Ruritania is an imaginary kingdom in central Europe which forms the setting for many famous novels of Anthony Hope centering in on royalty, aristocracy and the upper classes. Often, characters in these novels hatch conspiracies against each other. Nowadays, living in Pakistan makes one feel like one is also an inhabitant of the fictional kingdom. As a matter of fact, certain conspiracy theories have become an essential part of the national and political discourse of our country. In the absence of the rule of law, authoritarian tendencies prevailing in the system have been giving rise to serious political intrigues.
It was in 1951 when the Rawalpindi Conspiracy hatched by senior army officers against the then political government, became known to the public. Aimed at preventing Pakistan from becoming a satellite of the US, this Soviet-backed coup tried to topple the government of Liaquat Ali Khan. The conspiracy was foiled, but unfortunately, the then Prime Minister of Pakistan could not escape an assassin’s bullet in Rawalpindi some months later. The Rawalpindi Conspiracy is considered to be the first attempted coup in the history of the country. After this incident, there have been a series of successive military coups against the various political governments in Pakistan. With the exception of President Asif Ali Zardari’s PPP, no political government has ever completed its tenure in the country’s history.
At present, the so-called London Plan is being widely discussed in the country. It has been alleged by the government that Imran Khan, Allama Tahir ul Qadri and the Chaudhries of Gujrat met secretly in London some time ago, and conspired to launch a joint agitation movement against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. On the other hand, denying these charges categorically, PTI and PAT has said that the London Plan is nothing but a figment of the PML (N)’s imagination. Though one cannot be certain, the timing, modus operandi and singularity of objective of both marches indicate some degree of collusion between the front-runners.
Is it just a coincidence that both marches were started from the same city at the same time, raising similar slogans, making similar demands, using the same route, and ending up at the same place, turning finally, into sit-ins in Islamabad’s Red Zone? Is it mere coincidence that leaders of both marches are using almost similar containers to lead this movement against the government? In fact, both leaders have been giving similar deadlines to the participants of the marches while looking for the so-called third force to intervene. Perfect synchronization between the two movements and their leaders are facts that speak for themselves. It is not the place, but the objective of the whole plan that matters and makes all the difference.
The so-called London Plan is also being overplayed by different quarters in the country. On one side, some spokespersons of the government are alleging that the recent Model Town incident in Lahore is also part of the plan. They have maintained that the armed workers of PAT and some loyalists of former CM Punjab Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi in the Punjab police were involved in the Model Town incident to malign and weaken the PML (N) government. This allegation looks absolutely rubbish. The incident has been the direct result of the government’s panic over Qadri’s intended agenda and its later mishandling of this issue. The judicial inquiry commission has also fixed the responsibility for this incident with the Punjab government.
On the other hand, former COAS General (R) Mirza Aslam Baig smells an international conspiracy hatched by the US, UK, Canada and Iran in collusion with Khan and Qadri to drag the Pakistan Army into politics once again. In the face of actual realities on the ground and the dynamics of internal politics of the country, this allegation hardly makes any sense. Ironically, despite being awarded the Tamgha-e-Jamhuriat by Benazir Bhutto in 1988, General Aslam Baig has been named in every conspiracy hatched against the PPP during his term in office.
We have successfully introduced certain written constitutions in Pakistan after independence. But we have somehow failed in evolving any positive political culture and healthy political traditions out of them in the country. One should never forget that only the people of Pakistan can bring genuine, sustainable, long-term political change through an evolutionary democratic process. Instant conspiracies will get Pakistan nowhere. Intrigues and conspiracies can only be the characteristic features of archaic or traditional kingdoms, best suited to fiction. There is hardly any place for such things in the modern democratic orders to which we aspire.
The writer is a lawyer.