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January 5, 2019

Reality bites


January 5, 2019

So, what’s the year’s lasting lament as 2018 fades out? That the government, the military and the judiciary, all seem to be working in cohesion.

This would normally be most fortuitous except that the government isn’t of the PML-N or the PPP, but of the PTI. The former two are known to have nourished anti-military sentiment within their ranks, some justified, some not so justified and contrived. This is the story of the last ten years when the two parties ruled and developed a coterie of commentators and opinion-makers in the media who inspired and then built on the exalted sense of taking on the military to cut it down to size in metaphorical terms.

There could be legitimate reasons for the angst of some but when a larger segment of commentators are the ones raising the storm it needs introspection on all sides. The over 33 years of military rule in this country is bound to have left some deep gashes to the intellectual psyche of this country’s intelligentsia but to live with what is now three administrations old makes you wonder if the theme isn’t already beyond its sell-by-date.

The blotted backdrop of such political experience leaves space for speculative analysis, at times amounting to aspersions inconsistent with realities. Sadly, such discourse continues to find traction. The political parties may have their rub against the military but serious analysis needs to be more discerning. That is worrying, especially with the signs of the military’s changed policy.

What keeps the anti-military stance alive in our discourse? Civilian supremacy is a given and, even though not fully achieved to the satisfaction of an ideally democratic society, it goes with the vein of equally inadequate societal structures which remain only nominally democratic.

Just as with our national journey which aspires for full democracy over time, the inter-relationship among institutions will also keep getting better with time. The pendulum of complete civilian supremacy over the military must, and will, ultimately invest itself for that alone is the essence of democratic governance. That true harmony comes with true democracy is a sine qua non. Meanwhile, the institutional relationship must, as all other phenomena, find its own balance based on a cumulative aggregation of institutional inadequacies and strengths.

Systems that are meant to sustain must exist in harmony in an interplay of digressive forces. This much should be understood by all scientists – even if they are overtly political. Similarly, no amount of ‘engineering’ can sustain against the run of the terrain or against nature’s own balance. This is well known to the environmentalists. Our own society, as indeed societies elsewhere in the world, is in constant flux. To imagine it in stasis is fallacious. Yes, what is needed is for the balance never to be skewed far enough to leave the domain of stability.

When such interplay of power and influence remains within an acceptable domain, it grants stability and harmony. That is how states and societies function. A review of how the two past governments played these factors explains even better why the military seems far more aligned with the PTI than the other two parties when those were in power.

The PPP’s tenure was one of fear and insecurity. This partly emanated from their historical experience with the military but they were equally aware of the mechanics that had favoured them into power. During its tenure, the PPP used the OBL incident to strike at the military through some imaginative memo exchanges. The PPP completed its tenure despite the fear and the self-generated stand-off with the military. Not only did they waste their time in office, theirs was a most unproductive tenure. When they went it was with a sense of relief for a nation in distress. No civ-mil imbalance here; it was a consequence of self-perpetuated inaction.

The PML-N’s induction into power was thus starkly logical after the PPP’s dismal stint. All signs indicated the PML-N’s return. Just that a significant majority in parliament was a need stated by Nawaz Sharif in his victory speech which found willing abettors. Two events – the Model Town killings, and an agitating Imran Khan – coalesced to pose a challenge very early on in the PML-N’s tenure. Overt support from among the retired military and bureaucracy aspersed the sit-in to carry covert military sponsorship. This was a serious misread of the situation. And it set the PML-N on a collision course with the army.

The PML-N’s base instincts then took over. It began with the PML-N’s ministers speaking against the military, some leaked in the media, and the subsequent indifference of the military as Nawaz Sharif got entangled in legal cases of corruption unleashed through the Panama Leaks. This brought the two into an open confrontation. It hasn’t subsided still as the PML-N leadership continues to be very poorly served with some very bad advice from within its ranks.

The party got into an unnecessary confrontation with state institutions around speculative assessment. As it lost its plot, it stood compromised. Politics, which must work around coexistence and perpetuating gains, was pushed into the zone of imposed entitlement around principles in statutes which were only half realised in a society and a political system itself seeking ideal attainment. The PML-N was hijacked through this journey to that end by a sense of inspired immediacy. It lost the election and stood practically dissolved. It was poorly advised.

The PPP’s current tirade against the military has similar antecedence. It was the PML-N which found out the case of the PPP’s fake accounts misappropriating public money. The PML-N chose to use the discovery to pressure the PPP into submission in its mission to assault the military. In conformance, Asif Zardari did his ‘eent se eent’ act while the PML-N conveniently turned its back on him, leaving Zardari in the political boondocks. His acrimony has since remained both with the PML-N and now with the military as he stares at certain arraignment before law. His frustrations are a consequence of his doings which have come home to roost.

In the meanwhile, the PML-N is unable to retrieve the moment of its misdoings, and stands lost in the maze. Both parties singularly failed to deliver even as their misdeeds stared them in the eye. The voters threw them out.

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