves of military leadership which averted “justified and possible adventurism”.
My sixth-sense won when Gen General Abdul Waheed Kakar had to intervene into President Ghulam Ishaq Khan—Nawaz Sharif standoff (and both were sent home) and second event was when a junior General chosen by the then Prime Minister took over charge of Chief of Pakistan Army and he followed the history of 1977 and sent his chooser to jail—Yes I am talking about Gen Musharraf and Mian Nawaz Sharif standoff. I believe Gen Musharraf deliberately created a situation to arrest the then Prime Minister and threw him into jail and this move was a part of a bigger regional design. Remember what happened in 9/11 and thereafter.
However, Nawaz—Gen Kakar—Ghulam Ishaq Khan standoff was totally initiated by the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did not trust military leadership after coming into power in 2013. Soon after assuming power, PMLN social media cell allegedly started a full fledged campaign to malign military leadership during early 2014. Former COAS Raheel Sharif showed exceptional level of tolerance when Nawaz government decided to initiate dialogue with Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) when TTP had been slaughtering soldiers and playing football with their heads and releasing videos of such gruesome acts but Nawaz regime was asking Pakistan Army to provide helicopters to a team constituted by the government to reach mountainous areas for negotiating with TTP leadership. Former COAS did not react and time went on and then another situation surfaced when PMLN launched additional campaign against Gen Raheel Sharif by maligning him as planner of PTI Dharna but Gen Raheel Sharif apparently came out with “Shukria Raheel Sharif” campaign to counter PMNL instead of doing some adventurism.
In a nutshell, military leadership passed several upheavals but contributed space to democratic system to move on in post-Musharraf era. However, politicians are not psychologically prepared to accept that Army as a narrative, has decided to keep itself away from power-seeking formula. This trust deficit between military and parliamentarians is dangerous but yet to be minimized. Some elements are taking benefit of this situation and the most recent example of maligning military leadership is a systematic campaign launched by certain elements in media and parliament to make Press Conference of spokesman of Pakistan Army Gen Asif Ghafoor controversial.
I was also present in this press conference and there was nothing “unusual” except that media reported usual situation in an unusual way.
Director General of Inter Service Public Relation (ISPR) Major General Asif Ghafoor answered several jagged and rough questions. He was asked several questions of political nature but he avoided to answer and even suggested journalists not to ask him any question which could lead to discussion of political nature.
However, his mindful conduct and policy of avoidance of political questions could not help him and several politicians and journalists claim that he should not have talked about status of registration of religious schools, progress about National Action Plan (NAP) and current and undercurrents of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM).
I strongly believe that registration of religious schools, NAP and unproportionate rise of PTM are very serious issues linked with overall security of the country and our security institutes are appropriate organisations to look into such serious and grave issues when our Parliament and politicians are practically in the phase of slumbering over such subjects. Let me ask politicians and media persons that:
- Have you read about any legislation being done for replacing option of military courts to try terrorists?
- Have you read about any legislation to ensure smooth running of religious schools under a vigilant and transparent system including change of their syllabus?
I can ask you several questions of such nature related to counter-terrorism initiatives but you will not find answers in reality.
When our parliamentary forces are slumbering on such issues then should our responsible institutions like judiciary and military not talk about such issues?
I am surprised that our political institution (Parliament—Press—Politicians) is trying to snub other institutions to work or talk about dire and immediate issues being faced by the State.
Should I accept that:
- nobody should talk about naked linkages of PTM with Indian and Afghanistan intelligence agencies because government is silent
- nobody should talk about threats being faced by Pakistan from Afghan land because civilian government does not want to talk about this issue
- nobody should talk about proxies working against Pakistan because civilian government, parliament and media do not want to talk about these proxies
- Pakistan Army can vote in general elections and can contribution to election member of parliament under one person one vote franchise but cannot talk about threats being faced by the country or dismay economy of Pakistan.
- only politicians and media have right to expression but Pakistan Army must not express its view because it is just defender of the country
- politicians have right for dialogue with terrorists like TTP (in past) but Pakistan Army should avoid to talk about PTM—- which unfortunate to say is becoming a political wing of TTP due to certain elements of PTM who have been mouthpiece of same narrative which once TTP had been promoting from taking training, funding and support from Indian intelligence agency RAW.
- media has right of being opinionated by state institutions like Army have no right to express viewpoint about state of affairs in country
If situation is same as I fear above, then I am an unfortunate citizen of a State where democratic institutions are not only slumbering rather not ready to let other institutions to come forward and fill the gap.
There is saying in Punjabi language but I am afraid that translation may not express what I wish to say. In Punjabi language we say:
Na Kheda Gaie—Na Khadawa Gaie—-
Vich Pasaori Paya Gaie
Rough translation of this Punjabi saying is:
Neither we will play—Nor we will allow others to play —We will ruin the ground so no one can play.
The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Dispatch News Desk (DND). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of Dispatch News Desk.