Cover Story

Parochial Politics

Elections may not bring immediate calm or reduce the people’s anguishes but it will set the country in the right direction.

By Lt. Gen. (R) Talat Masood | June 2023

The political and economic conditions of Pakistan continue to deteriorate at a fast pace, raising serious concerns about the country’s future. Political leaders to achieve their narrow aims are deliberately pursuing highly confrontational policies at a time when cooperation and common effort is essential to navigate the country from its present challenges. Their intense rivalry bordering on animosity have debased politics, while denying them the focus on serving the interests of the people at large.

In essence, there is a lack of commitment to democratic ethos and values with the likelihood that democracy, which is already weak, would be further derailed. The influence of Army over politics and economic policies is still a dominant factor, although General Asim Munir, the Chief of Army Staff, had mentioned that the army leadership would stay away from politics. He must have realized on assumption of office that the internal and external situation was destabilizing the country and matters couldn’t be left to a weak and unfocussed leadership. Similar logic has prevailed in Pakistan’s chequered history to justify major military interventions or constant oversight of civilian regimes as Pakistan from its very inception inherited a weak democratic structure.

The crossing of constitutional boundaries and acquiring political power by the Army did restore temporary calm and stability but has weakened democracy and political leadership. This cycle has to be broken but would only be possible if there is a realization and commitment on the part of all institutions to set aside their narrow parochial aims in the larger interest of the country.

Interestingly, the Army itself is undergoing a major change as its younger officers like the rest of the society have a different world view that is largely influenced by the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and proliferation of electronic and social media. This is only a natural phenomenon as has happened in most modern militaries not only affecting behaviour but even conduct of warfare.
The events of 9th May when a mob in Lahore deliberately desecrated the Corps Commander house showed that inimical forces were misleading and instigating the crowds under the garb of political vendetta that Army was involved in the arrest and maltreatment of Imran Khan. This misguided thinking has to be corrected through normal punitive measures and by prudent socio-political actions.

Meanwhile, as indications are the Army being deeply concerned with the deteriorating political and law and order situation may play a more active role in stabilizing the situation. There are analysts that discern signs that the country is heading for a revolution if the slide is not arrested. And the government may be contemplating declaring an emergency. It would, however, be advisable if the government does not go that far or set up military courts to deal with those committing offenses and let civilian courts handle them on priority. Our past experience of military courts has not been good for these failed to either reduce crime or expedite cases as invariably there were appeals against judgements that landed the cases in superior courts. In fact, a mature and responsible conduct by political leadership in dealing with each other and focusing on governance could be transformational.

Read More