After a lot of water has passed under the bridge, it is still unclear as to why Mian Nawaz Sharif and his close confidants did such somersaults regarding the so called ‘Dawn Leaks’. Even at the peak of the leaks it was hard to see the reason behind totally denying the published story and throwing a federal minister, an senior advisor and a civil servant under the bus and to blame the reporter and the newspaper of fabricating it . The decision taken was to discredit everyone who shared the story or verified it and to let Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the then Interior Minister give statement after statement of it being ‘breech of national security’. So much so, that the reporter was put on exit control list by the government. This one particular bad move, turned out to be the opportunity for the establishment to shove the elected government aside with one forceful push, to trample all over the system and gave the opposition parties a golden chance to play the game of, patriot verses traitor, on the fertile field of nationalism.

For the establishment, the news story was an unforgivable act of defiance that could not be overlooked, for it had the potential to tilt the balance of power definitively in favour of the sitting Prime Minister and he may actually appear as the boss asking explanations from his subordinates. The meeting itself might not have been tolerated but its report in ‘Dawn’ was what created the chance of retaliation and of course all in the name of national security. Despite the denial of the story, the decision was made that some facts must be reiterated and established to remind Nawaz Sharif of how things are to be understood regarding the power dynamics in this country.

Looking at things in retrospective, the worst mistake Mian Nawaz Sharif could have made at that point was to retreat without thinking things through and without weighing his options at that critical juncture. The faux-pas was done; he forgot the fact that he was the third time elected Prime Minister of Pakistan whose party enjoyed two third majority in the National Assembly. He forgot that he had the legitimate, legal and constitutional right to ask any and all questions from any officer of the state of Pakistan as its Chief Executive. He had no reason to be embarrassed or apologetic of making any query from his cabinet ministers and all military officials of all ranks as that they are bound by the law and constitution to answer him correctly, to the best of their knowledge.

Mian Nawaz Sharif also forgot that as the Chief Executive of the country he had the constitutional, legal and moral duty to find out the real reasons behind the security situation in his country, to make inquiries if anything was amiss and to pinpoint the problematic areas that have created bottle necks in attaining improved law and order in the country. It was his responsibility to analyse situations and find the connection of current issues with the past policies and present practices.

For who else but the Prime Minister has the ultimate authority to do so? But in this state of Pakistan historically there have always been a parallel power structure and the civil military relations are based on power sharing, rather than according to the constitutional framework of governance, which ensures the supremacy of the civilian rule in the country and declares the Prime Minister as its chief executive.

But after the much turbulent and chaotic year and the ouster of Mian Nawaz Sharif, finally, he declared that the Dawn leaks was no leak after all and that he himself was the one that asked the questions in the meeting which were later reported in Dawn.

The year long drama of the story, the retreat, the denial, the statement of Chaudhry Nisar, the so called inquiry, the corps commander meetings, the naming, shaming, all of the hundreds of talk shows and analysis and the collective verdict of the opposition that it was a fabricated story, made up, by the daughter of the Prime minister came to a screeching halt, rather smashed, by the one statement of the former prime minister.

If that was not enough Mian Nawaz Sharif also asked if the non-state actors or militant groups, existing in Pakistan should be allowed to cross the border to engage in terrorist activities. This statement opened another flood gate of accusations against him and it was considered to be an attack on the role of military establishment and akin to pointing finger towards it and putting their loyalty in question.

So where does it all leave us? To an average Pakistani the whole atmosphere in the country is laden with doubts, accusations and counter accusations, and there are no definitive answers. It is hard to clear the dust and to find a way out of the situation.

There is however, a way out suggested by Mian Nawaz Sharif as the final solution and that is to make a ‘Truth Commission’ and let everyone say his piece in front of it. All the matters that have been hushed up and wrapped in the cloak of secrecy for decades should be brought in the open once and for all. Let the people of Pakistan deal with the truth. Let it be known who has been deciding for the fate of the whole nation, who calls the shots, who makes the policy, who executes the plans and what is the ultimate goal of the state of Pakistan.

The most precious legacy that Mian Nawaz Sharif can leave today in Pakistan is to let the people out of this perpetual mist of doubt. The people and especially the younger generation needs to know the truth, reconcile with it and decide once for all about the way forward.

Is it wrong to want to know the truth and is there certain nobility in living in a perpetual denial about the involvement of the military establishment in the political affairs of the state. Is the history itself not a witness to the fact that the military establishment has not only always been a player in the politics but has taken over the elected governments in coup d’etats, have abrogated constitution, have intervened and engineered elections for getting results of its own choosing. Is it not a fact that the military established has made and strategized the policies regarding militant groups in the past and have declared them as assets. Have these groups not been declared as ‘mujahideeds’ and used in operations. Isn’t it a fact that the military establishment has not taken the civilian government into confidence in operations such as Operation Kargil? Is it not a fact that there are decisions made and actions taken by the establishment which are beyond the control of the civilian governments? Is it not true that security agencies operate independently in Pakistan without interference of civilian governments?

So is it not time indeed to know the truth behind who is in charge of policy making and strategising those polices in this country? All those in charge must also be prepared to take the responsibilities of the consequences of their decisions and actions.

We do need a Truth Commission and let’s start with Dhaka and Kashmir and Kargil and Abbottabad and to Bombay and APS and to Dawn leaks. Let’s all decide, once and for, who will set the course, this country must take to earn a respectable and responsible place in the comity of nations in the world.

As for the question as to if are we prepared for the truth that might come out of the Truth Commission, I truly believe we are.

 

The writer is a freelance journalist based in Lahore. She has extensive experience in writing on development economics and disaster management.