Major General Ovais Mustafa (Retd) looks at the other side of the story
The last few weeks have been traumatic to say the least. Why the Storm & never in my life have I felt such unease at the political goings on in my beloved country – and for Pakistan that is saying a lot. After all we Pakistanis are quite used to the making and breaking of parties and groups, of people who appear to be ferocious enemies one day breaking bread together the next morning. Exchange of favors euphemistically called, “compromise” in political parlance, being a great lubricant for obviating any guilt feelings for such slithering moves. Great students of tribology, our entrenched politicians!
We have witnessed votes for sale to the highest bidder, ballot boxes stuffed with scrap paper whence not a feather ruffled at the Election Commission, courts favoring some blatantly while penalizing others heavily for similar conduct, of the imprint of foreign hands in ensuring people of their choice in positions of importance – one gets the picture. So, what was different this time. Why this angst that refuses to go away? That feeling that something akin to grievous bodily harm has been inflicted on us, something grave has happened that has no precedent.
Looking back one can discern events which seemed ordinary at the time but now suggest a trend, somewhat like the shadows cast by the glaring sun as it traverses the universe. Faint shades getting darker, almost disappearing at noon and then slowly and gradually casting long imprints on ground pointing directly opposite to the source and then vanishing quickly to let darkness take its grip on land. One could connect the dots but any hopes of getting a clear picture would be intrinsically misplaced. Such is the power of spin, of the modern media, of the unscrupulousness that has taken hold amongst even those whose duty it is to inform, to educate. It is all subjective now. Truth, fact, honesty, integrity, you name it; the same facts, the same events, the same actions, the same reactions will lead to diagrammatically opposite opinions, conclusions, presumptions, even beliefs.
That is the power of what is now called the fifth-generation warfare; attacks & Why the Storm on abilities to think and form independent views. Opinions are programmed remotely and embedded with such firmness that they crowd out any room for alternate considerations. We will imbibe only that for which our brains get wired and shut out all else. As I try to make sense of what happened, I am cognizant of the folly of expectation to convince anyone about whatever I conclude. It is purely an internal exercise but will share it, nevertheless. Just to get it off my chest.
First off, what happened: –
Govt formed by a political party on the strength of majority in parliament got toppled. The cause seemed insubstantial, rather a range of shifting accusations like, ‘selected by establishment hence unacceptable’ to ‘incompetence in governance’ to ‘failure to control high cost of living’, to ’economic meltdown’, ‘diplomatic isolation’; in short sweeping generalities morphing from one allegation to another without relating to contributing causes or supporting data. The mechanics of ‘toppling’ seemed questionable due to following occurrences that are common knowledge and though not owned up, also not deniable by any entity: –
Why the Storm _ The ‘house arrest’ of dissident MNAs of ruling party till they voted against their own . Somebody paid for the stay of about 12 persons in a five-star hotel for about three weeks.
The exchange of monumental funds with no traceability, the alleged recipients being those very personalities who later voted against their own party. Videos showing ‘dissidents’ counting large bundles of cash circulated on social media.
The missive from a superpower demanding the exact result of the vote of no confidence that eventually transpired. The issue was discussed in a special ‘National Security Council’ meeting. The need to hold that meeting and subsequent official statement being proof that the derogatory and threatening missive had indeed been received officially.
That the no confidence motion could not have carried without the dissident’s vote. Additionally, the decision to ‘rebel’ seemed to be motivated by considerations other than political as those persons could not present any convincing justification for such an extreme step. Why the Storm aspects called for immediate investigative actions by constitutional ‘watchdogs’; concerned organs of state however remained inactive.
Extraordinary claims of ‘neutrality’ were made publicly by power stakeholders. The stance of neutrality however became controversial because of following: –
Public statement aimed at pacifying the superpower who had initiated the threatening missive without the standard process of departmental scrutiny and ‘clearance’ that is critical in such matters and is the norm.
Proclaimed lack of influence on opposition to lower political temperatures at critical junctures but regaining such influence when the scales tipped.
Why the Storm Extra ordinary sense of purpose exhibited by the otherwise staid judiciary in taking suo moto action against the speaker of national legislature when article 5 of the constitution was invoked.
That the honourable judges did not consider ‘suo moto’ being intrusion into ambit of legislature. The judges showed no concern to allay public feelings of bench being guilty of same ‘constitutional impropriety’ that they sat in judgement of. The judgement thus left deep impression of double standards on part of the highest forum responsible to dispense justice. The judiciary failed the acid test of “justice must not only be done but also seen to be done”.
A litigation, the plea being from the head of state was already under hearing for judgement on legality of ‘dissenters’ vote. The court not only refused to make those who allegedly ‘sold’ votes as respondents but also pended that hearing to take up suo moto hearing on ‘speakers ruling’, which effectively rendered the case irrelevant, later judgement being clearly pointless.
The basis of Why the Storm’, on the other hand, which was documentary evidence of ‘external interference’ in national matters was not allowed to be made part of the suo moto proceedings. That the documentary evidence raised possibility of covert funding by the superpower to enable opposition ‘buy’ ‘dissidents’, was apparently not considered as important by the learned judges. Since that evidence could have had pivoting impact on the verdict, the refusal to consider the key document could be argued to have compromised fairness of court proceedings and by consequence the verdict.
The relevance of evidence of ‘dissidents vote in exchange for material favors’ was effective only prior to the voting process on ‘no confidence motion’. That per se necessitated dovetailing of hearings in accordance with effect of outcomes but went abegging. Therefore, while the declared reason for suo moto on ‘speakers ruling’ was ‘constitutional rights of citizens’, the same level concern for those very ‘constitutional rights of citizens’ was not applied to hearing on ‘sale of votes’ in the parliament.
These are the events that culminated into change of regime. I have purposely not included any opinions save the incontrovertible ones just to refrain from inducing any bias. But all that is over and time to move forward. That is easier said than done, the mix of extreme emotions with fake news is a deadly concoction and someone will have to step forward and some will have to step back a bit to let sanity prevail. The window for return to that sanity is however closing fast and there is no room for inaction or over reaction to withstand or counter the storm of public sentiments on display. TW