Much is being read into the recent so called ‘macho’ speech of the Co Chairman of the PPP. Some analysts are calling it some kind of a gauntlet thrown at the ‘establishment’ which they think and hope will be picked up so that fireworks can start. The media loves fireworks because it rakes in the moolah and these days that is the most important consideration. More experienced and savvy people know that the outburst by the Co Chairman was neither a speech nor a gauntlet — it was a sad and pathetic spectacle. It was the response much like the one a cornered rat makes as a last ditch effort to evade a fate that looks inevitable.
The Co Chairman forgot that for five long years he was the President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Supreme Commander of Pakistan’s Armed Forces. You do not get to go any higher except when called to the eternal abode. For such an eminence to threaten the land that honored him with an end to end shut down that would only end on his say is the mother of all betrayals. To threaten the forces he commanded with public exposure to disgrace them is the mother of all come downs because it lowers one to the level of a blackmailer. Above all such a tirade is a tacit public admission that the Rangers’ operation in Karachi led by a no-nonsense soldier is dead on target and that the target feels the noose tightening and hurting.
Those expecting a response or a flurry of action are in for a surprise. The military will not stoop to pick up the gauntlet because there is no gauntlet to be picked up. The thought about three year military tenures in the top slot as opposed to the ‘permanence’ of the politician is a fallacy and those sitting around the speech-making table knew that. The petrified look on the face of the other Co Chairman under his warrior type turban and the frozen smile on the face of the lady who loves goggles gave away their true feelings as they heard their leader rant and rave. Altaf Bhai now has a rival. What was forgotten was the continuity in the military institution because it is an institution in the true strength of the word with enormous organizational and structural strength and a memory that would put an elephant to shame — so tenures and individuals are not important, the institution is. And above all the military is an institution of Pakistan that for the last seven years has been functioning under and in support of the elected governments. Right now it is fighting to give human and physical security in Pakistan and is unhesitatingly making supreme sacrifices. What is critical is the present and not the past in which the Co Chairman wants to wallow to dredge up failures and lapses.
If the Co Chairman was expecting political forces to rally around him and his party he must be disappointed. The political institution is not known for siding with losers or those about to lose. In fact that is the time the rivals go for the jugular. The PML(N) has wisely distanced itself by words and action. The others have taken the opportunity to condemn and point out the gross misgovernance and neglect that characterizes the government in Sind besides other unsavory doings. The Co Chairman has given the governing party a boost that they would be fools not to exploit. People are talking of their achievements — the decision on Yemen, the CPEC game changer, the improved relationship with the US, local government polls, the cooperative relationship with Afghanistan, the good civil-military interaction and the coming national census next year. The ‘speech’ was ill timed and has highlighted the fall of the PPP — another reminder that democracy works. Right now the military has the entire nation behind it as was evident from the reaction to the barbs from India and the military is being seen as a savior not just on the borders but deep within the country as its forces and intelligence assets not only combat threats but build capacity in civilian institutions to take on future threats. They are in no mood to waste time on mythical gauntlets and other distractions focusing on the past. As far as the advice being given to them by all and sundry — they will do what they think needs to be done and in a time frame that they think is appropriate — not under pressure from analysts and discussants.