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12th-Jul-2019

Military Take-Overs

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By Saeed Qureshi :
There have been three successful military coups in Pakistan replacing the elected civilian governments with the army rule.
The first such coup took place in 1958 when the first Pakistani President Major General Iskandar Mirza dismissed the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan and the government of Prime Minister Firoz Khan Noon. President General Mirza appointed the then  army commander-in-chief Gen. Ayub Khan as the Chief Martial Law Administrator. Thirteen days later, General Ayub Khan exiled Mirza and appointed himself as the President of Pakistan.
The second military coup d'état codenamed as "Operation Fair Play" was led at midnight on July 4, 1977 by the then Chief of Army Staff General Zia-ul-Haq, against the government of -Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Bhutto was arrested and lodged in Rawalpindi Jail where he remained until his death by hanging on April 4, 1987( at the age of 51 years). General Zia dissolved the National Assembly and all the Provincial Assemblies. He also suspended  the Constitution of Pakistan.
The third  military coup happened in  October 1999 by the then army chief Gen. Pervez Musharraf along with his loyal senior officers against the PML government headed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. That military coup was conducted in retaliation to Nawaz Sharif's attempt to dismiss Musharraf and prevent his plane from landing in Pakistan after his visit to Sri Lanka.      
In Pakistan, besides these three successful military coups, there have also been unsuccessful military coup attempts carried out in 1951, 1980 and 1995.
All the above-mentioned military take-overs were the result of the political chaos and failure of the respective elected governments in promoting and establishing the veritable democratic political culture. The ousted leaders and the governments, failed wholly or partially, in serving the people as well as the country with dedication, indulgence and sincerity. They were hard and oppressive with their rival political parties and failed to deliver for betterment of the country and the people of Pakistan.
The democracy fructifies not by the people in power alone but also by the opposition parties as well. The role of the opposition is to keep a watch over the incumbent governments and to point out where these fail or falter in serving the people, the democracy and the country as mandated by the constitution and in accordance with their manifestoes.
If the incumbent PTI government's agenda is only to come with a heavy hand on the opposition leaders and parties and represses their leaders with vindictive decisions and policies, then neither would the country move forward, nor the democratic culture and freedom of expression can prosper. An elected government by the popular mandate should not turn into a kind of a civilian dictatorship. It should rather give priority to alleviating the peoples' sufferings and resolving their day to day problems for a better living. The accountability of the corrupt leaders and politicians should be left to the relevant departments, courts and institutions to deal. To these departments, the PTI regime can provide all facilities and support to carry out their job.
What a common man generally feels is that the PTI government has not shown any meaningful progress in industrial, economic, social and other nation building sectors such as education, health, agriculture, industry, cost of living, prices, law and order and so on. On the contrary, during almost a year in power, while sidetracking uplift of the Pakistan, it has been engaged in harassing, suppressing, condemning, jailing and curbing the opposition parties, most notably the PMNL, PPPP, JUI and JI. The PTI government would complete its full one year in power on August 18, 2019.
The unfulfilled pledges for prevalence and promotion of Parliamentary Democracy, the arrests and jailing of the opposition parties leaders, the wanton statements issued by the Prime Minister cutting across the national interests, the squander of public funds, and a casual and regal way of governing the country might create a justification for the army to re-enter the power corridors.
It would be a benighted day if fourth Martial Law is imposed on Pakistan.  If it happens then it would be solely due to the uncalled and unnecessary mutual rivalry between the party in power and those of opposition, their aversion for each other, mutual political battling and undemocratic and intolerant behaviour. But who can stop the inevitable?
Presently the onus falls on PTI and Prime Minister Imran Khan who are busy in fulfilling personal vendettas and fixing only the rival politicians while the mammoth issues for reconstruction of Pakistan and the nation building are pushed aside. The Prime Minister whom I voted for has arrogated to himself the exclusive distinction of being a past master in issuing meaningless threats to the opposition leaders of dire consequences, in double speak and back-tracking from his solemn electoral commitments to put Pakistan on the road to progress and prosperity and fashion it as a developed state.
The PTI government has put its pledges and mandate announced during the election campaign for the uplift of Pakistan and the nation on the back burner. Prime Minister Imran Khan seems to be personally involved in condemning and catching the opposition leaders by repeating the threat such as "I shall not leave you and would punish you". Granted that he wants to eliminate corruption in Pakistan but this task should be left to the judiciary and relevant institutions to accomplish.
It seems as if he is entirely riveted on eliminating and fixing the corruption and its perpetrators. It is a goal that might not be achieved alone by the PTI government in five years' tenure and can be carried out along other indispensable reforms.  He should take the opposition along in achieving this gigantic goals of rebuilding Pakistan. Besides the pledges to curb the corruption (which is not confined to only to the political leaders) he should not ignore or sidetrack the fundamental task of uplifting Pakistan as a viable state in all respects. He should focus on alleviating the countless sufferings of the people by way of quick and inexpensive social and legal justice, low and affordable prices of commodities and food items, good roads, cleanliness, safety, law and order and free or affordable education for all and so on.
The industrial and agricultural sectors need utmost and urgent attention and a rapid road map for uplift.  Safety from the persistent and prevailing menace of lawlessness and mushrooming crimes, institutional breakdown such as transportation and railways, paucity of water, shortage and unremitting outrages of electric power, filth and dirt in every city and town and village of Pakistan. All these goals and reforms have been promised by PTI and personally Imran Khan in his speeches and interviews prior to the latest general elections held on July 25, 2018.
The Pakistan army that had surged in Pakistan as a savior in the turbulent times, may not ignore the widespread public unrest and their woes due to appalling civic and social problems, sky rocketing cost of living, poor governance,  poor economy, fragile law and order situation and the tussle between the government and the opposition parties.  The top brass of the Pakistan army might also be getting apprehensive of the policies of the ongoing PTI government.
If army rule is imposed on Pakistan then this time the martial law won't be as a benign as it was that of Field Marshal Ayub Khan or even Musharraf.  It would spell doom for the politicians as well as sleazy rulers in shape of the nemesis that any army is perfectly capable of delivering. There could be a mayhem, arrests and martial law courts' proceedings.  
My humble suggestion to the honorable Prime Minister of Pakistan is to minimize his personal onslaught against the rival politicians.  They should be judged and punished by the police, the judiciary and the relevant accountability institutions. He should hold a national conference and exhort his political opponents and contenders to join hands in the most urgent task of nation building, alleviation of the countless sufferings of the people and laying down the foundations of Pakistan in order to shape up as a developed nation and  a modern state which we  witness in Europe and even in Islamic States such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Iran and Turkey. If he embarks on this path he would be remembered as the architect of a democratic, advanced, rich and modern Pakistan.
 (Saeed Qureshi, Senior journalist, former editor of Diplomatic Times and a former diplomat)