By Sunil Dang
If the history of Pakistan was made into a movie, one scene would be repeated several times albeit with a new cast of characters each time — fanatics rioting in streets over some religious issue, civilian leaders attempting to alternately appease and suppress them only to discover that the situation cannot be resolved without military intervention, and the military being portrayed by its ubiquitous supporters as the country’s only savior.
The recent troubles began when some three thousand supporters of a firebrand cleric, “many armed with sticks and iron rods,” according to wire service reports, blocked the main entrance to Islamabad since November 6. Led by Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the colourful leader of the Sunni extremist Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), the protestors demanded strict adherence to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and stricter laws against other religious sects. Interestingly, the three thousand protesters got more airtime on Pakistan’s military-backed TV channels than a crowd this size deserved. The army’s spokesman tweeted to appear neutral between protestors and the government, as if the army is above the government and not its part.
Army chief General Qamar Bajwa seems to be against the military’s direct intervention in politics but Rizvi and his cohorts have been making insinuations (totally unjustified) that the general might not belong to the right sect. He would have to be careful in tackling the situation in an emotionally charged environment wherein his own faith is under question. Who would believe Pakistani military, especially after Rizvi’s announcement at his rally “The military will not act against us because we are doing its work.”
Today, Pakistan has a sobriquet of being the land of many coups and constant military interventions only because of the military intervention every time its democracy began to blossom and its democratically elected government started taking decision on its own. A close scrutiny of Pakistan’s politics since it became independent, gives an impression that Pak governance never came out of two powerful families and whenever it had the chance of coming out of the clutches of these two families, military intervened and played as proxy of the US which cared about its vested interest more than solving the persistent problems of Pakistan.
The recent flame being allowed to further grow can be a Himalayan blunder committed by the Pakistani military because today’s Pakistan is also trying to break the shackles of two strong family in Pakistani politics. Being an important part in country’s fortune making, Pakistani military must learn from its neighbours where democracy has grown and its impact on their development. If they don’t want to learn from their neighbours, they can learn from recent Zimbabwe turmoil where its military had complete hold over the government and its chief could have easily followed the path which General Zia-ul-Haque and Parvez Musharraf took after the military coup. But, rather putting Zimbabwe into the hands of China, the Zimbabwe’s military chief decided to hand over the national administration into the hands of Emmerson Mnangagwa — former Vice President whom Robert Mugabe had sacked. This wise step taken by the Zimbabwe military ensured exit of Chinese intervention into the further developments in Zimbabwe and hence restoration of democracy became smooth and easier in the African nation.
Like Zimbabwe military chief, Pakistani army chief should also rise on the occasion and keep his personal interest aside and allow the democracy to blossom in Pakistan and help current Pakistani Prime Minister to sail Pakistan out of the clutches of two families.