The Lesson from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Fall

Source: geo.tv

There are several lessons that could be learned from the fall of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Poor leadership, terrible strategy, abandoning allies, pride, hubris, arrogance, narcissism, myopia, and having the little foresight of the inevitable. However, the most important lesson is meant more for the Pakistani people who seem to be repeating some of the mistakes of the ill-fated triple term Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was brought to prominence during the reign of the mighty General Zia-ul-Haq, arguably the worst military dictator in Pakistan’s history. A reluctant Nawaz Sharif was introduced as the Chief Minister of Punjab, who then rose to power as the leader of establishment-backed Islamic Democratic Alliance in the 1990s against the staunchly anti-establishment liberal visionary Benazir Bhutto.

As Prime Minister Sharif got comfortable in his Jihadi, Islamist social conservative cradle, he would soon attempt to declare himself the “Emir-ul-Momineen.” Who would have thought the one who almost became the Emir-ul-Momineen cannot even qualify as a Sadik and Amin now.

However, he probably never one at heart himself. The trader and entrepreneur in him was always more loyal to productivity and money than religious mirages and made him lean toward peace with India. The secular leader in him switched the national weekly holiday to Sunday from Friday amid protests of his Islamist allies. And perhaps went further to confront the military on counter-productive measures such as the 1998 nuclear tests and certainly the disastrous Kargil War.

Of course, Sharif crossed a lot of limits and does so habitually but you don’t have to do much to fall out of favor with the bureaucratic establishment. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif himself made the mistake of trusting them the third time around while living dangerously throughout his term, surviving rioting protests from PTI and PAT. Of course, you cannot say that he does not realize who his enemy is but you know there is only so much you can do to save yourself or please them.

While the people do not have the luxury to do much about them either, they also consistently make the mistake of taking their ruling bureaucratic tyrants as their saviors. They also consistently make the mistake of rejoicing over their assault on their right to vote. Many of them cannot wait to completely give up all their rights to their bureaucratic overlord whose meritocracy could not have been a fitter fit for the ignorant Pakistani masses who can’t think for themselves.

Nawaz Sharif may as well be history. But the people of Pakistan need to wonder if they can afford any more lapses in their democratic process. They need to wonder if they are willing to relinquish any more of their rights to the security state.

They need to wonder how the bureaucratic machine has not even bothered to promise to deliver free education as in the 18th amendment. They need to wonder how the bureaucratic machine has looked the other way when it comes to a national health insurance program while paying their bills out of public money. They need to wonder how the bureaucratic machine has systematically dismantled the honor of their own voice.

They need to do some serious soul searching.

Because the only ones that the bureaucratic machine cares for are themselves.

And that is the biggest lesson.

 

A version of this post was published in the Dunya blogs.
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An All Too Familiar Face of Accountability

Source: BBC Urdu

Pakistan is a unique country in terms of governance and politics. Not everything is as it seems and you can often have a hard time discerning who is really at the helm of policy. The case with accountability is not any different. It is often used as a moralizing political tool than a dispenser of justice.

Ever since the office of the Prime Minister was created in Pakistan, the civil and military bureaucrats have been busy inventing excuses to dismiss it. And whether they have not been creative enough in coming up with those excuses, they most certainly have been effective in the ultimate objective.

Ever since General Pervez Musharraf resigned as President, it seems that the coup-ready military of Pakistan has changed its decades-old strategy. It apparently has realized that explicitly taking over the government in Pakistan is either not good for its image internationally or does not garner enough support at home. So now they prefer to move the strings from behind the curtain.

The Pakistani people have been fed a singular dimension of accountability. That the elected office holders or the politicians are the embodiment of all the corruption in the government, while the civil and military bureaucracy is the most efficient machinery in existence. Not only that, they are also the most suitable entities to hold the politicians accountable.

Ever since the revelation of the Panama Papers with the mention of the offshore companies of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, we are seeing the familiar face of accountability surface. As it came as a welcome relief after the drama around electoral rigging died out. And as before, when the military lies dormant, the judiciary plays its part to be the entity ready to stage a soft coup as in the case of Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani. The very tone used by judges, in this case, speaks volumes of their intent. It may or may not materialize, but the way the wind has been blowing is unmistakable.

At least for moral reasons, there have been calls for the Prime Minister to step down. Apart from not qualifying on the mystical constitutional standards of “Sadiq” and “Amin”, there is hardly any reason to until a definite proof of money laundering is produced on his person, as opposed to the conjectures listed by the JIT. But if the Prime Minister does not step down, it would be interesting to see how far his opponents go to bring about his demise. In that case, it is probably better for his purpose to play the victimization card.

However, where his governing achievement surpasses most other parties, his poor political leadership is costing him dearly. The problem with the PML-N has always been that it mistakes its heavy mandate as a carte blanche to alienate political stakeholders around the country. Of course, the incurably cynical PTI is on a saboteur mission to take democracy down with themselves but the rest of the parties can at least listen to the majority party and come to its rescue in case of bureaucratic threats.

What the PML-N does not realize is that its overwhelming majority that it takes for its strength is its greatest weakness. Because it has always been targeted by the bureaucratic establishment for such powerful popular support that no other party has enjoyed over three decades. The way it has been targeted is evident from all three terms of Prime Minister Sharif.

Unfortunately, there are elements in our civil and military bureaucracy, as well as the intelligence community, who do not want democracy to flourish in Pakistan. Not only do they not believe in democracy as a system of government, they strongly resent any hint of power in the hands of the public. The bureaucratic rule has been presented as a solution for the Pakistani people since independence and sadly, a good number of people buy into this narrative surviving since colonial times. And who better to hold the politicians accountable than bureaucrats, as evident from the JIT, which has now rendered military intelligence as an extension of the judicial branch.

Nobody has bothered questioning why the JIT has officially become an extension of the Supreme Court. Nobody has bothered questioning why the range of investigation has been extended beyond the revelations of the papers. Nobody has bothered asking why military intelligence officials are investigating the first family. And above all, nobody has bothered questioning why in Pakistan a panel of judges can undo the mandate of the people instead of impeachment by elected officials.

Of course, accountability should be a part of a strong democratic system. And a fragile democracy is hardly any excuse to forego the crimes of the political class. However, it would have been far easier to trust the high office of judiciary and bureaucracy in Pakistan had they enjoyed a cleaner political track record.

So, who is going to hold who accountable?

Well, let’s start from the politicians again. Now and forever.

 

The post was originally published in the Dunya Blogs.

The Minimum Responsibility

Source: ISPR

Pakistan is probably the only country in the world where coups are always unmistakably bloodless and unopposed.

But there is a slight problem with such carte blanche bloodless coups. It has become somewhat of an accepted practice, and one which is almost taken for granted. Just like how rapists are turned into grooms in a conservative society.

There has been recent news that the Pakistani government is to try General Pervez Musharraf for treason for abrogating the constitution. I think it is encouraging that finally the authorities are taking note of people abrogating the constitution. However, there is a problem with it.

First of all, I am, by no means, implying that such a trial should not be held and am surely not apologizing for the General. But I would only support it to be symbolic as long as the barbaric law of death for treason remains in effect. I would also like the prosecution to include other personnel to establish the minimum responsibility for the charge, of course with the degrees of responsibility and offense taken into consideration.  

While discussing the illegal and unconstitutional take over of the government by Musharraf, we must also try those who were directly responsible for preventing it. Now I am not saying that we should not hold people accountable for breaking the law, as some supporters of Musharraf would like to do, by demanding obstruction to a trial because a lot of other people were involved too. Especially when Article 6 of the constitution includes the clause of those aiding in the abrogation of the constitution. If the trial goes on at all, that is.

There is a reason why minimum responsibility should be established in this case and why it is not equivalent to inaction in other moral problems, because it has a legal basis. This is because army officers are responsible as per their oath to uphold the Constitution of Pakistan. This is why at least the Armed forces corps commanders should be responsible to stop the Army Chief from abrogating the constitution and taking over the country.

Arguably this should also be true for judges, civil servants and politicians, but given the precedence of military might in Pakistan in terms of politics, that is a relatively unrealistic demand, but a reasonable one and certainly not without basis in legal logic.

Furthermore, who are the only ones who have any real power to prevent someone from their ranks abusing the law and the constitution of the country? It is indeed none else but the army leadership. And to be more accurate with establishing the minimum responsibility, the corps commanders, probably.

Why it is that all the corps commanders apparently seem to be fine with the idea of their chief or even one of them arresting the Prime Minister and taking over the government? Why do they not defect from this defecting and technically treasonous faction of the state and prevent an action that is not only unlawful, but malicious to the Republic?

Why can the military not disobey all the unlawful commands of their corrupt superior and actually arrest the one person or a few who are actually the ones who need to be removed? It is only they who can prevent  this unconstitutional and dictatorial atrocity from occurring. After all, it is only they who have the necessary force to commit the crime in the first place.

But no, our military officers would be under the delusion of genuinely believing that the military rule is what the country really needed, believe it or not.

Or afterwards, when a democratic government is installed, they would justify their complicity by citing the blind military discipline to be the reason when they follow the unconstitutional and illegal commands of their superiors, such as arresting the elected Prime Minister and the cabinet.

What becomes of the blind military discipline when military commanders plan and act to stage coups? What becomes of the blind military discipline when the top military brass decides to supersede the authority of those who they are answerable to?

Army officers following unconstitutional and illegal orders from their superiors is neither discipline nor responsibility. It only makes them a party to a crime which is in clear violation of their oath, which also makes it a professional failure, surely a greater problem than jeopardizing democracy.

Let us establish at least the minimum reasonable responsibility for treason for the October 1999 coup, if we are to try for it at all.

Let us try all the corps commanders and commanding officers carrying out unconstitutional and authoritarian measures of force. And those who failed to prevent them. In that order and, if found guilty, penalizing with the respective degree.

But let us first remove the ridiculous penalty of death for the charge of treason.

Writing Your Own Ill Fate

I have written earlier about Moammer Gaddafi pulling out of Libya too late and also a bit about the mistakes he had made. Well, it turns out he did not have enough friends to accept him and apart from that, he never really wanted to pull out of Libya anyway. Therefore, he lurked around his hometown of Sirte and was brutally murdered, or executed if you will, after public humiliation on October 20, 2011, which went on till his funeral in an unknown place. Maybe that’s how he thought he would have died honorably. But I have my doubts.

This brings to light even more lessons. One thing is for certain. Gaddafi was the architect of his own ill fate and if you ask me, it was he who chose his way of death. Now consider this.

 It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.

                                                                      – Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527)

                                                                         from The Prince

While you may consider Machiavelli evil, there is almost a consensus on his unmatched understanding of politics, as writers and political advisers in history go. Unfortunately, not many dictators are able to keep all that wisdom in mind. From a report in The Time Magazine, the Chinese version of this quote, though said a lot earlier, from Laozi was the favorite of Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf, the then new front line ally of the United States, in its July 22, 2002 issue.

When the Master governs, the people are hardly aware that he exists.

Next best is a leader who is loved.

Next, one who is feared.

The worst is one who is despised.

                                                                                        – Laozi (c. 604 BC)

                                                                                           From Tao Te Ching

Musharraf had had this quote inscribed on a plaque adorning his residency in Rawalpindi, according to the report.

There is a good reason why Machiavelli and Laozi said this. These dictators may have these quotes inscribed on a plaque or may sleep with a copy of The Prince underneath their pillows, but they often forget the wisdom when the moment of truth arrives. A relatively smart dictator like Musharraf did well as far as studying political retreat strategy is concerned but I don’t think Gaddafi really had any concept about it whatsoever, not that I am underestimating his abilities. The moment your people stop fearing you, you cease to be a dictator. This goes to show just how delusional Gaddafi was. As I have maintained before, he was probably the bravest of the international leaders, but yet he was delusional to the extent of being suicidal.

Source: Al Jazeera English (english.aljazeera.net)

The longer he stayed in Libya, the greater became his chances of being lynched to death by a crowd. And that is precisely what happened. He had the option of giving himself up to the Western powers had he been interested in living for long. He also had the option of shooting himself before arrest, as we are told that Adolf Hitler did, but he chose not to do that either. As I wrote before, his perfect diagnosis was being stuck in the middle of being scared of losing his throne and being scared of losing his life. His son Mo’tassem Billah Gaddafi was also murdered by the rebels. Looking at their end, his other son Saif-ul-Islam has announced that he would be ready to face the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. Maybe a smart move.

As for the rebels, while some people would have disapproved of his murder like that, but expecting anything else would be a little too idealistic and unrealistic. That is swift “justice”, if you will. Who has the time for trials for crimes against humanity? They knew he was guilty and instant justice was served, the revolutionary style. The rebels celebrated and the photographs of the killed Gaddafi, which I bet would have been far more gruesome than those of the dead Osama Ben Laden, were making headlines in the mainstream media around the globe.

The Libyans were celebrating, as they should. The rebels were ecstatic. President Obama said that Gaddafi’s death was a warning for the iron-fist Arab dictators, probably passing a hint to Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad. Surprisingly, in fact not surprisingly, some publications around the world, which otherwise have a pretty “liberal” record, published celebratory headlines on Gaddafi’s death. Still, there are a few who have been disturbed by the images of the incident. While it was a moment to celebrate, it was also encouragement to people around the world to kill the leaders they do not like once they get their hands on them. Not that anything is wrong with that. It is justice after all. But many of them would be upset and outraged if many other of the world leaders, who have committed similar or even worse crimes against humanity than the Libyan dictator, are brought to a similar end.

I wonder if he we have more bloody coups and revolutions waiting to happen. And more dictators dying a bloody death. As I said in my earlier posts, if you are upset at it, think of the Romanovs.

Smart dictators around the world still have a choice to make.

Repeat Gaddafi’s mistakes and you would be writing your own ill fate.