Saleem Qamar Butt
Chaos or Coherence vis-à-vis Interference or Conspiracy
The ouster of former Prime Minister Imran Khan through a highly controversial judicial process on midnight 9/10 April 2022, has created much greater tremors than could have been anticipated by the perpetrators. In the larger public opinion, the hurried late night operation was supported by the mostly politicized civil administration, invested media and under neutrality cover by the establishment, instead of preferred pure parliamentary process as had been clearly defined in the Constitution of Pakistan 1973. Nevertheless, the actors involved in defending against the PTI’s narrative of foreign interference (intrusion/involvement/intervention) and domestic conspiracy (scheme/machination/intrigue) failed to fathom the enormity of the public
reaction that resulted in instant and voluntary mass protests all over the world including Pakistan, largely by the youth and educated people including veterans of the Armed Forces, women, children and people of all ages from both rural and urban areas.
The strength and enthusiasm of the so far peaceful protests in tens of thousands in all major cities, towns and villages has given rise to an unprecedented public determination to defeat any foreign attempts to change political governments in Pakistan through local moles and imbedded actors (covered in “Foreign Interference, Myth or Reality”). It is heartening to see that “The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” are being blunted for the first time in Pakistan by much aware public for the first time, which is already sending a shiver down the spines of the thespians responsible for removal of Imran Khan’s elected democratic government.
“When plunder becomes a way of life, men create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”~ Frédéric Bastiat
On 19th April 2022, after a lot of give and take among three main contending parties and breakaway allies of the last government for sharing the victory spoils, 33 ministers were sworn in, out of which 24 ministers are reportedly on court bails on criminal and mega corruption cases. That says a lot about the judicial system as well as about the efficacy and survival of the brought back national government minus Imran Khan. Therefore, the new government has taken a quick start with removal of all investigators, prosecutors and with elimination of NAB as its top priority to clean the slate of corruption cases. Nonetheless, the hastily formed coalition government of PPP, PML-N, JUI, MQM, ANP, PTM, BAP plus other turncoats with history of being sworn political opponents of each other, and eyes set on the future political dispensation, the fissiparous attitudes are prone to surface sooner than later resulting in further political chaos, even without much effort by the overthrown PTI. The coalition government appears to be a cart being pulled by four horses, each pulling in a different direction for more power grab. That may create even greater chaos, which shall pave the way for an early general elections in Pakistan making the jubilations by the power sharing parties short lived despite the desire to survive for more than a year. However, the main onus of defeating overthrown Imran Khan’s narrative rests with PML-N and therefore, immediate attempts have been unleashed for character tarnishing on well-funded print, electronic and social media and through threats of untenable cases against Imran Khan. Nevertheless, it can safely be presumed that any misstep to further corner PTI by manipulating a case like ‘foreign funding’ or suppression by coercive tools is prone to add more fuel to the political fire, which may turn the peaceful protests into mass agitation that may not remain nonviolent. Such an undesirable state of affairs may induce most detrimental military involvement, which is already finding itself in the most unenviable position; firstly for being kept under the hammer of most derogatory accusations by PDM for bringing Imran Khan as “selected government”; and now conversely being targeted by PTI supporters for facilitating take over by an “imported government”. A real catch 22 for the establishment with serious ramifications. In this age of information, disinformation warfare is a lethal tool that has been cleverly conflated by the enemies of Pakistan to target the Center of Gravity i.e. Pak Army. Obviously, only positive actions as per the real public pulse can defeat that negativity rather than words or any misplaced domestic counter measures. It is heartening to hear Imran Khan’s statement on 20th April, “Pakistan Army is more important for Pakistan than Imran Khan”.
“A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves and traitors are not victims... but accomplices” - George Orwell
Besides above stated points, PTI’s star performance in galvanizing the public support all over the world by Pakistani Diasporas as well as millions of supporters vociferously appearing in PTI’s processions in Islamabad, Peshawar and Lahore seeking early elections coincides with PDM’s demand before they succeeded in replacing Imran Khan. Although, the new government will now try its best to delay the earlier asked for general elections, in order to put in place typical politicized facilitators, quick delivery on near completion projects by the ousted government to take credit; yet the chaotic political environment may not allow that to happen. It needs no emphasis that in the given political impasse fraught with complete chaos in the country, a free and fair elections on EVMs under a new apolitical Election Commission in coming 3 to 4 months may be the only attractive option with the NSC, superior judiciary, civil administration and the omnipresent establishment. Only that can help restore the much tainted image of the institutions being incalculably assaulted on social media instead of witch hunting PTI supporters. The incumbent government, all law enforcing institutions and intelligence agencies need to blunt any element of foreign interference rather than pushing it under the carpet; and remain vigilant to the threats as our national coherence depends a lot on wading through the current political commotion by avoiding any black swan incident and God forbid another Liaqat Ali Khan, ZA Bhutto, General Zia or Benazir jiffy. Needless to say, this country cannot afford another Dhaka moment.
Most of the well informed Pakistani people both home and abroad have come to believe that Imran Khan alone has created a legacy of resistance and defiance against the powers that be, whether local or international; this is getting amply substantiated by the massive super-charged public support that PTI is getting. What remains to be seen in the near future is, how this mass perception will impact the future course of action in Pakistani politics. Will this popular opinion have a make-or-break impact on general elections? The indicators are obvious that minus any treacherous maneuvers by officialdom, the current situation is ripe for enabling PTI to get a clear majority in the next general elections, provided PTI could apply the lessons learnt from the last elections and the cut-short governance period. If that happened, one could expect to see a much stronger, politically more mature and wiser Imran khan. It is expected that the expelled PTI will make use of the time available to form fresh indigenous party candidates’ lists for the elections and a capable and experienced shadow cabinet, besides mending the fences with domestic and foreign powers; a reality that can’t be wished away.
The providence has provided Pakistan with a chance where all conflicting political parties and smaller actors stand as one coalition party in the government and PTI alone as a strong opposition party. I am reminded of my published piece in South Asia magazine in October 2021 addition, “A System for Growth”. After detailed analysis of various systems of governments in the world including our Pakistan’s experiments in the last more than seven decades, I had recommended a two party democratic political system for Pakistan in which one party rules under strict check in place by a very strong opposition (acting as a shadow government) with a competent prime minister in place. The concerned decision makers in Pakistan may like to spend some time in reading the subject piece and utilize this God given opportunity to undertake serious electoral reforms that is free from blackmailers, turncoats and ensure criterion based political induction, integrated into two main political parties. That will ensure better governance and even smooth political transition whenever necessitated. In my view, such a balanced political system, if put in place with complete sincerity, honesty and transparency, will usher in national growth and eliminate foreign interference potential. It is hoped that a strong political system shall also constitutionally redefine limits of the functioning of the Judiciary, the Parliament, the Establishment, the Administration and media as observed in all developed countries. For that, the NSC and all concerned national institutions can make an everlasting positive contribution, which will be written in Pakistan history in golden words.
22 April 2022