Gen Waheed Kakar set an example when he sent home a Maj Gen involved in moral corruption, within 24 hours. A clean person can do it without any fear. He is respected by civilians and soldiers alike.
We stand with Army but not few black sheeps.
Pak Fauj Zindabad, Corruption Murdabad
Kayani’s words: myths and facts
Myth: The November 5 press release by the ISPR was a veiled warning to a targeted audience.
Fact: It had parts that were differently intended. The first three paragraphs addressed the serving military audience of the army chief’s talk and explained the evolutionary process of an attempt to seek a national consensus in a wide debate in the media that at times appeared scathing for the military. It emphasised the importance of such a process to create space in order to re-define Pakistan even as it struggles through a great transformative moment in its future direction, both as a state and as a society. This is particularly important in the background of terrorism and religious extremism, which threaten to tear the national fabric apart unless consensual re-direction is sought through honest introspection and readjustment of the fundamentals that have governed policy formulation in the decades since independence.
To the wider public it was an intimation of a recognition that institutions, including the military, have indeed made mistakes in the past and followed policies that have landed the country into dire straits. It also intimated that, while a process of reorientation of policies may appear slower than intended, such reorientation to meet the needs of a 21st century Pakistan is indeed in place. And that no more shall such a definition be the claim of just one institution, traditionally the military, but a composite and collaborative public effort evolved through discourse and debate.
Myth: The November 6 rebuttal by the chief justice in his remarks, while reviewing another case, indicates that the message was indeed intended for the Supreme Court in the wake of the trial and indictment of retired generals.
Fact: This couldn’t be further from the truth, since the statement by the ISPR quotes the army chief emphasising to his officers a national commitment to uphold the rule of law and to function within the parameters of the constitution. What might appear distasteful in the short run (such as seeing some retired senior officers of the army undergoing the ignominy of public trials), augurs well for the nation in the long run, when institutions are strengthened through the inimitable tradition of following the constitution and working within their constitutional domains. The chief justice’s remarks were a response to an overzealous attorney intending to clear the air of misperception between the court and the military, while pursuing an entirely unrelated case in the court – and hence misplaced.
Myth: If not the judiciary, the media for sure was under the spotlight.
Fact: There is significant truth in that, and it emerges from some ill-considered formulations in the debate in the media that are unable to correctly ascertain where must lie the limit on freedom of expression and where from begins the slippery slope of damaging the integrity of the institutions. The army chief, when referring to the gulf that wittingly or unwittingly is intended between the generals and the soldiers by remarks that own the army of the soldiers but ridicule the generals of the same army, indicates it as an insidious attempt to rupture institutional integrity. In legal parlance such an attempt is considered seditious. Also, such repeated insinuations against institutions – borne out of individual conduct – are firstly misplaced, and secondly yet to stand the test of trial and due process. Indictments must still become convictions before guilt is established through due process of law, which includes the right of defence. Broad-brush discolouration of an institution such as the military, which is critically dependent on favourable perceptions for public support, countervails the entire edifice on which such institutions are based. Our discourse must then be wary of such pitfalls as we learn to exercise the freedom of expression as a fundamental human right with a self imposed sense of fair responsibility. An attempt at weakening institutions is counter-intuitive to nation building.
Myth: The press release was intended to shelter the indicted retired generals from further process of trial and conviction.
Fact: In asking the question at the end of the statement, “have we not promoted law and the constitution?” the army chief suggests that, when so directed, the military brass has presented itself before the parliament and the Supreme Court in various cases. Retired generals, when asked, presented themselves before the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), and Generals Aslam Baig and Asad Durrani have fought their legal battles in the courts without assistance or cover by the army. When the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) established mala fide in the National Logistics Cell case, the army proceeded to act against the three generals through a court martial. There is absolutely no indication in cases of the eight generals that the army was seen to interfere with the process of law. This is reiterated by the army chief in the initial paragraphs of his address to the officers where he reinforces the primacy of law and the need to establish the tradition of respect for law.
In the question above and the following, “are we strengthening or weakening the institutions?” he indicates the huge distance that the military has covered in changing ‘mindsets’ for renewed credentials as an institution that has provided unquestioned support to the political process and other institutions, including the higher judiciary.
Myth: In mentioning ‘haste’, the army chief suggests desisting from hasty and frequent trial of the army generals.
Fact: While recognising mistakes that institutions (read army) have made over the years, the army chief implicitly suggests that time would be needed to turn around the huge ‘aircraft-carrier’ that the institution is, even as the change is already in place. In the meantime, however, if we continue to restrict the ambit of functioning of the traditional arms of governance as well as law enforcement, through court injunctions – as was done for Balochistan and Karachi – we may just find that we do not have any government agency to administer these critical regions.
As much as it is an honest admission of the errors in policy and the recognition of a need for reorientation in policy formulation, the army chief’s statement also identifies the need to keep the larger national interest of keeping the state and societal structures intact as Pakistan transforms through such a critical juncture.
The writer is a retired air-vice marshal of the Pakistan Air Force and served as its deputy chief of staff. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org