SO now we know who got what and who paid whom. We’ve long known what the goal was: bring in establishment favourites, keep out BB’s PPP.
But why the manic need to stage the grand farce that was the IJI?
If ZAB had still been around then, the fear of retribution would have made sense. But when it came to vindictiveness and revenge, Benazir wasn’t really her father’s daughter. She wasn’t out to settle scores for what was done to her father and to the PPP by the army and its allies.
In polite company, the reasons for shutting out the PPP and ushering in the right-wing conglomerate that was born of the womb of the PNA-led opposition to ZAB are rooted in ideology.
BB had different ideas about the direction of national security and foreign policies than the army, goes one theory. While her father was the uber-hawk, outdoing even the India-centric generals when it came to a hard line against India, Benazir had grown up in a changed world.
BB wanted economic growth and social democracy. But you can’t have a prosperous state that takes care of its poor and allow its better-off to compete economically if you’re at war with your biggest neighbour.
And you can’t build a viable state on the back of jihad in your own backyard. Unleashing the demons of Islamisation inside Pakistan was inimical to the country’s interests.
The army wasn’t ready for Benazir’s vision for Pakistan, goes this theory. India was very much Enemy No 1 and Islamisation had produced useful allies inside the country and helped build public support for the army’s worldview and strategic outlook.
So after Zia departed this world and a post-Zia script had to be drawn up on short notice, there was still no room for BB’s PPP.
In less polite company, the theories are more cutting and personal. Back in the late 1980s, when the establishment was more uniformly Punjabi, the PPP’s roots in Sindh were viewed with deep suspicion. Governing was supposed to be the business of Punjab, being governed the fate of the other provinces — BB and her PPP belonged to the wrong category to rule, goes this theory.
Then there were the fears that the PPP lot simply weren’t patriotic enough. They may surrender the country’s nuclear programme to the Americans. They’d sell Kashmir and the Kashmiris down the river. They would do bad, bad things to Pakistan’s security. They would, wait for it, undermine national security.
There was also an element of the personal. Some of the generals around at that time simply couldn’t stand BB and loathed the idea of the PPP running the country.
And so was born the IJI.
They weren’t able to stop BB from winning in 1988 but they did everything to undermine her government and went for the kill two years later.
Of course, this being Pakistan, little ever goes to plan.
Nawaz Sharif and the generals got along fine but GIK and Sharif weren’t able to play nice. Nawaz, who fancied himself to be heir to the Mughal throne, wasn’t willing to share top billing, and power, with GIK.
But GIK was the ultimate inside player so Sharif was out of power within three years, though he was still on good terms with the army. Sharif’s ties to the army began to fray during his second stint in power and by 1999 that rupture was complete, and irreparable.
Looking back, the army’s fear of BB was largely misplaced. While she didn’t share the army’s strategic outlook and didn’t subscribe to the national security paradigm of the uniforms, she wasn’t really interested in taking on the army. But, because it was prejudiced and blinded by suspicion, the army didn’t get that and wasn’t able to make its peace with Benazir or the PPP she led.
Of course, this is Pakistan and the law of unintended consequences has deep roots here.
In trying to shut out from power a party and its leader seen as inimical to the army’s interests, the army embraced Sharif, the very man who shrugged off the army’s patronage and has grown into most direct threat to the army’s internal predominance in decades. The gods do have a sense of humour sometimes.
But the army is nothing if not incorrigible.
Fast-forward two decades and the PPP has taken pusillanimity to its logical conclusion under Asif Zardari.
The catalogue of Zardari’s capitulations before the establishment is lengthy: national security and foreign policies were surrendered early on; more recently, the political government has echoed establishment thinking on the relationship with the US and the post-American future of Afghanistan; and even close confidante Husain Haqqani was sacrificed when the dubious Mansoor Ijaz surfaced with his peculiar allegations.
And yet, and yet we have the likes of the Difaa-i-Pakistan Council running around the country trying to whip up a frenzy and the PTI surging ahead in the urban popularity stakes with the establishment cheering it on in the not-too-distant background.
Zardari, that most craven of allies without a shred of geopolitical ambition and content to suckle at the teats of the Pakistani state in the ill-fitting guise of a democrat — even he has not been able to assuage the army’s doubts and suspicions about the PPP.
Could Zardari yet pull a Sharif and grow into a statesman who understands that the central problem holding back Pakistan is the civil-military imbalance? If wishes were horses.
Perhaps all we can do is count our blessings that the country has moved on from 1990. Even if they want it, they won’t be able to create an IJI-style abomination today.
The writer is a member of staff.