For decades now there has been a debate among the people of Pakistan in which many of us have taken part. In short, this debate has been whether it was the politicians who failed Pakistan, or was it the army.
Those who support the politicians blame the army for having repeatedly usurped power, or at the very least for manipulating politics, thus not allowing democracy to mature. And those who blame the politicians, do so for their incompetence, theft, and greed, because of which democracy became a dirty word, and a majority of the people prayed to be rescued from it. The latter, therefore, viewed army takeovers as acts of mercy.
The prime justification cited by the army for each one of its takeovers has been that of widespread corruption. However, having taken over, the army has NEVER exerted its energies to go after the lords of corruption or to put measures in place to combat this cancer, which has been gnawing away at the entrails of society and the state for years.
Corruption thus moved up from being tolerated to being accepted to finding approval. And this established a system of corrupt money management viz. increasing amounts of money were progressively stolen from Pakistan; and then, to run the state, large loans were taken; then these loans were also subjected to theft; and still more loans were contracted to cover the cost of theft and to return earlier loans. This created a loan spiral which has now become unsustainable. We have no resources to pay back our debts. Our resources to pay back our loans lie in the shape of private assets of the elites who have done the looting! Most of these assets, being parked abroad, are physically beyond our reach. And now even the persons of our thieving elites have been placed beyond our legal reach by the laws enacted by them. In practical terms, this is how “democracy” has favoured us. And all this time the high command, the guardians of our national security, has stood aside and watched.
Instead of developing and deploying national security protocols to combat economic assaults against the state, which are more insidious than any kinetic attack, the high command confined itself to political engineering and manipulation of political power. And this left Pakistan open to conquest by theft. The minders of national security, instead of taking notice of the economic assaults against the country and combating them, chose instead to become partners in this theft. Translated in terms of conventional war, this was the equivalent of Indian forces attacking across our borders, and our military, instead of moving to our defence, joining in the enemy attack!
The most important point in the argument whether it was the politicians or the army which had brought Pakistan to grief, was that hardly any of our self-appointed “intellectuals” showed their hand to clarify that this was never an issue of the politicians versus the army.
This was always a case of the “elite” against the rest, and the top crust of every section of society together formed this elite. Within this elite, there could be inter-sectional divides and squabbles having to do with the sharing of the national pie among themselves. But beyond that, on the larger question of whether the elite deserves that part of the pie which it apportions to itself, there was never any difference of opinion.
In any society, it is the elite as a whole which exercises power disproportionate to the huge disparity in numbers between itself and the rest of society. Which way society goes is determined by the direction taken by its elite which provides leadership. If the graph of society is on the ascendant, this elite deserves the resultant applause. And if it is a falling graph, the elite could be said to have fairly earned due to abuse that comes its way.
With this awareness, one is better positioned to apportion blame or applause between the parts which form our elite. In our case, it would be an understatement to say that we were in a nose dive as a society. And it is beyond debate that the army’s high command exercises more power among the elite than all the rest of its constituent parts combined. Therefore, the rightful blame for bringing about the present mess belongs primarily to the army.
The army is hired and trained to defend the country. It is expected to defeat a kinetic attack by the enemy by resorting to conventional defence. But being responsible for national security, it was always the duty of our army to protect the country against economic attacks as well.
Economic attacks by the enemy should be expected. These can bring down the target country without the need to fire a single shot. Such attacks have to be countered and defeated by the national security protocols of the state. In our case ensuring national security has been primarily the remit of the army. The aggressor leading an economic assault aims to bring the target country to its knees by the sheer weight of the debt it is obliged to contract just to keep afloat. To create this situation the enemy needs help from the governing elite of the target country itself to craft policies which were conducive to leading the latter to bankruptcy. If theft is added to bad policies, this bankruptcy is achieved much faster and more efficiently. In our case, this theft has been at an industrial scale for many years now. While theft thrived and debts piled up, the high command stood and watched.
In 1971 we faced a conventional attack by our enemy. Our army failed us. And we lost half our country.
Today we are involved in a desperate struggle to keep that half of the country which was left to us after 1971. Over the last thirty years, the country’s elite have been leading an economic attack against us. We are on our knees and sinking fast. The army’s national security protocols should have preempted any such attack. But we are finding out that except for drills for political engineering, the high command had no national security protocols in place to blunt an economic attack. But it is worse. Instead of standing by us, we now find that our high command has been standing with the elites that have led the assault against us.
And there is no better foil against which to examine the commitment of the high command to national security, than the handing over of Pakistan to the very thugs who have been robbing us blind for upwards of three decades. And having handed the country over to them, the high command has directly been sustaining this rule by the thugs since April 2022.
What name should the average Pakistani, who cannot close his eyes to this, give to this unholy alliance?
Because they dont want a name given to it, they’ve come out with amendments to the Pakistan Army Act, so that a sword of Damocles is suspended over the heads of the tens of thousands of retired officers and men of the military whose silence is desired. It is difficult to imagine that law was considered essential to growing the ranks of hypocrites, who think one thing and need to be compelled to say another.