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Archive for November, 1993

A matter of perspective

A couple of emotive issues of major national concern which threatened to go out of control are now being handled in a more mature fashion by both the Government and the Opposition. Such matters must be looked at from an analytical national perspective and not be used to score political points off the other to the detriment of the vital interests of the State. Responsible political leadership requires that a consensus be arrived at on the substance of issues without further acrimony or mudslinging.

The nuclear question is most vital to the continued sovereignty of the nation. It is singularly the most effective deterrent keeping India from testing its overwhelming conventional superiority against the tenacity and determination of our Armed Forces. The stage of nuclear development we are in is largely a matter of conjecture to the world, it must not become the subject of irresponsible public debate. Pointing fingers at one another on the question of “capping” serves no purpose except that of others. For the record, US laws mandate that developing countries should not cross the nuclear threshold if they want to continue receiving economic and military aid. In a major development, the US President has taken the initiative of approaching Congress to take such legislative steps (revoking Pressler Amendment, etc) that could lead to a removal of restrictions on US economic and military aid to Pakistan. Given that we desperately require to augment our air power with the F-16s held in storage in Mojave Desert in Nevada, any diplomatic presentation from our side that convinces the US that their laws are discriminatory towards Pakistan in relationship to a balance of power with nuclear India should be welcome to all Pakistanis. A dominant India is always a predator nation as she has proved time and again vis-a-vis the peripheral States of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and the Maldives, not to mention those States that she has occupied over the years, viz. Kashmir, Hyderabad, Junagadh, Goa, Sikkim, etc. Pakistan has been the only nation to stand upto India in the region. The nuclear expertise that we possess is neither a PPP nor a PML(N) created asset, it is a national potential. As much as the Indians profess outrage at the possibility of a Pakistani nuclear potential, they have blatantly gone ahead beyond the actual detonation of their bomb in the early 70s to the development of an unmanned delivery system in the form of Agni and Prithvi missiles. Even as they refuse to sign the non-proliferation treaty, the Indians miss no beat to remind concerned western governments about the “Islamic” nature of a possible Pakistani Bomb and connotations thereof. Their duplicity is so perfected that while they profess their deep friendship for the rest of the Islamic Bloc, they spare no opportunity about evoking suspicion in western minds about a possible Doomsday Scenario if any Islamic country manages to get the Bomb. Is Pakistan’s purpose served by accusations hurled about the future intentions or past actions of each other? Or is it served by speaking in unison about the threat that a nuclear India poses to the rest of the world? If Ms Benazir is able to convince the US not to discriminate against Pakistan because of which Pakistan is deprived of a potent conventional weapon platform for its defence, more power to her and so should be the stance of the Opposition. As it is, it is too early to go into paroxysms of euphoria over likely US aid, US Congress has more often than not refused to go along with the US government. The Opposition’s concern about likely hidden clauses in whatever promises and assurances are given to the US that tend to impinge on Pakistan’s sovereignty must be assuaged by the Government. An “in camera” briefing by the PM for the Leader of the Opposition and his key aides can rectify this. One must commend both sides for agreeing to debate the nuclear issue in the NA “in camera”. We live in a world having one Superpower left, it makes no sense to antagonize that power centre when we have the logic and wherewithal to convince the United States about the self-imposed parameters of our nuclear programme, the threat perception and deterrence thereof.

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The First Cracks

Whose of us who were inclined to believe that this is a new PPP regime, chastened by their first experience at bad governance, determined to do good by their country, now see the first tell-tale signs appear on the edifice. While it is too early to render dire predictions of things likely to happen, there are certain indications in that direction which cannot go unnoticed and which seem to build up into a comprehensive design of wheels within a wheel, not divorced from the making of a quick buck. One does not see the blatant and ham-handed modus operandi of the first tenure, the perception of a hungry child wolfing down too much all at once, this time around the operating procedure seems to be much more suave and sophisticated. This is very much in keeping with the cunning of the brilliant election campaign against Mian Nawaz Sharif, a battle of the PPP’s organisation machine against the raw popularity among the masses of a basically untested political entity, where a dead heat in the number of votes cast (with a slight edge to the PML(N) and its allies) among the popular vote has been subsequently (and superbly) transformed into an electoral rout. While it does not reflect the political reality on the ground and does call into question the credibility of the democratic process as is being practiced in this country, it is now very much a fait accompli.

Governments are made or unmade on the policies that it annunciates and the way it goes about implementing them. However, what matters above all is the choice of individuals who will carry the torch. For the record, based on their respective manifestoes, there is no fundamental disagreement in the policies of the Government and the Opposition, the difference would be more in form of execution of these policies and the level of emphasis thereof rather than the substance. To implement its policies, the government has to employ people that it trusts and has confidence in, at the same time they should have a reputation for honesty and integrity. Above all, they must be free from controversies that are likely to hamper the intentions and objectives of the government. One important thing to note is that wrongdoing can only be attempted when key players are motivated by rampant greed or owe loyalty to individuals over and above the loyalty that they should owe to the institution that they are responsible for.

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The Buck Stops Here

In the National Assembly elections on Oct 6, the PPP (along with its PML(J) allies) had obtained a comfortable lead over PML(N) and its allies but not resounding enough for an absolute majority. The subsequent Provincial elections on Oct 9 saw PPP get an overwhelming success in its Sindh stronghold, a slender lead (along with its allies) in Punjab but conceding majority to PML(N) (and its allies) in Sarhad and Balochistan. Since our people tend to worship only the rising sun, the election of the NA Speaker (and later of the PM) clearly indicated that the sign of the times was that the PPP was slowly but surely gaining strength. This perception was force-multiplied when the PML(N) failed to get a single independent or minority member in the Punjab. However, both in Sarhad and Balochistan, the PML(N) and its allies succeeded in forming governments with the help of independents and others. The stage was thus set for the Presidential elections.

Analysing this scenario, it would have been expected of the PML(N) to go for a consensus with PPP in the matter of the choice of President. With PPP firmly in the saddle and having proved its majority, Ms Benazir could have sat back and coasted home. However, Ms Benazir was faced with three major problems, viz. (1) the advent of GIK into the Presidential race asking for the proverbial pound of flesh (2) the candidacies of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan threatened to draw crucial votes away in a possible one-on-one race and (3) the seeming refusal of PML(N) to consider any candidate except one from among its own list thereby negating the concept of consensus or compromise.

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A Bridge Called Confidence

With the death of Gen Ziaul Haq in August 1988, a decade plus of dictatorial rule came to an end. Before his death, the late President had dismissed the man handpicked by him to guide his version of partyless democracy, the “crime” of late Mr. Junejo had been to display signs of independence as Prime Minister. Gen Zia’s fears had been fed by the Establishment that had decided that Junejo was about to cross the fail-safe line of total control and needed to be cut to size. The enquiry into the Ojhri Camp disaster acted as the proverbial straw. Prominent advisors to Gen Zia were the Establishment figures Ghulam Ishaq Khan, Dr Mahbubul Haq, Roedad Khan, Ijlal Haider Zaidi, Mahmoud Haroon, etc. When the then VCOAS, Gen Aslam Beg, decided against the usual route to the Presidency and opted that the country go for the constitutional process, this was God-sent as it suited the Establishment and their chief, GIK, became President. With Ms Benazir Bhutto’s PPP running rampant politically, the IJI, the Islamic Democratic Front, was cobbled together around the ever available Pakistan Muslim League. PML leader Junejo, discarded unceremoniously only a few months ago, was now again resurrected as the pointman against a bigger threat. Ms Bhutto’s electoral momentum took her to Federal power but fell short of gaining the key Province of the Punjab. As a part of the package that elevated her to PM, Ms Bhutto was forced to abandon Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan as her Presidential candidate and swallow the GIK pill as the Establishment-dictated “consensus” candidate of both the major political groupings. As much as everyone would have us believe that this was “democracy”, the fact remained that it was an Establishment-contrived farce.

Ms Bhutto’s political demise was inherent from the first day of her first Prime Ministerial stint. Given that the PPP had been out of office for a long time, the Establishment policy was to allow enough rope to PPP to run berserk with respect to nepotism and corruption. Oxford and Harvard educated Ms Benazir was simply overwhelmed by the demands and trappings of third world office, exposing her severe limitations with respect to experience. Ms Benazir was also badly served by her close advisors, these stalwarts decided they were omnipotent and started to pick on the Armed Forces. By August 1990 the Establishment had the necessary strength (power flows through the barrel of a gun) to move against her.

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The Last Hurrah

Someone should mark 4 Nov 93 as a red letter day in the country’s democratic history. Ms Benazir, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, stood her ground on two points of relentless pressure, viz. (1) from her mother with respect to the arrest of her brother, Murtaza Bhutto, as soon as he stepped on Pakistan soil and (2) the return of GIK to demand support for the Presidential elections on the basis of what he thought to be an encashable IOU. One can be crass and say that she took the cue from Mian Nawaz Sharif who, in his maiden speech as Leader of the Opposition, encouraged her not to succumb to blackmail by smaller parties, independents and what have you (comprising the Establishment) but one should not take credit away from where credit is due, after all it is she who is in the PM’s hot seat with something to lose. For the record, it is the second time this year, a PM of Pakistan has stood his/her ground, “even to the peril of his/her throne”, that is an auspicious occasion for democracy in Pakistan against any scale.

Murtaza Bhutto kept the people of Pakistan guessing about his arrival the whole of Wednesday 3 Nov. Since he is charged with heinous crimes not only against the State but against a virtual plethora of individual Pakistanis who have died (and have been wounded and maimed) due to assassinations, bombs and other violent means at the hands of a terrorist organisation known as Al-Zulfikar, his entry into Pakistan should interest a lot of people, politics or otherwise. After all, he has been indicted many times by the print media (on the basis of confirmed intelligence reports) that he, having been aggrieved at the demise of his late father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, had engaged in what he terms as “a genuine movement to overturn dictatorship” but that happens to be behaviour what the State calls anti-State. So we have a contradiction whether the individual is right and all that the intelligence agencies have been claiming is wrong or the individual is what he is labelled to be. However, the bigger paradox arises if the pro-Indian RAW label does not stick to Murtaza, in that case a whole generation of our intelligence hierarchy have been lying through their teeth. On the contrary, if they feel that they have been speaking the truth, then it will become a test of character of various individuals, whether they have the in-built strength and courage to stand for the truth in the face of losing their careers, Murtaza being the brother of the PM. At least, Murtaza has a redeeming feature, knowing that he faced certain arrest and maybe long incarceration, he has had the guts to stand up for his convictions. Not many people have that special courage to face what could turn out to be a fight for his life.

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The Presidential Candidate

The process of electing a President by means of an electoral college has been shown up to be an absolutely ridiculous exercise that demeans the concept of democracy. Ten days before the actual election we do not even know the actual choice of the two major political parties, various permutations and combinations are being considered.

Of the serious candidates, only one, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, continues to remain extremely controversial. The PPP “jirga” that met him on Monday night at Anwar Saifullah’s house failed to convince him not to do a “PIF” on PPP. One does not see the PPP seriously considering his candidacy in the face of its own experience at GIK hands. However, politics brings together stranger bedfellows. PPP’s support for a GIK candidacy will be taken as a clear signal for confrontation with PML(N). Perhaps Akbar Khan Bugti from Balochistan excites somewhat similar emotions but in a much lesser degree for much different reasons, primarily that he has the potential of being an unguided missile. Even then he remains in the class of mostly honourable men who are inclined to become the President of Pakistan.

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The Cyprus blunder

The 12th Commonwealth Summit held in the Greek Cypriot portion of Cyprus has come out with a one-sided Communique in its closing session fully supporting the Greek Cypriot position on Cyprus. The Communique has called for the withdrawal of Turkish Forces that had to intercede on the island in 1974 when a Greek sponsored military coup in Cyprus tried to merge the country into Greece without taking into account the wishes of the large minority of Turkish origin. During the Summit the Commonwealth countries did not bother to listen to the Turkish Cypriot position on Cyprus or the severe human rights violations visited on that community by Greek Cypriots in the period 1963-1974. In fact, the very fact of holding that Summit on Greek Cypriot territory in the presence of a recognised international dispute was questionable.

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