Exclusive: Pakistan’s Bouncy Journey


Asif Haroon Raja for VT

After achieving which no one else could achieve, Quaid-e-Azam passed away one year after the birth of Pakistan. Allah willed his departure honorably since had he lived longer, the chronic foul-mouthed intriguers would not have spared him. He is the only leader who is held in highest esteem and remembered with approbation. His untimely death created leadership crisis and power of pendulum kept swinging between the Governor General and PM. Passage of Objectives Resolution in 1949 strengthened Religious Right and heightened secular-Islamic divide. Murder of Liaqat Ali Khan in October 1951 gave rise to ethnicity and regional loyalties. 1953 saw Ahmadi movement in West Punjab and language riots in East Pakistan. The political class in West Pakistan was heavy with Choudhries, Maliks, Waderas, Sardars, Peers and industrialists who had gained material benefits from the British in return for their loyalty.

Devoid of high morals and competence to govern the ungovernable, they put self before national interests. Power tussle between landholders of East and West Punjab and between Punjab and East Bengal delayed constitution making for nine years. The British trained white-collar CSP cadre, the crème of the nation, aped the colonial masters by behaving like snobbish Brown Sahibs and never served the hapless people. Their arrogant attitude and lackadaisical approach of early leaders were the major causes of alienation of Bengalis who were in the vanguard of Pakistan movement. Ghulam Muhammad and Iskandar Mirza’s palace intrigues strengthened bureaucrat-military oligarchy and severely bruised growth of democracy.

Pakistan decided to change its status of non-alignment and join the SEATO, CENTO Western pacts in 1954 due to extreme security threats posed by India and Afghanistan backed by former Soviet Union, which had got irked when PM Liaqat Ali preferred Washington over Moscow for his first state visit abroad. Thereon, Pakistan tailored its foreign and defence policies in accordance with the wishes of Washington and it put all its eggs in the basket of USA. Ironically none of the defence agreements had any clause of security against Indian aggression. Owing to its full reliance on USA, Pakistan was termed as the most allied ally of USA.

Once President Ayub Khan took over power in 1958, he made profitable use of the US largesse by carrying out all-round improvements in the country. His ten-year rule is acknowledged as the golden period of Pakistan which no other leader could emulate. He missed the opportunity of liberating Kashmir in 1962, but egged on by his blue-eyed foreign minister ZA Bhutto, he vainly tried to make amends by launching Operation Gibraltar followed by Operation Grand Slam in 1965. He is credited for defeating the nefarious designs of India wanting to destroy the armed forces of Pakistan in the 17-day 1965 War, and gaining an edge over six-time superior enemy. But for the war and the US sanctions, Ayub could have considerably narrowed the east-west inequity. Prosperity in Ayub’s era made the 22 families affluent and widened rich-poor gap. A class of egotist upstarts believing in pomp and show emerged in the 1960s. ZA Bhutto and Mujibur Rahman emerged as top political leaders in the aftermath of 1965 war who were instrumental in splitting Pakistan.

Notwithstanding the closeness with USA, the relationship had its snags. Problems arose when USA under John F. Kennedy started wooing India well-knowing that it was the camp follower of USSR and had refused to become part of the defensive arc laid by USA to contain Communism in South Asia. Motivated by the desire of winning over India, the US provided all out military support to India after it was thrashed by China in 1962 border conflict in NEFA. The western assistance coupled with Soviet support tilted the military balance in favor of India, which forced Ayub Khan to lean on China and he accordingly brought a slight change in Pakistan’s foreign policy. Governed by the policy of enticing India, the US instead of helping Pakistan in the 1965 and 1971 wars, imposed sanctions. Indian military succeeded in cutting the eastern limb of Pakistan in 1971 due to all-out support of USSR. India’s nuclear explosion in August 1974 and its expansionism were looked the other way by the US led west.

Although ZA Bhutto was criticized for playing a role in truncating the country, but he is credited for gifting 1973 Constitution and laying the foundation of nuclear program. To restrain him, Henry Kissinger threatened him to be made a horrible example. His hanging on 4 April 1979 alienated Sindhis and divided the nation between Bhutto lovers and haters.
Pakistan under Gen Ziaul Haq was once again put under sanctions by Jimmy Carter regime in 1979 after it alleged that Pakistan had undertaken a nuclear program clandestinely and was developing an Islamic bomb. Ronald Reagan took Pakistan on board to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. Mujahideen were eulogized and named holy warriors.

Zia era gave fillip to Jihadism, religious extremism and sectarianism, but Zia earned his name in history by playing a key role in ousting Soviet forces from Afghanistan and in completing the nuclear program and also giving Islamic direction to the country. During the rule of Zia’s handpicked Junejo, culture of loans from banks and writing off loans by the politicians came in fashion and black money as well Mafias gained strength.
Pak-US honeymoon ended soon after the US accomplished its objectives in 1989 with the help of Mujahideen and Pakistan. The holy warriors were abandoned and later on declared terrorists. It was put under harsh sanctions due to which it became politically and economically weak. To rub salt on Pakistan’s wounds, the US embraced India and was made its strategic partner. Israel joined hands with the duo and the trio worked in unison to disable Pakistan’s nuclear program. Their antagonism increased after Pakistan responded to India’s five nuclear tests by conducting six nuclear tests in May 1998, and became the 7th nuclear power. Thereon, denuclearization of Pakistan became an obsession of Indo-US-Israel nexus.

The democratic era from 1988 to 1999 saw PML-N and PPP locked up in infighting, which made Pakistan politically unstable and economically weak. The two mainstream parties in their bid to topple the other had no time to combat the fallout effects of 10-year Afghan war which had militarized the society. The armed uprising of Kashmiris in IOK was not cashed in to liberate J&K. External debts swelled, and the state institutions became feeble. That period intensified ethnicity/sectarianism and fortified Mafias, profiteers, hoarders, smugglers, drug peddlers and racketeers. 10% Zardari blemished the image of Benazir Bhutto.

Disintegration of Soviet Union in 1992 made USA the unchallenged sole super power. The US neo-cons in league with President George W. Bush senior in anticipation to the fall of USSR had conceived a New World Order in 1989 and had chalked out plans to rule the world for the next 100 years. This ambitious goal couldn’t be accomplished without harnessing the resources of the Eurasian belt, and neo-colonization of the Muslim world. Israel dreamed of establishing Greater Israel since 1982. The first moves made in this regard were the initiation of Iraq-Iran war in 1989, followed by the First Gulf war in 1991, the Kuwait war and inhuman sanctions imposed on Iraq. Color revolutions were instigated by CIA in the Baltic region and Eastern Europe to change pro-Moscow regimes.

In order to evoke the feelings of revenge among the Americans and Europeans, earn sympathies and cooperation of the world, and to justify the invasion of Afghanistan and Middle Eastern Muslim countries, a false flag operation was craftily enacted on 9/11. The blame was put on Al-Qaeda led by Osama bin Laden (OBL) based in Afghanistan, which had been created by CIA to fight the Soviets in the 1980s. The Al-Qaeda and the Taliban were demonized and painted as the biggest threat to the world security.

Gen Pervez Musharraf was the architect of Operation Drass-Kargil in summer of 1999 in which seven peaks of strategic importance were seized. Nawaz Sharif buckled under pressure of USA and G-20 and ordered withdrawal unconditionally. Converting victory into a fiasco paved the way for Musharraf to dethrone Nawaz Sharif regime and take over the reins of power in October 1999.

Musharraf readily fell into the honeycombed trap of USA since he was badly in need of legitimacy. Being liberal, he was otherwise averse to Mullahs and extremist Muslims. He was led up the garden path by George W. Bush junior regime that it will atone the wrongs done in the past and would build relations based on mutual trust and equality.

Pakistan was made an ally and coalition partner of US-NATO, and a frontline state to fight war on terror on its soil. It was also made a non-NATO ally and a strategic partner.

However, irrespective of the impressive labels, Pakistan was never trusted and was given a raw deal. Throughout the 19-year war on terror, it was insulted, humiliated, criticized and pressured to do more. It was encrusted with unsubstantiated accusations of being either complicit with the terrorists or incompetent to deal with them, and providing sanctuaries to the terrorist groups. No proof was ever furnished to prove their allegations.

War on terror brought USA in immediate neighborhood of Pakistan by virtue of which it started meddling into Pakistan’s internal affairs directly. Pakistan was given a step-motherly treatment as compared with India and Afghanistan in spite of the fact that Pakistan had put its national security at stake and had rendered sacrifices much larger than any other coalition partner and had produced excellent results. What Pakistan received in aid or close support fund (CSF) was puny when compared with the human and financial losses it incurred. As against $20 billion, bulk of which was of CSF, Pakistan lost $ 130 billion and suffered 80,000 human fatalities including 7000 security forces. The tally of injured is three times more.

Musharraf took credit of improving the image of Pakistan which had sunk low and for attracting foreign investments and bolstering the economy. Notwithstanding his superior personal qualities of head and heart and his 7-point agenda which had the potential to bolster Pakistan’s fortunes, Musharraf’s ambitious agenda mellowed down after he empowered King’s Party in October 2002 through enticements and high-handed tactics. Thereon, he started compromising on account of political expediency mainly due to his yearning to prolong his rule. Accountability became selective and anti-Pakistan MQM became his forte. MMA’s hobnobbing with TTP in Baluchistan and KP was ignored.

Indo-Pakistan peace treaty signed in January 2004 was a cunningly laid out snare by India. Musharraf happily signed it naively thinking that it will help in resolving all core disputes including Kashmir and the two antagonists would live as friendly neighbors. He compromised on Kashmir by reining in Jihadi elements, letting India to construct a fence all along the Line of Control, and suggesting out-of-box solution of Kashmir bereft of UN resolutions. In his enthusiasm to develop extraordinary warm relations with archrival India, which never reconciled to existence of Pakistan, he forgot the psyche of Hindu Brahmans and their evil ambition of establishing mythical Akhand Bharat. To please the West, he introduced concept of enlightened moderation and expanded electronic media exponentially, which promoted secularism and obscenity.

The lawyer’s movement in 2007 joined by civil society eclipsed his popularity and paled his impressive achievements. NRO was his last gift to the nation the ill-effects of which are still being borne by the people. It enabled the most corrupt Zardari to ascend to power in 2008 and become the strongest president.

During Zardari’s 5-year black rule, ethics, high morals, values and principles were replaced with immorality. Corruption as well as corrupt practices scaled new heights, state institutions corrupted and ruined, and economy reached the brink of collapse. Energy shortfall which started in 1995 as a result of Independent Power Plants climaxed when Raja Pervez Ashraf, known as Raja Rental, held the chair of PM. Mafias turned into uncontrollable monsters and Karachi became lawless due to MQM terrorism. Zardari & Co excelled in financial terrorism, money laundering and fake accounts. Collation partners PPP, MQM and ANP looted the national wealth with both hands due to which the rich became richer, the poor poorer.

The chaos suited the adversaries of Pakistan which waited with bated breath to snatch Pakistan’s nukes on the plea that the country had become ungovernable. Entry of over 10,000 CIA agents without ISI clearance, Raymond Davis incident, followed by helicopters stealth attack in Abbottabad, Memogate scandal and attack on Salala posts all happened in 2011. But for the role of the military and the ISI which busted Memogate and got Hussain Haqqani removed from the post of ambassador in Washington, Pakistan might have been reduced to a compliant state of USA and India.

The domestic situation became so murky that the people lost heart in democracy and started looking for an alternative. PTI under Imran Khan (IK) which had emerged on the political canvas in mid-1990s remained in wilderness but came into prominence in 2011 essentially due to poor performance of PPP.

The five-year rule of PML-N was much better. The feathers it added to its caps were overcoming energy crisis by adding 12000 mw electricity in national grid and ending 20-hour load shedding, tackling gas shortage, controlling rural and urban terrorism, launching biggest development program, lifting GDP to 5.8%, and above all signing historic CPEC agreement with China which attracted $46 billion China’s investment for the game changing project. All these achievements were made in spite of politics of agitation of PTI and PAT and judicial activism, which retarded progress.

What PML-N failed to do was to proceed against PPP leadership which had reduced the country to a carcass, bridle corrupt practices and to carry out reforms of the institutions. Sharif brothers multiplied their wealth beyond their means. The other weak aspects were Nawaz Sharif’s distrust of the Pak military and fondness for Modi. He paid lip service to BJP’s persecution of Kashmiris in IOK and agreed to the contention of Modi to place the issue of terrorism higher than Kashmir cause. Like Benazir and Zardari, Nawaz was also branded as a security risk after Dawn leaks, and when he stated that Pakistan had a hand in Mumbai attacks.

Rapid progress of CPEC became an added cause of worry for the Indo-US-Israel nexus since it has the capacity to overturn their global ambitions and make China the leading economic power and Pakistan a self-reliant nation. RAW shifted its focus towards CPEC and Baluchistan where Gwadar seaport is being developed and for that purpose had positioned naval officer Kulbushan Yadhav at Chahbahar.

Pakistan was treated unfairly by USA despite Gen Musharraf, Zardari and Nawaz going out of the way to do the biddings of Washington and putting up with Delhi-Kabul enmity meekly. They earned the displeasure of people of Pakistan who see USA as a double-dealing unjust and ruthless Satan filled with Muslim hatred. By and large the world is convinced that the US wrongly holds Pakistan responsible for its failures in Afghanistan and whips it callously to lessen pains of its fault lines. For India and Afghanistan, the real promotors of intrigue and terrorism, the US has different set of standards. They are cajoled and richly rewarded. In Afghanistan, the US has sunk $ 1.4 trillion and has no complaints. All genuine and unreasonable demands of India are met forthwith.

Major reason behind the US discriminatory policy is that it had occupied Afghanistan under a false pretext and had initiated war on terror with an ulterior motive. Pakistan was never an ally but was and still is the target. It was made an ally to achieve short-term objectives since without whole-hearted support of Pakistan, the US-NATO adventure into Afghanistan to topple Taliban regime would have been extremely onerous and costly. While CIA, MI-6, Mossad, BND, RAW and NDS sat under one roof to make plans, ISI was kept out of the loop. An anti-Pakistan and pro-India regime under Hamid Karzai (later of Ashraf Ghani-Dr. Abdullah) was installed in Kabul which allowed the foreign agencies to use Afghan soil to undertake biggest covert operations against Pakistan in order to destabilize, secularize, denuclearize and balkanize it.

People of Pakistan braved the hardships of dictatorship and corrupt civilian rule and remained in two minds which one was better. Majority favored military dictatorship which provided better governance, law and order and improved economy. Fed up of the two mainstream parties, they looked for a big change and saw PTI under IK as a better alternative. IK highlighted the ills of both PML-N and PPP and held them responsible for running sham democracy and plundering the country. He raised the banner of ‘change’ and New Pakistan.

PTI improved its political standing from one seat and formed a government in KP. It became the second and third largest party in Punjab and in the Centre respectively in the 2013 elections. PML-N returned to power with a heavy mandate for the 3rd time due to its heavy vote bank in Punjab. PPP was reduced to a regional party based in Sindh.
Effective demonization of Sharif brothers by PTI and its partners supplemented by six months sit-in, electronic/social media and judiciary under chief justice Saqib Nisar, helped the PTI to win elections in July 2018 with a narrow margin. It formed government in KP, but it couldn’t even muster simple majority in the Centre and in Punjab. To form governments, it had to seek help of PML-Q, MQM-P, BNP-M, GDA and independents, all with soiled past. PPP managed to retain its bastion of Sindh, while PML-N was clean bowled. Political manipulations earned IK the title of ‘selective PM’ and the opposition pointed their fingers towards the military establishment.

Already heavy with electables from other parties, the PTI got compromised at the very outset by relying on allies which it had severely criticized, and appointing non-elected on key posts. Repeated U-turns, downslide in economy, soaring inflation and price hike further reinforced the stance of opposition parties that IK and his team are incompetent. Major folly on part of PTI is that it took over without any homework and started its innings on wishful assumptions. Major ones were return of looted $200 billion from foreign banks, Pakistanis living abroad will flood the banks with remittances, tax base would get enlarged, and corruption would die down. It lived in the fool’s paradise that milk and honey would start flowing in soon after popular and charismatic IK would take over the reins of power. It didn’t take into account that Pakistan is the most difficult country to govern and there are too many intriguers and spoilers whose sole job is to create hindrances and spoil the game. In the last 72 years, the land of the pure has become socially, morally and politically diseased, due to which immorality, dishonesty and corrupt practices have seeped into every layer of the society. Moreover, the state institutions are dysfunctional, high and low government officials down to peon are governed by feudal mindset and lethargy. Merit based system is non-existent.

Surrounded by sycophants and dishonest and opportunists, IK instead of first putting PTI’s house in order by conducting internal elections, restructuring the non-performing political system based on dynastic and family politics and British inherited bureaucratic system, reining in the mafias controlling state institutions, taking a look at the constitution whether it is attuned to the aspirations of the people, removing flaws in capitalist oriented economic system which has failed to alleviate poverty, evaluating the judicial system which is pro-rich, the three-tiered education which has sharply divided the society, the social and primary healthcare infrastructure which has kept the rural belt out of loop, the large and unwieldy provinces which are difficult to govern, he started chasing his political opponents vehemently.

While none of the assumptions materialized, his financial team has performed poorly which is IMF selected. The two decisions of increasing the bank rate to 13.25% in order to reduce inflation, and to heavily devalue the Rupee so as to increase exports neither reduced inflation nor enhanced exports, but added weight of $ 40 billion to the already crumpled economy. Phenomenon of loans grew in scope. On top of it, coronavirus has further bled the economy and GDP, which declined from 5.8% in 2017 to 2.1%, might dip to -02%. Pakistan is faced with rising poverty, unemployment, surging inflation and price hike, mounting debt burden and fiscal deficit. There have been crisis after crisis in two-year tenure of PTI.

The economic crunch has rendered IK powerless to accomplish his dream of providing jobs to one crore jobless, to build 50 lac houses for the homeless and to transform the country on the model of Riyasat-e-Madina. Not a single Mafia has been collared, which have become uncontrollable monsters, and no institutional reforms undertaken. NAB is spinning around the pole star with zero results, while judiciary’s reputation stands soiled. Convicted NS managed to slip out of the country. Allies of PTI have begun to jump the ship and BNP-N has taken the lead. Leading lights within the party have started fighting and some are aspiring to take over from IK. Cornered PPP is taking advantage of 18th Amendment to play Sindh card. Foreign-aided anti-Pakistan groups have grouped together to intensify terrorism, Indo-Afghan nexus is busy devising techniques to destabilize and unravel Pakistan. No step has been taken to provide relief to the 9 million locked up Kashmiris in IOK since August 5, 2019 and undergoing worst oppression. Opponents of IK are paying him in the same coin and leaving no stone unturned to tarnish his reputation.

It didn’t take long for the PTI to realize the gravity of the situation, because within two years of its rule all macroeconomic indicators went into negative. IK’s lack of experience of management, his weak decision making capacity and lack of empathy, his inexperienced team, alliance with blackmailers, constraints of 18th Amendment, unreformed state institutions, bankrupt economy, mountain of debts, accountability making no headway, together with political and internal security challenges and Kashmir imbroglio, when viewed in context with dangerous designs of Indo-US-Israel nexus has made the overall situation grave. Plight of the people is going from bad to worse and their patience is wearing out.
Talk of yet another experiment of presidential form of government, or national government, or government of technocrats has become louder. Some suggest tough martial law for ten years minus politicians, while others propose an in-house change. To hide its inadequacies, PTI is making the same old excuse of blaming the predecessors. Apologists are of the view that the muck of 72 years cannot be washed in 2 years and that IK is still the best choice.
There is a growing perception that the ‘third force experiment’ has also failed to deliver and after PTI’s failure there will be a complete political vacuum because of absence of a viable national party. IK is however unruffled and is confident that he will weather the storm and will sail past the choppy waters to the shores of prosperity. Is this yet another wishful assumption or he has a solid plan up his sleeve? The question is that will it be wise to pin hopes for a better tomorrow on outdated and dysfunctional system?

The writer is a retired Brig Gen, war veteran, defence & security analyst, international columnist, author of five books, Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre, member CWC PESS, Member Council TJP. asifharoonraja@gmail.com


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