By Misbah U. Azam, Ph.D.
Some weeks ago, Pakistan’s well known public intellectual Raza Rumi, indicated some concern about the future of the current civilian government and democracy in general during our private conversation. On September 15, while addressing the Farmers’ Convention in Islamabad at Jinnah Convention Center, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif asked his “opponents” to think of Pakistan’s interests instead of putting up efforts to get him dislodged so that ‘they’ could take up reins of power. Now Imran Khan – who seems to be trying to become a B-team for the security establishment – inviting Rangers and military to do the accountability.
With time Imran Khan is losing credibility of his statements, because large number of people believes that his statements and narrative changes as per the popular wave. However, most of the political scientists and senior politicians are also concerned about the future of democracy in Pakistan. On the International Day of Democracy, Senate Chairperson Mr. Raza Rabbani observed, “I believe that Article 6 has become redundant. Our weaknesses have made it redundant. In my eyes, no constitutional clause can protect democracy. Only the people can protect democracy provided they are given ownership of the system.” He emphasized that the Article – 6 of Constitution is now irrelevant.
Another famous defense analyst and strategic thinker Ejaz Haider in his recent article in Newsweek raised some concerns, he writes, “The Army chief also believes, unlike many other officers, senior and mid-ranking, that getting rid of the system and bringing the Army in will not resolve the issues. If direct intervention is costly and inertia is costlier, how must Raheel Sharif go about creating a niche for himself and also entrenching the military’s institutional place in the configuration? Use a three-pronged strategy: act where others hadn’t dared go; leverage the politicians’ differences; employ a public relations campaign, to use military terminology that has width, depth and concentration”.
The large section of Pakistani media is creating distinction between the military and the civilian authority and trying to convince the people that military is doing great job while the civilians are only there to plunder. Even after the terrorist attack on Budabeer Air Base, lots of anchor persons tried to play down the negligence of the security apparatus instead, they emphasized over and over how the military’s rapid forces arrive at the spot and killed all the terrorists. Some media persons also insisted that the attack was made unsuccessful after knowing the fact that 29 civilian and military persons lost their precious lives while 10s were injured. If someone to believe what Ejaz wrote then he/she cannot ignore the possibility that the media is managed systematically and some politicians who have no issues working under the military domination are used to create strain on the democratic institutions. The recent poll conducted by PILDAT shows the approval rating of military is as high as 75%. Looking at the achievements on the ground against the terrorism with constant media bashing of political system these results are no surprise. After the 9/11 when the US military began the operations in Afghanistan against terrorists their approval rating went sky high as well. However, looking into the PILDAT report a very different picture emerges. According to the report, only 20% respondents supported the military rule in the country. Report further shows that 66% of Pakistanis look favorably upon the overall quality of democracy, 64% believe that elected governments are best for the country, while 80% of respondents are highly supportive of having the local bodies. This concludes that the high acceptance rating of the Army is not because of the people’s will to bring Army in power, but it is because that so far the military is doing the job which it is supposed to do – meaning, deal with war hardened terrorists and wipe them off. When General Musharraf took over power, majority of people condoned his action and showed their will to give him a chance especially, after he announced his 7-point agenda. However, after Musharraf started on the same path, which he used to call the “sham” democracy, and after 2005, when the economy started going south, all sorts of mafias started to pop up under the protection of government functionaries, people realized that democracy is the way to run the country. That trend was very clear from the polls conducted by the Pew Global Attitudes Project survey and International Republican Institute (IRI) polls, from 2002 to 2007. According to Pew survey in April-May 2007 (question was whether Gen. Musharraf is having a good or bad influence in Pakistan), a 56% majority said he has a positive influence which was down significantly from August-September 2002, when 76% gave him a positive rating. An IRI survey conducted in June-July 2007 shows Musharraf’s job rating was dropped to 34% while 49% gave him negative rating. The IRI poll conducted in September 2007, before the imposition of emergency by Musharraf showed his rating was even further dropped to 21%. The interesting part is that even that time 83% of Pakistanis opposed the possible emergency rule in Pakistan. So if someone to belief these polls, he/she must conclude that Pakistani people as a whole – no matter what media and other sycophants in politics who long for the “Umpire’s” finger or another National Government under the military — would like to believe.
General Raheel Sharif is building his legacy as “straight forward” soldier, who is a “doer” in one famous journalist’s word. However, now-a-days everyone wants to use his name next to them because the perception is that he may be the next “ruler” of Pakistan. Even the tax evaders are appealing General to help them “deceiving” the tax. General must not lend his ears to all the media talks about him taking over or at least forcing the government to give him extension for another full term. He should have ISPR to be prompt to tell the political leaders who use Military Chief’s pictures in their election campaign posters to stop pulling the Chief in their constituency politics. Although military is doing great job in cleaning up the terror forces, but they have much more in their plates regarding the terrorists, which includes a ruthless crack down on the sectarian organizations in Punjab. Constitutionally, the accountability is not military’s mandate, no matter what some politicians and media persons believe. The politicians should – instead of statements – assert themselves as leaders and they should take the ownership. As a boss of Ministry of Defense, Khwaja Asif must have been the part of Gen. Shareef and Secretary Susan Rice meeting instead of campaigning in Sialkot.
Pakistan needs military leaders like General Shareef, and his legacy will be his decisive military operation against war hardened terrorists, taking the full ownership in cleaning up the mess in Karachi and the most important for the countries like Pakistan; his support of democracy – which he does not only say but demonstrates it time and again.
I would like to end this article by attributing General Sharif a verse from a famous Pakistani poet (late) Josh Malihabadi
“I respectfully would like to remind you
that, the power rots the clean human heart
if you kindly hear me and take my humble advice
your adventures and deeds will be shining like a sun”