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PAKISTAN A PEEP INTO THE PAST

After the partition of the Subcontinent, India has made rapid growth and development in all spheres. But, unfortunately, Pakistan has been entangled in difficulties and lags far behind its eastern neighbour. Let us have a peep into the past to ascertain our future.

While coup d’tat of 12, October 1999 marked a welcome return to technocratic management of the economy and a substantial improvement in it, a number of world events soon became a challenge for the new president. In the aftermath of 9/11, Pakistan became a frontline ally in the US-led ‘war on terror’.

Musharraf fought loyally against terrorist groups including Al-Qaeda’s protectors, the Taliban, who governed Afghanistan until they were toppled by the Afghan warlords on America’s behest. However, the retreat of Taliban and their alleged havens in the mountainous tribal borderlands of Pakistan created a long-term problem for Pakistani leadership.

Though billions of US dollars poured into Pakistan in terms of Coalition Support Fund, yet Pakistan army couldn’t make any headway in driving Taliban out of Pakistani land. More perplexing is the fact that the Taliban regrouped in the border areas of Pakistan and made a strong comeback in the southern Afghanistan. This made many Congressmen ask with increasing stridency that what exactly America was receiving from Musharraf for its capacious military subsidies.

After the Taliban’s comeback, the US and Nato forces have been involved in the most-prolonged military action since the World War II. From an increasingly fractious and now dominant Democratic Party in the US Congress, the attacks on Musharraf, sometimes called a stooge and proxy of President Bush, increased markedly. Furthermore, Pak Army’s operations in tribal areas resulted in mass displacement of indigenous people (IDPs). In short-term, at least, the results of this policy were the radicalization of the local citizenry and rise of an unabating wave of suicide bombing in Pakistan.

Musharraf could not help his own cause by delaying the restoration of democracy. Although, Pakistan’s economy showed a marked improvement, yet it is also true that the key beneficiary of this dollar-inflow was Pakistan Army. Given the track record of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, Musharraf, unsurprisingly, displayed an obvious contempt for the political clan and placed his trust in his military comrades. But, the news of corruption remained widespread.

 Though billions of US dollars poured into Pakistan in terms of Coalition Support Fund, yet Pakistan army couldn’t make any headway in driving Taliban out of Pakistani land.
 Musharraf’s constantly-falling popularity was zoomed in by his sacking of the Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on 9 March 2007 which gave birth to mammoth public protests led by Pakistan’s notable lawyers. Although, both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif had themselves a history of tense relations with the judiciary, they jumped on the bandwagon of this ‘Restoration of Judiciary Movement’.

Musharraf also tried to suppress, by force, the radical clerics inside the Lal Masjid which only added fuel to fire. With an uncertain future of Musharraf, in the wake of mass protests and increasing opprobrium for him, the US State Department began to pursue options which would depict the Pakistan’s return to democracy. At this point, PPP chairperson and an astute politician Benazir Bhutto, who was also schmoozer with the western media and the political elite in Washington and London, put herself forward as the secular and anti-terrorist candidate capable of halting the Taliban surge.

Ms Bhutto believed that her moment had come and she has to make a triumphal re-entry into Pakistan’s politics. She thought it easy to force a weakened Musharraf to relinquish the chief of army staff post in order to run for the office of the president again. Benazir was the only alternative because Nawaz Sharif was loathed by him owing to the Plane Hijacking Case in which he allegedly almost killed Musharraf in his attempt to remove him from military command. The State Department eyed a Benazir-Musharraf alliance to improve Pakistan’s performance in ‘War on Terror’ while burnishing President Bush’s pro-democratic credentials.

This plan seemed to be on smooth track before a second attempt on Benazir’s life since her return to Pakistan ultimately remained successful and she was brutally assassinated on December 27, 2007. Benazir, one of the most astute politicians of the Subcontinent, had just finished a political rally at Liaquat Bagh, Rawalpindi, when she was shot at followed by a suicide attack. She could not succumb to the injuries and lost her life. It was a tragic death by all means.

Given Benazir’s abysmal record in office for two terms and a bitter history of relations with army, it was not sure that she could have been a solution to Pakistan’s long-term problems.

 The State Department eyed a Benazir-Musharraf alliance to improve Pakistan’s performance in ‘War on Terror’ while burnishing President Bush’s pro-democratic credentials.
 The feudal nature of our politics was delineated in her will in which she bequeathed PPP to her husband Asif Ali Zardari and her 19-year-old son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. Mr Zardari was commonly known as ‘Mr 10%’ because of his corruption scandals while Bilawal was a carefree young man studying at Oxford. At the press conference, at which Bilawal’s ‘political inheritance’ was made public, he declared with regard to his mother’s assassination, ‘Democracy is the best revenge’.

Elections were, somehow, held in February 2008. Though a coalition government, comprising two main parties in opposition to Musharraf, was installed, yet Zardari and Nawaz Sharif soon parted their ways. However, they later reached an accommodation to seek the impeachment of President Musharraf and the ‘dictator’ had no option but to resign.

It was the ultimate revenge of the demagogues; not surprisingly Zardari and Sharif soon fell out again, and it was Zardari who became Pakistan’s new President and was left to face an ongoing war against the Taliban. He had also to face intermittent waves of terrorist bombing, both inside and outside Pakistan notably the 26/11 Mumbai bombings, and a near-collapsed economy. Although in 2009 the Pakistan government finally launched an action to repel terrorists. India, however, remained the greatest threat to the country. With all ifs and buts, the PPPP-led government completed its constitutional tenure but remained largely unsuccessful to ‘take revenge democratically’.

‘Change’ was the catchword in the Elections 2013. PTI’s chairman, Mr Imran Khan, presented himself as ‘leader of the youth’ in such time-dimensions when youth was ready to accept him. Two rivals PTI and PML (N) were at daggers drawn during the election campaign. But when the elections were held, old players won dramatically. Now a number of issues are before the new elected government of PML (N) but whether it will withstand their fury and turbulence, time will tell and it is flying. Let’s pray that our future may not be like our turbulent past.

By: Muhammad Yasir Kayani

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