Till 9/11, Pakistan was a fairly stable and prosperous country but its complexion changed once Gen Musharraf opted to align Pakistan with USA and become its coalition partner. War on terror initiated by USA was designed to destabilize Pakistan and not to root out terrorism. The war forced upon Pakistan led to the creation of Pakistani Taliban in Waziristan who later formed Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). They made their mark by promoting virtue and fighting vices and dispensing speedy justice to the aggrieved. They espoused Shariah saying that Islamic system was the sole remedy to the malaise afflicting Pakistan’s society. Their demand for Shariah was neither irrational nor unreasonable since well over 90% people in Pakistan wish that they should follow their lives in accordance with precincts of Islam. They seek Islamic system since the British imposed legal system and Westminster parliamentary form of governance have kept the people deprived of justice and equitable means of social upward progression.
The legal system is complicated; time consuming, expensive and pro-rich. Voice of the poor is never heard and it is always the privileged who wins court battles because of their wealth and power. The innocent lacking the means to contest legal battles get punished. The law courts take 15-20 years to decide land and property disputes mainly because of faulty registration of FIR and tedious legal lacunas. The ordinary people are in the stranglehold of perverse Thana culture and Patwari system as well as under the sway of Maliks, Sardars, Waderas, Chaudhris, fake Saints and Pirs.
As far as elections are concerned which are the cornerstone of democracy, Pakistan has never had fair and free polls. These have always been rigged in way or the other. The system is so faulty that only the dirty rich can participate. Those getting elected sell their souls to enter the hallowed corridors of power and once in power it gives them a certificate to indulge in loot and plunder. The ones who get tickets to take part in elections by the NRO cleansed party heads are those who certify to do as told to do. As such the legislators become puppets in the hands of political party head and the latter acts as the poodle of Washington. This practice became entrenched after Gen Musharraf decided to field King’s Party in 2001.
The 2002 elections were thoroughly rigged and Rangers, NAB, ANF, ISI, IB, FIA were used to coerce opponents and to win over candidates for King’s Party. Even then PM Zafarullah Jamali could carry the day by thinnest majority of one vote only. In the 2008 elections were rigged to bring results as per the US script. Out of 84400000 voters list, 37200000 (44%) were found bogus. NADRA as well as Election Commission played a role in this fraud. A large number of elected members have fake BA degrees and have not been proceeded against even after finding out that they had indulged in fraud.
It is an established fact that over 50% do not vote and the rest who cast votes are mostly from lower classes residing in rural areas. They are herded to the polling stations like animals and made to stamp on the election symbol of the choice of the ones wielding authority. Baradari affiliation is another factor in deciding whom to vote for. Hence merit, credibility and reputation of the contestant are of no significance. The ones claiming to represent 180 million people do not speak the truth when over 50% do not take part in elections and from among the voters, 44% are bogus. Since the legislators get elected through fraudulent means and are mostly of shady character, they get disconnected with the masses the moment they enter the parliament. They have no regrets for not fulfilling the promises they had been making during the election campaign. They remain beholden to their party heads and to foreign patrons who had helped them in acquiring power and in opening avenues to fill their coffers with ill-gotten money. Self interest and not national or people interest become their primary concern.
While the performance of politicians has always remained questionable, the current regime has crossed all limits of depravity and brought immense disrepute to the country. There is disconnect between the leaders and the led and both live in different orbits. While the rulers and their associates are multiplying wealth and are insensitive to the cries of the people grinding in the mill of poverty, the neglected class hates the rich and holds them responsible for their wretchedness. Expression of hatred comes in the form of growth of extremism and bouts of violence which has now taken the form of terrorism. It is because of the apathy of the rulers and the elites and their high lifestyle that the people are vying for Shariah which they feel will reduce the ever widening gap between the rich and poor; it will dispense equitable justice to all irrespective of the high status or low position of the accused and will help in equitable distribution of wealth which is presently entirely in the hands of 10% well heeled class.
70% people in Pakistan can barely make two ends meet and 35% out of them live below poverty line. They are desperate for a healthy change and would heed towards any one promising a change. They argue that all forms of systems have been practiced in Pakistan but Islamic system has never been tried and given a chance to prove its worth. Their demand carries weight when seen in the historical perspective that Pakistan was established on the basis of Islam. Otherwise there was no earthly reason to demand partition of India and independent homeland for Muslims. The 1956, 1962 and 1974 constitutions were framed in the light of Quran and Sunnah, but despite Pakistan being given the name of Islamic Republic, in practice all our systems are west oriented as inherited from the British.
It was under such pathetic conditions where the ruling class remained oblivious of the declining fortunes of the people that the tribesmen of FATA suffering from acute poverty and backwardness looked towards the TTP with high hopes. TTP’s manifesto appealed to their senses since the leaders of this outfit led a Spartan life and their demands were for Islamic laws and not for material gains. They pleaded the cause of the poor and denounced anti-Islamic practices adopted by the wealthy class. Their preaching resembled that of Afghan Taliban, who during their rule in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 had to a large extent eliminated vices like feudal lordism, drug business, obscenity and vulgarity, lawlessness, injustice, ethnic and sectarian conflicts and ostentation.
The people got carried away that Pakistani Taliban promoting virtue and combating vices would also bring a similar change in Pakistan and their sympathies started veering towards them. Deprived classes in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and other parts of Pakistan also got afflicted with this sympathy and as a consequence the TTP recruited sizeable number of youth from settled parts of KP, Southern Punjab and other parts of Pakistan. TTP also got aligned with Maulana Fazlullah led TNSM in Swat.
Seeing the rising power of this outfit which was banned by the government, several other militant outfits geared towards Kashmir Jihad and banned by Gen Musharraf in 2001/02 joined hands with TTP. The latter provided safe havens and training facilities to urban based militants who in turn agreed to facilitate terrorist acts within cities. Jihadi outfits agreed to confront security forces since all felt that Gen Musharraf led Pak Army was fighting American war for dollars and hence was as bad as US-NATO occupation Army. This perception persisted even when democratic government took over, and particularly when military operations against the militants were intensified from June 2008 onwards.
Perception of the people got muddled up when the militants led by Maulana Fazlullah in Swat region began a reign of terror under the name of Islam. Kidnapping for ransom, slaughter of kidnapped persons, targeting of mosques, shrines and funerals, display of beheaded bodies at Khooni Chowk in Mangora, mass destruction of schools, bank robberies, extortion of money, forceful recruitment of youth and turning them into suicide bombers, forcefully marrying young girls to the Taliban fighters, flogging of women and forcing the women to stay indoors were actions which ran contrary to Islamic principles. The people also saw the Taliban becoming affluent in short time and the prosperous paradise of earth Swat turning into a prison house. It made the people think as to which brand of Islam the Taliban wanted to impose in Pakistan which had no scope for education of their children and kept 52% women home based.
The people of Swat in particular and public in general who were in two minds turned against the Taliban when Maulana Sufi intoxicated with power brushed aside peace treaty inked in February 2009 in which it was agreed that militants would surrender their arms in return for application of Nizam-e-Adal and recommenced militancy in Swat, Lower Dir and Buner. When a joint resolution was passed by the parliament and the Army was directed to cleanse the restive area of the scourge of terrorism with full force, the people stood behind the Army.
When the Army achieved laudable successes, it was profusely eulogized by the Swatis. They saw the Army as their savior, not only freeing them from the cruel clutches of militants but also helping them in their resettling phase and keeping the militants at bay. Mutual trust and respect between the people of Swat and Army has developed to an unprecedented level. However, the people of that area that had seen good days under Wali of Swat when justice was speedy and cheap have still not been given Nizam-e-Adal. Existing judicial system has failed in convicting even a single terrorist out over 1000 arrested by security forces during Operation Rah-e-Rast.
People got wary of Taliban when suicide attacks against soft targets and group attacks against hardened targets in urban centers intensified from 2009 onwards. Their aversion for the militants grew when they learnt that the preachers of virtue and Islamic system were secretly aligned with foreign agencies and working on their agenda. Their worries multiplied when they heard of the presence of notorious Blackwater and later of under cover CIA operatives. They have thus got sandwiched between militants of various hues, Blackwater and foreign spies including US Special Forces, all spilling their blood.
On top of it are the parasitic and incompetent rulers who least care for them and are so engrossed in increasing their bank balances abroad that they accept each and every wish of USA bent upon harming Pakistan. Joint resolutions are unanimously passed but never implemented to reduce the perverse influence of USA. Instead of giving hope they are spreading hopelessness by sticking to their corrupt and anti-people practices. It is only the Army and the ISI which are standing up to US pressures.
The people are caught between the devil and the deep sea. On one side are the scrounging rulers refusing to give them any relief from unbearable economic hardships and forcing them to commit suicide, or join the ranks of militants to become suicide bombers. On the other are ruthless militants killing them? The media instead of galvanizing their spirits is further spreading despondency by creating an impression that armed forces and ISI are incapable of defending security interests of Pakistan. People are vying for a leader blessed with sterling qualities of Quaid-e-Azam who should remove the blanket of despair and usher in true democracy to make Pakistan a truly Islamic welfare state.
About the writer: Brig Asif Haroon is a defence analyst and author of several books. Email: [email protected]
Brig Asif Haroon Raja an Member Board of Advisors Opinion Maker is Staff College and Armed Forces WarCoursequalified, holds MSc war studies degree; a second generation officer, he fought epic battle of Hilli in northwest East Bengal during 1971 war, in which Maj M. Akram received Nishan-e-Haider posthumously.
He served as Directing Staff Command & Staff College, Defence Attaché Egypt and Sudan and Dean of Corps of Military Attaches in Cairo. He commanded the heaviest brigade in Kashmir. He is lingual and speaks English, Pashto and Punjabi fluently.
He is author of books titled ‘Battle of Hilli’, ‘1948, 1965 & 1971 Kashmir Battles and Freedom Struggle’, ‘Muhammad bin Qasim to Gen Musharraf’, Roots of 1971 Tragedy’; has written number of motivational pamphlets. Draft of his next book ‘Tangled Knot of Kashmir’ is ready.
He is a defence analyst and columnist and writes articles on security, defence and political matters for numerous international/national publications.