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Archive for June, 1995

Why do martial laws fail?

As a lucid and (generally) honest account of the Zia decade, the authenticity of “Working with Zia” is guaranteed by the extremely close working (and personal) relationship between the late dictator and the author, Gen (Retd) K.M.Arif. An exposition of the inner circle of a Martial Law cabal at Ground Zero, the document makes interesting reading even though it omits far more than it brings to print. According to Henry Wilson, telling the whole truth would be like blowing a police whistle on oneself, therefore Gen Arif’s need to take the Fifth Amendment (of the US Constitution), by delicately skirting sensitive issues. However, six country-wide Martial Laws in South Asia, four in Pakistan and two in Bangladesh, provide material enough to analyse why martial laws fail.

Martial Laws fail because the initiators of all extra-Constitutional rule ride into town on tanks with the lofty Aim (of saving the country), relying on that platonic national purpose to make themselves credible but they soon adjust the Aim to more material (and less patriotic) reasons of self-perpetuation. The original Aim which remains publicly the same, becomes an exercise in self-delusion. The primary principle of war (and peace) is the Selection and Maintenance of the Aim, this diversion of Aim means that one individual or group is simply replaced by another or others, instead of being a transition mechanism that provides for and facilitates the process of the democratic system being repaired and renovated to reflect the real genius and aspirations of the people. As the only civilian Martial Law Administrator, Bhutto was quick to recognize this and replaced ML within 8-9 months with an Interim Constitution in 1972 till the final draft of the Constitution was agreed to by all the political parties and came into effect in 1993. Those who impose Martial Law, whether rightly or wrongly, are supposed to be trustees of the people’s confidence and cannot become beneficiaries of the Martial Law they have imposed in the first place. Whether the time period is 90 days or three years, it must be clearly spelt out and adhered to. Gen Ziaul Haq could never live down his ill-fated failed promise to hold elections in 90 days. The predilection of the Martial Law leaders to see themselves as God-ordained leaders of their respective countries and their pathetic crude attempts to perpetuate their rule by force, fraud or rigged elections is self-contradictory and counter-productive, it therefore fails at the touchstone of credibility that must be the bedrock of any Martial rule. Ayub Khan turned to Basic Democracy for a legitimate transformation to civilian President but remained in uniform technically as Field Marshal and as President was the Supreme Military Commander. Ziaul Haq became President through a controversial referendum but never shed uniform as COAS, a contradiction in terms. Both Ziaur Rahman and Ershad symbolically left their posts as COAS after taking part in Presidential elections, but while both were popular leaders, particularly in the countryside, could they have won without the crutch of the uniform? Martial Law leaders who are sincere about their aims and objectives in coming to the succour of the nation must establish credibility by declaring themselves ineligible for subsequent democratic office, at least till one successor democratic administration has taken office and completed its term.

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Missed Opportunities

It is May 26, 1993. The Supreme Court has just restored Mian Nawaz Sharif as PM of Pakistan. On the hill a lonely (and suddenly beleaguered) President waits with apprehension about his former protege’s next move. Ms. Benazir Bhutto similarly waits anxiously with her worry beads. If Mian Nawaz Sharif should choose to go to the President and make up as any politician in his place would have done in similar circumstances, showing magnanimity in victory, the game is over for her for some time. On the outside chance that the PM expands on his confrontation, there is hope yet. Riding the crest of success, Mian Sahib chooses the path of confrontation and thus takes the “laurels from his (own) brow and casts them into the dust”, to quote Churchill about Wavell after his defeat at the hands of Rommel in the desert. Next, having formed the Government after the 1993 elections and thus displaying its coalition majority, the PPP shows signs of political accommodation over the election of a compromise President, maybe even someone like Senator Sartaj Aziz from the PML(N). Again Mian Sahib’s hawks prevail, the PML(N) stands firm about a PML(N) President of their choice, seesawing between Gohar Ayub and Wasim Sajjad. Net result, PPP goes for its own candidate and we see the non-controversial and generally liked PPP stalwart Farooq Khan Leghari elected as President. Third flashback, President Leghari immediately resigns from the PPP in an effort to display genuine neutrality in his new role as President and journeys to Lahore, inviting Mian Sahib to tea in the Punjab Governor’s House and if not, requests to go over himself to Mian Sahib’s house in Model Town to call on the Leader of the Opposition, in fact leaning over backwards beyond the limits of protocol. Peevishness persists and discourtesy aside, the meeting has not yet materialised, two years later. In Mian Sahib’s political history, the field is strewn with missed opportunities, so many and so crucial that it would require much more than one single article to recount them. Teflon-like hide aside, one cannot keep on passing the buck to his Advisors.

Given the present Karachi situation and the grave danger that it poses to the existence of the country, the Leader of the Opposition has taken the initiative and called a Conference of all parties on Karachi. Given the foot-dragging of the PPP regime as far as negotiations with MQM are concerned, this is indeed a most welcome proposal to draw the MQM(A) back into the national mainstream. One should take the analogy of the ultimate symbol of terrorism, the air hijacker. Does one stop talking to the hijacker or does one immediately start talking to him in order to gain time and wear down his demands? While labelling MQM as terrorists may be a moot point in a city full of terrorist groups of various ilk and creed, the PPP should certainly not stop talking with the majority party in Sindh’s urban areas. To circumvent PPP’s obduracy on this issue, Mian Sahib took a political lead of great significance by calling this Conference and then proceeded to shoot himself in the foot by refusing to invite PPP.

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Rockets over Clifton!

If leadership were assessed on a scale of one to ten with respect to the gift of speech as its primary indicative quality, PM Ms Benazir Bhutto would easily go past that measure of assessment. An extremely confident and articulate Ms Benazir fielded searching questions from a select group of senior journalists the day before the announcement of the 1995 Federal Budget for an off-the-record briefing, ostensibly on the Federal Budget. That document got very cursory attention, not even the fact that Rs 25 billion additional taxation was envisaged excited many ripples as the focus shifted to the unspoken agenda of the day, the situation in Karachi. While there was certainly a sense of urgency among those seated in the PM’s Conference Room, as the only person in that gathering actually living presently in that city on a full-time basis, one came away with a deep sense of frustration and anxiety, endless frustration that even a perceptive leader like Ms Benazir who should be sensitive to democratic solutions for such problems was adamant about not “negotiating” with terrorists and deep anxiety at the helplessness of millions of innocent Karachi-ites who fear death, destruction and injury everyday at the hands of rapacious and ruthless gunmen without any qualms about targeting innocents, age (and sex) making no difference as to opportunity targets.

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The Federal Budget 1995-96 – More Than Meets the Eye

To the common man, the areas of the Federal Budget that are important are those that affect his buying power. To that end, the Peoples Party’s propaganda machine is working overtime to convince the populace that the only increases proposed are the tax-hike with respect to petroleum and gas prices. Since the common man was already shelling out more for his PIA tickets and electricity (raised pre-Budget) while bracing himself for the anticipated rise in telephone and transportation prices (left to the mercy of the Corporations) it is a moot point whether the masses would have yelled with joy at the resounding theatricals of Makhdoom Shahabuddin, the Federal Minister for State, for Finance, the man elected by the PPP Government to present the Federal Budget prepared by others. Not known for any dramatic potential during his Sadiq Public School days, this better than average School-hockey player is obviously a late-starter to histrionics and was thus fighting a credibility problem even before he began his speech. For whatever it is worth he struck a sympathetic chord in his leader who gave him encouragement by approving glances throughout his performance (of reading the Budget). In the Post-Budget Press Conference, the Makhdoom acted as a traffic cop, deftly passing on almost all questions to V.A Jaffery (mainly) and Shahid Hasan Khan, Special Assistants to the PM, and thereby confirming what is universally known to all, that he knew nothing of the Budget before, during or after its Presentation (shades of Capt (Retd) A.A Jilani with respect to his Lower Urdu Paper in the Army).

In the 1994-95 Federal Budget, the PPP Regime had set out unrealistic targets. Failure to reach these as well as the deficit target of 4% of GDP was cause enough for criticism. The resultant shortfall was to the extent of Rs 40 billion in tax revenues. This brought the budget deficit of Rs 72 billion to well over Rs 100 billion. Ambitious targets combined with inflexible expenditures based on incorrect estimates invariably leads to frustration and a size of deficit for which the authorities are least prepared. Naturally this surprise upsets a lot of calculations on which economic forecasts are prepared, thus affecting the credibility of the system. Through the years, the rulers, whether political or military, get the blame while the bureaucrats who set up these wrong projections in the first place escape retribution, indeed are rewarded in many cases for their “flamboyance” in outrageous estimates and expertise in sleight of hand with financial figures.

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The Karachi Situation Playing Blind Man’s (?) Bluff

Even for those who have admired the many qualities of Ms Benazir Bhutto over the years and have been taken in by her charm and charisma, her recent speech in Kasur was shocking. It brought our Princess down to a particular low water mark unbecoming of her, both as a human being and as a popularly elected leader. The dignity of the Office of the PM requires avoiding the use of intemperate language or saying anything carrying racial inferences, Ms Bhutto crossed that fail-safe line that separates politically acceptable campaign rabble-rousing from the more colourful characteristics of the parade ground. The only excuse one can justifiably give is that the PM believes she should campaign endlessly irrespective of the audience and the occasion, the studied demeanour of sophistication she displays on her frequent State visits being the exception. Well, the last election campaign has been over for nearly 20 months and the next one is yet to commence, or does she know more than she is letting on? Instead of stooping low to conquer, she is succeeding in losing a considerable amount of goodwill among the intelligentsia and the masses who have tended to always give her the benefit of the doubt in the many controversies she manages to get herself mired in from time to time. Maybe she used an exorcist to chase away the demons that seemed to possess her in Kasur, or perhaps she was inspired by self-preservation in the face of noises emanating from quarters that matter, to the profound relief of her damage-control specialists, the PM appeared at a Press Conference flanked on one side by Hamid Nasir Chattha, and “regretted” the remarks “if they have hurt anyone’s feelings.” In true Bhutto tradition of defiance unto death, there was nothing contrite or apologetic in her tone or demeanour, in fact she relished launching into another diatribe of sorts against “terrorists” (by inference the MQM(A)). Regretfully, she may have irretrievably lost the battle for the hearts and minds of Karachi’s populace, only a miracle can salvage any remaining goodwill.

For whatever it is worth, the PM is right in one respect. There is militancy that can clearly be classified as urban terrorism within the ranks of MQM(A). One cannot objectively view the situation and give them a clean bill of health just because the PM chose to go off on a tangent. However there are extenuating circumstances. Given the way the MQM have been hounded over the past three years since the start of Operation Clean-Up, this is hardly surprising or unexpected. Even if you would corner an animal in this manner you would expect a reaction, case in point PPP-in-exile during the Zia years and the terrorist Al-Zulfiqar Organisation. Also the MQM(A) is not the only one playing the urban guerrilla game, what about MQM(H), Al-Zulfiqar and Jeay Sindh? To compound all this, Indian RAW has been actively fomenting violence in Karachi to take the pressure off Kashmir. In all fairness, the PM must acknowledge that it was the State (in the form of ISI) that created a parallel “terrorist” organisation, the MQM(H), and it is the State (in the form of IB) that still sustains it. Anytime the organs of the State acquire such powers which allow them to break the laws of the land they are pledged to uphold, the reaction is bound to be commensurate, as an act of self-defence if nothing else. When criminals function in the name of justice, justice becomes a crime. Two wrongs do not make a right, or for that matter, three, four or even ten. Every political party in Karachi including the JI, PPP, JUI, PPI, ANP, etc has militant wings whose high-handedness often borders upon terrorism. MQM(A) is simply the best organised, having the maximum sympathy of Karachi’s masses, followed by MQM(H) having the support of the Establishment. PML(N) is probably the only one without a coherent militant faction and certainly that is not for want of trying. Even the President mentioned MQM(H) and Al-Zulfiqar as having terrorist factions in a recent Press Briefing for foreign journalists. MQM(A) can be held partly responsible for the bad law and order situation in those areas of Karachi which are said to be in its control, who are the “terrorists” in the Landhi, Korangi and Lines Area? Even PSF got into the act with rocket launchers near NIPA Chowrangi the other day. Given the type of provocation that the MQM is subjected to every time that calm returns to Karachi, violent reaction by their cohorts in the streets is not surprising. In countless incidents Police and Rangers have been quite high-handed, thereby alienating the populace. The immediate cause of the current unrest is the LEAs raid at Nine-Zero (the home/office of Altaf Hussain). Since this was done at the advent of Muharram, it was certainly avoidable, i.e. unless the objective was to provoke confrontation.

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More bang for the buck!

Nations that want to retain their sovereignty have to spend substantial sums for their defence needs. This emphasis on defence expenditures extends to even those countries whose defence shields are provided by protective allies. For third world countries, already over-burdened economically by crushing external debt, earmarking of large outlays for defence material and manpower, is for the most part unacceptable. Only the thought that India, with the bulk of its population below the poverty level, spends a mind-boggling amount on their fairy-tale perception of defence needs (which invariably means an anti-Pakistan posture), keeps us from screaming our collective heads off. With such an implacable, unrelenting foe on our borders, our financial circumstances take secondary thought as we make pro-rata commensurate increases in our defence outlays. Indian ambitions are too blatant for us to behave like an ostrich. While matching them gun for gun may not be either feasible or possible, we are obliged to maintain a proportionate ratio so that numerical or qualitative superiority does not overwhelm us without a fight as has happened recently in Sri Lanka. With the Afghan situation not likely to get better in a hurry after the departure of the Russians, our volatile borders will dictate a two-front approach, the division of our meagre resources indicating a defence posture based on interior lines of communications with an inherent capability to move large bodies of troops on short notice for strategic and/or tactical purposes. Thanks to generous US Aid, dictated out of the threat perception to their strategic interests in the Persian Gulf, we have managed to induct quality material in good quantities into the three services, particularly the Pakistan Air Force where the acquiring of the F-16, the Fighting Falcon, has given us a qualitative edge in the field of air superiority. Our greatest failing has been a significant lack of progress in indigenous defence production where a singular lack of will has inspired a lip-service fanfare of achievements interspersed with some actual transfer of technology from time to time.

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Pakistan’s Defence Budget More bang for the buck-II

(This is the SECOND of a THREE parts series on the subject).

Financial Discipline
We should strictly practice fiscal control. Most financial indiscipline takes place in Defence Procurement, Military Engineering Services, Army Supply Corps, Army Medical Corps, Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Establishments and Ordnance Corps Depots. It needs immediate and critical attention. Waste and corruption are twin partners in crime against the Defence Budget and the perennial losers are the fighting men. It is also time to conduct a survey wherein pure services like medical facilities, conservancy, maintenance, etc in fixed peacetime locations must be contracted out and the support services should be reduced as much as possible. After all we do not have to fight in Africa or Europe, so why have the same World War II British concepts? There are too many generals in the Medical Corps as well as in the EME. With honourable exceptions the Army Supply Corps (ASC) is a disgrace, quite in keeping with their brother supply establishments in different military forces of the world. One has to maintain the same standards of honesty and integrity throughout the service. With the advent of computers, a judicious use of it will permit a greater amount of control over leakages.

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More bang for the buck-I

(This is the FIRST of TWO parts, this part has already appeared but an edited version is considered still appropriate).

Nations that want to retain their sovereignty have to spend substantial sums for their defence needs, emphasis on defence expenditures extending even to those countries whose defence shields are provided by protective allies. For third world countries, already over-burdened economically by crushing external debt, earmarking of large outlays for defence material and manpower, is for the most part unacceptable. For Pakistan, only the thought that India, with the bulk of its population below the poverty level, spends a mind-boggling amount on their fairy-tale perceptions of defence needs (which invariably means an anti-Pakistan posture), keeps us from screaming our collective heads off. With such an implacable, unrelenting foe on our borders, our financial circumstances take secondary thought as we make pro-rata commensurate increases in our defence outlays. Indian ambitions are too blatant for us to behave like an ostrich. While matching them gun for gun may not be either feasible or possible, we are obliged to maintain a proportionate ratio so that numerical or qualitative superiority does not overwhelm us without a fight as has happened recently in Sri Lanka. With the Afghan situation not having improved after the departure of the Russians, our volatile borders still dictate a two-front approach, the division of our meagre resources indicating a defence posture based on interior lines of communications with an inherent capability to move large bodies of troops on short notice for strategic and/or tactical purposes. Thanks to generous US Aid, dictated out of the threat perceptions to their strategic interests in the Persian Gulf, we have managed to induct quality material in good quantities into the three services, particularly the Pakistan Air Force where the acquiring of the F-16, the Fighting Falcon, has given us a qualitative edge in the field of air superiority. Our greatest failing has been a significant lack of progress in indigenous defence production where a singular lack of will had previously inspired a lip-service fanfare of achievements interspersed with some actual transfer of technology from time to time. This seems to be now changing as our planners realize that we are in jeopardy 24 hours, this not being a 9 to 5 world anymore.

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Proportional Representation

As a measure of ushering in democracy in its original concept we have already discussed why it is necessary to (1) have a run-off election between the two candidates having the maximum votes in case any one candidate fails to get 50% of the votes cast (2) must return to the joint electorate system in preference to the present system of separate electorates and (3) have direct voting for every electable seat to avoid manipulation by a corrupt of few over the many. However, the major argument against all the three aforementioned measures is the fact that it will deprive smaller communities, religious groups, minorities like Christians, Hindus etc, from representation in the legislative assemblies. This “outcast” status will cause frustration among a fairly large segment of the population who will despair of ever having a voice in the mainstream of the country’s politics and may become extremist in their outlook, even looking to separate themselves (secede) from their present society. The world is witness to terrorism which has its roots in denial of (or the seeming denial of) fundamental rights to individuals and/or groups, which then resort to violent means to restore (and assert) what they feel is their God-given rights. As such while we must strive to remove the anomalies in our present version of democracy, we must also be careful in bringing in such measures that give every segment of our society their just due by giving them a voice roughly commensurate to their percentage of population in our legislative assemblies. A mechanism that is fair to all must be formed to overcome the present shortcomings in our democratic system.

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