Is Establishment Engineering Political Landscape in Pakistan?
Nawaz Sharif, who has served Pakistan as a Prime Minister thrice is known as a dodgy businessman and a convicted criminal today. However, his triumphant return to Pakistan in order to hand himself in along with daughter, Maryam has yet again confirmed that by far he remains the most popular and most supported political leader in the country. Given the developments seen during the 5 years tenure of the PML-N government and improvements in the infrastructure and trade of the country, majority of the Pakistanis believe that Nawaz’s party is the only one that can safe democracy in Pakistan and help the country prosper.
NAB convicted Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam and son in law Captain Safdar in a corruption case that was brought to light after the Panama Papers controversy during 2016. They will be serving 10, 7 and 1 years of imprisonment, respectively. Although the narrative of the public has been greatly affected by these events, some sympathizing with the Sharif family while others extremely furious on their fraudulent practices, there is a vast group of people who thinks that establishment had a major role behind the debacle of Nawaz Sharif.
Now what is establishment exactly? This institution is usually a label for military agencies. But in reality, the establishment includes three stakeholders; civil and military bureaucracies and the judiciary, while the bar associations as their political institutions and oligarchs as their economic supporters.
The role of establishment in Pakistan’s politics can be seen in historical perspective. At the time of independence, Muslim League lacked leadership therefore, it entrusted administrative affairs to the former bureaucrats. Eventually, when bureaucracy strengthened its roots in the cabinets and the governance, the complete control shifted in the hands of the powerful bureaucrats while the elected PMs served the role of mere puppets in the hands of Ghulam Muhammad and Sikandar Mirza.
Even today, it seems that the security establishment is trying to push a certain narrative on the Pakistani public ahead of the July 25 elections. The Nawaz Sharif’s dilemma for instance looks so much like the security establishment’s attempt to decide the course of 2018 general elections.
But why is that so?
According to experts, it was Nawaz’s attempt to try former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf for treason, implement an independent foreign policy and force the military to curb support for Islamist and militant groups that actually called for trouble. Musharraf was able to avoid the trials and safely leave Pakistan while Nawaz Sharif has been ousted and sidelined permanently. Asif Ali Zardari has been put on the ECL and would be soon abandoned too in order to pave way for the new puppet government which is most likely to be that of PTI.
The establishment would benefit from the formation of a frail and submissive parliament as it direly wants to undo the 18th constitutional amendment, which was enacted in 2010, restricting establishment to constitutional and legal jurisdiction. To achieve its purpose, to reverse the 18th amendment and without pushing the country into a political turmoil and mass riots, the only way out security establishment has is to change the government.
This is why we have seen the rise of PSP in Sindh and the growing popularity of the PTI across the country. These are the puppets that take directives from the establishment to sell a common narrative. Nawaz Sharif has been labeled as a corrupt politician, Asif Zardari will be soon summoned for trials while Imran Khan is being portrayed as the only honest and reliable leader that the public is left with. Imran Khan has been a puppet since the formation of PTI at the directive of Gen Hamid Gul and supported all initiatives of establishment willingly. Development of PTI as a popular party that provides a platform for the emergence of new leadership at regular intervals is establishment’s main objective but unfortunately, Imran Khan will be sidelined too as soon as the institute is able to find a better puppet government. It is against the interest of establishment that politicians and political parties gather too much influence. It is for this reason they undermine popular leaders and political parties throughout history. The day Khan will practice true democracy and constrict the establishment to its lawful jurisdiction, the agencies will come into action to topple down his regime too.
Many people today have turned a blind eye to the involvement of military bureaucracy in the state affairs but lets us not forget that was Fatimah Jinnah in the 1960s who was termed a traitor, Sheikh Mujib in the 1970s, Zulfiqar Bhutto in the late ’70s, and then Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif were declared corrupt and traitors in the 1990s. But the course of history proved that they were the ones who were on the right side of history while dictators like Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq and Pervez Musharraf stood on the wrong side of history.
However, the establishment alone is not at fault and it will be unfair to blame just them. If you actually analyze, all the bureaucrats, politicians and judicial are equally corrupt on intellectual and financial levels. In order to save democracy in Pakistan, not only the direct involvement of the establishment in the parliament should be controlled, but the politicians and political leaders must also ensure their drive and capability to deal with the serious issues that the nation is facing. They must demonstrate in-depth knowledge and commitment for the betterment and prosperity of Pakistan, instead of relying on short-term arrangements to gain timely benefits during their 5 years term.