The Doctrine of Pragmatism and Pakistani Politics

For remaining “neutral” the Army has come in for a fair share of approbation. Because of a lot of motivated fake news being bandied about by those who hate both the Army and the PTI, it becomes difficult to sift lies from the truth.

By Ikram Sehgal
Minar e Pakistan in Lahore has remained center of Pakistani politics.
The emotions in the streets are clearly with the aggrieved party, tending to side quite heavily with Imran Khan. For remaining “neutral” the Army has come in for a fair share of approbation. Because of a lot of motivated fake news being bandied about by those who hate both the Army and the PTI, it becomes difficult to sift lies from the truth.

When PPP’s Gilani failed in his bid to make Speaker in early 2021 Imran Khan immediately asked for and won a “vote of confidence” with a few seats to spare, it became clear that he would complete his term as prime minister. However, two major things happened to drastically alter the course of things in one year. The first was the procedural controversy about the notification for the transfer of the then ISI chief, which should not have become public property. Even though it was sorted out amicably, vested interest ensured the disagreement was ruthlessly exploited.

When Taliban were successful in occupying the country in a lightning movement earlier than that scheduled by the Doha talks, which only took place because of Pakistan’s assistance, one of our intelligence chiefs carried out a much-publicized photo-ops in Kabul. Very much like subalterns, intelligence chiefs are neither seen nor heard or heard of.

The body language suggested that Pakistan was the net beneficiary of the Taliban’s success. No one in his right mind would really want that the Taliban should abruptly take over without committing to an all-inclusive govt and guarantees which included women getting their fundamental rights as enshrined in Islam. The American public hated the spectacle of the chaos of the hasty evacuation at the Kabul Airport on primetime TV being compared to Saigon circa 1975. The US image as a superpower took a hit.

While Pakistan was rightfully deserving in being very helpful in the Doha talks and then again during the unforeseen evacuation, instead of the plaudits we ended up on the receiving end. With Biden getting crucified domestically and internationally one cannot blame the Americans for venting their anger on us.  Our relations with the US, already uncomfortable because of our denial of their wish-list post-Afghanistan, got further damaged.

Our murky history of the relationship with Moscow stretches back 70 years. The then Pakistani prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan was invited to Moscow in the early 50s, at the last minute the PM went to Washington DC instead. This diplomatic snub was taken badly by the Soviet Union, our relationship has since never been really fully repaired. The Indo-Soviet Friendship Treaty in 1971 contributed to the dismemberment of Pakistan. The lingering suspicion about Pakistan in the minds of Russians was hardened by our role in the 80s in Afghanistan which resulted in the Soviet evacuation post-Geneva talks.

Imran’s visit had been planned much before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the coincidence created the perception that Khan was supporting the Russian aggression on Ukraine when he certainly was not. Since World War 2, there hasn’t been such a big war in Europe, this matters to the Europeans because white people are dying. When Afghans, Iraqis or Syrians, etc were being killed by the thousands they did not get much beyond lip service. With the economic crisis and inflation gripping Europe, the Russian military threat is taken very seriously.  Their aim is to isolate and overwhelm Russia economically while degrading the Russian military’s capability and morale. When any country, especially a small one is seen seemingly standing with Russia presently, the US and EU countries are not going to take it lightly.

Where did the apprehension about the likely consequences of Pakistan being put on the black list of FATF that the COAS expressed at the Islamabad Security Dialogue emanate from? Also mentioned was the possible sanctions stopping our US$ 20 billion exports! The FATF black list alone would emasculate our entire banking system from interacting with the financial world. The military hierarchy could have been simply realistic in the national interest for a pragmatic reason. For the sake of argument, such threats can also be applied to get rid of our nuclear deterrent, we have successfully deterred such pressures in the past.

Our Lordships went overboard in destroying Imran Khan’s govt at midnight. With all due respect given they could have also paid heed to both the PTI defections attracting Article 63A if not the stated foreign threat.  The public backlash was very harsh both on the superior judiciary and on the uniform. The correct process to overcome the crisis should have been early elections but that is neither in the PML (N) or PPP hierarchy’s interest to go for. Their “Selection and maintenance of aim” (with apologies to Clausewitz) has one solitary agenda, to eliminate NAB and get rid of all the other corruption cases against them.

The economic crisis is certainly baffling, every sector is showing windfall profits, be it banking, textiles, construction, cement, sugar, flour, oil, and gas, etc but the rupee fell alarmingly against the US dollar, both because of the Afghan and domestic turmoil. It is now stabilizing so is the stock market.  Farmers are getting an adequate price for their products but in the marketplace, their product is only available at exorbitant prices. Why this enormous price differential? The PTI government should have been tougher in policing markets. Who owns the sugar mills, the flour mills, the ghee mills, etc?  Most are owned by members of the PML (N), PPP, and dissidents of PTI.  The silver lining is that their faces in the new set-up give us an opportunity to expose those crooks for what they really are.

No constitution in the world allows corruption to be legitimized, this only happens in Pakistan, and that also near midnight.  When the NRO was declared null and void by the Supreme Court, all the cases before 2008 against the politicians, including almost all those present in and around the seats of power, were revived but what about those cases against them between 2008-2018? I cannot believe that anyone in any hierarchical position of power in either the civil and/or military had no access to the mountain of evidence available in NAB, ISI, IB, MI, FIA, etc?  Is our Constitutional duty done by allowing such people, albeit some not convicted, to use their ill-gotten gains to buy their way again into the seat of power? Are we hypocrites to believe that this is Constitutional?  I have said so before and I say so again when criminals function in the name of justice, justice becomes a crime!

The writer is a defense and security analyst

This article first appeared in Bol News. Click here to go to the original.

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