Justice Markandey Katju: Pakistani Army vs Pakistani People

Justice Markandey Katju

By Justice Markandey Katju–

(Justice Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own)

It may seem terrifying, but it looks like Pakistan is drifting towards a state of civil war. Consider the situation. A large majority (80-90 per cent) of Pakistanis support former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is in jail since early August last year on trumped-up charges. If free and fair elections are held, Imran Khan’s PTI party will sweep the polls.

On the other hand, the Pakistan establishment — the Army — is adamant that Imran must not return to power. If he does, they know that the military generals and other officers will be held accountable for massive corruption and ill gotten wealth.

Imran believes that the army must be subordinate to the civilian government, as it is the practice in India, the US, the UK, Germany, France, and other democracies around the world, and that they should not meddle in politics. This will adversely affect the generals’ economic interests. The Pak army has penetrated numerous sectors of the Pakistan economy, and has acquired huge assets, which it will likely have to surrender if there is civilian control.

Several army generals, serving or retired, and their relatives are millionaires, some even billionaires. They spend a large part of the government budget on themselves, enhancing their lifestyle and retirement benefits. They are some of the richest people in Pakistan, and after joining the army and getting promoted to senior ranks (major and above) their lifestyle drastically changes. They live in splendor, with huge houses, luxury cars and designer goods.

This will change if there is real civilian control of Pakistan’s military. With accountability, the officers will have to live on their pay, and some serving and retired officers may even be called upon to return their loot or go to jail. This is not palatable to them, and they will oppose it tooth and nail.

The recent flawed judgment of the Pakistan Supreme Court, denying the PTI the right to use its symbol in the February 8 parliamentary elections is a clear indication that the so-called ‘London plan’ has been put into effect, to ensure the corrupt former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif‘s installation as the next Prime Minister of Pakistan., and to deny the PTI a level-playing field.

Pakistan’s situation is such that the army and its people are on a collision course. The elections will be rigged one way or another to ensure a Nawaz Sharif victory. It will not be an election, but a selection. Please remember that a reign of terror was unleashed in Pakistan by the establishment after the events of May 9 last year, which many believe were stage-managed. Over 12,000 people (including women) were arrested and jailed on fabricated charges.

Currently, most Pakistanis are lying quiet, perhaps cowed down in fear. Power grows out of the barrel of a gun. But this situation will not last long. The people of Pakistan will devise methods to combat it. Wherever there is oppression, there is resistance.

What form it will take, we don’t know, but Pakistanis will not take this lying down forever. Perhaps in the form of guerrilla tactics, a civil war is bound to develop. As it happened in Vietnam and Afghanistan, people will start snatching weapons from the army personnel or the police.

With such a situation unfolding, one shudders to think what will happen.

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