Establishment & Political Engineering by Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi

The establishment is usually a label used for military institution. But in reality, establishment comprises of three stakeholder civilian & military bureaucracy and judiciary while bar associations work as its political arm and oligarchs as its economic arm. This establishment is a bad engineer whether it is infrastructure, economy, justice or politics. I was one of the first few people that highlighted political engineering being done and its adverse impact on the nation building.

There are many layers of political engineering. First is the creation of a political entity in which they employ a standard method. They identify a charismatic person; an oligarch that is willing and ready to fund it; provide exposure on media, and collect electable that can join it to give it political relevance. This formula has been used in all cases whether it is IJI (PML N) where Nawaz Sharif was the charismatic leader, Mehran Bank the funder, and many electable joined it. In MQM it was Altaf Hussain as a charismatic leader, Karachi oligarchs as the funder (initially), and ballot stuffing to make them win. Similarly, in PTI-L (lotas) Imran Khan is the charismatic leader, Jahangir Tareen is the oligarch funding it, and Shah Mehmood Qureshi and other electable joined it to provide political relevance. In PSP Mustafa Kamal is the charismatic leader, Malik Riaz is the funder, and MQM-P electable are joining him to provide political relevance. Media has always provided them outside exposure to build their popular appeal. Countless hours of media coverage for MQM-P pressers and PAT/PTI-L dharnas was broadcast without advertisements. Was it for a social service or at the behest of the establishment?

The next level is the formation of alliances to ensure distribution of parliament seats at a manageable level. For 2018 general elections it seems to me that the objective is to create a hung parliament at the center and party governments in provinces. To achieve this objective in Punjab, PML N was not broken down after the Panama verdict as expected by many rather electable told journalists they have not got any calls to switch loyalties. But in the center alliances are now emerging that include PSP & MQM-P joining hands which will ultimately happen despite initial hick-ups. Reincarnation of MMA to combine the voting power of religious right. And SNF types smaller parties as well as electable from some select districts joining with PTI-L. This means that in Sind PPP will remain restricted to rural areas while MQM will remain its control of urban. PTI-L will get some seats in KP and South Punjab and PML N in Hazara division and North Punjab. To achieve this outcome political engineering is also done on the election day. To get a share in the next parliament all parties are going overboard to appease the establishment. Nawaz Sharif after the initial protest about mujhe kyun nikala has now resigned to work with them without too much fuss. Asif Ali Zardari is leaving no stone unturned to convey he is a puppet while, like SS/NS pursuing pro and anti-establishment stance in PML N, Bilawal has been assigned the role of protector of democracy with an anti-establishment narrative. Imran Khan has been a puppet since the formation of PTI at the behest of Gen Hamid Gul and supported all initiatives of establishment willingly.

But political engineering does not stop at controlling the outcome of elections, it continues to impact legislation and containment of executive. To give an example recent NAB law drafting a consensus was reached to include Generals and Judges to be held accountable but within 24 hours it was broken and now they are excluded. Lame excuses are provided for this exclusion. Another example is military courts. On the one hand military says it did not want it but when the legislation was done no such statement was issued to the effect. Dharna and lockdown were also used to encroach on the civilian authority. But despite all this influence some members of the establishment want even more and promoting a narrative that technocrats should be installed. When myself and some others wrote about former corps commander Lt Gen Tariq Khan social media writings in support of technocrats he issued a rejoinder in which his basic argument was that he has the right to speak about politics as a citizen. I agree that he does have that right but I have a concern that did he held such undemocratic thoughts when he was a corps commander and whether he also acted to realize those ideas.

It is against the interest of establishment that politicians and political parties get out of their influence. It is for this reason they undermine popular leaders and political parties throughout our history. Whether it was Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif and in the future Imran Khan they don’t want any of them to retain their popular support. It is unfortunate that PTI was converted into PTI-L with active support from the establishment. Maintaining baradari system also helps in this political control by keeping ideological politics out. Thick files on abuse of power and corrupt practices of politicians also help establishment exert influence over them.

But establishment alone is not at fault and it will be unjust to blame just them. A senior-level ex-serviceman that I call a mentor recently asked me which side I am on. I responded that all current generation of generals, judges, bureaucrats, and politicians are corrupt either intellectually or financially and I have no expectation of them. We have to focus on the next generation and try to ensure they are better leaders. So, we need a minus all ideally. For a strong, prosperous and united Pakistan it is important that establishment reduce its role in politics. It is unrealistic to assume that establishment will have no role but it has to be restricted to the constitutional limits define for each pillar of the state. Political parties and politicians should be allowed to operate without being directed from undemocratic stakeholders. Politicians for their part have to demonstrate that they have the capability, depth and knowledge to deal with serious issues faced by the nation. They should also show commitment and drive to go the long distance rather than seek short-term gains through parachute arrangements. Development of PTI as a popular party that provides a platform for the emergence of new leadership at regular interval is my political objective and I work for it every day. Imran Khan as a puppet of the establishment is a hurdle in this objective despite his public promises to support it.

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