The roadmap for a democratic, peaceful change everyone wants

By Shaheen Sehbai

President Asif Ali Zardari recently told a number of journalists in Karachi that it was his great achievement that he had completed two years as the head of state of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, something he could never have imagined till the day Benazir Bhutto was murdered.  
He also told them that the noose was being tightened around his neck for the last six months and some persons, some politicians, some journalists, some nobodies, some political actors were out to get him but he again reiterated that he would not leave the Presidency except in an ambulance.
He expressed similar views, in diplomatic words, at his joint news conference with President Karzai on Wednesday when he was asked the pointed question about rumours of a military takeover. He made a stronger pitch for democracy in his message on the World Democracy Day when he spoke about stopping the Bonapartists.
The president had made a similar statement about leaving in an ambulance some months ago when he was under pressure. He had then forcefully and effectively used the Sindh card, when he stayed in Karachi and Larkana and made statements that PPP was again being hounded out of office by Punjab. He put on the Sindhi cap and his cronies started issuing statements that Pakistan may not “khappay”. At that time the threat seemingly worked. The analysts had predicted that the Sindh card won’t work in future.
Today he may be not so sure and so he was camped in Sindh for almost 20 days, away from the Presidency creating some sort of a record. Zardari is not so sure because Sindh and Sindhis are today in a state of rage and furore after the heinous and criminal manipulation of waters by his friends and party leaders. He realises that the rug has been pulled from under his feet and pictures of Benazir and the Sindhi cap will no longer help him.
The president’s remarks, coupled with a similar statement by Prime Minister Gilani that there was no threat to democracy, highlight the importance the high level of speculation and raging debates in political circles and the media have acquired about changes round the corner.
The debate was triggered by MQM’s Altaf Hussain who is repeatedly talking about a revolution. Others have discussed all the options but all oppose a direct military takeover.
Why the president feels he is being cornered is obvious. So many cases in the Supreme Court are ready for judgments, which Mr Zardari believes will not be very friendly to him. There is consistent talk of the SC asking for help of the Executive under Article 190. If that happens the Executive, including the Pakistan Army, will have very limited options but to help the apex court otherwise the entire legal structure will become a joke and collapse. But most analysts are stuck in a bind when they come to the point of how the change should come about. They discuss the possibilities in bits and pieces but no roadmap is given. Here is one hypothetical scenario for a purely constitutional, democratic and peaceful change, if some or all of the following steps are taken quickly and simultaneously:
– The angry coalition partner MQM, can pull out of the government and force the prime minister to show his majority.
– The angry Opposition led by PML-N can file a no-confidence motion against the prime minister after kicking out the PPP from its cabinet in Punjab.
– Opposition MPs combine to file an impeachment motion against the president because he has refused to abide by the Constitution and follow the judgments of the Supreme Court. Also, if he is disqualified by courts.
– The Supreme Court and High Courts give judgments in pending cases, including the NRO, disqualification of President Zardari and fake degree cases.
– The SC asks the Executive to come to the help of the judiciary under Article 190 and implement its judgments.
– With all these very constitutional and democratic steps, the coalition government and the Presidency become dysfunctional.
– If the PPP uses State power to pressure and coerce political opponents or blackmails them to get support, the superior courts should intervene immediately.
– All this should be done simultaneously, without wasting time, as a quick change is imperative to stabilise the economy after the devastating floods and the unbridled corruption, which has crippled all state corporations and institutions.
Many would laugh at this roadmap, as there are so many ‘ifs’ and imponderables. But there is a method in this madness. The biggest question mark is about the role of Mian Nawaz Sharif and his party. On Thursday at a writers’ conference he again proved that he is probably the only obstacle left between Mr Zardari and a change. He is now the biggest protector of the president.  
Sharif spoke as if he was speaking as a loser. “Kaash mulk ko sahih chalaya jaata”, “kaash wo wade pooray kartay” and so many other “kaashs” (I wish, if it was so, I wish) was his repeated refrain. But he said democracy should not be equated with governance. That’s where his biggest failure is. He as a large Opposition has failed to keep democracy on the right track. He has condoned so much of corruption, mismanagement, deceit and the loot and plunder that every soul in the country is now asking for a change. No one wants to derail democracy but if the country is at this stage today, while Zardari is to be blamed, Mian Nawaz Sharif is an equal partner in crime because he has allowed all this in the name of preserving democracy. What has he done to keep democracy on the right track and check the government?
What he has to realise, and he does not, is that Zardari used him to grab all key seats of power, then ditched him, even tried to boot him out in Punjab, and continued with the loot and plunder. Sharif was left as a silent spectator. Zardari did not allow him to swim with him. Now Sharif has only one option left; to sink with Zardari and share the blame, just because he could not forego the small bit of power that he got in Punjab.
His dream of ruling Pakistan is sinking fast with his continuing association and defence of Zardari. He should know that Zardari is not democracy and both will not sink together; Sharif and Zardari will.  
How the roadmap should then be implemented is the key question. The Pakistani nation is fond of praying loudly and passionately for Divine mercy and help. Most of the time, these prayers are answered in the shape of more catastrophes, more devastation, bigger ordeals and more suffering.
So the nation should collectively pray that when this purely democratic, constitutional and peaceful roadmap is followed, the hidden hand of powers that always determine the end result does not move. Luckily, and with the mercy of God, these powers will not move, if the prayers are answered. But if these prayers are answered as they normally are in a negative way, the end result would be what the nation wants.
This deduction is not a non-serious remark. We have some important examples of this in the very recent past, including:
– The covert attempt to take over the ISI was quickly aborted because the politicians realised that they had made a silly mistake and they should not have dabbled into ‘forbidden’ territories. No hidden hand worked, of course. The end result was fine.
– The Long March was launched but without any military intervention, (as claimed by every leader from every roof top) the desired result was achieved, despite the last minute obstinacy shown by the Presidency. Even Mian Nawaz Sharif had no grudge or complaint about the way the end result was achieved as he quickly stopped his march on one call to Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan from you know who.
– The overt takeover of Punjab through the Governor’s Rule, was quickly reversed by the courts and the deserving politicians were restored because the courts thought it was wrong. Of course no hidden hand worked, but what a great end result. Nawaz Sharif never had any complaint if the hand did actually move in his case.
– The judgments by the courts, including the July 31 verdict, were so beautifully and finely calibrated that no roots of the system were shaken. That was obviously without any hidden hand at work. Of course the judges are independent and do not take any dictation or suggestions any more.
– The Kerry-Lugar fiasco corrections were made, of course without any hidden hand. Only the commanders issued a one para statement on the subject and that was not in any hidden manner, though it was enough to achieve the end result.
– The extension to General Kayani was given at 11 pm at night in an address to the nation by the Prime Minister, obviously because this is normally done in such situations. No hidden pair of gloves was at work behind the scene and yet the end result was what everyone wanted and hailed.
More such examples can be cited but it would be a waste of space. The point is that when this roadmap is unleashed, no hidden hand will work. What will happen quietly is that the disgruntled elements in the PPP, who by the way now form a silent majority, will start speaking up (if Jahangir Badr can snipe at his own leadership, others too can); the Fata, Pata and Mulla elements who always look for a brief case before studying the case, will start singing amusing songs; the Bhutto clan, which has been mysteriously silent about Benazir’s famous will and her assets, will start making legal and political moves; the MQM which is already on a roll will start flying high; the rats will start jumping the ship, some taking flights at short notice to UK and USA; the party may start coming to an end.
The reality today is that if the politicians pick up the courage to remain within the constitution and start correcting the democratic process, every hidden hand will help them achieve their goal. The hidden hands also realise that for too long they have been used, and misused, to dislodge the system but if now there is an opportunity to work for correcting the system, without getting exposed, what is so bad about it?
The roadmap is thus here; only it needs to be adopted. The change will be smooth and peaceful, requiring no ambulance.

(Shaheen Sehbai is a Senior Investigative Journalist & writes for The News. This is a cross post from The News).

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  • Sqn Ldr S. Ausaf Husain (Retd)  On September 18, 2010 at 6:02 am

    A very thoughtful and meaningful analysis made by Shaheen Sehbai. I have gone through the article twice and both time my eyes caught two words ‘ hidden hands’. Yes of course, the hidden hands are always there to rescue but hidden hands also realise that for too long they have been used, and misused, to dislodge the system. But hidden hands are now remote controlled by the sponsors of ‘War on Terror’ which actually controls the globe and the sponsors would never like any change in the present setup because the present democratic setup and hidden hands are most “obedient servants” and ” Yes Man” to sponsors of War on terror.

    Hence, any change in the present democratic setup will not be welcomed by the sponsor of war on terror because it will destroy the vested interests of of those who wants to achieve their aim of destabilizing Pakistan and takeover it nuclear arsenal.

    • Faisal Malik  On September 18, 2010 at 2:11 pm

      not on every occassion though, have they?? “yes man”, i mean.

      the civilian control of the ISI had its supporters from the US. it was only the resistance that caused the civilians to back up from the said assignment.

      a “yes man” never says no to anything, whereas we have seen the resistance offered when certain individuals were to be provided visas by the pakistani government.

      and the recent act of coming back from the official tour to the US.

      not exactly tit for tat, but still.

  • Adnan Khan  On September 18, 2010 at 6:23 am

    Nobody wants that. We want Change, whether violent, and who cares about democracy, its a system our White slave masters shoved down our throats to make sure they could still rule after they left.

    • Raheel Dogar  On September 18, 2010 at 7:23 am

      Adnan you do not know what you say, when you say, we want such & such even with violence.God Forbid.
      A beautiful,well balanced & analysed write up by Sehbai.

  • Aquarias  On September 18, 2010 at 7:50 am

    Not too long ago, i asked an educated friend from Sindh to explain the real philosophy and meaning of the word” khapay”.
    As far his explanation is concerned in Sindhi language the word can be use in two ways while speaking , one with and one without a question mark!!!
    Sehbai sahib has offered all the options under the sun , with a proviso that the hidden hand behaves and only supports the change .
    Knowing the support Sehbai sahib enjoys from all , so be it …………………….the games have begun………………………….. let the best team win !!

  • Inam Khan  On September 18, 2010 at 9:19 am

    Mr.Sehbai is an idealist and a gentleman.The road map he has formulated is not likely to be followed.At prsent Americans have the Afghan War at their hands and it has reached a critical stage.Americans wdn’t like to diturb the present good goody arrangement with the Pakistan Government.So the things wd go on as same till next general elections.This is my personal view.Plz check with others……………………………..Inam Khan

    • Faisal Malik  On September 18, 2010 at 2:07 pm

      brian d. hunt did not move for no reason then??

      they have always found it difficult to deal with more than a single person. it is to their benefit that they deal with just one person, that too, a person who’s willing to help them in every which way.

      they don’t care about democracy in other countries……..all they want is what suits them the most. as is visible from their foreign policy, always.

  • Faisal Malik  On September 18, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    “The extension to General Kayani was given at 11 pm at night in an address to the nation by the Prime Minister, obviously because this is normally done in such situations………yet the end result was what everyone wanted and hailed.”

    NOT everyone wanted it, and NOT everyone hailed.

    it was once again a total failure on behalf of the “democratic” government.

    the nation should NEVER be “informed” of such decisions at the time it was announced.

    thieves and the likes work at night mostly.

    brave decisions (if they think this was one) should be made in the middle of the day and announced as such.

  • Faisal Malik  On September 18, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    “the MQM which is already on a roll will start flying high;”

    they’ll always be on a roll…………………payroll that is. of either this or that. from within and from with”out”.

  • Faisal Malik  On September 18, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    “the rats will start jumping the ship, some taking flights at short notice to UK and USA;”

    some??? and not ALL??

    and that would be good for “democracy” if many of them still survive by “jumping” ships??

    and we once again find ourselves face to face with abida hussains, the firdous ashiq awans and the likes in the next government.??

  • Faisal Malik  On September 18, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    “every hidden hand will help them achieve their goal.”

    there should be NO hidden hand for God’s sake. no more.

    save the hand of Allah.

  • Faisal Malik  On September 18, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    “The change will be smooth and peaceful, requiring no ambulance.”

    if the “hidden hands” don’t do anything, unlike the past, there will definitely be a need for ambulances. for sure.

  • pakpotpourri2  On September 18, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    For readers pleasure,I post a write up from GEOPOLITICAL DIARY published yesterday:

    Friday, September 17, 2010
    The Prospect of a Military Coup in Pakistan

    Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Thursday again rejected reports about a change of the government in Pakistan. Speaking to a group of Islamabad-based foreign media representatives, Gilani was quoted as saying, “We have come (to power) through elections. We have the mandate. There is a coalition government and whatever is to happen, it would be through the parliament. Technocracy is not acceptable.” These remarks and similar ones from the civilian leadership in Islamabad come amid growing discussion in both the Pakistani and global press about the possibility of the country’s powerful military establishment mounting a coup to seize power, given that the civilian government seems incapable of dealing with recent floods that have exacerbated the country’s already shaky political, security and economic conditions.
    Our readers will recall that a little more than a month ago, shortly after the magnitude of the devastation from the floods had become apparent, STRATFOR had raised the possibility that, should the country’s weak and quite unpopular government prove to be unable to manage the crisis, the military may step in and take a more active role in the governance of the country. A month later, the situation does seem headed in that direction (especially if one is to believe the rumor intelligence that is floating around), despite the fact that Washington’s special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, said Wednesday in the Pakistani capital that Washington “supports a civilian, democratically elected government” in Islamabad. The statements from both civilian authorities in Islamabad and Washington notwithstanding, the question is: What is the view from Rawalpindi, Islamabad’s twin garrison city and the headquarters of the country’s armed forces?
    It is extremely unlikely that the military – the country’s only coherent institution and guarantor of the integrity of the state – is eagerly looking at the current situation as an opportunity to seize power. Far from it, and there are a number of reasons for this. The domestic situation is so fragile that the army would not want to disturb the status quo for fear of making matters worse, given that a military takeover would trigger a popular backlash and international condemnation, especially at a time when the country needs all the global support it can get to return from what the country’s finance minister a few days ago described as “the brink of economic collapse.”
    “Clearly, the one institution that has historically kept the country together cannot be expected to just sit by and risk having the situation pass the point of no return.”

    The military doesn’t want to directly take power and assume responsibility of a very messy situation and be blamed for all the things that can potentially go awry from here onward. It already enjoys immense influence over both domestic and foreign policy, which it can shape discreetly from behind the scenes.
    Finally, gone are the days when the army could single-handedly step in and stabilize a situation of political infighting and economic uncertainty. Pakistan’s chronic social, economic and political problems have not only exacerbated during the past several years, but the security situation in the country also has rapidly deteriorated, with violence associated with the Islamist insurgency, political violence and organized criminal activity all on the rise. At the same time, and paradoxically, a number of new social forces (a dynamic private electronic media, an assertive judiciary and a vibrant civil society) have emerged making it very difficult for the army to simply step in and clean house. Therefore it is unlikely that the military will intervene as a matter of choice; instead, if it chooses to act, it will be out of perceived necessity.
    Clearly, the one institution that has historically kept the country together cannot be expected to just sit by and risk having the situation pass the point of no return. This is particularly the case if and when the current civilian government reaches a point where it is not just unable to manage the floods, but is simply not able to govern in the face of growing unrest — a situation that has not materialized yet but is also not impossible. Additionally, if it decides to act, the army can’t be expected to let things deteriorate for too long and would have to act quickly if it is convinced that the consequences of inaction are far greater.
    What options are available to the army — especially in light of the difficulties of intervention discussed above — should such a scenario emerge? We are told by multiple sources close to the scene that the “how” of a military intervention is the key issue. The military is not in a position to simply mount a coup in the same manner it has in the past, and at the same time it cannot allow the situation to continue.
    Here is where there is talk of a middle path where the army, acting from behind the scenes and in collaboration with the judiciary, could force the current government out of office. An interim government made up of technocrats could take over for a period of time with the mandate of flood recovery and political/economic stabilization, as well as be required to hold fresh elections at an appropriate future date. In other words, it would be a constitutional regime-change of sorts, managed by the army from behind the scenes, which could be acceptable to most domestic and international stakeholders.
    Indeed there are many forces within the country that are in favor of the army stepping in as a necessary evil to save the country, and there are many outside who, while not in favor of a military-led change, also don’t have much faith in the ability of the current civilian dispensation. By no means is such a scenario inevitable, but should push come to shove then such an arrangement is being seen as the way forward. There are also no guarantees that such a move would help steer Pakistan away from its ills, but those who would be behind it would be betting that it might at least help slow the pace at which the country is hurtling out of control.
    A non-political caretaker government, should it replace the current government, would only serve as a reset button, as it would ultimately have to hold elections. Elections would usher back in the political forces, thereby rebooting the system. From the U.S. point of view, the Pakistani army serving as a support mechanism to a shaky constitutional process in the country is the best it could ask for as it seeks to deal with the situation in neighboring Afghanistan.

    • Faisal Malik  On September 18, 2010 at 5:55 pm

      instead of talking about the changes, the “technocrats” in power, wouldnt it be better if army just helps the judiciary in seeing that the judicial orders are carried out to the fullest??

      let the ugly be filtered out via judicial hearings, and if anyone resists, send them to the gallows.

      but please do NOT overthrow/change legally/constitutionally the “democratically” elected/selected government.

      a kid never learns to ride a bike if he is constantly being helped by those around him for the fear of falling over and over again.

      let the military minds use their brains to stop terrorism from spreading and guard the doors of the country. cuz thats where they’re good at.

      • Anwer Kadri  On September 18, 2010 at 10:14 pm

        The sincerity of purpose behind Mr. Sehbai’s roadmap cannot be doubted but it seems pretty impractical to expect people like Dasti and the lot could bring about the required change. We are trying a cure on a permanent basis for a patient who is going into a Respiratory failure. The right thing to do would be to provide emergency treatment to stablise the patient and then go into a permanent cure. If any good is to be done immediate relief in terms of prices of food items be given to the people and some sort of a feeling of safety and security.It is pure and simple mockery that the common man cant afford to travel by bus because the tickets have increased four fold and the ministers travel in motorcade of Land Rovers and Land Cruisers. Are we so deaf that we cannot hear the humming of the wind, feel the tremor under our feet. Its about time to wake up else me may keep sleeping forever

      • pakpotpourri2  On September 19, 2010 at 3:20 am

        The kid is unfortunately stealing parts of the cycle.At the end of the day there will be no cycle to ride?

  • Parvez Amin  On September 19, 2010 at 5:36 am

    A reasonably thorough search of the Manifestos of the leading political parties leads to a sad conclusion: none of them have a manifesto that shows the way to a prosperous Pakistan and even if a change of government takes place, Pakistan will continue to be like a boat at sea without a compass. Manifestos containing practical goals take time to design; let us wait for the appearance of such manifestos.

    The pot has been stirred and come to a boil. A good thing not only looks good – it also smells good. Today what is on the boil stinks and does not look good. The time is here to start with a fresh Manifesto. what should the ingredients be?

    • pakpotpourri2  On September 19, 2010 at 6:50 am

      Dear Sir
      I know of many with excellent thought processes & line of action.
      Unfortunately, they are not sitting in your legislatures.

      • Faisal Malik  On September 19, 2010 at 8:05 am

        very true.

        almost always a case of wrong people at the wrong place and the wrong time…………….yeah. thats us.

  • pakpotpourri2  On September 19, 2010 at 6:48 am

    LAHORE: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani let go his characteristic poise on Saturday and in a belligerent tone cautioned against “conspiracies against the government”.

    “If anyone conspires against us it means he is conspiring to break Pakistan. Will those who are thinking to send us packing unconstitutionally have any alternative (set-up) having consensus of all? I ask them not to waste their time. We are not going anywhere.

    “We have developed consensus in all provinces and are running government affairs after taking all political forces onboard,” the prime minister said, leaving little doubt that conjectures about the demise of the present set-up had touched a raw nerve.

    Mr Gilani was speaking at the Lahore Chamber Achievement Award ceremony at the Expo Centre on Saturday.

    In an allusion to detractors of his government, he said: “Today I will talk frankly. My advice to all those who are predicting the government’s ouster: stop giving dates.

    “The Pakistan People’s Party is serving the masses. It does not matter whether we are in government or in opposition. In fact PPP gets more strength while on the opposition benches.”

    “We respect the judiciary and the media. I want to tell you that I have very good relations with the judiciary. I had ordered end to detention of judges even a day before taking oath of my office. Subsequently, I restored them but the credit was not given to me. Rather it is said that Gen Kayani restored them. When it comes to extension to Gen Kayani someone in the media said it had been done on the orders of the US as Gilani is a child. I tell you the army is ours,” he said.

    The prime minister said no one raised finger at the previous government, although it ruled unconstitutionally for nine years.

  • Faisal Malik  On September 19, 2010 at 8:03 am

    “The kid is unfortunately stealing parts of the cycle.At the end of the day there will be no cycle to ride?”

    lolzzzzzzzzz……………….yas, i have no answer to this. 🙂

    but as i suggested, if the most powerful pakistani institution wants to help, let them help in ridding us of the people like Dasti (as Mr. Kadri said.) by seeing to it that the judicial orders are carried out to the max.

    hasnt the CJ recently stated that he is becoming fed up of the governments constant mockery of court’s decisions??

    • Faisal Malik  On September 19, 2010 at 8:07 am

      on a side note……….

      some old rats/bats/_ _ _ _ _ have again joined hands.

      Ali baba and chalees chor.

      making way for the ex???

  • zubair  On October 5, 2010 at 9:16 am

    A thought provoking article. The first time he used the Sind Card was when he launched the slogan,”Pakistan na khappay”—that was when he had to get votes in the name of BB. Now that he is cornered he is using the same slogan. One thing I agree with fully—-he will NOT leave the president house except in an ambulance. And if that happens, his cronies will burn the country as they did at his call when BB died. He is too smart for the political pigmies like the Mians and choudreis. We, the “smart” people who voted for the PPP are destined to live in misery as we will continue to vote for such people. As long as we believe in biradary and zaat etc we will remain what we are—-a people who enjoy their miseries. THAT is what we are.

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