Emerging Gameplan?

With careful research of the material churned out by those in the media on the government payroll officially or unofficially, one can always put together a crude draft of the possible future gameplan of any ruling regime. When services of some NGLs (non-government lobbyists) are also requisitioned to dole out self-serving “platitudes” about the necessity for a “change of system”, the bottom line is that the military regime has had enough of the political structure they themselves put in place in 2002. A Sufi saying goes, “one must read between the lines, it tires the eyes less”. Some fundamental and radical changes in the manner the country is being run are on the anvil for implementation in the next few months. Lobbyists are akin to “Greeks bearing gifts”, paid by their clients in lumpsum or a retainer basis, their “advice” is based on motivated interest to obtain benefit for their clients (and for themselves), not flinching from putting their clients (and friends) lives at risk, after all “nothing risked nothing gained”. Lobbyists must be registered as in the US and other countries so that the naïve and the gullible (and everyone else) would know their “heartfelt” advice is not made in the “greater national interest” but in pursuance of lining their pockets.

Quoting Mark Twain, “in statesmanship get your formalities right, forget about the moralities”, a few facts being propagated by the ruling regime through official and non-official channels are self-evident truths, viz (1) Pakistan is not suited to Parliamentary form of democracy on the Westminster pattern, a conclusion shared by the military, the bureaucracy and a large number of right-leaning intellectuals (2) in the process of pandering to the norms of democracy the regime has become vulnerable to political blackmail, compromising the Oct 12 agenda, the very raison d’etre for its existence (3) the confrontation between the elected representatives of the legislative Assemblies and the elected Local Bodies has turned governance into a working disaster that instead of alleviating the peoples’ miseries is further confounding them (4) the working arrangement between the President and PM is heavily skewed in favour of the PM in the present Constitution, good in theory but inconvenient in practice for men in uniform in Pakistan used to wielding absolute power and not sharing authority (5) governance of the Provinces has become too unwieldy to handle with increases in population, only the major city/cities in each Province get attention and the under-developed areas remain undeveloped, manifest the growing protest at discriminate allocation and utilization of development funds (6) despite major successes by law enforcement agencies (LEAs) in the “war on terrorism”, the “law and order” situation will continue to worsen, with a vast majority of Pakistanis suspecting the long-term anti-muslim motives of the Bush Administration and finding it increasingly hard because of Afghanistan and Iraq to stomach the shotgun marriage with the US (7) undiluted freedom in the printed and electronic media is to the credit of the regime, but the media has spun out of the regime’s corner (rank ingratitude!) in the democratic environment as the media protest about the amendments proposed to the defamation laws has shown (8) an expanded military bureaucracy has become “comfortable” living a corporate life in civil departments and autonomous/semi-autonomous corporations as opposed to the relatively Spartan living of the boys in khaki (9) with politicians already not being trusted with governance internally, who will “guide ” the nation’s foreign policy in a very tough regional backyard with both enemies and potential enemies all around us, particulary when Paksitan is engaged in crucial composite talks with India? (10) the question of dwindling water resources is reaching an alarming stage, political governments will not hence the courage to go ahead with construction of Kalabagh Dam, Basha Dam, etc, without which the acute water shortage would become a cause of major strife between the Provinces in the immediate future (11) the education sector is mostly in a holy mess, urgent reforms of madrassahs preaching hate and venom is vital (12) a net beneficiary of 9/11 the economy has been stabilized, the take-off may be aborted without a stable technocrat hand at the economic controls and the masses will keep on waiting for the benefits of “trickle down” economics to trickle down (13) the PML (Q) has not performed underscoring the need for a credible pro-establishment political party with strong structure and deep roots, the PML needs to be re-modelled on the UNMO (Malaysia) and/or Golkar (Indonesia) pattern, the cadres of parliamentarians, technocrats and professionals going through “National Security Workshops” in the National Defence College (NDC) showing “satisfactory” results (14) the specter of “reverse” accountability, a future National Accountability Bureau (NAB) may well haunt some stalwarts (including those within the NAB suspected of lining their own pockets under the pretext of “plea-bargaining”) who have excelled themselves in dubious dealings, real-estate transactions and unnecessary foreign junkets and lastly (15) the “mission remains unaccomplished” because (a) the liberal governance mode since Oct 1999 did not create “discipline” and (b) a technocrat Federal Cabinet was needed for excellence in governance.

Given such disappointments and potential problems, what is a Presidential system masquerading as a Parliamentary democracy doing and/or likely to do? The betting in the streets is that while the cosmetic mask of parliamentary institutions may well remain to give the veneer of democracy so as to pander to the prevailing international democratic environment, we will be a Presidential system in more than name only before the end of the year. To tap the best available talent for the Cabinet (and which is not susceptible to political blackmail) the make-up of the future Cabinet will be on the US pattern composed of technocrats, with a possibility of elected members of the Assemblies having to resign on joining the cabinet. There is a likelihood that smaller provinces (17 or 18) may be created to make the system more manageable. While one agrees in theory about smaller Provinces, is the timing right? The silver lining, many more vacancies for the serving and retired in uniform for Governorship. Rumours are that “Constitutional Sculptor Extraordinary” Sharifuddin Pirzada is engaged in putting the final chisel to far-reaching changes in the existing Constitution that will reflect the military regime’s solution to assuage “the frustrated aspirations of all Pakistanis”.

I still maintain that it is in the country’s (and his own interest) for Shaukat Aziz to be an executive Deputy PM running day-to-day government with Ch Shujaat giving political cover as the PM. The President can run the country from a bunker, a Prime Minister cannot. With the military having a penchant for time-frames, in the preparatory stage the first priority will be to clear the decks in the President’s core constituency, the Pakistan Army. The military re-shuffle slated for early October may well be brought forward, soon after Shaukat Aziz induction as PM, likely in the last week of August. The entire process may well be timed to be completed alongwith the US Presidential Elections in November.

While one believes that democracy and a “President in uniform” cannot go together, the fact remains that we are not living in Utopia but in rather complicated and dangerous corner of the world. Given a state of near-anarchy hovering somewhere in our future for any number of reasons, the President doffing his uniform is a gilt-edged invitation for trouble. Unless we want the whole edifice to collapse I don’t see Pervez Musharraf taking off his army uniform. A VCOAS will replace the present VCOAS or a new mechanism thereof will be worked out. As the Shaukat Aziz selection for PM has shown, Pervez Musharraf keeps his cards close to his chest, even his close circle of advisors were as clueless as the man on the street, before, doing and (even) after the resignation of Jamali as PM and appointment of Shaukat Aziz as PM-designate-in-waiting (with apologies to Capt Jilani and his army “Lower Urdu” examination experience when he certified he did not know the contents of the Question Paper “before, during or after the examination”).

Whatever happens, and whatever may be the motivation, the national interest or crass personal ones, one keeps hoping that the end result will be in the supreme interest of the country, and that it can be sustained!