. . . . . .  



When tea was first imported into England, the locals brewed it, threw the liquid away and chewed the tea-leaves. Pakistan practices a similar perversity. It imported democracy, theocracy and stratocracy. After tasting each, it discarded what mattered and kept the unpalatable.  

Take what happened to democracy this April, T. S. Eliot’s ‘cruellest month’.

A sitting prime minister was confronted by a no confidence motion in Parliament. Instead of proving his majority in the house, he chose instead to use every constitutional, legal, and procedural ruse to thwart a vote.

He ignored his MQM allies, risked a senseless confrontation with the United States over an internal communication, rejected the authority of parliament, and tested the loyalty of his turncoat supporters by demanding their resignations.

He invoked the military’s support, and now has taken to the streets in cities he rarely visited when PM, demanding a general election so that a new parliament can be installed. To do what? He made little use of the last one.  

Pakistanis of every political persuasion are genuinely appalled at the degradation of our political atmosphere. A thousand rallies will not restore their faith in democracy. A billion trees will not purify the putrid air.

Even the pugnacious Punjabis balked at the sight of the Deputy Speaker of the Punjab Assembly being manhandled by PTI-led MPAs, his hair torn in fistfuls. He had to be rescued from the assembly chamber by the police. [Shades of September 1958, when East Pakistan’s Deputy Speaker S. Patwary was assaulted fatally. His death precipitated the Oct. 1958 military takeover.]  

Ironically, the former Speaker Ch. Pervaiz Elahi, injured in the fracas, demanded an explanation from the IG Police for violating the ‘sanctity’ of the House. Did he expect the IG to wait until the honourable members had beaten their opponents senseless?

Our theocracy, like our subsidised oil, comes from the Saudis. They are the weathervane of our religious convictions. Every Pakistani leader has felt that he enjoyed a special relationship with the Saudi royal family. Imran Khan’s bromance with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman has been overtaken by the more enduring relationship his elders have with the older Sharifs. MBS is silently disappointed. He did not give expensive diamond studded gifts to Imran Khan and his wife to be peddled in Dubai’s souk.

Have we outgrown our periodical relapse into stratocracy? In his press conference held on 14 April, the DG ISPR Major General Babar Iftikhar insisted that Pakistan's progress lies in democracy: "There will never be another martial law in Pakistan." Absolutely not. The Establishment prefers to remain neutral.

He sidesteps history. Since the last martial law ordered by General Ziaul Haq (1977–1985) and General Pervez Musharraf’s khaki stewardship (another eight years, 1999-2008), the Establishment has been careful to exercise ‘neutrality’, intangible except to its victims.

The latest incursion into ‘neutrality’ occurred during the recent political deadlock. The DG ISPR revealed: ‘The Prime Minister’s Office contacted the military leadership to resolve the matter. The political parties were not ready for talks with each other … [after which] the army chief and DG ISI visited the PM’s Office at their request to play the role of mediator.’ The PTI of course denies this.

And where stands the mediator-in-chief?  The DG ISPR has confirmed that COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa ‘is neither seeking the extension of his tenure nor will he accept it.’   He needs to re-read the amendment (Article 8B) to the Pakistan Army Act 1952, passed in January 2020 by an obedient National Assembly.

The amendment, backdated to the date of General Bajwa’s initial retirement, provided for him to receive an extension for three years (extendable for another three) ‘in the national security interest or exigencies’. The extension was judiciary-proof: ‘Such extensions shall not be called into question before any Court on any ground whatsoever.’ This amendment, like his uniform, was tailor-made to fit him.

General Bajwa has now decided to retire on November 29, 2022. Like General Musharraf in his closing years, General Bajwa may have lost the confidence of his peers. Most of the current Corps Commanders, however, will retire before he does. Only seven will remain, including the controversial Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed, for the PM to choose from.  

And what should Pakistan do with its pugilist politicians?

Out of power, they gravitate towards the U.K. They should be careful. The UK Home Secretary Preeti Patel has plans for unwanted asylum seekers arriving in her country. They will be given one-way tickets to Rwanda (Central Africa), known for its gorillas. Once there, they will be ‘provided employment, accommodation, and healthcare’.

Our politicians should have no cause for complaint. Aren’t these the very amenities they promised us, and never delivered?



[DAWN, 21.4.22] 

21 April 2022
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