Are politicians responsible for establishment’s interference in politics?
Mulana Fazal-ur-Rehman, Shehbaz Sharif, and Maryam Nawaz Sharif listen Bilawal Bhutto Zardari during a press conference at the end of All Parties Conference (APC) in Islamabad. AFP
The decisions that were taken on Sunday (Sept 20) by the participants of about a dozen parties of various shades of opinion at a conference in Islamabad are bound to lead to another bout of cyclical politics of protests and agitation – with no hope for any real change.
The participants passed a 26-point resolution which, inter alia, called for an end of establishment’s interference in politics.
History bear testament that political parties themselves are responsible for this situation. Various parties, for their vested interests, have been acting as allies of the military establishment. And since the military establishment knows political leaders’ weaknesses, their role in government has been expanding with the passage of time. They have been conspiring against each other, which is an important factor responsible for the establishment’s ever-increasing role.
The following will illustrate the political parties’ role in taking the country to this sad state of affairs:
The PML-N and the PPP have been alternating each other in power since the late 80s and may justifiably be held responsible for all problems facing the country. The other party that can be held categorized as “co-accused” is the PML-Q that remained in power for five years with the backing of Gen Musharraf – and to lend the much needed political support to the dictator.
The PML-N and the PPP have either been in power or in opposition during the intervening period. Whoever was in the opposition, worked against the party in power. And now that the PTI has replaced them both, they are working against it. Whatever policy they devise to dislodge this party cannot be expected to lead to different results.
The country goes down whenever a campaign is launched against the government in power.
To have a look at the role of the major opposition parties during their respective tenures, we can start from 1988.
Held after the death of Gen Ziaul Haq in a plane crash, the 1988 elections brought the PPP to power. These were the first party-based elections held after the execution of Z.A Bhutto and their outcome was reflective of public sympathy for the party. Benazir Bhutto became the prime minister, a development the establishment did not like but could not avert.
Mian Nawaz Sharif was the Punjab chief minister and his office was the centre of opposition parties’ activities. A no-confidence motion was tabled against the PPP government which, though stood defeated by about a dozen votes shook her government. Mr Sharif and the establishment were working together against the PPP.
Many say that Mr Sharif had lost interest in making the anti-BB move a success as it would have made Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, the then opposition leader in the National assembly, prime minister.
The 1990 elections were held under the supervision of Mr Jatoi as caretaker prime minister and they brought Mr Sharif to power.
But opposition parties launched a movement against Nawaz Sharif.
Interestingly, Mr Jatoi was also part of the anti-Sharif movement, something that had little moral justification.
Mr Sharif had developed serious differences with the then-president Ghulam Ishaq Khan, because of which the two could not co-exist. The president dissolved the National Assembly, which was subsequently restored by the apex court.
However, the system could not work because of insurmountable differences between the president and the prime minister. As a result, then army chief Gen Waheed Kakar intervened to make the holders of the top offices step down and pave the way for fresh elections.
(Unfortunately, politicians had failed to resolve their differences).
The 1993 polls again brought Benazir Bhutto into power. The PML-N again launched a movement against her government, as a result of which premature elections became unavoidable.
The 1997 elections provided Mian Nawaz Sharif with a second opportunity to rule the country. The opposition parties turned against him. Prime Minister Sharif’s decision to remove Gen Musharraf as army chief led to military takeover on October 12, 1999.
He was given three years by the Supreme Court to set the situation right before holding fresh elections. Before completing the court-sanctioned term, Gen Musharraf became the president through a referendum.
This time PML-Q became the military ruler’s ally. This party carved out of the PML-N and the two worked together for the next five years.
The 2008 elections brought the PPP to power – because of sympathy vote after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
This time the PML-N did not create any problem and helped the PPP government complete its term. He cooperated because he was confident about his party’s victory in the next polls and wanted it to serve out its term uninterrupted.
As expected, the PML-N won the 2013 elections. However, the PTI and the Pakistan Awami Tehrik launched a movement for its ouster. Their protest in Islamabad continued for some four months, because of which public life remained paralysed. The anti-government campaign came to an end because of the army chief’s mediation.
Unluckily, the political forces could not negotiate a settlement, a situation that provided the establishment with an opportunity to highlight the importance of its role.
The 2018 elections were won by the PTI and now all opposition parties have joined hands against it.
It is beyond comprehension how a movement against the PTI government will bring the establishment’s interference in politics to an end. Also, it is difficult to understand how an inexperienced PTI can be expected to confine the establishment’s role in such a short time when both major parties could not do this despite remaining in power for three terms each.