Our own Ukraine

Published March 24, 2022
The writer is an author.
The writer is an author.

WE do not need to defend ourselves against a neighbour. We are destroying ourselves. We are our own Ukraine.

Recent incursions have shown that Pakistan’s defence competence is being tested. An Indian submarine came too close to our southern shores. An Indian supersonic missile violated our air space. Will the next probe be across our land border? In Sindh, Punjab, or in Azad Kashmir?

Should that happen, what would be Pakistan’s response? There is a strategy in place for our half-a-million-strong armed forces. What, some ask, is the strategy for the remaining 220.5m unarmed civilians?

We have no underground stations to shelter in, no space in already overcrowded hospitals, no bunkers where a defenceless public can cower until the smoke clears. Or is the plan that Pakistanis should flee westwards, seek refuge in the ‘strategic depth’ we have created in Afghanistan?

Is our Constitution a mere bauble in the hands of a selected prince?

These are not hypothetical musings. These are the harsh, inescapable realities of war. The Palestinians, Iraqis, Syrians, Yemenis, Afghans, Kashmiris, and now the Ukrainians — lacerated by foreign forces — were forced to lick their wounds. Tasting blood for them was not an aphorism; it has become a daily, unholy ritual. We need to remember that it can happen to us.

The world order has changed since Westphalia. The Westphalian treaties of 1648 foresaw territorial integrity, sovereignty, diplomacy in lieu of war, peaceful coexistence, and non-interference in the internal affairs of other sovereign states.

That utopian wish list came 400 years after the Dark Ages. Four hundred years after Westphalia, the world has relapsed into a new second Dark Age, in which larger dogs attack smaller ones, while curs whine in protest.

Is national sovereignty so un-precious an inheritance that it does not deserve to be bequeathed as a legacy? Is our Constitution a mere bauble in the hands of a selected prince, his inconstant courtiers and well-intentioned Cromwells?

Our speaker has violated our Constitution by delaying the convention of a crucial National Assembly session. The Supreme Court has been approached to rule on the Constitution’s mind regarding floor-crossing and disbarment for life. The battle for Islamabad has begun; the war for national polity, however, has already been lost.

Before the NA session starts at 11 am tomorrow (March 25), its chamber will have been cleared of all vestiges of democracy. Anarchy will have an open field.

What has brought us to yet another constitutional precipice? We have stood on that edge before — in 1958, in 1969, in 1977 and again in 1999.

History teaches us to search among ashes for precedents. On April 20, 1653, at 11.15 am, the British regicide Cromwell entered parliament and chided its members: “You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately [.] Depart, I say; and let us have done with you.”

“By 11.40 am it was all over: Parliament was extinguished, as lifeless as an old candle,” writes his biographer Antonia Fraser.

Her account of that military takeover resonates even today: “The Army had a less sophisticated interest in simply putting an end to the hated Rump [parliament], and were altogether vague in their plans for what should happen thereafter [.] Obviously the country could hardly be left without a government of any sort until the new Parliament: an interim council of a different complexion from the Rump would be the best hope meantime.”

Almost 400 years later, history sees the dissolution of another parliament — this time, ours.

PM Imran Khan’s present tenure is linked to the NA vote of no-confidence. The future of Rumpelstiltskin in Punjab is wedded to his. The flagpole from which Imran Khan flew his flag is shaky. Rumours abound of a change of guard within the army, earlier than November 2022.

This is not unthinkable. More than 15 senior generals are scheduled to retire before that date. The present chief is in a nostalgic state of mind, with an eye on his legacy. The third reason could be the reported aftermath of the event of Oct 6, which appeared contrary to the tradition of immediate obedience.

Civilians can be forgiven for being apprehensive. What if an order was given to someone to engage the enemy, and the recipient of that order decided to implement it only at a time of his own convenience?

The present stand-off in Islamabad, to paraphrase US Judge Andrew Napolitano’s remark about democracy, is between “two wolves and a lamb voting on what to eat for lunch”. On March 25, more is on the menu than lamb. On the table is Pakistan’s sovereignty, security and political stability.

The writer is an author.

www.fsaijazuddin.pk

Published in Dawn, March 24th, 2022

Opinion

Editorial

Not without reform
Updated 22 Apr, 2024

Not without reform

The problem with us is that our ruling elite is still trying to find a way around the tough reforms that will hit their privileges.
Raisi’s visit
22 Apr, 2024

Raisi’s visit

IRANIAN President Ebrahim Raisi, who begins his three-day trip to Pakistan today, will be visiting the country ...
Janus-faced
22 Apr, 2024

Janus-faced

THE US has done it again. While officially insisting it is committed to a peaceful resolution to the...
Elections in India
Updated 21 Apr, 2024

Elections in India

Independent accounts and spot reports are at variance with Modi-friendly TV anchors and they do not see an easy victory for the Indian premier.
IHC letter
21 Apr, 2024

IHC letter

THIS is a historic opportunity for the judiciary to define its institutional boundaries. It must not be squandered....
Olympic preparations
21 Apr, 2024

Olympic preparations

THIS past week marked the beginning of the 100-day countdown to the Paris Olympics, with the symbolic torch-lighting...