Archive | South Asian Politics

A Look Back into Pakistan’s Domestic Politics in 2016

Posted on 21 December 2016 by admin

 Dr. Hasan Askari

 The outgoing year of 2016 can be described as the year of confrontation and the Panama Leaks. The major confrontation was between the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz Group) and the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf and by the end of the year Imran Khan as emerged as the principal opposition leader. The Jamaat-i-Islami also pursued a limited opposition against the PMLN on corruption. The Pakistan People’s Party pursued a dual track approach. On the one hand it was often found to be standing by the side of the PMLN when it came to the PTI opposition to the PMLN. On the other hand it periodically criticized Nawaz Sharif. Whereas Asif Ali Zardari continued with soft approach towards Nawaz Sharif, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari adopted tough language towards Nawaz Sharif and the PMLN governments at the federal level and in the Punjab. He threatened to challenge the government in 2017. We will have to wait and see if the PPP can restore its standing in the Punjab for confronting the PMLN.

 The news that dominated the year was the leakage of Panama documents in April, involving over 200 Pakistanis, including the family of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Instead of providing documentary evidence to clear the family of charges of money laundering and building up of foreign asset, Nawaz Sharif and the federal government decided to contested the charges by levelling corruption and financial misconduct charges against Imran Khan and his senior colleague who had challenged Nawaz Sharif on this issue.

 Imran Khan and the PTI resorted to their traditional style of protest by holding public meetings and engaging in propaganda in TV talks shows regarding the alleged corruption by Nawaz Sharif and his family. The September 30 public meeting in Raiwind was very impressive. He threatened to lock down the city of Islamabad on November 2. The federal government and the Punjab government used the state apparatus to neutralize PTI’s show of strength in Islamabad. The province of Khyber-Pkhtunkhwa was blocked at the Punjab provincial border so as not to allow the Chief Minister KP and his supporters enter Punjab and Islamabad.

 As the Supreme Court took up the Panama Leaks Case, the PTI abandoned its program for Lockdown of Islamabad. Both the PTI and the PMLN filed references and court cases against each other in the Election Commission and the regular court. The Supreme Court took up the Panama case and the evidence produced by the PMLN contradicted with Nawaz Sharif’s statements in the National Assembly. To the disappointment of the PTI and other opposition, the Supreme Court bench headed by the Chief justice who was retiring in two weeks, postponed the case rather than giving a verdict.

 Nawaz Sharif spent several weeks in London for medical treatment from May 22 to July 9. In his absence, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar looked after the affairs of the state. He was supported by Mariam Nawaz, daughter of Nawaz Sharif.

 Civil-military relations ran into problems from time to time. In the last week of January, Army Chief Raheel Sharif announced that he would not seek extension of service on the completion of his term. Nawaz Sharif gave space to the military in managing security affairs but allowed his close associates to publicly criticize the military. The Corps Commanders meeting in August expressed concern on non-implementation of the National Action Plan and the criticism of the military and the intelligence agencies by some leaders belonging to the ruling coalition.

 Another controversy developed about a news leakage of a national security meeting in the Prime Minister house. The Corps Commanders in their meeting in October described the news item as “false and fabricated.” The Army wanted some punitive action against those who issued the news item. However, as the close associates and a family member of Nawaz Sharif were involved in it, the Prime Minister appointed a commission to investigate the matter that amounted to ease army’s pressue. With the change of the army command on November 29, Nawaz Sharif would like the army to forget about the news item issue.

 Terrorist incident declined as the Zarb-i-Azam got completed in North Waziristan. However, the Army and paramilitary forces are busy in the return and rehabilitation of the internally displaced people to the tribal areas. The army will have to stay active in the tribal areas to ensure that the Taliban and other do not return. A good number of Taliban and other extremists have escaped to Afghanistan or to urban areas of Pakistan. Though the army and the Rangers have improved security situation in Karachi, the PPP government in Sindh is not ready to allow the Rangers to take any action in interior Sindh. Similarly, the Punjab government has not so far allowed the Army and the Rangers to take independent action against the hardline activists and sectarian groups in the Punjab. Thereby, the Punjab, especially its southern parts, and interior Sindh are viewed as the hideouts for sectarian and other hardline groups. Five major terrorist attacks took place in the year: attack on a university in Charsada, Lahore Iqbal Town park attack, an attack in Quetta on the lawyers, another attack on the police training school outside Quetta and the attack on the Shah Noorani shrine in Balochistan.

 Among the political parties, the MQM faced the most serious crisis. Musstafa Kamal, former MQM Mayor of Karachi, returned and launched himself in politics with a press conference on March 3. Later, he announced the setting up of Pak Sarzameen Party. The MQM got further divided into MQM Pakistan and MQM London. It is difficult to suggest if the split between MQM London and Pakistan is genuine. The PPP is trying to revive its political standing in the Punjab.

 The year is ending with reduced political pressure on Nawaz Sharif. He has survived the year but the opposition parties would continue to be after him to seek the new elections before the end of 2017.

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Posted on 15 December 2016 by admin

 Dr. Hasan Askari 

 The relations between India and Pakistan have deteriorated over the last two years. They are not in a state of war but there is a virtual warlike situation on the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir. They are engaged in an intense propaganda against each other.

 An interesting feature of the difficult Pakistan-India relation is that there is a wide discrepancy in the informal and personal interaction between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the policies of their governments. The goodwill reflected the personal interaction of the two Prime Ministers has not played any moderating role on the troubled relations between the two governments.

 India holds Pakistan responsible for all terrorist incidents in India and Indian-administered Kashmir. The major incidents enumerated by India include the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament (December 2001), the attack in Mumbai (November 2008), the military camp Pathankot attack (January 2016), the military camp in Uri attack (September 2016), and an attack of Nagrota Army Camp near Jammu City (November 2016). India blames Lashkar-e-Tayyaba/Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Jaish-i-Muhammad for these terrorist incidents and wants that the chiefs of these organizations should be handed over to it. Further, it also wants the completion of the trial of Lashkar-i-Tayyaba activists in connection with the Mumbai attack that has been going on in Rawalpindi since their arrest in December 2008.

 India refuses to hold any dialogue with Pakistan until the latter adopts punitive measures against the above named groups and puts these out of action. This pre-condition for holding the talks is coupled with India’s persistent campaign for isolating Pakistan at the international and regional levels and getting it declared as a terrorist state by the United States and the UN.

 It is not an advisable strategy on the part of India to reduce the dialogue process to a single issue, i.e., satisfy India on the terrorism related issues before any talks can take place. Until the end of the 1980s, the government of Pakistan used to argue that increased trade and expanded societal relations with India could not be cultivated prior to the settlement of the Kashmir problem, i.e., settle the Kashmir problem first. Now, Pakistan talks of Kashmir and other problems. Similarly, India needs to adopt a more flexible approach of “Terrorism and other issues” if it is genuinely interested in resuming the dialogue for improvement of relations with Pakistan.

 For India, terrorism means the above named organizations and their leaders. As compared to India’s narrow focus, Pakistan takes a more comprehensive view of terrorism in the region. It views these organizations as a part of a bigger problem of extremism and terrorism.

 Pakistan complains about India’s insensitivity towards the magnitude of terrorism issues and problems in Pakistan and the fact that Pakistan has suffered more human and material losses due to this menace. India is seen in Pakistan as an augmenter of terrorism in Pakistan by extending what Pakistan’s official circles claim material support to various terrorist groups, including Pakistan Tehrik-e-Taliban, and Balochistan based dissident groups through Afghanistan territory with whose government it shares the negative views on Pakistan.

 India’s persistent anti-Pakistan propaganda aims at building diplomatic pressure on Pakistan for taking effective punitive actions against the groups identified by India. In reality, this propaganda is counter-productive to India’s goal of containing these groups. The Indian campaign is used by these organizations to entrench them in Pakistan, especially in the Punjab, by arguing that India is opposed to them because they stand for the liberation of Kashmir. The more India talks against these groups, the stronger become these groups in Pakistan. This reduces the space for the Pakistan government to take any stern action against them.

 India needs to abandon its policy of coercion and intimidation in Kashmir. As long as the internal situation in Indian-administered Kashmir stays unsettled by popular protest of young Kashmiris and India continues with human rights violations, anti-India sentiments would remain strong in Pakistan. Similarly, there is a need of restoring peace and stability on the LoC and both need to include the alleged negative role of their intelligence agencies in each other’s territories in the agenda for the talks in the future.

 India should develop a comprehensive agenda for talks that can have terrorism as the priority for India but it cannot dictate a single item agenda to Pakistan. There has to be a shared agenda for the talks that includes all issues of concerns for both countries. Both Kashmir (priority for Pakistan) and terrorism (priority for India) can be on agenda along with other issues and problems.

 Pakistan and India need to resume unconditional talks on all conflicting issues and they should reduce anti propaganda against each other. They need to explore the option of adopting a shared approach towards the on-going strife in Afghanistan rather than engaging in a proxy war there.

 Bilateral talks cannot produce any positive results until the power elite in both countries display a categorical political determination to put an end to negative propaganda, restore peace on the LoC on the basis of the November 2003 ceasefire, and resume result-oriented talks. They should also restore the confidence building measures already agreed to and add new CBMs in order to overcome the new biases that have cropped up in their relations during the last two years. Peace and stability in India-Pakistan relations serves the interests of the people of both countries.

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The Security Tasks for the New Army Chief

Posted on 08 December 2016 by admin

 Dr. Hasan Askari

 The long awaited change of command in the Pakistan Army took place on November 29, 2016, when General Qamar Javed Bajwa assumed the office in place of General Raheel Sharif who retired after the completion of his 3 year term of office. There was much excitement in the political circles about this appointment because Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif delayed the appointment until November 26.

 The strong interest in this appointment can be attributed to the fact that the Army Chief enjoys a lot of political weight in Pakistan’s politics and policy making. Even those political leaders who are critical of the expanded role of the military in policy making want to keep good relations with the senior army commanders.

 General Qamar Javed Bajwa was number four in order of seniority. The number one, General Zubair Mahmood Hayat, has been appointed Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. By virtue of this office he is now the senior most officer not only in the Army but he is senior to the Chiefs of the Navy and the Air Force. Two other Lieutenant Generals who were senior to Bajwa can seek retirement keeping in view the Army tradition. However, they can stay on till their normal retirement provided the new army chiefs asks them to do so. The officers are: Lt-General Ishfaq Nadeem and Lt-General Mustafa Javed Ramday.

 The new Army Chief faces three major types of challenges.

The first challenge is how to keep the performance of the Army to the level of Raheel Sharif days. The people will start comparing his performance in six months with Raheel Sharif.

Second, a number of issues have to be dealt with effectively. These include, counter terrorism in the tribal areas and elsewhere and making sure that internally displaced people return to their home and start a new life in North Waziristan and other agencies. The security issues in Karachi and Balochistan are still serious.

Third, how to manage stable relationship with the civilian leadership, especially for implementation of non-military side of the National Action Plan.

 General Raheel Sharif could be described as the most popular army chief at the common person level. The major reason for this popularity was that he fulfilled his promise of controlling terrorism in North Waziristan and elsewhere and controlled violence and insecurity in Karachi. The situation in Balochistan has also improved. The business community and the ordinary people experienced decline in violence and increase in security in the cities. The Army also performed in helping the people in case of a major terrorist attack, floods, and provision of security on some religious days.

 The people expect that the new Army Chief would lead the Army in a manner that the counter terrorism operations initiated in the earlier period will continue and he will work towards total elimination of terrorist, sectarian and extremists groups in Pakistan.

 The New Army Chief was part of the senior Army command that carried out General Raheel Sharif’s policies. He was part of the decision making process in the Army under General Raheel Sharif. Therefore, he knows who various security operations were conducted for countering terrorism and what kind of problems they had to address. This experience will guide him to do more work and prove himself to be a highly professional, hardworking person.

 The terrorist groups have weakened since June 2014, when the Army initiated the Zarb-e-Azb operation in North Waziristan. However, terrorism is not fully eliminated from Pakistan. A host of Taliban and sectarian groups still resort to violence to terrorize the people and the government. Similarly, more security work is needed to be done in Karachi and Balochistan to sustain the improved security environment. Another related task is the orderly return of internally displaced persons due to the security operations in North Waziristan and some of the adjoining agencies. The Army is returning them to their homes and helping them to start their life afresh. It is important that the new army chiefs makes sure that these displaced people not only return to their homes but their damaged houses and shops are also repaired and roads and market places are rehabilitated.

 India’s aggressive posturing on the Line of Control and the Working boundary in Kashmir is another difficult issue that the new army chief has inherited. Indian government is constantly engaged in firing across the Line of Control in Kashmir. In the past the Army and the Rangers have effectively dealt with India. The new Army Chief will continue with the policy of a tough response to India’s firing at the Line of Control. The Army will through the federal government use diplomatic pressure to stop India from adopting an aggressive policy on the Line of Control.

 Karachi’s business community is looking towards the new Army Chief and the Rangers for continuing their efforts to completely control violence, sectarianism, extortion and theft and looting in the city. Similarly, the Balochistan provincial government will continue to rely on paramilitary forces and the Army personnel to control terrorism and especially sectarian killings.

 Another major challenge for the army chief is to maintain trouble free relationship with the civilian government. There were problems in civil-military relations in the past. These problems are expected to continue because the civilian side of the National Action Plan is not being implemented fully and the Punjab government is still opposed to the army’s autonomous security action against the Punjab based extremist and sectarian groups. The news item issue about the national security meeting in the prime Minister house is still pending.

 The new Army Chief has serious challenges of external and internal security to deal with. He will need civilian government support to deal with these challenges. The Army is expected to keep up the good work of the past.

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Posted on 01 December 2016 by admin

   Dr. Hasan Askari

 It is a common practice in Pakistan to talk about an early removal of an elected government. There were several predications about the possible termination of the Nawaz Sharif government. These predictions have not so far come true. Similar predictions were made about the collapse of the PPP government (2008-13) but it managed to survive for the full term. For Nawaz Sharif challenges are many. The opposition political parties, especially the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf, build pressure on the Sharif government but the government has been successful in pushing aside these pressures.

 Nawaz Sharif has developed his own survival strategy that is facilitated by the failure of the opposition political parties to put their act together. Nawaz Sharif’s survival strategy includdes the monopolization of state power in the Punjab and establishment of a reward system that assigns the highest premium to loyalty from political leaders, bureaucrats, business community and others who seek government favor. It has created a class of beneficiaries comprising mainly but not exclusively contractors for government tasks like supply of goods and services to government, property and construction business, high profile commercial activity, and others who facilitate the tasks of people with the government. The federal and the Punjab governments are tolerant of hardline Islamic groups if these do not directly challenge the Punjab government. They can discreetly engage in ideological mobilization of the common people and shape their religious-political narrative.

 The monopolization of power and influence in the Punjab holds the key to the electoral success of the PMLN and the setting up governments in the Punjab and at the federal level. The province of Punjab has 148 seat out of 272 elected general seats in the National Assembly. The target of the PMLN is to obtain 100 to 110 seats from the Punjab. They can get the support of some independent members and smaller political parties from other provinces to form the federal government.

 The PMLN is not expected to tolerate any challenge to its monopoly of power in the Punjab from any quarter, especially the military and the opposition parties. The federal and Punjab government have resisted autonomous security operations against militant and sectarian groups in the province by the Army or the Rangers. This undermines the PMLN image as the sole arbiter of the province. It is engaged in a bitter political fight with the PTI because the latter has challenged its dominant position in the Punjab.

 The PPP is not viewed by the PMLN as a challenge because it has become very weak in Punjab. It draws support from rural Sindh, where the PMLN has no stake.

 The PMLN has one advantage. Its political opponents are divided and there is little, if any, chance of these getting together for challenging the PMLN government. The leading opposition figure, Imran Khan, evokes support at the common person level. However, his politics is unpredictable, lacking the capacity, so far, to work harmoniously with other political leaders and parties. His solo-flight builds pressure on the government but not to the extent that it is forced out.

 Other opposition parties lack a leader who could pull these disparate elements on a single platform. The PPP plays a dubious role in opposition. Its leaders make tough statements against the PMLN government but they support Nawaz Sharif whenever the PTI or any other political party challenges the PMLN government. Like the PMLN, the PPP views the PTI as a rival party that threaten to dislodge the PPP’s eminent position in the opposition ranks.

 Though some PMLN leaders are known for their anti-army disposition and, from time to time, there are strains in the interaction between the PMLN government and the Army, the latter has shown restraint in flexing its political muscles for a number of reasons, including a consensus in the senior command that they should avoid, if possible, the direct take- over of the government.

 Nawaz Sharif has been lucky in its interaction with the judiciary. He is the only prime minister who returned to his office after being dismissed by the president under a judgment of the Supreme Court in 1993. In November 1997, the PMLN loyalists attacked the Supreme Court because one of its bench headed by the then chief justice Sajjad Ali Shah was dealing with a contempt case against Nawaz Sharif. Later, Sajjad Ali Shah was eased out of office. Several years later, some activists were held responsible for this incident; no senior PMLN leader faced any action for the attack. In 2015, a commission set up by the Supreme Court identified irregularities and procedural violations in the 2013 election but it maintained that the over all fairness of the elections was not undermined.

 Now, we wait and see if the Prime Minister can be lucky again in the Panama Leaks case where the government lawyers are striving hard to delink Nawaz Sharif from the business activities of his children.

 Nawaz Sharif can manage to complete his term provided he is able to sustain his monopoly of power in the Punjab, he stays lucky again with the judiciary, the military limits itself only to expressing displeasure against Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan cannot learn to work with others in the opposition and the PPP continues to rescue the PMLN government.

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Posted on 24 November 2016 by admin

 Dr. Hasan Askari

   The visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Pakistan on November 16-17 was an important development for Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. It provided a positive projection to Nawaz Sharif at a time when his government was under pressure from three directions.

 First, India had adopted an aggressive posture on the Line of Control in Kashmir and India’s firing across this Line of Control has become a regular feature. As Pakistan’s security forces respond to such an attack with firmness, there are losses of human beings and property on both sides. Second, The Panama Leaks case against the Prime Minister and some of his family members is going on in the Supreme Court. As long as the Supreme Court does not settle the case, it will continue keep Nawaz Sharif under pressure. Third, the controversy about the publication of a news item about a national security meeting in an English language newspaper has adversely affected civil-military relations, which produced many speculative reports about the displeasure of the top brass of the military on this issue.

 The visit of Turkish President to Islamabad and Lahore shifted the focus of the media and politically active circles away from the above-mentioned issues. What helped to boost the image of the Sharif government was the support the Turkish leader extended to Pakistan for economic development and regional security.

 President Erdogan’s address to the joint session of the parliament was a remarkable statement of support for Pakistan. He not only highlighted the historical and cultural relations between Turkey and Pakistan but also reiterated his country’s support in all major domain of bilateral and regional interaction, including diplomatic, economic, security and social and cultural domains. He promised to expand the bilateral trade and expand economic relations. He also offered 500 scholarships for Pakistani students for technical and general education in Turkish universities.

 The Turkish President was very open in extending support to Pakistan on its problems with India and on the Kashmir problem. He said that the Kashmir problem should be resolved in accordance with the wishes of people of Kashmir and the United Nations resolutions on Kashmir. In the past some other Muslim countries, especially Saudi Arabia and Iran, used to extend such a clear cut support to Pakistan on Kashmir. However, since the current popular uprising in Indian-administered Kashmir, no Middle Eastern country has extended such an open support to Pakistan on its problems with India and the Kashmir problem.

 President Erdogan and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif joined Pakistani and Turkish business peope who had come to Pakistan with the Turkish President, for discussing an increased economic cooperation, trade and investment. It is hoped that much needed Foreign Direct Investment will also come from Turkey in the near future.

 Traditionally, Pakistan and Turkey have maintained close friendly relations and they worked together in various regional partnerships for economic and security cooperation. It was in 1974 that Pakistan under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto extended full diplomatic support to Turkey on the Northern Cyprus issue and recognized the independence of Northern Cyprus, declared on the initiative of Turkey. Pakistan’s gesture on this issue was much appreciated by Turkey. Pakistan also supports Turkey on Kurdish separatist movement in Turkey.

 The present ruling party, AK Party came to power in Turkey in 2002 and Tayyap Erdogon became Prime Minister in 2003 and served on this post until 2014, when he was elected President. During all these years, 2002-2016, Turkey’s relations with Pakistan expanded rapidly. When the coup attempt against President Erdogon failed in July 2016, Pakistan fully supported his efforts to protect his democratically elected government and take firm action against his political adversaries in the military and outside. The latest visit of Turkish President has further strengthened the relations between Pakistan and Turkey.

 The desire of the government of Pakistan to maintain very friendly relations with the Turkish government is threating the working of Turkish schools in Pakistan. There are 28 schools in Pakistan run by the Turkish education movement led by Fatheullah Golun, currently based in the United States. Some teachers are from Turkey but almost all students are Pakistani.

 The Turkish government has accused Fatehullah Golun for sponsoring the July 2016 failed coup in Turkey. It is now purging the Turkish military, civilian administration and society of Golun supporters and sympathizers. The Turkish government asked Pakistan to close down these schools as these were being run by the Golan movement. Pakistan did not close down the schools but made changes in their administration to minimize the role of the education movement of Fatehullah Golun.

 A day before the arrival of Turkish President, Pakistan government ordered the Turkish teachers to leave Pakistan within a week. A large number of educationists and especially the Pakistani students of these schools protested and argued that it was unfair to expel Turkish teachers who neither have a direct link with the Golun movement nor are they involved in any political activity. If these teachers return to Turkey they are likely to be arrested. In other words, The Turkish government’s domestic policy of excluding all those having some link with Golun is adversely affecting a good school system for Pakistani children.

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Popular Democracy, Unpopular Ruler

Posted on 17 November 2016 by admin

   Dr. Hasan Askari

 There is a widely shared consensus at the global level that democracy is the best available political system. However, its details vary from country to country and one has to examine both the theoretical basis of the democratic system as well as its performance at the operational level to judge the quality of democracy.

 Democracy is viewed as a process rather than an end product. It is wrong to assume that anything less than the ideal democracy means that there is no democracy at all. It is a process and you strengthen it and improve its quality as you implement it and make mid-course correction in it. Therefore, what matters most is its direction. Democracy needs to move from “less” to “more” democracy. It is a continuous process and requires regular review of its performance in terms of the principles of democracy and their operationalization and how the spirit of democracy is reflected in the institutions and process of governance and political management.

 The most damaging situation for democracy is the gap between theory and practice or when it becomes a tool at the disposal of the economically dominant and ruling classes which they use for strengthening their clout in the political system. It becomes what is described as the elitist democracy which provides ample opportunities to the dominant elite to manipulate the system and turn it into an authoritarian rule.

  The most serious weakness in democracy is that its “democratic” ways can be used to destroy the spirit of democracy. The “tyranny of majority” is a technique to undermine democracy by democratic means. The popularity of democracy as a system of governance does not necessary mean that the ruler, even if elected through democratic means, will be equally popular.

 The dichotomy of popular democracy and unpopular ruler represents the difference between theory and practice. The competing political leaders often play up the self-cultivated fears and anxieties of some ethnic, regional or religious group to build support for getting votes in the elections. While certain communities are projected as adversaries or threats to the welfare of others. A candidate projects itself as the protector and savior of the people. In this way, the ethnic, linguistic, religion, sectarian and caste or regional differences are consciously played up to secure popular vote.

 Such a strategy helped Donald Trump in the United States and Narendra Modi in India to secure the support of a section of population at the expense of others; accentuating internal divisions and splits in the society which become a challenge when it comes to running the policies of a democratic government. Any attempt to divide the people for political gains is counter-productive to the goal of strengthening the roots of democracy because the vote gets divided on parochial and narrow considerations rather than political affiliations and election agenda. Greater the divisions and splits in the society the more difficult it is to run a democratic system.

 The leaders who secure their electoral success by polarizing the society have a tendency to become authoritarian in governance and political management. History provides numerous examples of how an elected leader turned into a dictatorial or authoritarian ruler. Many elected rulers have used their support in the parliament to opt for concentration of power in their hands, especially when they find it difficult to pull the society together after it had been fragmented in the course of the election campaign.

 A democratic ruler cannot sustain popular support without delivering basic services and facilities to the common people. The major areas of service delivery are education, health care, eradication of poverty and underdevelopment, employment opportunities, personal security against the threats from state agencies and societal groups, civic amenities and check against environmental degradation. Some rulers spend large sums of money on big and glamorous projects like motorways, public transport, and use state resources on partisan political considerations. Such projects benefit a small number of people and the socio-economic conditions of the mass of humanity either remain the same as before or decline. A leader or government cannot sustain popular support without delivering basic services to people.

 The success of democracy also depends on institutional checks and balance among the state institutions. Different state institutions need to work in their respective domains and respect the domain of authority of other institutions. No single institution can be allowed to dominate other institutions and processes of the state.

 Such dilemmas are quite common in the states that have experienced the ascendancy of the military to political power. Rather than creating a credible civilian alternative to the military’s domination, the civilian governments often engage in open or quiet struggle for power with the military. The PMLN government under Nawaz Sharif is involved in power struggle with the assertive Pakistan military. The negative statements against the military by the federal minister and the media wing of the Prime Minister House and the publication of the news item about national security affairs are the major examples of the troubled civil-military relations in Pakistan. Similarly, the appointment of the new Army Chief is another bone of contention between the federal government and the Army top command.

  Democracies are also threated by the rise of religious and cultural extremism and violence by non-state groups that are transnational in character. These trends are negation of the democratic sprit. Several African states collapsed due to internal problems or became dysfunctional.

 Democracy is a challenging political system that calls for implementation of its principles in letter and spirit. It is more responsive to the aspirations of the common people. There are ample examples in history that show that the popularity of democracy does not means that the ruler will be equally popular. The U.S. President-Elect, Donald Trump, needs to remember this.

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Posted on 09 November 2016 by admin

Dr. Hasan Askari

       A major political crisis was averted in Pakistan with the decision of the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf to postpone its plan to paralyze the federal government in Islamabad by blockading the city on November 2. He agreed to do so after the Supreme Court of Pakistan decided on November 1 to formally take up the Panama Leaks case.   This decision saved both the federal and the Punjab government on the one hand and the PTI and Imran Khan on the other from a difficult situation that could turn violent.

     In order to neutralize Imran Khan’s efforts to blockade Islamabad, the Punjab and the federal governments brought the province of Punjab to virtual standstill by blockading roads leading to Islamabad and PTI workers were arrested in their home towns or the roads connecting these towns with the rest of Punjab were blocked by police and local administration.  The most unfortunate situation developed when on October 31 the Punjab police blocked all roads from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to Punjab and used tear gas and rubber bullets to stop the KP Chief Minister and his loyalists when they attempted to remove road blocks for entering Punjab on way to Islamabad. The Inspector General of Punjab Police led this security operation against KP.   Therefore, it was quite clear that the PTI would not succeed in bringing a mass of humanity to Islamabad on November 2.  However, there would have been violent clashes between the Punjab Police and the PTI supporters.  This was averted when Imran Khan postponed his protest and the Punjab Government opened roads connecting KP with Punjab. Similarly, the roads in the Punjab going towards Islamabad were also opened.

   This is a positive development that both the government and the PTI have agreed to contest each other on the Panama Leaks in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has taken up the petitions of the PTI, Awami Muslim League of Sheikh Rashid and the Jamaat-i-Islami against the alleged involvement of the Prime Minister’s family in the money transactions for setting up offshore companies in Panama and the purchase of property in London.

    If the Supreme Court is able to address these petitions, it will be for the first time in Pakistan’s history that a top leader in office was subjected to accountability. The Supreme Court will investigate the issue through a commission of its own whose findings will be used for passing the final judgment on the petitions under consideration. Three main issues are under investigation. How and when the funds were transferred out of Pakistan? When were properties purchased in London? Were the children independent with their own sources of income or they were dependent on their father in financial terms? This can be determined from the age of children when the offshore companies were set up and the property was purchased.

    At the moment, there are contradictory statements by members of Nawaz Sharif family on these issues.  However, the court would like to see documentary evidence regarding these issues rather than relying on the verbal statements of the petitioners.

     Nothing can be said about the outcome of this case. However, it is interesting to note that political polarization in Pakistan is so sharp that pro-PTI and anti-Sharif political activists are convinced that Nawaz Sharif will be disqualified from the membership of the National Assembly, implying he will lose his office. The pro PMLN and pro Nawaz Sharif people think that the charges against him and his family are cooked up by the PTI which will be rejected by the Supreme Court. There is no way to prove these charges, they maintain.

    Another question pertains to the time needed for settling these cases. The present Chief Justice is retiring towards the end of December. It is expected that this case will be settled before his retirement.  Some people are optimistic and suggest that it should be settled before the end of the current month because once the Supreme Court Commission has completed the inquiry it would not take long to settle the matter.  The Supreme Court bench has talked of quickly dealing with the issue.

      Pakistan’s federal government also faces another problem relating to the news item about the national security meeting. Though Pervez Rashid has been asked by the Prime Minister to resign with reference to the news item issue, the army top command and others who have some knowledge of the issue maintain that some other people in the Prime Minister house were involved in preparing this news and getting it published.  The publication of this news has annoyed the army to command from the Nawaz Sharif government. Therefore, even if the army chief is changed by November 28, it will hardly change the situation. The new Army Chief is expected to pursue this matter and the distrust between the civilian leadership and the army will persist.

     The PTI sponsored political crisis has eased and the military has shown much restraint. It did not opt for removing the civilian government.  However, the problems of the Nawaz Sharif government are not yet over.  Some political circles other than the PTI have suggested that Nawaz Sharif should step down till the case is settled. Nawaz Sharif and his loyalists have rejected this proposal. They want to fight out the PTI and assert their commanding role on the military. The PTI is equally determined to challenge the PMLN’s monopoly of power in Punjab.

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Khan’s dharna can lead to further confrontation between the government and the opposition

Posted on 02 November 2016 by admin

Dr. Hasan Askari 

    Violent confrontation developed between the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and the Pakistan Tehri-i-Insaf on October 27 as the Police disrupted the PTI youth meeting in Islamabad. It set the stage for confrontation that lasted for several days.

 The PTI’s rising political fortune in the Punjab brought it in conflict with the PMLN that controls the federal government and the Punjab government. The PTI made the first unsuccessful bid to bring down the federal government in 2014 on account of rigging of the elections. The investigation by a Supreme Court judge acknowledged irregularities in the general elections but described the elections as largely fair.

 Now, in 2016, the Panama document leaks named Prime Minister’s family for having offshore companies. The issue is not the offshore companies but the funds that were involved in setting up these offshore companies and the purchase of property in London through these companies. As the Prime Minister’s children were minor when these transactions took place, the question is whose money was moved and from where.

 The Panama Leaks gave an opportunity to Imran Khan to pursue his corruption allegation against the Nawaz Sharif government in a forceful manner. Had the government instituted an inquiry soon after the Panama disclosures, there would not have been so much controversy. The avoidance of any inquiry gave a good opportunity to Imran Khan to make it into a major political issue. The current agitation was meant to force the resignation of the prime minister and hold an inquiry into the money transactions relating to the Prime Minister’s family.

 The federal and the Punjab governments decided to use force to neutralize the PTI agitation. This strategy was based on the assumption is that the PTI activists are easy going and fun-loving people who treat political protest as a “party-like” activity. The government strategists think that if the PTI activists are subjected to violence and arrest they will be discouraged from coming out for political protest. Therefore, the federal and Punjab governments displayed the coercive apparatus of the state in the form of baton-charge, use of tear gas and arrests to dissuade the activists. The two governments are expected to stop the PTI activists from leaving their home towns by arresting the party activists and blocking the main roads leading to Islamabad. It seems that the Punjab government is immobilizing the whole province so that Imran Khan cannot blockade Islamabad.

 The PMLN and the Sharif family are taking the political challenge from the PTI very seriously because the latter wants to dislodge the former from its dominant position in the Punjab which is the PMLN’s exclusive political preserve and its primary source of support. The PMLN has created a patrimonial and patronage based political order in the Punjab. It has brought the bureaucracy and the police under its firm control. The important bureaucratic and police assignments in the province are assigned purely on loyalty to the House of Sharifs.

 State resources and patronage are used in a highly partisan manner and no major business group can afford to alienate the PMLN governments at the federal level and in Punjab. These governments have created a class of beneficiaries comprising government contractors and suppliers, real estate dealers, facilitators for providing services to people and local influential by letting them make money from government tasks and projects or letting them a free hand for making profit in private business or commercial activity or charging money from people for facilitation of their tasks. In return, these beneficiaries undertake some obligations toward the government which include making financial resources available for the activities of the ruling party; building good will for the government at the common person level; and securing votes for its candidates.

 The political domination of the Punjab is the key to the PMLN strategy to rule Pakistan. This province has 148 seats out of 272 directly elected geneal seats in the National Assembly. If the PMLN wins 100 seats from the Punjab, it can easily form the government at the federal level with the support of independent members and smaller political parties.

  The PMLN takes the PTI challenge seriously because it threatens its monopoly in the Punjab. Had the PTI limited itself to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the PMLN would not have been so perturbed by the rising political fortunes of the PTI.

  From the PTI standpoint, it cannot rule Pakistan without undermining the PMLN Empire in the Punjab. Therefore, the political future of these two parties is at a stake in the current agitation.

  The federal government has summoned the Army for the protection of government installations. This has been done under article 245 of the constitution which was invoked by the federal government during the 2014 sit-in by the PTI in Islamabad. It was not formally revoked. Now, the same article has been used to extend the scope of action by the Army. However, the Army did not agree to use brute force against the protesters on the footsteps of the police. It maintained its autonomy by not being seen as an extension of the federal government.

  In order to win over the Army in the current political crisis, the PMLN federal government offered to take action against its senior officials for getting the news item published in a newspaper regarding the national security meeting. However, this offer has not helped to rehabilitate the Army’s trust in the federal government.

 The bitterness caused by the developments between Oct 27 and November 2 is going to overshadow the relationship between the PTI and the PMLN for a long time to come. If the crisis deepens the Army may have to mediate the conflict. The superior judiciary may help to resolve this crisis. Nawaz Sharif faces more political uncertainties than Imran Khan.

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Military- civilian relationship strains further after news leakage of meeting at the PM Sharif’s house

Posted on 27 October 2016 by admin

  Dr Hasan Askari

 Pakistan’s domestic politics has entered a complex phase in the last week of October. The outcome of such a difficult situation is unpredictable. Pakistan is experiencing three types of political issues. First, the leakage of information about the discussions in a national security meeting to a newspaper. Second, the Panama Leaks case before the Supreme Court. Third, The decision of the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf to shut-down Islamabad on November 2. All these issues have built pressure on the PMLN federal government, especially on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

 The Army top brass are angry that an unauthorized news item appeared in a newspaper about the high level national security meeting held in the Prime Minister House. This news has accused the Army and the Intelligence agencies of supporting the militant groups that are said to be resorting to violence in India and Afghanistan. Such a charge is often made by India and the U.S. Now, the news item showed that Pakistan’s civilian leadership was repeating the same charge against the military. This has seriously undermined civil-military relations.

 The Army wants that the persons giving out the news should be punished. By now, it is more or less known to the media as to who were responsible for passing on the information to the newspaper correspondent. These people are so close to Nawaz Sharif that it may be difficult for him to take any strong action against them. The federal government is delaying the matter so that the episode is forgotten. However, the Army top brass are not in a mood to forget the incident.

 The Supreme Court has taken up the petitions filled by different people for disqualifying Nawaz Sharif from the membership of the National Assembly on account of the information made available through the Panama Leaks about the family’s property abroad and offs-shore companies. Currently, the Supreme Court has issued notice to Nawaz Sharif and his family. The Supreme Court will in the first instance settle the issue of taking up these petition. Nawaz Sharif and his family’s lawyers are expected to contest the right of the Supreme Court to take up these petition. If the Supreme Court admits these petitions for hearing, then the real case of properties and wealth of Nawaz Sharif and his family as leaked in the Panama Documents will be taken up for adjudication.

 The third major challenge to the Sharif government pertains to the decision of the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf to shut down government functioning in Islamabad on November 2. Currently, Imran Khan is visiting different cities, addressing his party’s public meetings for mobilization of the people to come to Islamabad on November 2.

 The current government strategy is to fight out all the three issues, especially the challenge of Imran Khan. To the government’s good luck, most opposition parties are staying away from Imran Khan’s agitation. The PPP leadership criticizes Nawaz Sharif but, in the confrontation between the PMLN and the PTI, the PPP is supporting Nawaz Sharif. The PMLQ has however endorsed Imran Khan’s demands.

 Imran Khan appears determined to show his party’s strength in Islamabad. His party people are confident after the Raiwind public meeting that they would be able to mobilize very large number of people for the Islamabad political agitation.

 There can be several possible outcomes of the situation arising out of these three issues. Nawaz Sharif may sacrifice some associates from the bureaucracy and one cabinet members to pacify the military on the news leakage issue. If he does not take any action, the Army may invoke its powers regarding national security under the Army Act to adopt some tough investigative steps against those accused of passing on the information.

 If the Supreme Court takes up the Panama Leaks case, Nawaz Sharif can be disqualified. The PMLN may have to select a new prime minister; some leaders are in this race. If the case is decided in favor of Nawaz Sharif, it will be a major political triumph for him. Imran Khan’s movement will suffer a setback.

 The PTI agitation on November 2 is the most problematic issue for the federal government. It cannot let Imran Khan close down the capital. It can either summon the Army and the paramilitary forces under article 245 of the constitution to protect government installations. The advantage of this move for Nawaz Sharif is that it can cause a direct confrontation between the Army and the PTI. There will be no blame of use of force on the federal government. However, a virtual handover of the capital to the Army exposes the weakness of the federal government whose dependence on the Army will increase. All this strengthens the position of the Army in the political system and makes the future of the civilian government uncertain.

 If the federal and the Punjab governments arrest top PTI leaders and other activists a few days before the shutdown, it can make the agitation leaderless and can result in violence even before November 2. If the law and order situation deteriorates, the civilian government may have to seek Army’s assistance.

 If Imran Khan succeeds in shutting down the government in Islamabad, it will be difficult for Nawaz Sharif to stay on in power.

 The critical question is if the Army will press hard the civil government to take action against the culprits of the news leak or it will itself take action against them. The alternative for the Army is to wait for the judgment of the Supreme Court and what is the outcome of Imran’s agitation? If Nawaz Sharif does not pacify the military, it may not be keen to rescue his government in the face of Imran’s agitation.

 The retirement of General Raheel Sharif is not going to make any difference because the current disposition of the Army towards the Sharif government is shared by the top brass. Nawaz Sharif has alienated all top brass. The new Army Chief is expected to opt for continuity of policies.

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Confusion in foreign policy making leads to conflict between civilian leadership and army

Posted on 19 October 2016 by admin

 Dr. Hasan Askari

 Smooth civil-military relations hold the key to political stability and an efficient management of external and internal security in Pakistan. Therefore, both the civilian leadership and the top brass of the military seek a friction-free relationship to devote fully to their exclusive domains of authority and work in harmony in the overlapping policy space or when they need to supplement each other.

 The military’s role has expanded in Pakistan not simply because of the long years of its direct and indirect rule that caused political and democratic discontinuity. There are other reasons as well. Pakistan developed as the security state right from the beginning because of external threat primarily from India and secondarily from Afghanistan. There was also a fear of internal collapse in the early years of independence. Therefore, the focus was on securing Pakistan against external threats and internal pressures. The key priorities were the enforcement of monolithic notion of nationhood, assertive centre and a strong military rather than democratization of the political system.

 The military, especially the Army and the paramilitary forces, were summoned from time to time in “aid of the civil” for restoring civilian authority or to support it where it could not cope with civilian task relating to political agitation, supplement civilian authorities in managing their administrative problems, natural calamities and man-made crises.

 This practice goes on even today. The army and paramilitary are needed to hold elections, undertake census, provide security in Muharram, for reading electricity meters, managing government entities like WAPDA, provide protection to staff administering anti-polio drug to children and making medical assistance and food available in the drought- or flood affected areas, to name some civilian tasks undertaken by the three services, especially the army.

 Yet another area that has expanded the role of the military is internal security. This includes terrorism, sectarian and ethnic violence and a nexus of criminality and politics in the post September 2001 period. A number of successful security operations have been launched by the Army, the paramilitary forces, the Air Force for containing terrorism and religious and ethnic violence. This task is expected to continue for an indefinite period.

 The frequent reliance of the civilian administration on the military for handling civilian affairs has a strong political fall out to the disadvantage of the civilian authorities. All this provides the military with the experience of handling the civilian affairs. It also exposes the weaknesses of the civilian authorities and it creates the impression that the military can succeed in a task where civilian authorities fail. However, if the military can manage an administrative task in an efficient manner this does not mean that it can also resolve the complex political problem. It is in this domain that the military often falters.

 One major reason for the popularity of the Army Chief General Raheel Sharif is that the Army has been successful in reducing internal terrorism to a great extent. As the Army has “delivered” on countering terrorism, the Army Chief and the Army have won much appreciation.

 Pakistan needs to learn from the countries that have rehabilitated civilian primacy after the long years of the military’s ascendancy. This calls for redefining Pakistan’s internal and external security profile. If the issues of external security and internal violence and terrorism are not defused, the military stays central to state policies and state survival. It also requires a recognition on the part of the military top brass that “day-to-day” political management does not fit into their professional and organizational disposition.

 Above all, an elected civilian government enjoys electoral legitimacy but it must also earn performance legitimacy. It must pursue socio-economic policies that give a strong hope to people for a better future. It needs to work towards reducing socio-economic disparities, be transparent in managing state affairs, and create a corruption free, efficient and accountable governance within the framework of the rule of law.

 In Pakistan, the civilian governments since 2008 have experienced crisis after crisis and could these could not muster voluntary loyalty of the common people. These governments cultivated personalized loyalty by a partisan use of state resources and tolerating corruption in government.

 Instead of creating a reliable and popular civilian government, the Nawaz Sharif government has spent energy on criticizing the military. Some of the federal ministers are known for public criticism of the security establishment. The latest controversy caused by the news item regarding the discussion in a national security meeting in the prime minister house has adversely affected civil-military relations.

 The Sharif government’s complaint of losing a lot of space to the security establishment for the making of foreign and security policies relates more to the style of governance. Such a complaint was not heard that much when Khurshid Mahmud Qureshi, Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Hina Rabbani Khar were foreign ministers (2002-2013). Today, the Foreign Office lacks the Unity of Command. It has four poles of authority Sartaj Aziz, Tariq Fatmi, office of the Prime Minister and the Punjab Chief Minister. The latter manages relations with China and Turkey in an autonomous manner for the Punjab based development projects. He has also obtained loans from China for some projects in the Punjab. A divided house is bound to cause confusion in policy making and management and leaves policy gaps.

 Two issues are going to shape the civil-military relations in the next two months. How the civilian leadership handles the inquiry into who passed on the information of about what happened in the national security meeting? The Corps Commanders Conference held on October 14 describes this information as “false and fabricated.” The other issue pertains to the appointment of the new Army Chief in November. Any gross violation of the seniority principle will compound the current problem in civil-military relations.

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