By Dr Shabir Choudhry
16 August 2017
The Pakistani military establishment, which is the real rulers of Pakistan decided that was not happy with powerful leaders in total control of their parties with mass support. They understood that these leaders, despite their vulnerabilities pretend to be invincible just because of the public support they enjoyed.
It was decided that, at least, powers of Altaf Hussain, Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif should be cut to size that they, either become irrelevant or become manageable. It was not prudent to take all three of them at the same time. Although in power and in control of his party, in their view, Asif Zardari was in self destructive mode, and was not a potent threat to the system they had under their thumb. To them, it was best to leave him alone; and only create little hurdles to keep him under pressure.
However, they thought it was essential to sort out Altaf Hussain, as he was the most troublesome; and in total control of MQM and Karachi, which was a backbone of the Pakistani economy. Fearing what trouble was moving towards Karachi, I told my friends and wrote an article on 5 December 2012, titled, ‘MQM and the coming storm’. I said:
‘In my opinion, the MQM has seen its peak. In future, people will only talk of their best days, as their decline has already started. I have few friends in the ranks of the MQM and I told them last year that the year 2012 will be very testing for them and that they would face wrath of very powerful forces which would bring a disaster to Karachi. 1
After publication of this article I was invited for a dinner by senior MQM leaders and we exchanged views on this article. They seemed convinced that they were invincible. That aside, maybe, I will narrate some other time what happened in Edgware where I dined with them.
Now we all know that MQM is under control and cut to a manageable size. Altaf Hussain could have faced much more humiliation and more suffering, but his skin was saved by the international establishment. It was agreed that let the man live with some dignity; and let him die a natural death.
In the 2013 elections, the trained horse of Pasha and company was convincingly beaten; and he personally felt humiliated. To date he has not overcome that embarrassment.
Nawaz Sharif, after assuming office made a big mistake of General Musharraf’s trial. The alarm bells rang in the GHQ and other Head Offices of the establishment. They thought if Nawaz Sharif’s wings are not clipped he will become an enormous threat to their hold on leverages of power and vested interests. What happened after that we all know and I do not have to repeat it.
The establishment set up a number of traps for the Nawaz Sharif and his government in Islamabad and in Lahore; among them were murders in Lahore, Dharna one, Dharna two and many other things. From that day onwards Muslim League N and both Sharifs became defensive nearly in all matters. Nawaz Sharif kept on giving more space to avoid his Waterloo. Unfortunately, now he has very little room to manoeuvre.
What has transpired over the past months clear indicates that the establishment has taken a final decision to eradicate power and influence of Nawaz Sharif. In their view if they don’t do it now, then Nawaz Sharif and his family will become too powerful which is not good for them and Pakistani democracy? If he is not sorted out now, he will surely win the next elections scheduled to be held in 2018. Fear is that if he returns with a bigger majority then he WILL strike at the power and influence of the establishment.
Imran Khan will be happy that with help of the establishment he has nailed down Nawaz Sharif; and that will pave way for him to become the next Prime Minister of Pakistan. Perhaps he is too naïve to understand that the establishment has only used him as a pone to advance their agenda. They have also shrewdly exposed Khan’s vulnerabilities to the thinking people of Pakistan. They have built his image of an emotional, stubborn and unpredictable person. He was a fast bowler, and he managed other ten people in the field; but his temperament and erratic attitude is not suitable to govern a nuclear country like Pakistan.
The establishment always feared that emotional and over ambitious Khan may spoil their game, which could give Nawaz Sharif an opportunity to strike first. They cleverly asked people like Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Ch. Sarwar to join ranks of the PTI to keep him under some control. However, when he is in front of a camera and holding a mike, despite the briefings, he says what he likes.
After sorting out MQM, agenda of the establishment is to sort out Nawaz Sharif. PPP is already contained to Sindh; and in disarray. If they replace Asif Zardari with Bilawal, who can bring his new team. The final target will be Mr Imran Khan. He will be disqualified, and people like Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Ch. Sarwar will take care of the PTI. This means all four leaders, who could potentially create problems, will be out of way.
However, a fight with Nawaz Sharif is not over yet. Nawaz Sharif has entrenched; and he will give a tough fight to the ‘conspirators’. This power struggle can destabilise volatile polity of Pakistan; and can seriously damage fragile economy of Pakistan. In power politics, people like Imran Khan and the establishment do not care what is at stake. They want to achieve their targets, no matter what it will cost to the country and the region.
Dr Shabir Choudhry is a political analyst, TV anchor and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Chairman South Asia Watch and Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.