By RK Kaushik
May 31, 2018
Mr Nawaz Sharif, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, addressed a Press conference in Punjab House, Islamabad on 23 May 2018 and said that the establishment (meaning Army and ISI) removed him from his post through judicial dexterity because he did not obsequiously follow their orders regarding the trial of General Parvez Musharraf. In the past he has used terms such as “umpire” and “Khalai Makhlook” (aliens) for the Establishment.
Nawaz has faced problems since the leakage of the Panama papers in April 2016; he has since been badgered by the Army and ISI (Inter Services Intelligence). He had to face the Supreme Court and Joint Investigation Team (JIT) which ultimately found him guilty. The Supreme Court in its Judgment on 28 July 2017 declared him to be neither Sadiq (Truthful) nor Amin (Honest). His trial continues in a special court in Islamabad and the judgment is likely to be announced soon. It is clear he could be sent to prison. He stands debarred from contesting an election and from heading a political party. It seems that his political career is over.
The Establishment in Pakistan has been in existence virtually since its inception as a nation. It has total monopoly and control over Defence and foreign policy including important areas like the Nuclear Policy, US Policy, China Policy, India Policy, Middle East Policy, Afghanistan and Iran Policy, the Defence Budget, etc. These have become ‘No go Areas’ for political leaders and civilian officers. Universally the primary role of an Army is to guard against external aggression and provide external security to a state and it is a well-accepted institution all over the world with tasks assigned to it.
Pakistan could not have vaulting quality of leadership after Muhammad Ali Jinnah died on 11 September 1948. In the early 1950s, social chaos in Pakistan did make the political organisations weak and corrupt which promoted nepotism. The newly born ‘Islamic state’ was passing through febrile situations when landlords, corrupt politicians and bureaucrats held power and influence over public offices and filled their coffers. Thus, mainstream ‘political parties’ lost people’s trust. The doubtful circumstances created by the politicians enhanced the military’s power. Very often elections were avoided by the state elite and when conducted they led to political turmoil and precariousness. The weakness of political forces led to fragmentation and factionalism among civil society and political classes.
The tradition of the Generals of Pakistan accusing and cornering their political leaders has continued from the first army ruler, Field Marshal Ayub Khan (February 1928 – Sandhurst) to the present Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa (October 1980 – Kakul). The Army has mastered the art of controlling various fields including Press, TV, journalists, business, bureaucracy and even making and breaking parties and leaders.
It is pertinent to mention that Fouji Foundation controlled by the Establishment has assets of more than Rs 45000 Crores. Ayesha Siddiqa – a Pakistan Audit and Accounts Service Officer tuned journalist – estimates the Establishment’s private wealth to be more than US $20 Billion at 2015 prices. The coup d’etats which took place in Pakistan have been gleefully upheld by the superior courts through misinterpretation of law nay Constitution. It is a fact that the Judiciary acts as per desires of the Establishment and has very rarely confronted it except during the period of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry in 2007.
The Pakistan army pushed itself into direct control of governance through sidelining the weak political class from the first Martial law imposed in October 1958 and since then has strengthened its position to become a dominant player in power politics. Over the last 71 years of the country’s history, the army nay establishment has experienced direct power four times and has even learnt to negotiate and exercise authority when not directly in control of the government. It is well known that it controls the bureaucracy and the police which can’t venture to disobey it.
History makes it perspicacious that the feeble democracy in Pakistan remains a perennial reality. It only gets fragile consent of the Establishment to work in the space allotted to it. Whenever any political leader – whether Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto or Nawaz Sharif – tried to intrude into the “No go Areas” or dared to confront the Establishment, the Establishment showed its power and imperiousness and savagely stopped and contemptuously removed them from power and sometimes made horrible examples out of them with alacrity.
With Nawaz getting ostracised from politics and direct governance, the establishment is likely to back cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan to head a pusillanimous coalition government and may allow Punjab C.M. Shahbaz Sharif who heads Pakistan Muslim League (N) to remain in opposition or may allow him even to control the province of Punjab in coalition with others. The sole purpose is to keep a Damocles’ sword hanging over Imran’s head. The Establishment understands the mindset and high ambitions of Imran and would like to keep him weak and under check, lest he dare to tread in ‘No Go Areas’.
The future of Pakistan remains tied to the desires of the powerful Establishment, the Khalai Makhlook which acts in mysterious ways for its existence and has become an umpire for politicians and bureaucrats as they play their games under its watchful eye and tight control. The extent to which Nawaz can save himself, his family and his party will become clear in times to come because history after all is written by the victors.
RK Kaushik is an IAS officer of the Punjab Cadre and is working as Secretary to Government of Punjab.