Yesterday PTI Chairman Imran Khan tweeted that PML-N Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should disclose all his business dealings with Indian businessmen as well as any business interest in an Indian company. As a national leader, this implies that he has some information that suggests that PM Nawaz has a conflict of interest in dealing with India our arch-rival in the region. A few weeks ago another opposition politician Dr. Tahir ul Qadri made repeated allegations that companies of PM Nawaz have employed Indian nationals with special privileges to move around the country which is usually restricted to Indian nationals on the reciprocal basis. He even went so far to suggest that these are RAW agents. Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has also been critical of PM Nawaz for not mentioning the name of arrested Indian RAW agent Kulbhushan Yadav in his UN and National Assembly speeches. In AJK elections PPP Chairman Bilawal manin slogan was Modi Ka jo Yaar hai ghadar hai. Senator Aitzaz Ahsan went so far to offer Rs. 50,000 donation to a blind charity if PM mentions the name of the RAW agent.
In other words, all opposition leaders are suggesting that elected PM of Pakistan is a suspected Indian sympathizer. This implies that he is unfit to fight for the national interest of Pakistan when it comes to dealing with our larger Easter neighbor. This is not the first time an elected PM is considered a national security risk. Almost every elected civilian leader is considered suspect of not being strong enough or capable enough to lead the foreign policy. In other words, the only patriotic and capable people to protect national interest and lead diplomacy are those in uniform. No one can question the patriotism of uniformed men but anyone without a uniform is always suspected to be a possible traitor until proven otherwise.
The other allegation on PM Nawaz is that he is corrupt and has engaged in money laundering, abuse of political office for personal enrichment and taking capital out of the country. He is not the only one facing such allegations. Former President Asif Ali Zardari is famously called Mr. 10%. Asfandyar Wali Khan is blamed to have sold his party support to the highest bidder for personal enrichment. In a way, all leaders of political parties are corrupt.
When we look at the history of military coups in Pakistan, we find that there are two main allegations used against elected politicians which are that they are corrupt and a security risk to the nation. This propaganda campaign against politicians and political parties is now in full swing on social media. The ultimate result of this will be either reintroduction of an ambitious military dictator imposing martial law; continued control of decision-making by military establishment behind the scenes; or breakdown of social order descending into anarchy and chaos. The chances of a military dictator directly controlling government are small. But the other two scenarios are still in play with military control from behind in the works. The last option of descending into anarchy is very much possible because apparently many inside and outside operatives are using social media to erode trust in state institutions.
I am not suggesting that our politicians are clean or capable of representing country’s interest abroad. But if someone publicly alleges that an elected Prime Minister is an agent of a foreign government then state institutions should come into action regardless whatever political risks it entails. Justice must prevail. Intelligence agencies, both civilian and military, have detailed files on all politicians. If they have evidence but are refusing to initiate prosecution than they are committing treason. On the other hand, if they don’t then the prosecution should apprehend those that are leveling such allegations against elected government. Again I am not suggesting that military should act itself but use proper prosecution procedure using the office of the attorney general, FIA, and police. Judiciary may not be efficient, but no one doubts that they are independent in their decisions since lawyers movement of 2007.
As the world comes closer through the introduction of social media, internet and smartphones it seems publics around the world are learning from each other to rise against established political order. This is putting tremendous pressure on politicians around the world. Republican Party Presidential candidate Donald Trump is blamed for being close to Russia and its President Putin. German powerful Chancellor Merkel lost regional elections after her support for Syrian refugees and German Muslim citizens. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff quickly lost popularity and lost an impeachment battle due to drummed up charges of manipulating budget numbers for her re-election. At the same time, some politicians have learned to use social media to gain increased political power. Turkish President Erdogan defeated a coup attempt using social media smartly. President Putin is a media savvy leader to favorably shape public opinion about his policies. Chinese President Xi Jinping has also used media effectively. He recently visited Chinese television head offices and thanked journalists for their support for his reform agenda.
It is the new political reality of the 20th century that a politician has to be able to communicate using multiple communication platforms of print, radio, television and social media. Each of these has their utility, audience and require different communication skills. Policy planners and opinion makers rely more on print, radio, and television to acquire knowledge and promote their views. Political activists, dissidents, special interest and citizen groups are relying more on social media. Almost every politician now uses Facebook, youtube, and twitter to stay in touch with voters and supporters which have decreased the distance between leaders and their constituents. This is a good thing in general and will strengthen the democratic process further although there may be jolts during the learning curve.
Another trend around the world is politicians engaging in uncivilized and abusive attacks on each other. This in my view is a transition of social media abuse becoming more mainstream. Philippine President has used derogatory language against many world leaders. Donald Trump has engaged in abusive attacks against his Republican party opponents as well as Democratic Party rival Hillary Clinton. Indian PM Modi was relentless against his opponents. PTI Chairman Imran Khan issue daily sound bites against his opponents. This attitude has damaged public trust in politicians and has to be contained.
Pakistan is going through the building of a democratic tradition, and in most probability, it will be a messy process. It is true that capable people are not coming forward to participate in political process. But they are exerting pressure on the system using social media. Eventually, they should be able to make an opening for themselves to become participant and stakeholders in the process. The tussle between civ-mil is nothing unusual and will eventually stabilize. We have to remember that military has ruled this country without challenge for a long time and will not easily relinquish their power. Subsequently, a balance will be obtained if adventurism is contained that is present in some of the commanding officers. The process must continue despite a roller coaster behavior.