“Our country has numerous problems which cannot be solved overnight but if you, being a true loyalist of the country were granted a boon, what would you wish for Pakistan? People hold different perceptions when it comes to identifying the root cause of our problems and are divided even further, as regards the solution to these problems.
To many however, an ideal state is the one in which all its pillars perform to the utmost of their capabilities, have an inner system of accountability, coexist in harmony with one another, and do not transgress their constitutional boundaries. All the developed countries of the world have more or less achieved this state of equilibrium between their primary institutions. However, when it comes to Pakistan, even some of our most optimistic analysts are skeptic of the possibility, dismissing it as a utopian dream.
Consider for a moment, that a harmonious relationship between the country’s primary institutions is not only possible but the process has already initiated, whether by the sagaciousness and due diligence of an alleged “script-writer” or through divine intervention. To sum up the present situation in the country; the government has geared up its actions, fuel prices have gone down and further reduction expected, the hike that was expected in electricity tariff has been withheld, the opposition is acting like a real opposition, bearing pressure on the government, by questioning its every move. The army is in its barracks, battling internal and external security threats, adhering to its policy of abstinence from political activism, despite being presented with many enticing opportunities. The judiciary is making independent decisions apparently, favouring neither the government nor the opposition. The two media houses, one supposedly in favour and the other against the government, have both learned a lesson to keep within the bounds of journalistic norms.
Moreover, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is making all the right noises about Kashmir on International forums. A defence pact with Russia has been signed, while Pakistan is still very much a U.S. ally and the front line state in the U.S-led war against terror. Strategic partnership continues with China, while further trade agreements have been signed. It seems the country is finally headed in the right direction, albeit far from the destination.
The 2013 General Election was a turning point for the country’s politics on so many levels; from the political awareness and activation of the generally unpoliticized educated class to the smooth transition of one democratically elected government to another, it spelled ‘change’. While the PMLN won with a clear majority, parties like the PPP and the ANP were voted out, based on their past performance. The PTI phenomenon was established beyond doubt, when it emerged as the second largest party in terms of votes polled. The PTI, nonetheless, never wholeheartedly accepted the election results and levelled charges against the government of rigging the polls.
Initially when the PMLN government came into power, for obvious reasons, there was a little love lost between Nawaz Sharif and the military establishment. Thus, secured in the knowledge of the power of the “Charter of Democracy”, some favours from the judiciary and media house/s in the country, and having won with a clear majority, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif started on a collision course with the armed forces. Appointing a defence minister who had a known history of apathy towards the military establishment, pointedly taking a particular media house’s side when a top journalist of that media house alleged an attack on his life, by the Inter Services Intelligence Agency (ISI), are a few such examples. It was also rumoured that during Nawaz Sharif’s meeting with Prime Minister Modi, on his official trip to India, the military aide, generally present at all top level meetings with foreign delegations, was excluded from the meeting. Nawaz Sharif’s power assertiveness also stems from the fact that if he does not assume control over domestic security and foreign policy, his government will always be in a position of vulnerability.
On June 27, PTI chief Imran Khan gave a call for a protest march towards the capital, following allegations of election rigging. The Tsunami march which was later named the Azadi March started on 14th August, 2014, and is claimed by PTI to be the longest sit-in/protest in history. Much has been said over the alleged perpetrators and hidden hands behind the protest but most analysts’ speculations of a military coup went awry, when the military showed no interest of a possible take over.
However, on the 7th day of the Azadi protest, Imran Khan during his address to the sit-in participants, warned the government of the raising of finger by an elusive “third umpire”. Days later, PTI ex-President Javed Hashmi left the sit-in to return to his hometown after developing differences with the party over army’s supposed involvement in the protest. Let us contemplate what the army gained from either perpetrating/choreographing or supporting this ‘chaos’, since they have clearly shown no inclination towards staging a coup so far. Has it been about bearing pressure on the government, power over foreign policy matters, breaking the alarming coalition between signatories of the “Charter of Democracy”, a choice solution for Musharraf trial, something else or all of the above?
Regardless of the army’s involvement or its lack thereof, it is also important to examine what the ‘Dharna’ has actually achieved? First and foremost it has exposed all political parties, those who started the protest, the ones supporting it, as well as those opposing it. Where some leaders were rumoured to have ordered ‘shirwanis’, others lashed out at the military establishment for ignoring them; some went in search of finding unlikely partnerships, others who were never known to lash out publicly at their opponents, openly vented out their hostility. A joint parliament session of both houses was held in September, where the government, its allied partners and most opposition parties made eloquent speeches, almost all lamenting the election rigging but avowing their faith in the democratic process and the supremacy of the parliament.
The political party affected most by the current scenario, is the Pakistan People’s Party, which had already suffered a major setback in the elections. It has now lost its credibility as the leading opposition party, as the sit-in has established PTI as single strongest opposition in the country. Perhaps this is the reason why Asif Ali Zardari lashed out publicly against Imran Khan recently and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari singled out PTI, at the Bagh-e-Jinnah rally, when voicing his disapproval of any underhand plot that would derail democracy in the country.
The Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), led by Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri, who had decided to join PTI’s Azadi March after Imran Khan’s announcement of a long march towards the capital, ended its sit-in abruptly on 21st October; vows of taking the government to task for the murder of its workers and crying protestors, notwithstanding. As I had mentioned in an article earlier, PTI was never in need of TUQ’s support, whereas PAT needed the added impetus to make its protest a success. PAT ending the Dharna abruptly, did affect the momentum that was built during the sit-in, which was surprising in the sense that the Allama had even offered PTI workers his support, had Imran Khan decided to end the sit-in. Amidst rumours of a possible deal with the government, Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri left for Canada. He is back again but has not given any significant call, waiting perhaps to see how the scenario develops.
As Imran khan has given the call for a massive protest today, people have started thronging the streets of the Capital. It is hard to say what Imran khan’s address to his workers and supporters will be, or its implications thereof, as he calls it the final round of the protest. A protest that started on the premise of demanding an investigation into electoral fraud in four constituencies, but rapidly changed into a demand for the Prime Minister’s resignation. It is unlikely that Nawaz Sharif will resign any time soon but it is not to say that the Dharna has failed. Despite its twists and turns, wittingly or unwittingly, it has created a ripple wave of awareness amongst the general public. Not only this, it has made the government realize, albeit reluctantly, that things cannot proceed the way they always have. The only way forward will be governance and governance alone. Imran Khan should end his sit-in and find a way within the system for electoral reforms and possible mid-term elections.
Politicians should know that no matter how many power sharing charters they sign, or laws they pass in the parliament, or wait for calls from so-called “third umpires”, unless they are sincere in their cause towards Pakistan and its people, they will not be able to break the power hierarchy in the country. A show of ingenuity, self accountability and genuineness of purpose is required by all the primary institutions of the country, to steer Pakistan on its way to glory.