Arun Shouries Articles

The Realities of Pakistan | May 28, 2008

Arun Shourie

As Mr I. K. Gujral proceeded with his “Gujral Doctrine,” a friend in RAW said, “He will rue it by September.” As we returned from Lahore, he said, “When Pakistan goes so far out to seem friendly, it is planning something big.” As Nawaz Sharif kept bringing one institution after another under his heel — he enacted a version of our anti-defection law which made legislators his bonded men: they stand disqualified the moment they defy the party whip on any matter; he had the President resign; he removed the Chief Justice; he did away with the Council for Defence and National Security thereby curtailing the Army’s role; he put a pious cipher into the presidency — my friend said, “He will go on rushing forward till he bangs his head into a brick wall. It is his nature.”

Each of his forebodings came true: the intensification of terrorist explosions — in Coimbatore, in Delhi, in a score of other places — as Mr Gujral strove to bring back the days of his youth; Kargil in the wake of Lahore; Nawaz’s eventual confrontation with the Army, and its coup now.

An important lesson: my friend was going by the inherent nature of the State and society in Pakistan, not by what should happen; he was going by the nature of Nawaz, others were going by the premise that, in his own interest, Nawaz Sharif will not cross the limit.

Musharraf’s new “Proclamation of Emergency” is the eleventh constitutional scheme for running Pakistan. With the removal of Nawaz Sharif’s Government, the old record remains: in its 52 year history, only one elected government — Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s first round in office — completed its term: in the next round, mounting turmoil forced Bhutto to declare early elections; he won what was widely regarded as a grossly rigged election; his victory was barely in, and he was ousted by Zia in a coup. A constitutional scholar notes, “The Qaid-i-Azam died in September 1948, and the first Prime Minister, Liaqat Ali Khan, was assassinated in 1951. All other executive Presidents and Prime Ministers have been prematurely removed, while General Zia died in suspicious circumstances in a plane crash. This, in short, has been the constitutional and political history of the country.” As a result, for twenty five of the fifty two years since independence, Pakistan has been under Army rule in one form or another.

Such a history conditions the mind. It explains not just why people have accepted the latest coup with such evident “calm”. It explains why they have in a sense been looking forward to it, several sections have been paving the way for it — unmindful of what it will do to them, forgetful of what they had undergone the last time the Army was in control: for months now, politicians — who must have known, after all, that they would be the first to be out of business once military rule is imposed — have been urging the Army to step in and “save the nation.” As has been the case with every other spell of Army rule, a few months from now people will start swearing at this bout of it also. But when they are under civilian dispensation, they can think of no other solution except to place the country once again in the hands of the Army.

And with what felicity the Supreme Court of Pakistan has legitimized such takeovers: endorsing the fiction put forth by Zia — the Constitution has not been scrapped, it has merely been held in abeyance — and proclaimed verbatim now by Musharraf! Martial Law was first imposed in Pakistan in 1958 — by the then Governor General Iskander Mirza, who in turn was soon turfed out by General Ayub Khan. In what is known as the infamous Dosso case, the Pakistan Supreme Court legitimized the usurpation on “the doctrine of necessity”: the doctrine, namely, that when saving the country requires that the Constitution be scrapped, the one who seizes power can scrap it. And the legality of an extra-constitutional seizure is established by the fact that it has succeeded! The weakened Ayub “handed over” — after much manifest persuasion — to Yahya Khan in March 1966, and the latter imposed his own Martial Law. During his time the country broke in two. The courts kept deliberating; the Supreme Court eventually struck down Martial Law and thereby the “doctrine of necessity” in the Asma Jilani case — by that time it was hardly necessary, but perfectly safe to do so!

Zia staged his coup in July 1977. Nusrat Bhutto challenged Martial Law. The Supreme Court endorsed it — going back in effect to the “doctrine of necessity.” Indeed, it provided an Islamic basis for it – repeatedly invoking the Shariat maxim, “necessity makes prohibited things permissible”! The Chief Martial Law Administrator — Zia — has said that he is not scrapping the Constitution, that he is merely holding it “in abeyance,” the Court noted. He has said that he has been forced to do so “for the welfare of the people,” it noted. The supervisory jurisdiction of courts such as ours remains unimpaired, it consoled itself. He has solemnly declared that he will hold elections in three months, it noted. The Court has every hope that he will live up to his word, it declared.

This in a judgment delivered months after that three month limit for holding elections had passed! Lest it be seen to be letting out just half a cheer, the Court proceeded and declared, ” …the Chief Martial Law Administrator, having validly assumed power by means of an extra-constitutional step in the interest of the State and for the welfare of the people, is entitled to perform all such acts and promulgate all legislative measures which have been consistently recognised by judicial authorities as falling within the law of necessity, namely: (a) all acts or legislative measures which are in accordance with, or could have been made under the 1973 Constitution, including the power to amend it…”

Zia put that touching faith to work: soon he mutilated the powers of the judiciary itself, he set up an alternative structure of Shariat courts — and used it both to frighten the populace, as well as to dump inconvenient judges! In little time he in effect overturned the Constitution — by mere grafts and “amendments”! And all that too in a strictly “constitutional” manner: Article 16 of his “Constitutional Order” of 1981 provided, “The President as well as the Chief Martial Law Administrator [by the grace of Allah, Zia combined both offices in himself] shall have, and shall be deemed to have always had, the power to amend the Constitution”! And the courts cheered him along — for ushering in an Islamic order!

That is how Pervez Musharraf can so breezily proclaim as law what is by the text of the Constitution treason to be punished by death. “In pursuance of deliberations and decisions of Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces and Corps Commanders of Pakistan Army,” — an agglomeration unknown to the Constitution — “I, General Pervez Musharraf, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and Chief of Army Staff,” — another entity unknown to the Constitution — “Proclaim Emergency throughout Pakistan and assume the office of the Chief Executive of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.” How convenient!

That is how he can so easily suspend all legislatures; dismiss all cabinets; place the entire country in the control of the Armed Forces; declare that the country shall continue to be governed “in accordance with the Constitution”, “as nearly as may be”, and “subject to this Order and any other orders made by the Chief Executive”; that the courts shall continue to function “subject to the aforesaid”; that fundamental rights shall continue in force, to the extent that they are “not in conflict with the Proclamation of Emergency or any other order made thereunder from time to time”; that the President shall continue, except that “he shall act on, and in accordance with the advice of the Chief Executive”; the courts will continue to discharge their duties, “provided that the Supreme Court or High Courts or any other court shall not have the powers to make any order against the Chief Executive or any person exercising powers or jurisdiction under his authority,” they shall continue to discharge their functions except that “No judgment, decree, writ, order or process whatsoever shall be made or issued by any court or tribunal against the Chief Executive or any other authority designated by the Chief Executive”; that all laws shall continue in force “until altered, amended or repealed by the Chief Executive or any other authority designated by him” But this is not Martial Law, he declares in his television address!

That is why he can impose a structure which is wholly outside the Constitution, he can acknowledge plainly that he is setting the Constitution aside — I had to choose between saving a limb, the constitution, he says, and saving the body, the entire country — and yet declare that the Constitution is just being “held in abeyance”.

And there is not a murmur. In fact, on all counts people are gratified that the Army has rid them of their current obsession — Nawaz Sharif!

That is one reality we must bear in mind the next time we have to deal with a civilian ruler of Pakistan. The second is the sea-change in the nature of the Army itself: over the decades it has become progressively Islamic. The change in its motto has indeed been symbolic: Jinnah had given the Pakistan Army, “Unity, Faith, Discipline” as its motto; Zia replaced it with, “Faith, Piety, Jihad”. By now two other factors have pushed it further in that direction: first, it has spawned, and is now intricately entwined with extremist jihadi groups; second, like them, and with them, it is enmeshed in the one flourishing enterprise of Pakistan — the trade in drugs.

More important, this jihadisation of the Army itself is but a reflection of the jihadisation of Pakistani society as a whole. Indian liberals interact with the liberals there, and assert that Pakistan has a liberal core: but the latter are an inconsequential, minuscule minority. Moreover, many of them have the closest possible social and family ties with high-ups in the Army. Pakistani liberals often counter by saying, “But the fundamentalists have never received more than 3 per cent of the vote, and look at India — you people have handed over the entire government to fundamentalists.” In fact, no party in India works for establishing the sort of theocratic State to which every party in Pakistan is pledged. And these parties — to say nothing of the liberals — do not set the agenda: that is set by the heirs of Maulana Maudoodi.

This progressive Islamisation / jihadisation of Pakistani society and State has had the predictable consequence. It is the jihadi version of Islam which is the touchstone for every move. When a ruler grabs unjustifiable power, he announces Islamic steps to legitimize his dictatorship, Zia being the textbook case. When a ruler runs into difficulties, he announces further “Islamization”: from Bhutto in 1977 to Nawaz in 1999.

And as far as Pakistan is concerned, the essence of jihadi Islam is to humiliate and defeat and break India. “Allah ke bagiyon ko mazkaraat se nahin, jihad se he khatm kiya ja sakta hai,” the Ausaf of 5 October quotes the Amir of Markaz Daawa wal Irshad, Hafiz Muhammad Sayed as declaring: “those rebelling against Allah can be finished not through dialogues but jihad”. The entire earth has to be liberated from the rebels of Allah and their evil, he tells the gathering in Islamabad, polytheists can be eliminated through jihad alone — and the proof of this is that polytheists were annihilated in Kashmir in spite of the nexus among all the infidels of the world on this front. Talks inflict a setback on jihad, it quotes the Amir of Al Badr, Saifullah Amin as declaring, and keep mujahidin from their destination. The Hindu bania understands the language of the gun alone…

That pitchforks Pakistan into a dilemma, of course. It is in dire economic straits: as Musharraf said, it has “hit rock-bottom.” It is literally living from day to day — not even on loans now, but on the rescheduling of its repayment obligations for what it has borrowed in the past. Its foreign exchange reserves are down to five weeks’ imports, foreign direct investment as well as remittances from abroad continue their precipitous decline, portfolio investment has been registering a net outflow, Even though the donors had agreed to a generous rescheduling package enabling Pakistan to postpone repayments until the end of 2001, month after month, the IMF has been compelled to postpone releasing tranches that Pakistan needs immediately. July, then September, then “probably November.”

This condition circumscribes options, as is evident from Musharraf’s address: he chose to speak in English, not Arabicised Urdu; he has styled himself “Chief Executive” not, as Zia had done, “Chief Martial Law Administrator”; he has asked the ulema to counter the extremist version of Islam. But the more he does to allay apprehensions of the West, the more he abides by conditionalities that IMF etc. will demand, the more he opens himself to the charges that were pasted on Nawaz Sharif: that like him, he is being “pro-India, pro-West, anti-Taliban, anti-jihad.” On the other hand, like every single Pakistani ruler before him, to survive, he will have to don more and more Islam. But the more Islamic he becomes, the more he will risk alarming the West further. A bind that should ensure some latitude for us.

There is also the “positive side,” so to say. By their demonology they are already pushing closer to us those with whom we should be collaborating. “Allah ne hamari zimmedari lagayee hai,” the Ausaf of 7 October quotes the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba declaring, “ki duniya se Isayiyon, Yahudiyon, Hinduyon aur dighar taghooton ki saltanaton ko Allah Akbar ke zarab se pash kar den” — “Allah has placed a special responsibility on us to eliminate Christians, Jews, Hindus and other evil forces from the world with the blow of Allah Akbar. The USA and other devilish [taghooti] forces are striving to root out jihad from this region” — they will be crushed, it reports him as proclaiming. “Clinton ko kisi Musalman ka ghulam aur Hillary Clinton ko kisi Musalman ki laundi hona chahiye tha,” the paper reports him saying: “Clinton should have been the slave of some Musalman (Muslim), and Hillary Clinton should have been the keep of some Musalman.” The Jasarat of 11 October has Maulana Fazal-ur-Rahman, the Chief of the Jamiat Ulema-Islam, declaring Americans to be hypocrites: when militants fought against Russia, Americans honoured them as mujahidin, he declares; when they fight against Hindus to save Muslims from Indian tyranny, Americans dub them terrorists; America is responsible for sectarian killings in Pakistan; under pressure from the Americans the Government [of Nawaz Sharif] is indulging in baseless propaganda against the Taliban, and paving the way for America to invade Afghanistan…

We must not be misled by Musharraf’s empty gesture of “troop withdrawal from the international border” — as the Security Advisor to the Prime Minister has pointed out, this withdrawal had been agreed upon at the meeting of army officers in July itself. Nor by his offer of “unconditional talks” — in the same address he has declared that Pakistan’s “moral, political and diplomatic support” to insurgents in Kashmir will continue — as Pakistan has never acknowledged that it has been giving any other manner of support, this means that all that it has been doing in regard to Kashmir will continue; he has also repeated in the address that India must ensure “self-determination for the people of Kashmir”.

It would be criminal, therefore, to be misled again. Instead we should base our responses on four realities: first, the jihadisation of Pakistani State and society as a whole; second, among sections of society, the Army is more fervently committed to jihad against India than almost any other section — as Musharraf and his colleague, General Aziz, told each other in the Kargil tapes, the Army has the tuft of the extremist organizations in its hand; third, power now is entirely in the hands of this jihadi institution, the Army; fourth, within the Army, power has fallen to the architect of the Kargil operation.

Israel, with its accustomed clarity, sees the nature of Pakistan. Even the USA is being nudged from its make-believe. But several factors keep it from opening its eyes fully. Its notions of political correctness. The intertwining webs with Pakistan forces and agencies which have been spun over fifty years. The rich man’s presumption that everyone can be de-fanged by some doles. The new rationalization: Pakistan is a nuclear weapon State — if we let it sink, those weapons will fall into the hands of raving lunatics…

So, while in a sense Pakistan itself is preparing the ground for cooperation between India and other countries — Israel, USA, Russia, Iran and others — there is a lot of work to be done. Musharraf’s coup supplies both — an opportunity as well as an urgency to the task.

October 18, 1999

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