Zardari’s outburst: Causes and Results

zardari-altaf

Threats, innuendos, taunts and then some more threats, in his speech Mr. Zardari did not really address the newly elected office bearers of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), instead he targeted a different audience, one in uniforms. Tail, turf or toe, something got stepped on, resulting in the shriek that was a speech delivered by the “shrewd” Zardari.

Many who still believe Zardari to be smartest of all politicians have started to question the wisdom in his outburst. Some already opine that his ability to outsmart all other political leaders speaks less of his marvelous mind and probably more of the brains that he was up against.

This lashing out was not impulsive, it seems well planned. Senior leaders of the PPP must have been consulted, followed by deliberations and decisions. It seems like a poor decision, but not if it was the only option; a desperate last ditch effort to avert the impending. Bilawal Zardari’s “foreign” visit to Pakistan may not have coincidentally coincided with his father’s outburst. Zardari probably needed Bilawal sitting by his side to ensure the entire support of PPP workers, or what’s left of it, when he made such strong statements.

But what is impending? What looms over PPP and Zardari’s heads that forced him to cry foul and hurl threats at the Army and ‘establishment’?

I remember when Rangers raided 9-0 in Karachi, PPP first attempted to side with Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), probably because they saw themselves next in line. They then went silent and prudently chose to wait their turn instead of expediting the process. Then a model was arrested at an airport with a whole lot of money that she intended to smuggle and launder, revelations were made and the trail lead to PPP and Mr. Zardari. Still under investigation, Ayaan Ali is believed to have named several names.

Zulfiqar Mirza’s episode; his revelations about Mr. Zardari which were given credence to by a panicked reaction from the Sindh government, Rangers’ raid on the office of Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA), the expected extradition of Uzair Baloch to Pakistan and now NAB’s inquiry against former chairmen of the Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR) from PPP’s tenure, are all factors that lead to yesterday’s oration. The noose is tightening and a suffocating Zardari gasps and shrieks for air.

The only problem is that his decision, inspired by Altaf Hussain, to go down fighting may not pay off. It basically relies on the assumptive probability of an institution backing down. Not just an institution, but one which is currently more popular than a political party that is PPP: a party that has practically been washed from most of Pakistan and has some parts of Sindh as its last resting place. An institution that has taken a firm stance against terrorism and done much for its eradication, and has now taken it upon its self to root out ‘economic terrorism’ as well. An institution that has been forced to fill the vacuum created by political entities. And lastly, an institution that cannot afford to back down now.

Corruption, malpractices and misuse of authority, all have a nexus with terrorism. Left unchecked, these ills will help anti state forces flourish once again. Which is why the Army has added these to the ambit of its war against terrorism. It is not a conspiracy against political forces or democracy, they still have the option to get rid of these ills on their own, only they have chosen to show their reluctance time and again. The Sindh government has repeatedly been alleged of cooperating half heartedly in the operation against MQM’s criminal elements, this cooperation is bound to seize completely when PPP comes under scrutiny, this has been made abundantly clear now by Mr. Zardari.

So what will happen?

As I said the Army cannot afford to back down and render ineffective its own efforts. If the Sindh government continues its role of an obstructer, instead of a facilitator, it may be sent packing. The Prime Minister may be ordered – ok, advised – to impose governor’s rule in Sindh.

This order – I mean advice – will certainly put the Prime Minister in a tough spot. If he sides with his “brother” and saves PPP from being kicked out of government, he may be seen as an abettor. If he continues to side with the people who are actually running the affairs, allowing him to enjoy his tenure as PM, he will offend his “brother” who may join forces with Pakistan Tehrik e Insaf (PTI) in its second wave of movement against Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) government which is to begin soon after the judicial commission’s findings on general elections 2013.

It is difficult to imagine how tough a spot this actually is for Mr. Nawaz Sharif. He can choose to side with the political forces and “democracy”: a word that has the ability to wash all your sins. PMLN, PPP and MQM can join hands to label this operation a conspiracy against democracy and then begin with their “sacrifices” and “struggle” for democracy. The PM may also anticipate that what began with MQM in Sindh, is now engulfing PPP, will for sure enter Punjab. This will add to his reasons for siding with PPP and not the Army.

However such confrontation will be devastating. It may force a martial law, despite the unusual, refreshing and quite positive restraint shown till now by the military, probably for the first time in Pakistan’s history.

I, as a citizen, side with the Army. No, I am not anti-democracy, I want democratic forces and institutions to flourish and work for the people of Pakistan, to eradicate all ills including terrorism, corruption, nepotism and injustice. But I don’t see that happening. In the absence of political will, forced measures are the next best thing. I want the military to show further restraint and abstain from abrogating or subverting the constitution, I hope the menaces they fight can be defeated without derailing democracy, and only with derailing and defeating fake, vile “democrats”.

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It is only “undemocratic” when “you” do it.

Who were they?
-Pakistan Tehrik e Insaf (PTI).

What were they doing?
-Protesting on roads.

For what?
-Against rigging – oh wait, “alleged” rigging – in the general elections 2013.

What were their demands?
-Resignation of the Prime Minister, an impartial probe into rigging allegations and, in case rigging is proven, dissolution of the assemblies and re-election.

Were they opposed? By whom?
-Yes, by PMLN of course, and almost all other political parties including Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Jamiat e Ulema e Islam Fazl ur Rehman (JUIF) and Awami National Party (ANP).

Why were they opposed by PPP, JUIF and ANP?
-These parties believed and opined that it is undemocratic and unconstitutional to protest against a sitting government, demand resignation of an elected prime minister and question legitimacy of an election, by way of a protest or sit in on the streets.

Fast forward a few months…

Who are they?
-ANP and JUIF.

What are they doing?
-Protesting on roads.

For what?
-Against “alleged” rigging in the Khyber Pakhtunkwa (KPK) local government elections.

What are their demands?
-Resignation of the KPK government, dissolution of the KPK assembly and consequent re-elections to the KPK provincial assembly.

Are they being opposed?
-Not really, not by any party but PTI.

Is it now constitutional and democratic to protest against a government/legislative assembly on the streets and demand its dissolution?
-Apparently yes.

Confused? Let me explain.

You see PTI’s protest against the government was absolutely unconstitutional and undemocratic, treacherous even, because they wanted their allegations to be probed and demanded re-elections only if those allegations were proven in a competent and appropriate forum.

What makes ANP and JUIF’s movement completely constitutional, and yet another “struggle for democracy”, is that they are not asking for any probe. They don’t want their allegations to be put to any test before any judicial, or even a political forum. They simply want their word to be taken as true, and their demand as the desire of KPK’s people.

Furthermore, PTI’s demands did not make any sense. These immature and novice politicians alleged that the sitting government grabbed power by way of a rigged election and thus does not actually have the mandate to govern. Do you see how absolutely farcical that is?

ANP and JUIF, on the other hand, make complete sense. They assert that the local governments have been elected by way of a rigged election and thus the provincial assembly should be dissolved. It makes so much more sense.

Then there is the matter of numbers. PTI evidently had more people supporting their protest in Islamabad. ANP and JUIF only managed to bring out a few. And numbers are obviously inversely proportional to democracy.

If you still find this absurd, it is merely because you have no understanding of the terms: “democracy” and “constitution”. You lack erudition and aren’t intellectually equipped to grasp what these concepts actually entail.

If you think democracy means the will of a majority, you are stuck in ancient times when democracy meant just that.

In modern times, democracy has a new meaning given to it by political parties who are licensed to understand the concept and use it as a slogan and bait, namely PPP, PMLN, ANP and JUIF. Owing to their exemplary “struggle for democracy”, democracy in turn obliged them with the opportunity to re-invent it. Democracy now means:

“will of the people who support you”

So it does not matter if ANP and JUIF have lesser numbers out to support them, as long as all of their supporters support them, no action of theirs can be termed undemocratic.

This very principle applies to all these “licensed” political parties, and even PTI seems keen on adopting it.

Regardless of the fact that PPP now stands reduced to only a few cities, everything their chairman does is more democratic than what you and I do.

JUIF has always been a small party, never can it even imagine to be representative of 50 % of the population or voters, yet everything their leader does and says is for the sake of democracy and in line with the constitution.

PMLN members, who were the loudest opponents of PTI’s sit in, are now quiet. This silence is entirely democratic and has nothing to do with their rivalry with PTI. Since all those who support PMLN approve of the stance taken by JUIF and ANP, PMLN very democratically chooses to support it.

So before you question these noble champions of democracy and their intentions, learn what democracy means.

To educate my readers further, let me give you the new and improved definitions of certain other political terminologies.

Free and Fair Elections: For each party, an election whereby the expected or better results are achieved.

Freedom of Speech: Our freedom to say anything at all, excluding the same freedom of another.

Lotacracy: The act, by a member of your political party, of leaving to join another. DOES NOT include member of another party joining yours.

Corruption: Misdeeds of an opponent who is not yet an ally.

Merit: A self-tailored, regularly changing criteria for appointments/recruitments.

Nepotism: Cronyism and the practice of appointing relatives and friends to key posts, by any other political party. (Cronyism in your own political party is “merit”)

Along came Modi

You may analogize Pakistan-India relations with a roller coaster ride, only if the roller coaster you are referring to is a broken train, on an eroded and unusually bumpy track.

These nuclear armed countries with a volatile history of conflicts have a knack for keeping the world at its toes. Ever since the nuclear face off began in 1998, it seems not a matter of if but when the world would sit in audience to the first nuclear war. Many defense analysts from around the world consider nuclear armament of both sides to be a conflict avoiding factor, but India may have found a rebuttal to this theory in Mr. Narendra Modi. An Indo-Pak war not only seems possible, but imminent, if Mr. Modi is allowed to have his way. Modi may be seen as a statesman in some Indian circles, but as far as India-Pakistan relations are concerned, he may be nothing more than a diplomatic failure.

Having already ordered the arrangements for a carnival to celebrate the 1965 war with Pakistan, Modi now speaks against Pakistan while on tour in Bangladesh. Mr. Modi alleged Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism and also seemed to ‘reminisce’ about the 1971 war, during his speech at Bangabandhu International Convention. While in Bangladesh, Modi is said to have accepted India’s role in the conspiracy to divide East and West Pakistan, as it was, according to him, the wish of every Indian. He boasted about Indian military’s involvement in the 1971 war and India’s success in carving out Bangladesh. Yet he and his government alleges Pakistan of doing kind of the same thing in Kashmir.

The to and fro allegations between the two countries has gotten us nowhere. India blaming Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and Pakistan blaming India’s Research and Analyses Wing (RAW) for anti state activities within each other’s territories is a ‘my word against yours’ conundrum with no possible productivity. The honest fact of the matter is that each may have contributed to the distrust that prevails today. What India did in East Pakistan, Pakistan may have tried to reciprocate in Kashmir and what Pakistan is alleged to be doing in Kashmir may be being reciprocated in Balochistan by India.

The prime bone of contention between the two countries is one of the most beautiful, and simultaneously unfortunate, land called Kashmir. A conflict born parallel to the birth of Pakistan, it has been the cause of three Indo-Pak wars and countless skirmishes. Each conflict ending in a truce that in turn ended in another conflict.

The Tashkent Agreement, which ended the conflict borne out of 1965 war, was ripped to shreds by the 1971 war, which then ended in the Simla Agreement. 1999’s Lahore Declaration was swallowed, soon after its signing, by the Kargil conflict. Bilateral relations and talks have seen many ups and downs, and have always revolved around the Kashmir issue.

The start of the Composite Dialogue Process (CDP) in 2004, re-lit the flame of hope for peace and cordial relations between India and Pakistan. Borders saw withdrawal of troops, contemplations and discussions on a joint anti terrorism mechanism began and several other prospective congenial avenues were opened. Progressing at a snail’s pace, but progressing nevertheless, CDP was halted in 2008 after the Mumbai attacks which resulted in deaths of 160 innocent Indian civilians who joined a long list of victims of terrorism – a list which contains thousands of innocent Pakistani civilians. India, as usual, promptly jumped to blame Pakistan for the attacks, and despite Pakistan’s admission that the attacks may have been partly planned on Pakistani soil but not by Pakistan, India stood firmly by its allegations effectively extinguishing any and all flames of hope and reigniting hostilities at the borders. In 2013, Pakistan’s Prime Minister and his Indian counterpart met in New York and yet again decided to end hostilities.
In 2014, India held its general elections and along came Modi. Like several political entities and leaders on both sides of the border, Modi also gained a lot by his “hard stance” against the “arch rival”. But Modi’s venom against Pakistan was not packed and shelved after the elections. In the first year of Modi’s premiership, Modi was quoted as saying:

“This is not the time for talks (boli)…but for bullets (goli)..”

His defence minister made the following statement:

“our conventional strength is more than theirs (referring to Pakistan) and therefore if they persist with this, the cost to them would be unaffordable”

And the following admission was attributed, by David J. Karl, to a senior government official in reference to skirmishes at the border:

“Prime Minister’s office has instructed us to ensure that Pakistan suffers deep and heavy losses”.

Statements and hostile gestures kept coming in, and the hope for peace in the region died a little with every one of them. Modi managed to ignore the very friendly gesture by Pakistan when its Prime Minister accepted Modi’s invitation to attend his swearing in. Mr. Nawaz Sharif even went out of the way and agreed to Modi’s advice to not meet Hurriyat members while in India. This diplomatic gesture was misconstrued as a sign of weakness and the Indian government got carried away asking the Pakistani High Commissioner (PHC) to stop meeting Hurriyat members or face seizure of foreign secretary level bilateral talks. In his genius, Modi overplayed his hand, PHC did not adhere to this unnecessary and unwarranted demand and thus bilateral talks were halted, yet again, not because of a war or a conflict – for a change – but owing to a diplomatic blunder: Modi’s first of many.

Mr. Modi’s hard stance against Pakistan and Muslims may incite enough sentiments and bag enough votes, but will not, can not, bring a desperately needed and long anticipated end to India-Pakistan enmity. Political parties may stand to gain from these hostile attitudes, institutions may benefit from anti state covert activities, but the Indian and Pakistani people, whom they swear to serve and protect, get nothing but detriment in this stretched-spring rivalry.

CPEC and India’s lunacy inducing Paranoia

CPEC

A mammoth 46 billion dollar project, stretching over 3000 kilometers from Gawadar to Xinjiang, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has the potential to make Pakistan’s economy grow by leaps and bounds. The project that consists of construction and up gradation of roads, oil and gas pipelines, railway tracks and an international airport in Gawadar, promises to make Pakistan an economic power in the world, and Gawadar; a trade and economic hub of the region.

CPEC does not promise wonders for just Pakistan, China stands to gain just as much, if not more, from this initiative. China will gain easier access to the Middle East and Africa, shorter routes and lesser costs will greatly benefit energy importing China. A land-locked Western China will become economically vibrant which would in turn bring development to the region and subsequently eliminate militancy and unrest caused by movements like Uyghur’s Xinjiang Conflict.

The impact of CPEC would, however, be less obvious and visible on the already booming economy of China than on Pakistan’s struggling economy. While for China it is another project that adds to its status as an economic giant, for Pakistan it is THE project that has the potential to put Pakistan on the track to a self sustaining, stable and strong economy. No bilateral treaty in Pakistan’s 67 years history has benefited us more than what CPEC promises.

Then, no country is more obsessed with Pakistan than India. India’s paranoia and lunacy inducing obsession with Pakistan has found a new face under Mr. Narendra Modi’s leadership. This obsession is not mutual. Our Prime Minister or leaders of the second and third largest parties did not feel the urge to make remarks about India in their election campaigns. Our federal ministers and advisors have not, until very recently, commented on Indian Research and Analyses Wing’s (RAW) involvement in covert activities within our borders, as opposed to India blaming everything from a bombing to their Prime Minister’s bowel movement on our Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) for years.

Modi is very open about his nationalism and Hindu fanaticism, his security advisor is very blunt about his intentions towards Pakistan. Under Modi, India seems to have done away with subtleties and is now openly expressing its designs to further weaken Pakistan by all means necessary. Modi, behaving typically like a jealous toddler, has termed CPEC as “unacceptable” for India. He did so in his incredibly awkward, over excited, selfie inclusive, posing and proposing visit to China, but the Chinese President snubbed his unsolicited opinion like any prudent adult would snub the tantrum of a spoilt toddler. Modi has now repeated his unsolicited opinion through one of his ministers.

It appears that Modi’s cabinet deliberated in length over its stance on CPEC. Of course it was pre decided that they would oppose it, but on what grounds. They couldn’t just say “because we say so” or “because we don’t want Pakistan to prosper”. Honest as these statements would be, they just wouldn’t be diplomatically correct. So the geniuses came with the stance that CPEC passes through Pakistan held Kashmir, and since Kashmir is disputed, we cannot accept CPEC. And they now wait, hoping this ludicrous stance would find an international audience. If you want to find Indian supported local opponents to CPEC in Pakistan, look for an equally insane stance; some Baloch nationalists have spoken against CPEC on grounds that since it would bring heavy investment and development to the region, there will be consequent migrations from different parts of Pakistan, hence rights of Gawadar locals may be infringed.

India would not stop here though. China has already warned Pakistan of RAW’s intentions of sabotaging CPEC with help from local militants. Pakistan has only recently broken its decade’s old silence on RAW and India’s involvement in terrorist activities in Pakistan. India is, undoubtedly our bitter rival. Bitterness, undoubtedly resides more in India than in Pakistan. It is natural in a way, Pakistan broke off from ‘mother India’, and no one can feel the pain of that disintegration more than a nationalist, anti-Muslim Hindu like Modi. After years of struggle India got its atomic bomb and gloated over its strategic and military supremacy over Pakistan, only to be retorted by Pakistan’s very own nuclear weapon. It then satisfied its self with its economic supremacy over Pakistan and now CPEC stands to hamper that too. So India’s cry baby reaction is somewhat justified, not prudent, sane, reasonable or just, but somewhat justified.

Not to be ignored are the “other hostile agencies” mentioned in Chinese intelligence communiqué to Pakistan. While India looks jealously at Pakistan benefiting from CPEC, there is United States concern over the boost to Chinese economy and strategic access. RAW and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) may work to disrupt and sabotage, unfortunately they will find local help from purchasable entities and individuals from within Pakistan too.

But I have a feeling this project will go ahead and will be completed. Pakistan does have the ability to safeguard its interests, identify and shun anti-state elements from among ourselves and defend against any foreign covert or overt aggression. Pakistan will prosper and CPEC will play its due role in our progress, because we are more concerned about our prosperity than causing detriment to any of our neighbors.