When People Decide!

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”.rahil
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”

  • Rex Minor


    Raza Rumi himself is the victim of the army and thanks to heaven that he escaped the murderous act of ISI which failed. His articles do indicate his intellect but also short sightedness, which might be a deliberate attempt to find accomodation with the crockodiles.

    Rex Minor
    sessment of the situation?
    Are there many others in Pakistan who share your assesment since I get a dismal impression from reading the Express Tribune, whose readers even accuse me to be an Indian.

  • Rex Minor

    Misbah Azam,

    General Sharif is a professional soldier and as such a trained killer. If you have not understood this tiothen you have not learnt anything from your education. Mistake the soldier is likely to make like the one before him and then the world will witness the morass of the overweight professional.

    Rex Minor

  • Kaal

    It’s not about the dress, it’s about mentality.

  • keval

    Islam’s long term goal and result is to exterminate the non-muslims.
    Why do you ignore this crucial information?
    Some honest muslims are saying that openly. The number of honest people among muslims is very small.
    Liberal muslims have neither the will nor the desire nor the ability to protect the non-muslims. Don’t rely on them.

  • kaalchakra

    Democratic Martial Law – A Pakistani Experiment

    Is General Sharif the same as General Musharraf? Is there nothing quite new in the way Pakistan is being governed?

    A couple of days ago, I introduced the idea of Pakistan’s democratic martial law – in which elements of two completely contradictory systems are combined. This was based on the simple observation regarding how ‘democracy’ was retained in form while the system had formally hollowed out everything else from within (and driven political parties to the wall and sometimes out of Pakistan).

    Just yesterday, Dr Shahid Masood – a well-informed commentator – made a similar observation.

    He asks – Who is ruling in Pakistan and how is Pakistan being ruled? His answer – a NEW system of ameeriyat and jamhooriyat Hybrid.


    Will write more about it later.

  • kaalchakra

    There is no statement that this system is without tensions. I will explain why there has been – from all I know – a clear change in the form of governance, or in the ‘formula’ the military has adopted. This new arrangement is unlikely to be permanent. It may be discarded in the near future – although some will argue this system may be as good or as bad as any other more ‘permanent’ ones that Pakistan has tried.

  • kaalchakra

    Re-read your article. Re-read my posts. We can then discuss further.

  • kaalchakra

    “This happens to be my area”

    That makes it worse. It strengthens RHR’s contention about the quality of education at different tiers of higher education in the US. Please don’t take that personally. If you wish to stay within academia, you cannot avoid that reality.

    Will discuss it when I return. Best.

  • Parliament certified Muslim

    As a Parliament-certified Muslim, I must remind all ignorant visitors of PTH that the world’s best air force is actually the Royal Saudi Air Force. People should be discussing Al quwwat al jawiyya al malakyyia al saudia al wahabia al salafia instead of discussing a useless ex-cheif of Paleedistan Air Force (PAF). “Paleedistan“, let us all remember, was the name given to this so-called “Pakistan” by the wise and eternally righteous Ulama of Majlis-e-Ahrar (now known as Majlis Tahaffuz Khatm-e-Nubuwwat). The Saudis have joined hands with their Ahl-e-Kitab cousins – Israel. Finally, Saudi Arabia and Israel are one. All must read:

  • kaalchakra

    Masadi, as expected, you have continued to your nanga nautch entertaining people instead of going back and reading stuff you were supposed to read.

  • Bin Ismail

    @ Parliament certified Muslim (September 24, 2015 4:37 am)

    As a Parliament-certified Muslim, I must remind all ignorant visitors of PTH that the world’s best air force is actually the Royal Saudi Air Force. People should be discussing Al quwwat al jawiyya al malakyyia al saudia al wahabia al salafia instead of discussing a useless ex-cheif of Paleedistan Air Force (PAF). “Paleedistan“, let us all remember, was the name given to this so-called “Pakistan” by the wise and eternally righteous Ulama of Majlis-e-Ahrar (now known as Majlis Tahaffuz Khatm-e-Nubuwwat).

    The “…righteous Ulama of Majlis-e-Ahrar (now known as Majlis Tahaffuz Khatm-e-Nubuwwat)”, as you have so righteously put it, must be heart-broken to see that the titles – “Paleedistan” being merely one of them – they had so graciously conferred upon “Pakistan”, are not as manifestly in vogue as they would have wished them to be.
    Regrets & Regards

  • keval

    to bin ismail

    did you rejoice in watching all the blood letting on the streets of Pakistan in the name of a cruel arabic primitive fascist god-concept?
    These recurring eid “celebrations” explains why muslims are such cruel kill-joy types.

  • Isfandyar

    RHR, I am not obsessed with you. Yes, I do object to what you write. Since what you write, more or less follows the same pattern, do not feel the need to deconstruct.
    When I first joined this site, I wrote a detailed deconstruction of what you write and if you can search comments I think you will be able to find it. Your assertion that I have never argued on your content is wrong.
    I do not call you a “sell out” though initially I did. I think you are a misguided, somewhat insecure kind of a liberal who is always afraid to offend those who are not Pakistanis.
    Don’t you find it funny that literally no Pakistani on this website likes you? If you want to change Pakistanis at least learn how to engage with them. You end up alienating them and yet expect that they should consider what you write seriously.

  • Isfandyar

    Kaal, I think of all the right wingers here, you are the cleverest and yes the most bigoted. You people just want to insult Pakistani and try to give these clever spins. The moment Pakistanis like me answer back, you come up with clever arguments of “instrumentalism”. Have you bothered to look at the comments of people like Parasad, Observer, Keval, Mohan, Romain and of course yourself.
    All of you abuse us day in and day out, it is our right to answer back.

  • kaalchakra

    Isfandyar, no doubt you have a right to answer back. And you do that by supporting Tajender and Masadi, even though you personally may not go as far as they do. That is all I have meant by instrumentalism. Please tell me if you disagree.

    This is essentially the same basis as of terrorism for which fairly wide support exists in most Islamic countries although individual Muslims may not engage in killings (of unjust, unfair, repressive, bigoted, blasphemous people) themselves.


  • kaalchakra

    Masadi, since before you and I were born, people have been talking of Allah, America, and Army as the three As of Pakistan.

  • kaalchakra

    Masadi, what is the caricature of an ‘Islamist’?


    In those 700 pages, does the gentleman look into why Pakistan played along with American games and plans and why India and others did not?

  • kaalchakra

    I wonder if anybody has counted the number of books Pakistanis have written about how America controls/has controlled Pakistan, how many ‘research’ articles.

    A new research question that can seriously be asked – why do Pakistanis write so many 1000-page books investigating how America controls Pakistan. But for America…..

  • kaalchakra

    Masadi, this consciousness is not ‘finally’ seeping down anywhere. Pakistanis have always taken money from America in one breath and abused it in the next. Only a fool would argue that ALLAH, ARMY, AMERICA syndrome in Pakistan anything new.

    Until you recognize that it takes two to tango, that Pakistan has consistently tried to play the US (just as much as the US has tried to play Pakistan) to nourish its own anti-India obsessions (“tough neighborhood”?), no number of books – 700 pages or 1000 pages – will do an iota of good.



    It is fashionable for lazy thinkers to disconnect Pakistani army from Pakistan awam, but how they feed off each other is another story.

  • kaalchakra

    “of the person who has brought his ugliness to the fore, masadi.”

    LOL…dear Masadi, I don’t hate you. I love you. You are a product of your environment and of the ideology that surrounds you. Hating you would be pointless and unfair.


  • kaalchakra

    “The U.S. has struck a bargain”

    No. The US and Pakistan, together, struck a bargain.


    “The only group that supports it is a tiny fraction of Pakistani society, primarily comprising of the upper and middle crusts of the middle class.”

    Now, that is nice to hear but just plain deluded.

    Masadi, delusions don’t make you very persuasive.


  • kaalchakra

    U.S. has might have gained more than Pakistan (not generals) did, but that is because the US is enormously more powerful. Doesn’t mean Pakistan didn’t try to play its game, or still doesn’t.

    “I have lived here, you haven’t”

    Not to call Pakistan a zoo (many wonderful people live there), but just because an animal lives in a part of a large zoo, he doesn’t come to know, understand, or acknowledge it more than a person outside looking in.

    Pakistan’s tragedy is that outsiders know it more than a great many people living in it.

  • RHR


    “Pakistan’s tragedy is that outsiders know it more than a great many people living in it.”

    That is a very incisive remark. This explains as to why some of the best books about Pakistan have been written by foreigners.

    However, at the same time, it should also be understood that USA has not exactly been “fooled”. It is a “business” relationship.
    I have read Haqanni’s book Magnificent delusion but I can not exactly agree with the assertions made in the book that it is always Pakistan who has “fooled” USA

    In realpolitik terms, both parties have tried to pursue their realist interests

  • RHR

    By the way, Pakistan army today unfortunately supported by a wide section of the society. Many surveys prove that Pakistan army is the most respected institution.
    So much so that both PML (N) and PTI have been trying to project that they have army’s support in the upcoming by elections

    So Masadi, you are wrong here

  • kaalchakra

    Yes, RHR, it has always been a business relationship. Now, a similar business relationship is being sought with China (and some hope, with Russia). Nothing wrong with such relationships. They become pernicious only when they are used to completely mislead one’s own people.

  • RHR


    The problem is that Pakistani army needs cash and therefore it would always be in its rational self interest to do what it is doing. It is completely devoid of civilian oversight and worse that majority of Pakistanis do not want it under civilian oversight because of their distrust of political class.

    I recently wrote an article in tribune on the personality cult developing around General Raheel Shareef and warned about the problems it could lead into


  • RHR

    And the irony is that it is not only army itself which is trying to project its image. A substantial number of public is trying the same.

  • RHR

    Masadi is hopelessly delusional when he is saying that army is merely a tool for USA oppression. Army is an independent monster in Pakistan

  • kaalchakra

    “it can make the opportunity cost of not doing their bidding so high that you have no choice but to take the deal they put on the table, which is what happened in the 1980s, and with Musharraf.”

    First, the mutual Faustian bargain between the US and Pakistan started much before Musharraf came on the stage.

    Second, no one is equating the power of decision of the PA and the US.

  • kaalchakra

    That’s a very good article, RHR. Let’s hope everything turns out well, but there are dangers that Pakistanis may ignore in their enthusiasm.

  • kaalchakra

    Masadi, with all due respect, that is a childish argument you have been making since God knows when. Years ago I agree with you just to pull your leg and you still have not outgrown it. Come on, brother.

  • kaalchakra

    I stand corrected.

    The mutual Faustian bargain between the US and Pakistan started before 1980s.

  • kaalchakra

    Masadi, the hardest part of conversing with Islamists is in getting them to open their eyes. That’s why I never ever make any effort to engage them in any meaningful conversation. But since you have been pronounced to be the general entertain at PTH, it is fun to play with you.

    Dear brother, open your eyes. Support for Pakistani army is NOT confined to just a very tiny minority in Pakistan. God knows what you do living in Pakistan.


  • tajender
  • kaalchakra


    Just as the costs of mutual Faustian bargains struck between two unequal parties are not equally shared, these costs don’t become apparent the moment they are made.


    I understand why Pakistan’s Islamists, and some Punjabis, hate Musharraf so much. That’s a different topic.

  • RHR


    The reality is that at least today Pakistan army has wide spread support

  • RHR


    Thanks for liking the article. Dawn actually first provisionally accepted it and then said they are unable to publish. So I had to send it to Tribune.

    I will also try sending an amended version to Huff Post.

    The problem is that in Pakistan people are really forgetting history and have elevated army to that extent that it has become impossible to say a word questioning army.

    We are forgetting that as to why we are here.

  • kaalchakra


    Were I an average Pakistani struggling with day to day problems, it would be hard not to ‘like’ Raheel Shareef. So at this point in time, we just have to wait and hope he keeps his head.


    “I never ever make any effort to engage (Islamists) in any meaningful conversation.”

    Must correct that. There was one individual I genuinely admired because he was intelligent, sharp, funny, and had both the courage of conviction and the grey matter to know what exactly he believed in – Zee. I hope my friend is doing well whatever he is doing.

  • RHR


    I like Raheel Sharif mainly because of his action against TTP. However the way I like him and majority of Pakistanis like him is way different.

    They actually want him to take over whereas this is precisely what I fear. In fact the article exactly makes the same point that the cult of personality around him is going to make army further unaccountable.

  • hellfire

    thank you for the warm welcomes folks. I do not feel entitled to post here as I am not of the region, am not very well versed on the history of the region and am caucasian…a kind of oerceived enemy of the region.

    but one thing i would like to convey is that i grew up in an all caucasian school district, knew very little about south asia growing up. from my perspective and from the perspective of most americans, there is very little to NO difference between india and pakistan. Some of you may find that observation to be offensive. but its the perspective of an outsider looking in. the traidtions, the culture, the vibrant colors, the way that society thinks and works is largely the same in both countries until a closer look is taken. but for the most part, closer loos are take by folks like myself who married a desi. Interesting word desi yah? it means someone from south asia right?

    sad thqt there is such discord because you are all brothers and sisters.

    so there is my two cents as an outsider looking in.

  • yasserlatifhamdani

    Masadi’s posts have been removed for his persistent abuse and attention seeking behavior. He is no longer welcome to post here under any circumstances. In the event he posts again, please do not respond to him and wait for the admin to remove his posts.

  • keval

    to isfandyar

    I have never used any abusive words – only such words as describe the islamic reality authentically in terms of the growing fascism in it.

    Genuine criticism is bound to hurt some feelings.
    Oherwise it is not genuine – but only lukewarm talk.

    Pakistan – its human beings – need to free themslves from this arab imperialism, backwardness and fascism.
    India and hindu religions are not perfect – but nor are they final or completed.
    Islam and muslims are very arrogant by the very nature of islam.

    Islamic societies function only so long there is some non-islam-c influence still in them. As islam begins to outgrow all else the societies fall into fascism.
    Pakistan was well off so long the old influence of hindus, british, parsis etc. was there – may be till 1957.
    After that islamization took its toll.

    This as been the case even in earlier times of islamic history.
    Science flouished in muslim soceities due to influence 0f greeks, cinese and hindus. As this waned and was exterminated the islamic societies took their natural path into fascism, backwardness and self-glorification.

    The one who criticizes islam and muslims is the genuine friend of the muslims.
    Islam does not allow muslims the “luxury” of this simple wisdom.