By Sankar Ray
‘Miltablishment’ breathes down the neck of all parties – major and minor – save the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf with Imran Khan at the helm. The PTI is the only party which has not questioned the impartiality of the polls, scheduled to take place on 25 July to directly elect 278 law-makers of the National Assembly. The Election Commission of Pakistan behaves like a cretin as it condescended to the top honchos at the Rawalpindi Cantonment that clamped the mandate that the army head of each polling booth will have magisterial powers during the polling process. The Rawalpindi Cantonment is the seat of ‘Miltablishment’ thriving on the notorious feudal hangover. The majority of military big shots in the history of Pakistan come from West Punjab.
The impartiality of the interim Prime Minister Justice Nasirul Mulk has been shadowed by doubts for his extremely tearing hurry in issuing a letter for the jail trial of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Senator Javed Abbasi of Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) sees “dark clouds looming over the elections”, threatening the national democratic polity. The hounding and arresting of PML-N leaders demolishes the level-playing field, he argues, questioning the silence of the ECP over these arrests that make a mockery of transparency in the election.
The pattern of vendetta against the PML-N leaders is strange and suspicious, evident from the extremely tearing haste in the jail trial of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, although Law Minister Ali Zafar denies that Justice Mulk was pressurized to have done so. But the minister’s claim that it was a ‘routine affair’ doesn’t convince political analysts. Reports have it that the National Accountability Bureau wrote to the Law Ministry on 13 July, the last working day of the week, seeking transfer of the premises of an accountability court to Adiala Jail, Rawalpindi for hearing of cases against Nawaz Sharif and others. In lightning speed, it was forwarded to the Cabinet Division, followed by approval of federal ministers and the PM took no time to sign it for issuance of an unprecedented notification – never done even to hardcore terrorists.
Suspicion about foul play in the run-up to 25 July, the day of verdict, is real. Foreign media alleges ‘pre-poll rigging’, while PML-N leaders openly accuse Imran Khan of collaborating with ‘miltablishment’. “Only one person is allowed to run his campaign freely,” said PML-N’s Pervaiz Rasheed. He forewarned the PTI chief, “Don’t establish customs which you might have to regret tomorrow.”
But the Rawalpindi Cantonment cannot have its plan – rather plot – implemented like a cake walk as it had thrown a spanner into the Punjabi heartland of the Miltablishment. Punjab has historically been the principal source of its power and legitimacy, degrading which will be risky. Time was when “provinces of Balochistan, Sindh and KP have witnessed outbursts of anti-‘Punjabi Miltablishment’ sub-nationalism from time to time, but this is the first time in 70 years that a sizeable chunk of Punjab is simmering not against the ‘subversive’ parties and leaders of other provinces but against its very own ‘patriotic’ sons of the soil. This is that process whereby the social contract of overly centralized and undemocratic states is rent asunder. In that sense, it is the Miltablishment which is on trial”, quipped Najam Shetty in the latest editorial comment in The Friday Times.
Imran Khan is obviously optimistic. He assured the business community of consultations in the process of economic policy formation if PTI wins the elections, and sought the latter’s trust. He promised to reduce taxes, increase incentives to individuals and corporations for investment He slammed the Sharifs and Zardaris for pitting the police against the people. The two adversaries have ruined the country when they were in power and debilitated the Pak economy under massive burden of foreign loans. They incurred all the money on their personal security and never thought of setting up a hospital in Punjab. Nawaz Sharif instead lavishly incurred Rs 1 billion on the Prime Minister’s House, leave alone extravaganza on the foreign tours. The PTI-led government in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province had depoliticised the police and brought reforms, he claims. It wasn’t used to killing any person in fake encounters. The PTI boss keeps the ‘miltablishment’ in good humour by his assurance that his government would strengthen relations with the USA. Pakistan cannot afford to do anything that paves the way for severing ties with America. He foresees a majority for PTI in the general elections.
But the PTI regime in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is not spotless. Some time back the Peshawar High Court (PHC) directed the NAB to conduct a probe into the Bus Rapid Transit, the flagship project of the provincial government.“The delay, contract awarding process, feasibility and all the issues relating to the project of BRT are all shady and shaky”, stated a division bench comprising Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth and Justice Musarrat Hilali. It was a sequel to a writ petition filed by Amanullah Haqqani, a former provincial minister belonging to Maulana Fazlur Rahman’s Jamiat Ulema-e Islam (F).
Pakistan confronts a diabolical dialectics that poses a threat to the future of democracy that wages a battle against miltablishment albeit metaphorically. (IPA Service)
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