Friday, October 20, 2006

Ex-ISI Chief on Elections: We Rig 'Em

Okay, most of us know that the Army has been involved in rigging elections in Pakistan ever since Ayub Khan’s electoral tussle with Fatima Jinnah in 1964.

In the 1970 elections, which are widely believed to have been the fairest, Yahya appointed Minister of Information, Major General Sher Ali Khan of Pataudi, did tinker around by funding handpicked political parties but did nothing of great magnitude under the mistaken belief that the Awami League would not sweep the polls quite so outlandishly. Not surprisingly an incensed Yahya sacked General Sher Ali from his ministerial post during the brief interim period between the holding of the National Assembly elections and the Provincial Assembly elections.

Nothing much need be said of Zia-ul-Haq’s infamous ‘partyless’ 1985 elections.

The former Army Chief Mirza Aslam Beg is on public record for not only having publicly admitted that the ISI spent Rs. 140 million financing his chosen candidates but also for creating the Islamic Jamhoori Alliance in his efforts to prevent the PPP from winning the 1988 election. For the record Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi was the Establishment’s chosen candidate for the post of Prime Minister. Jatoi’s failure to win his home seat proved a valuable lesson for the Establishment as it showed that the funding candidates was not enough to swing elections their way.

After the dismissal of Benazir Bhutto’s government the 1990 elections were now blatantly rigged to ensure that Nawaz Sharif and Muslim League were swept into power.

But as luck would have it, Nawaz Sharif had a bitter ‘I will not take dictation’ falling out with President Ghulam Ishaq Khan. This time the 1993 elections were purposely skewed to ensure that Benazir Bhutto returned to power. As PPP already had a solid vote bank, the rigging effort was not quite as strenuous.

The same cannot be said for the 1997 elections. While Benazir Bhutto had, by then, lost most of her charm with the general public, the ‘heavy mandate’ electoral mandate was not as genuine as Nawaz Sharif would like us to believe.

The 2002 elections were of course an utter farce. In his recently published autobiography General Musharraf himself admits that PML (Q) was very much his own creation. And your Blogger himself witnessed a voter being openly offered 60 ballot slips to vote with in one National Assembly constituency. The candidate being supported here had previously been personally interviewed by General Ehsan-ul-Haq, the ISI chief, and had obviously passed muster.

With this history before us it is refreshing when a former ISI chief comes out in the open and tells it like it is!


This is what Lt. Gen. Asad Durrani, former ISI chief, told an assembled crowd at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington DC on 18 October 2006.

(Your Blogger has directly extracted the following points from news reports in
Dawn and Daily Times newspapers).
  • ‘The military…only takes over when there’s a general resentment against the government and “they know that the takeover will be generally accepted.’
  • ‘one reason for military takeovers is that the army gets impatient with the pace and style of civilian-run governments and disrupts the process through intervention when it should learn to let it continue, which is the only way it will improve. Once the military takes power, within its own ranks, it is loyalty to the coup-maker that becomes the norm. After some years in power, army regimes begin looking for an exit strategy but do not always find it.’
  • ‘According to him, the biggest question confronting a military ruler is: “I am in power, now I must also have legitimacy.” In Pakistan, he said, this legitimacy is acquired through courts and after some time “efforts are made to get some politicians on board”.’
  • ‘ a military government is forced to create [a] ‘civilian façade’ to legitimise [its] takeover.’
  • ‘Some of those politicians who become part of this façade have a murky background. Some cannot win elections on their own. Some have skeletons to hide. Some do it for benefits’.
  • ‘Talking about the thought process that guides a military government, he said: After the takeover, the military government believes that things will be OK in a couple of years but they don’t. The government, however, comes with an agenda and believes that if implemented, this agenda will pull the country out of its troubles…The situation begins to deteriorate and the ire gets directed at the military. The politicians chosen to support the military also become unpopular and there comes a time when “you realise if you want your group to win, you must rig the elections.’
  • ‘an army regime only digs itself deeper into its hole as time passes and it has to rig elections to perpetuate its power.’
  • ‘Meanwhile, a military ruler’s agenda of “cleaning up the political mess” prevents him from “getting off the tiger”. Thus the military government “keeps digging deeper into the hole”.’
  • ‘The general then used an Urdu idiom to describe the situation: “Main kambal ko chorta hoon, kambal mujhey naheen chorta.’
  • ‘The military’s meddling in politics, he said, affects “the normal flow in the higher ranks” and ultimately “loyalty to the coup makers also peters off”.’


HH said...

Dear Onlooker,
Just a minor point. The photo you have with this entry is that of Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S. Major General (Retd.) Mahmud Durrani.
Former ISI Chief, Lt. General Asad Durrani, who spoke at the Carnegie Endowment looks different:

Onlooker said...

Thanks for pointing out my error!

You will now note that that the photo has been changed and we have the pic of the real "Asad Durrani" on this blog entry.

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