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Pakistan’s Defining Moment 

Mahboob Qadir

The writer is a retired Brigadier. He has extensive experience in dealing with UN matters related to strategic policy on countering violent extremism.

Individuals, families, societies and nations sooner or later arrive at a fork in the road during their life. This happens either by the force of events, overwhelming external environment, or powerful indigenous factors which tend to affect a qualitative change of direction. In our case, two forces impacted simultaneously or perhaps even in tandem. The US and the empathetic anti-Imran forces within.

Imran Khan’s redefinition of national sovereignty, a vigorous review of our past major regional and international alliances and alignments, and a resurgent muscular nationalism were apparently causing anxiety and astonishment in the region and far abroad . Pakistan’s geo-strategic significance was considered too sensitive to be left to its errant leadership alone appears to be the conclusion the US and its partners in South Asia seem to have reached early last year. That PTI government’s foreign policy was too stridently divergent from profitable articulation of global interests of the US and the West which must be checked and redirected. Therefore they adopted a multi-tiered approach.

Typically they began to sponsor favorably disposed or even sold media, cultivated deeper contacts with wavering politicians, clergy and bureaucracy. Energized their anti-state proxies and ethnic dissidents within Pakistan and focused on derailing CPEC. Since quite some time they were trying to penetrate armed forces but apparently with little success. The recent uncovering and sentencing of their two high-level contacts in the Army and in the nuclear hierarchy was a major upset in this regard. However, this sounded alarm bells in the Services and serious attempts were made to plug holes in the security and secrecy net with reasonable success.

Meanwhile, the PTI govt kept up their sharp criticism of the thankless way the US used Pakistan as their battlefield and cannon fodder during20 years of Afghan war and went on to pour salt over the wound by naming and shaming us , instead of a word of thanks or appreciation. Pakistanis were feeling deeply hurt already with the rising US arrogance, shabby treatment of Pakistan, and courtship with India our arch-enemy did little to help.

Their external maneuver was even more sinister and at times pathetically immature. They began to isolate Pakistan diplomatically but failed, used denial of a courtesy phone call to PM Imran as a tool of ridicule, and looked awfully silly. They used financial choke through FATF, IMF and ADB and tried to prevent Pakistan’s rapprochement with Russia fearing emergence of a nearly insuperable power block in Eurasian heartland. Inglorious US exit from Afghanistan after comprehensive military defeat has dented their confidence and global military prestige seriously. They tried once again to scapegoat Pakistan for their dismal military performance despite our invaluable help during their helter-skelter withdrawal from Kabul.

Then imperceptibly but quite impactful, ice began to melt among Pakistan Army High Command for different reasons but its timings and effects, regrettably, went on to reinforce US anti regime grand maneuver. It became apparent after the COAS’s address to Security Conference at Islamabad where certain views expressed were at variance with sensitive official policy.

This transition was strangely described as Army’s neutrality, instead of being apolitical in political affairs of the country. This was a faux pa of cinematic proportions. One wrong word put the Army on the mat. It was at once a unique admission of having done political manipulations in the past that now it would not. It also let another rat out of the old baker’s shop.

The Army considered itself as an equal and independent entity instead of a subordinate government institution. A flood of criticism hit GHQ from which it has not been able to recover nor will for a long time.

Opposition leaders’ tongue in cheek claims in the process of no confidence vote against Imran Khan and loud street whispers of High Command complicity tended to be substantiated by COAS’s reported remarks during his address to officers at GHQ, Lahore and Bahawalpur. Thus the term neutral became a derogatory slur and invalid before the ink with which it was written even dried.

Regime change planners’ carefully made calculations went awry because of three factors so imperiously dismissed; Imran’s tenacity and massive popular support that erupted countrywide spontaneously. The third factor was actually never visualized but has become a nightmare now. That is the brilliant manner with which IK first welded US threat with the PDM’s vote of no confidence into a palpable conspiracy and then went on to link it with the question of national sovereignty a  muscular nationalism with exquisite skill. It is truly a game-changer.

Equally dexterously he refocused public attention towards the mastermind of the conspiracy the US and weaved in historic perspective of our unequal and bizarre mutual relationship over the decades very intelligently. His conviction and logic were able to instill a burning disdain for the disgraceful treatment of Pakistan by the US all along. In the process, he began to very methodically uncover local collaborators and facilitators of the conspiracy quite convincingly. Simultaneously, at considerable risk to himself, he defied threats and a very real danger to his life. His daring and challenge related well to our valiant and colorful folk heroes and endeared him that much more to people among which he descended directly from the PM’s chair, unlike his crying pleading predecessor Nawaz Sharif.

As if this was not enough by time his power-packed whirlwind tour de force of public rallies culminated at Multan’s Qasim Bagh Stadium he seemed to have ascended from being a political leader to an icon of nationalism and resistance. He seems to have conquered the fear of death, fame and subsistence. This was evident from the roaring reception and response he got where ever he went to address after being deposed. Followers of such a man can surpass themselves if challenged and the forces that he has set in motion have enormous velocity to break through the toughest of obstacles.

Meanwhile, the coalition government is showing telltale signs of panic by uselessly trying to scare, squelch and submerse opposing voices among PTI, media and elsewhere. A harrowing economic meltdown is right around the corner. There is a flurry of consultations and social media activists are being harassed.

Their major slip had been to arrest PTI MNA and ex-Minister Shireen Mazari on o ridiculous 50years old charge. That is when she was hardly 6years old. To add insult to popular injury Prime Minister’s son was forcefully and fraudulently foisted as Punjab Chief Minister who has let loose a reign of police terror in that captive province. These shenanigans of power capture will not last long and then the backlash would be strong and unpredictable. Don’t make a mistake, Pakistan’s defining moment has arrived. Whoever can grasp the sense of the moment will be remembered by history.

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