PAKISTAN can produce generals of the army who, from time memorial, have held sway over the national scenario, internally and externally, whether in or out of ultimate power.
But these generals have not been able to transform themselves into viable, intelligent (albeit amateur) politicians with leadership ability.
Ayub Khan involved himself in politics and allowed politicians and bureaucrats (many even more wily and smarmy than their political masters) to take the country to war and fail miserably. From then onwards it was downhill all the way on to another general who through his own weaknesses was beguiled into being the ploy of crafty ambitious political players.
Ziaul Haq, after pursuing his own wicked destructive ways, took on the politicians with disastrous results for the country and himself. He left in his wake a cult of militancy and violence and demonstrated how simple it is to drown this country in a swamp of religiosity.
Pervez Musharraf had politically suicidal tendencies, and we now wallow in the horrible mess he left behind. Politically, he was way out of his depth, at the end lured into making the most despicable deal with the western powers and the professional tried and failed politicians, hand in hand with the present army chief. This disgusting deal has proven to be even beyond the control of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, so cunning are the political players.
Ashfaq Kayani, ambitious as evidenced in his acceptance (was it forced upon him?) of the extension of his tenure as army chief is at the beck and call of the mighty US which despite all remains firmly in the seat of the world’s sole superpower.It is said by military supporters that Kayani has to some extent redeemed the army’s reputation after his predecessor’s excesses. But has he? The man who rides the rickety Pakistani omnibus has not forgotten or forgiven the wide reach of the military’s leading brass who have in the past proven to be as greedy and grasping as the political classes. Contemptible of all but themselves, they have wittingly or unwittingly never been at a loss to flaunt their corrupt ways.
One eminently factual remark made by Musharraf to the BBC in December 1999 says it all so simply. When asked whether the military was as corrupt as the civil politicians his straightforward, honest response was “We are all of the same stock.” This is truly a memorable observation which should be implanted into the national psyche.
Kayani, as army chief, not as a man, is now the guiding light as far as any foreign policy is concerned. He tends to have a hands-off attitude towards the internal political dysfunction, apparently because his concentration has to be on the eastern borders whence emanates the 64-year old threat from the traditional enemy. His army performed well, but not beyond the line of duty, in Swat but its role in the Taliban-infested areas of Fata is ambiguous, to say the least, as the US has found out and is finding out more and more as the dismal days pass. So what have we when it comes to our professional politicians who have crawled in, many of them unlawfully, through the last lot of ballot boxes? Well, we have a ruling party co-chairman doubling as head of state who has been around with us since 1988, which fact can hardly cast him in a new light. Surprising many, as the manner of his coming was never clear cast, he has not only survived for over three years in his top position but is being lauded by a number of observers for his handy knack of being able to outsmart all who are deemed opponents.
His henchmen, the major handful, the Rehman Maliks and Monticello Doctors, and the rest are regarded by the national omnibus riders as mere leeches who do his every bidding. The worst of them all, the man Asif Zardari so smartly installed as his dummy prime minister, is largely regarded with contempt as he and his extended family make no bones about their apparent willingness to fleece the national exchequer to the best of their seemingly capable abilities. He also is a relic of the 1980s.
There is no opposition, though the Raiwind Mian of the second largest party bears the de facto appellation of leader of the opposition — yet another relic of the 1980s who has completely lost his way a couple of decades down the road and who cannot fulfil his role in any manner or style.
The leaders of the fringe parties are also relics of bygone days, irrelevant nationally other than on their own beats.
We are at the mercy of political relics who have been with this country in positions of power for longer than is decent in what is supposed to be a democratic dispensation. These people are no longer affordable in what is seen by many outside as a state that is failing. The signs of failure are too visible, we know them too well, they need no listing.
What we have on the ground as political players have all had their day. We have to move on with fresh faces and clean minds.
Where do we find them?