Articles of the year 2006

The Exit Strategy
Published on April 07th, 2006

This is an expression that is recently being seen very often in the press, mostly about the American presence in Iraq, or in Afghanistan. It has never been used in the context of a change in the Leadership of Pakistan. This has never been an option, and no leader since 1958 has voluntarily stepped down. All of them have been removed forcibly, at gunpoint, or worse through acts of man, leaving only small remnants not fit for a decent burial. The sad part is that our leaders have never considered the finite nature of the office. Even Bhutto spoke of a thousand years, in his heart he really thought he would live forever, such was his complete self belief.

We, the people, are destined (doomed) to be ruled by leaders sometimes of our choice , or of their own choosing. The coming is always euphoric, with dancing in the streets, and the distribution of sweets all round, yet it is only too short lived a sweetness. Then comes a sad awakening to the still bleak future, with the same faces mouthing the same tired clich├ęs, we know we have been conned yet again. Whether it was the Bhuttos, the Sharifs, the Ziaul Haqs, there has been no change in the bottom line-which is the perpetuation of the incumbent. The entire machinery of the Government and energies are devoted to this end. This time around the same pattern is emerging, with the carrots being offered all round, for the stick has already frightened the two major players into keeping themselves safe and out of reach. It is indeed a pity that the leaders of the Muslim League N and the Peoples Party have such a strangle hold on the Party machine that here can be no new entrant and hence no change in the direction of the Party. If Benazir was to drop her only point which is the withdrawal of all cases against her husband and herself, and return to face the courts she could still walk away with the country, but then she has parroted her mantra of financial propriety so often that she has convinced herself of her innocence. Maybe she knows in her heart( having exercised power at the highest level),that no deal is worth the paper it is typed on, having set and sprung many traps in her own time! Thus the PPP is doomed to a slow erosion of its members. The vote bank at the grass roots level may also become redundant, if the leadership shows its inability to face the current situation.

However none of the Parties has considered an exit strategy, and the present Government is talking in terms of 2017, a tall order, but this is bound to have a very profound effect on all the present incumbents and any future entrants, who would have to carefully rethink their strategies. The exit strategy in Pakistan is not an option that is considered ,ever, and this leads to raising the stakes to an unacceptable high, where the removal from office invariably means serious charges ranging from financial impropriety to treason. From 1958 to date this has been the standard practice, and with the hanging of Bhutto the rest have been the facing court cases both in Pakistan and abroad. It is also true that other than the late ZAB none of the political leadership has been convicted on any of the Charges pending in the Courts here, or in Switzerland! It seems our Pakistanis lawyers know and practice their defense far better than their foreign counterparts.

It is thus a pity that Pakistan is the only country without a senior statesman. A truly sad fact is that we can only boast of one Ex-Prime Minister in the Country ( interim at that). Or Presidents for that matter. Ghulam Ishaq and Tarrar, do not exist as far as the Government is concerned. They never appear at any State function, it is as if they are non-persons. It is therefore not surprising to see Doc Mubasshar or Roedad Khan airing their views on the TV screens, when even by their own admissions they were bit players with no inputs called upon from them by the leadership of the time. Surely the President should consider for himself a new role-- that of senior statesman, a hitherto unknown commodity in Pakistan.

Had the pleasure of meeting Mr Jaswant Singh at a function hosted by the Karachi Council on reign Relations Economic Affairs and Law. This was a small affair attended by ex ambassadors, and presided over by an ex Chief Justice of Pakistan, and retired senior bureaucrats ----- true representatives and privy to the inner workings of the Establishment.Mr.Jaswant Singh spoke on a wide range of issues, and voiced his concerns on the US attempts to isolate Iran, and the bearing this would have on the Oil Pipeline to supply vitally needed gas to India, a resource that India needs desperately. Without the Pipeline India's quantum leap into the developed Nations would be seriously impaired. His delivery was smooth, and being the consummate politician he was articulate in putting across his views. These views were in consonance with the prevailing policy of the present Government in India, showing the continuity that goes with a successful democracy. It is this continuity that is in stark contrast to the changes in a dictatorship, where the Machiavellian concepts are rigidly employed, and all predecessors are jailed or sent into exile. Looking back to the 1958 Martial Law, where the bulk of the politicians ere Edoed--- a political limbo within the country, Yahya Khan and Mujib's involvement in the Agartala conspiracy. Bhutto's anointment and his acceptance of the Prime Ministership of a truncated Pakistan. The question could be asked, would Bhutto sacrifice his life for the integrity of the soil as it stood when he served as Foreign Minister of a whole Pakistan? For his life was cruelly taken from him to serve the purpose of Zia's regime. The Zia ending we all know, the perpetrators are unknown to this day, but the Establishment benefited. With the Benazir Sharif attempts at a sham democracy, sham in as much as, the Government in true Machiavellian fashion instituted criminal cases against its predecessors, which were kept pending on their turn in power. A game of musical chairs orchestrated by the Establishment and successfully trapping the politicians every time.