Pakistan’s Elections : Internal Dynamics
As Pakistan goes to elections in May 2013, the world is likely to witness an unprecedented transition of power between the successive democratically elected civilian governments. To extrapolate for a country, that has a political history marred by cycle of military coups, this transition may be seen by many as Pakistan’s political metamorphosis. Will it be safe to assume that the ambitions of Pakistani General’s in country’s politics are non-extant? General Kiyani though spoke with disarming candour about his desire for free, fair and credible elections recently on the 6th April to the Chief Election Commissioner, something that needs to be analysed from a separate perspective.
…it is clear that the public opinion is not in favour with the military as of now, though some may say it otherwise. A strong public opinion is something that no dictator can ignore.
Over the last few years, this region has witnessed incidents that can be referred as clock points which have altered the regional dynamics. Though the process of radicalisation started during the dictatorship of Zia-ul-Haque in the late seventies, the self-destructive milieu was however set by General Musharraf. It all started after his decision to side with the US in GWOT post 9/11, thus conveniently abandoning the Taliban regime in Afghanistan hitherto they were serving the theory of strategic space. This decision did not augur well in public and there was a wide spread resentment. Second, he entered into a secret agreement with the Americans, allowing them to carry out drone attacks in the tribal region, which have resulted in death of hundreds of innocent civilians since then. Thirdly, the water shed event of Army’s intervention in Red Mosque, allegedly at the behest of US, which generated antipathy in society and the army’s rank and file towards anything and everything American, including the aid they received from them.
Killing of Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011 followed by the NATO forces attack on Pakistani post in Salala border area of FATA on 26 Nov 2011, that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, infuriated the Pakistanis further. These incidents battered the self-pride of millions in Pakistan. In the aftermath though, General Kiyani forced the establishment to disallow Americans the transit facility for logistics through Pakistan from Karachi to Kabul, pending an apology. This apposite stand of the general was indeed the need of the hour and very much in consonance with the nation’s mood however it was just not sufficient to restore the image the army had suffered during the Musharraf’s regime.
Scanning through these events, it is clear that the public opinion is not in favour with the military as of now, though some may say it otherwise. A strong public opinion is something that no dictator can ignore. Lately the Pakistani public has started considering their generals to be American stooge who have leased the country’s sovereignty in exchange to the civil and military aid.
How the foreign policy issues can dominate the political canvas is best seen in the run up to these elections. Imran Khan has emerged as a counter to the status quo political parties. Will the bluster of his campaign translate into votes, is unpredictable. Will his rumoured tacit support from the generals be enough, is on test. Tehrik-e-Insaf party’s anti-West stance has struck a chord with urban class; however there is no credible survey or an opinion poll to indicate its outright victory. Uncertain, but the Army seems to have played a role in engineering return of the tyrant for sure. Musharraf’s home coming from self-exile and entering the election fray is just not a mere coincidence. The judiciary acting in his counter has ensured a cull – de – sac for Musharraf’s political ambitions and thus drafted an obituary of the much hyped soft coup option of the Army.
To ensure that, whichever political party comes to power has an ideology fitting into the scheme of things of the military, which may prompt the generals to alter the true result of the ballot. However, any miscalculation by the military to effect the outcome of these elections through rigging, a norm, practiced with impunity in the past, may lead to disastrous outcome for the country and the region.
Taliban today, is no more a strategic partner of Pakistan Army. It is a monster raised and nurtured all these years…
A country that has large sections of its society and elements within the army, radicalised in favour of extreme Islamic outfits is an indicator that is bound to cause discomfort to the generals. Any such manifestation as the outcome of this election, bringing extreme right elements to power will prove a fatal blow to the idea of Pakistan and its saviour ‘The Pak Army’. In my opinion this country is heading towards a coalition dominated by Islamic radicals.
Not to miss out on the external factors, the events in Afghanistan as always are going to affect this region. The 2014 withdrawal of NATO forces is unlikely to get back the haunted scenario that emerged post-Soviet withdrawal. This time, President Karzai and his ministers will not be hanged in the streets of Kabul like Najibullah was, in 1996 by the Taliban. The Americans will not abandon Afghanistan totally and they will continue to maintain some military presence in the region. After the withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan, the Afghan army is unlikely to dominate the Southern Afghanistan in a similar effective manner like the ISAF. This void is likely to be exploited by the Afghani and the Pakistani Taliban alongside various foreign militant organisations who share a common ideology, fermenting greater trouble for this region. The Pakistan’s desire of seeking strategic depth in Afghanistan, unfortunately this time around may turn into a strategic nightmare.
Taliban today, is no more a strategic partner of Pakistan Army. It is a monster raised and nurtured all these years that has turned towards its own master!! They have carried out major terrorist strikes in the country in recent times, spectacular raid on Karachi air base, bombing of Marriott hotel in Islamabad, attacking military convoys in Rawalpindi and killing more than 3000 Pakistani Rangers in the Tribal region, are indicative of the future that lies ahead.
Today this underdeveloped, nuclear armed country is in contradiction with itself. A country that was created for the Muslims of undivided India is today witnessing violence by the Muslims against Muslims on the regional, sectarian, religious and ethnic lines. Today the Taliban is not only active in the tribal region but they have a large signature in the country’s financial capital Karachi and the hinterland. A dreaded scenario of takeover of nuclear assets by these radicals is a prediction that threatens regional stability and peace. Baluchistan is steadily drifting towards secession whereas sectarian and communal violence in Punjab and Sindh is tearing apart the country’s fabric.
Analysing all these internal and external factors that are dominating Pakistan, it comes as no surprise that the powerful military which is short of popular support has decided to sit in the pavilion and witness the players play for now. At this stage when the anti US passions are high, internal security situation fragile and the economy in dumps, the generals would not like to get stuck in a quagmire by getting into the act of governance. However they would prefer to maintain a distance and retain the right to intervene as the saviours of Pakistan at a much more appropriate time.
To abrogate the future tryst of Pakistan with martial law, after these historic elections of May 2013 is for the time to see.