Six months after Pakistan came back under the jack boot, initial public support for the Army has waned and the people are despairing of one poor governance having been replaced by another and more authoritarian at that. Writing in Dawn, columnist Ayaz Amir said, "Since dislodging a government in Pakistan takes about as much time as fixing a complicated tyre puncture, sending Nawaz Sharif to the cleaners was the easy part. Creating some order out of the chaos of Pakistan's problems is more difficult. In coming to grips with this task, the senior officers who removed Nawaz Sharif with so much aplomb look decidedly less sure of themselves. a government outside the constitutional pale has to justify itself by its performance."
Six months after Pakistan came back under the jack boot, initial public support for the Army has waned and the people are despairing of one poor governance having been replaced by another and more authoritarian at that. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s military ruler, appears to be modelling himself after Zia. He describes himself as the ‘nation’s last chance, much in the manner of Louis XIV of France, who had grandly declared, “After me, the deluge.”
The Pakistan media’s honeymoon with the Musharraf regime ended as early as December 1999 with an increasing number of editorials and opinion pieces expressing dissatisfaction with the performance of the military regime. Writing in Dawn, columnist Ayaz Amir said, “Since dislodging a government in Pakistan takes about as much time as fixing a complicated tyre puncture, sending Nawaz Sharif to the cleaners was the easy part. Creating some order out of the chaos of Pakistan’s problems is more difficult. In coming to grips with this task, the senior officers who removed Nawaz Sharif with so much aplomb look decidedly less sure of themselves…. a government outside the constitutional pale has to justify itself by its performance.”
It is now clear that Musharraf’s initial agenda of political and domestic reform and economic restructuring, enunciated in October 1999, has shifted to one of Islamization, a more abrasive foreign policy and a tacit approval of the ‘Jihadi’ culture. All powers and decision-making are being increasingly concentrated in the Pakistan Army General Headquarters at Rawalpindi unlike previous military rulers, who had tried and mostly succeeded in keeping the GHQ out of day-to-day governance. Even the limited powers initially given to Cabinet Ministers have been eroded. The system of patronage, developed into a fine art by both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, is now being practiced with equal finesse by the military.
Musharraf still finds himself unable to set a timetable for return to democracy. It has been announced that polls for a-three-tier system of local bodies would be held between December 2000 and August 14, 2001. However, pos for the National Assembly still appear to be a long way off though the Supreme Court has given the military regime three years to restore democracy.
The military’s energies on a witch-hunt against Nawaz Sharif, rather than on the pressing problems facing Pakistan, has also not gone down well with the people. Asking the senior judges to swear a new oath of loyalty to the Chief Executive and sacking those who refused to oblige, including the Chief Justice, has alienated the judiciary and the intelligentsia. Also, Musharraf has made no attempt to build bridges with politicians, perhaps because he does not know with whom he should deal. He has gone on record to state that he would never hand over power to Nawaz Sharif or Benazir Bhutto. he has said, “Those who have plundered the country mercilessly cannot be allowed to rule again.”
Completely ignoring the politicians would be a mistake in the long run Though the politicians are in a disarray at present, there is a fair possibility of a broad alliance emerging in the next few months, cutting across the politician divide. Sharif’s People’s Muslim League (PML), now led by a vibrant Kulsoom Nawaz, and Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), will find it expedient sooner rather than later to put their own differences temporarily aside ana come together to oppose the military regime.
The Pakistan Army is becoming increasingly high-handed in its dealings with the public. Reports appearing in the Urdu press speak of Increasing corruption at the lower level where young officers, Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) and other ranks (OR) come face to face with the public in organizations such as WAPDA (Water And Power Development Authority). The petty politician mullah-bureaucrat-police-narco-trader-arms dealer nexus in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), under the benevolent eye of local Army commanders and ISI operatives over the last 20 years of the Afghan conflict, has led to Pakistan Army troops stationed in the area and involved in imparting training and providing logistics to various militias being completely corrupted. Though the sorry state of affairs has perpetually worried the top brass of the Army, relatively few offenders have actually been tried by military courts due to the tendency of the unit commanders to shield their men as the malaise is widespread and every case tends to pen ‘a new can of worms’.
If there is any section of the Pakistan elite that is reasonably satisfied with the Musharraf regime’s performance so far, it is the Muslim clergy and the Numerous terrorist outfits spawned by it. The so-called ‘Jihadis’ are the only ones who have received the military government’s active support and that is because of the remarkable consistency in the Pakistan Army’s anti-India postures and actions.
The present state of the Pakistan Army is that while most of the top brass is incorrigibly politicized, the lower echelons of the Army’s leadership have been Islamized and many officers have become virulently fanatical in their outlook. The Muslim clergy has made deep inroads in the Army through a small number of zealots. Attempts are underway to attract additional adherents to a more rigid form of Islam than senior officers desire.
Apprehensions that the Musharraf regime may be overthrown have been expressed outside Pakistan too. Selig Harrison, Senior Fellow at the Century Foundation, has expressed the view that Lieutenant Generals Mohammed Aziz, Chief of the General Staff, and Mahmoud Ahmed, the Director General of the ISI, both with long-standing ties with the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), may ‘elbow Musharraf aside’.
Musharraf is a refugee from India with no ethnic base in Pakistan and has tried to project himself as being close to the Punjabis. Aziz, a Zia protege, is a Punjabi-speaking hard-liner with his roots in PoK. He directed ISI’s activities in Afghanistan for many years and is considered a Kashmir expert due to the long tenure he has served in Pok. He is known to have masterminded the Kargil excursion. Aziz is a hawk with fundamentalists leanings and is against a rapprochement with India.
Though present apprehensions of Aziz posing a threat to Musharraf would appear to be exaggerated, he may fall out with his leader if Musharraf appears to give in and compromises with either India or the West on Pakistan’s policies on major issues such as the resolution of the Kashmir issue, the contravention of Pakistan’s covert support to the terrorist organizations engineering militancy in Jammu & Kashmir and other parts of India in conjunction with ISI, its stands on CTBT and ongoing involvement in Afghanistan.
Overall, Pakistan is drifting along and gradually sliding into chaos. The military regime appears to have run out of ideas. This can only mean more trouble for India in Kashmir as Musharraf’s cronies will try to deflect public criticism from their non-performance (PTI Feature)