Yesterday’s disclosures by ex-additional secretary Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Mr. Afzal Khan are disturbing. He said that ECP had made fool proof arrangements to ensure fair and transparent elections. He disclosed that the ECP at the implementation tier was helpless especially when the hare had joined the hounds, a very strong and pungent example. During an interview on a TV Channel, he disclosed that the central secretariat of ECP watched helplessly when the mandate of the people was subverted through compliant lower judiciary in the elections 2013.

Coming from a man who looked hyper active at the ECP during many briefings and someone who ably backed the aging Fakhru Bhai was startling. His interview reflected that at some stage the entire electoral exercise passed into the hands of men in league with forces that were bent on manipulating a favourable agenda. Then he justified his ineptness with serious questions. A small central secretariat is ineffective and powerless before retired judges who are members of the commission. He said that ECP was toothless for pre-election transparency and post-election rigging accountability. What a pity that central secretariat of ECP threw in the towel without a fight or whimper.

The events leading to these controversial elections go back to the days when the commission was reconstituted during the PPP regime.  Despite a hue and cry from opposition parties and the media, the nominations went through with mutual back scratching. A media house played a lead role in maligning many candidates. This was followed by the nomination of Fakhru Bhai and an interim government under a senile caretaker Prime Minister. Najam Sethi’s name given as care taker chief minister of the Punjab was a give and take over the nomination of Asma Jehanghir as the interim prime minister. As Shamshad Ahmad Khan the ex-foreign secretary of Pakistan commented to me in an email: -

“It’s going to be the mother of NROs. The future of Pakistan was choreographed in London at the so-called trilateral summit. There was the fourth ‘invisible’ party at the closed doors. No ordinances, no assembly resolutions. What is happening is the fast forward movement of the unfolding memo that has already been under implementation.”

Diplomats of this stature are well informed and cannot be ignored. This prompted me to use my own channels to confirm the events. Compelled, I wrote: -

“Sick and tired of the moth eaten system, all Pakistanis ask a question; would Elections 2013 be a game changer or will they sink Pakistan yet again into the proverbial black hole of Pakistan’s politics? The answer is, come out and vote.”

-‘Que Sera Sera’ Nation on 30th March 2013

Unfortunately, the people turned up in large numbers but the turnout and choices were subverted beyond a doubt. Fakhru Bhai resigned and now his secretary is spilling the beans. All political parties are complaining of rigging. Asif Ali Zardari must be realising that he was never the street smart politician he thought he was.

So what is an ex-diplomat implying by referring to the ‘mother of NRO’ and ‘fast forward movement of the unfolding Memo?’ No rocket science; civilian supremacy over military. Cognisant of the crises that were likely to erupt due to the crude handling of civil-military relations, I made a comment in this newspaper:

“For far too long, the ineffectiveness of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) and inability of politicians to enunciate a National Security Policy left a wide vacant space that the military occupied under exigency. In any case, the committee of national defence and security (CDNS), National Security Council or DCC cannot function effectively without an enabling and productive mechanism. Conversely, the civilians and politicians cannot fill this void till such time they build their capacities through education, inputs from research and academic institutions, study of military sociology and evolution of a common strategic language…Till such time civilians do not assume effective control of institutions related to the highest level of national security, a proper transition and balance in civil-military relations and political-military control will never be possible.”

But rather than follow a sure determined route to balance the context, the government eager to enforce an agenda under which it was brought to power, decided to address the balance through a bulwark, confrontational approach. Like 1999, this government once again denies space to other political parties and national institutions. There are allegations of widespread allegations of connivance with the biggest media house of Pakistan. These machinations have been mentioned in, Corruption: The Sink Hole Nation 1 February 2013.

This brings to question the emergence of a corporate media that should never be mixed up with an independent media in Pakistan’s politics. This mega media house (by Pakistani standards) headquartered in the Middle East with its group editor based in the US is endeavouring to reset Pakistan’s narrative. Imran Khan of PTI and competitive news channels allege that this cross media powerhouse is subverting the interests of the state and people of Pakistan through a well thought out plan in cooperation with the government in Islamabad and Punjab. The recent unsubstantiated allegations against ISI and Pakistan Army, playing cat and mouse with militant organisations, maligning top bureaucrats and leaders through the media followed up by relentless pressures for their removal through resignations and courts, are some of the instances regularly discussed in the media. It is no coincidence that at least seven powerful members of this group now enjoy government jobs. The media house has enjoyed two successes against General (R) Pervez Musharraf and ex-President Asif Ali Zardari. They are now poised to discredit Imran Khan and take on Pakistan’s security establishment head on. ‘Dogs of War’ corporates named as such by Frederick Forsyth consider themselves strong enough to take on Pakistan’s might. This aggregation and accumulation of a media corporate cannot be generated without strong internal and external support. Also remember that the first memogate leak came through this media house. This leak effectively pre-empted ISI investigations.

Pakistan’s self-created crisis is running head on into a very dangerous direction. As a democrat, I pray and hope it does not become Thai Soup.

    The writer is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a political economist and a television anchorperson.