An editorial of 7 Oct, in Pakistan’s well established newspaper, The Dawn, states, ‘the colonial curse of the sedition law hangs over us like the sword of Damocles, with dozens of political leaders and lawmakers being booked overnight in a case of alleged rebellion against the state.’ It added, ‘for too long, journalists, politicians, academics and activists critical of the state have been hounded for their views and booked in such cases so that their words are stifled.’ The only aspect missing in the editorial, possibly on account of state regulators, is that criticism against the government and judiciary is acceptable, but criticism against the army and CPEC is tantamount to the critic being accused of being on Indian payroll and declared an anti-national.
The fact that the sitting Prime Minister of PoK, Raja Farooq Haider, Nawaz Sharif, three retired Generals were among the 40 booked for sedition, in a single case, indicates that even a remote connection to comments makes you liable for being billed an Indian agent. The complaint under which they were booked stated, ‘Nawaz Sharif’s speech was aimed to indirectly benefit his friend Indian Prime Minister NarendraModi. ‘After it became a global joke, the Pak Government withdrew all names but that of Nawaz Sharif.
Imran had stated in an interaction with Samaa TV in early Oct, ‘If it weren’t for our army, our country would’ve been in three pieces. India’s think-tanks say that they want to break Pakistan.’ Imran implied that anyone questioning the army is playing the Indian card. Another reason for defending the army by Imran was, ‘India has become a security issue. We know India sponsors terrorism in Pakistan but since we were aiming to bring peace because we wanted to lift our economy, the army stood by me.’
In his opinion, Pakistan remains a country not because of its people, its principles or its religion, but because of the army. This places the army on a pedestal opening doors for it controlling the state as also exploiting it without anyone having powers to question them. The recent bill introduced in the Pak senate seeking to prosecute anyone who ‘ridicules or brings into disrepute or defames’ the military’ only enhances their power.
Pak newspapers carry every negative incident in India on their frontpages, desperate to project India as a nation where crimes are committed against minorities. Comments by Indian politicians praising Pak or criticizing the Modi Government are equally projected as dissatisfaction within India. Even Pakistan’s own internal sectarian violence and insurgencies, arising from follies of the Pak army, are blamed on India.
Imran commented, ‘we knew for three months, they (India) were aiming for the assassination of Shia and Sunni scholars. Thank God our agencies caught on and a terrorist group was busted in Punjab.’ This was untrue, but he was seeking to blame India for the rising sectarian violence within the country. The recent assassination of Maulana Dr Adil Khan, head of Karachi’s JamiaFarooqia seminary, was also blamed on India.
India has been accused of being behind the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Baluch freedom fighters. The fact that the TTP rose from the ashes of the flawed attack on the Lal Masjid in July 2007 and is protected by the Taliban to gain leverage from the Pak army is ignored. The first terrorist strike by the TTP was two months after the Lal Masjid attack and targeted the compound of the commando unit involved in the attack on the Masjid. The latest Baluch uprising, the fifth,rose becauseof a rape of a Baluch doctor by a Pak army captain, whom the army refused to punish, is also ignored. The fatal attacks on Pak security forces last week was blamed on Indian security agencies.
Within Pakistan, the word being spread is that India is the largest sponsor of terrorism and has been protected by western nations for economic reasons. Comments by Indian television commentators on Pakistan is interpreted as comments by India’s security agency, RAW.
A report in the Pak owned Global Village Space, an online news portal, stated on 02 Oct, ‘political commentators in Pakistan are of the view that some politicians also play in the hands of Indian agencies. In this regard, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s statements and recent attempts to belittle the armed forces are being sighted.’ It also quoted Imran Khan stating that he was ‘100 per cent sure that India was helping the PML-N leader.’
On CPEC, the same article stated, ‘it is an open secret that Indian intelligence agency, RAW has been sponsoring and conducting terrorist activities in Pakistan particularly at the sites of CPEC to impede the developmental work and frustrate the investors. It had crafted a terrorist network in Baluchistan to obstruct the construction of CPEC infrastructure.’ Within the Pak elite and the political hierarchy, it is known that the CPEC is the golden goose of corruption and being exploited by the army through its commercial enterprises. Under demands from China the CPEC has been placed under army control and beyond interference or criticism by politicians.
India is the card being employed by the Pak army to ensure that it remains protected from opposition political attacks, can continue to misuse national resources and control the government without placing the country under martial law. The perpetual fear of an Indian military offensive, regularly projected by Imran and Qureshi, internally and externally including at the UN, only enhances their importance, leading to the belief that those who accuse it of any wrongdoings are Indian agents seeking to weaken its fibre.
Since every criticism of the agencies in power is blamed on India, democracy in Pakistan has been reduced to a farce. The government acts as a rubber stamp and endorses decisions made in Rawalpindi. The current move by all opposition parties, under the banner of the People’s Democratic Front (PDF) to challenge the army and the Government is an uphill task, as they would be compelled to counter the accepted belief of the importance of the army in securing the nation. If they succeed in changing the system, Pakistan could progress towards true democracy and open doors for peace. If they fail, the hold and power of the army would only increase, pushing any hopes of peace into the dustbin.
(The author is Major General (Retd)