Calendars may have changed and decades may have passed but nothing has changed in power politics and the military establishment’s mindset. The champions of democracy remain directionless while the defenders of national security have nothing new to display apart from the distinct civil-military divide.
The self-proclaimed bastions of Pakistan’s modern democracy are leading their respective political parties in the most dictatorial way, without realising that it is only making them look bad. Invariably, the military has not changed its institutional view of the politicos either. The boys have created a bigger dogma of their own which restricts them from seeing things in grey.
It is interesting to see what they all do and think.
Our third-time prime minister may be the luckiest politician of this country but he is certainly not the wisest. He is good at taking untimely decisions and has even mastered the art of attracting unwanted criticism. He may be ruling for the third time but he hasn’t learnt any lessons from his first two times in power. He seems to have wanted complete civilian control in this tenure. Needless to say, he stands thwarted.
Nawaz Sharif may have the numbers in parliament but he is weak and confronted with challenges above and beyond his reach. Like everyone else, he wants to have his cake and eat it too. He wants to sail through till 2018 without being asked any questions related to accountability. Nawaz Sharif may be an elected leader but his conduct is that of a monarch.
For Asif Zardari, governance and corruption is never a concern; hence, the PPP never delivered during its last tenure and even this time there are no signs of good governance in the PPP’s government in Sindh. Zardari takes reconciliation as a pivot which has only one meaning – survival till the end.
Zardari does not have much at stake this time. He wants to stay relevant and teach Nawaz a lesson by giving him no ostensible concession on the Panama front. Zardari rescued Nawaz during the Imran-Qadri show in 2014. Much to Zardari’s disappointment, Nawaz unleashed the Rangers-led NAB and FIA against him and his provincial government in Sindh and did not offer him any olive branch. Hence, the screw tightening on PM Nawaz Sharif is inevitable.
However, Zardari is always mindful of the not so pleasant ground realities and doesn’t want to push Nawaz over the edge. Zardari may be sending mixed signals by letting Aitzaz Ahsan, Khursheed Shah and Bilawal take on Nawaz Sharif but he knows that Aitzaz Ahsan is not doing his bidding on the Panama leaks issue.
Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan is undoubtedly the most talked about political leader. He is a crowd puller and has an undeniable following in and outside the country. However, he still doesn’t have the eye to extricate supporters from voters. After a not-so-good start of his political career, he succumbed to unwanted flattery and media hype that portrayed him as a messiah.
Ever since 2011 Imran Khan has been living with an unreasonably audacious sense of entitlement – to be the prime minister of this country. From U-turns to blatant lies and triangulations, Khan’s principle is to have no principle in politics. This time around he sees the Panama leaks as the only hope to dislodge Nawaz Sharif’s government – and for that he can go to any length.
Last but certainly not the least is the might of the disciplined and powerful military establishment. Led by one of the most celebrated men in the country, the army has gained many successes. It started the decisive Operation Zarb-e-Azb against the TTP and its affiliate groups. This not only led to the army’s popularity skyrocketing as an institution but also made General Raheel twice the soldier that he is.
General Raheel’s meritorious services have been widely acknowledged at home and overseas. He not only proved himself as a professional soldier but also got his nerves tested by saving the day for PM Nawaz and his government against dangerous provocations. Gen Raheel may have turned around the national security paradigm but he has not, perhaps unwittingly, diminished the fear of a military take-over.
If General Raheel wants to leave an everlasting legacy then he has to enunciate that the military is an asset and not an option.