By Brig (R) Samson Simon Sharaf
The writer is a political economist and a television anchorperson. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tariq Khan, a common Pakistani, made these comments that irked me, “Stephan Covey’s talk on principle centred leadership posed a question, ‘if you are suffering from a serious illness and there are only two doctors available; one is known for his competence but his integrity is suspect and the other has integrity but no competence, which would you choose?’ I still haven’t found the answer but in the world of Pakistan, the choice for me is easy as they all have neither competence nor integrity!”
The post was a response to two serious issues confronting Pakistan. First, the fate of Panama after the Supreme Court bench threw open the case for further inquest and secondly, what will happen to Dawn leaks? In Pakistan, there is no choice. Had there been a choice, the system would have applied a course correction. History proves that once the choices for people run aground, anarchy sets in. Then there is contempt, disorder and lawlessness. In Pakistan, the only forces that keep anarchy in check are the armed forces. Ever since 9/11, the armed forces have warded off many challenges and proved the most difficult nut to crack. Wading through infested swamps, they have taken casualties but shrunk it to a point where all conspirators are visible. But there are bigger and stronger forces outside that want lawlessness and chaos to validate intervention. As I wrote in Pakistan’s Present and Future War, these forces joined by the moths are in play to devour Pakistan from within. Panama could prove their last crumbling redoubt.
General Musharraf’s coup in 1999 was a relief for many politicians and activists. But at some point he washed his hands, negotiated a foreign sponsored political settlement and left. The cycle rather than be reversed accelerated. For Pakistan, revolution is not the answer. Evolution through rule of law is.
Pontius Pilate was the Roman judge who felt that Jesus Christ was innocent and no threat to Caesar. In hate, the Jews living in bondage accepted Caesar as their king and shouted ‘crucify him’. Then Pilate washed his hands to show that he was not responsible for the execution of Jesus and reluctantly handed him to Jews to be punished under the Jewish Law. What followed was a 300-year reign of prosecution till Constantine decided to convert. Legend has it that Pontius Pilate, pressured by his wife also converted. Can Pakistan afford to go through such instability?
Statistically, two judges on the Panama bench took a definite position. Symbolically three washed their hands, and reposed the case to further inquest. The inquest by the executive organs of the state will be under judicial oversight and control. How these investigations proceed is a matter of time. If past is precedence, then the most obvious outcome could be based on inconclusive evidence. Given the damning comments of the majority judges, the minority cannot be ignored. It is an assumption that hand washing may never have taken place and the ‘Rule of Law’ could prevail.
Imran Khan’s stance is noteworthy. On one hand, he has avoided going for the review and on the other shows no confidence in the Joint Investigation Team. PTI runs the risk of riding two boats. Having come so far on a gruelling marathon, the twin approach indicates that he still wants to trust institutions. So like the Judicial Commission on elections, his legal team will go through the paces partly sceptic and partly showing confidence. His political options remain open.
The PPPP, never a part of this litigation has out rightly rejected the judgment. Aitzaz Ahsan has minced no words about his contempt and composition of the JIT. He has made his case with a ricocheting trajectory that hits the army, ISI and PTI. The quest is not for the ‘Rule of Law’; rather for the larger narrative of which they are a part; foreign sponsored reconciliation. These are also the objectives of PML-N and pseudo liberals.
But it is the outcome of the Dawn leaks that compounds national security risks that impact the future of the JIT appointed by the Supreme Court.
According to ISPR, a story was deliberately planted by individuals of the government. The leak accused Pakistan Army of abetting terrorism. The Afghan Taliban, though an accepted declared political entity in Afghanistan are considered an enemy by USA and its allies, while India singles out Hafiz Saeed for its propaganda. A high level meeting of government dignitaries was held at the house of General Raheel to discuss the planted story of October 6, 2016 (military did not trust the PM office). To depict a consensus, Frontier Constabulary cracked down on a PTI indoor meeting. The same evening, the military again aired its differences. The government functionaries’ began blaming Imran Khan for creating conditions for military intervention. A JIT was formed. First, there were leaks that there was no consensus. Now the rumours are of consensus. Logically, something was wrong then or something is wrong now. The contrasting handouts suggest that some consensus has taken place over national security. This perception leads to the public’s lack of confidence in the Supreme Court appointed JIT. For background, read (Nation: Cantankerous Stratagems, October 29, 2016).
To put records straight there were two and not one Dawn suggestions.
Inamullah Khattak of Dawn reported that, “during a meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs held Thursday October 6, 2016, PML-N lawmaker Rana Muhammad Afzal asked, “Which eggs is Hafiz Saeed laying for us that we are nurturing him?”. He went on to say, “India has built such a case against us about the JuD chief that during the meeting on Kashmir, foreign delegates mention him as the bone of contention between Pakistan and India.”
Similar contents of a different top secret meeting appeared the same day as this exclusive. Both reports appearing in tandem reinforce the Indian narrative. Cyril Almeida wrote that “the following account is based on conversations with DAWN of individuals present in the crucial meetings this week’ he commented that, “all declined to speak on the record and none of the attributed statements were confirmed by the individuals mentioned.’ The confusion was aggravated by the editor of Dawn who wrote that as gatekeeper of information he “verified, cross-checked and fact-checked”; the editor of this paper bears sole responsibility for the story in question. So while the columnist planted a doubt, the newspaper remained adamant of the veracity. Dawn group also took a high moral pedestal by condemning decades of a militarised security environment that undermined the importance of holding the state to account (Nation: Taming the Boots October 19, 2016).
Ever since the 90s, Pakistan has been blamed for training, harbouring and using Afghan Taliban as an instrument of state policy. In those days the resistance in Indian held Kashmir became fierce. False flags like attack on Indian Parliament and Taj Mahal provided India the cause to join the international mantra against Pakistan Army and ISI. In some international perceptions, Pakistan Army is considered responsible for supporting terrorism and expanding nuclear stockpiles.
It is thus important for Pakistanis to understand that the widening rift in civil-military relations has no relevance to the past ten years of uninterrupted democracy. This rift is being crafted. There is no doubt that Dawn leaks have supplementary authors. The main script is authored and controlled from elsewhere as part of a well-planned ‘multi-dimensional security threat’.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan has provided a forum to unearth stockpiles of corruption. The military must not lose itself to ‘stratagems that ultimately demean it’. It must not lose what it has gained in the battlefield. It now has a challenge as part of JIT to fight the battle inside the womb. They must assist the Supreme Court with follow up against corruption across the board.
There is a Persian saying, “kill the wax-making bee to save the moths”. Pakistan’s armed forces must prove that they are the bee. They reflect the aspirations of the people and hold the country together. They are the custodians of Pakistan’s covenant and a sore in the eyes of Pakistan’s enemies. If they do not, there will be no law left. Forces of chaos will prevail with the cave diggers not far behind.