Institutional Perception Management
“A government of laws, and not of men.”—John Adams
The Pakistan Democratic Movement or PDM, was created on 20 September 2020 as a coalition of 13 big and small parties, which have traditionally remained at loggerheads. The aim was to plan a strategy for replacing the PTI government in order to get rid of the noose of accountability i.e. NAB/ other cases, by reclaiming the throne. On 10 April 2022, the coalition succeeded to oust Khan through a no-confidence motion. However, after more than a year in the government, the regime change maneuver in Pakistan in April 2022 seems to have gone wrong against the expectations of the perpetrators; and consequently the country is experiencing the worst ever economic woes, unbelievable political polarisation, judicial fissures and simmering security situation along the Western and Southern borders.
On the foreign policy front too, Pakistan seemed to have missed the bus moving in the right strategic direction vis-à-vis India and other regional countries. In nutshell, the governance system in Pakistan is facing serious crises. A large number of Pakistani people are migrating to other countries in complete desperation. Nevertheless, the traditional ruling elite continue to remain engrossed in narcissistic, blinkered and trivial battles for self rather than for national interest. The Election Commission of Pakistan and the incumbent PDM Government, which came into power as a result of mid-night judicial decision on 9/10th April 2022 against then Prime Minister Imran Khan, is now targeting the same Supreme Court with open slanders, threats and defiance after SC’s order to hold elections in Punjab (and KPK) within 90 days as per the constitution. The incumbent prime minister of Pakistan attacks the President and the Chief justice of Pakistan/ the Supreme Court and erroneously accuses them of prejudices; passing 42 members (out of 342) signed resolutions against the CJP/Supreme Court with threat of filing references against the CJP and asking him to resign. Above all the more dangerous are the deep cracks that have been exposed in the superior judiciary; whereas PDM is apparently trying a repeat of 1997 assault on the Apex Court and the CJP in a slightly different mode and even attempted to drag in the Military by convening NSC meetings. PDM Government leaders openly threaten that it’s either Imran Khan or them. Whether the bullish PDM regime succeeds in pulverizing the constitution and the Apex Court or the Supreme Court knocks down the raging bull with the final judicial punch, remains to be seen. Consequently, faced with the worst political, economic and judicial crises, the incumbent PDM government perceives holding of provincial or general elections as a political suicide before they could get IK disqualified / imprisoned or deported and further weaken and even disband PTI. Will it impact the PTI voters and will PTI’s chairman buckle down remains a question mark.
The political differences have alarmingly transformed into personal enmity with broad daylight murder attempt on former Prime Minister Imran khan on November 3rd, 2022, followed by almost 150 politically motivated cases registered against him and appalling police raids on his as well as his party leadership’s residences. The threats to Khan’s political career as well as his life continue as publicly conveyed by opposing political figures in power. The political parlance by all politicians has been replaced by appalling hate speeches, slanders, threats, abuses and lies setting the worst possible lows. The heavy-handed suppression of political dissent and state oppression against supporters of PTI as well as media/ journalists is also witnessing unprecedented levels especially after the arrest of PTI Chairman and the subsequent most condemn-able incidents of outrage and violence on 9th May 2023, by some overzealous and frenzied party workers/ mobsters. Nevertheless, the attack on Corps Commander House in Lahore, other military installations elsewhere and the most disgusting and unpardonable sacrilege of a some war memorials built for remembrance and respect to Martyrs and living heroes of previous wars has earned PTI a very bad name.
“Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.”—Louis Brandeis
Consequently, the PDM government response to 9th May's uncalled for incidents has led to mass arrests of PTI supporters in Punjab and KPK, including trespassing and mal-treatment of women and families by Punjab, Sindh and Capital police, registration of politically motivated cases against all PTI leadership and important members. Till writing of these lines, most of the arrested PTI members and leadership including the top ones have been forced to quit PTI after brief press conferences’ statements and all cases against them have immediately been withdrawn as a reward. The electable mostly from Punjab and all fair weather members of PTI have already started joining other parties with PPP in the lead and followed up by PML (N). Moreover, PTI is getting further splintered and enfeebled by formation of smaller groups with different names led by defunct/ runaway rich members of PTI. The sale and purchase and luring-in process of MPs/ electable is once again in motion; unethical though, yet it is a routine matter in Pakistani politics. PPP’s Asif Zardari looks emboldened camping in Lahore and PML (N) is bound to retaliate sooner than later with re-commencement of cut-throat political choreography in the Battle for Punjab. It won’t come as a surprise if the likely losers (now forming PDM) of elections in Punjab and other parts of Pakistan shall once again turn their guns towards each other as well as towards establishment as usual---hence a paradox for both. Nevertheless, the compromises and settlements for the next general elections are underway at Dubai and London; further squeezing any possibilities of PTI's return to the power.
However, the most alarming phenomenon is that the Establishment is getting blamed for the misdeeds of PDM regime. PTI did not comprise of all saints and so is the case with PDM. Understandably, the establishment in wider sense should also be feeling the heat of dismal performance by the PDM government in the face of highly polarized polity, economic bankruptcy, and judicial predicament. Ironically, at present while other parts of the establishment are relatively comfortable in the background, the judiciary and Army in particular is faced with the most upsetting and unparalleled phenomenon that has been in place since April 2022 i.e. sharp public criticism on the senior military leadership as well as against the otherwise most respected national institutions, which had always been looked up to as the last hope after Almighty Allah. Is it because of PTI propaganda or by the crafty maneuvers by the faltering PDM or failure of the establishment to remain and look impartial, or mix of all of it? That needs dispassionate and honest soul searching/analyses.
It is stated with deep regret that the unprecedented mis-perceptions created about the role of the Army in the political mayhem in the last four years plus is considered disgusting for the nation as well as for the state. In the absence of any other phenomenon or institution i.e. a strong political system, a vibrant economy, well established Justice System, a firm and uniform faith in religion or a binding national ideology, I postulated 33 years ago that Pakistan Armed Forces being representative of every nook and corner of the country with complete dedication to render supreme sacrifices in the defence of the motherland without any prejudice, was the “National Center of Gravity” that would keep the other elements of national power working in an orderly fashion. And God forbid, if that force of attraction in the National C of G ever got faded, it could then jostle the nation and the state into a black hole or a catastrophe. Alhamdulillah, the public at large including majority of PTI workers remain respectful to Pakistan Armed Forces with deep reverence for the Shaheed and Ghazi, which does not need anyone’s chameleonic self-serving media campaign.
At present, the PDM government with PML (N) in the lead and with PPP smartly following on heels, seems to have cleverly pitched the Army against the PTI; especially by building a malicious political narrative after 9th May’s dastardly incidents by some frenzied hoodlums, who must be well identified and given exemplary punishments as per the law of the land. Nevertheless, it is suggested with complete sincerity to the Army and the Country that for expeditious and transparent dispensation of justice, the identified culprits of 9th May incidents should be tried in the existing special Anti-Terrorism Courts rather than in the Military courts. Ironically, the PDM government has successfully sucked Army into political quagmire to hide its consistent failures, disobedience to the apex courts and dishonoring the Constitution, wiping their corruption and other criminal cases by amending the NAB and other laws as well as by prolonging their rule through unethical and unlawful machination and oppression; that is all in nutshell, which is getting the Army’s image soiled. The PDM 13 parties are prone to change their colours like a chameleon as soon as they feel power slipping out of their hands as has always been the case. And it will not take long for the establishment to realise that the PDM is a case of a Catch 22.
“They should rule who are able to rule best.”—Aristotle
Not long ago, the state of Pakistan was looked up to by the Muslim World as a source of inspiration being the only Nuclear Power with strong Armed forces, moderate outlook and promising growth rate. However, struck by mismanagement and corruption, sadly today Pakistan gives the impression of a rudderless ship. To get the rails back on the tracks, the Judiciary and Executives have to function 100% apolitical in true letter and spirit, which has to happen as an institutional imperative for the sake of the state and the people. The power brokers and three pillars of the country have to join heads to bring in place the much awaited Political Magnanimity for smooth progress and development of the country and the society. The current political acrimony and chaos in Pakistan smacks of 1971 and 1977…leading to most consequential hanging of Z.A Bhutto on 4th April 1979; hence, that catastrophic path must be avoided. Is PDM bent upon acting as IJI (succeeded by PML-N) of 1977, and is Punjab going to repeat December 1970 Elections like imprudent role in politics (Pakistan went to polls on 7th December 1970. The Awami League of Mujib scored a convincing victory, by securing 160 out of 162 seats reserved for East Pakistan. Bhutto's PPP managed to get 81 seats against the 138 allocated for West Pakistan. Quite ironically, out of 81 seats, PPP got 62 seats from Punjab, and only 18 from Sindh and just 01 from NWFP; despite that Bhutto misused Sindhi language card to subdue demand for Bengali language as state language in East Pakistan. The non-acceptance of national assembly election results by PPP/ Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto caused loss of half the country and surrender of Army in former East Pakistan).
Prudence demands that the military institution should let the politicians and police/civil armed forces handle the self-created mayhem and avoid getting unwittingly dragged in the political swamp once again. The path forward requires bold actions. The Military in cooperation with judiciary will have to play role of an honest umpire (desirably one last time); and enable much preferred immediate political dialogue and holding of free and fair general elections in the country to take place under absolutely apolitical judiciary/ Election Commission. Protection of People and the Constitution is the laconic message for the Armed Forces of Pakistan being the saviors. That is considered the best remedy for restoration of the image of all state institutions as well as for prospective political and economic stability in Pakistan. The wisdom lies in learning from the history and not repeating mistakes!