Humayun Gauhar | 20 MARCH, 2015
Hankering after Generals… and Judges
Not much harmony here!
To those who are again hankering after army rule and will hanker after soiled politicians after, I say: don’t you see the results of four earlier army governments? Did they lead better or only a temporary incline, and that too only under the first and last generals? Didn’t they all fall flat on their faces and return us to even more bogus democracy that has pushed us further down the hill towards the abyss? The Duke of York was luckier, for he was only half way up, neither up nor down. We are all the way down and staring into the void.
Didn’t the army beget many rotten political progeny who have been adversely affecting our lives for decades till now? Didn’t army rule repeatedly give its rotten progeny yet another lease of life? Don’t these foul ‘politicians’ take the country down further after every return and defame politics and democracy? Wasn’t it under military rule that Pakistan lost a war and got divided? So why do you think it will succeed a fifth time? We want the army only because generals are still better than political jokers? That’s not difficult because even a monkey would be better than our politicians.
The judges of what passes for our ‘independent’ judiciary whose predecessors gave legitimacy to army takeovers four times and promptly de-legitimized them the moment they fell. Ah, our confused, spineless judges. They have to understand that “a revolution is its own justification” only when it is a revolution, not a coup. Coup d’état literally means, “Hit against the State”, not revolution. The masses lead revolutions, not clueless generals in cahoots with decrepit politicians.
Some think that the Supreme Court should suo moto declare the last elections null and void and form a caretaker government to conduct another election. What guarantee that the glitter of money and future jobs won’t make them fix ‘punctures’ again and we will be back to square one? No chance unless a writ petition backed with incontrovertible proof of large-scale rigging is presented to justify such a drastic judgment. That’s why the government balks at an investigation of ballot rigging. Don’t expect judges and generals alone to take your chestnuts out of the fire. The people have to do it themselves; the judges and army can only help unless the people regard them as targets too. Pakistan can never come out of its self-created quagmire unless its people start thinking straight. That’s a tall order in the short term given our level of confused education imparted by state and private schools with curricula from the last two centuries, mullah-run seminaries whose curricula belong to the last century and information disseminated by muddled media.
The judges also have to understand that a caretaker government run by them, like the failed Bangladesh experiment, cannot solve our governance problem. Judges are as clueless about governance as generals are because both think in the narrow tunnels of their particular vocations. Outside their tunnels they are blinkered and lost. The problem’s roots lie in the constitution and its political system. You can only turn coups into revolution if your ideological compass is correct, not by well-meaning wishes, not without an irresistible but doable revolutionary agenda, idealistic and realistic at the same time that upturns the status quo for a better, pro-people, pro-state one and not without expecting and accepting chaos for a time.
Are they ready? Is the roast cooked or still underdone? If not, best to let the political evolutionary process take its course and reach whatever logical conclusion it will. Logical conclusions are best for the people and the land they live on. Coups, though they can be said to be part of evolution because they are brought on by political failure, are backward evolution to a distant, undoable, part mythical past. See how Bhutto and General Zia put us into reverse gear when they let the mullah genie out of the bottle, the first to save his rule the second to fortify his? Revolutions change the course of history and society starts evolving in a forward direction.
Why do you think generals have solutions to our problems when two military governments and two army governments failed earlier? While their first and the last governments were the best Pakistan has ever had, the second and third were the worst. Yet they all failed because they were bereft of ideological moorings and tried to become exactly what they had come to mend, politicians with the label of ‘democrats’ while still perpetuating their rule. Will the army be able to deliver us from our precipitous terminal decline this time or push us further towards the abyss? A coup might still come to pass when there is total political and economic failure that we are fast approaching and there is no other option left but to save the country for a time at least, because those who have taken oath to do so will be forced to do it, if nothing else for appearances sake that they were faithful to their pledge.
If the army wishes to succeed this time and set Pakistan on the course of progress and prosperity, it should do some introspection and self-analysis about its performance running government, come to logical conclusions without confusing national with self-interest, accept its grave mistakes that put the political process on the worse course and demonstrate some genuine humility – yes, humility – and admit that generals don’t know everything. That generals are better than ‘bloody civilians’ at anything and everything is a pompous mindset that betrays ignorance, reinforced by ‘loyalists’ who really are stooges that turn out to be rats the moment the ship starts sinking – after having taken a lot of personal benefit first, of course, a prime attribute of ‘loyalists’.
A loyalist is one who can say ‘No’ to the boss when he is wrong instead of singing his praises, one whose loyalty is to the country first and to a government only as long as its mission is correct. A loyalist is not hostage to his job but to his conscience and country. The army should learn from those civilians who know what generals don’t know. In so doing they will not be doing any civilians a favour but the civilians will be doing them a favour, provided – and it’s a big provided – they can differentiate between civilians after jobs and those who are at peace with themselves and only want to serve Pakistan selflessly. Both will then be doing Pakistan a favour. Only then are they likely to devise the right solutions and chart the correct course. Else they will be embarking on another misadventure.
The army should also realize that virtually all political party leaders are their creations, hybrids of native agro-industrial feudal and western mindsets: Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif, Altaf Hussain... The army forged gaggles of mullahs in alliances to defeat recalcitrant parties they didn’t like – recall the IJI and MMA – instead of throwing all of them out of the political ring. Its active participation in creating jihadis-turned-terrorists for America, giving them safe haven and then misusing them in pursuit of crazy strategies and doctrines has landed Pakistan in this terminal quagmire. So, my dear generals, no one doubts your patriotism, sincerity and professionalism in your profession, but we are rightly worried about your knowledge and understanding in the political and nation-building realms in which you are not trained. So first learn and understand, then look before you leap.
The example of General Kemal Ataturk who made modern Turkey is not acceptable to mullahs because he let the Caliphate go. Remember that he was embedded in a certain historical context that gave him the opportunity. Look at who brought the three great modern democracies: the British, American and French. They were all generals but they also could do it only after tumultuous events. Lt. General Oliver Cromwell, commander-in-chief of the Modern Army, dismissed Britain’s Long Parliament and beheaded the king at a time when there was popular resentment against the feudal aristocracy and ushered in Westminster democracy.
Major General George Washington is the main father of US democracy amongst a group of geniuses: he was commander-in-chief of the Continental Army and fought and won a war of independence against the British colonizer. General Charles de Gaulle led France’s Liberation Army against Nazi occupation and brought in a democratic system, probably the best of them all, after Germany’s defeat.
Pakistan is facing tumult today: law and order has broken down, the economy has hit rock bottom as growth at 3.8 to 4 percent is below the required 7 percent and the targeted 5.1 percent, justice is wanting, parliament is a handmaiden of party leaders, terrorism’s ugly head is still painfully visible, farmers have started agitating and there is a free for all. So, my dear Pakistani generals, history tells that it can be done because it has been done before in different historical contexts, but only after horrific events and in different guises. If you are waiting upon another world war, well you have the ‘War Against Terror’ that your ‘ally’ NATO has lost and is ‘drawing down’ its soldiers from harm’s way but still insisting on a military-political presence in this pivotally strategic country.
However, America is more than likely to put ‘boots on the ground’ in Syria and Iraq thanks to the efforts of its creation ISIS whose barbarity has created the justification. Thus this war is not likely to end in a hurry, not till the political and geographic map of the Muslim world is changed by the hegemon. That is why the hegemon is likely to intervene in the Middle East again, not only to defeat ISIS but also to change the map of the Middle East, having first drawn it with the British and French leading the way after the First World War, like Saudi Arabia, Iran, the Trucial States and the Levant and after the Second Pakistan and Israel. So watch it. If the political evolutionary process suits the hegemon that is what it will be, so lump it all of you, those who hanker after the ‘magic wand’ of the army. If not, “O People, grow a spine and brain and do what is good for Pakistan even if it displeases the hegemon.” Do you have the Faith and the guts? Can you change our doubts to certainty? I you can’t, please give up the ghost.
You also have to realize that our army is one of us. It has not descended from mars. Our soldiers and officers are made from the same susurrating clay fermented by the same yeast as the civilians are. Our officers are sons of generals and rankers, which inform their mindsets, as you see the difference between the approaches and values of generals Kiyani and Raheel. Their different environment has formed them somewhat differently from civilians who are formed by their own environments, but we all have the same blood groups. They love Pakistan as much as we do. What we lack is good old-fashioned common sense and a sense of our own reality.
The army better be prepared for the unfortunate. A ‘creeping coup’ has already commenced. The army is now in charge of important ministries and its chief is being received like a head of government. All that is left is the dying economy, not the army’s ken. Full-blown responsibility will require full-blown understanding, not kneejerk populist reactions.