By General Mirza Aslam Beg
The MQM’s decision to break its alliance with the government and sit on the opposition benches in the parliament has brought about a political Tsunamis in the national politics, placing a much greater burden of responsibility on the shoulders of the entire political leadership of the country, to face the emerging challenges and steer the country towards calmer waters, where democracy and national interests could find reprieve and redress. This is also the time to test the patriotism and “capabilities of the parties’ leadership” in the face of such challenges and opportunities.
The ruling party now is on the defensive and will be willing to change its attitude on the issue of defiance to the judiciary, corruption, failing economy, the burden of IMF conditionalities and the war in Afghanistan. If the ruling party realizes the gravity of the situation, then it has to act positively in the larger interest of the country and its own survival.
The Muslim League (N) has no chance of coming to power, through mid term elections, because, the Americans don’t want them. I am sure, Mr. Nawaz Sharif remembers the American dismay expressed after the 2008 elections, by the CIA funded Washington Times:“Washington’s Pakistan kibitzers will soon rue the day, they squeezed President Pervez Musharraf to restore democracy. Democracy is what has now emerged, as an unholy alliance of long-time American haters……The new behind-the-scenes god-father of this broad-based, anti-US coalition is Nawaz Sharif, chief of the Pakistan Muslim League. This also puts Kiyani in a quandary, Musharraf has handed over his military powers, along with a Rubik’s Cube.” The Army is in no mood to oblige and the judiciary is no more willing to award the “law of necessity”. The PML(N) also cannot form an alliance with Q League or MQM, and therefore, the only ‘easy option’ is to support the ruling party, to change course for a better governance and shed its obduracy to support the inept and highly corrupt members of its team.
The ‘Q’ League may not opt for mid-term elections, because in the absence of support by Pervez Musharraf, they may not be able to win, even a quarter of the seats they now hold. And therefore in their own interest and the interest of the country, they must support the government, to bring about a positive change in national political dynamics.
The MQM knows better the compulsions under which it has decided to sit on the opposition benches. May be it was the recent visit of the Chinese Premier and the geo-political ripples it caused to prompt action to destabilize the sitting government. Certainly, it is not the message for the “patriotic generals” to intervene, or is it because of serious internal rift between its different factions. The opposition which MQM now faces from the National Awami Party, Ahal-e-Sunat-wal-jamat and the PPP, will be too heavy to withstand. Therefore, the best course open is to support the government, though not in concert with PML(N) and PML(Q).
The Awami National Party has wisely decided to stand firm with the government, but for its own sake. It was desirable if the support were conditional, seeking attitudinal changes for a better future of the country. Maulana Fazalur Rahman’s drift is understandable, but he also has to put his shoulders to the wheels, to push the political band-wagon out, stuck into the mud, because democracy is at peril and the ominous portents for the country.
The occupation of Afghanistan by foreign forces and the brutal war which has raged for the last thirty years, is the ‘Mother of all evils. It has caused colossal damage to Pakistan’s national security interests. The decision to join the American war on Afghanistan in 2001, in particular, has distanced us from the people of Afghanistan. The Americans and their allies, stand defeated and will leave Afghanistan sooner than expected but not with the grace and dignity of a great civilized nation. They have plans to divide Afghanistan and foment civil war. We as close neighbours of Afghanistan, therefore, have to live as friends and need to formulate the strategy to mend the damage done by our wrong policies of the past and develop friendly relations with the future government in Afghanistan, which will be none other than the Taliban, the winners, who alone can bring peace and stability in their country. These are the hard choices Pakistan has to make, as the collective responsibility of our political leadership, which has been pushed together by sheer compulsions of the circumstances to play their historical role and seize the opportunity to collectively steer the country out of the morass.
The independence of the judiciary and the rule of law, provide the foundation for justice for a free society, based on a democratic social order. Despite all claims of change, ‘negative forces’ have been applied to interfere with the norms of justice. Therefore, it is the onerous responsibility of the national leadership to defeat and deter such negative forces, which stand in the way of justice and rule of law.
Corruption has become endemic, cutting at the very roots of our social order. Instead of protecting the corrupt, the political leadership has to identify the roots of corruption and correct it ruthlessly, remembering that “the fish starts rotting from the head”. The debt burden and the IMF conditionalities, have made the lives of the common man miserable. Some difficult decisions, therefore have to be taken, to lift the failing national economy. It’s futile waiting for the next elections and the “party manifesto” with high-sounding economic goals to be achieved, because there cannot be better time than what it exits today to take a leap forward.
Pakistan is beset with many problems and this is not the time to raise new issues of blasphemy, secularism or religious ideology. The brutal murder of Governor of Punjab occurred because of lobbies taking place outside the Parliament which is the right forum to discuss and decide on such vital issues. Blasphemy law is not the problem but its implementation is.
The practice of ‘regime change’ of the past, is no more valid. The Americans have lost their grip on the Pakistan Army leadership as well as the ‘compliant political leadership’ to play the game. The judiciary is also independent. What else our political leadership wants for the democratic order to find its roots during this turbulent period, challenging our national security? What better days could there be for our political leadership, to rise and correct the course and bring about the change, congruent to peoples expectations. This is the reality that demands a collective wisdom to face truth. John Locke very rightly said “It is one thing to show a man that he is all in an error, and another to put him in possession of truth.”
General Mirza Aslam Beg is former Chief Of Army Staff, Pakistan. After his retirement, he formed FRIENDS, a Think
Now he is a regular contributor to Opinion Maker