Pakistan now faces the consequences of repeatedly letting military hawks off the hook
Pakistan is possibly the only country in South Asia where military hawks nesting in Rawalpindi GHQ give sermons to lawmakers and legislators in Islamabad on how to desist from engaging in divisive politics on issues of national interest.
Earlier this month, Pakistan’s Parliamentary Committee on National Security was debriefed on the prevailing situation in the country and region by no less than the director general of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed.
Pakistan’s rogue spy agency is calling the shots in Pakistan. The “Pakistan Military Incorporated” flexes its muscles because of the extra-constitutional powers that it has illegally appropriated over all the state organs, including the judiciary.
What the ISI chief said undoubtedly makes perfect sense, but his discourse on political correctness to legislators has raised eyebrows among the civil society, independent media, and rights groups.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan -- with his election promise for “Naya Pakistan” -- has swallowed his nerve to speak out against the Rawalpindi GHQ hawks. His “wahi” (sermons) come from the military bigwigs and not from his civil or political advisers.
He seems to have lost confidence in the politicians and legislators from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). The wings of the party leaders were cropped, and their beaks waxed to stop them from chirping in satisfaction of Rawalpindi.
Political observers argue that Khan, the cricketer turned politician, is backed by the military, and that the hawks engineered the July 2018 elections and installed a puppet regime of PTI. Meanwhile, the PTI politicians snorted against military hegemony, but would not dare blow the gaff.
Pakistan’s premier English newspaper The Dawn underwent legal harassment and intimidation by the dreaded spy agency ISI, after a news story in October 2016 appeared on the front page: “Act against militants or face international isolation, civilians tell [the] military,” reflecting the anger of the civil society and rights groups.
The outcry of civil society is weak, but revealed that Rawalpindi’s hawks have continued patronage to jihadist terror networks, fanning conflicts by Islamist militants in neighbouring countries -- Afghanistan and India.
Pakistan has failed to block the military hawks from aiding and abetting jihad in neighbouring countries and elsewhere. Thus, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international anti-money laundering and terrorism finance watchdog refused to remove Pakistan from its grey watchlist because the country had not been vigorous enough in the prosecution of United Nations-designated terrorists.
Greylisting carries no legal sanctions but restricts a country’s access to international loans. A top Pakistan official estimated that the greylisting cost his country’s economy $10 billion annually.
The meddling of the spy agency in politics, civil administration, and the judiciary has gone so far that Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, a senior sitting judge of Islamabad High Court, was sacked within three months of having spilled the beans. He admitted that the “Judiciary [in Pakistan] is not independent … the ISI forms benches of its choice to get desired results.”
A Supreme Court judgment two years ago by Justice Qazi Faez Isa reminded that: “The Constitution emphatically prohibits members of the armed forces from engaging in any kind of political activity, which includes supporting a political party, faction, or individual.”
On the other hand, the cash crunch is pushing Pakistan on the verge of a failed state. Independent think tanks have warned that Pakistan will turn into a pariah state if the interference of the military hawks continues.
To salvage the nation from an economic crisis during the coronavirus pandemic, Khan has had to reach out to his all-weather friend China to repay the second instalment of $1 billion out of the $3 billion owed to Saudi Arabia.
Khan is widely dubbed as a populist and appears to reinforce a widespread traditionalist attitude that rejects religious tolerance, as well as the rights of women and ethnic minorities.
Saleem Samad, is an independent journalist, media rights defender, recipient of Ashoka Fellowship and Hellman-Hammett Award. He could be reached at [email protected]; Twitter @saleemsamad.