In every major political conflict in Pakistan you can bet on one thing and one thing only and that is that the side that represents the ideology of Pakistan will ultimately win.
What is the ideology of Pakistan? I’m not talking about the original founding ideology of Jinnah or the Lahore Resolution. I am talking about the living, breathing idea of Pakistani nationalism. It’s a vague concept but everyone whose ever had a political discussion in Pakistan recognizes it when he or she comes up against it. It’s Hamid Mir and Zaid Hamid’s breathless worship of Iqbal. It’s Talat Hussain’s tough stance on India. It’s Mirza Aslam Beg’s fantasies of Central Asian domination. It’s General Kayani’s shamelessly unchanging stance on strategic depth. It’s Benazir Bhutto’s ‘thousand cuts’ comment. It’s Shahbaz Sharif’s warning of Indian involvement in Balochistan. An image that captures it perfectly for me is Northern Light Infantrymen from Gilgit – a region of Pakistan whose people rose in revolt for the sake of Pakistan and were rewarded with constitutional limbo – disguised as freedom fighters, infiltrated into Kashmir and left to die. In short – it’s an ideology based on xenophobia, intolerance for dissent, victimhood and an objective sense that Pakistan can do no wrong and can only be wronged. In foreign policy, its proponents have relied on the dishonorable tactic of proxy warfare justifying it by the propaganda of freedom fighters and Pakistan’s manifest destiny as the guardian of Muslim interests in South and Central Asia. In domestic politics, its proponents have used it to silence any voices of sub-nationalism and provincial autonomy.
In the late 60s, the person who embodied this ideology was Ayub Khan’s foreign minister, Bhutto. In the 80s, it was mard-e-momin Zia-ul-Haq. In the late 90s, it was the great commando Musharraf and in the 2000s it has been Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and his ideological associates on the Supreme Court.
That’s what Asma Jahangir meant today when she warned against a judicial dictatorship. Most people make the mistake of associating dictatorship only with the military. I’m going to put forward the idea that dictatorship in Pakistan is simply whoever currently exercises the dominant ideology of Pakistan in the minds of the people. Because this individual is able to use the ideology of Pakistan to crush all dissent and establish absolute power over events. In the current situation, the Chief Justice and his defenders represent the ideology of Pakistan uncompromisingly. They are therefore able to steamroll the PPP which represents weak pragmatism and compromise and have been able to defeat the army which was in a pragmatic mode post 2001. The Chief Justice has filled the vacuum created by the military which was dragged kicking and screaming into pragmatism post 2001. If and when General Kayani is able to successfully regain control of the Afghan situation, the army will once again replace the Chief Justice as the primary custodian of Pakistani ideology.