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Saturday, March 2, 2013

General Gorbachev of Pakistan?

General Kayani spills the beans, blames others, raises doubts: By Shaheen Shehbai

General Kayani has finally spoken his heart out and the information trickling out from the not so off-the-record four-hour briefing is revealing as well as a cause for serious concern and a warning for the civilians and the country.
The bottom line General Kayani gave was that he wants free and fair elections and a peaceful transfer of power and everyone must respect the mandate of the people and for this the army will provide the maximum help, but only that much which is asked for by the civilians.
So in other words what the general said repeatedly was that no one should try to play games with the transparency and fairness of the elections and the results must be accepted but the army will not impose itself in any way and this job has to be done by the civilians themselves.
Yet while confirming that the army has pulled out of these, and almost all other, matters in the civilian domain, General Kayani gave a long list of civilian failures, almost a charge sheet against the politicians and the government and placed the blame of gigantic failures in many critical domains at the civilian doorstep.
Not to intervene is constitutionally and practically a very positive and constructive approach but in reality it has brought the country to the verge of a collapse and General Kayani realises that but does not want to share the blame. 

[Under which clause of constitution he told Aitezaz Ahsan to ask Nawaz Sharif to call off  'long march', judges  being restored?]

Examples of the civilians’ failure that he quoted, in his own soft style and in a non-intrusive way, were many but a cool analysis of his thoughts and ideas reveals he has told the government and politicians they had messed up in a big way and no more of this mess-up can be afforded.
For instance, he says on the key issue of war against terrorism, the army is not to be blamed but the civilians have not formulated a comprehensive anti-terrorism policy and they could not decide what to do. They threw the ball in the court of the army without giving them policy guidelines, the targets to be achieved and the way that was to be done.
Repeatedly, he said that the army had not been consulted or taken on board about the political all parties conferences being held on counter terrorism.
General Kayani, in this context, quoted many examples and reminded the media men of the Swat situation where he said the President was persuaded by him to take a decision. He also took ANP leader Asfandyar Wali to the President and when the decision was taken to talk to Maulana Sufi Mohammed, the talks were held but when he violated the accord, an operation was launched. Then the civilians had to take over the responsibility which, he implied, they did not.

General Kayani specifically mentioned the arrests made in Swat and complained that if the arrested persons are not convicted because of lack of evidence, the army cannot hold them forever. For three-and-a-half years it is holding these people and is either violating laws by doing so or risks more terrorism if they are released.
Likewise, in Balochistan, General Kayani said, an army operation could be launched only if the civilians take that decision and order the army to do so. But once the operation is done and people are arrested, they will again have to be tried and convicted by the police and courts for which the civilians are not prepared and ready.
Similarly, he said the civilians depend too much and remain forever scared of the ISI and army intelligence agencies whereas the tasks should have been done by their own agencies.
All internal matters have to be handled by the civilians as the ISI has to look after external intelligence threats and the army has to secure borders. Where are the civilian agencies? he asked, in so many words, though politely.

General Kayani’s talk was almost a report card of failure of the interior ministry but he said in so many words that for five years the army took all these failures in its stride, and sometimes guided the civilians to reform and take ownership and responsibility yet did not intervene to stop the rot.
In my view, this was a very considered and deliberate policy as General Kayani and his colleagues knew the capacity of the civilians. They knew that these politicians will not be able to handle such colossal issues like the war on terror, the Balochistan mess, the fight against domestic extremism and fanaticism but they left everything to these immature and inexperienced or incompetent politicians so that the army may not be blamed and the onus of the disaster falls on the civilians.
Now he has explained his five years of non-interference by the army, failure of the civilians to cope and the resultant disasters in a four-hour session which can be summed up in one line: “Don’t blame us. Do something if you can.”
The tragedy is that General Kayani knows well that the 10 years of General Musharraf and the total dominance of the army, the persecution of politicians, the disarray in the political system, the physical threats to political leaders, their assassinations and mass murders, all meant that the politicians were not ready, although they had been voted into power because an election was held and that too under the threat of mass rebellion after Benazir Bhutto’s murder.
So there was no way the army could avoid an election but there was no way the civilians could correct everything messy that the generals were leaving behind.
Similar is the issue with the present elections. General Kayani is now saying that elections must be free, fair and transparent but the set-up that has been put in place is controversial, weak and fragile, weakest at the top.
In his four-hour talk he referred to this weakness of the ECP in his own way by recalling the famous meeting between him and Fakhru Bhai in which a briefing was given by the army to the CEC for over two hours but at the end Fakhru Bhai did not recognise General Kayani.
“Yes I am General Kayani” he told the ageing CEC but then also recalled the story of Alif Laila and the joke associated with it when after the whole night someone asked: “Was Zulekha a man or a woman”.
By referring to Fakhru Bhai and speaking about his age and his capacity, General Kayani indirectly expressed doubts that he can handle such a gigantic task of holding the election. He also knows that politicians have nominated the other four members of the ECP and they are political nominees who can, and may, play games for their sponsors.
So when he says that elections must be fair and free, he is again shifting the blame to the civilians while knowing that they do not mean a fair business and they will do the mischief in their own ways. He is not ready to interfere but is only asking them not to try. Yet he has walked out of providing army cover to the polls saying he cannot spare 200,000 troops. Fakhru Bhai has been left high and dry, on his own. 
So if the politicians don’t listen to the army chief, the bottom line is that nothing will happen. Kayani has already, and in the same meeting, announced that he will retire later this year, or just after a few months after the elections. The politicians can even cut that period short by announcing his replacement three months ahead of the date. So the politicians will play around and the general will go home, leaving the mess for the people to face.
His clearest warning was on the economy and again he blamed the civilians entirely for the failure. He recounted so many instances and asked do you blame the army for this, for that and for everything. He, however, allowed the corrupt civilians to do the damage before his own eyes.
The media lot sitting in front of him, it looks, did not disagree with him on this count. But a pile of dirt, mixed with filth and stink left behind by the army after years of misrule cannot be cleared so easily, when the army pulls itself into a corner and does not stop even the most glaring and blatant violations of the laws and Constitution.
What General Kayani could have done, and has not done, was to strengthen and reassure the institutions which can check the incompetent civilians to place strong checks and corrections at every stage, so that things would not have come so near to collapse. When General Kayani retires, as he would in a few months later this year, he would be judged as another leader of the Gorbachev kind. Will he like to be called General Gorbachev?

An owner returns to find his house burnt to ashes, the guard tells that it was his duty to protect the house from outsiders, thieves not from fire within. Only a fool shall expect General Kayani to take over, but he could do much more within bounds of constitution. The democratic process must continue. However loot and plundering of national wealth and economy should not go unchecked. Judiciary took bold decisions which were not implemented. Is army like other institutions not bound by constitution to assist Supreme Court? which is the final authority to interpret the constitution? Only a  positive response to suprem court could have deterred the plunderers.....
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