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(1999) Article in Frontier Post – Political Agenda for Pakistan

Posted by Kashmir Portal on June 11, 2009

Political Agenda for Pakistan
Brigadier ® Usman Khalid

General Pervaiz Musharraf, in his TV address to the nation on 17 October, spelled out a seven-point programme for his administration. It has been seven weeks since then and significant advance has been made only in one area. A new law has been promulgated to deal with loan defaults and corruption, and National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has been set up to investigate crimes and excesses by state officials and to recover ill-gotten wealth from politicians and officials alleged to have misused state funds and taken cuts and commissions. The first set of names announced by NAB includes politicians from the main political parties, bureaucrats and even senior armed forces officers. Unlike in the past, no segment of the establishment has been spared; corruption is being attacked across the board aggressively but fairly. This has sent a chill down the spine of the “influential” that escaped accountability in the past merely by changing the colour on their mast. The ordinary people, who are usually cynical about accountability campaigns, are supportive and enthusiastic. They have great hopes from accountability. But the dilemma is that there would be little long-term
effect of even “ruthless accountability” if it were not accompanied by political reform.

The General has also set up the National Security Council (NSC) to oversee the work of the Cabinet. The need for the NSC had been felt for a long since both the recent Prime Ministers had taken major decisions, against popular will, affecting the security of the country. They did not consult the Cabinet and subject their proposals to scrutiny of the Parliament. Lahore Declaration and Washington Declaration are examples of treacherous agreements that Ex Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif entered into without due process and thus disgraced Pakistan. He was ready to enter into more treacherous agreements that would have compromised the credibility of the nuclear deterrent, the freedom struggle in Kashmir, and our brotherly relations with Afghanistan.

The creation of the NSC, one hopes, would preclude decisions against national interest. The function of the NSC is to make policy decisions with due regard to the security of the country. But the mere existence of the NSC would
neither make decisions better nor enhance public confidence in them. In fact, most of the civilian members have an indifferent record of performance in high office and have little experience of engaging and enthusing the public.

The present government derives its legitimacy from Nawaz Sharif having been utterly dishonest and corrupt, having plundered the economy, and being willing to compromise the security of Pakistan by agreeing to US sponsored
proposals on nuclear weapons, Kashmir and our friendly relations with Taliban. Therefore, the agenda of the people that underpins his legitimacy, his credibility and his popularity, is safeguarding the pillars of our security, fighting corruption and reviving the economy. The revival of the economy and elimination of corruption are complementary, as they together would help reduce the size of the black economy so vital for our future progress. While Musharraf Administration has taken firm and credible measures to deal with corruption and a few tentative steps to revive the economy, it is shy of taking a firm stand with the US to safeguard the pillars of our security. It is strange but true that all Governments in Pakistan have found it easier to fight the enemies but more difficult to identify them. Sheikh Mujib was known to our security agencies to be an Indian agent but political counteraction was neither timely nor adequate. We have fought several wars with India but our establishment is still unwilling to counter its subversive activities and that of its agents and allies.

The external enemies of Pakistan and of those ousted from power recently have joined hands to orchestrate a strategy to frustrate General Musharraf. They ignore his Seven Point programme because they believe it does not by itself

shake their hold over the political apparatus. Their hold would be challenged by a re-grouping of political forces. Without regrouping, even if some of them were barred from politics, other members of the same family would take
their place. The new blood may even have more desire and inclination to plunder the country. That was our experience during the last decade that saw the rise of a new generation of youthful leadership. At the same time, there
is a sustained foreign pressure on the Administration to give an early date for the “restoration of democracy”. The common strategy of the internal and the external enemy is to preclude the crystallisation of a popular political
agenda and re-grouping of political forces that would preclude the return of plunderers and traitors back into politics. I reiterate, our hesitation to expose the crimes of the internal enemy and excesses of the external enemy
continues to be the principal impediment in the way of our being able to defeat their conspiracies. We did not indict Sheikh Mujib for treachery and we have been punished as leaders of both the main political parties of Pakistan also worked for the enemy. If we were unable to indict our erstwhile Prime Ministers for treachery – not just misuse of power and money – treachery would continue to characterise the agenda of our political leadership.

Our enemy uses secularist and ethnic (sometimes even sectarian) lobbies in Pakistan for subversion. At this point in time, these lobbies exploit the absence of a clear political agenda to undermine the pillars of our security. The language used is very clever and sinister. They say that the concerns of the Western World about Pakistan – a nuclear power with a large international debt, despotic rule, and rising influence of fundamentalists – are genuine. Pakistan, they say, has to address their fears to avoid isolation. They advise that Pakistan should announce a date for the restoration of democracy, co-operate with international efforts towards de-nuclearisation, curb fundamentalists of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and show flexibility on Kashmir.

Benazir, ever ready to earn some brownie points with the West, now endorses this line. Nawaz Sharif’s Muslim League would also use this line in his defence at his trial underway at Karachi. He is likely to say that his action to summarily dismiss General Musharraf was intended to deal with his defiance of his “policy for peace”.

A lie repeated without challenge begins to acquire the authority of the truth. The political line of the enemy is a pack of lies but if we do not respond sharply, it could succeed in subverting the peoples’ agenda by undermining the confidence of the people in the sincerity or the ability of the Administration to carry it out. The truth is that those who lead Pakistan today are more competent, more popular and more sensitive to public concerns about the economy and the security. Our nuclear weapons threaten no one and are seen by our neighbours (except India) to be factor of stability. A viable alternative to our own nuclear deterrent against aggressive, preponderant and nuclear India does not exist while Indian defiance of the UN Security Council Resolutions over Kashmir is openly support by much of the Western world. Pakistan’s stand on nuclear weapons, Kashmir and Afghanistan is in accordance with principles of deterrence, international law and precedence. The position of India and the US violates the UN Charter as it entails our national sovereignty and the right of self-determination and human rights of Kashmiris to be subordinated to the imperial caprice and territorial appetite of India.

The “concerns” of India and the West are unreal and their anger contrived. Their efforts to discredit and undermine Musharraf Administration are aimed at shaking his resolve to safeguard the pillars of the security of Pakistan that the civilian Prime Ministers had been ready to compromise.

Ask any ordinary Pakistani why our enemies are so angry with General Musharraf? He will tell you that the West is discreetly anti Muslim while India is blatantly so. He will tell you, that is why India is applauded and encouraged in every crime and every excess it commits against its own minorities and against its neighbours. But is that what our Foreign Office saying? No! They continue to appease our enemies by bogus commitment to peace. Why are we ashamed of saying that Kashmiris are a part of our nation and we have a duty to liberate Indian occupied Kashmir? India calls Jihad in Kashmir ‘cross-border terrorism’ and complains of ‘compulsive hostility’ towards them. Do they expect thanks for suppressing a legitimate freedom movement (killing 70,000 Kashmiris) whose objectives have been recognised by
the UN for the last fifty years? But are we saying that? Are we telling Americans that we consider it an act of overt hostility to pressurise us into giving up all the pillars of our security? The objective of our enemies is to
make Pakistan a vassal state o f India on the lines of Bangladesh and sacrifice our sovereignty and independence on the altar of New World Order.

There are striking similarities between the aftermath of 1965 War and the Kargil Battle of 1999. It is probable that our enemies would force a war on us as it was forced on us in 1971 in consequence of our political ineptitude during years following the 1965 War.

The military gave a good account of itself in combat in 1965 as well in 1999. But we were unable to convert that into an advantage at Tashkent or Washington. It is hard to explain why a nation that displays great courage and takes great risks when faced with the real enemy suffers crumbling of resolve in the face of empty threats. The only explanation is that our information and publicity media have been subverted and our higher echelons of leadership have been infiltrated or otherwise brought under foreign influence. The people of Pakistan do not trust their political leaders any
more. They have reposed their trust in the leadership of the armed forces yet again. This, every one agrees, is the last time the people would put their trust in their armed forces. It is crucially important that they succeed. I believe that Pakistan would secure more support for its nuclear deterrent, for Jihad in Kashmir, and for our commitment to brotherly support to Taliban, if we were to expose India to be the international bully running a tyranny in the name of democracy. But our Achilles’ Heal has always been the internal political agenda. I believe it is counter-productive to go beyond the three point agenda the people have given to General Musharraf. But he has given himself the additional objectives of devolution of power and inter-provincial harmony. Both points have value and importance. But the ethnic lobbies see these as a cue that the CE considers their agenda to be legitimate. We must not forget that President Ayub Khan was also a liberal politician keen on harmony between ethnic entities. He ended up exacerbating regional
polarisation that resulted in the secession of East Pakistan. I have no idea what measures the CE may have in mind, but the precedent in history is a disturbing.

I believe that political reform must follow “ruthless accountability” in order to preclude the return of Mafiosi in control of politics. Political reform would have to be preceded by a political debate with the purpose of producing proposals to amend the constitution, for new electoral laws, and a definition of the polity of Pakistan that all political parties should have to accept in order to be allowed operate legally. The argument that frequent elections would cure parliamentary democracy of its ills has turned out to be wrong. It is clear that parliamentary democracy has failed Pakistan. Presidential rule, even by un-elected Generals, was characterised by less corruption, better management of the economy, and political stability. The presidential constitution introduced by Field Marshal Ayub Khan in 1962
compromised its very essence i.e. separation of the Executive from the Legislative functions. Immediately upon the promulgation of that Constitution, its very fundamental was compromised when it was decided that the Cabinet members would have to be selected from among the Members of the National Assembly. The Cabinet became party political and the principal merit of the presidential form of government was thus compromised. There was also a
campaign to raise doubts about the legitimacy of a President elected indirectly by an Electoral College of Basic Democrats. The absence of proper political stewardship by the Ayub Administration helped the campaign succeed.

The conditions now are different from those of 1958. East Pakistan has separated and feudal hold over political apparatus of the country is much stronger. The people are more than ever eager to get rid of the dominance by
‘political families’ of the political scene. They see that several close relatives are elected to different tiers of government even on tickets from different political parties. The party system has become subordinated to the tribal and the political family system. The only challenge to this feudal-tribal hold has been from sectarian and ethnic pressure groups whose political culture is characterised by violence and hate. It has been apparent for some time that the beneficiaries of the erosion of the hold of feudal and tribal leaders would be sectarian and ethnic groups. If that trend were not arrested, Mafiosi would dominate all political parties, as is the case in India. The prospect of ever having genuine democracy in Pakistan would have vanished. The take over of the reins of Government by General Musharraf has given Pakistan a chance to introduce genuine democracy. I believe that nothing short of a directly elected President as the Head of the Sate and Chief Executive, with a constitution providing for complete separation of powers and a proper systems of checks and balances, would establish genuine democracy in Pakistan. New electoral laws would be needed in which political parties are distinguished from political lobbies and pressure groups and different requirements laid down for registration, fund raising, election of office bearers and taking part in elections. Since the polity of our country is founded on “Muslims are a Nation”, a political group restricting its membership or manifesto to certain sects or ethnic groups should not be allowed to operate as a political party.

The national agenda of a country – security, political and socio-economic – require different instruments for their achievement. The security agenda tops the list of our national priorities and is the focus of our national endeavours at this time. The primary instrument for its achievement is the apparatus of the armed forces and security services but the agenda must have vigorous and unequivocal support of the people. The socio-economic objectives are underpinned by popular support but success depends on the existence of an efficient tax collection system, sound fiscal and monetary policy, transparent audit and accounting system, and a structure of incentives and controls to direct private industry and business. The socio-economic agenda guides the efforts of the huge apparatus of the entire economy. Yet neither agenda can be properly formulated or implemented without the existence of an enlightened political leadership able to evolve a quality political agenda.

However, the political apparatus so vital for mobilising the people and evolving a comprehensive structure of objectives is usually very small. When the political leadership is not party-political (as is the case now in Pakistan) the political agenda becomes even more important because a structure of vested interests that supports a party political government is absent.

I believe that there is no need to expand the three point agenda the people of Pakistan have given to General Musharraf. The three points, in order of priority, are:

  1. safeguarding the pillars of the security of Pakistan,
  2. revival of the economy,
  3. ruthless accountability.

The nature of this agenda is such that complete success would not be possible but he could ensure that the size of the black economy falls below twenty per cent of the total inthree to five years. The country (and in due course of time history) would judge General Musharraf how far he is able to set the country on a path that robbers, plunderers and traitors can never return to power. That is his one point political agenda. I believe he can achieve this by ruthless
accountability followed by the introduction of presidential form of democracy supported by appropriate electoral laws.


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