Being an army brat and having studied in a military college in Pakistan, while growing up I seriously thought ‘general elections’ meant which General would take over the government.
Not much has changed as today the process is dubbed “General’s Selection.”
Let me explain.
Pakistan has been ruled by the military since its inception. The army ruled from 1958 to 1971, 1977 to 1988 and 1999 to 2008. Even during times of civilian governments, the army was a shadow in the background, either through proxy politicians or most recently through the judiciary. So much so that the foreign affairs, finance and defence ministries were in the control of the army, which usurps majority of the budget.
It’s also important to note Pakistan is the world’s only Islamic country with a nuclear arsenal.
Trumpeted by a series of bomb blasts and at least two top candidates assassinated, Pakistan goes to the polls on July 25, 2018. Let’s have a glimpse at who the players are:
- Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI). This party was founded and is run by playboy cricketer turned politician Imran Khan who earned the nick name “Taliban Khan.” The party’s manifesto is anti-corruption but recently attracted many corrupt politicians from the other parties. Khan has been married thrice and is rumoured to have an illegitimate child in California. He was first married to British heiress Jemima Goldsmith, with whom he has two sons. Then he had a short stint with Reham Khan, whom he divorced after a ten-month marriage in 2015. (She has just released a tell-tale book about her experience titled Reham Khan, available on Amazon). Most recently Khan married a burqa-clad grandmother and fortune teller who convinced him that unless he married her, he wouldn’t win the elections. Khan is the army’s favourite and behaves like a spoiled child, his recent actions including his current marriage giving the army conniptions.
- Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz). Till recently the Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif held office thrice and each time was ousted by the armed forces (directly or indirectly). He’s barred from running in the current elections but his party has a firm grip on the largest vote bank – the Province of Punjab. In a country where ALL politicians are corrupt, he has been singled out to be made an example and jailed for 10 years along with his daughter Kulsoom who has been sentenced to seven years for having luxury flats in London, UK. His real crime? Wanting to normalize relations with India and have open trade with them.
- Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) founded by the late Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the most charismatic politician Pakistan ever saw. His life and career ended when he was hung by – yes – army General Zia ul Haq. His daughter Benazir Bhutto was the first female prime minister of any Islamic country and was assassinated during the time of – yes – army General Pervez Musharraf. Benazir’s husband Asif Ali Zardari is now Chairman of the PPP. During the PPP’s time in office, Zardari was known as Mr. Ten Percent and slowly progressed to Mr. Thirty Percent. His son Bilawal is co-chairman of the party but not at all a chip off the old block.
Also running are scores of smaller ethnic based parties which amount to nothing.
And surprise, surprise! Pakistan’s courts have given permission for religious zealots who are notorious terrorists to also run. Among them are:
- Aurangzeb Farooqi: Leader of banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi who calls for killing of Shias
- Mohammad Ahmad Ludhianvi: Also with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi
- Mawlana Fazlur Rahman, who is on the U.S. terror watch list
- Khadim Hussain Rizvi of Tehrik-e-Labaik, who said in a public statement “If I’m given an atom bomb I would wipe Holland off the face of the earth” (referring to a Dutch competition of cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammed).
Besides these, scores of other clerics with similar poisonous views have been given permission to stand. Their targets are Pakistan’s minority Ahmaddiya Muslims and Christians.
They say every country has an army but in the case of Pakistan, the army has a country. However, under present conditions, if the army does not have a strong grip, Pakistan will immediately disintegrate into the four provinces of which it is comprised. These conditions are thanks to the Interservices Intelligence (ISI) which sows seeds of sectarian and ethnic divisions either directly or through proxies loyal to it.
The army has shifted its allegiance from depending upon the USA to China. It was exposed as playing a double game with the U.S., taking in all the aid but giving a free hand and sometimes funding terror outfits. The Osama bin Laden affair did not build confidence with Western governments and earned Pakistan the title of ‘Frenemy” (friendly enemy).
The army’s atrocities have also surfaced in Baluchistan Province and against Urdu-speaking Mohajirs as stated by various U.S. Senate committees.
Journalists who criticise the army are whisked away by the ISI.
So when Pakistan goes to the polls on July 25, 2018, there will be no clear winner except the Pakistani army.
Syed S. Raza is a keen student of the politics of Pakistan, Iran and the Middle East and Director of Muslims Facing Tomorrow