It is not the first time. Perhaps it may not be the last time either. Pakistan has yet to mature and become civilized. The governments have yet to learn that they have been given the mandate not to amass personal fortune but to govern and to create a state where law reigns. The armed forces have yet to learn not to become a state itself. The lawmakers have yet to realise that they have not been sent to the assemblies to play with the laws but to make laws and convince the people that adoption of laws is their only option for survival. The fighting over the issue of finality of the prophet-hood is not happening for the first time. The first martial law imposed in Lahore way back in the 1950s was the result of the same issue. Religion has unfortunately been used as a convenient commodity to influence public opinion. We have been accused of using Jihad as a foreign policy tool. When Kargil happened, and Pakistan floundered, and Nawaz Sharif had to go to Washington to save the country from further backlash from India, back home a frenzy of religious sentiments was unleashed demanding to either complete the Kargil job or the government sent packing. Pakistan had to withdraw its forces and face the brunt with a total isolation from the international community and the US making its final strategic bid of getting closer to India. Later we had ten years long martial law under a civilian cover where Pervez Musharraf was both the President and the Chief of the Army Staff. Under his rule, Benazir Bhutto was killed. Incidentally, her father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) was also hanged during an army regime in control of the country.

The end of ZAB’s era was the beginning of religion becoming a tool in the hand of Ziaul Haq who upstaged Jihad as the only option to resist Soviet Union’s incursion from Afghanistan into Pakistan in search of warm waters. Along the Pakistan Afghan borders in Balochistan, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA, a new breed of Islamic militias was trained and sent to fight the cold war of which Pakistan was in binding with the CIA against receiving billions of dollars to keep the fuel (the jihadists) flowing into the Afghan war theatre. That war in Afghanistan never ended except for a brief hiatus. For the last 15 years, we are again in the same theatre with a difference that now we have turned a group of our trained religious maniacs, the Tahreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, into our enemies, who in cooperation with Afghanistan and India has brought terrorism to our land.

To fight out this terrorism we have sacrificed many young soldiers, Major Ishaq being the latest in the line of martyrs. A country raised on security paradigm would perhaps need blood flowing to its roots for survival. The tragic part is that in spite of such irreparable losses, we are happy to sustain ourselves on the support of lending organizations and depend upon the planning and vision of foreign forces for the development of our economy. We are pleased to remain a country important because of its geostrategic position. Haven’t we cashed in on this position all these years? The security paradigm on which our country survives, and we have an army of six million personals to protect that paradigm, is perhaps the only asset that we use, both in the domestic and international arena, to claim power space.

In reality, security is the only thing that this country lacks. Today the schism between the civil and military relations has increased manifold. Nothing new about it, though, the Asghar Khan case has exposed the role of the armed forces and the Pakistan Premier Intelligence Agency, the ISI, in creating a band of a religious organization called Islami Jamhori Ittihad (IJI) to influence the results of 1988 elections. But what we see today is unparalleled. It is plain bitterness. Talk to any army officer, and he spews hatred against the government. The hard-hitting job is obviously left for the retired officers unleashed on media. It may not be a surprise to know that the ISPR briefs these officers on the script. It may not be even a surprise even to know that the ISPR is running its social media machine fulltime to make the government accountable for its corrupt practices. On the other hand, the government’s social media is doing the same job against the armed forces and the judiciary.

Unfortunately, the contenders of power have used accountability, not to cure corruption but to keep intact their power space.

There is no denying that politicians are financially corrupt and that corruption should be eradicated to give every Pakistani the savour of clean institutions. But this is also a fact that no one is interested in accountability. Corruption has been used as a pressure tool to keep domestic politics under a condition where the government spends more time in saving its skin rather than performing. The circle of accountably never ends. Instead of coming clear for the sake of national interest narrow passages are looked for to escape. The voices raised for accountability and those being accounted for, eventually compromise to protect their power space. If the National Accountability Bureau and the Justice system of the Supreme Court can produce results against the Sharif family at no times why could not it produce the same results for other offenders, like Musharraf? Or for any other ordinary citizen who otherwise has to run from post to pillar for justice.

The Hussain Rizvi Dharna (sit-in) may help those who want the Senate elections delayed, but it would not eradicate the so-called breed of corrupt politicians; the philosophy under which the whole gamut of destabilising the government has been carried out. If the government can be unravelled for petty interests, then the system can also be improved, if all the institutions, especially the establishment, (whatever that means in Pakistani lexicon) sit together and decide that enough is enough. The Constitution is just a piece of paper unless respected with the intention to be truthful to the country first and not to the institutional interests for power space. It is not the first time we see this detour to a regime change, and it will not be the first time to see insanity repeated as an end result.


The writer is a freelance journalist based in Lahore.