The Toronto Sun
Every country has an army, but in Pakistan it’s the other way around — the army has a country.
From its inception in 1947, Pakistan has been held hostage by its military. From production of cereals to nuclear bombs, from housing construction to cement manufacture, committing genocide in Bangladesh in 1971 to now hosting and arming ISIS affiliates in Balochistan, Pakistan’s army has ruled the country with an iron grip, despite the veneer of democracy.
Once upon a time, military coups in Pakistan were bloodless.
If the generals were not pleased with the elected or appointed prime minister, they would simply send in the infamous 111 Brigade headquartered in the capital to the prime minister’s residence, arrest and oust him.
The last coup was in 1999 when General Pervez Musharraf overthrew prime minister Nawaz Sharif and exiled him and his family.
Then came the U.S. “Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009”, better known as the Kerry-Lugar bill. It aimed to ensure the American-funded Pakistan armed forces would pay a heavy price if they toppled democratically elected Pakistani governments.
The law authorizes instant suspension of $1.5 billion U.S. aid to the Pakistan military if the army overthrows an elected civilian government.
Sharif, who won the country’s 2013 elections in a landslide, was in the process of starting peace talks with India, but the military would have nothing of that sort.
Peace with India could hit at the fundamental reason for Pakistan’s massive armed forces and curtail them.
However, the Kerry-Lugar Bill ensured the army could not simply overthrow the elected government.
Instead, critics say, the military employed a new tactic.
They relied, among others, on Canadian-Pakistani cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, who has a cult-like religious following in Pakistan, to help topple the civilian government through mass protests.
(Qadri has denied he is backed by the military.)
Qadri, who has in the past played a part in backing military juntas in Pakistan, arrived from Canada on July 23 and on August 14 — the country’s Independence Day anniversary — announced a “revolution” march on Islamabad by a million people aimed at toppling the government.
He was joined in the exercise by the cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan, who led a parallel procession to protest against what he called rigging in last year’s election.
On reaching Islamabad, Qadri’s supporters clashed with police and allegedly beat an officer to death.
Newsweek Pakistan reports Qadri has been charged with murder while the Islamabad newspaper The Daily Times reports the Canadian cleric has been charged with treason as well.
(Qadri has denied the murder and treason charges.)
A former senior official in the Pakistan government described Qadri as “a chameleon with close ties to Pakistani military intelligence.”
(Qadri has denied any links to Pakistan’s military intelligence.)
Explaining the current crisis, the official said: “The real issue is Nawaz’s willingness to compromise with India. The army wants full control over foreign and national security policy. The generals cannot stage a coup due to fears of international isolation, but they also don’t want to let the civilians govern.”
I asked federal Citizenship Minister Chris Alexander if Canada is prepared to strip Qadri of his Canadian citizenship under Bill C-24 and refuse him re-entry into Canada, now that he has been charged in Pakistan.
I have not yet received a response, but I am hoping Alexander will. So should all Canadians.