May issue 2017

By | Published 2 years ago

A hydra-headed war for the very ethos of Pakistan is being fought outside the citadel of democracy — the Parliament — which has been rendered redundant by the champions of democracy, the parliamentarians themselves and most significantly the leader of the house, who rarely enters the august building.

The fault lies in the stars — or does it?

Just when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif seemed to have sorted out his relations with the men-in-uniform, following the appointment of two men of his choice to the post of COAS and DG-ISI, a notification from his office, pertaining to the Dawn Leaks enquiry report, threw a spanner in the works. It drew a stinging rejoinder from the DG-ISPR, who rejected the report as being “incomplete and not in line with the recommendations of the investigation committee’s report.” The PM’s interior minister, in an attempt at damage control, added more fuel to the fire.

At a time when Panama Leaks hangs like a sword of Damocles over his head, the opposition is breathing down his neck, and the masses are agitating on the streets and on the electronic media, demanding gas, water, electricity and better civic amenities, was it wise of the Sharif government to open up yet another front?

But given the history of his turbulent relations with three army chiefs — Jehangir Karamat, Pervez Musharraf and Ashfaq Parvez Kayani — this should come as no surprise. The thrice-elected prime minister has attempted to push the boundaries each time — mostly with disastrous consequences. And the present scenario does not appear to be very different. The army, as always, is in no mood to concede any space to a civilian government on issues of foreign policy and security — more specifically, Afghanistan and India.

The trip made by the COAS to the border last month — subsequent to the Murree trip of Indian Prime Minister Modi’s confidant, Sajjan Jindal, to meet Prime Minister Sharif — was intended to send a clear message to the civilian government on the scepticism with which it views India, and put paid to any back-channel diplomacy intended to mend ties with India. And if further proof were needed, the Pakistan army released a confessional statement of a former Taliban spokesman, (and murderer of hundreds in Pakistan), Ehsanullah Ehsan, claiming that Indian and Afghan intelligence services funded and facilitated the Pakistan-based Tehreek-e-Taliban and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar to commit terrorist acts in Pakistan.

The most recent tweet of the DG-ISPR on Dawn Leaks is intended to put the civilian government in its place, yet again, as always, the “bloody” civilians are on the side of the army. Ditto politicians. The Charter of Democracy seems to have fallen by the wayside.

Caught between a rock and a hard place, a desperate Prime Minister is beginning to sound more and more belligerent at his public meetings as he lambasts the opposition for all his troubles and accuses them of thwarting democracy. The opposition, in turn, sees him as a threat to democracy.

And as the country’s lead players battle it out, the state appears to be in limbo and the life of the common man is on hold. If at the end of the day, the long-winded inquiries into Dawn Leaks and Panama Leaks yield substantive results and prove to be watersheds, they will have served their purpose.

Rehana Hakim is one of the core team of journalists that helped start Newsline. She has been the editor-in-chief since 1996.