What happened on May 9, 2023 in Pakistan, can be termed as a “death knell” for democracy. It may not be really so though, as once again Pakistan Army has regained its grip on Pakistan. The Army might not be fully free of existential threat because there is simmering discontent within it against present Army Chief General Asim Munir. He might have imposed silence but pressure cooker situation does exist.
It is the overconfidence of Imran Khan, which has given army a new lease of life. The Army, is now busy silencing its supporters within army and the judiciary. Whatever, a crack has been created in army’s hold. One day it will crumble – but with it would go Pakistan, because it remains a bowl of political “salad” of different flavours. Lack of democracy has widened the cleavages.
Why has democracy not embedded itself in Pakistan? To find an answer, one has to go into its past since 1947. I am a keen Pakistan watcher. I listen to lot of her media noise which actually is reiteration of rants of their army. But I also see a lot of good Pakistanis hoping to see a turn around in their cycle of events to see it emerge as a strong democracy, free of shackling by extraneous powers. However, more they hope to free themselves, more they get caught in the knotty web. Some say it has fallen into a deep abyss, unable to jerk itself out. Let us see.
What is this deep abyss? The fault lay with its concept. Historically, ethnically, linguistically and geographically, there was nothing known as Pakistan. It was a faulty dream which lay half broken right at its inception, when bulk of Indian Muslims, like Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, had refused to accept it. In fact Abdul Kalam had predicted that it would die within 100 years. 50 Percent, it died, when Bangladesh was created in 1971. And other 50% is almost in its terminal phase.
Why do I say this? The two nation theory talked of South Asia of Hindus and Muslims. The spearhead of two nation theory was Muslim League, who wanted Muslims to separate out and get a separate dream land. Muslim League was Britain’s baby. Britain had floated it by creating separate religious electorate concept in 1937 elections for state assemblies. Thus, Muslim League became an emotional attraction for some South Asian Muslims but not all. And this minority clamoured for an idea which had no historical parallel. Therefore the concept of Pakistan was imposed upon disconnected in linguistic, ethnic and geographic entities, such as Bengal, Balochistan, Sindh and Pakhtoonistan.
I must admit, first of all, that the concept of Pakistan was mooted by a person from my area- Balachaur, in old Hoshiarpur district of undivided Punjab, India. His name was Chaudhary Rehmat Ali, a Muslim Gujjar, from Balachaur (my home town). Educated at Lahore and Cambridge in UK, he had written a booklet “Now Or Never. Are We to Perish Forever?” in 1931. In this booklet, he had proposed “Pakistan”, as an acronym from Punjab, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Sindh and Balochistan. And the acronym has stayed even till today. There has been no effort to integrate this “Salad Bowl” by the rulers over the last 76 years.
Anyway, Chaudhary Rehmat Ali was the real father of the idea of Pakistan-neither MA Jinnah and nor Dr Mohammad Iqbal. They exploited the theme when they were thrown out of the Congress party. Chaudhary Rehmat Ali never wanted East Bengal to be part of Pakistan. To him, it was not only a truncated Pakistan but a geographical accident. Therefore, what was created, made him uncomfortable and he died disappointed in February 1951 in England. I think Pakistan died there and then, with its proposer. He was disgusted with truncated Pakistan accepted by MA Jinnah and he refused to live in the country which his brain had created. He was actually deported/ exiled from Pakistan and died in penury in England.
Anyway, even besides him, the concept of Pakistan had lost its attraction and relevance when an equal segment of Muslim population refused to be transferred to it despite grave threats to their lives in the so-called Hindu India. The idea of Pakistan was thus a half cooked philosophy which got punctured right at its inception.
And then the year 1971 fully made it clear that religion alone does not make a nation. Year 1971 drove the final nails in the coffin of two nation theory. Today, almost same amount of Muslim population is housed in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. What remains today scattered in the so called envisaged dreamland of Muslims, are some ethnic and linguistic limbs of Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan and Pakhtoonkhwa. It has no common thread running through it.
Why is it that the idea of Pakistan did not succeed? It is the failure of the ruling classes of Pakistan to integrate the various constituents of this ” Salad Bowl” to mesh it properly to make it a tasty vegetable. Unfortunately, for Pakistan its towering leaders got removed from the scene in her infancy– MA Jinnah died of TB and Liaqat Ali was assassinated in 1951. Consequently, political power passed first into the hands of political pygmies and then “Shoot First, Talk Later” Generals. The personal interests of the Generals, never allowed democracy to be embedded in Pakistan. It must be noted that Generals have a tunnelled vision – they cannot see beyond their nose.
Generals of Pakistan have always sugar coated their personal interests with national interests and rather than building national institutes of governance, they became the authority for governance. Like the Banyan tree, Pakistan military did not allow political institutions and leadership to grow and consolidate the idea of Pakistan and under the Generals it kept floundering. Why is that Pakistan Army is different from the Indian Army though siblings of same mother i.e. British Indian Army?
Hussain Haqqani, an ex-Pakistani ambassador to USA gives the answer. According to him at the time of partition of the subcontinent, while Pakistan got 17% of resources and 19% of geography of British India, yet it got 33% of the 2.5 million army, which was far beyond the needs of newly formed army. This huge asset had to be justified by a threat perception and this it did by indulging in Kashmir and creating a deliberate threat from India.
It must be noted that in September – October 1947, India was not interested in J& K, which was virtually a free country according to Indian Act of Independence, passed by British Parliament on June 4 1947. Incited by Maj Gen Akbar Khan, MA Jinnah sent the so called tribal invaders to Kashmir under Maj Gen Akbar Khan. (This fact is not intimated to younger generations of Pakistan. They are fed with the lies that India annexed it – same goes for UN resolution of August 13, 1948 that Pakistan had rejected but general public is still fooled that UN had recommended plebiscite).
The tribal raid led to Maharaja Hari Singh of J&K seeking Indian help. He was advised that he could be given military aid only if he acceded to India in writing , which he did on October 27, 1947. Thus, Kashmir problem was created by Pakistan and “Hindu India” was deliberately made an evergreen enemy by Pakistani Generals.
Having created an enemy for itself and thus by raking public emotions, Generals got control of the people of Pakistan. Over the last 76 years, they have not only disallowed growth of political leaders and institutions but also failed to integrate various other constituents. They pay more attention to Kashmir than amalgamating Sindh, Balochistan and Pakhtoonqkhwa (KPK) into Pakistan. They pick up political pygmies and make them rulers- once the pygmies try to outgrow themselves, the military destroys them. It happened to Bhutto, General Ayub brought him up but Gen Zia Ul Haq destroyed him. Then his daughter Mrs Benazir Bhutto was twice sacked as Prime Minister of Pakistan by the Generals, and ultimately she was assassinated. No one knows who? Some blame General Pervez Musharraf.
And see the fate of poor Nawaz Sharif. He was a blue eyed boy of General Zia Ul Haq, fell out with Gen Pervez Musharraf but got saved by Saudi Arabia. In his fresh tenure of Prime Ministership of Pakistan, the likes of Generals Kayani, Raheel Sharief and Qamar Javed Bajwa did not allow him any latitude as Prime Minister. He was wrongly trapped in the Panama Leak case, which proved his Waterloo. It is shocking the way Army treated him. Judiciary sided with Army. It always does.
A Major General dismissed his decisions- showing where lay the power-not with Prime Minister but with GHQ. A Brigadier in the so called JIT talked to his Prime Minister, during manufactured allegations against him, as if he was talking to an office peon. What would you think of a nation who openly abused her Prime Minister? Army controlled media and judiciary was ogling hatred against him.
And Imran Khan is heading for the same fate as his predecessors did. He was undoubtedly picked up and manipulated to be Prime Minister by Army. Army‘s preferred politician, but Imran Khan proved himself a total failure on all fronts. General public was cursing him and the army for rising prices and poor state of affairs of the nation.
Army too realised the blunder it might have committed because it was getting a bad name because of him. So he too was removed through a political coup engineered by General Qamar Javed Bajwa, on April 9, 2022. And after May 9, 2023, army has begun to dismantle his outfit (PTI). Imran Khan is another victim of Pak army’s effort to retain political control of Pakistan. All said and done, Generals are the real rulers in Pakistan. In fact it was never a full-fledged democracy; it was always a shackled democracy.
Having created a sizeable enemy in perceived “Hindu India” and thus justifying its huge army, Generals now had the task to arm and equip this huge army, so they turned to those who could do this. Saudi Arabia filled the boot with money and USA gave the arms. Thus, instead of consolidating the concept of Pakistan, Generals and bureaucrats of the dream land of Muslims, made themselves a surrogate of Arab nations. “Look West” became the governing rule, discarding everything which was their own culture and history. They had conveniently discarded their 5000 years of cultural history and ethnicity by looking West and towards USA. They wanted to do everything reverse of India as had been done by USA while disassociating itself from UK and West. Thus, US and Arab signatures were put on the concept of Pakistan and it died second time.
Sole agenda of military and Generals was to pound the general public with a perceived and created threat from India so as to inculcate hatred. This had consolidated hold of Generals over Pakistan.
Inability to annex Kashmir and humiliating defeat of 1971 further added to their agony. Pakistani public, as rumoured by their army, blame India for creation of Bangladesh. But everyone conveniently forgets Hamiddur Rehman Report. Had Yahya Khan allowed Mujibur Rehman to become Prime Minister of Pakistan in March 1971, there was nothing India could do?
Undue focus on national security dwarfed the concepts of economic, industrial and infrastructure development. Generals saw all these issues through their tinted glasses and hence no worthwhile industry came up. Education was primarily anti- India driven. It seeded only anti- India feelings. Military became bigger than the concept of Pakistan. Political leaders exist on their mercy because army controls media and judiciary. Frankly speaking, political leaders are only robots, who work on military commands.
In most democratic countries, including India , civilian establishment commands the generals. It is reverse in Pakistan, where a Major General dares to dismiss a Prime Minister edict. (Remember DG ISPR tweet on Dawn Leak, saying “ Rejected”). Pakistan is a strange country where people celebrate a military coup. It happened in October 1999, when Nawaz Sharif was overthrown by Pervez Musharraf. There was not a whimper of a noise in Pakistan when a popular leader ZA Bhutto was sent to gallows by a jealous General Zia Ul Haq in April 1978. Again, it was unique to see people requesting a retiring army chief, General Raheel Sharief to continue as army chief beyond November 2016. Posters in this context had appeared in 13 major cities of Pakistan. Army of Pakistan is thus bigger than Pakistan.
In the above context, democracy in so-called Pakistan has been not only shackled and throttled since its inception but it has been converted into a hard core military dictatorship. Generals have created a monster called ISI (Inter Services Intelligence) to clobber the democracy. The institution has now become bigger than even its creator. It controls every bit of life in Pakistan. Media, judiciary, political parties work on its diktats and it swings a whip from behind the scene. Lately, army has perfected the art of indirect sway of public life in Pakistan. It acts behind the scene and makes it difficult for elected members of government. It did so by having got Yousuf Raza Gilani removed as Prime Minister during Asif Ali Zardari presidency. It was a silent coup.
Aim of the game is to discredit the political bigwigs so much that people must sing songs in army’s favour. Army and ISI created another puppet in the form of Imran Khan, a cricketer turned Politician. He was the third puppet of army after, ZA Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.
It is through these puppets army controls life in Pakistan. And when they begin to break away, it destroys them. Judiciary, media and so called intelligentsia is all controlled by ISI. They can make anyone a RAW agent and destroy him.
Look at MQM leader Altaf Hussain – again a creation of a General – Pervez Musharraf. MQM leader is now rotting in London, disgraced as a RAW agent. Even Fatima Jinnah, MA Jinnah’s sister was accused of being an Indian agent by the Generals of Pakistan. She died a disheartened lady.
Military has been swinging from USA to China. It needed USA in 50s through 90s to face India. USA cleverly made it first a frontline state against communism and later in 1980s to 2014 as a frontline state against Soviets and terrorism. Purpose served, USA left them and the monster Pakistan military created is now eating into the residual vitals of the concept of Pakistan.
There is noise in Pakistan that they have made sacrifices against terrorism, suffered some 70,000 people dead, over the last 20 years and USA is still not satisfied. US narrative is that it adequately compensated Pakistan for this war on terrorism. Nothing was done freely. It gave them aid to the tune of $39 billion.
But Pakistan’s military has no self-respect. In 2015, it fell into Chinese laps for a luring temptation of $62 billion dollars loan for CPEC- China Pakistan Economic Corridor. It was called a game-changer. This is a loan and not financial aid like USA gave. It has to be returned by Pakistan in 30 years. $50 billion will become $90 billion. Imran Khan had got it scuttled but General Asim Munir and present PM Shehbaj Sharif are begging China to resume it .
Under the CPEC project, as revealed in The Dawn news paper of Pakistan, thousands of acres of land in Balochistan and Punjab will be given to Chinese companies. Thus, China would be the owner of this land if Pakistan did not return this loan. Similarly, Balochistan will have all its mineral wealth at Chinese disposal. Some say China will have a big military base at Gwadar. No wonder CPEC is also called Chinese condom to enjoy mineral wealth rape of Balochistan.
No wonder, in some quarters, Pakistan was called as “autonomic region of China”. Truly speaking, Generals have bartered away Pakistan’s sovereignty. It has got herself enslaved by China. Last chairman of CPEC authority, Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa was alleged to have created 99 companies in USA. Most of them were Papa John Franchises, which his family holds in USA. This is how China buys influential people. Some analysts quote some Chinese officials, who though say it jokingly, but maintain that China prefers to buy small countries rather than invading them.
Therefore, democracy as such was dysfunctional in this so called dreamland of South Asian Muslims. Now the idea of Pakistan would be finally buried deep under CPEC umbrella, if it was revived. Generals of Pakistan have no worries as they and their families would not stay in Pakistan. Late Tarek Fateh, a Canadian of Pakistani origin, had said that more than 200 retired Pakistani Generals and their families live in USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the West. Three of the last Army Chiefs, i.e. late Pervez Musharraf, Ashfaque Kayani and Raheel Sharief, were permanent residents in foreign countries.
Many more, in few years, would follow suit. They have made tons of money by ruling over Jinnah’s faulty dreamland. Perhaps Pakistan would have been entirely a different entity if Generals had not meddled into governance. But history is how it was made and not how it should have been made!
-An ex-NDA and Wellington Staff College graduate, Col Rajinder Singh is a renowned author and security analyst. He has authored four books, two individually and two in collaboration. His best-selling books are Kashmir – A Different Perspective and The ULFA Insurgency. The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda