Must Pakistan Remain Hostage to History?
Will Pakistan ever turn the page on its military’s unenviable past?
Monday’s Pakistan Army presser denying the allegations of Army and/or ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) backing for Imran Khan and Tahir-ul-Qadri was met with incredulity. Very many social media voices and not a few mainstream media pundits alike refused to believe our military could be apolitical as avowed.
The reason? Pakistan’s chequered history. The country has been ruled by military dictators for 32 out of the total 67 years of its life. The latest of these was Pervez Musharraf, who stepped down in 2008 — a mere six years ago.
What we tend to forget, however, is that those dictators could rule Pakistan the way they did because civilian individuals and institutions worked with them.
Remember the Parliament that enacted a constitutional amendment and then a law to allow Pervez Musharraf to simultaneously hold the offices of the President of Pakistan and the Chief of Army Staff? So how can we trust our current Parliament to safeguard democracy?
Remember the Supreme Court that ruled Musharraf could amend the constitution at will? So how come we are totally beholden to the Supreme Court of Pakistan today in all matters?
Remember the politicians who served Musharraf in various capacities, some of whom are still parliamentarians and even cabinet ministers today? Why do we not excoriate them for their past anymore?
In fact, many of the major political leaders of today were brought into politics by military dictators ; Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif himself was a protege of Zia-ul-Haq.
Yet, all these institutions and personages can serve democracy today; they can be champions and guardians and defenders of democracy . Not our military though — one wonders why?
While there is absolutely no harm in staying vigilant, viewing the military through the prism of suspicion forever only distorts reality.
This is in evidence today. While there indeed seems to be a plot to overthrow the elected government of PM Sharif — there is every indication the plot has been hatched by some individuals and not any institution.
A propaganda component of that plot seems to have been designed to pin the blame on the Army and ISI with a view to driving a wedge between the civil and military institutions of the country.
Blindsided by their suspicion of the military, many in the mainstream media and politics have unwittingly become cogs of the plotters’ machination maligning and undermining the military.
Little do they realize that undermining the military is undermining Pakistan. Little they realize that Pakistan Army has come a long way from where it was under Musharraf or Zia.
If Pakistan is ever to become a functional, viable democracy, we have to turn the page on our military’s past just as we have done on the past of our parliament and apex judiciary.
The military did its part towards that end under General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. It continues to do, and there is every hope will continue to do, its part under General Raheel Sharif and beyond.
Meanwhile, it will help if the rest of us did our part in helping turn the page.