Pakistan……. Adrift again………….

By Saeed A. Malik

It was towards the end of March 1971 that the military crackdown took place in Dhaka. This was predicated on the belief among the army high command that this would “pacify” East Pakistan. I was a platoon commander at the PMA then and could not understand this thinking. I was certain that with the two wings of the country divided by a thousand miles of enemy territory; this war would be lost the day it was initiated. A young officer could only holler his objections against what was afoot. And this I did. And the other two things I did was to draw my Bengali cadets as close as possible in order to give them what little confidence that I could, and to immediately retrieve all my “assets” from East Pakistan. This was just my life insurance policy with Eastern Insurance Company headquartered in Chittagong. I wrote to them, surrendered two thirds of the premium paid to them, and got back a third which amounted to about Rs 900/-. The result of the crackdown was that within the year we lost half of our country. And at a personal level, this led me to become a part of what came to be known as the Attock Conspiracy. The younger ones among us wanted the generals [and Z. A. Bhutto] to be held accountable for the disaster in East Pakistan. It was our view that all those holding the rank of general who could not prove that they voiced their opposition against the misadventure unleashed against East Pakistan; face a Court Martial for being remiss in their duty towards their country and the service. The following is one paragraph of my statement to the Court. “When the war became imminent, I took leave from the PMA and joined my unit, with thanks to the CO who requisitioned my services. The next day the war started. But instead of glory, I found only disillusionment. The truth was that we were a defeated army even before a shot was fired. This was a very bitter truth. With each corpse that I saw, my revulsion increased for the men who had signed the death warrants of so many very fine men.  Yes, fine men, but poor soldiers, who were never given the chance to fight back, because they were not trained to fight back. When they should have been training for war, they were performing the role of labourers, farmers or herdsmen, anything but the role of soldiers. This was not ‘shahadat.’ This was cold-blooded murder. Who was responsible for this? I was responsible! But more than me someone else was responsible. People who get paid more than me were responsible.  What were some of these men, these callous, inhuman degenerates, doing when their only job was to prepare this army for war? Were these men not grabbing lands and building houses? Did it not appear in foreign magazines that some of them were pimping for their bloated grandmaster? Yes, generals, wearing that uniform (pointing at Maj Gen Zia ul Haq, the court’s president) pimping and whore-mongering!”  A price had to be paid for saying this, and that was duly paid. Today, in 2022, what is happening in Pakistan is a catastrophe on the boil. And this is existential. Again, this has to do with the thinking among the top brass. Again some words of truth need to be spoken. Again they will be spoken. It is worth therefore deconstruction to the bare bones, what the core issue agitating the “politics” of Pakistan is. Very simply put, theft of national assets, which had gained steady respectability over the years, was formally legitimated by Musharraf’s NRO. Led by the high command yet again! After this NRO it became a “right” of the powerful to pilfer from the national treasury first surreptitiously, and then as boldness grew, pilferage gave way to highway robbery conducted by day, and the spoils shipped abroad by launches! Improving “immunity”. Burning offices holding documentary proofs of theft. Staffing NAB by officers who instead of prosecuting offenders, gave legal cover to their crimes. And throwing the occasional crumb to the brothers of the high command who waited at their tables! What has been happening in Pakistan over the last three years is, that the leadership elite, the beneficiaries of unrestrained theft, have been striving to make the exercise of this right to be made inviolable, and the immunity against this crime to be vouchsafed for all times to come. On the other side of this divide stood a Prime Minister, greatly emasculated by blackmail on every side, supported by it is now clear a huge majority of the people of Pakistan, included among whom are a vast number of junior officers and rank and file of the military. They want their money back and the dacoits jailed! They want leadership which has at least a minimal commitment to Pakistan and Pakistanis…that Pakistan is not just a name for a treasury waiting there to be looted by its elite—-politicians, generals, judges, businessmen etc. How we got to this point needs to be understood. A “ Return on Investment Democracy”, in which one needs to first invest in one’s election, then retrieve one’s investment, and then make a profit, can only prosper if it is basically founded on theft i.e on the principle of undermining of the rule of law, and the destruction of all institutions dedicated to the upholding of law.  After theft is committed, the thief needs immunity and thus he subverts police and other law enforcement agencies. Then the judges are to be suborn ed. Then the opposition must be made “friendly” and is co-opted in the larger scheme of theft. And then finally, in partnership with this opposition, they subvert the constitution which ensures both their immunity and longevity i.e., governance is to be swapped among them with the help of a pliable Election Commission, and no outsider is to be allowed to come to power! In U.K where this parliamentary democracy began, those standing for elections are funded by the party. And the party is largely funded by its members. But because we are dedicated thieves, this cannot happen here. If it does happen, the national treasury will be made off limits to thieves. And thus the main fun of playing politics will be lost! In most countries it is the constitution which protects a citizen against a grasping state / government. But in Pakistan the citizen has instead looked towards the Army to salvage his lot. And the Army has obliged him again and again, except that it has always cited corruption as a justification for its forays into governance, but it is only its own lot it has tried to salvage. NOT once has it made a single honest attempt to cleanse the elite reaches of corruption. In the last couple of weeks the high command has gone further. It has quite brazenly joined the dacoits and foisted them on us, to “govern” and ravage us…to deprive us of our destiny and to rob the future of our children. And to think that it would be the army high command that would be behind this sellout! I cannot find words or metaphors which may do justice to the enormity of this crime by those sworn to defend us. What is happening on the streets of Pakistan is a protest against this, the ultimate betrayal of the country and its people. The high command’s fingerprints can clearly be seen all over this betrayal, but fumbling badly; it is trying to put a gloss on its role in this betrayal. Its narrative has few takers. This is a classic case of reinforcing a failure If the high command has even an iota of love left for its motherland, it must sit with the judiciary, and retrieve the lot of a country sold; to the extent it can be retrieved. It must pray for forgiveness and use its considerable heft to take the country to elections without loss of time—and to ensure that these elections will be fair beyond stain. Each day of delay will drive polarization in the country. It will drive the army away from the people. And make the wedge between the high command and the rank and file ever deeper. The high command has to realize that it has lost respect and credibility to an extent that the same are now almost irretrievable, unless they put in a herculean effort to do so.In parallel, it must redefine the national security parameters, and place mega corruption as a prime national security imperative. Theft by high ups must be brought up for discussion in the National Security Council when such theft is at an embryonic stage before the shit can hit the fan. And if the government takes no action, they must ask the Supreme Court for an in-camera hearing to explain to them implications of such theft from a national security viewpoint. Theft cannot be eliminated, but surely it can be contained, before the country is bankrupted ever again. This country cannot survive, if it is dedicated to seeing theft thrive. The high command must redeem itself without loss of time. In 1971 half the country was lost. The prime responsibility of that must rest on our high command. In 2022 the groundwork for the loss of the other half has been laid.  This time once more and unerringly, the high command is the architect of what has happened, and shall remain responsible for the outcome which lies in the future. From here it is downhill all the way unless every effort is made to correct the situation. And as the situation unfolds, a suggestion is bound to occur that if IK is bumped off, it would be best for all concerned. The high command should be able to anticipate this and assess the consequences of such an event coming to pass. I need not say anything more on this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.