POLITICAL engineering is the current buzzword. One of the most blatant recent examples was the very short-lived marriage between the MQM-Pakistan and the PSP. Leaders of both parties accepted that some establishment players had arranged this marriage. During my recent visit to Islamabad, I learnt that some politicians are being pressurised by members of the ‘invisible government’ on how to vote on the bills moved by the government and to stop supporting the PML-N.
Political engineering is not peculiar to Pakistan but is frequently used by the establishments of other countries also. They are great believers in the stupid dictum, ‘the end justifies the means’. Little do they understand that the means used to achieve the ‘end’ of their choice have their own dynamics that trigger other damaging consequences.
The US, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan used Islamist jihadism to make Afghanistan the USSR’s Vietnam. They did not realise they were unleashing the forces of Islamist terrorism and extremism. Today these countries are paying a heavy price for this opportunistic policy.
So-called intelligence agencies never learn.
But it seems the so-called intelligence agencies never learn. Haven’t they made the same mistake in Libya and Syria, by stoking the monster of Islamist terrorism yet again?
In India, Indira Gandhi’s government created Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale to counter the Khalistan movement. This militant leader defied his creator and fortified himself in the Golden Temple and forced Indira’s administration to launch Operation Blue Star. She paid for that with her life when two of her bodyguards, both Sikh, assassinated her. Some years later, her son Rajiv Gandhi also paid the ultimate price for his government’s interference in the Sri Lankan Tamil movement.
The establishment in Pakistan has engaged in political engineering many a time. In the 60s and 80s we saw up close how it worked to divide the Sindhi- and Urdu- speaking population of Sindh in order to weaken the democratic movement against the military dictators in power at the time. Such policies, by creating bad blood between the two communities living in the province, have had dire consequences. In the 80s, the support of General Zia’s government helped the small Mohajir student body in Karachi evolve into a fascist political party.
The establishment has ruled Pakistan directly for almost half the years of its existence, but it has otherwise also indirectly ruled it covertly. It has retarded the growth of the democratic process in the belief that the end justifies the means. However, it has mostly failed to achieve desired results.
In the 1970 election, the ruling junta tried to engineer a hung parliament to enable Gen Yahya Khan to get himself elected as the president. When the Awami League unexpectedly swept the polls, his government and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto tried to negotiate the terms of the future constitution outside the constituent assembly. The result was the uprising in East Bengal against the West Pakistan establishment.
In 1977, Bhutto rigged the elections on 36 National Assembly seats. The massive protest movement led by the Pakistan National Alliance allowed the cunning Gen Ziaul Haq to topple the government, impose martial law in the country and rule it for 11 years. Gen Zia had to seek political support so he engineered non-party elections in 1985. To ensure a subservient prime minister, he hand-picked Muhammad Khan Junejo for the post.
However, Junejo defied the general and signed the Geneva Accord with Afghanistan. The military dictator’s political engineering had failed and he dismissed the Junejo government and parliament in 1988. Eventually Gen Zia who damaged the country the most lost the support of his own constituency.
In 1988, the establishment’s attempt to manage the election results by engineering a political alliance of the rightist parties, the Islami Jamhoori Ittihad (IJI), was only partially successful. Its objective of preventing the PPP from forming the government was not met, as it emerged as the major party in the elections. But the establishment tolerated the PPP government for no more than18 months, and had it sacked via the notorious article 58(2b).
The only major success of the establishment’s political engineering came in the 1990 elections, the results of which enabled the IJI to form the government.
In today’s political scenario the Islamabad doomsday pundits’ grapevine says that under no circumstances will the establishment let the PML-N attain a majority in the Senate elections in mid March. When asked as to how that would be possible short of imposing a martial law, these Nawaz haters do not hesitate to predict a judicial coup in which the assemblies would be dissolved. But the optimists are of the view that elections will be held in time with the establishment giving a little push to the captain’s team.
The writer is a freelance journalist and author.
Published in Dawn, January 8th, 2018