COAS,General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani’s speech to a clique of officers in GHQ has been exacerbated; however, before delving into this speech, there is a need to provide succinct background of civil-military relations during this democratic epoch. Democracy is considered as the only panacea for Pakistan’s problems. This claim is debatable. Let’s not go into the quality, sincerity and commitment of the drivers of democracy: politicians. But the foibles committed by the PPP-led coalition continue to leave the country in a huff. The PPP shunned criticism with impetuosity: chanting about the rigging done against them in 1990’s elections and of course the gruesome act of 4th April, 1979. Agreed, they got a rough deal, but the past cannot absolve them from their responsibilities towards the people of my country. The army, under the leadership of General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani has remained apolitical; those who think otherwise should give vent to their claims. The military is tenaciously hunting-down militants; the Swat and South Waziristan operations ended with marvelous success. Having personally met the wounded soldiers, who sustained injuries in recent combats in Miranshah, I feel that the current perception with regards to the reticence of the army in confronting militants is hogwash. Let’s not get into the role of military in the “War on Terror”, for it is impertinent with the topic in question. However, the fact that the military has remained away from acts of subverting the government, speaks volumes of the tolerance of General Kayani.
We have witnessed a very docile military, which has virtually acquiesced on whatever the tainted politicians or the respectable judiciary has ordered. One needs to shed light on one very important instance, which was nothing, but an invitation to the military. In December, 2011 former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani unnecessarily talked about a state within a state; this was something bizarre, since a few days prior to the statement he boasted of having the army/ISI under his control. The statement was highly-incendiary; the rejoinder from the ISPR set the cat among the pigeons. However, nothing happened, much to the delight of all. The military remained committed to strengthening democracy, but the politicians remained focused on minting money from state exchequer, and most importantly, they disparaged the apex court. However, PPP lackeys think that Gilani’s ouster was accepted out of sheer veneration of the judiciary. Sorry, but one cannot be beguiled by this statement; Gilani sacrificed his premiership for the party, not the country or judiciary, for that matter. This was testified by the then influential Firdous Ashiq Awaan. Party policy and discipline is highly pronounced by the PPP; however, one must not forget that their oath is sacrosanct, which means that the country is above everything.
Now let’s analyze what our Army Chief said, while addressing a cohort of officers in GHQ. Kayani said “as a nation, we are passing through a defining phase”. If this statement is objectionable then the same is written by Stephen Cohen, Bruce Riedel and others. Why aren’t they lashed by the so-called liberals? Why are we linking this sentence to the inaugural speeches of previous dictators? This is tantamount to provocation. If experts consider this sentence or the whole speech as a precursor to martial law, then it must be accentuated that, there was no prior warning for any of the previous martial laws; the military needs no write-ups or press conferences for foisting martial law. There is no rationale or need to give dangerous vibes regarding this sentence. The rest of the speech must be perceived with all the positivity. Give the devil its due, since he openly admitted that, mistakes were made, and that one must learn, so as to improve things in the future. He was 6 years old on 7th October 1958; a rookie teenager when Yahya took over and had graduated into a captain at the time of Operation Fair play. Yet, he is willing to take responsibility; he is even not questioning the elements which paved the way for military interventions. Why can’t we hail Kayani for not poking his nose in a democratic set-up? Although, he had plenty of opportunities He has not attacked the judiciary in his address.” No individual or institution has the monopoly to decide what is right or wrong in defining the ultimate national interest”. This statement is being lambasted by anchors, lawyers and others. Certainly, negativity has got the better of them; they should see this as a reversion from the previous fallacy of the army considering itself as the guarantor of national interests. The part which pertains to pre-judgment and transgression is aimed against some elements of the media, to include aggressive activities on Twitter. Being a Twitter buff myself, I confront authors, critics and anchors who flay the military day-in, day-out, but fail to provide evidences. They talk about the ISI as if they are privy to something surreptitious. Linking Imran Khan with ISI; passing the buck of the Balochistan imbroglio on the military/ISI/FC and eschewing the incompetency of Mr Raisani. These critics had given their call on the Asghar Khan Case even before the court. Hence, General Kayani gave a soft rejoinder to media personalities. Most certainly, the dissemination of such information creates a wedge between the populace and the armed forces. It serves as a strong force in dissuading future aspirants of joining the military. Twitter is fast-becoming a dime a dozen in spreading information of every type and kind.
Last, I feel a need to shed light on talks of the military’s support for the militants; one feel saddened on the fact that, we have plenty of home-made Bruce Riedel’s , who, while, remaining in Islamabad lecture us on FATA. Do we support the Haqqani Network? The answer is in the negative. The mere fact that we are not launching a military operation cannot imply support to them. Since, we are already fighting three groups in North Waziristan; we cannot open a front with a seemingly innocuous Haqqani Network. With less numerical strength; the inability of ISAF/ANA/US Army in controlling their side of the Durand Line, makes the operation unviable. Yes, the easy way out is by telling General Bikram Singh to stop Cold Start, and thin-out their presence on our border, so that, we can bolster our might in FATA; an attacker requires forces 3:1 vis-à-vis the defender.