Pakistan finds herself at cross roads again. The recent protracted tussle between the civilian setup on the one side and the Judiciary and the Army on the other, with no clear winners so far, has left Pakistan tottering on the brink of instability. A paralyzed civilian government is unable to govern, a distracted Judiciary is unable to dispense justice in important cases like the missing persons case, and the Army’s focus on fighting extremism has been sapped by the recent confrontation.
As can be expected, several commentators have written in western newspapers like the Wall Street Journal and New York Times offering simplistic analysis of the current crisis and recommend canned proposals like “Civilian supremacy over the Army” or complicated suggestions like “Checks and balances”. These solutions are unworkable, ridiculous and inapplicable given the peculiar nature of the power structure in Pakistan, her history, her constitution, jurisprudence and her polity. I wish to use this blog post to evolve a set of proposal for the Army, the Judiciary and the Civilian government. Please do post your own proposals as well in the comments:
- Army: On earlier occasions, the crisis would have come to a quick conclusion with one simple trip to PTV on a tank followed by a speech. The reason for the current drawn out confrontation and festering instability is clear: Bad economy. I am sure that the Army’s economic advisors are aware of recent research which show that ruining the economy by profligate spending and picking up irresponsible fights with the US is more fun than actually fixing the said ruined economy. This is restraining the army from ending the crisis with a quick coup. In the interests of stability, crisis should be kept short and coups should be quick. Therefore, the Army, in addition to foreign policy and national security should also run the economy. This would guarantee that the economy would be in great shape like the our foreign policy and national security. This would ensure that the Army can conduct coups anytime they want without being overly scared of inheriting a hopelessly broken economy after the coup. Crises would be short!
- The Judiciary: Pakistan’s Judiciary has accumulated impressive experience at justifying coups post-facto. However, it has shockingly meager experience in initiating regime changes. Initiating a regime change is what they are trying now and have created a protracted messy crisis. The fly in the ointment is the constitution which has hurdles like Presidential immunity, to prevent exactly this attempt at power-grab, but astute observers will note that the same constitution provides for a way out: Only a Muslim can become a President! Therefore, I propose that the Supreme court rename itself as the Supreme Jirga and the Chief Justice assume the title of Chief Qazi. Want to get rid of the government? No problem! Declare the Prime Minister and the President as bad Muslims and ergo, not Muslims at all! (This has a second advantage: Getting rid of Prime ministers by declaring them to be bad Muslims is definitely less ridiculous than citing judgements in Nigeria and Uganda to justify coups as the honorable Supreme Jirga did in Begum Nusrat Bhutto v. Chief of the Army Staff case.) Want to defuse the current crisis instead? No issues at all. Rule that the president should gift 1000 goats to the Chief of the ISI to repent for defamation and drop the case altogether. Crisis solved!
- The Civilians: Of the three arms of the Government dreamt up by the Quaid – Qazis, Army and Bloody Civvies (This is what the Quaid really wanted. I claim that he carried a concealed gun in addition to his concealed beard and turban that people constantly search for), the Civvies are the weakest. They neither have the tanks of the Army nor do they have the religious self-righteousness of the Supreme Jirga. So they have to rely on subterfuge to ensure stability. It is clear that the recent crisis has been exacerbated by the extension granted to the COAS and DG-ISI. Keeping all this in mind, I propose that the Prime minister grant extension for life for the COAS. This offers many advantages:
- The COAS wont be in a hurry to overthrow the government before his extension is up. He is COAS for life!
- Dictators in Pakistan have a typical shelf life of 10 years at the maximum, after which either they are exiled or presented with mangoes. What would you rather be? Dictator for 10 years or COAS for life?
- COAS would be busy purging his generals to make sure that they dont overthrow him to become COAS for life and therefore would be too busy to intervene in the civilian setup.