Pakistani analyst Sikander Malik says after Imran Khan’s arrest yesterday enough is enough – it’s time for Pakistanis to end the silence about the army’s criminal activities and destructive role in the country.
Everyone inside and outside Pakistan knows that the army and generals have always ruled the country and run the economy behind the scenes. And if there were any doubt about it, the removal of Imran Khan from office and his arrest yesterday on trumped-up charges have confirmed it.
Pakistan has never had a democracy; it’s a total sham. No Prime Minister has ever been allowed to serve a full five-year term, and the generals have ruled directly for 33 of Pakistan’s 75-year history. The generals play the country’s political parties like a merry-go-round, in and out of power as and when they choose.
Pakistan’s political parties and leaders have gone along with this game. When they are charged with crimes or exiled by the army or courts, they know they simply need to hang around long enough and one day the army will grant them their time in power.
That is until Imran Khan came to power and was deadly serious about tackling corruption and reforming Pakistan. He broke the cardinal rule in Pakistan which is that one should not be serious about its politics as that role is the preserve of the army. And if leaders don’t play ball, the army will have no qualms about eliminating dissenters and their followers.
World leaders negotiate with Pakistani generals, invite them to meetings and visit them precisely because they are the country’s actual diplomats and leaders. Judges and the police are told what to do by the army, whom to imprison, and who not to charge with crimes. There is no rule of law in Pakistan, nor an independent judiciary.
The army and corrupt politicians are the law, and it is their injustice that rules. Pakistan’s people understand this and have for decades found ways to survive this system through rishwat (bribery). They have also survived the bankrupt official economy by creating an informal economy that accounts for some 36% of GDP, one of the highest in the world.
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For far too long nobody in Pakistan has been permitted to question or talk about the army and its destructive role, with “threats from external enemies” and “national security” being given as excuses.
Speaking out against the army and its behaviour is likely to lead to one being threatened or “disappeared.” It is a taboo subject for the country’s media – discussions and criticism of the role of the army or its corruption are simply not permissible.
Whilst everyone is prepared to discuss political corruption no one is prepared to discuss military corruption of the generals.
In Pakistan’s economy, the military elite has business interests in everything from housing to private hospitals. People in Pakistan know that gated military housing complexes are the best and safest in the country, private military hospitals provide the best medical advice, and the generals are involved in many other parts of the economy.
Where did their vast wealth come from? Certainly not their salaries but more likely from Western aid to the country and particularly billions of dollars in U.S. military aid over many decades.
The generals have fought as a mercenary force for the United States for the last 40 years, dragging the country into a political and economic crisis. The hard truth for Pakistanis to stomach is that the generals are prepared to use the Pakistani army to oppress and kill their own people to preserve their political power and keep aid flowing from the West.
That said, it is worth pointing out that the rank-and-file soldiers of the Pakistani army are sincere and devout and are just pawns in this power play. And unfortunately, it is usually their innocent lives that have been sacrificed for political agendas.
Since the removal of Imran Khan from power last year, the standing of the Pakistani military has plummeted. Pakistanis have realised that their democracy is a sham and that its corrupt military and dynastic politicians are destroying the country not advancing it.
The nation has become riddled with debt and is on a perpetual cycle of economic and political decline, constantly begging for loans from the IMF, China or Saudi Arabia.
So the people of Pakistan must start to openly discuss the behaviour and role of the Pakistani generals in politics, the economy and corruption.
Enough is Enough. It’s time for Pakistanis in Pakistan and around the world to take direct action in lawful and peaceful ways. Pakistani people and parents must call on their sons to withdraw their services from the army and police until a genuinely just order and independent institutions are established. They must call on their sons not to follow orders that tell them to shoot, kill or inflict violence on their own people.
Pakistani people must realise that there is no democracy in Pakistan because the generals and corrupt politicians do not believe in it, nor the rule of law, and are prepared to use violence themselves to preserve their power. They will inflict violence on whoever tries to reform their dying country.
Pakistanis should identify all their assets, business interests and wealth in different countries and expose and pursue them in legal ways.
It is time for the Pakistani people to take their country back from the despotism of its rulers and hold them to account. It is time to send the generals back to their barracks and tell them to ready themselves to fight their external enemies, not their own.
Sikander Malik is a pseudonym for a senior Pakistani analyst who did not want to reveal his name because of probable repercussions from the Pakistani army.