New Age Islam
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Current Affairs ( 12 Jan 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Nawaz Sharif Has Failed to Learn from History

Double standards and hypocrisy

By Ayaz Amir

January 13, 2012

This is no morality play. It has nothing to do with that hound called accountability, with whose aid governments have come and gone in Pakistan’s circular history. Behind the fig-leaf of the noblest intentions – and let’s not forget with what the road to hell is paved – this is a power struggle, driven by nothing higher than the usual stupidity on display when the Islamic Republic is in crisis (which happens to be most of the time).

Politicians think they are clever but they are played like so many violins by the trained hands of the army high command. Divide and rule, the motto since the beginning of time of all conquerors, and the motto of the high command ever since it started dabbling in politics. Politicians are once again divided, Nawaz Sharif proving not for the first time that some people never learn and some things never change. Gen Shuja Pasha, current lord of the ISI and arguably Pakistan’s foremost politician (regular politicians not a patch on him), can be forgiven for being amused.

How deftly, with what supreme finesse, they have managed to turn national attention from Abbottabad and Sheikh Osama bin Laden to the imperilled national security via the sacred roll of Mansoor Ijaz’s memo to Adm Mike Mullen. The Admiral was said to be a friend of Pakistan. But he would be holding his head in disbelief as he contemplates the gyrations of Pakistan’s security establishment.

We were caught with our national pants down in Abbottabad but the memory of that erased in the brilliant fog generated by the memo affair. Gen Pasha deserves the highest praise.

This was a beleaguered government at the best of times, weighed down less by conspiracy than incompetence. Now it is on the ropes completely, unable to function. If there is not one judicial case harassing it, there is another, a two-pronged assault in the best military tradition. Standing up to failures past and present is so much more difficult (and I am saying this of our guardians); punching a hapless political government so much more fun.

ISPR, the army’s famous PR wing, couldn’t get a statement right in the immediate aftermath of Abbottabad. To savour that confusion you have to recall it. But to look at ISPR’s no-nonsense statements today is to be swept by the tide of their eloquence.

The latest statement warns the government of “very serious ramifications with potentially grievous consequences for the country.” This apropos of PM Yousaf Gilani’s remarks to a Chinese journalist that the affidavits submitted by the army and ISI chiefs to the Supreme Court in the memo affair, for not being sent through proper channels, were “unconstitutional and illegal”. One has to marvel (1) at the PM’s sense of occasion (did he have to say what he said to a foreign journalist and did APP, the state news agency, have to splash this story?) and (2) at the ISPR’s use of such heavy artillery in full public view.

Imagine if such a statement had come out in India. Military heads would have rolled. Here such a statement has just the opposite effect. It sends a powerful signal that the generals have made up their minds that this government must go. Small wonder then, if Zardari’s allies too are hedging their bets and weighing their words. This proves once more that the ultimate arbiter of things political is less parliament than general headquarters. Politicians test the wind and take their cue from there. So much for parliamentary sovereignty.

We seem doomed to go around in circles. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged not for his sins but his virtues, such as they were. Nawaz Sharif was ousted not for his failures, which were many, but for his rashness in trying to sack Musharraf. Asif Zardari is being hounded not for his sins, huge as they may be, but for being a thorn in the imagination of what passes for the Pakistani establishment.

This establishment has happily put up with shoddy and less-than-brilliant dictators. But it can’t abide the thought of Zardari as president and supreme commander. Civilians bend over backwards to protect the army. But gratitude is not a quality that runs too thickly in the GHQ.

Hence the current drama behind which lurks a holy nexus comprising military, political and media-related elements. There is also another element proving to be the catalyst in this affair, doing the service that 111 Brigade used to perform in former times. But let us not enter where angels fear to tread.

Still, why the burning impatience behind this drama? Why can’t everyone wait for the next elections which are virtually around the corner? Four years of this dispensation are over, just a year remains and even this period, given the current state of play, can be reduced through a process of give-and-take between the political parties. The present rush for shotgun adventurism, on the other hand, can only lead to more turmoil. At least this is what our history teaches.

Not once in our 64 1/2 years as an independent nation have we managed a democratic transition from one elected government to another...not once. We had a chance this time. Why are we bent on blowing it? No need to dilate on the corruption and ineptitude associated with this government. Not only is this common knowledge but the stuff of legend. Still, if it is democracy we are pursuing the only method of change must be elections, not intrigue and conspiracy...or the heavy pulling of strings from the founts and stables of national security.

Granted that things are bad and change is the mantra on everyone’s lips but Caesarian operations have done nothing but harm to Pakistan. For once can’t we try the natural mode of delivery?

The signs, however, are not auspicious. Knives are no longer the preferred instruments of subtlety. Hatchets are more in fashion and their edges are being sharpened in Rawalpindi. Around the goddess of justice as she holds a sword in one hand and the scales of justice in the other swirl winds of the utmost capriciousness. And politicians are hunting for short-term advantages. The principle of parliamentary sovereignty is going by the board.

There are petitions in the Supreme Court gathering dust for years, Air Marshal Asghar Khan’s petition about the ISI doling out money in the 1990 elections – about which there is a sworn affidavit from then ISI chief, Lt Gen Asad Durrani – perhaps the most important in this regard. There are petitions touching upon the fortunes of the PML-N. About them nothing is heard. So we have extraordinary judicial rigour in some cases, amazing leniency in others, giving rise to the charge of double standards.

Closing in on the government, however, is not so much the memo affair, likely to be dragged out given the complexities of digital data investigation, as the NRO case, now hurtling towards some kind of a conclusion.

The National Reconciliation Ordinance was the instrument which paved the way for Benazir Bhutto’s return to Pakistan. And it was her return which allowed Nawaz Sharif to come back. Armchair patriots and sofa samurais go red in the face denouncing the NRO as a whitewashing of corruption, forgetting that the history of Pakistan is littered with such expedients.

How did Nawaz Sharif proceed with his family to Saudi Arabia? Through a deal done with Gen Pervez Musharraf. Wasn’t that an NRO? Didn’t their lordships, in various capacities, take their oaths of office under Musharraf’s Provisional Constitutional Order? And didn’t they sanctify Musharraf’s coup not once but twice (the second time in the Zafar Ali Shah case)? These too were forms of reconciliation, their eminences reconciling with reality. And if Zardari and Gilani were so bad why did Kayani and Pasha take extensions in service from their soiled hands? As men of honour they should have refused.

We should not close our eyes and we should attune ourselves to what is happening. Let us by all means be St George to the dragon and smite evil with an avenging sword, but even as we do so, is it too much to ask that there be a little less hypocrisy in the hallowed spaces of the Islamic Republic? Not the moon or the stars, just a slight lessening in the national sum of hypocrisy.

Source: International The News, Islamabad