Pakistan: The Politically Failed State
Pakistan resembles a politically failed state for the past six decades. Unbalanced political institutions resulting in poor credibility of the triad of democracy, executive, judiciary and legislature, elitist political leadership bent on survival rather than national interest, an army inclined to intervene in politics, thereby weakening itself professionally, a volatile mixture of fundamentalist religion with politics and finally absence of a vigorous civil society are some of the banes of the country seen eternally on a dose of political life support system.
This eternal instability has created grounds for intervention by international players in its internal polity and in some ways Pakistani politicians seem to relish it. The Zardari-Sharif rift and the Long March mercifully abandoned denote this trend While efforts are on for reconciliation in Pakistan. These efforts are from many sides. Internally the Army is no doubt playing a major role as an underwriter of any agreement. External players include the US and UK, though Saudi Arabia is a major mover in Islamabad, this time, there is no presence noticed. In case the compromise does not fructify then the crisis would lead to grave proportions with possible intervention of the army overtly, though at present there are no indications of the same happening.
This became more than evident during the past few days. While there is now hope of defusing the situation with reports that the President is giving in to minions of the Prime Minister and the Army Chief and restoration of the Chief Justice may seen imminent, this could well be a trial balloon, with Mr Zardari adjudging reactions from all sides.
If this fails another formula talked about is what was done in mid 90s, when General Abdul Waheed Kakar intervened to end a similar crisis ironically involving Mr Nawaz Sharif as the Prime Minister. It was Kakar who forced Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Nawaz Sharif to resign to defuse a political and constitutional crisis in 1993. He came up with a solution that packed off both the President and then Prime Minister Mr Nawaz Sharif.
Is Kayani amenable to the same remains to be seen, but this time around this may benefit the PML N led by Sharif and therefore would be acceptable or even be sponsored by him. For a mid term election may lead to a land slide victory for the PMLN. That would again imply that the President Mr Zardari would like to go for a compromise to avoid just such a crisis. The twists and turns in Pakistani politics may be too many but on the whole a situation of political instability for some period is envisaged.
The Army's central principle of functioning is that it must retain a position of primacy in the minds of the people. Thus army takes over only when it feels that it has the people's support. At present this is not there, therefore it would not venture to take over the situation directly but may only play in the background to reconcile the political differences. This is the calculation made by Sharif as well as, who may be considering that the Army would not take over given the unpopularity of the Musharraf regime.
For the crisis to be resolved the first indication is restoration of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, the next would be ending Governor's Rule in the Punjab. This would allow the PML N to evolve a government to replace Mr Shahbaz Sharif given that he has been disqualified.
Many suspected that Mr Chaudhry was not being reinstated because he would harm Mr Zardari, while others feel that the judiciary is politicized and hence he should not be restored. What ever be the case how long Mr Chaudhry will last given the age factor and what would happen to the present Chief Justice are issues which have to be ironed out to smoothen the polity in the country.
What ever it be as many observers have said before, it needs to be reiterated that the ultimate beneficiary appears to be the Taliban and the Al Qaeda the fight against whom has been greatly weakened over the past many days.
Till Pakistan develops independent institutions particularly the judiciary, these crises are likely to continue in the country, even if the present one is resolved with half solutions. The judiciary as in any thriving democracy must be independent of the executive control. Arbitrary dismissal of the judges cannot be done howsoever powerful be the executive.
While some controls are necessary, these have to be executed through existing structures. If the Pakistanis focus on this single facet now they may still redeem themselves in the days and years ahead. Till then we would continue to see a politically failed Pakistan as India's neighbour.
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Col. Rahul K. Bhonsle
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