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Old Thursday, November 15, 2012
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Post For a fresh start

For a fresh start

By Saleem Safi

Gen Kayani’s recent statement has been over-analysed for its content, connotations, and consequences. However, if we spend a little time in understanding the anxiety and concerns of Pakistan’s military, it may result in a more democratic and stable Pakistan. The anger and anxiety in the military is not just resistance against ex-generals’ cases. Rather it is the realisation that the Pakistan Army took daring steps in disengaging the institution from politics. Gen Kayani stopped the military from interfering in the 2008 elections. According to Gen Mirza Aslam Beg, if Gen Kayani had decided otherwise, Pervez Musharraf would be still president of Pakistan and perhaps Pervaiz Elahi would be prime minister.

He removed all uniformed persons from civil administration. At the same time, the military decided that all ex-servicemen who had joined any political party must attend military functions only in the capacity of politicians.

The main complaint of the military seems to be that above and beyond all its positive moves, its past negative actions are not being treated as those of other state institutions. The media, judiciary, civil society and politicians seem to be punishing the military for Musharraf’s sins.

And indeed all this anger of the military is not only due to the criticism leveled against it. The anxiety of the military is also a reflection of the comparison, when it comes to delivering on promises, between military and political leaders. The political leadership failed to modify our policies on Afghanistan and Kashmir. It also failed to initiate any viable political process that may result in the withdrawal of soldiers from Fata and Balochistan. Besides this, the political leadership is also reluctant to own military actions in those areas.. The inability of the civilian government in Balochistan is treated as business as usual, but the FC, operating in the province on the orders of the civilian government, is the target of heated debate.

When it is time to act, the Supreme Commander of Pakistan’s Armed Forces and Chief Executive of Fata, Asif Ali Zardari has so far felt no need to step on a single inch of these areas. Indeed all the mess in the country, especially in Fata, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, is a result of our incorrect Afghanistan and Kashmir policies. Asfandyar Khan Wali is chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee and Maulana Fazlur Rahman of the Kashmir Affairs Committee in parliament. They enjoy all the perks and privileges of a minister, but can they provide any evidence of what they have achieved so far in these very important committees?

It seems the Swat operation ended centuries ago. But to this date the civilian government has failed to take charge of affairs in Swat or promulgate their promised judicial system in the valley. The trial of ex-generals can be better understood when looked at through this larger perspective. The military feels that, while politicians are celebrating a fresh start, ex-servicemen have to face the music. Within the military, the same level of scepticism can be found about the media.

Having stated all the complaints of the military, I request our judiciary, politicians and the media to address the issue and consider the valid complaints. However, the military also still has a long way to go.

The trial of any ex-uniformed person is usually taken as action against the military. However, in reality the cases of Javed Ashraf Qazi and Saeedul Zafar have nothing to do with the military. Post-retirement Javed Ashraf joined a political party, became minister in his civilian capacity and was not representing the military. Today his leader is not Kayani but Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain. Gen Qadir Baluch has joined the PML-N. If he became a minister in the future, and accused of corruption, what would be the policy? Will we spare him for being a retired general? The first thing the military needs to do is clarify their stance over different cases. The present state of confusion is only further damaging the public image of the military.

Another step the military needs to take is to introduce some system of discipline for their retired officers. It was Gen Hamid Gul who used to claim that he formed IJI and that he be summoned to the court. And thus he was summoned. The statements and comments of generals Hamid Gul and Aslam Beg about Pervez Musharraf are part of public record. Those words and comments were never treated as an insult of the institution. Then why on earth do such comments about Hamid Gul and Aslam Beg become an offence?

The Asghar Khan case is a very interesting example. The case has nothing to do with civilians. A retired Maj Gen Naseerullah Babar initiated the case, a retired general Asad Durrani submitted affidavit against his command, and a retired head of the air force Asghar Khan pleaded the case. Retired Gen Aslam Beg and another retired brigadier submitted their affidavits. The case was heard in the court of a chief justice restored with the help of a sitting general. The court decided that two retired officers and one supreme commander of the Pakistan Army are guilty of violating Pakistan’s constitution.

To sum up, every state institution has crossed limits in the past, and today every institution is not content to remain within its constitutional limits. Understanding each other’s stance and setting new rules and limits could guarantee a fresh start. Debate among state institutions and stakeholders would be disastrous, while dialogue could save us from any collision.

Source: For a Fresh Start
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