One must admire Mian Nawaz Sharif (MNS) about how unlike Shahbaz Sharif he managed through the years to keep his immediate family out of political sight, and thus out of public mind. Begum Kulsoom Nawaz was very effective campaigning for MNS’ freedom during his incarceration by General Musharraf. Once MNS was into political exile she went back to being a housewife. While daughter Maryam Nawaz being groomed as a political heir apparent is fairly recent, the immediate family has now been thrust front and center into adverse public censure.

The PM’s moral duty on taking an oath “that I will not allow my personal interest to influence my official conduct or my official decisions” is to truthfully uphold the best interests of the State. While no one is challenging his patriotism, his family’s continuing business links with India while he is PM constitutes a “conflict of state interest”. TV and newspaper ads funded by substantial public money controlled by a “cell” run by Maryam Nawaz are spreading misinformation to divert attention from the Panama Papers. Public defiance and legal technicalities aside, “sovereign immunity” can only temporarily evade the issue, one can only silence the din by full disclosure. The political ‘offensive’ taking to the streets in his defence could open up a Pandora’s box of troubles, that could well spill out of control and force-multiply the controversy. Given high levels of intolerance and prejudice, a sharply polarised society will bring violent confrontation into the streets. The Army’s success in the mountains notwithstanding, civil discord will be an open invitation for increased terrorist attacks in urban areas. Given such a scenario, the possible political demise (with apologies to Mark Twain) of MNS may than no longer be an improbability.

Thanks mainly to Bilawal, PPP ditched the PML (N) and along with PTI is clamouring for the PM’s resignation but those with stakes in MNS continuing as PM, eg, JUI (F), PkMAP, etc, prevailed. Sharif family-specific ToRs with a 90-day time limit was crafted by 9 parties in the opposition, the government immediately rejected it point by point. However, MNS had earlier said he left it to the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) to amend the ToRs that may resolve the impasse between the government and the opposition. But what if it persists? The present prevarication tactics adopted by the government are proof enough that a government in power can derail any investigation. Can any probe be impartial with the executive controls in the hands of the person being and a huge amount of both public and private funds available to influence public opinion with?

Any analysis of Pakistan’s politics and state of affairs must take into account civil-military relations. Launched into politics by General Ziaul Haq in the early 80s, MNS’s relationship with successive CoASs started to deteriorate once he became PM in 1992. This on-off status lasted till 1998 when he forced Jehangir Karamat’s resignation as CoAS, replacing him with Pervez Musharraf. Bypassing two outstanding professional soldiers Ali Kuli Khan and Khalid Nawaz, he suffered the consequences thereof. True to form, MNS was soon into disagreements with the new CoAS. Musharraf’s Kargil folly brought things to a head. Trying to oust Musharraf, MNS was himself deposed by a counter coup, mounted on October 12, 1999 by Musharraf’s close aides Mahmood, Aziz, etc, to save their own skins from being prosecuted over Kargil.

While military intervention may be the solution of last resort, Martial Law is really no solution. Tried in 1958, 1969, 1977 and 1999, Martial Laws failed because those who came into power with every good intention fell prey to ambition and greed, eventually becoming part of the problem they came to solve. Starting well, military rulers tend to overstay their welcome and with all their good intentions going out of the window, their rule ends in disaster. So why is the 1993 Martial Law not recognised as a “Martial Law” when it really was a Martial Law in all but name? One must differentiate between military intervention and martial Law. That overwhelming success of the 1993 intervention was because of the person of General Waheed Kakar and his commitment to the nation over any personal ambition. Pakistan came “FIRST” in reality, not rhetoric. An accidental CoAS, this outstanding soldier became CoAS when General Asif Nawaz Janjua, unfortunately died of cardiac arrest. Continuing General Asif’s positive changes in running the Army, General Kakar was tough on discipline, even sending two Lieutenant Generals (one former and one serving DG ISI) home overnight. The 1993 political confrontation between President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and PM Mian Nawaz Sharif was tailor-made for Martial Law. Without declaring martial law or trying to run the civilian bureaucracy, a Caretaker Regime was installed in place. The ISI and the MI ensured the success of the Caretaker Government from behind the scenes. A “show of force” deterrence is effective when the sword is displayed and not used. And when no longer required, put back into the “Constitutional” scabbard.

When PM Benazir insisted he take an extension in 1995. General Kakar took counsel from his Corps Commanders and close aides. Only Lieutenant General Lehrasab Khan, Corps Commander Karachi, and Major General (later Lieutenant General) Ali Kuli Khan the DGMI, advised him to retire. History is witness that General Kakar’s taking the minority view and going quietly off into retirement added to his reputation as one of the finest and most respected former Commanders of the Pakistan Army.

Hugely popular in the Army, General Raheel Sharif, has caught the imagination of the masses with his integrity and commitment. Very much like Kakar he has spelt out that he does not believe in any extension to his tenure as CoAS or harbours any political ambitions. Campaigning successfully against terrorism and corruption, the Army’s stock is very high as opposed to the government’s. As senior journalist Shaheen Sehbai’s letter of resignation to his boss eloquently suggests, egged on by motivated interest to defame the Army, one particular media group has gone beyond the failsafe line about un-biased reporting and analysis thereof. When asked whether his government and the Army were on the same page, MNS deflected the question to Khawaja Saad Rafique. Normally quite vocally anti-Army, this time around he adopted “an evasive reply being the better part of valor”.

While Martial Law will certainly derail democracy and is not the answer to accountability “across the board”, is the “Kakar Model”, a Martial Law for a limited period without being a Martial Law, the answer for Pakistan?

(The writer is a defence and security analyst)

Copyright Business Recorder, 2016