In a recent column published in various English newspapers, President Arif Alvi expressed his views on the history of Pakistan and addressed the prevalent issue of false allegations of treason against political opponents. I quote an excerpt from this column because it is from a top official in the country whose choice of words is significant. Delving into the history of Pakistan and exploring the oft-repeated allegations of treason against political opponents, he made this observation, “I have learnt from experience and history both, and state that no political party today has ever been anti-Pakistan or that it comprises of traitors.”
While his observations shed light on the endemic weaknesses that plague the political landscape, it is important to critically examine such statements in light of potential biases favoring a particular party or its leaders. As responsible citizens, we should strive for an objective understanding of political dynamics and avoid disregarding actions and allegations faced by any party or its leadership.
However, it is worth noting that the President’s column did not delve into another commonly raised allegation in Pakistan’s political sphere – corruption charges against prime ministers. Over the years, several prime ministers have faced corruption allegations, with some losing their premierships as a result. The recent political turmoil in the country also stems from corruption charges against the leader of the President’s own party. While momentarily setting this point aside, let’s examine the prime ministers who have been subject to such allegations during their tenure.
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, a former Prime Minister, faced accusations of financial misconduct and corruption during his time in office. Notably, the infamous “Bhutto Steel Mills” case involved the illegal acquisition of land for a steel mill, raising concerns about the misuse of public resources and lack of transparency in the nationalization process of various industries and banks.
While these allegations did not directly lead to Bhutto’s removal from his premiership, they significantly impacted his political career, and contributed to subsequent events that unfolded, including his eventual execution in 1979 on other charges.
More recently, former Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif, Yousaf Raza Gillani, Raja Pervez Ashraf, and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi have also faced corruption accusations. Nawaz Sharif and Yousaf Raza Gillani lost their premiership due to these charges, whereas Raja Pervez Ashraf and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi faced allegations but retained their positions.
Another prime minister, Imran Khan, who did not face corruption allegations during his tenure, himself became subject to such accusations, resulting in his imprisonment. This triggered country-wide protests, primarily targeting military installations and assets on May 9th. The Supreme Court eventually granted Imran Khan bail, but the damage caused by these protests had a significant impact on him and his party.
In response to the protests, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) issued a statement expressing concern, referring to the group responsible as wearing a “political cloak” and accusing them of achieving what enemies could not do in 75 years “in the lust for power.” The PTI vehemently rejected this accusation and criticized the military’s media wing for failing to grasp the ground realities of the situation.
Approximately a week after this exchange of accusations, President Alvi, a prominent member of the PTI, recognized the gravity of the situation and penned the aforementioned column. Presumably, his focus on treason accusations was influenced by the political environment being built against PTI protestors and their instigators, with the possibility of treason charges looming large against Imran Khan.
Subsequently, due to the vandalism of military assets by the protestors, security forces apprehended thousands of suspected individuals, most of whom were PTI members. Concerns over the judiciary’s perceived favoritism towards PTI and the army’s apprehension about the situation likely led to a counter policy: seeking government agreement for military trials of the culprits.
On May 15th, the PPP demanded that action be taken against the protesters under the Army Act 1952 for damage to army installations. The same day, during the Corps Commanders Conference, top military officials decided to bring those involved in the crimes against military installations and personnel to justice through trials under relevant laws, including the Pakistan Army Act and Official Secrets Act.
This decision sparked mixed reactions from various segments of society. Social activists, human rights organizations, media outlets, and the legal fraternity deemed it unconstitutional and urged the government to prioritize upholding the Constitution over political agendas. Notably, even a leading member of the PPP, Raza Rabbani, opposed the government’s plan without explicitly naming his party as the initiator of the demand.
In an interesting development, the Sindh Assembly passed a resolution, submitted by the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), demanding strict action against the top leadership of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), citing extensive damage caused during the unrest to public and private properties. This instance highlights the opportunistic nature of politics, as the TLP conveniently forgets its own involvement in committing violent crimes against security forces in 2021.
In April 2021, the TLP held a series of rallies throughout the country to demand the release of their leader, Saad Rizvi, who had been arrested for inciting violence on a blasphemy-related issue. The rallies turned violent, with TLP activists clashing with security forces. At least 800 policemen were wounded and five of them died during those rallies.
Returning to President Arif Alvi’s column again, I cite one line from it that says, “Those nations achieve greatness which learn from history.” Considering Pakistan’s situation, it is valid to question whether our leaders possess the same vision and determination to overcome political divides and unite the nation. Could our leadership, including the President, have played a more proactive role in bringing together opposing parties like the PDM and PTI by fostering dialogue and finding common ground, they could have avoided the current confrontational stance that has resulted in a backlash for both sides.
It is essential for our leaders to prioritize national unity over personal interests or party affiliations. True greatness lies not in partisan victories or personal vendettas but in the ability to rise above differences and work towards a shared vision of progress and prosperity.
Instead of expanding further on this discussion, I urge all stakeholders involved in the ongoing political scenario to honestly reflect upon their biases, ignorance, and partiality in handling the country’s political challenges. It is crucial that someone takes the initiative to move beyond mere talk and undertake meaningful actions.
Generally TFT doesn’t give details of authors which is important for the reader.
“Impartial Political Leadership” would be anathema to politics.
The purpose of politics is to have a view, an approach or a solution to issues faced by the people. There are always many ways to skin a cat. Having uniform view is not possible neither desirable.
What is desirable is that Political Leadership understands what is in national interest and where consensus is needed.