From 'Pakistan National Alliance' 1977 To 'Pakistan Democratic Movement' 2020

The Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) was an Alliance, while the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) is a Movement and that subtle difference explains the game that was played in 1977 and the one that has yet to begin now. PNA had a foreign agenda, seeking Bhutto’s elimination:

Because he had initiated Pakistan’s Nuclear Programme, had brought about unity of the Muslim World through OIC Session in Pakistan, a leaderless organization which King Faisal had agreed to lead. Bhutto established the strategic linkage with China, through Karakoram highway.”

Bhutto was politically powerful and he could be brought down only through non-political means. Thus the religious parties and a group of political opportunists got together to play the game. Amongst the political leaders were such personalities who had no qualm directly calling the Army Chief to take-over, because, without the strong hands of the Army, American agenda could not be completed. It all happened as planned. Both Bhutto and King Faisal were eliminated, one after another.

The PDM is quite different. It has no foreign agenda. It is a movement that will use democratic means to bring about change – a natural reaction to:

Imran Khan’s vision of Naya Pakistan, based on the fundamental socio-economic principles of Riasat-e-Madina; a corruption-free Pakistan and return of the looted wealth of the people of Pakistan.”

These issues have been pressed ruthlessly for the last two years, focusing on corrupt politicians under a slur campaign, and launched so crudely, that it has debased political parties as well as democratic values. The courts of law, NAB, FIA and the intelligence agencies are in hot pursuit of the corrupt without any significant improvement in day to day life of the common folks. “Unchecked use of authority and rulers’ inability to govern has led to loss of authority and power deflation.” Press gag has further eroded the moral authority of the government.

The situation has thus created a suffocating atmosphere forcing the opposition to join hands, to correct the course. Young Bilawal Bhutto was able to put the ‘humpty dumpty’ of the opposition together, which consists of two major political parties and a strong religious group, that can mobilize large crowd as it did early this year, near Islamabad. It is a formidable lot, whenever gathered together for a common cause, and can certainly create difficulties for the government, particularly when Imran Khan himself says “Both PML(N) and PPP are the product of the establishment.”  He should know that establishment’s mood changes with the mood of the public, though the ‘pitch’ may be the same. Imran, therefore, has two options:

  • Adopt a conciliatory approach and find a political solution of early elections, leading to a coalition government and saving the country from a painful transition.

  • Let the opposition play its hands and Imran to fight it out to an uncertain end.

Imran Khan is loath to meeting the opposition; hence Army Chief met the opposition to ease the tension. Knowing Imran Khan, who “fights till the last ball”, he would prefer the matter to be decided in the open field. In response to that, the opposition has evolved a political strategy for the movement which is different from the PNA alliance in many ways, such as:

  • The APC declaration was read-out by Maulana Fazlur Rehman and not by any political leader.

  • The lead role has been assigned to JUI(F) with a political purpose, unlike in the case of the religious parties of PNA which had a negative role. It means that, in any future set-up, JUI(F) will gain significant political space for itself, something that was long-awaited, particularly during the 2018 elections, when religious parties tried to enter the mainstream national politics. They were denied entry then, particularly Maulana Samiul Haq, who stood on the side of PTI, but was ignored.

  • There is no Asghar Khan amongst them, who could appeal to the Army Chief to take-over the reins of the government, when things go wrong.

  • Nawaz Sharif’s sharp address has precisely focused on the important issue, which is being construed as creating misunderstanding between national institutions.

The decision to use force has been taken. Shahbaz Sharif has been nabbed, Zardari indicted and the witch-hunt has started. Imran may be tempted to mobilize the Tiger Force, as Bhutto used FSF, with dire consequences. It will create a critical situation for the government calling for the Army to take-over. Whereas, the masses are in no mood to invite another military rule.

The opposition leaders as a whole consist of politicians dubbed as corrupt, yet among them are clean and competent ones also, who have experience of governance, and have respect for rule of law and democratic values. They will take charge, establishing the precedence of a clean change-over, than a take-over by a “Nexus of Four As" or through the Deep State manipulations.

People are ready to “give a chance to democracy, to breathe fresh air, despite COVID-19 virus pollutions.” The time for this ‘noble thought’ is now, to become a reality, an unstoppable force, that cannot be stemmed.”

The author is former Army chief of Pakistan.