Saleem Qamar Butt
Pakistan: Diminishing Gravity
“Throughout the infinite, the forces are in a perfect balance, and hence the energy of a single thought may determine the motion of a universe.”~
The regime change operation in Pakistan in April 2022 has obviously 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. As for dwindling economy, just in one year i.e. April 2022 to April 2023, the inflation in the country has risen from approximately 12% to almost 35%, US $ is gone up from Rs. 182 to Rs. 284, petrol price up from Rs. 150 to Rs. 272 per liter, Reserves went down from 16.4 to 4.2 Bn USD, interest rate has gone up from 11% to 21 %, FDI went down from 1.32 to 784 Mln USD, exports went down from 2.78 to 2.32 Bn USD and MOODY’s rating has changed from B3 to CAA3. The life line provided by the IMF has ultimately caused asphyxia with unbearable strings attached to release of anymore oxygen. The textile production, car manufacturers and other export generating industries are fast shutting down with the worst economic crises and unemployment in the country. The increase in energy prices and devaluation of Pakistan Rupee and uncontrolled food prices have turned the lives of the public miserable. There are reports of dozens dying and injured on a daily basis — in stampedes during distributions of free/subsidized flour or on distribution of food and charity by the affluent people throughout the country. The political differences have transformed into personal enmity with broad daylight murder attempt on former Prime Minister Imran khan, followed by almost 150 politically motivated cases registered against him and appalling police raids on his residence and his party leadership. The threats to Imran Khan’s life continue as publicly conveyed by opposing political elites in power. The political dialogue has been replaced by most disgusting hate speeches, bad mouthing, slanders, threats, abuses and lies setting the worst possible lows.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 since killing of a famous TV anchor Arshad Sharif; therefore most of the journalists, media channels and newspapers find it safe and more profitable to propagate the government narratives.
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 appears to be on the brink of complete breakdown. A large number of Pakistani people are migrating to other countries in complete desperation. Nevertheless, a few members of the judiciary, bureaucracy, and ruling-class continue to remain engrossed in narcissistic, blinkered and paltry battles for self rather than national interest; with focus on delaying and avoiding already overdue two provincial, as well as national general elections due in October 2022.
The Election Commission of Pakistan has been contesting the Constitution and the Supreme Court on the issue of holding two provincial assemblies’ elections within ninety days. While the country is now facing an unprecedented predicaments; the incumbent PDM Government which came into power as a result of mid-night judicial decision on 9th April 2022 against then Prime Minister Imran Khan, is now targeting the same Supreme Court with open slanders, threats and defiance after its decision to hold elections in Punjab (and KPK) within 90 days as per the constitution. The 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 attempting to drag in the Military by convening NSC meeting on 7th April 2023, but hopefully in vain. PDM Government leaders openly threaten it’s either Imran Khan or them. Whether the bullish PDM régime 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 till writing of these lines. Consequently, faced with the worst political, economic and judicial crises, the country seems at the verge of an emergency or even worst a civil war, as incumbent government perceives holding of provincial or general elections as a political suicide.
Understandably, the establishment should also be considering its options on how to render due help in tackling the highly polarized polity, economic bankruptcy, and judicial predicament. Ironically, at present Army is itself faced with the most alarming 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. It is stated with deep regret that the unprecedented and undeniable gulf created between the Army and the people of Pakistan (due to the reasons well known by all and sundry) is considered catastrophic for the nation as well as for the state. I wrote a piece in 1990 and republished it in August 2020 titled as “National Center of Gravity” (C of G), in which I had postulated the Army as the Center of Gravity of Pakistan and for India it was thought to be its political cum economic system adopted by India in the early 50s.
My postulation was with reference to Clausewitz's theory of C of G (to achieve victory we must mass our forces at the hub of all power and movement. The enemy’s “center of gravity”) and partly based on my general understanding of physics. In physics, Gravity is a force of attraction that exists between any two masses and any two bodies. Gravity is responsible for many of the large-scale structures and balance/order in the universe including our solar system. The Sun’s gravity keeps earth and other planets orbiting around; and Earth’s gravitational pull on the moon keeps it moving around it in a defined orbit….giving periods of day, night and seasons on earth and keeps connection with the Universe so essential for orderly life on earth. Gravity has an infinite range, although its effects become weaker as objects get farther away….that may result in disappearance in the Black Holes. Likewise, 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 hypothesized 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 only force of attraction 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 shove the nation and the state into a black hole or a catastrophe.
Pakistan has unluckily been passing through somewhat similar storms in the past too; however, what makes it most perilous this time around is the fading gravity in the National C of G, which in the past was strong enough to steer the sinking ship out of the whirlpool. Ironically, despite very sharp criticism, three hybrid Military led governments in Pakistan under Field Marshal Ayub khan, General Zia-ul-Haq and General Musharraf (neither supported nor advocated), had provided the public with better security, political and economic situation based on healthier macro and micro indicators in comparison with the period under sham democratic governments. Needless to say that barring a few exceptions, almost all of the politicians and the political parties in Pakistan have sprung up from the military laps.
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 the malicious external conspiracies, mischievous internal machinations, mismanagement and corruption, sadly today Pakistan gives the impression of a rudderless ship hijacked by pirates and about to sink in a swirling vortex of multiple crises. The majority of the people of Pakistan are dazed, desperate and agitated due to unbearable inflation, crippled economy, unemployment and poor law and order situation. The government has badly failed to take care of the security and wellbeing of its citizens besides defying the apex court’s decision; and therefore the very purpose and legitimacy of being a government is lost. Out of four, two largest provinces are without representative governments and incomplete National Assembly is without a real opposition; and caretakers/ lame duck federal government are trying to prolong their rule against the constitution through manipulation and jugglery of words in the courts, parliament and in the media by flouting the constitution and the Supreme Court for avoiding elections.
So what is the way forward; there is no short cut available. A distant dream though, yet a highly qualified, merit, character, integrity and dedication based three pillars of the state i.e. legislature, judiciary and executives orbiting (functioning) in their respective domains for the wellbeing and security of the people is a prerequisite for an Ideal Welfare State; that in itself will act as a star radiating strong enough gravitational force to be the Center of Gravity (refer diagram). The US, Japan, China, most of the European countries and almost all the Scandinavian countries can be cited as examples, where all Pakistani and Muslims like to migrate and live happily. This transition from Army being the C of G to the core of a Welfare State of Pakistan involves a long and arduous journey for which we are yet to take even the first little step. Till that moment arrives, willy-nilly, once again the Military in cooperation with other stakeholder i.e. politicians and judiciary will have to facilitate the said transition by playing role of an honest umpire (desirably one last time); and enable much preferred political dialogue and holding of free and fair general elections in the country to take place under absolutely apolitical judiciary/ Election Commission.
Subsequently, through a sustained process, it can be prudently hoped that the people of Pakistan will begin to elect their true and honest representatives with absolutely clean character certificates and higher education at least as required for apolitical judges, military and civil bureaucrats. That is the only lasting way forward to permanently get out of the quagmire Pakistan is currently stuck in; and put it on the path to undertake all due reforms including judiciary, law, economy, education, health care, agriculture and security to name a few. If that happens, in a decade or two, the bright Star of Pakistan shall shine on the Global horizon radiating maximum gravity. Insha’Allah!