A fan of 500 rupee banknotes from Pakistan showing the face of Muhammad Ali Jinnah in national dress. Photo: iStock
A fan of 500 rupee banknotes from Pakistan showing the face of Muhammad Ali Jinnah in national dress. Photo: iStock

Tuesday, August 14, marks the 71st birthday of Pakistan, and the masses are again being given a lollypop by the establishment, this time “Naya Pakistan” (New Pakistan). The establishment will be happy as the mandate of the masses has been stolen and a new puppet is being installed as prime minister.

However, with every passing day, new stories are surfacing about how last month’s elections were rigged and media were put under immense pressure to support the Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). The latest story is about Form 45.

This is a form that declares the polling-booth results and as per the law, it requires the signatures of the polling officer and polling agents. Much to people’s surprise, a survey conducted by the daily The News has revealed that almost 90% of the forms were not signed by the polling staff. Perhaps every informed journalist knows how the elections were rigged and how the mandate of the people was stolen, but of course, the immense pressure from the establishment is keeping all of them silent on this issue.

Hijacking of the mandate and engineering of the electoral and political processes have been the tradition in Pakistan since the era of General Ayub Khan. It is not only about stealing the mandate only, it is about hijacking Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s Pakistan and turning it into a hostage of the deep state. It is a tale of a state that came into existence through the ballot and eventually became a hostage of the military establishment, which never played any role in winning the country’s independence.

It is just like when you hire a guard to protect your home from external enemies and one day a guard who is supposed to be protecting your house suddenly occupies it and tells you that he is the one who is keeping it safe from the enemies, so the house belongs to him.

Ayub Khan started this in 1958 by declaring martial law, and since then it has been the military establishment that runs the affairs of the country. The politicians and democracy are merely symbolic. The shield of patriotism is always there to protect the establishment from any sort of questioning or criticism from the larger segment of society, hence every good step or policy is attributed to the military while the failures are put into the accounts of the politicians.

Just to give one example, before Nawaz Sharif’s last tenure as prime minister, the country was gripped by terrorism and was facing its worst ever financial and electricity crises. It was Sharif who overcame the electricity crisis, and brought in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to save the economy, and he politically owned the military operations against the terrorists in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Karachi. But the credit has been taken by the establishment and all the failures the country is facing were blamed on Sharif.

The same was the case with Benazir and Zulfikar Bhutto. Zulfikar Bhutto came to the rescue when East Pakistan was lost and 90,000  soldiers who surrendered were behind bars in India. It was Zulfikar Bhutto who brought the soldiers home by negotiating with India, and he provided a political face-saving to the defeat of the Pakistan Army in the East Pakistan debacle. But a few years later Bhutto was termed a traitor and a corrupt leader, and eventually he was hanged by the dictator General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq.

His daughter Benazir Bhutto was accused of similar corruption charges and a threat to national security, and she was finally murdered. However, since 1958 to this day, not a single penny has ever been recovered from any of the accused politicians, which shows that accountability is the sloganeering of the military establishment to overthrow the popular political regimes and leaders of the country.

The launching of Imran Khan is just like old wine in a new bottle. Khan is a man with no vision for the economy – as demonstrated by his performance in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province – and so he is, of course, the ideal choice for the military establishment. His inability to govern and dependency to survive on the support of invisible forces will surely help the establishment to control the state affairs smoothly from behind the scenes.

This is called packaging in the corporate world: Make a brand, place it on the top and then advertise it in the market with massive marketing strategies. The forces who have launched Imran Khan and “Naya Pakistan” have nothing to lose, as Khan is just another puppet and his success or failure will not undermine the hegemony of the establishment on state affairs.

The history of Pakistan makes it evident that in the end political puppets like Imran Khan are thrown into the dustbin of politics: Asghar Khan, Mian Azhar and Mir Zafar Ullah Khan Jamali are the classic examples in this regard. At the same time, unfortunately, history also tells us that the invisible rule of the establishment has never lost a battle against its own democracy – and it is the country that has paid the price.

Jinnah’s idea was to create a welfare state for the people, not a state obsessed with military might and weapons, a state that actually has no resources to spend on education, health and poverty alleviation, but still borrows heavily to buy arms and to maintain the world’s sixth-largest army.

Until and unless the military establishment stops hijacking the ballot through the might of its guns and stops fighting a war with its own democracy, Pakistan will only move in circles and will never progress as a civilized and a developed country. It is strong institutions, democracy and investment in social structure and human resources that guarantee the survival and progress of a country.

The journey of Jinnah’s Pakistan to “Naya Pakistan” is undeniable evidence in this regard where only the faces have been changed, but other than the military establishment every other institution is being ruined. History punishes those who come too late; one hopes that the establishment will understand that Jinnah’s vision for Pakistan, not the establishment, made Naya Pakistan the only way forward for the country before it is too late.

Imad Zafar

Imad Zafar is a journalist and columnist/commentator for newspapers. He is associated with TV channels, radio, newspapers, news agencies, and political, policy and media related think-tanks.

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