Pakistan: Perpetual Regime Failure
In Pakistan, if the country's three main political parties, namely the PPP, the PML-N and the PTI, have each failed to govern well, the question arises: why? Is there a problem with the stated three political parties or with the three main organs of the state i.e. Legislature, Judiciary and the Executives attempting to function out of the respective constitutional orbits? Is it because of application of the colonial mindset, strategy and tactics by the three pillars of the state on the hapless public who is to be served but not to be misruled? Is there a problem with our stars or with us? Is there a problem with the system of governance or with the unfair men in the system? Is it due to lack of competence or frail character of lustful power grabbers? Is it a case of “like people, like rulers” or vice versa? Or is it a backlash of failure to learn from the past experience of others and even from own major national strategic blunders e.g. October 1958, December 1970/71, July 1977, April 1979, October 1999, September 2001 and April 2022. A democracy is a society in which the citizens are sovereign and control the government; did it ever happen in Pakistan? We need to remember that had the political magnanimity been our national culture, there would neither have been four military takeovers, nor frequent dismissal of civilian governments. The current political acrimony and mayhem in Pakistan smacks of 1970/71 and 1977/79 distressing environments and must be avoided. Since PTI had got a chance to rule for only 3.5 years as against decades of repeated rule by PPP and PMLN, therefore their performance comparison cannot be real. Nevertheless, I have addressed the above queries in a series of articles published earlier and for any honest, aware and keen reader, finding answers to above questions won’t be a challenge.
In February 1956, the Constituent Assembly decided that the country shall be a Federal Republic known as Islamic Republic of Pakistan with a parliamentary political system. Till to date, Pakistan has had 31 prime ministers (from Mr. Liaqat Ali Khan to Mr. Imran Khan and Mr. Shahbaz Sharif). There have been thirteen Presidents of Pakistan since the introduction of the post in 1956. Six presidents have been members of a political party and four of them were active party members of the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP). The first president was a retired military officer; four others were incumbent military officers of which, three gained power through successful military coups in Pakistan's history – FM Ayub Khan (27 October 1958 to 31 March 1969, left ZA Bhutto and PPP as a legacy), General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq (16 September 1978 to 17 August 1988, left Nawaz Sharif and PML(N) as his legacy) and General Pervez Musharraf (20 June 2001 to 18 August 2008, left behind PML(Q) and MQM).
In its 75 years history, Pakistan has seen democratic governments with tinge of socialism, communism and hue of dynastic monarchy and conversely, autocracy under military rule with shades of democracy. Nevertheless, with only a few changes of faces necessitated due to natural fade away; however, in all experiments the ruling elite with new generations onboard remained a constant, besides the domestic and foreign movers and shakers. The other commons factors in all types of tried governments, which had remained the main reasons for perpetual failure included: no induction and further grooming criterion for the politicians/ Legislature as in the case of Judiciary and the Executives; consequent unending bad governance, rampant corruption, political victimization, wasteful and shameless extravagance on public funds, lack of accountability, weak writ of the law, desperately slow judicial system, suffocating unbridled inflation, addiction to foreign loans by accepting some compromises on national sovereignty and decision making, adjusting to foreign influence or even interference, unstoppable slide down of economy and pitiable decline in the value of Pak Rupee. “We believe that no nation can survive politically free, but economically enslaved”~.
Consequently, irrespective of the type of government, the public at large has mostly remained deprived, ignored and barely surviving under a humiliating environment. Since people of Pakistan have repeatedly seen the change of governments overnight, murder, rape, arson, kidnapping, drugs, narcotics smuggling and NAB cases involving billions of rupee fraud written off in hours, and yesterday’s villain becoming today’s rulers and vice versa; therefore, Pakistan badly needs Magna Carta of its own, which guarantees rule of law and dispensation of timely justice to all and sundry.
In one of my earlier published article “Pakistani Politics: A Review” : it was opined that, “On 10 April 2022, the coalition succeeded to oust PTI government / PM Imran Khan through a no-confidence motion, after which the thirteen parties unnatural coalition named PDM formed its own government, choosing the opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif as the country's prime minister (as IJI had enabled his elder brother Nawaz Sharif to become CM in 1988 and PM in 1990). Therefore, suffice to say that democratic process in Pakistan has been repeating the same experiments again and again expecting different results in vain. It has remained one step forward and two steps backward or the same old wine in new bottles. The PDM government and allies (especially the PMLN and PPP) are more prone to break away from PDM coalition like predecessors and resort to the same old unsparing competition as soon as general elections are announced with PTI probably out of the game and Nawaz Sharif and other convicted politicians getting reprieve by due amendments in the national laws to return to national politics; a beaten track of course. The sale and purchase of so called electable cum turncoats continues unabated and unashamedly as always with most fair-weather birds joining the newly created runaway Tareen group followed by PPP, that is bound to upset PMLN”.
So as always, the powerful ruling elite continues to look above the law. The executive and especially the military establishment and judiciary remain targets of harsh criticism for conforming to the exploitation of the powerful ruling elite blowing hot and cold and playing good-cop/ bad-cop against the establishment including judiciary. Most tragically, the public is continuously getting crushed gasping for basic human needs like affordable food, energy, shelter, health facilities, clean air and water, justice, education and suitable job opportunities etc. The land of pure keeps teetering on the brink of economic collapse, and serious security crises from within and from outside. The fact remains, that a powerful and stable Pakistan under a bold and dynamic leadership seems a distant dream seeing the fate of Liaqat Ali Khan, Fatima Jinnah, Z.A. Bhutto, General Zia-ul-Haq, Benazir Bhutto and now Imran Khan facing similar circumstances, thanks to external desires, internal conspiracies and connivance. The examples of Umar Mukhtar, Haider Ali, Tipu Sultan, King Faisal, Saddam Hussain, and Qaddafi also need to be remembered; however, Bashar-al-Assad, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and Mahathir Muhammad provide a glimmer of hope. The only national hope is if the apex courts/ judges could ensure supremacy of the constitution and speak fairly through their timely decisions; and if the establishment could ensure holding free and fair elections by the apolitical EC of Pakistan without further delay with equal playing field for all; a wish hard to fancy. “Our problems are man-made, therefore they may be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings”~.
I am compelled to conclude that having tried all possible political systems globally in vogue but in vain for Pakistan, we cannot afford to repeat the same experiments again and again and expect different results, until and unless we focus on removing the bugs that failed all governments. In my view, without upsetting the apple cart, we have to follow a long term and a short term approach to run our political system with ‘two main political parties’ resembling the one in USA (Democrats and Republican) or as just demonstrated in Pakistan from 2022 to 2023 i.e. PTI versus PTM (a thirteen parties coalition), while still following the parliamentary system under stricter checks and balances and with much higher specified criterion for becoming a politician/ member of the legislature. It is a foregone conclusion that the semi-literate and corruption fed human resource can make any system of governance miserably fail as experienced time and again. Therefore, as a long term approach, we have to groom the institutions of our mothers and teachers with higher social and government status, who would give us much improved generations in 20 to 30 years and so on; as experienced in Germany and Japan after complete devastation in the Second World War. Meanwhile in short term, a strong constitutional reform committee including heads of all political parties, members of National Security Committee and required technocrats should have closed door deliberations to form two major political parties (by voluntary merger or banning unwilling others with less than 20% votes record in the last three elections) and undertake due legislation for laying down criterion for participation in national politics. The minimum qualification, eligibility and training criterion should be at least at par with the Executives and the Judiciary. Since such a proposal is bound to disqualify majority of the so-called politicians cum plunderers thriving on black money and ever blackmailing smaller parties/ characters, an enormous uproar and political mayhem with external hands immediately coming in to exploit is unavoidable. For realisation of this obviously challenging national cleansing plan, which is bound to be opposed vehemently by the vultures in the political arena and paid associates in every walk of life, Pakistan Armed Forces will have to play due role in keeping it a controlled affair short of Ayub khan like takeover. If Pakistan has to rise among the comity of nations, we need to commence the process forthwith so that the next general elections assure Pakistan a better governance system and real patriotic Pakistani and efficient public representatives.
Finally a few words about the Center of Gravity of Pakistan i.e. the Armed Forces including its Nuclear Deterrence Capability, which is once again under sharp focus of the foes due to the shaped environment. The ominous and well-choreographed redux of terrorism in Pakistan and US' engagement of the incumbent ruling elite and civil/ military bureaucracy in the worst ever politico-economic situation rings alarm bells; are we headed back to square one? As per my assessment, in the big power competition, there is no reason for the US and allies to change their aims and objectives or desires associated with a Nuclear Pakistan. The resurgence of terrorism in Pakistan in the last almost one year is too ominous and precarious to be dealt with alone and needs immediate strategic regional cooperation including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, China, Russia, Central Asian Republics, Azerbaijan and Turkey.
Apropos, the Armed Forces should remain cognizant of the greater designs of the foes and perils of once again getting embroiled in the same rut as was the case for the last four decades…that is what the enemy wants us to do. The real success will be to turn the table on the enemies rather than reacting and firefighting being thin on the unfamiliar grounds. The 13 parties’ alliance called PDM and opposition PTI need to demonstrate political sagacity and foresight to save the national integrity. The military institution should let the politicians and the civil armed forces handle the internal chaos and avoid getting unwittingly dragged in the political quagmire once again. Let each pillar of the State perform its own constitutional role rather than unduly leaning on the Army, which already has its plate full of security challenges besides restoration of real apolitical role and image that got tainted especially in the last two years. The wisdom lies in learning from history and not repeating it!