Sunday, March 3, 2024
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Bloody beginning of Pak elections

K.N. Pandita

Writing sadly about the bloodshed of the previous week in Baluchistan and Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, the widely circulated Dawn of Pakistan made a meaningful comment. It wrote,” If there were any doubts that Pakistan still remains vulnerable to terrorism, the past week has put an end to them.” It is polite but irrefutable admission that willy-nilly terrorism is allowed to remain entrenched in Pakistan. Three separate attacks in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa and Baluchistan have claimed 150 lives and over 200 persons are wounded. Among the dead are Awami National Party leader Haroon Bilour and Baluchistan Awami Party candidate Siraj Raisani.

Notably both of these political parties have been protesting against suppression of the rights of their people and the hegemony of ethnic Punjabis. In Pakistan, ethnic Punjabis are predominant in army, civil administration, police force, intelligence organizations and Foreign Service. Though so far, no terrorist attack of the magnitude of the three of them under discussion has taken place in Sind province, nevertheless Sind does not lag behind any of the non-Punjabi provinces in having faced brutal attacks of terrorists since long. Terrorist attacks of this magnitude on the eve of general elections carry more meaning than what meets the eye.

The Baluch nationalist movement is decades old and under each military ruler in Pakistan the Baluch people have suffered untold suppression and oppression. Some of their outstanding nationalist leaders have been liquidated mostly under fake encounters. Many of them have suffered incarceration as false cases have been framed and biased judiciary has had no qualms of conscience in being inimical towards them.

In Pukhtunkhwa, Pakistan army has decimated the brave Pukhtuns accusing them of complicity with the TTP. Through carpet bombing and drone attacks and through military operations like Zarbe Azab, Pakistan army has won the credit of killing thousands of Pukhtoon and destroying their houses and habitats in thousands. The cry of separate Pukhtoon homeland, though suppressed brutally for some time by state authorities, has now resurged and the young Pukhtoon are swarming to the new movement in drones.

Who are the people or organizations that have undertaken this bloodsheds and to what purpose? This is the crux of the entire matter.

People in Pakistan need not be told who are the perpetrators of such ghastly killings? Terrorist organizations like TTP, the militant Islamic State group (Daesh), Jamaatul Ahrar. Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, and many other outfits associated with them, all have a history drenched in blood. Whatever the frame of their organization and whatever their operational tactics, they are ideologically on the same wavelength because they are all fed from the same ideological source,
This 25th July general election in Pakistan will be the third general election under the existing constitution, meaning the constitution that has been amended twice or thrice by the military dictators and one civilian dictator. The last amendment made so far was by General Musharraf who made himself the President after his term as Army Chief was over.

It was known to knowledgeable circles in Pakistan that the army will manipulate the impending general election because it has the compulsion to do that. Pakistan army’s senior echelons have understood that the world community no more supports coup de tats and martial laws. Pakistan, now known for harbouring terror, is at pains to retrieve its credibility as a law abiding and not a rogue state. This has become a compulsion for the army to succumb to democratic process.

The new game-plan of the army is to accelerate terrorist onslaught particularly on such political parties and candidates as are known for opposing the army’s supremacy. Nawaz Sharif and his party PML (N) have been targeted under the new game-plan. The army has taken many precautionary steps to ensure that no such party or candidates emerge victorious as would opt for curbing its authority. Nawaz Sharif had forcefully demanded that in the light of the constitutional provision the Pakistan army has to be subservient to the authority of the elected dispensation. This was nothing less than red rag to the bull. The army played a master stroke of roping in the judiciary and bringing a case of corruption against Nawaz Sharif under Clause 61 of the amended constitution. Pakistani judiciary never enjoyed credibility with the civil society. Thus the army acting as proxy --- a game in which it is adept --- managed to impose lifelong ban on Nawaz Sharif from fighting election. Not satisfied with that, the judicial authority sentenced him for ten years in jail and his daughter, who the army apprehended might step into the shoes of her father, has been give seven years sentence in jail.

This was army’s first plan to forestall return of PML (N) and it has been executed meticulously. thanks to a judiciary bankrupt of fair deal and fair conscience.

The second safety valve manufactured by the army is the creation of Pakistan Tahreek-I Insaf led by the cricketer turned politician Imran \Khan. The big dharnas and protest rallies or the feigned long march which Imran Khan led in the past year could not be possible without the covert support of the army and ISI. Today Imran Khan is enjoying the favour of being the head of King’s Party.

A close study of the history of Pakistan army will show that it has been the fiercest enemy of democratic process in that country. Whenever it felt that democracy was on the verge of getting rooted in Pakistan, the army played a game usually soaked in blood only to prevent democratic process and intimidate those who dare to work towards strengthening the roots of democracy in that country.

The policy of President Trump in directly accusing Pakistan of spreading terror in the region especially in Afghanistan and Kashmir has demoralized Pakistan army. Withholding of 300 million dollars of military and development aid has taken the wind out of the sails of Pakistan army. This has indirectly, intensified army’s fears of being ultimately dominated by an elected government in Islamabad. Therefore no wonder that the army will play a master stroke at the end of the day and derail the entire election process to emerge once again as the arbiter of the destiny of the beleaguered Pakistan nation.

(The author is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies of Kashmir University, Srinagar. Feedback- [email protected])

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