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.

Khawaja Asif, Traitors & the Pakistani Welfare State

Source: Sabir Nazar

Source: Sabir Nazar

Part I: The Traitorous Defense Minister 

Khawaja Muhammad Asif, the Minister of Defense, has been under fire for his recent statements against the Armed Forces.

Of late, the Armed Forces have taken active offense to the relentless criticism on its institution from civilian sections, such as the media. Finally, we have an aggressive ISPR Director General on board.

But apart from the media, certain politicians have also been actively criticizing them as well. Especially from the party in power.

Source: Dawn

Source: Dawn

The incumbent PML-N Defense Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif has been at the forefront of this assault, more recently merely for stating that the Parliament is the more sovereign institute.

He had been particularly at it, when he was in the opposition during the reign of President General Pervez Musharraf and the last democratically elected government of the PPP led alliance.

Khawaja Asif may have been irresponsible but he has spoken his mind when it comes to criticizing the Pakistani military for certain practices.

As rightly pointed out by Ahsen Iqbal, the current confrontation has more to do with offering the under-trial General Pervez Musharraf a safe exit path than anything else. However, with the fallout of the assassination attempt on Hamid Mir, the counter offensive has taken a new turn.

In the currently on-going pro-establishment campaign on most media channels, one of Khawaja Asif’s speeches from 2006 was aired to prove his traitorous record.

I was startled by that speech which Khawaja Asif made on the parliament floor that I must confess I was not aware of. I have a feeling I must not be the only one. Had I been in charge of the ISPR, I would have made all efforts to prevent the airing of that speech on national TV, it was so revealing.

The speech was not just about the usual cries of military imperialism or the excesses breaching civil liberties in Baluchistan, but it concerned something lot deeper. Even for the Punjabi people.

 

Truer words have hardly ever been spoken on the floor of the Pakistani legislature.

Well for the most part.

There is no wonder why he is the latest entrant in the traitors’ Hall of Fame, or Shame.

——————————————————————————————————————

Source: geo.tv

Source: geo.tv

Part II: The Pakistani Welfare State

The last minute of the clip of this speech, mentioning the words “Welfare State” largely reiterates what I have been maintaining for quite a while now. Perhaps not on my blog though.

The people of Pakistan have been fed this false ideal of “Islamic Welfare State” right from the beginning. They have been fed a utopian fallacy that a state would be established which would provide them everything from food stamps and shelter to free education, and from utilities to free healthcare.

Actually, all these benefits have been reserved to the people in the government service, whether military or civilian. However, such entitlements, or privileges, which include insured housing, subsidized education and absolutely free healthcare have been particularly enjoyed by the military service.

In Pakistan, the military pretends that it is a profitable corporation with benefits only reserved for its employees. This approach has largely improved the acceptance of these institutional perks. Nobody should dare question “private property” right?

Furthermore, their absolutely inevitable national defense function and employment incentive have particularly ruled any possible political criticism out. At least in Punjab.

This is the current Pakistani concept of Welfare State, and one that has been widely accepted by the Pakistani people. As a matter of fact, one of the main aspirations of the-not-so-affluent classes is to uplift their living standards by entering the exclusive club of military and civilian government service.

As a matter of fact, there could not have been a better strategy for the exclusivist government club to strengthen and legitimize its power grab.

Pakistan is a classical example of a government entity that has a state and a large piece of land at its disposal. It would employ all in its means to perpetuate its hold and the most lucrative of such tactics is increasing government based employment. A mode of employment that is as useful to the economy as a leech is to human body.

Surprisingly, but perhaps not so surprisingly, the people of Pakistan celebrate the announcement of government positions. It is for precisely the same reason.

They are condemned to.

It is their only ticket to the dream of the Pakistani Welfare State.

Why No One Noticed This Historic Day for Pakistan

Source: Dawn.com

General Pervez Musharraf – Source: Dawn.com

March 31, 2014 will remain to be a historic day for Pakistan as a democracy.

Call it political point scoring or obsession with political correctness, but for the first time ever, a special civil court has indicted a former Army General for high treason for abrogating the Constitution.

He has been indicted for the November 2007 emergency, even though I guess his bigger crime was the October 1999 coup d’etat.

However, there is no sense of jubilation among the people of Pakistan. There is a good reason for that.

From the beginning, the Pakistani government establishment has undermined the importance of the Constitution in people’s eyes. And they have very much succeeded in it too.

This is why every time there is an imminent need to suspend people’s rights to save the State, nobody raises a brow. And this is why the violators get away with it every time, destroying the democratic system of government.

And no, I have absolutely no interest in people declaring President Musharraf a “traitor”. Neither do I support the barbaric law of capital punishment for treason.

But I am interested in seeing people who break the law brought to justice. I am interested to see some fair and equal treatment, especially when hundreds of thousands are rotting in prisons for acts that are arguably not even crimes.

Even if the secularists of Pakistan accept the Constitution of Pakistan for its own merits, it should serve as an inviolable social contract for the citizens.

Not only should the Constitution be respected, but it should not be suspended under any circumstances to protect the fundamental rights of the people. And any amendment whatsoever must be channeled through the legislative branch under the supervision of the Supreme Court.

It is this attitude that has left people not offering a lot of weight to the Constitution as far as the protection of their rights is concerned. And this is precisely why they have largely been left unaware of their fundamental rights.

However, clearly this is not a day of victory or celebration for most Pakistani people. To many of them, this is just another piece of daily news. Inconsequential, because they know that the military will ultimately come to the rescue of the General.

Probably the real historic day would only arrive when the people of Pakistan actually start believing in their fundamental rights as given in the Constitution. And standing up for them too.

But it’s encouraging to see that we are making progress.

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.

The Pakistan Defense Day Post

This year, 2010, we observe our Defense Day in a quiet and simple manner due to the crisis the country is going through. But we must not forget that the armed forces are at the very heart of the rescue and relief effort through out the country, from Swat in KP to Thatta in Sindh. They are reaching the remotest of areas to get people stranded in flood water to safety and offer food, medical aid and other relief to them.

Unfortunately, the masses in Pakistan have not remained as enthusiastic about the Pakistan Armed Forces due to a few incidents which occurred during the reign of President Pervez Musharraf, the former Chief of the Army Staff. But regardless of those incidents, which surely are not recalled as a pleasant memory by any Pakistani, we should not take the role of Pakistan Army and other Services for granted.

Although, I cannot tell Pakistan Army what to do, since they know their job better than anyone, but I would like them to work a little to improve their rapport with the general public the way it was in the memory of 1965 War. For that, the Army need to take steps to repair the little damaged bits of its reputation. Many blame them for not letting democracy prevail in the country, as military dictators have ruled the country for over three decades in the country’s history.

It is a bitter fact, but the Army need to work to improve this aspect of their image. The current Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kiani is a very good example in this regard, who is offering his full support to the Democratically elected government of Pakistan in probably the most turbulent years in the history of Pakistan from 2008 to the date of the publishing of this post. While Pakistan is threatened with extremists and terrorists, and now, with the worst natural disaster hitting the country, Pakistan Army has been the central force at the heart of the fight.

However, the Pakistan Army need to be careful while carrying out operations against terrorists that no civilians are harmed by them. Because if that happens, I will not blame any of the affected people either to lose respect for Pakistan or for Pakistan Army. The most important aspect to remember is that although the Army fights by force and arms, but the real victory is winning the hearts and minds of the people. Any patriotism and so-called actions for national interest must not take precedence over humanity.

Many people also criticize Pakistan Army for taking up the most of the budget of Pakistan. It is true that defense takes up an overwhelming amount of the budget, but Pakistan is one of those scenarios of a strategy game, which is a tough assignment, and where you need to build a strong army as soon as possible to ensure your survival. I think the budget issues will remain the same in the future. However, Pakistan Army could take steps on their own for allowing as much to the public relief from their own budget as much as it is possible in this time of crisis. I am pretty much sure that they already would have been doing so. Having said that, still there is no reason why the Defense budget should not be reduced to make space for more important areas, such as education. Furthermore, the class divide for facilities need to be eradicated, mentioning without being specific.

If you are a Pakistani and do not realize what they are doing for you, then consider this. They are making sure that you live your lives comfortably, with peace and without any threats. You would be correct in criticizing them for not being good enough to prevent the terrorist attacks, but it is not easy to do so for any army of the world and besides, they are actually engaging in active operations against terrorists, and have been acknowledged to be better at it than the NATO forces.

At least, I am grateful to them. Thank you, Pakistan Army for keeping me alive.