The Democratic Coup

Establishment of military courts by the government – agreed upon by most political forces – is an admission of State’s failure in making judiciary an effective and efficient organ. History tends to repeat its self when people repeat their actions. Pakistan’s history is marred by a series of military interventions and turbulent democracy. While democratic forces blame the interventions for democracy’s failure, the interveners blame democracy’s failure for their interventions.

The 1977 coup was owing to unrest caused by alleged rigging in general elections of 1976, wherein Bhutto’s PPP secured majority seats against Pakistan National Alliance; comprised of religious and conservative parties. The inability to recover from losing half of our territory in 1971 was also a factor, but mainly large scale protests against the elected government and government’s apparent failure to reach an amicable agreement with the protestors, resulted in General Zia imposing marshal law.

Twenty two years later a rift – growing out of the Kargil adventure – between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief of Army Staff General Musharraf resulted in another coup. Misuse of authority, corruption and an economy in shambles were quoted as reasons for the military’s intervention. The triggering act however was the Prime Minister’s attempt to sack Musharraf while he was on a visit abroad and an attempt to prevent his plane from landing in Pakistan. Musharraf’s coup is said to be in reaction to an attempted coup against Musharraf by Sharif. Like General Zia’s statement to an international news agency in 1977 blaming the government’s inability to resolve political crises for his intervention, Musharraf blamed Sharif’s attempted coup against him.

Fifteen years later, Nawaz Sharif sits at the “throne” again. A distrust between military and civilian authority that is typical of Pakistan and, more so of Nawaz Sharif’s style of governance, exists. Several advisors of Nawaz Sharif have warned him of a conspiracy to oust him by the military, though none of these reservations have been made public. Much like 1977, there are large scale protests against the PMLN government for having acquired power through alleged rigging. Corruption has become more of a conventional norm and the present government stands accused. To top it all off, terrorism is ballooning. Posing a serious threat to Pakistan’s survival. Military seems to be in control of Pakistan’s foreign policy already, a control apparently acquired in the backdrop of anti-government protests this year. Partial judicial authority has also just been ceded to Army by allowing establishment of military courts. “Doctrine of necessity” is yet again ripe for the taking.

Despite Iftikhar Chaudhry’s assertion of having buried it, the doctrine of necessity inherently cannot be buried. The state’s survival shall always be a cause superior to all other considerations, no matter how plausible the threats may or may not be.

However, we may not see a marshal law or a coup. Boots may not have to march in literally. If the other players fold, you win without having to show your hand. The military seems to have gained an authoritative say in foreign policy. The recent burst of terrorism and ongoing operation zarb e azab have given them a reasonable say in devising, and an almost exclusive role in implementing the defense policy. Establishment of military courts stands to give reasonable judicial authority to the army. While the military establishment takes and implements decisions, the government may be restricted to making statements and addressing the nation.

The people – who ought to be the actual beneficiaries of all State policies – are in fear and dejection. The dearth of deliverance and relief have surpassed any and all reservations pertaining to democracy, martial law, coups or soft coups. While the civil and military authorities sit on their see saw, the citizens hang in the balance. The one and only consideration is for Pakistan to survive and prosper. Whatever needs to be done to achieve this goal, must be done. This is the new manifestation of the doctrine of necessity. Without having to throw the driver out, military it seems is once again in the driving seat. Since there is no actual coup, there is no need for a court to validate their actions. Popular public perception is all that matters, and in that this is a democratic coup: supported and validated by popular will of the people. Perhaps this is as democratic as things can be and perhaps now we can achieve what we couldn’t in democracies and coups. Hope is all we are left with, hope is the only driving force.

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Political Fiction II: Silence of the Boots

“If at all there is anyone behind Qadri and Khan’s protest movement, that someone would have in his mind one of two objectives.
…….
Second; to build enough pressure to make the dictator style PM give up his independence and discretionary powers in local and international policy making and be prepared to take dictation from someone.”

The above paragraphs are from an earlier piece: “Political Fiction”, from August this year.

During the protests in Islamabad, the Prime Minister (PM), Chief Minister Punjab (CM) and Interior Minister (IM) had several meetings with Chief of the Army Staff (COAS). There were a few days when the CM and IM became ping pong balls being smashed to and from PM house and GHQ. Some of these meetings were made public, while some – I heard – were not. The result of these meetings were twofold.

While the government suddenly gained its lost confidence and started with stubborn, arrogant statements against the protestors, refusing to take any pressure at all, it apparently lost its control on foreign and, to some extent, defense policy. The new found confidence in the government’s attitude seemed a result of someone’s assurance that they will not be sent packing. Similarly the PM’s speech in the UN General Assembly – in which echoed his sudden shift of stance on India – seemed to have not been written by PM or his foreign office, but ‘someone’ else.

The Prime Minister who used to take decisions without much thinking, was now following orders without thinking at all. It wasn’t a bad deal, at first. Being thrown out of power for the third time was far worse than giving partial control to someone else. The government was again cozy in its warm, not so powerful yet lucrative seat. And then the worst happened.

On the unfortunate morning of 16th December, a group of animals entered the Army Public School in Peshawar, seeking to avenge the ongoing operation Zarb-e-Azab. They butchered hundreds of innocent children. In seven hours they changed the course of our future foreign, defense and anti terrorism policy – which were already not under the government’s complete control. In the aftermath of the Peshawar atrocity, two very distinct reactions were witnessed.

One came from the COAS who immediately put pressure on the PM to lift the moratorium on death penalty, to which the PM obliged. He then signed six death warrants for convicted terrorists – all of whom have already been hanged. The COAS along with DG ISI made an immediate visit to Afghanistan wherein he is said to have firmly demanded stern action against TTP leadership and cells operating from Afghan territory. There is also murmur of the GHQ preparing a set of proposed amendments and legislation to change anti-terrorism laws, including the establishment of military courts. The Army is clear in its views and policy on terrorism, clearer than ever before.

The other reaction came from the government and political parties. A committee was made, which has yet to give any plan of action against terrorists or terrorism. Statements were made, from the ruling and opposition parties. Despite lifting the moratorium on death penalty, not a single convicted terrorist has yet been hanged on the civilian government’s orders. Imran Khan ended his dharna in Islamabad and in his last address from the container, yet again omitted to condemn the Taliban in clear, unflinching words. The reaction from the political people can best be described in two words; indecision and confusion.

The government and political forces have been exposed. While news pours in of terrorist being killed in Zarb-e-azab and being hanged on death warrants issued by the COAS, there is no such news from the civilian side that can neutralize or gratify the overwhelming national anger.

Someone who has always been accused of conspiring to overthrow civilian regimes, is once again faced with a tough situation. They may not necessarily have to march in, they appear to be practically in control already. But if a puppet refuses to move as the puppeteer wants, it may as well be thrown away bringing the puppeteer to the forefront. Especially when the audience begins to despise the puppet and love the puppeteer.

This is also a warning bell for other, hopeful political forces. The Army has been hit in its heart with the December 16th attack. They are not going to back out of the war on terrorism, instead they will go all in. The internal policy of the establishment is going to change entirely. In a way this is our 9/11. Before 9/11 attacks the US occasionally criticized countries like Pakistan who were apparently pro-Taliban or pro-‘terrorists’. Immediately after 9/11, the occasional snubbing turned into “you are either with us or against us”. Likewise, Imran Khan who has been long alleged of establishment’s backing will now have to come out with a clear stance for or against the Taliban and will be seen accordingly.

If the establishment were to support any political force into power, it would most certainly look for hardliners against Taliban and terrorism. In the aftermath of an attack on our children, political parties with soft corners for Taliban may not find place in the establishment’s lap. At the moment Pervez Musharraf, MQM and PPP are the only ones who are bold enough to have a clear enough stance against Taliban. While PMLN and PTI are very clear about their confusion on the subject.

The boots may not be marching loud and noisy, but they are marching.

Selective prosecution and Article 6

There was reasonable debate on whether Musharraf – a victim of selective prosecution – can or should be tried for treason under Article 6 of the Constitution of Pakistan. He was technically a legitimate President of the country at the time he imposed the 2007 emergency (his rule authenticated by Supreme Court in 1999). The proposition to try him was marred by suspicion of bias and personal vendetta on the government’s part (ousted by him in 1999) and on part of the Supreme Court (headed by the prime victim of his 2007 emergency). On the other hand trying him to create a deterrent for any future military adventurist and punishing him for his alleged autocratic rule, were given as pros of the trial. Fact remains that the question whether Article 6 was attracted or not remains a controversial one. Nevertheless the trial was initiated because apparent ‘popular will’ demanded so.

What about cases where Article 6 is not vague at all? Why can’t the same Article be attracted in cases of Taliban sympathizers/supporters?

Article 6 of the Constitution of Pakistan, 1973, states;

“High treason.—

1[(1) Any person who abrogates or subverts or suspends or holds in abeyance, or attempts or conspires to abrogate or subvert or suspend or hold in abeyance, the Constitution by use of force or show of force or by any other unconstitutional means shall be guilty of high treason.]

(2) Any person aiding or abetting 2[or collaborating] the acts mentioned in clause (1) shall likewise be guilty of high treason.
………..”

The Taliban have openly challenged Pakistan’s system of government, along with our faith in Allah and our allegiance to Islam. They vehemently propagate against not just our constitution but also our citizens and state institutions. They are, in all meanings of the phrase, “attempting” and “conspiring” to “subvert” and “abrogate” our constitution by “use” and “show of force”.

And so our state and government have openly declared them as enemies of the State. But what about those who are “aiding” and “abetting” the Taliban’s evil designs? I am not talking about the alleged role of India or the CIA, I am referring to the militant or religious organizations/parties within Pakistan – headed and followed by the citizens of Pakistan – who have openly spoken in Taliban’s favor. Some have publicly agreed with their agenda while members of their organization have even gone to the extent of releasing videos in support of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria: A religious/militant organization with an agenda similar to Taliban) and Taliban.

Why is there even a speck of doubt in the minds of our government that these aiders and abettors fall within the ambit of Article 6 (2)? Is the reluctance to bring such aiders within the grasp of Article 6 is owing to cowardice or hypocrisy? Or is it a legal lacuna that is beyond my understanding? In latter case, I would welcome any apt and competent legal mind to explain why Article 6 does not apply – and is not being used – to try those who support the enemies of Pakistan.

Change is inevitable, growth isn’t.

“I want to cry, but more than that I want you to know that I am crying. This heart quenching pain won’t let me sleep and since I am already awake, why don’t I tell everyone how heartbroken I am.”

Having the urge to show people how we feel does not necessarily mean we don’t actually feel what we say. It does not make us fake or a hypocrite. It just says how desperately we seek approval of others. This inherent need to be liked and approved of by society is not limited to a few – or a specific kind of – individuals. It exists in almost everyone around, till they grow out of it.

While spiritually it is imperative to realize how insignificant the approval of others is, materialistically speaking, there is nothing wrong with it. We have seen it in people who are admired by society, we have seen it in our teachers, our idols, our heroes. More or less every ordinary and extra ordinary individual is yearning for the approval of peers, of society.

This urge or need is harmless as long as it does not influence who we are. The moment we start to mould ourselves according to the ‘popular’ perception of liked or acceptable behavior, this need turns into a suffocating addiction. It becomes less an exercise for become better people and more for being perceived as such. There may be a hundred and one things in us that call for improvement. But an improvement or change brought on to please people is bound to lack genuineness and sincerity.

Lying is bad. It is frowned upon by society. If the objective were just to please society than we do not need to stop lying, we only need to make sure we don’t get caught. That will not be an improvement per se in us or our personality. A change is no good if it does not bring improvement. Change is inevitable, it is the positive changes that bring improvement and require an effort on our part. We are changing every day. Our body is getting old, our eyes are losing sight, our muscles are losing strength, each and every cell in our bodies is changing. But are we ‘growing’?

Wanting others to like you is absolutely normal, pretending to be someone they like, is not.

United we stand??

disunity

We stand united! Do we really? Have we ever stood united?

Mothers who lost the light of their lives in yesterday’s massacre, fathers who lost their dreams, siblings who lost their lifelong best friends, little witnesses to the brutality who lost their innocence and faith in humanity forever, will grieve. They will grieve much longer than we will remember.

The shock and sorrow in yesterday was overwhelming. It not only took Pakistan, but the entire world in its grasp. We reacted by crying, with our hearts heavier than our heads. We made tall claims of having found a new nation in ourselves, of standing united. But can we? Will we?

We are divided by ethnicity, domicile and sects. We are divided by things as petty as political affiliations and viewpoints. Try writing for or against PTI or PMLN, try praising Malala or questioning the authenticity of her story, and you shall see the filth and hate that is spewed by a “united” nation.

A people divided by the pettiest of things, cannot be united by gravest of tragedies.

We are absolutely spot on in prescribing unity as the medicine for all our ills including terrorism. But we do not deserve the satisfaction of having taken the medicine as yet. We will see divisions as soon as we attempt to identify the real enemies. Some will point fingers at India, others at Afghanistan or the CIA. Still others will deem them all conspiracy theories. There will be some who will blame Pakistan for its role in the war on terrorism as a cause of terrorist activities. To our surprise, there will be people who will still sympathize with the taliban.

We will see divisions as soon as the momentary grief for another man’s loss wears off. Grave as it may be, this tragedy could dim the lines between us for only a few days. We will again stand against each other, hating each other for being in this or that political party, for having one view or the other on the real enemies of Pakistan. We will yet again label one another as CIA agents, pro-taliban, traitor and what not.

We may stand together, but we do not stand united, not yet. Never did we need unity more than we do right now. And if a hundred and thirty two of our children going below the ground cannot make us rise above our petty issues, I am afraid nothing can.

Our disunity is our contribution to the terrorists and all anti-Pakistan elements. The animals that attacked our children do not value life, if we manage to unite in the aftermath of this calamity, we can prove that we do.

Open letter to Imran Khan

Dear Sir,

I write to you not as a PTI worker, nor as a worker of any other political party. I write to you as a Pakistani, stuck somewhere between ‘naya’ and ‘purana’ Pakistan.

‘Gulluism’ – apparently – is not party specific. It is a widespread illness that thrives in people, beyond political party and ethnic divides. It wasn’t Nawaz Sharif or Shehbaz Sharif who vandalized vehicles in Model Town, it was a party fanatic who chose the violent medium to express his support for a political party. Hence, it does not matter if you do not condone hooliganism, when a number of your party fanatics are ‘gulluing’ up the streets of Lahore, snatching vehicle keys and forcing people out of their cars while abusing them.

While PMLN workers ‘gullud up’ with state power on their side, PTI workers gullu up with the perception of mass support on theirs. The notion of “change” becomes dimmer with every passing day.

In orchestrating new and improved ways of registering protest and pressurizing the not so pressurized government, you seem to ignore the fact that all of your supporters in fact belong to ‘purana pakistan’. They have been educated by the same flawed education system that you want to change, brought up in the same unjust and corrupt environment that you aim to eliminate. Asking them to behave like the youth of ‘naya pakistan’ is an unreal demand, one that cannot possibly be met while they still live in ‘purana pakistan’. You may scream your lungs dry against hooliganism, your followers are as Pakistani as the followers of PMLN or PPP.

Khan Sahab! I keep reminding myself of your promises of change, to bring in the new generation as your team and not following precedents of conventional politics, while you sink deeper and deeper in the quagmire of compromise.

If you want to create a new Pakistan, you cannot apply age old methods of violent protests, sit ins and abusive hurls. Change should not only be brought but seen to be brought. A civilized leader heading a civilized political party that aims at creating a civilized, prosperous Pakistan, needs to be civil in his methods.

I am not a PTI worker, nor am I an advisor. But I am a Pakistani hoping for a positive change. In my capacity as a Pakistani, I would like to suggest ways of protest that could be less harmful to Pakistan and Pakistanis. Ways that would not allow the gullus living inside your followers to come out and follow suit of Gullu Butts. Methods that do not tend to place power in the hands of us ordinary ‘puranay pakistanis’.

Your claim – corroborated by your massive gatherings – of mass public support is well recognized nationally and internationally. When you expand your protest to a larger population you expose your cause to the risk of jeopardy owing to misadventures of party workers, or – at the least – successful conspiracies by other forces against your cause. The government and people of Pakistan know and admit that a large portion of Pakistanis support your call for change. The current methods are only decreasing the number of educated, civilized fans of PTI.

I believe it would be more effective and less detrimental to Pakistan, if you along with elected members and senior leaders from your party stage a hunger strike in front of the Supreme Court, Election Commission or the Parliament till the demand for a judicial commission is met. I believe such a move would actually put pressure on the government and the state to adhere to a perfectly legal and legitimate demand of forming a commission. I also believe that if you will sit among them, many will join you in the strike. And in cases of a hunger strike, less than a hundred are more powerful – in terms of creating pressure – than a million marching on the streets for a day.

I do not doubt your devotion for your cause or your sincerity for Pakistan. Surely you can sacrifice a few days meal and a few kilos for the greater good of your people.

Can’t have the cake and eat it too

imran-nawaz-zardari-300x195

To some, Imran Khan’s politics of protest and agitation raises more concern than the government’s corruption and ineptness. Critics of protests and anti government movements hide behind big words like “democracy” and “constitution”. In their enlightened view, regardless of Imran’s allegations, the constitution and democracy side with the elected government. Constitution has provided a method for electing governments and PMLN acquired power following that very method. Rigging – as colossal as alleged – has not directly been addressed in the constitution. There is no provision that speaks for massive rigging that, if proven, would practically render the entire exercise of elections invalid. In accordance with prevalent laws, anyone or any party aggrieved by electoral rigging has to approach the election tribunals through petitions and consequently superior courts through appeals, filing separate petitions for each constituency. If rigging is proven the tribunal or courts may order fresh elections in that particular constituency.

So why did Imran Khan opt for protest and agitation instead of supreme judiciary and constitution for redressal of his grievance?

First off let us be clear that the politics of agitation and protest is in no way undemocratic. Calling PTI’s anti government move undemocratic is a frivolous accusation and demeans the spirit of democracy.

Secondly, Imran could have asked his contesting candidates to file election petitions in all constituencies but he did not. Probably because of his belief that more or less all constituencies were rigged and demands a collective relief. In the absence of any specific provision the Supreme Court can take cognizance of a matter of grave significance under the umbrella of Article 184 (3); a provision often used in the not too distant past by the infamous Iftikhar Chaudhry. The Supreme Court could order inquiry into the allegations pertaining to massive electoral rigging, but it did not.

Imran Khan started off with asking for a probe into four sample constituencies to ascertain if there was any weight in his allegations, he was denied any such probe by the government. It was after the apparent silence of the constitution and Judiciary, and complete ignorance of his allegations on part of the government that Imran resorted to protest rallies and sit ins.

What if the constitution spoke clearly on matter of mass electoral rigging and vested power in the Supreme Court to declare an election null. Is there any way a government could maneuver its way around the supreme law and court of the country? Does the ruling party have that tendency?

Apparently our constitution weighs heavier on opposition benches than on treasury. The blatant disregard of Article 140-A by the Pakistan People’s Party in Sindh and PMLN in Punjab for the past five years is enough to determine how sacred the supreme law is. As for the Supreme Court, the federal, Sindh and Punjab governments – of PPP and PMLN – have completely ignored Supreme Court orders when the said orders were not suited to their interests. In the matter of Local Government elections – that are mandatory under Article 140-A of the Constitution – both the constitution and Supreme Court seem to be irrelevant. In July 2013, the Supreme Court of Pakistan directed the Federal and provincial governments to hold LG elections in September 2013. Needless to say the said direction was ignored. The Supreme Court then issued another direction seeking LG elections before 15th November, 2014. This direction met similar fate. Same disregard for judicial authority was seen when Supreme Court ordered the government to appoint the Chief Election Commissioner before 28th of October, 2014. On non-compliance of said order SC extended the deadline till 13th of November. Consistent non-compliance of SC orders forced it to extend the deadline till 25th November, 1st December and then 5th December. The new Chief Election Commissioner was finally appointed, only after SC threatened the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition of contempt notices.

Thus in the absence of constitutional supremacy, obedience to judiciary, adherence by the government to legitimate reservations – pertaining to general elections of 2013 – of the second largest political party of Pakistan, how could it have been prudent for Imran to opt for the legal course to challenge something as significant as an entire general elections? Why shouldn’t he opt for gathering public support against the government instead. Public protest and mass movements have proven effective in the past when it came to ousting a powerful President/Chief of the Army Staff. Definitely more effective than any provision of the constitution or orders of the Supreme Court.

When the government undermines the authority of the Supreme Court and sanctity of the constitution, it cannot seek legitimacy by hiding behind these instruments in times of need.