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May 18, 2015

The script is out, the road is bumpy


May 18, 2015

DUBAI: Two public quotes of two extremely relevant people can provide the context, or the thinking that has gone into the script, nay a political and military road map, which has been elaborately and daringly presented by the Corps Commander of Karachi Lt. General Naveed Mukhtar in a televised speech two days ago.
The first quote is about the domestic situation and is repeated almost daily in a TV promo of a political talk show. Former NA Public Accounts Committee chairman, an important leader of PPP Nadeem Afzal Chan says in this famous quote: “The law is a command of the Sovereign. When the powers that be say enough is enough, main political parties will come around in 30 minutes and say Bismillah… (lets begin).”
The second statement, though couched in an expertly articulated diplomatic response to a question comes from a very senior, now retired, foreign affairs bureaucrat who has been ambassador of Pakistan in China, India and the US besides foreign secretary and many other top posts.
Mr. Riaz Khokhar said in a Washington DC meeting on Friday, May 15, that the Chinese President in his address to the National Assembly had emphasized that “Unity” in Pakistan was essential for launching and success of Pak-China economic projects. When Khokhar was asked whether the Chinese would like unity in a political set up or prefer a military set up in Pakistan, the wily diplomat used all his life’s experience to dodge the question saying: “You know the answer better.”The meaning was obvious.
Given one domestic and a foreign view of how a script written and implemented by the Pakistan army would be received, it becomes clear that politicians and political governments are in no position to challenge this creeping coup, thanks to their own failures and incompetence, now publicly stated by the army.
General Naveed’s written speech before a mixed audience with many top PPP leaders like Sherry Rehman stated: “We are living in defining

times and failure is not an option. We must act decisively and wholeheartedly to translate our policies into meaningful and coordinated tangible measures that can lead to a stable environment secure from fear, extremism and militancy with a firmly established writ of state and rule of law..”
Each word of this short clip carries a deep message and a game plan to implement. The agenda this short para contains cannot obviously be implemented in a state of confusion, discord and amidst a political tug of war.
An accompanying report by Mazhar Abbas in this newspaper gives in detail how much planning has been done and what action in each direction is contemplated. The key point he reports is that the plan will be expanded to the whole of Sindh.
This extensive homework shows the speech of the Corps Commander was not just off the cuff but had been in the making for some time. A clear statement about the 3rd phase of the operation has been made and references to misuse of political influence, administrative failures, errors, an institutional vacuum, land grabbing, acts of land, water, extortion mafias sponsored by politicians are obviously aimed at the present political set-up.
The big question is how will the army carry out its stated agenda against these very politicians while they stay in power, enjoying official positions and resisting actions, creating hurdles in the army game plan.
These two situations cannot co-exist, it can be stated without fear of contradiction.So what will be the way out. The Nawaz Government at the centre is also jittery and very nervous as politicians realize that once dominoes start falling, it is just a matter of time that the effects will reach the very end of the political spectrum.
That is probably why Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and others have come out openly against any talk of Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah’s resignation.Mr Shah has all but given up if his statements and comments are any guide. It was reported that he had offered to resign but Mr Zardari intervened. The CM told a news conference on Sunday he had given a list of what the Sindh police needed to the “Army Chief”, yes the army chief.
What has the army chief got to do with providing weapons to Sindh police? But this is the ground reality.It has also been reported that at the last Apex Committee meeting Mr Shah repeatedly complained to General Raheel that the Nawaz government was not releasing money it had promised to Sindh for the anti-terrorism operation. Gen Raheel assured him he would discuss these complaints with PM Sharif.
The politicians have thus already conceded a larger than life political role to the army, whether they admit it or not.As it appears that the army has now prepared and announced its game plan, which does not have an option to go back, and as every political ill, including corruption and accountability has been included in the list of to-do things, the politicians have been pushed to the last few inches of the boundary line.
Either they will be thrown out if they resist or they can voluntarily step out of the ground.With Sindh in this turmoil, the centre and Punjab facing the sword of the Judicial Commission on the 2013 elections, the KPK waiting to hit the last nail in the political coffin of the 2013 set-up, it is unlikely that the “Unity” China needs for investing $45 billion will be available any time soon, unless the scenario Mr Riaz Khokhar hinted at appears.
For Nawaz Sharif the few metro rail projects and the China economic corridors are the only lifelines left, with the rest of policy-making having already slipped out of his hands. With Sindh under an army game plan, 2016 March designated as new census date to be conducted again by the army, the road appears to be bumpy and dangerous.
If the politicians go along quietly and without creating a gridlock, things may drift with the army running the show without actually announcing a take-over.But if some leaders want to play it dirty, all kinds of dirt bags are ready to be thrown at them. The choice is theirs because the failure is also theirs.

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