THE TROIKA AND THE DYNAMICS OF POWER
At the end of the Zia regime a new triumvirate of
power emerged that came to be known as the "Troika". This was
an essentially informal arrangement of power sharing in the actual as
opposed to formal conduct of governance, between the President, the Prime
Minister and the Chief of Army Staff. The democratic dispensation was
granted by the army not under pressure of a popular movement, but the
death of Zia ul Haq. Consequently the Prime Minister would have been given
a relatively weak position within the power structure in any case. Ms.
Benazir Bhutto elected Prime Minister in 1990, was weakened further by
the fact that she did not have an absolute majority in the Parliament.
Her freedom vis a vis President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and the Army Chief,
General Aslam Baig, was even less than that implied by the formal structures
of governance. Benazir Bhutto came to a tacit agreement to be guided by
Ghulam Ishaq Khan and General Aslam Baig in some of the key areas of government
A fundamental feature of the "Troika" was
that precisely because the power sharing arrangement was informal, the
contention for increasing the relative share of power by each protagonist
was inherent to its functioning: without precisely specified domains of
decision making, or even the confidence that each protagonist would pursue
a shared perception of "National Interest", periodic breakdown
of the arrangement amongst a given set of members was a predictable feature.
This is in fact what happened, so that between 1988 to 1999 an elected
Prime Minister was dismissed on four occasions, three Presidents were
changed and one Chief of Army Staff (General Jehangir Karamet) was pressurized
into resignation. A second army chief (General Pervez Musharraf) faced
dismissal following a desperate but abortive conspiracy by Prime Minister
Nawaz Sharif to enhance his power vis a vis the army by dividing it from
within. This was the final act in the dramatic conflict within the informal
"Troika", that brought the curtain down on the formal democratic
structure itself: General Musharraf took over power through a coup d'etat
on 12th October 1999.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif together with his band
of loyal friends, soon after assuming office began to manipulate some
of the major institutions of state and civil society for personal power,
with an ardor unrestrained by any compunction of propriety or the law.
He was driven by a sense of insecurity that his continuing failure to
revive the economy and contain sectarian strife, could trigger pressures
from within the state structure or from the political system that could
destabilize his regime. A systematic attempt was made to undermine and
control institutions such as the Presidency, the Parliament, the Judiciary,
the Press and (in the end) the Army, in order to lay the basis of authoritarian
power within the democratic structure.
In the case of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto the corruption
was conducted in collaboration with her husband and a close coterie of
politicians, bureaucrats and bankers. They siphoned off large amounts
of funds from public sector banks, insurance companies and investment
institutions such as the National Investment Trust (NIT) and the Investment
Corporation of Pakistan (ICP). The evidence was found in the non-performing
loans which the state controlled financial institutions were forced to
give to the friends of the regime, in most cases without collateral. During
the Bhutto period the NIT and ICP were forced to lend to patently unviable
projects which were then quickly liquidated. The purpose of such lending
apparently was not to initiate projects but to transfer state resources
into private hands. Shahid Javed Burki cites the case of an oil refinery
in Karachi and a cement plant in Chakwal as examples of infeasible projects
funded by the NIT on the instructions of the Prime Minister's secretariat,
and both projects declaring bankruptcy.
According to an estimate by Hafiz Pasha and S.J. Burki,
the cost of such corruption to the banking sector alone was 10 to 15 percent
of the GDP in 1996-97. They have estimated that the overall cost to the
country of corruption at the highest level of government, during the second
tenure of the Bhutto government, was 20% to 25% of the GDP in 1996-97,
or approximately US $ 15 billion. Their estimate includes the losses incurred
due to corruption in public sector corporations such as the Pakistan International
Airlines, Sui Northern Gas, Pakistan State Oil, Pakistan Steel, Heavy
Mechanical Complex, the Water and Power Development Authority, and the
Karachi Electric Supply Corporation. The losses of these public sector
corporations had to be borne by the government and constituted a significant
element in the growing budget deficits.
The regime of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif like the
earlier regime of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto had a rare opportunity
to strengthen democracy in Pakistan and improve the economic conditions
of the people.
Tragically in both cases, the leaders sought to pursue
personal power and wealth instead of building institutions and empowering
Socrates in his dialogue with Glaucon suggests that the political system
would decline when it is ruled by an individual who is dominated by a
craving for wealth and authority for himself. Socrates concludes by asking
about such a ruler:
is it true to say that he was a pseudo-ruler,
and that in reality he didn't rule over the community or serve it in any
capacity, but merely consumed whatever he could lay his hands on?"
The truth of Socrates' logical formulation made in 399 B.C., echoes through
Pakistan's history in the 1990s. Both the democratically elected leaders
were driven by a craving for wealth and power into self serving actions
that brought the State and economy to the verge of collapse. The nation
is now placed in the ironic position of expecting a military government
to reconstruct a "restructured" democratic edifice on the site
of its ruins.
In this series of articles we have seen how the military
regimes of Ayub Khan and Zia ul Haq laid the structural basis for the
deterioration in both the polity and economy of Pakistan. We have also
seen that the democratically elected regimes in various periods not only
sought authoritarian forms of power within formally democratic structures,
but also accelerated the process of economic decline. The national crisis
therefore is located as much in the deterioration of institutions and
the economy, as it is in the failure of individual leaders to pursue public
interest rather than their own.