Volume 6, No. 2, February 2024
Editor: Rashed Rahman
On January 13, 2024, the Supreme Court of Pakistan – the last institutional resort for justice for the people and state of Pakistan – rendered a decision that has bitterly divided the legal community and public opinion. Some see it as a blatant case of pre-poll rigging that enables the power establishment to deny the people their basic right to a government of their choice. Others say the verdict represents a narrow but correct interpretation of the jurisdiction and authority of the Election Commission (EC). Another lawyers’ movement may be in the offing in support of the democratic rights of the people. For the powers that be, however, the elimination of a particular political leader and the maintenance of an unconstitutional praetorian-led political order is the primary objective. This is exactly what the US government demanded when it conveyed its warning to the power elite that they need to get rid of Imran Khan as Prime Minister (PM) irrespective of his standing with the people. It will, of course, publicly ‘regret’ the lack of free and fair elections while privately appreciating the loyalty of its ruling servants in Pakistan who prioritise the interests of the US over those of their own country.
The ultimate court of justice for the people and state of Pakistan, however, are the people themselves. They have now to decide whether they shall or shall not have a country. They see it being destroyed by those sworn to protect them. They have to reclaim their country. This will require discussions, organisation, mobilisations, movements, protests, countering agent provocateurs and fifth columnists, struggle, sacrifice and suffering as the only but sure road to success. Who will do all this? If this remains the overwhelming question it will answer itself. The internal and external adversaries of the people are accordingly betting on their continuing to meekly accept defeat.
Economically, Pakistan has already been hollowed out. It has deliberately been deposited in a permanent debt trap through the accumulation of an estimated $ 130 billion of foreign ‘odious debt’. This is non-productive debt incurred by the exploiting and consuming elites of Pakistan in the name of the impoverished people who are saddled with the impossible task of repaying it without any restructuring of the economy or radical change in expenditure priorities that are disallowed by the governing elites. Who protects these elites? Primarily, the US. Just as it is criminally abetting the International Court of Justice-acknowledged Israeli genocide in Gaza, it is involved in the assault on democracy and freedom in Pakistan.
The global context in which this is happening is symbolised by the ‘Doomsday Clock’. On January 23 it will possibly for the very first time be reset at less than a minute to ‘midnight’, i.e. the destruction of human civilisation as we know it. While no one country, government or people can be held responsible for this existential threat, the US and its malignant corporate capitalist order that determines its domestic and external policies is the chief culprit. Its ideology of profit maximisation at all costs under the name of free enterprise, combined with its military, technological, economic dominance, insatiable greed for the world’s natural resources and prowess in manufacturing disinformation and consent has enabled it and its satrapies to wage systemic class, information and military warfare across the world. The US has chosen global hegemony over global survival. It accepts global cooperation only under its global hegemony no matter what it may say to the contrary. Its record speaks much louder than its assertions. The rest of the world is given a choice: submit to the necessary evil of US global hegemony or perish. That the US would also perish in the pursuit of global hegemony testifies to the ultimate absurdity, pathology and bankruptcy of its corporate ideology.
Unless the American people wake up to this evil being perpetrated in their name, which will ultimately be at the expense of their own survival, the Doomsday Clock will strike midnight sometime this century – possibly much sooner than experts and commentators currently anticipate. This is the global context in which Pakistan and the majority of the countries of the world find themselves today. This context is both an existential challenge and a last opportunity to meet and overcome this challenge. As potentially the most important Muslim country, Pakistan has a potentially important role in enabling the world to avail of this opportunity. But first it has to save itself.
The State of Pakistan is a legal entity, the Government of Pakistan governs the entity, and the Force Structure of Pakistan is the institution that unconstitutionally and illegitimately rules it. The Nation is the People of Pakistan. The Force Structure has effectively declared war on the People. Many Pakistanis are today more than ever convinced that the Executive, Judiciary and Legislature are on the wrong side of this conflict. The Question arises: Will the people also become complicit in the destruction of their country or will they resist it?
The governing elites will violently suppress any such resistance and are confident that as in the past they will prevail over an angry but pessimistic people with the direct and indirect support of the US. But in the end – especially if they are actually confronted by the power of the people – these elites won’t much care to fight because they have their nest eggs safely stored abroad in the care of the US and its satrapies. The chattering middle classes, especially the rented media and academic intellectual commissars, are by and large pathetically and shamelessly sitting on the fence faking sympathy for the people while beholden to the force structure for their comfortable lifestyles. The people themselves are struggling to survive but also hopefully waking up to the urgency and possibilities of saving their children and their country. Which way will the cookie crumble in 2024? Despite current developments, let us be optimistic.
What should happen? To begin with, concerned Pakistanis should launch an Appeal to the People of Pakistan. An initial draft for discussion by concerned citizens of Pakistan could be as follows:
“This is an appeal from a group of concerned Pakistanis to the people of Pakistan at a time when our national existence is threatened less by external enemies and more by internal rulers and exploiters. This appeal is especially addressed to the youth of Pakistan who will inherit the future of Pakistan and will pay the price for the misdeeds of our rulers and exploiters. More importantly, the children of our youth will be compelled to live and die in a Pakistan that will be a hell on earth because of this treachery.
Only one power can now stop the suffocation of our country. That power is the people and youth of Pakistan of whom our rulers and exploiters are truly scared. They know the people are a sleeping giant. They also know when the people awake they will shake the world of the exploiters and begin to make Pakistan the country of their dreams, hopes and prayers. Meanwhile the youth need to study, pass their exams, and become qualified to provide for their own families. But they also need to discuss among themselves what kind of world they will inherit. They need to demonstrate they will never permit their future to be destroyed by the greed and avarice of their exploiters. They will need to discuss what needs to be done to ensure a better, more prosperous and happier Pakistan in which their children can safely and securely realise their full potential. They will need to peacefully, repeat peacefully, but forcefully not forcibly, demonstrate and demand a government of their choice that will answer to their needs. They will need to link up with each other all over the country so that they can become a mobilised and organised national movement on behalf of their demands. They will need to broadly discuss a whole range of specific reforms that will realise their demands. This will be an essential learning and education process. They will need to show that lawful peaceful power can overwhelm illegal violent power. Their movements will require participants and servants, not ‘leaders and masters’ who can betray them. They need to demonstrate to those sitting on the fence that the future belongs to them as part of the people and not to adventurers, betrayers and exploiters. History shows that such movements if struggled for and sustained in the face of repression can and do realise dreams that appear impossible.
Accordingly, the people of Pakistan, including the youth of Pakistan, make the following demands and will continue their peaceful demonstrations and protests throughout the country until they are met:
Almost none of the above is happening, which measures the scale of the challenge before the nation. But history testifies such challenges have been overcome by a people who have ‘stood up’.
US policies have made it clear it has no interest in an independent and viable Pakistan that prioritises its own interests over US interests, whatever its spokespersons may say. The cypher case has conclusively demonstrated that the US requires the dependent governing elites of Pakistan to ‘make the right choice’. US interests require the regional isolation of Pakistan through military escalation against Iran (killing Baloch on both sides of the border) as part of a US strategy to bring about regime change in Tehran; accepting Indian hegemony in the Subcontinent, including the fait accompli of August 5, 2019 in India Occupied Kashmir; countering pro-Chinese tendencies in Kabul and distancing itself from China, including de-prioritising CPEC; facilitating US objectives in Ukraine and the Middle East; concluding investment protection agreements to attract US and Arab foreign investment at the expense of the economic sovereignty of the country in return for debt-ballooning loans from the IMF, etc. Pakistan may also be encouraged to regard its nuclear weapons deterrent capability as increasingly irrelevant, redundant, and accordingly dispensable. In return the US might undertake to persuade India to be less contemptuous of Pakistan and delay any plans for Azad Kashmir and the Northern Areas provided Pakistan negotiates a No War Pact and a territorial status-quo Kashmir settlement that converts the LoC into an international border. This would, of course, terminate Pakistan’s status as a neighbour and strategic partner of China.
In return, the civil and military governing elites will be given carte blanche to do whatever they please in Pakistan along with an assurance that they will always have a safe haven. Should Pakistani elites demur, they will be threatened with Balochistan becoming ‘Pakistan’s Ukraine’. These elites will find such a deal enticing, or so US strategists calculate, given their dealings with them over several decades. While the people of the US are certainly potential friends of the people of Pakistan, US governments, as the watchdog of its state capitalist and globally grasping elites, can never be reliable friends of Pakistan.
That is why arguments for maintaining a ‘balance’ between the US and China are absurd. China is a proven friend of Pakistan. The US is, on balance, an adversary. But the people of Pakistan have to free themselves of the tyranny of their elites to minimise their vulnerabilities with regard to the US and realise the potential of their relations with China. China does not make any demands on Pakistan other than it avoid becoming an instrument of its ‘enemy’ – a term the US uses to describe China. China’s Foreign Minister is correct when he says China-US cooperation is not an option but an imperative for the world. But he also knows the reality that the US will only pursue such cooperation under its global hegemony, which China will not accept. Accordingly, the US is planning for an ultimate confrontation with China sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, US diplomacy is concentrated on undermining the world’s confidence that China can constrain US violence.
Pakistan’s governing elites, while praising China to the high heavens, rely on US hegemony to crush the democratic and development aspirations of its own people. They thrive as the Pakistani people struggle to survive. The US strategically invests in protecting Pakistan’s ruling elites while bringing them to heel. China strategically invests in the empowerment and goodwill of Pakistan’s battered people. Accordingly, Pakistan’s liberation and survival will require struggle and it will take time, and time is short. The odyssey of national liberation must, therefore, commence immediately.
To conclude, discussions in a variety of forums should commence on revising and finalising the text of such an Appeal, which should be translated into the national and regional languages of Pakistan. It should be endorsed and signed by Pakistanis from all provinces and regions and walks of life in order to initiate and lend momentum to a national movement for a Pakistan that belongs to and serves all its peoples.
This is an existential moment for Pakistan. To be or not to be, that is the question. Will the people answer with a dying whimper or a living roar of Pakistan Paindabad? (Forever Pakistan!).
The writer is a retired diplomat.