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“Chatta’s Statement and Pakistan’s Deepening Instability”

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Islamabad (Imran Y. CHOUDHRY) :- Former Press Secretary to the President, Former Press Minister to the Embassy of Pakistan to France, Former MD, SRBC Mr. Qamar Bashir analysis :
As the political landscape unfolds, the challenges of forming a government in the center become starkly apparent. PML(N) faces the dilemma of compromising its principles by aligning with PPP, leading to its refusal to accept the premiership. Similarly, PPP shows reluctance in vying for the top position. Despite PTI’s claim to over 170 seats, reduced to 93 amid allegations of rigging, it finds itself sidelined, allegedly due to the establishment’s hostility towards Chairman PTI.

This unprecedented situation sees no party willing to seize power at the center, focusing instead on provincial governance. Both PML(N) and PPP hesitate to lead due to political uncertainty and economic challenges. While concerns about inflation, balance of payments, and trade persist, the elephant in the room—that is, the underlying political instability—casts a long shadow over the nation’s future.

The call of nationwide protest against alleged massive and rampant rigging across the country, by a formidable alliance of PTI, JUI, JI, and GDA, has added another thick layer to the already complex and highly unstable political scenario.

At this critical juncture, the public statement from Commissioner Rawalpindi Division, Liaqat Ali Chatta, added yet another layer of turmoil to the country’s already unstable political landscape.

His shocking admission of forcing subordinate officers and staff to engage in large-scale election rigging during the 2024 elections in Rawalpindi division sent shockwaves throughout the nation. Chatta revealed how he allegedly aided thirteen candidates by unlawfully securing their victories, even resorting to adding 50,000 forged votes and declaring rightful winners as losers with a lead of 70,000 votes. Driven by his troubled conscience, nights of restless sleep compelled him to step forward and publicly confess to his role in the mass rigging.

This revelation marks the fourth resignation in as many months by individuals who dared to defy the oppressive might of the state. Their courage to stand up for justice and truth, despite the personal sacrifices of their careers, privileges, and prestige, highlights a deeper struggle against the looming threat of economic, financial, and political collapse. Each resignation serves as a testament to the enduring battle for integrity and accountability in a nation teetering on the brink of crisis.

The recent spate of resignations, including those of two Supreme Court judges, one Lahore High Court judge, and now a top bureaucrat like the Commissioner of Rawalpindi Division, has plunged the nation into turmoil. In a startling press statement, the Commissioner admitted to committing heinous crimes that destabilized the country, likening it to a betrayal of one’s own nation. He revealed how many of his subordinates, despite their reluctance, were coerced into participating in these nefarious activities.

The glaring question that arises is why the perpetrators who pressured him into these actions remain untouched while he bears the brunt of the consequences. It prompts deep reflection on the motivations, compulsions, and thought processes of those masterminding such despicable acts. What drives them to manipulate elections, undermine democracy, and strip the people of Pakistan of their rightful voice and power? These are questions that demand answers and shed light on the darker underbelly of our political system.

There are four power bases which could have leverage, means and weapons to force the entire administration of the country to allegedly do disservice to the country to the extent of jeopardizing the very soul of the county and pushing the country to the brink of internal chaos, economic and financial collapse and political instability. These four bases of power are : the Interim government, Election Commission of Pakistan, PML(N) and the establishment.

The blame for the alleged rampant, audacious, and shameless acts of election rigging, which have robbed a political party of its rightful mandate and undermined the sanctity of votes, falls squarely on the interim government, bearing approximately 90% of the responsibility. Under the constitution and the law of the land, the entire bureaucracy, whether civilian or military, is subordinate to the interim government, granting it significant leverage over civil servants. The interim government possesses the authority to transfer, sideline, or suspend civil servants, thereby depriving them of their duties and benefits. They can subject them to inquiries, suspension, or even dismissal from service. Yet, despite these intimidations, the interim government does not yield enough power to coerce civil servants into unwillingly committing such egregious acts of betrayal against the nation. strike at the very heart of democracy and undermine the collective will of 250 million people.

In the intricate web of power dynamics during elections, the Election Commission emerges as the second force or institution with some semblance of authority over District Returning Officers (DROs). However, having been ingrained within the civil bureaucracy for over three decades, I can attest with absolute certainty that the Election Commission, despite its perceived power, lacked the influence or clout to compel the civil administration—the most potent institution within the civilian sector—to perpetrate such a heinous and outrageously shameless act of election rigging.

The third potential force in this intricate power play could indeed be PML(N), envisioned as the assured victor poised to govern both at the center and in Punjab. Drawing from personal experience, I’ve witnessed the subtle alignment of the bureaucracy with the prospective government, offering support overtly or covertly. PML(N), renowned for its skill in fostering enduring loyalties within the civil bureaucracy, holds the capacity to reward its supporters once in power. However, despite these influences, they are insufficient to coerce or compel the civil bureaucracy into perpetrating such a heinous crime, one that has dangerously edged the country toward civil strife.

The other potential force at play in this intricate power play is the establishment, known for its history of acting independently, disregarding civilian command and control and rendering them immaterial, toothless, and inconsequential. Allegedly, the establishment has asserted its dominance over the civilian government, parliament, and judiciary, making it clear that their power extends only within the confines of civil domains and holds no sway over the establishment’s decisions and actions. They have effectively communicated that the application of the constitution and the law of the land ceases to operate once within the limits of cantonment. Furthermore, they have asserted that all pillars of the state and civilian institutions are subordinate to them, allowing civilian institutions to act only within the limits set by the establishment.

Allegedly, in the weak and fragile democracies, the establishment wields its control through a combination of lethal force and superior kinetic means, surpassing those possessed by civilian security agencies. They leverage their dominance by setting aside legal constraints and act with impunity. In weak democracies, where public awareness and collective will are lacking, civilians lack the means to enforce their authority over the armed forces. This imbalance enables the establishment to flout oaths, disregard the constitution, and perpetrate acts of violence against civilians unchecked. This stands in stark contrast to established democracies, where collective empowerment enables civilians to enforce civilian control over the armed forces and security agencies, ensuring adherence to legal frameworks and protection of civil liberties.

The establishment exercises its leverage over civilian administration through sheer force and intimidation, exploiting its impunity to employ a range of unlawful tactics. Including but not limited to intimidation, harassment, abductions, and character assassinations with impunity. These tactics extend beyond the target to their families, subjected to humiliation, threats, and physical, emotional, and mental torture until they capitulate. Mr. Chatta’s cunning acknowledgment of responsibility, shifting blame away from the armed forces, underscores this reality, highlighting the lengths to which individuals are coerced to conform to orchestrated agendas.

The first counter and rubbish the statement of Chatta was the spokesperson of Punjab government who declared Chatta as lunatic, insane, driven by his vicious desire to create political space after his retirement. The second was Maryam Orangzeb who termed him a part of a large conspiracy against the nation and demanded a deep down check on him to unearth the actual vicious purpose of his malicious assertion. Third in line was none other than the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in his unofficial and informal and unprecedented media statement that said that it is easy to blame but difficult to prove. PTI, JI and JUI termed it vindication of their claims of massive rigging in the elections which turned many loser winners and vice versa.

PTI’s call for an independent inquiry to uncover the truth and restore their stolen seats raises a crucial question: Who will lead this investigation? Will it be conducted by police officers, FIA or IB teams, a JIT, or the judiciary? However, in all these scenarios, the members of the inquiry body are either civil servants or judges, all ultimately subordinate to the incumbent government and the superior judiciary. This raises concerns that the inquiry report may lack substance or truth, as it could be influenced to favor certain interests.

Hence, it is crucial for the interim government to either incorporate representatives from all contesting political parties into the inquiry committee or enlist the assistance of independent international experts. This strategy is vital to guarantee a transparent and unbiased investigation that can hold accountable those responsible for betraying the trust of Pakistan’s 250 million citizens. By restoring the true mandate and rightfully awarding victory to the deserving candidates, we can pave the way for sustainable political, economic, and financial stability in the country.

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