Who’s the man?

The prime minister rules Islamabad, not Pakistan

Who’s the man?
First he spearheaded a decisive campaign to root out Taliban militants from North Waziristan, then he dashed to foreign countries receiving massive ovations, and now Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif has vowed to revive Pakistan’s national sport hockey.

The Economist quotes one pro-democracy campaigner as saying it is a “post-modern coup”. No single jeep and two trucks – what Chaudhry Shujaat famously said once – are required to kick the elected chief executive out of his official residence.

“He’s the man whom we have been waiting for. He can pull us out of every crisis. He would shut their shops,” commented my barber with a tinge of excitement making me worried if his revolutionary fantasies would reflect on my new hairstyle.

The popularity of the army chief skyrocketed at the launch of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, which according to a general perception was delayed by reluctant politicians. Then occurred the most unfortunate and horrendous attack of December 16. The so-called overwhelming consensus against terrorists erased all questions marks on efficacy of intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

“The whole nation is united against the terrorists. We would take revenge for every drop of blood of our children that they have shed,” a poker-faced Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said. Other politicians showed a similar resolve.

If a full-scale inquiry can be launched on the security lapse that caused the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, what stops the prime minister from demanding the heads of those who were supposed to protect the children?

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and company burned the midnight oil to formulate a largely unfathomable National Action Plan (NAP). The entire political elite conferred the armed forces the honour to punish enemies of the state. Who created them at the first place is a separate debate altogether.

Pakistan’s best legal minds have debated in depth the question of “Basic Structure Theory.” Some believed the judicial role of the armed forces violated the constitution’s basic structure. Some argued otherwise. Whatever the case may be, the apex court recently dismissed an initial plea of halting the establishment of military courts in the country. However, the honourable judges are still hearing the case. They have already questioned whether those heading the military courts would be more competent than the judges in traditional courtrooms.
White House seems to believe he's the man to work with

“It was a bitter pill which we had to swallow,” said Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, one of the most respected voices in the legal fraternity and the People’s Party. Some say the House of Sharif has Gen Raheel Sharif to thank for the neutralizing of Imran Khan’s agitation.

Fazlur Rehman and Sirajul Haq, whose parties once had close ties with the military, opposed the military courts. It was more of a fence-sitting feat – an art their ilk have mastered for decades. That could be their strategic long-term thinking. What if the ‘estranged brothers’ become relevant in future once again?

Politicians are the most complex breed. Darwin lacked the sense of humor to make “The Origin of Species” an easy read. However, George Orwell did us the great favor. Even the so-called philosopher president, Thomas Jefferson, was not perfect. History says he too inherited and maintained hundreds of slaves. So expecting Pakistani politicians not to worship every sun rising from Rawalpindi is not fair.

The political elite of Pakistan takes pride in burying “The Doctrine of Necessity” – a concept Justice Munir introduced in our national discourse five decades ago. He would be laughing out loud if alive. “Swindlers! Hypocrites!” he would have thought.

When General Musharraf handed baton of command to General Kiyani, the tributes paid to him were worth hearing and reading. Many of our Art Buchwalds and Thomas Friedmans took it upon themselves to make the nation understand how indispensable the new general was for Pakistan.

The buttering was at its peak in 2008. General Kiyani was recognized as a ‘pro-democracy’ general. They introduced us to new aspects of “Moral Theory” and should be counted among Hobbes, Voltaire and Hume.

It was General Ayub who laid the foundation. Then came General Yahya to accomplish the mission of dismembering Pakistan. General Zia took it as his divine duty to convert us to Islam once again. And General Musharraf tried to do a mix of everything (but failed). And how would we ever repay General Kiyani for saving democracy at the cost of his lungs (remember the NYT story calling him the spy who rolled his own smoke?).

The country Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif now rules is Islamabad, not Pakistan. Before winning the 2013 general elections, Mr Sharif made countless promises to the electorates. One of them was to repair the relations with India. He did try, in fact. He rushed to the neighbouring country when the most controversial Indian politician was taking oath as prime minister. What happened next (and is still happening) between the two countries is no secret.

After the APS tragedy it was not prime minister’s national security advisor, but General Sharif who dashed to Afghanistan. The people at the White House and Capitol Hill seem to believe he’s the man to work with. When President Obama was on his India yatra, patriotic anchorpersons told us how a parallel visit of General Sharif to China would balance the growing US-Indian romance. And what are our civilian leaders doing?

Shahzad Raza is an Islamabad-based journalist
Twitter: @shahzadrez