By Brig Asif Haroon Raja
After the 1971 debacle, Pakistan is once again going through worst crisis. In some ways the problems confronted by Pakistan today are much worst than what it were in 1971. It is faced with potent threats from its western and eastern borders and is also facing internal threat posed by TTP and its affiliates in the northwest and BLA-BRF-BLF in the southwest. These terrorist groups were created by foreign agencies and are continuously being funded, trained and equipped to destabilize Pakistan. The US and NATO that were till recent pretending to be allies of Pakistan have removed their masks of friendship and are showing clear signs of hostility. They are closely knitted with Pakistan’s arch rival India that has not reconciled with the existence of Pakistan and never misses any opportunity to harm Pakistan.
The whole country is engulfed in flames of terrorism. Large numbers of security forces are embroiled in senseless war on terror. More than 35000 civilians and military men have been killed in this war by faceless terrorists. War on terror imposed upon Pakistan by USA with its vested interests has bruised the social fabric of Pakistan and impoverished its economy to an extent that it has reached the stage of a failing state. Never before Pakistan had become so cash strapped and dependent upon foreign aid. Our external debt has crossed $60 billion mark, the servicing of which comes to $3.5 billion annually. All economic indicators are in negative and our state-owned enterprises are almost bankrupt. Our expenses far outweigh our earnings and excess spending comes to Rupees one trillion. Our sovereignty is getting eroded mainly due to debt burden, heavy dependence on American aid and the US controlled IMF and World Bank, and debased policy of appeasement of our rulers.
On the political front, the country is ruled by a coterie of three political parties with dubious past that have bartered away the sovereignty, dignity and honor of this proud nation of 170 million in return for illusive American aid and to remain in power. Political parties are polarized and antagonism of the 1990s has returned. Both PML-N and PTI are demanding mid term elections, while the PPP is in no mood and want to complete its tenure which expires in February 2013. It is keenly looking forward to Senate elections in March 2012 in which it is sure to bag maximum seats. PTI under Imran Khan has emerged with a big bang as a third force and has jolted the two main stream parties but still is not in a position to form a government at its own. PPP is pleased with Imran’s growing popularity in Punjab, since it is at the cost of its main rival PML-N. Several well-known politicians from other parties have joined PTI, which is causing heartburns to the old guards. Antagonism between PTI and MQM is fast declining and unlike its past practice of strongly opposing ingress by any political party in its exclusive domain of Karachi, the MQM has welcomed Imran to hold his rally at Mazar-e-Quaid in Karachi on 25 December. The urban youth in particular is looking towards Imran since he has no corruption scandal, is honest and upright and has persistently castigated wrong policies and corrupt practices of ruling class.
PML-Q that had formed a government in 2002 stands fractured with large numbers of its elected MPAs in Punjab tilting towards mother party PML-N. The latter has excellent lieutenants but the top leader is muddle headed and doesn’t know when to become soft and when to take a firm stand. His decisions are mostly ill-timed, but he has a standing in Punjab. Finding themselves getting sidelined, religious parties are seriously contemplating to revive MMA. Politicians in opposition as well as media have been pressing Gen Kayani to take over and save the country from sinking, but he has rebuffed all such advances since he knows that all four military rulers were first enticed, eulogized and then condemned. Taking into account the heat generated by political parties, it appears that 2012 will be election year. Considering the divide in vote bank, no single party will be able to garner two-thirds majority; hence it will be a weak coalition government.
The people that are the real assets of the country have been marginalized by a small but highly affluent elite class which is exceptionally greedy, callous and self serving. Its life style outmatches even the elite class of the developed world and it lives in its own world of pleasure oblivious of the pains and miseries of the deprived class. Their insensitivity and callousness and servility to their foreign masters have created an unbridgeable gulf between them and the people. Sky rocketing prices, unemployment, lack of justice and insecurity have disillusioned the dispossessed groaning under the weight of poverty. Since the police are thoroughly corrupt and hand-in-glove with the criminal elements, law and order has almost broken down. Corruption has been institutionalized by the corrupt rulers and system of accountability has almost been done away with under the plea of national reconciliation.
PPP leaders involved in massive corruption have a long history of denials. They managed to prevent law courts from delivering verdicts for 11 years (1998-2008) through delaying tactics and then washed their sins in the dry cleaning machine of infamous NRO. The MQM also got thousands of their convicted activists and leaders involved in heinous crimes absolved. Once they cleansed themselves they cried out that they had been victimized for long and deserved to rule and to loot to their heart’s desire. They argued that if they were guilty they should have been convicted. Notwithstanding the inherent flaws in our investigative and judicial systems, the fact of the matter is that NAB had almost reached the final stage of convicting the main accused involved in money laundering worth $1.7 billion when US-UK authored NRO came to their rescue and leader of the band acquired immunity from conviction.
The current leaders have broken all records of corruption, incompetence, nepotism and cronyism. Militant wing of MQM resorted to massive target killings in Karachi for almost three years merely to retain its monopoly over the port city. The other two coalition partners in Sindh Ministry, PPP and ANP, also hired target killers to give a tit-for-tat response. Supreme Court and Gen Kayani had to intervene to stop the gory practice of bloodshed. Turbulent geo-political environment surrounding Pakistan causes no anxiety to the rulers. They feel no shame when mirror is shown to them about their corrupt practices, or when they defy the higher courts or violate rule of law. One reason of their indifference is that they have no stakes in Pakistan. They have amassed enough ill-gotten wealth by sucking the blood of the poor to settle abroad and live a lord’s life.
Having reduced the country to a carcass and loaded it with mountain of complicated problems, their flight time is approaching nearer, particularly when the media is exposing their wrongdoings, higher judiciary is getting more and more assertive, public anger is growing and talk of bloody revolution is often heard. The Supreme Court has announced its decision on review petition of the government on NRO and is also seized with the case of memogate. Judicial commission is close to finding the truth about Abbottabad assault. There seems to be a connection between 2 May and memo delivered to Admiral Mullen on 10 May. The haze is fast clearing and it looks that the real culprits will get exposed soon and taken to task.
It was amidst so many high profile events taking place simultaneously that news of President Zardari falling sick and proceeding to Dubai for treatment were heard. It gave rise to tens of rumors and speculations. The juiciest was that he had run away and would not return. American newspaper also commented that in all probability he would tender his resignation since the pressure was too much for him to bear. It may be recalled that when Musharraf released Zardari from jail in 2005 as part of his secret wheeling and dealing for a political reconciliation with the PPP, he was a very sick man and had contracted several diseases during his prolonged captivity. Dozens of money laundering and corruption charges were pending against him. On one occasion he had tried to commit suicide. He joined his family in Dubai in bad condition. On suffering a near catastrophic heart attack, he was evacuated to New York hospital where he remained under treatment for nearly two years.
In August 2008, a little before his visit to Washington as elected President of Pakistan, Financial Times published his medical reports of New York hospital, which showed that he suffered from range of diseases like dementia, stress and depressive disorders, memory and psychic problems. Although most of his diseases would have vanished once he miraculously entered the President House and became the most powerful civilian president; however, hangover of diseases particularly heart problem remained and didn’t get cured since he has two stunts fixed in his heart. With multiple pressures faced by him, particularly when Obama had along conversation with him on phone pressing him to undo the measures taken by the Army and ISI, and Gen Kayani not agreeing to do so, it was quite natural that his stress disorder disease got aggravated which in turn exerted pressure on his heart.
The reason why he preferred Dubai over Pakistan when the latter has much better heart expertise in AFIC was that he wanted to avoid American pressure and take rest for few weeks. In addition, he wanted to be at a safe place in the backdrop of Supreme Court’s decision on NRO and memo investigations. He didn’t want to appear in front of Abbottabad Judicial Commission. He activated his son Bilawal to run the business in his absence to prevent further flight of PPP leaders to other political parties. He can now wait and see and will return when the danger is over.
The US leadership has been constantly pushing Pakistan and has brought it to the brink of precipice. It kept up the do more mantra unhesitatingly since it was confident that no amount of admonishments and ridicule would evoke protests from the ruling regime which was in its tight grip. It was so sure because it knew that the NRO cleansed rulers whose wealth is stashed in foreign banks and their properties are also in western countries and against whom dozens of court cases are pending would not dare annoy or even irritate the US what to talk of rupturing diplomatic ties. The US wanted to extract all the benefits for itself and for its strategic partners and leave Pakistan high and dry. Despite despising Pakistan, it tolerated Pakistan and kept it engaged so as to extract the last drop of juice out of it. Ultimately it was the military and ISI which saw through the game and to their horror found that there was an unholy nexus between Washington and ruling regime and there was lot of truth in the contents of memo. The military has begun to resist the US challenge with full force, which has irked the US military. Gen Dempsey not only termed the Salala attack by NATO helicopters as unintentional, he has repeated the charges of his predecessor Admiral Mullen concerning existence of terrorist camps in Pakistan. He also favors ‘Do more strategy’. A situation akin to Cambodia and Laos is being enacted.
The people are fed up of so-called democracy and are confused which system would alleviate their sufferings. The people nostalgically remember Quaid-e-Azam who had aspired to convert Pakistan into an ideal welfare state. They recall the huge sacrifices that were rendered in creating Pakistan and how unashamedly the mini-mind leaders who came after Jinnah instead of building the institutions and improving the living standard of the poor kept filling their own coffers. The people are grinding in extreme poverty, the national kitty is empty but the rich class is dirty rich. The people are expectantly looking towards the Army and judiciary to bailout the country from worst crisis of its turbulent history. They are saying that sham democracy run by detestable politicians have brought this country full of potential to this sorry pass. They want a strong military president like Ayub Khan to run presidential form of government with efficient and honest technocrats doing the legislative work to avert the worst crisis.