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Pakistan’s Civilian Governments: A Tale Of Missed Opportunities

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Disclaimer: The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of NayaDaur Media

Inside the highly standardised system of corporate America, which I am a part of for over 25 years, I observed that when the companies decide to change the high management, they do so to achieve some specific goals. These goals could be improving the profits, cutting down overheads, new acquisitions, and sometimes cutting the spending by closing non-essential product lines and laying off people. Whenever the top management changes, the employees begin to look into the background of those managers to know whenever they took over different departments in different companies and what kind of changes were made.

Based on that information, people come up with predictions about the new changes to come. During the times when the businesses are slow in general, I observed a lot of people around me beginning to look for other jobs. Most of the time, those predictions come out to be correct or at least partially correct.

The mother nature is also a highly standardised system where things can be predicted to a large extent with some acceptable margin of error. We are put in trouble so that we would learn where we are committing mistakes. If we do not learn from our mistakes, we face disasters, which, in some cases affect us for a long time.

This rule goes to the nations of the world as well. If they keep doing mistakes over and over, they reach the fate where they have to pay the price for the generations to come. 

Now the big question about; Pakistan. It is now ruled by history’s most incompetent government brought to the power through the most brutal manipulations of elections and judiciary, only because the manipulators had strong beliefs about their ‘unlimited wisdom, vision, and political acumen’, which was above the collective prudence of masses and other stakeholders. Maybe it was the nature’s way of telling that all is wrong and the nation already missed a successive chance, so it should brace for the severe shock-wave, which was going to haunt many generations to come?

Let’s select some historical events that depict the chances that Pakistan missed.

1)    The 1956 constitution.

2)    The 1962 Sino-Indian war.

3)    Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s six years.

4)    In 1988, followed by 1998 Pakistan-India agreements.

5)    The 2018 elections.

One of the early missed opportunities was the constitutional crisis after the promulgation of the 1956 constitution. After the independence in 1947, for nine years, Pakistan could not get a consensus on the constitution. After the protracted process, the first constitution was enacted in 1956. It took three governor generals, four prime ministers, and two constituent assemblies before the new constitution could be evolved. However, a consensus was not developed and the Hindu minority parties and the Awami League, the biggest political party in East Pakistan, rejected it the day it was promulgated.

The 1956, the Constitution failed to control the political instability that inundated the entire country and ultimately culminated in its abrogation and imposition of Martial Law in 1958 by the military dictator, General Ayub Khan.

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Another opportunity was missed during the 1962 Sino-Indian War. Pakistan’s importance was increased because of its boundaries with China and India. This war, which made India very weak and vulnerable, provided a vital opportunity to Pakistan to pressure India further – diplomatically and militarily – to resolve the Kashmir issue.

However, the military government in Pakistan could not avail such opportunity and agreed President Kennedy’s assurances of pressuring India to resolve the issue. Pakistan could also take an even more aggressive stance with the help of China by taking control of the Siliguri corridor and cut the Northeastern part of India, further weakening it and permanently burying the fear of India’s adventurism in East Pakistan.

Unfortunately, the shortsightedness of the regime could not visualise the imminent threat for Pakistan’s national security from India in the future. However, India saw a possible threat in the future after learning lessons from the 1962 defeat. When India got the opportunity, it did everything possible to assure that East Pakistan would become another country – friendly to India – which would pose no threat to India’s national security. The 1971 debacle, therefore, could be attributed to 1962 “lost opportunity”.

After the 1971 fiasco, over 50,000 Pakistani troops surrendered in East Pakistan and Bangladesh emerged. Pakistan Army, which had ruled the country for the past 13 years (General Ayub Khan and General Yahya Khan regimes), was on the back-foot and seemed willing to hand over power to civilians, and subsequently relinquished the power to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Democracy had another opportunity, and initially, Bhutto worked hard to deliver it. He evolved the new Constitution, which was not only a consensus constitution but it was also developed by the elected representatives, not imposed by some dictator as it happened in 1962.  Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, not only resolved the constitutional issue but also made an agreement with India in Simla in which both countries agreed to resolve their disputes through dialogue. With his strong diplomatic skills, he managed to get all the prisoners of war back to Pakistan and opened communication channels with the newly formed Bangladesh. To strengthen national security, he covertly started the nuclear program to enrich the weapons-grade uranium to make Pakistan a nuclear power after India tested its nuclear bomb in 1974.

Besides these achievements, Bhutto empowered the masses by introducing slogans like “all power is with masses (taqat ka sarchashma awaam).  However, with all those achievements, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto wanted to rule with an iron fist. He began persecuting his closest allies who stood with him from the time he launched his political party. He was very tough on those who raised voices against his views, no matter how close they were to him. To control the military, he selected the least ambitious general to be the army chief so that his authority may not be challenged.

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He tried all foul means to suppress the opposition parties by allegedly through his Federal Security Force, that even opening fire on an opposition rally. In 1977 elections, he allowed large-scale rigging on the election day. Even before the results were announced, the opposition rejected the process and announced country-wide protests. The same least ambitious general saw the opportunity and just six years after the ignominious defeat, army took over power again, blamed Bhutto for all their blunders of 1971 and subsequently hanged him in an orchestrated and manipulated murder case.

Bhutto came to power through the overwhelming support of the masses. He could run the country as per the Constitution and could work more to strengthen the democracy. Instead, he got more worried about silencing the dissent and keeping his power. The same masses who brought him to the power corridors stood against him just six years later and when he was executed by a managed judicial trial. Even his close colleagues did not come out for his support. Another opportunity lost!

In 2018, a new politician was launched by the establishment and with brutal manipulation in the pre-election process, and on the election day.

Unfortunately, soon this new group of ‘created leaders’ began to demonstrate that they are incapable of conducting even simple tasks of legislation. Within two years, the GDP growth — the first time in history — went to negative, the budget deficit went close to double-digit and expected to grow more. Joblessness went at its peak, government expenditure increased by six per cent, daily commodities like sugar, gasoline, and flour prices began touching skies. Pakistani trained pilots started getting grounded all over the world, and Pakistan’s national flag carrier got banned across the world. It happened after the Aviation Minister, without completing due inquiries, announced that 30 per cent of pilot licenses issued in Pakistan were fake.

The debt to GDP ratio increased from 72 per cent to become close to 80 percent (from 2018 to 2020), mafias began ruling without control because either, they had their people in the Cabinet or they were themselves sitting next to the PM and were enjoying high positions in the government.

The foreign policy – which is fully run by the military — was also in shambles. Kashmir was burning and is still burning, and we can hardly do anything. Instead, the retired generals come on TV talk shows and deliver lectures on diplomacy. Although India used military options whenever they believed was necessary just to pressure Pakistan and make the world community nervous about the potential nuclear conflict.

After the elections in the US — especially if democrats would come to power – Pakistan would be under tremendous pressure to deliver on Afghanistan. If there would be any disaster there, the US-Pakistan relations will take another nosedive.

Is this government the wrath of mother nature because we never learned? I don’t know.

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