In 2013, despite facing many challenges, Pakistani democrats celebrated the first ever completion of full constitutional term by the elected assemblies in the entire history of the country. They were also taking pride in the smooth transfer of power from the outgoing elected civilian government to the incoming one without intervention of the undemocratic third force. But the movers and shakers of the deep state were not amused by their “redundancy “ in the power politics. The unanimous passage of 18th Constitutional Amendment by the Parliament in 2010 that was regarded to be a glorious victory for both the smaller provinces and the federation turned out to be an affront to the undemocratic forces espousing “strong centre” which was synonymous with a strong control by them. But before it gets too serious let me share a joke to diffuse the tension a little bit. They say that once a tourist from the US was visiting the famous Taj Mahal in India. When the Indian guide had explained the unique history and intricate architectural characteristics of one of the seven wonders of the world he stopped talking to get the response of the tourist. The American tourist, after a brief pause, said that he was just wondering as to how could the Mughals build such a magnificent structure without American aid !
But unfortunately the response of the protagonists in our story was not confined to mere expression of amazement about the aforementioned development of Pakistani democratic system. They decided to do something about it. And then we saw in 2014 the aggressive IK and TUQ led mob physically assaulting the Parliament, the Supreme Court , the Prime Minister House and Pakistan Television in Islamabad under the guise of a “ sit in “ which kept shifting its goal posts from overthrowing the newly elected government to destabilizing it during the siege which continued for months. The public pronouncements by the mobocrat aboutthe intervention of the “ umpire” to send the elected government back to pavilion by raising his finger did not materialize as all the political parties rallied to support the Constitution and Parliament but the pressure exerted in the process was enough to pave the ground for a soft coup. Consequently the military dominated apex committees took charge of the law and order situation in all the four provinces of the country for indefinite time. They have been in the driving seat in FATA for quite some time. The deep state that has been already calling the shots in resource allocation was able to expand its not so implicit control over not only the entire state security policy but also the major portions of the foreign policy. Another important side effect was almost a rupture of the case of high treason against the former military dictator General ( retired) Parvez Mussharaf for abrogating the Constitution . Welcome to yet another era of controlled democracy in Pakistan !
The present crises in Sindh is clearly undermining the very structure of provincial autonomy that supposed to have been achieved under the 18th Constitutional Amendment. Rangers, a force under the command of the federal government and called by the provincial government to provide help in fighting terrorism have taking upon themselves to occupy the driving seat in running the province. Going far beyond their constitutional mandate they have started raiding government offices and arresting government servants and political figures on the charges of corruption without informing the provincial government and without initial involvement of NAB, a federal institution with the sole function of curbing corruption. It is pertinent to mention here that no one has raised objection to NAB’s actions in cases of the alleged corruption. But there are some dangerous aspects to the present stand off between the federation and the Sind government which has the support of the elected provincial assembly. If Rangers are allowed to raid government offices and arrest official without even informing the provincial government , this is a type of mini martial law that may not remain confined to Karachi and may spread to Lahore, Peshawar and even Islamabad .
The federal government, which is an extension of the ruling Punjabi elite, has decided to back the decimation of the provincial government in Sindh at the hands of Rangers. Now this is extremely alarming as allowing the use of state coercion for reversing of provincial autonomy that was achieved through constitutional processes can have dangerous fall out . Apart from deepening sense of alienation among the people of the smaller provinces it will also make the job of the shock forces of authoritarianism easier when they next time come to Islamabad for overthrowing the civilian set up. Then there is the case of a former PPP federal minister Dr. Asim Hussain. He was arrested by Rangers under charges of corruption , financing terrorism and providing treatment to injured terrorists in his hospital. Again it was rightly pointed out by the PPP that investigation of corruption is the domain of NAB and Rangers have overstepped their authority by taking this case into their hands. Terror financing and providing treatment to injured terrorists are serious charges and the courts must look into these charges and proceed according to law. Every single Pakistani will support across the board action not just against terror financing but also action for implementing all the twenty points of NAP to eliminate terrorism. But difficult questions will be inevitably raised if the government will drag its feet on NAP implementation and single out a certain hospital owned by a certain political figure for its anti terror raids. Will the people not speak about a method in the madness? Or will they not ask ask as to how many hospitals have been raided to arrest people responsible for treating OBL or Mulla Mohammad Omar or hordes of Taliban? Last but not the least there will be question regarding IK’s confession about treatment of Taliban in SKMH.
December 16 reminds us of the blunders committed by our ruling establishment ( dominated by Punjabi elites) that led to the disintegration of the country in 1971. Pakistan opted for a federal parliamentary system after that in 1973 Constitution to avoid repeating that tragedy. But under a new bout of controlled democracy similar blunders are being repeated in FATA, Balochistan and Sind. Even PTI which is opposed to PML(n)’s stand on every thing under the sun is not shy of supporting its actions in Sindh. Is the lure of Takht-e-Lahore responsible for this myopia? But will the tyrannical oppression of smaller provinces under controlled democracy not undermine the federation?