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Humayun Gauhar | 24 AUGUST, 2015

Choice Between Sharif and Sharif? Guns Win

Pakistan PM Sharif and Army Chief Sharif: who is in charge?


Maverick and I have taken to talking every week, but sadly always discussing bad news. Understandable, because bad times getting worser have been upon us for many decades now and have deformed our mindsets. “Let’s try and look for signs of good news,” Maverick suggested.

“How?” I asked. “Only last week we faced so much bad news. Do you want us to imagine lies and speak it just because the bald truth hurts while lies hypocritically soothes, but temporarily? Such things are ungodly. We’re not in any government, you know. We’re not even in politics, thank God, so we don’t need to speak lies. Our Faith is still very strong though it is perpetually severely tested. May our Faith get stronger. Concocting lies would make us lunatic delusional. We will be caught instantaneously because the faces of the truthful betray them when they speak with forked tongues. Everyone will call us sellouts. Sure the government does some small good things but in the context of our national problems they are but a drop in our ocean of inequity.”

Maverick forgot how he had started. “Yes, the bloodletting continues despite the army’s cleansing operation against terrorists, criminals and the corrupt. It continues because the operation in Karachi and FATA is limited by satanic politics that our media thoughtlessly pedals; even more limited in the greater part of the country. They need to intensify and extend it all over Pakistan, particularly to the Punjab, against not only armed terrorism but equally importantly against economic terrorism that gnaws away at our national vitals.”

“Yes,” I said. “Last week the Punjab Home Minister, the local police chief and 10 others were martyred, it is suspected by the south Punjab-based banned sectarian terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi as revenge for the killing of its chief Malik Ishaq who had 200 murder cases on his head. What defeats me is why the Punjab government doesn’t provide its ministers enough protection, even if they don’t want it for appearance’s sake. The difference between courage and stupidity is hairline.”

“Two days later,” said Maverick picking up, “Rasheed Godil of the MQM was shot in his car. His driver, a poor man, was martyred. What will happen to his wife and children is not on anyone’s radar, least of all what pass for governments. Godil had five bullets removed and is recovering.”

“The timing of the attack is intriguing,” I continued. “Just as Fazlur Rahman of the JUI began talks with the MQM to persuade it to withdraw its resignations from the assemblies, the Godil attack happened. Why? Because Godil had gone against party orders and refused to resign and now was against the Fazl-MQM meeting? If the MQM doesn’t get what it wants it may not withdraw its resignations, which will send the federal and Sindh governments into a tailspin. That’s why Nawaz Sharif asked Fazlur Rahman to get the MQM to relent.”

“The MQM has a history of killing its own people who disagree with their Great Leader’s edicts you know,” added Maverick. “Azeem Tariq and Imran Farooq are just two who spring to mind. Many have scooted abroad not from the authorities but from their own party. The MQM wants to stop disunity in its ranks...there is talk that Zulfikar Mirza, one-time Zardari crony-turned-accuser is trying to revive the MQM’s breakaway faction ‘Haqiqi’. Talks could well fail because Nawaz Sharif cannot accept the conditions of those who don’t comprehend the new reality and overestimate their power.

Huge bye-elections in Karachi could benefit the PPP and perhaps Imran Khan’s PTI to some extent and damage Nawaz Sharif, for they would get more seats in both assemblies. If the MQM boycotts the bye-elections, it would benefit the PPP and Imran even more and thus damage Nawaz further. Some say that Indian agents shot Godil to create chaos and help Altaf Hussain (who it seems from his Dallas speech is in bed with India) to break Pakistan. This man has done more damage to Mohajirs than the Punjabis allegedly have.

Perversely, I’m happy because all this is leading to the destination I wish to go: the destruction our alien European political system in the hope that a better, native system will replace it if we are to survive as a State. We disintegrated once, remember Maverick, largely because the megalomaniac perfidy of General Yahya Khan and Z. A. Bhutto caused them to not heed the voice of their people. Megalomania coupled with the crass stupidity of West Pakistanis and their misplaced patriotism opened the gates for the enemy to conveniently walk in that they had been conspiring to do with some stupid East Pakistanis for years. Lunatic. Our deliberate amnesia makes us forget this.”

“That was not all, Maverick. On August 14 federal minister Mushahidullah Khan irresponsibly ran his mouth off on BBC Urdu and was kicked out for trying to drive a wedge between civil-military relations, as if their isn’t a wedge there already. He claimed that during the Imran-Qadri dharnas former ISI chief Lt. General Zaheer ul Islam hatched a plot to oust both Nawaz and General Raheel Sharif by creating a rift between them. The army would then react and Zaheer would become cock of the walk. How, when he has no troops under his command? Actually the ISI chief is selected by and officially reports to the prime minister while he is also responsible to the army chief.”

“But wait a minute,” said Maverick stopping me midstream. “Mushahidullah only repeated what the defence and interior ministers and chief minister Punjab Nawaz Sharif’s kid brother had said before him. The defence minister made these audacious allegations but didn’t lose his job. Nor did the other two. Yet Mushahidullah did for the same ‘crime’ because he didn’t realize that he is less equal than them and more dispensable. The defence minister is Nawaz Sharif’s pet attack dog. Did Mushahidullah imagine that he too is a crazed Rottweiler, not a poodle, and try and score brownie points with his boss and lost his job his pains “for speaking to foreign media” as if speaking the same nonsense on local media is fine. Foreign media can easily pick news up from local media. More importantly, was he put up to it to show that the army chief isn’t in full control of the army and the ISI is rogue?

“Raheel Sharif’s growing popularity must irk Nawaz Sharif’s massive ego,” continued Maverick. “You saw how on august 14 at the Convention Centre the entire audience gave Raheel a standing ovation while there was hardly a ripple for Nawaz. Then, after the swearing-in of the new chief justice when everyone repairs for tea, Nawaz scooted either because he knew that Raheel would be mobbed and he would be comparatively ignored and thus embarrassed or he had something more important to do, like eating nihari. The telltale signs are ominous: is Nawaz Sharif about to do something unbelievably stupid and shoot himself in the foot a third time? I hope not, for it will retard our political evolution and the people’s learning process yet again. We have to suffer to learn, as the Europeans did. With pain a suffering come awakening and enlightenment.”

As Maverick paused I piped in: “I know that Nawaz Sharif is politically suicidal, but why rake it up now when everything is done and dusted? Why burst the bubble after creating the ‘all is well with civil-military relations’ illusion? I cannot help the nagging thought that Nawaz Sharif is still trying to kick out General Raheel Sharif. Shades of 12th October 1999?”

Maverick squeezed his nose and said in disgust: “Somebody told me that the army will not move unless the government moves against its Chief as it did in 1999. That’s rich: it seems the army’s oath has changed from saving Pakistan to saving its Chief. This means that if the prime minister has to choose between Sharif and Sharif, the Sharif with the guns will win. The Sharif with rigged votes and questionable legitimacy will lose and not a dog will bark. It’s the law of nature, the law of the jungle. But what about Pakistan?”

“Surely you don’t mean Maverick that there should be a coup because we’ve seen that Generals also end up a cropper. The army’s obvious and not new experiment of a hybrid system of an elected civilian government in front (with an executive, parliament and judiciary seemingly functioning) and the army dealing with all that matters alongside is not working. It isn’t working not because it is necessarily incorrect but because the army and the government are not of the same mind. Being of the same mind and having the same ideology and objectives is essential. Making corrupt money that both are guilty of doesn’t enter the ‘same mind’ equation. So have a hybrid system but one that works and rocks, not a facade that collapses after the shooting is over.”

“There should a judicial inquiry (not that the judiciary has any credibility left) alongside an army or military inquiry into the General Zaheer affair,” said Maverick. “If he (and obviously others) are guilty, punish them as you have punished other generals – but not enough. If not, punish the mouth runners who set government against army. Here’s an idealistic solution: military courts should try the civilian corrupt and civilian courts should try the military corrupt. Only then will justice be even handed. If that is not acceptable, then the judgment of military courts should immediately go to civilian courts for decision within 30 working days. And vice versa. This is not the end of it I can assure you.”

Maverick made to leave, saying: “These are not the only ominous dark clouds gathering. You see how India instantaneously blamed Pakistan for the terrorist attack on a police station in its Punjab town of Gurdaspur last month yet has not proffered any cogent proof? But the foreign media that loves everything bad about Pakistan lapped it up.

Then India decided to be cute by putting Pakistan on the spot and invited our de facto foreign minister and national security advisor Sartaj Aziz for talks with it’s security adviser. It made India look good, like a country searching for peace despite terrorism by its neighbor, inviting Pakistan for talks so soon after the Gurdaspur attack. Pakistan was put in a quandary: accept, and face a very unpleasant meeting; reject, and look guilty, not helpful to the ‘peace process’.

Pakistan had to accept but also became cute and asked its High Commissioner (ambassador) to India to invite Hurriyat leaders of Kashmir’s liberation struggle to the High Commission (embassy). Though we have been meeting Kashmiri Hurriyat leaders for a long time and even our presidents and prime ministers meet them in the rare event that they visit India, Nawaz Sharif broke with tradition and didn’t meet them when he went there for Modi’s swearing-in last year.

But after being insulted by Modi and acute criticism at home the same Pakistani High Commissioner was asked to invite Hurriyat leaders to the High Commission just before foreign secretary level talks were to commence. India got the excuse it was looking for to cancel the talks and derail the peace process. The current invitation to Hurriyat just before Sartaj’s departure puts India on the spot: if they could cancel foreign secretary talks then, how can they go ahead with the meeting with Sartaj now?

India’s kneejerk reaction was to detain some Kashmiri freedom leaders but later released them. Whether Hurriyat manages to get to the Pakistan High Commission is another matter, but wait for India to find some new childish cuteness that doesn’t look cute when grown-ups are doing it. It’s juvenile. Anything could go awry. That mutual nuclear weapons prevent all out war is based on the premise that there are sane leaders on both sides. Dangerously, India has an increasingly desperate mass murdering lunatic with his finger on the proverbial button. Sartaj better watch it. His best bet could be to insist on talks between foreign secretaries resuming to restart the peace process from where India derailed it.

(This column was written before the cancellation of the India Pakistan talks)

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