By CP Bhamri
10 May 2013
For the first time in its history, a civilian Government in Islamabad has completed its full-term and will hand over power to another elected regime. However, the military and the jihadists continue to threaten civilian rule in that country
Sarabjit Singh’s tragic end in Pakistan understandably evoked strong reactions in India. It was the Pakistani Government’s duty to protect the 49-year-old Indian convict who had spent more than two decades in a Lahore prison and it failed to do so. However, the death of Sarabjit Singh provides us with an opportunity to focus on the deep crisis that is faced by that country.
First, democracy was never allowed to strike strong roots in Pakistan, where men in uniform wielded all the power and suppressed public opinion. Consequently, the outside world does not know much about the aspirations of the Pakistani people. Moreover, military rule in Pakistan, as elsewhere in the world, has always been legitimised on the false pretext of a perennial threat to national security. The Pakistan Army rule has justified its rule by claiming that a well-equipped and powerful military alone stands between Pakistan and its enemy number one, India. The ordinary Pakistani, under military regime, has been raised on a staple anti-India diet.
Second, an authoritarian and brutal regime requires a certain kind of ideological support that is best rendered by religious fanatics. Hence, the Pakistani Army has patronised extremist mullahs and their madrasas which in turn, have produced an army of Pakistani youth who swear by an anti-Hindu-India ideology. These indoctrinated people today form the second line of defence for the Army against India — essentially by exporting terror and bloodshed to this country. Unfortunately for Pakistan, however, these terrorists are now actively perpetuating violence in their own country as well. Consequently, Pakistan has become a lawless mess where religious fanatics run wild. So grave is the threat from such extremists today that even the Pakistani Army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, has publicly acknowledged that Islamists are the greatest threat to his country.
This is the first time a democratically elected Government has completed its full five year term — the PPP-led regime has been in office since 2008 — and will be handing over power to another civilian administration. This has worried those with vested interests who now fear that public opinion will take a turn against Jihadis elements. A direct result of this has been the shadow of death, perpetuated by gun-wielding terrorists, that now looms large on those contesting the general election scheduled for May 11.
The Pakistani Army has also been patronising Jihadis so that it can use them as pawns in the power game to secure its interests in post-2014 Afghanistan. With the US-led NATO forces preparing to leave that war-torn country, the Pakistani Army’s ambitions of controlling Afghanistan have only been emboldened. It has found an ally in the Taliban.
Ultimately, if Pakistan cannot control its own fanatical creations — which have now even turned against liberals and moderates in their own country — it is impossible for the Government to prevent from attacking India. Indeed, even as one pins the blame for Sarabjit Singh’s death on the Pakistani Establishment, it is essential to understand the limitations of an elected democratic Government in that country.
The story of Pakistan is quite complex. This is perhaps best exemplified by the fact that even though the country’s former dictatorial President Pervez Musharraf is being tried for his various crimes on the eve of a historic general election, Pakistan cannot wholeheartedly celebrate the arrival of democracy as violence and bloodshed continues unabated. Pakistan is still a long road away from democracy as those opposed to such a system are still embedded within the system. One must take heart from the fact that at least elections are being held in Pakistan and some form of a multi-party political system is gaining ground.