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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Why support the Pak Army?

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Pakistanis dumped between hard rock and deep sea

The Pakistan Army corps commanders have pushed the hapless and helpless Pakistani nation between a rock and a deep ditch. The rock is the Army itself, armed with guns and a lot of arrogance. The ditch is the corrupt sea of vision-less politicians who cannot see beyond their stolen billions and rightly or wrongly have acquired power and perks they will not let go of.

In an almost defeatist and vengeful tone the 1,032-word political statement coming out of their meeting tells the people that from now on Pakistanis will be at the mercy of the politicians, who the commanders, in their heart of their hearts believe are corrupt and incapable of handling these life and death matters of state. So they want to wash their hands off matters and let the people and their leaders drown fighting each other. They will watch from the sidelines and when a collapse becomes inevitable they will step in and take over, blaming everybody else.

This is almost a political strategy to bring down the system, instead of supporting the system, as the commanders have pledged in their statement. It is like pulling out all the fire engines from a burning house and telling the inmates to fight the fire with their hands and empty buckets.

I have seen many comments on the corps commanders’ statement but none has addressed the real issue in a free, frank and candid manner. Some former army officers, generals and captains alike, even bureaucrats who were part of the military regimes have soft pedalled issues and have defended the Army position, without hinting at their share of responsibility to fix things, if they are so sincere.

The Army  [top] leadership [excluding junior officers and innocent disciplined soldiers, who lay down their live for defence of country] has taken a highly defensive position after the repeated debacles, which were not engineered by the politicians but were self-inflicted because of either incompetence or sheer carelessness. The politicians have taken extra sadistic pleasure at the pathetic plight of the security establishment and have rubbed more dirt into its face. It is this attitude, which has forced the Army leadership to talk back, and lecture everybody on how to handle the disasters caused by lapses on their part.

But lapses can be forgiven and prevented with better security management. What cannot be forgiven is the failure of the Army to clean up the mess it has left in the political arena and by refusing to stand by national institutions, which if strengthened could have provided some hope and direction to the country and generated confidence in the systems, both democratic, judicial and civil.

For instance the present Army leadership was part and parcel, in fact the spearhead of the dubious political arrangements which were forged by the falling dictator Pervez Musharraf to protect his power. These were arrangements, like the NRO, which were extremely toxic for the country, but were pushed with vigour and enthusiasm. Until Musharraf was around, there may have been a justification, or a de facto compulsion, to continue.

But once he was gone, the Army leadership failed to undo those dirty deals although privately all the top generals would express extreme repulsion at the leadership which grabbed power and deliberately tried to demolish all crucial institutions, including the parliament, the judiciary, the media and the bureaucracy. Was it incompetence or complicity?

An even greater incompetence or complicity was not to back the judiciary against blackmailing by politicians who continued to destroy the economy, implode state-owned enterprises with crunching cronyism, looting billions and whenever challenged by the judges or the media, hurled this card or that card and pushed the complicit Army to back off. They did, ever so willingly. These politicians also easily coerced the executive and almost rendered political parties impotent by keeping critical powers with unelected and/or incompetent party heads. No one raised a finger.

Knowing that the politicians were corrupt and had no intention of correcting their course, the Pakistan Army, as the guardian of internal security, had to provide firm and unflinching support to corrective mechanisms within the system, if they really wanted democracy to take hold and get going in the right direction. They never bothered.

Instead, they allowed corruption by not only looking the other way but strengthened the impression that they were partners in crimes by getting extensions in their tenures and condoning every atrocity that was unleashed by the power-drunk politicians in the name of democracy. What was so undemocratic about creating independent accountability forums or properly investigating white-collar crimes? No one interfered because that would have been politically incorrect.

While this lack of support to institutions and the democratic system strengthened the undeserving and visionless political mafias, security lapses and blunders suddenly brought the Army, navy and the air force under tremendous pressure, thus taking away from them whatever will and potential there was to stop the rapid implosion of the system.

The politicians, who always felt threatened by the Army, got repeated God-given opportunities in shape of Abbottabad, PNS Mehran, Kharotabad, Saleem Shahzad and Clifton episodes to blast the khakis, bringing them almost to their knees, almost to this point when they are publicly pleading their case in long and unnecessary explanations in their defence.

It is a known fact, and the politicians, the civil society, the judiciary, the media and even the Army, admit that repeated martial laws and dictatorships have brought Pakistan to this sorry state. It was then the duty of all of these institutions to help in picking up the pieces and rebuild. If one or more of these institutions resisted this process of improvement, others should have forced them in the larger national interest.

Sadly only the judiciary, parts of the media and portions of civil society joined hands while the major players, led by corrupt politicians continued to resist. They were helped by some apologists who laughed and applauded the fraudulent politics and trickery that was perpetuated on the nation, as if playing tricks and succeeding was a great national service. The Army unfortunately took the side of these corrupt tricksters.

Now when the chips are down and there is tremendous pressure from within the ranks of the Army on its leadership to change course, there is little goodwill left to forgive and forget. The trick brigade is laughing its heart out.

The demand of the corps commanders that the nation should stand by it at this critical time is basically reasonable and should be supported but when the commanders accuse people and parties of ‘perceptual biases’ they are ignoring some bitter realities and condoning their own share in making and perpetuating these perceptions.

What has the Army done after all to undo the wrongs done by General Musharraf against all the political parties and leaders? Was the NRO a deal to undo the wrongs done to PPP or was it a deal by Musharraf to save his own skin by joining the loot brigade? What did General Kayani do to remove fears and concerns of Mian Nawaz Sharif so that he could play his due political role without fear of another military takeover?

The Zardari-led PPP was so tainted and corrupt that it had no legs to stand or assert its will on the Army after it was surreptitiously allowed back into the corridors of powers. That was easily done by the Army leaders but have they accepted the civilian supremacy in reality or is it not just a smokescreen that Army wants to support the system? 

Was it not the Army responsibility to clean the dirty mess it had left over the years and when the courageous judiciary took up this cause why did the GHQ drag its feet and not assure the unarmed judges that their moral and legal authority would be upheld by those who have the powers to implement their orders. Why did they allow shameless and mindless politicians to defy the law, mock justice and act like mafias, prolonging the agony of the nation? It was the extreme of the insult of apex court as dozens of its decisions were not implemented by the government.

These and many such questions remain unanswered despite the 1,032-word communique of the corps commanders. Their stance on the Pak-US policy is also a big question mark and reflects a growing schism within their ranks as it is now towing the populist line while for the last many years they have been doing what Washington has been asking. Now when the public mood is changing they have shifted the burden on the civilians to devise a policy, issue orders and they will do whatever they are told. It is almost certain, these orders will not be implemented and if so done, blame of any failures will be easy to pin on civilians.

Still not all has been lost. The security lapses are a professional hazard which every army, intelligence agency and institution has to face and can be forgiven. To gain the trust and the confidence of the people and the nation, the Army has to play its role in building up of critically important institutions like the judiciary, the media, civil society, the parliament and the bureaucracy. It has to be either with the corrupt or against them. If mafias and gangs take over everything, in the name of democracy, what needs to be done?

The answer is strong institutional checks. Anyone who attacks or tries to undermine these institutions should be condemned and declared an outcast, through the existing legal and political systems. If political blackmail in the name of the Sindh or Punjab card is attempted, it should be crushed by all legal and constitutional means. And the army should stand behind these decisions, with force, without being apologetic. Only then it will get back respect of the nation.

In one of my meetings with a top general sometime back, I asked about the Sindh Card and what it meant to the Army. The answer was a dismissive sweep of the hand accompanied with the words: “What Sindh Card? If we act not a soul will move carrying the Sindh Card. We know how big this bluff is”.

But ultimately the general sb. and his team surrendered to the bluff, became the butt of jokes and are now offering apologies seeking our support. Support they will get but where should the 180 million people caught between the bluff and the bluffers go?
Comments:
Well articulated analysis, but why it is forgotten that Gen Keyani, as DGISI was part of the NRO process, probably elevated as Army Chief, later granted extension to keep the DEAL secure? Expecting him to clear all the mess, he has been part for so long is asking for  too much.... wishful thinking ....as the saying goes: "If auntie had .... she would been .... "





Why support the Pak Army?