By Ahsan Waheed
The aftermath of the OBL debacle resulted in a blame game at almost all levels of state infrastructure in Pakistan. Neither civil government officials not members of the military establishment were spared – by each other, or by the Pakistani media and the speculation-ridden conspiracy-driven people of Pakistan.
The ten hour long in-camera parliamentary session was one of a kind in the political history of this country – where both General Ashfaq Kiyani and General Pasha (DG ISI) were present. General Kiyani, throughout the session, seemed to be much of a silent observer; it was General Pasha, the Director General of the ISI, who beared the brunt of all the barrage of criticism thrown at him. At one point, when he offered his resignation, parliamentarians initiated a ruckus and shouted in the august house that the resignation should be accepted. While many argue that the military establishment of Pakistan is not subservient to the parliament or civil administration, it should also e or outside the legislature – have no respect for the military institutions of the country. This disrespect had obviously crossed all bounds after May 02, as has become obvious to everyone.
According to certain media reports, the most acerbic remarks were given by Ch Nisar of PML-N. He criticized the Army and their role in the politics of the country. He did not stop anywhere, not even where the matters could result in projecting a repulsive image of Pakistan being a terrorist state – where the army was possibly playing a double game by pleasing both the US and the Taliban. Ch Nisar’s rampant opposition for the sake of opposition severely damaged Pakistan’s intelligence sharing mechanism with the US – CIA Director Leon Panetta stated as matter of fact to the DG ISI that when his own country’s opposition leader couldn’t trust him, how could the CIA.
Such criticism needs to be seen in the light of how the whole situation has been outplayed after OBL’s death, and not just the difficulties faced by Pakistan’s institutions because of political ineptitude in general. No doubt that the army gets a major chunk of the budget; such a magnanimous budget endowment means that the army should be doing their job of defending the country and not dabble in the political processes of running the country. It is also important to point out that our role in the War on Terror has been to support the United States; it has only become evident since 2007 that Pakistan is actually a front in the War on Terror, after terrorists themselves declared Pakistan and Pakistanis as legitimate targets, and proceeded to conduct daily attacks ever since then.
Ch Nisar’s brother, Ch Ibtisar, was a high-ranking Pakistan Army official who became Chief of General Staff as well as Defence Secretary – most famously, he refused to sign Gen Musharraf’s removal orders and Gen Butt’s appointment orders, which led to uncertainty that was capitalized on by Musharraf’s corps commanders and helped in the 1999 coup – or Musharraf’s “countercoup” as he himself calls it. When the PPP and PML-N were “allies” before the judiciary issue forced them to part ways, it was assumed that Ch Nisar would be given the post of Defence Minister – obviously that did not happen, because maybe Ch Nisar was not as cultured as his brother.
Ch Nisar, being a representative of the people and a senior leader of the PML-N, should take a look into his party’s history as well. The PML-N was originally the PML reincarnated by Gen Zia – the architect of the Afghan jihad and the first head of state to use Islamic terrorism as national policy – so that he could have a dummy parliament that could rubberstamp his Ordinances into law. Incidentally one of Zia’s ministers is also currently Pakistan’s Prime Minister. Nawaz Sharif – one of Zia’s favorites – took the advantage of a rift between party leader Junejo and president Zia to carve out his own PML, and he attached his own name to it so that nobody could take it away from him. After this, Nawaz took it upon himself as a personal mission to counter Benazir Bhutto and Pakistan’s liberals – at Zia’s death anniversary, Nawaz Sharif swore on his tomb that he would carry forward “Zia ul Haq Shaheed’s Mission”. Again, incidentally, a lot of religious extremists, takfiris, Wahabbi fundamentalists, and traditionalist conservatives in Pakistan are also pursuing Zia ul Haq’s distorted and macabre mission.
Up till certain years ago, it was alleged that links exist between Al Qaeda and the funding of PML-N – especially in the 1997 elections. Gen Musharraf was quick to remind the international community about this throughout the last decade, in order to dissuade world leaders from considering Sharif a valid political contender. However, with immense Saudi backing, and despite the financial malfeasance and daylight robbery the Sharif brothers conducted in Saudi Arabia – while they were the Kingdom’s guests and protectees – the Sharifs were given a new political lifeline after a deal was reached to allow former PM Benazir Bhutto to come back to the country. The judiciary decreed that it was also Nawaz Sharif’s fundamental right to return to his country – that is when everything hit the fan. By this time, Nawaz Sharif had a huge bone to pick with the Army, who had propped him up in the first place. Sharif could act like a reborn Bhutto who had escaped the military gallows and would come back as a revolutionary leader of the masses who is strictly against military intervention in politics – only because it packed up his government the last time it happened. Evidently, Sharif’s politics are not defined by national interest or public progress, but only by his personal sentiments and his prevalent feelings about the country, its institutions and its general political scenario. Of course, if President Zardari does not open the Hudaibiya Paper Mills cases and other scams, Nawaz Sharif will “silently” trumpet the Swiss cases issue, the NRO and other incidents of corruption that put the PPP in the docket. That is why Nawaz is aware that people call him a “friendly opposition”; while he hates the label, he should be glad that he’s not the “King’s opposition” and live with what the people call him – that is his reality.
The closeness of the PML-N to religious extremists and even terror elements like the SSP (Sipah e Sahaba Pakistan), Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT, now the JuD, or Jamaat-ud-Dawa, led by Hafiz Saeed), and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) are well known. In fact, Nawaz Sharif was only recently attending talks and rallies with Hafiz Saeed, the leader of the JuD and India’s enemy number one. India blames Hafiz Saeed and his JuD for the 26/11 attacks. Nawaz Sharif, while claiming that Pakistan’s India-centric military focus should be altered, immediately jumped into Hafiz Saeed’s lap: this was done within days of each other, leading the people of Pakistan to believe that the N in PML-N stands for “neurotic”.
When the ISI indicated last year that some areas in Southern Punjab had become a breeding ground for terrorism, the PML-N refused their intelligence inputs and assessments outright, refuting the argument by saying that terrorists do not belong to any religion or ethnicity, and trying to pin Punjab as the centre of terrorism is a ‘plot’ against the people of the province. Of course, the PML-N – running the Punjab province more dictatorially than Musharraf’s henchmen the Chaudhry brothers – believes ignore and avoid is the best policies, especially when it comes to critical matters of national importance. South Punjab is a hub of extremism and marginalization, which has become more evident after last year’s floods, and the state is completely absent, while madrassas and religious charities have mushroomed. Of course, after giving them the benefit of the doubt, it still remains to be investigated whether terrorists and suicide bombers are being recruited from poor helpless families of South Punjab, or not. The PML-N, since it is indebted to the vote bank of religious extremists and banned political parties, will never let the provincial government, federal government, or even the army, take action in South Punjab.
And so, terrorism and extremism will fester in Pakistan, while Nawaz Sharif dreams of becoming Prime Minister for the third time. He may even become President. After all, the Charter of Democracy is used again and again to imply that the PPP and PML-N are going to take turns ruling Pakistan and administering its federal government. How democratic!