Pakistan heading towards President's rule
Pakistan today is politically shattered and the Pakistan army has a set formula to handle political crises, obviously created by them as and when they need.
Pakistan army has been in practice playing ducks and drakes with the politicians and disadvantaged the people in the country since its inception.
But the winds of change have begun after the assassination attack on the former prime minister Imran Khan on November 3. Now it is a security establishment that is on the PTI's target, facing the bitterest onslaught it has ever been subjected to from an ousted leader who enjoys the advantage of mass appeal.
Imran Khan, directly accused ISI's Major General Faisal Naseer of plotting his assassination. But Pakistan's military media wing Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) trashed Khan's allegations by saying, "The baseless allegations hurled at the institution or officials today are highly regrettable and strongly condemned. No one will be allowed to defame the institution or its soldiers with impunity. Keeping this in view, the government of Pakistan has been requested to investigate the matter and initiate legal action against those responsible for defamation and false accusations against the institution and its officials without any evidence whatsoever."
Pakistan today is politically shattered and the army is trying to take advantage of the situation like in the past. The Pakistan army has a set formula to handle political crises, obviously created by them as and when they need. This time Pakistan army strategists will play their game very carefully. They will prefer the imposition of the President's rule for a brief period followed by a fresh election till they repair the lost image of the institution. The President's rule for the current government may not suit but for Imran Khan, it will be a blessing because the current president of Pakistan Arif Alvi belongs to PTI.
As far as Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa's position is concerned, he will comfortably be settled down out of Pakistan with all retirement perks like other generals who too have been living outside with all comforts. Gen Zia ul Haq's death has left the generals with the choice of either imposing martial law again or holding elections and transferring power to a democratically elected civilian government. The present army establishment has opted for the second option, in the present situation realising that a perpetuation of the military rule might provoke public resistance and exacerbate the turmoil in an already highly polarised society. However, the generals are not prepared to pull out completely and leave the political field solely to the politicians.
Making and breaking of alliances has been a prominent feature of party politics in Pakistan for the past seven decades.
Pakistan's political history has seen many alliances being formed with strange bedfellows. Combined Opposition Parties (COP) in 1964, the Democratic Action Committee (DAC) in 1968, the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) in 1977, the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) in 1983, and the Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD) in 2002.
The first organised opposition movement against Zia's military regime emerged in 1981, when 11 diverse political parties formed an alliance called the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD). General Zia not only ushered Pakistan into its longest period of military rule, but also extended the army's role in domestic politics much further than earlier military rulers.
It was in 1964 when five main opposition political parties formed an alliance under the banner of Combined Opposition Parties (COP) against Pakistan's first military rule, led by Gen Ayub Khan, who had seized power in a coup in 1958.
General Ayub Khan, Supreme Commander and Chief Martial Law Administrator, after he abrogated the Constitution and imposed Pakistan's first Martial Law on October 8, 1958, was flanked by senior bureaucrat Aziz Ahmed and Lt-Gen Majeed Malik who were instrumental in making it all happen.
Two years later, in 1967, five opposition parties got together, forming a group incidentally also called the Pakistan Democratic Movement, to continue the struggle for restoration of democracy. Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan, a veteran politician, led the alliance. The alliance was later renamed as the Democratic Action Committee (DAC).
On March 25, 1969, martial law was again proclaimed and Gen Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan, the army commander-in-chief, took over the reins of power. The 1962 Constitution was abrogated. The new military ruler promised to hold elections on the basis of an adult franchise to the National Assembly, which would draw up a new Constitution. He also entered into negotiations with the DAC and leaders of other mainstream political parties.
That period also saw the emergence of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the former foreign minister in the Ayub government, as the main opposition voice. In 1970, the military handed over the power of the truncated country to Bhutto, whose PPP had won the largest number of seats from West Pakistan. Perhaps the biggest achievement of the Bhutto government was to give the country a new federal constitution. The 1973 Constitution, as it is known, was the first one in Pakistan to be framed by elected representatives. It was passed unanimously.
It was widely believed that the movement was backed by certain 'elements' in the security establishment, who were unhappy with Bhutto's populist politics.
As protests swept the country, Bhutto finalized the accord with the PNA.
But it was against the army's interest that they moved in and overthrew the Bhutto government on July 5, 1977. The Chief of Army Staff, Gen Muhammad Ziaul Haq, became Chief Martial Law Administrator. The PNA movement too ended in a military takeover, like those before it.
The military was back at the helm. Some members of the alliance also joined Gen Zia's military government. The military regime put the Constitution in abeyance and arrested Bhutto and other PPP leaders.
Zia promised to hold elections within 90 days but he never did. Fearing that polls would not deliver results in their favour, most PNA leaders also called for their postponement. Their support for military rule brought into question the PNA's supposed democratic credentials. In 1979, the military government executed Pakistan's first elected prime minister on what were widely considered trumped-up murder charges. Gen Zia established a harsh rule.
Eventually, Gen Musharraf attempted to consolidate his power by manipulating the two rivals PPP and PML-N. Both parties participated in the general elections in 2002. PML-N had also lost its support base against the formation of a pro-military faction called the Pakistan Muslim League - Quaid (PML-Q) of Musharraf. In 2003, the two parties formed the Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD), to challenge the military-led government. But the alliance never really took off the ground.
However, there are few precedents in Pakistan's recent history where governments have been ousted through street agitation alone. Fighting against the administration has been backed by the security establishment as the political order of the day in Pakistan.
With all possibility and probability, it indicates that swords from sheaths are out from the army and Imran Khan for the final battle.
(R C Ganjoo is a senior journalist and columnist having more than 30 years experience of covering issues concerning national security, particularly Kashmir. He has worked with several prominent media groups and his articles have been published in many national and international publications.)
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of OneIndia and OneIndia does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.