Tuesday April 23, 2024

Judges and generals

The National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) and this corrupt and inept government were the gifts of

By Ahmed Quraishi
January 17, 2013
The National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) and this corrupt and inept government were the gifts of Pakistan’s judiciary and military. Both of them will have to play a historic role to roll back the damage.
The 2006-07 NRO and the subsequent coalition government brokered by the United States and Britain will be remembered as one of the darkest chapters in our modern history. Washington and London went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan to install the kind of government they got in Islamabad without firing a bullet. The worst part is that a former army chief permitted this breach of national security in exchange for personal benefit, and the nation was deceived in the name of political reconciliation. We have lost more than 50,000 Pakistanis and nearly one hundred billion dollars in just one decade because of decisions that failed to take the well-being of our citizens into account.
Thanks to this arrangement, our military and intelligence communities were exposed to direct attacks and sieges from within the country, through politics, media and proxies operating on our borders.
Getting rid of the NRO-brokered government is not enough. Pakistan needs to go beyond the damaging effects of the deal that produced this disastrous government.
For the first time since independence, we are witnessing a massive flight of Pakistani businessmen abroad. It is easy to let money escape but difficult to lure it back. This hard-earned Pakistani wealth is now a gift to the economies of other countries.
Our best and brightest are convinced they have no future in Pakistan. Our politics and democracy have become the subjects of international jokes with protests, riots and rallies that inflict damage to property and loss to the economy. Our political parties are suffocating with stale blood and old faces that haven’t changed over the last 25 years. Everyone is now armed to the hilt, making our election one of the bloodiest anywhere.
This is not democracy. This is chaos.
But there is still a lot of good in our great nation. We have risen against heavier odds. This time, if the judiciary and the military intervene for change, they will find an overwhelming majority of good Pakistanis on their side. Our people don’t want divisive politics. They want stability, good government, roads, schools, malls, factories, jobs, theatres, arts, sports. We want a cricket league and a world-class football league.
For 60 years our judges and generals sided with an elite class of corrupt and mediocre politicians. Now is the chance to break the cycle. Our judiciary and the military can side with our emerging class of decent, educated Pakistanis who come from diverse social backgrounds but are united in patriotism, talent and the ability to succeed.
Most importantly, our nation knows when to unite. And the first prerequisite of this unity is to brush aside opportunists dividing this nation in the name of province, religion, sect and language.
Our judges and generals can orchestrate a historical break with the failed politicians of the past.
None of this necessarily means a military-led government or an invitation to the army chief to become president. It means a government led by capable, patriotic Pakistanis and backed by the legitimacy of the judiciary and the power of the military to impose change.
We need a break from politics for a few years to help refocus our nation’s energies toward growth, prosperity and education. Instead of national politics, we need localised politics centred on development work, schools, and clinics. We need to re-educate our people in the art of civilised, peaceful politics. We need laws to vet candidates, transfer power to smaller administrative units, and impose elections within parties.
Two years ago, a private think tank, Project For Pakistan In 21st Century, assembled about a hundred young Pakistani university students to come up with a actionable plan to reorder the Pakistani state and society and create what we called ‘globalised Pakistani citizens’ in the new century. The list they came up with was long and impressive. But the most important thing we got from this exercise – apart from good ideas – was a new faith in the creativity, will and talent of this nation.
We have wasted time but we can catch-up. What we need is to take the first step.