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Pakistan Press ( 10 Oct 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Pakistan Press on Musharraf’s Military Rule and Covid Biting Trump: New Age Islam's Selection, 10 October 2020

By New Age Islam Edit Bureau

10 October 2020

• Transitions from Musharraf’s Military Rule to a Democratic Dispensation

By Muhammad Ziauddin

• A Military Is Only For War

By Pervez Hoodbhoy

• Covid Bites Trump

By Irfan Husain


Transitions from Musharraf’s Military Rule to a Democratic Dispensation

By Muhammad Ziauddin

October 10, 2020

Democracy is always noisy. It has to be. When you have a government party trying to implement its long-term manifesto which normally takes a life-time to realise, execute at the same time a number of development projects with an eye on the next election and also trying to keep the opposition from capturing the centre stage in the ongoing vociferous verbal confrontation via the media as well as through public meetings, you simply cannot hope to avoid deafening ruckus. You have to live with it, not lose your mind because of it.

Indeed, both the ruling party and the opposition should know that, while going for each other’s jugular which is legitimate in a robust democracy, they need to stop before crossing the point of no return so that no matter who among the two contestants loses or wins, the system itself survives ensuring continuation of democratic process.

The red lines identifying the points of no return are well defined in the Constitution. Democrats well-versed in Constitutional matters know when to step back. But during transitions from one system of governance to the other, accidents do happen and points of no return get crossed; that is when the democratic process gets derailed. Pakistan has suffered from such accidents number of times in the past.

The first time that happened was when the then Governor General Ghulam Mohammad dissolved the Constituent Assembly on 24 October, 1954 as we were transiting from colonial rule to independence. This derailment also saw the first military takeover (October 1958) that morphed into a presidential form of government with Field Marshal Ayub Khan having been ‘elected’ in January 1965, by an electoral college composed of Basic Democrats, who had been patronised under a system of grants and development funds since their own elections in 1959.

This derailment saw the second military takeover, two Indo-Pak wars and the dismemberment of the country.

This derailment lasted until about the time when we finally contracted a broadly consented Constitution in 1973 and entered once again a phase of transition from military rule to parliamentary democracy. But it did not take long for the accident-prone transition to suffer from the third military takeover on 5 July, 1977.

This derailment lasted until the seeming restoration of democracy with elections being held in October 1988. This was the period when democracy was used as a façade with the Army ruling from behind the scene. The façade came to an end when the Army staged its fourth takeover in October 1999. During this decade of democratic façade Pakistan fought three wars — one in support of Afghan Taliban against the Northern Alliance and the other (using non-state actors) in support of the freedom fighters of Indian occupied Kashmir, the third against India in Kargil.

This derailment lasted until about the time when elections were held in 2008. During this derailment we fought two wars – one in support of American troops against Al-Qaida in Afghanistan and a terror war within against Tehreek-i-Taliban, Pakistan (TTP). War against TTP is tapering off but complete victory still seems elusive. We also saw the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto during this period.

We are still transiting from Musharraf’s military rule to a democratic dispensation and saw for a change and, for the better, two peaceful transfers of power from one elected government to the other. Both the rules of the PPP (2008-2013) and the PML-N (2013-2018) had remained prone to accidents throughout their respective tenures. But the Superior Courts seemingly went off the books to help avert these potential accidents. In the PPP case, it got rid of expected cause of an accident by dismissing Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani on the flimsy charge of contempt of court; and in the case of the PML-N, it got rid of the cause by disqualifying Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for life on the dubious charge of him not being Sadiq and Amin.

Transition continues. And the eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation between the PTI government and the opposition seems well on the road to a point of no return. It is, therefore, time for the two to step back so that the courts do not step in and do what is not their job.


A Military Is Only For War

By Pervez Hoodbhoy

10 Oct 2020

GEN Ayub Khan, president of Pakistan 1958-1969, was a simple man. His solutions to complex issues could sometimes take your breath away. On page 101 of Friends Not Masters — his autobiography written while in office — he complains that student indiscipline is rampant because “there are far too many students and not enough buildings, laboratories, and libraries”.

His suggested fix: “One instructor on a platform with a loudspeaker can take a very large body of students at one time, and just half an hour a day should build up their bodies and minds, and take the devil out of them.”

Actually, the business of purging devils is called exorcism, not education and sending PT masters to colleges or universities is absurd. But Ayub Khan’s charming modesty buys him reprieve. He readily admits that: “I was not a very bright student, nor did I find studies a particularly absorbing occupation.” In 1926, his father, a risaldar-major in the British Army, paid his fees for the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst where “life was spartan” and there was much rough and tumble among cadets. In keeping with the academy’s tradition to create a privileged officer class, he was duly assigned a British soldier as orderly.

Ayub’s cockeyed views on education owes to Sandhurst where physical drill and discipline came first and foremost. This would ensure that “the cadet has a graceful carriage, stands easy and erect, and shows by his bearing that he is manly and self-reliant. Mr Molesworth, an English authority, has said: The contrast between Hyperion and a Satyr is scarcely more striking than that which exists between the loutish bearing of a Lancashire lad and the firm, respectful, and self-respecting carriage of the same person after he has been disciplined and polished by the drill.”

Had Sandhurst-trained UK officers run British organisations they too might have failed like PIA, PSM, etc.

Hyperion (a deity who holds the cosmos in place) rather than Satyr (a goat-like man) was how the handsome young Ayub thought of himself. Although he never won any war, a strong self-image encouraged him into becoming the world’s first self-declared field marshal. It also gave him sufficient confidence to launch the coup of 1958, dismiss president Iskander Mirza from office, and spend the next decade steering the country. While these were years of extraordinary movement, they were not always in the right direction.

Ayub firmly hitched Pakistan to the American wagon and, flush with American weapons, launched Operation Gibraltar. This started the 1965 war but with all options gone he had to end it inconclusively. He irreversibly alienated East Pakistan from West Pakistan. In 1968, widespread agitation finally ended his so-called Decade of Development. Nevertheless Ayub Khan is popularly rated higher than the generals who succeeded him: Yahya Khan, Ziaul Haq, and Pervez Musharraf.

Fortunately, British military academies have produced very few Ayub-like putschists. Certainly several British officers must have had Ayub-sized egos. Many an officer must have preened himself before a mirror and seen Hyperion there. But a military coup in the British system was and remains unthinkable. Why?

Successful societies know that those who fight wars well are not always best suited for running industries, academia, or government. Therefore British military officers, whether serving or retired, are not given preferential treatment outside of their specific skills. It is broadly realised that men in uniform can be heroic fighters in wartime but in other situations they can be just as clueless and bureaucratic as their civilian counterparts.

Imagine for a moment that the British military ran Britain or had a big hand in running it. Would British Airways survive cut-throat competition if its CEO was a retired RAF air marshal rather than some tech-savvy hi-fi business type? In working out complicated Brexit policy options, would a retired lieutenant general negotiate British interests better than a PhD in economics from Cambridge? Should the British Electricity Authority look for some distinguished electrical engineer or for a British army colonel instead? And would a Royal Navy admiral — serving or retired — be best placed to protect Britain’s interests in North Sea oil?

Fortunately for Britain, such an experiment has never been tried and military officers are not automatically made heads of organisations upon retirement. Else the result would be a graveyard of failing or flailing institutions similar to chronically sick organisations such as Pakistan Steel Mills, PIA, Suparco, Wapda, PCSIR, and countless others. In these places merit is regularly superseded not just at the very top but inside departments as well.

Military mindsets undeniably contain some exceptional qualities. The testing conditions of war require that militaries develop a spectrum of capabilities stretching from command and control to logistics and materiel management. Many develop their own engineering and medical facilities that are very useful when a natural or man-made disaster strikes. In fact, most countries have legislation requiring armed forces to support civilian authorities during emergencies and war.

But what can keep a military from wandering into civilian and administrative affairs during peacetime? At the end of World War II powerful militaries in the Western world were flush with victory. Adoring publics showered rose petals upon hero generals who, at some point, could have asserted themselves and become dangerous. That is why president Harry Truman had to sack Gen Douglas MacArthur. The political scientist Samuel Huntington wrote in 1957 that asserting civilian control is crucial and requires professionalising the military by setting it apart from the rest of society while teaching it to execute but not formulate policy.

Although military men in the age of electronic warfare have to be smarter and better informed than their predecessors, a graduate from some military academy is no substitute for those who have spent their careers honing specific skills in academia, industry, commerce, and a plethora of technical fields.

All Pakistani institutions are desperately short of competence and sorely need the right people in the right places. Retired officers when put at the head of organisations can make cosmetic changes and may superficially improve institutional discipline but not much else. Soldiers should stick to what they are good at and paid for — fighting wars rather than running businesses or making movies.


Pervez Hoodbhoy is an Islamabad-based physicist and writer.


Covid Bites Trump

By Irfan Husain

10 Oct 2020

SELDOM in the history of mankind has the illness of one person caused so much glee around the world. That shrill sound you hear are giggles on social media.

I know it’s not nice to revel in schadenfreude, the German word for deriving pleasure from the misfortune of others, but Donald Trump deserves it as nobody else does. While many put on a veneer of sympathy, they are generally delighted that he fell victim to Covid-19, the virus that has already killed around 215,000 Americans, and infected more than seven million.

It was Trump, more than any other world leader, who urged his countrymen to spurn their masks, and generally ignore the pandemic. Many of his poorly educated followers took him at his word and fell victim to the deadly virus. And his outlandish ‘cures’, including bleach to be injected into veins, indicate how out of touch with reality he is.

So when he conducted meetings — and one presidential debate with his rival Joe Biden — without wearing a mask, doctors were aghast. Even his entourage at the debate refused to wear any protective gear. As a result of such unshielded gatherings, dozens of his staff, family members and senators are now stricken with the disease.

Despite a series of national polls showing Trump will lose the election on Nov 3, he is determined to fight on. More alarmingly, he has sent out signals that he may not accept the result if he doesn’t win. The outcome of such an unprecedented move could be violent, given the number of arms his supporters display at public meetings.

It’s useful to have an elected idiot taking the flak.

Given America’s lofty claims to moral leadership and democratic behaviour, Trump has hardly helped his country to set an example. Now, how can any American leader or diplomat lecture others on the virtues of human rights and freedom?

And nor can this crusade be carried out by a state that condones the vicious racism within its shores. How do you criticise others for their treatment of minorities when your police kill blacks with impunity practically every other day?

In less than four years, Trump has done more to tarnish his country’s image than any of his predecessors. And by his personal words and actions, he has made the White House the emblem of scandal and nepotism.

Ai Weiwei, the iconic Chinese artist living in exile as a fierce critic of his government, recently ticked off his countrymen for expressing joy at Trump’s misfortune. Really? After the American president launched a destabilising trade war with China, and blamed the country for the virus, surely people are allowed an expression of relief at the sight of their foe getting bitten.

Trump is widely viewed as a creature of the powerful capitalist predators who have benefited most from his generous tax cuts. As income inequality has continued to grow around the world, especially in America, there is a growing fear of revolution. So it’s useful to have an elected idiot taking the flak for the ills of capitalism. But while they flocked to fund his campaign coffers in 2016, plutocrats aren’t as generous this time around. After all, they are experts at spotting a loser.

There is an important school of thought that includes Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx who hold that history is not made by individuals, but by economic and social factors. This theory can best be summed up by this quote: “The material world determines our ideas, rather than our ideas determining the material world.”

It is true that the sweep of history is more often than not laid down by materialism, but individuals like Stalin, Hitler and Mao have accelerated the process in the last century. Prophets in the past revealed truths that are still revered today, for better or for worse.

So perhaps Trump has unwittingly brought the contradictions that lie at the heart of capitalism to the forefront. We will soon find out if the majority of Americans buy into his vision of a freewheeling economy that ignores the poor while further enriching the wealthy. Or has the American Dream turned into a nightmare?

Meanwhile, hundreds of millions in the developing world have been lifted out of poverty, thanks to globalisation. This outsourcing of jobs is something Trump has fought against tooth and nail, largely because it has fuelled a rampant Chinese economy. These billions have boosted China to the extent where it can now look America in the eye, and claim technological leadership. This is anathema to the White House and the Pentagon.

But Trump has raised commercial and scientific disputes to the next level by imposing fierce tariffs and sanctions. It is a sign of Chinese determination that it has refused to bend.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Trump faces a crushing defeat. But it will probably not lessen the divisions in American society.



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