The wannabe heroes
THE retired servicemen seem to have rebelled against President Musharraf calling for his impeachment and trial for planning the Kargil operation. In a press conference held on June 4, a group of retired servicemen demanded Gen Musharraf’s trial, restoration of judiciary, revision of the Kashmir policy and the revoking of the controversial NRO.
An important point raised during the meeting was to investigate the Kargil crisis which cost Pakistan a lot of money, precious lives and reputation.
While an audit of military operations by the government is certainly needed, the important question which must be asked is that is this press conference just a ‘rebellion’ of ‘civilianised’ army men against the former army chief in defence of democracy and higher political values in the country?
If at all, the ex-servicemen’s call for revamping Musharraf’s political and military legacy indicates a malaise within the political power structure, especially the deeper establishment. Broadly speaking, this indicates the problems which arise with the military’s long entrenchment in politics which is now working against the organisation’s much-flaunted ethos of unity of command.
But before we get into a systems analysis, lets look into the actors who are part of this ‘rebellion’ and whether it is true that they merely acted in defence of democracy and independence of judiciary. It is interesting to note that this club of ‘old soldiers’ struck at the time when Musharraf is engulfed with criticism from all sides.
Notwithstanding the importance of the movement for restoration of judiciary, the intent of the ex-servicemen, especially some of its members could be more than strengthening a civilian institution. So, the onlookers have to be careful in distinguishing between the need to investigate the Kargil crisis and the actual intent of people like Gen Jamsheed Gulzar Kiyani and others in telling the story now. The good general sat silent all these years enjoying his stint as head of Fauji Foundation’s company Marri Gas and then as the chairman of the Federal Public Services Commission. The question is that why didn’t he ask any question then?
One of the features of popular or semi-popular movements is that they throw up all sorts of personalities who join a political race for their own goals. In fact, the dialectics of the political movement of these ex-servicemen wannabe heroes denotes two interesting issues.
First, there is a rift within the deeper establishment and this group of ex-servicemen is just a glimpse of the internal friction. Contrary to the argument that these retired generals, brigadiers and colonels are innocent civilians, the fact of the matter is that they are part of the military fraternity which includes serving officers, retired officers and some civilians as well who are linked with or dependent upon the military’s power. The retired ones, hence, are as much part of the larger institutional politics as the serving officers. It was very clear from the press conference that the real issue was removing an individual than strengthening democratic institutions.
The retired officers defended the economic, political and social power of the armed forces and defended the organisation’s control of the state. They even mentioned the military’s right to ten per cent jobs as granted by the constitution which is an absolute fallacy. The ten per cent quota was granted by Gen Ziaul Haq and is mentioned in the Establishment code of the government and not in the constitution.
What makes the old officers’ attack against Musharraf significant, as mentioned earlier, is that these voices represent the friction within the deeper establishment that is the military. The retired officers serve the purpose of airing views that the serving cannot. While representing one view or the other, these officers represent differing points of views rather than an independent voice. So, while some would air the concerns of the pro-democracy lobby, others speak for the pro-US, pro-China or pro-Islamist views within the defence organisation. The reason that these voices have become louder now is because the friction has increased. Moreover, with the years of engagement in politics of the military what could one expect but for the noises to become more audible?
But why should these people be treated as informal spokespersons of the internal lobbies? This is because the military suffers from the lack of a strong institutional mechanism for internal dialogue. The Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, (JCSC) which was established during the 1970s to redress this very problem, came to nothing due to the army’s take over in 1977. Gen Sharif, who was the first chairman JCSC, was of the view that the Zia martial law killed the institution. Since then, the three services have used two mechanisms: (a) retired servicemen and (b) media to debate their interests and present their perception. The smaller services also have favourite journalists they can lobby to present their standpoint since they do not have any other option.
Then there is the problem at another level which is the services themselves where different groups and lobbies have to convince the higher command of their point of view. This is where the voices of the retired officers become part of the din. The Kargil crisis itself is an example of the absence of string internal mechanisms for debate and analysis. The retired Gen Kiyani says that even the ISI was not informed about the operation. However, the fact is that a major war-like operation was launched without sitting officers seriously objecting to it. Some will argue that the silence itself is a sign of professionalism. The officers are meant to obey the higher command and not present their views. In the post-colonial military tradition the command of the service chief cannot be challenged. Nonetheless, the officers, who in the past have challenged the higher command on moral grounds, were no less professional or officer-like than those who continued to obey questionable decisions. The three brigadiers who refused to fire on civilians in Lahore in 1977 were real officers.
This discussions, nevertheless, is not about what is a real officer but to make a simple point that the wannabe heroes amongst the retired officers do not necessarily represent an alternative. They have during the course of their careers been part of questionable decisions and it will be sad if they become heroes by aligning themselves with the lawyer’s movement. There should certainly be a trial for Kargil but for all the other sins as well which were committed by many in the course of the country’s history. What is even more important is creation of institutions within the state and the deeper establishment so that we can be saved from unwanted heroes.
The writer is an independent strategic and political analyst.
Will history absolve them?
THE transgressions of the civil-military elite in this unfortunate country have made it an even sorrier place because they have no redeeming characteristics that could alleviate the suffering or soothe the pain they generate.
They as a class are socially, politically and temperamentally programmed, geared and fine-tuned for unrestrained loot and plunder.
They have plundered with abandon and when detected they have squirmed out with deals, deception, bluff and bluster. One has to hand it to them for their finesse and audacity when it comes to looting with impunity and lording it over the people in the bargain.
The years preceding Musharraf were disastrous enough but since his arrival it has been one long unmitigated disaster which has left the country in shambles. His unchallenged rule saw worsening on all fronts.
I will very briefly outline some of these elites’ very dubious accomplishments. Though the coffers were nearly empty, they spent as if there was no tomorrow and both internal and foreign debt reached terrifying proportions. Their extravagant ways and loan write-offs were mainly to blame.
Pakistan’s total public debt increased by Rs1.465tr to Rs4.411tr in 2007, a phenomenal rise from Rs2.946tr in 1999. Last year it was disclosed that loans worth more than Rs33bn had been written off since 2003. Then there were subsidies to sick units totalling Rs24bn, making a grand total of Rs57bn.
Their priorities were warped to say the least. Why else would Rs249.858bn be spent on the defence sector in 2006-07 but only Rs5.964bn and Rs22.6bn on health and education respectively?
Foreign loans to the tune of $16.5bn were taken out between 1999 and 2007, and total outstanding external debt stood at $37.3bn last year. Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves hit an all-time high of $16.486bn on Oct 31, 2007, but then fell sharply and total liquid foreign reserves held by the country stood at $13.499bn on March 22 this year. The trade deficit was $16.805bn in the first ten months of the current financial year, up by 50.78 per cent from $11.17bn last year. Some progress. The country survives but at the mercy of handouts and remittances.
The caretakers too borrowed recklessly, Rs58bn per month or Rs2bn a day, from the State Bank of Pakistan. In the first four months of the current fiscal year, Rs126bn were borrowed from the State Bank while the caretakers who took charge by mid-November borrowed Rs233bn, taking the debt to Rs359bn by the end of February. The exploits of the caretaker prime minister would require tomes.
A recent Dawn report says that inflation surged to an all-time high of 17.21 per cent in April but no measures were initiated to bring it down. Food inflation, measured through CPI, ballooned to a record 25.50 per cent in April, the highest not only in the country but in the entire region.
The rulers, having bankrupted the country, did not tire of proudly declaring that reserves had risen to almost $14bn, which in fact was insufficient to run a country leave aside shouldering the debt burden. This $14bn (the figure is even lower now) is measly when compared to the resources of — no, not Japan — a multinational, Exxon Mobil to be precise. Some people will have objections to this analogy though.
Exxon Mobil Corporation set records for annual and quarterly profits in the year 2005. For the year, the company earned a net income of $36.1bn. Full-year revenue stood at $371bn, or just over $1bn a day. The rulers here are capable of spending a billion dollars a day but not of earning it.
Henry Hubble, Exxon Mobil’s vice-president, reported that the company had returned about $23bn to shareholders in 2005 through dividends and share repurchases. At year-end 2005, Exxon Mobil’s worldwide workforce numbered some 84,000 employees. In 2005, Exxon Mobil paid $12bn in salaries and benefits to employees across the globe. The company has increased its dividend for 29 consecutive years.
In comparison, in 60-plus years here, the 160 million shareholders have been doled out a saga of broken promises, palace intrigues, brute force, denial of rights, bartering of sovereignty, abject surrenders, bogus referendums, brazen rigging, sham accountability, scandalous NROs, promiscuous cronyism, disgraceful judgments, wanton corruption, food poverty, increasing rich-poor and urban-rural divides, rampaging inflation and enveloping gloom.
This ‘qatta’ of Sheikh Saadi the sage aptly describes them:
Haich saikal nako na danad kard / Aahanay ra kay bad gauhar bashad / Choon bood asal johari qabil / Tarbiat ra dar-u-asar bashad / Sag ba darya-e-haftgana bashoi / Kay cho tar shud paleed tar bashad / Khar-e-Essa garish ba Mecca barand / Choon bi aayad hanoz khar bashad
The best whetstones will useless be / If the swords of pig iron sharpened be / Training and tempering serves only those / Honourable of soul and mind if they be / A dog bathed in seven seas isn’t a whit pure / For the wetter it gets the uncleaner it turns out to be / If Essa’s ass for a Meccan trip taken be / An ass it was and an ass it will always be
The mess that we are in wasn’t created suddenly like a tidal wave. It was a creeping tsunami of misgovernment, corruption, legendary inefficiency and obscene self-righteousness. These eternal power outages, increasing food prices, the worsening law and order situation, demolition of institutions, undermining of the judiciary and repression of minority provinces are all the joint legacy of the rulers who have enjoyed life immeasurably at our expense since 1947.
The new dispensation has to prove its worth with positive steps towards ameliorating the country’s growing problems. History does not judge people by the number of full-page newspaper ads they bombard the hapless public with but by what they do in fact. Those before them were culpable to the hilt, and if the new lot also fails then history will never absolve them.
THE founding fathers of Pakistan and the Constitution of 1973 envisioned the country as a democratic, developmental and welfare-oriented state. The state was expected to encourage economic growth and spread welfare gains equitably across regions and people.
Such visions have hardly been used as the basis for public and social policy formulation in the country or to create a feeling of fraternity amongst the federating units in the course of economic development. In fact, such visions have been thwarted and the availability of economic, social, political and administrative factors for equality appears to have been crushed by the authoritarian, extortionist, and predatory clutches of the state.
The fact that every fourth Pakistani, despite some claims of poverty reduction since 2001- 02, lives below the poverty line, seriously questions the 60 years of development performance of the state in Pakistan.
Statistically speaking, more than 40 per cent of Pakistan’s population which is clustered around the poverty line has become a primary target of negative shocks to their real incomes. And the story does not end here. Under the current downturn of the national economy, this population segment has suffered a devastating blow to its long term capability to sustain the shock and fight back for survival as well.
There are two reasons for this ‘development of underdevelopment’. One reason is that with such dips in purchasing power, the vulnerable fall into the poverty trap and a vicious circle of socio-economic and political deprivations and exclusions sets in. The poor quickly lose access to mainstream economic activities and resources. They definitely have no access to a single rupee of the sixty billion that were given away as bank loans and were written off during 1999 to 2007.
The second reason is rooted in the absence of a developmental and welfare oriented activist state. This ensures that any residual social entitlements to decent public health and education opportunities as well as income and respect vanish like water in a drought. A state consistently failing to plan and execute public-sector development despite its vision of creating equality needs thorough soul-searching.
To be able to cure socio-economic ailments, the state needs to go beyond the social safety net approach and try to formulate trade, industry, investment, education, and health policies which are in sync with egalitarian outcomes of economic growth and development. The state should also know that economic and social inequality becomes an ignition switch that triggers flames of social upheaval, political unrest, and ultimately result in insolvable problems of national unity.
However, on the contrary, at the highest decision and policy-making levels, the ideas of getting institutions and interventions right for egalitarian development have been consistently neglected. The real casualty has been of those possible institutional innovations and cross-cutting interventions which could build economic assets of the poor and attempt to diversify economic growth dynamics.
Pundits of political economy claim that the state’s institutional arrangements now behave more like weapons of the powerful elites to extort riches from the economy than as systems of social protection for the disempowered and poor citizens of Pakistan. It is also claimed that politics of economic liberalisation has helped the wrong people while fundamentally twisting the state’s central role of moderating economic and political rights and obligations for socio-economic justice in society.
The Pakistani state has actually deviated from its primary role of being an entrepreneur who coordinates savings and investments and executes structural transformation in economy. The structural transformation that can allocate resources from low to high equilibrium should be fully cognisant of distributional effects of such interventions.
The state has also deviated from a primary role of being an institution builder. By becoming a high quality institution builder, it could have been an effective conflict manager and property rights protector. At this moment, the state cannot look the founding fathers of Pakistan in the eye.
Can such socio-economic injustices be remedied without giving respect to legitimate institutions provided by the Constitution of 1973 namely the judiciary and parliament? The answer is a plain ‘no’ if two manifestations of any civilised society — the rule of law and democracy — still matter in Pakistan.
To further deepen our understanding of the link between the rule of law and egalitarian socio-economic development, the United Nations’ report Making the Law Work for Everyone can be helpful. The document establishes that the rule of law has a very close connection with poverty eradication, providing secure entitlements, and improving democratic governance.
The legal empowerment of people, let alone the judiciary under current circumstances, seems to be a pre-condition to get out of the current crisis of food and fuel insecurity. In fact, the failure in establishing a democratic, developmental welfare-oriented state of Pakistan is fundamentally a failure of establishing the rule of law and democracy.
A warped concept of patriotism
THE ordinary citizens of Pakistan may perhaps be the most gullible darlings that nature ever suffered to crawl under the heavy boots of dictatorship; ever willing to live in the dreams of a rosy world conjured up for them by their rulers — civil or military, both equally despotic.
They are supposed to bear the pain of the present under an anaesthetic of promises for the future. They are desensitised to their surroundings under claustrophobic clouds of want and need; fed on slogans, while the rulers contrive, compete and survive only to enhance and secure their personal wealth and power.
Pakistan was created through an ardent struggle of the Indian Muslims’ civil society under the leadership of a lawyer of indomitable will and unflinching faith in constitutionalism. For the founding fathers, the first and foremost objective and obligation of the state was the greatest good of all the peoples of Pakistan. Pakistan was its people, nothing more and nothing less.
The goal of the government had to be the social, economic, cultural and material welfare of the people by providing them ample opportunity to realise their potential as a great civilisation — without let or hindrance, and without bar or prejudice. But soon it was forgotten that the state was for citizens and governments for the people. Governments found other agendas more fascinating and politically productive.
The Pakistan movement was inspired by and revolved around the enlightened civil society; free from dogma, petty biases and bigotry. For them Muslim separatism was a political demand. The obscurantist mullah was, therefore, never in consort with this movement and kept a safe distance from it. But come the creation of Pakistan, these ill-read bigots (with vast influence over the illiterate masses) pounced upon the booty. They hijacked the ideological import of the movement and soon the Aug 11, 1947 speech of the Quaid-i-Azam was buried under the overwhelming weight of the Objectives Resolution, as a declaration of intent by the new state. Islam, and not the Muslims of the subcontinent, became the purpose of Pakistan; and people lulled into a stupor to forget the pains of poor governance and corruption inflicted upon them by the rulers.
The stalwarts of the Pakistan movement were soon hounded out by the first military dictator in the name of stability, and later economic development. National security and national integration (institutionalising the rule of the minority) were now the purposes of the government, replacing the people of Pakistan — en masse — as the primary objective of the state. The government helped making the rich richer by design; creating a new class of entrepreneurs prospering on privilege and protection. The people were expected to survive with fond hopes of redeeming the promised trickle-down effect. That it never came about has been of no concern to successive governments. For them Pakistan — its people really — are irrelevant to their myopic designs of survival.
A continuum of military governments and several civil governments under their tutelage, have sanctified national security as a purpose of the state in itself; distinguishable from security as an attendant good of the welfare of the people. It has opened vast vistas for the armed forces to demand, acquire and arrogate to themselves a major chunk of national resources — domestic or borrowed. That as a by-product it also enables senior commanders to enrich themselves personally, through hefty service and retirement benefits for merely doing their duty — at best honestly — is perfectly acceptable for governments with no moral compunction. For keeping everyone focused on national security, bogeys may have to be created and sustained to instil the fear of our masters in the minds of the masses with mouths gaping with need.
In the decade of the sixties national integration was also a major concern of the state; essentially cosmetic, and insensitive to the real good of people at large. There may have been many political motives behind this assertion of national purpose, particularly ensuring the subordination of the majority by a minority of elite. It shifted the focus from the needs of the people and Pakistan first was actually West Pakistan first.
The eighties recognised ideology as the only purpose of the government and the state. Pakistan and its people could be mortgaged for ever in the hands of obscurantist dogma, articulated by men learning by rote, without research, a curriculum more than 350 years old. Their interpretation of Islam is archaic; with ‘ijtihad’ unnecessary for their political objectives.
The 21st century ushered in new actors in the political power play, making enlightened moderation the theme of their soliloquies. The script dictated by the powerful playwrights — World Bank et al, at a cost — now had the slogan of governance as the mantra of the state, its real purpose; with masses shrouded somewhere in an envelope of ambiguity created by this new buzzword. Mr Shaukat Aziz would tire no end in emphasising good governance as his sole goal. In practice he may have been the worst culprit in violating basic tenets of governance. He was a deft practitioner of tools of ill governance — introducing state largesse for a pliable senior bureaucracy for obtaining unquestioning subservience. His new paradigm was not concerned with Pakistan and its people — other than stock brokers and brokers turned bankers.
Recent years saw a new spin on the slogan ‘Pakistan first’ by President Musharraf. It seems that to him Pakistan was synonymous with his own person and the people of Pakistan had no place in his scheme of things.
The political protégés of Ziaul Haq now display a warped concept of patriotism where personal material enrichment through manipulation of state policy precedes an autocratic public service. People again are a secondary consideration in a political agenda which is a queer mix of hearsay ideology and business. The amoral descendants of socialist populism, on the other hand, are content with cronyism and underhand deals in pursuit of perpetuation of political power.
Where are the people of Pakistan then? The lawyers’ movement, under the brilliant stewardship of Aitzaz Ahsan and his tribe, has reignited the hopes of civil society. Equity and justice through a moral and constitutional judiciary may compel governments to focus on the real purpose of this country —its people.