By Dr. Haider Mehdi

“Two wrongs do not make a right.”
                                    An old proverb

In my article “Re-inventing the Role” ( The Nation December 12, 2007), I advocated a new strategic-management doctrine for civil-military relations in a democratic Pakistan. At the time, it was hailed by many prominent progressive political personalities as the most important policy-orientated document on the subject. The overall explicit dimension in this piece, based on eleven major points, was advice to the incumbent COAS to take unilateral conceptual and operational initiatives to make sure that Pakistan does not slide into another military rule: “The incumbent COAS has to reinvent his role… to give new direction to the armed force’s place in the future democratic structure of the nation.”

In summary, the eleven-point proposal was as follows: 1) A fixed term of office for three years for the COAS. 2) Each new COAS appointment to be confirmed by a parliamentary committee subject to an oath by the designated officer to uphold the elected democratic administration of the state. 3) The President or the Prime Minister will not have the power to nominate any candidate other than the senior-most officer as the COAS – the parliamentary committee may or may not confirm such an appointment. 4) There will be no future role of retired generals and other armed forces personnel in political governance of the country. 5) Pakistan’s armed forces will not take part in any military operation in which citizens of Pakistan or the civilian population is targeted. 6) Pakistan’s armed forces will be a purely defensive force. 7) Pakistan’s defenses will be strengthened by political means and on the deterrence doctrine of its nuclear capability. 8) There will be a strengthening of military relations with China and Russia and the armed forces will fully support the civilian administration’s decisions on defense pacts and diplomatic initiatives. 9) There will be absolute restrictions on the army’s intelligence agencies from conducting intelligence and political activities within the country. 10) Military intelligence agencies will be completely and strictly barred from arresting, interrogating, or handing over a Pakistani citizen to any foreign country. 11) Armed forces officers will not be eligible for ambassadorial and top corporate sector appointments.

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Viewed from the vantage point of existing ground realities, it is quite clear that Pakistan army top managers have not acted in earnest on any of the aspects of the above-mentioned proposal. The fact of the matter is that initiating such an agenda would have most certainly helped the country to usher in a new era of a much-desired and long-awaited civilian-military relationship. But that has not happened and it seems that it is not likely to happen in the near future either.

But let us call a spade and spade: in absolute fairness to the army establishment, let us acknowledge the fact that initiating a process of transformation in civilian-military relations, the onus falls squarely on the shoulders of the incumbent civilian regime. So the question is: Why has the Zardari-Gilani regime not taken steps in making effective policy changes to enact a fresh legitimate and conducive civilian-military alliance in the governance of the country.

The answer to this question of fundamental importance is in the dubious so-called democratic practices of the incumbent government: for example, consider the 3-year job extension to the COAS and another extension given to the Director-General of the ISI. This questionable conduct, portrayed as an act of benevolence to the COAS and DG, was in fact a cover-up for the vested political interests and a political premium earned by the PPP leadership in paying back the favor for US-Britain NRO patronage. Quite frankly, it seems that the Zardari-Gilani perception was that the COAS and DG ISI would continue to tow the US-NATO line on the so-called “war on terror” and an extension in their services would oblige them and other future aspiring military generals to do their bidding for at least the tenure of PPP office.

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Hence, in the altering domestic political scenarios in the country and changing geo-political realities (the US-India alliance and the unfolding unstable Afghan situation), discord between the civilian rulers and the top incumbent military commanders have come to the surface. Of vital importance here, in the context of worsening civilian-military relations, is that the international media has voiced the impression that Zardari-Haqqani were aware of the Abbottabad  US raid and had, in fact, approved it. Understandably, the military leadership must have gone berserk – daggers drawn, effective communication shut down – irrespective of the truth of the matter.

It is notable that the Zardari-Gilani regime prefers confrontational politics over the conciliatory process. It seems reasonable to assume that Zardari, in his habitual political conduct of fear-retaliation-manipulation, went full gear in reverse instead of going forward to resolve the issue in the national interest. Hence, Memogate and the rest of the fallouts (President’s Dubai visit, etc.) are the stories discussed over and over again – and  Memogate is now in the Supreme Court under investigation.  

In the meantime, the questions for the Pakistani nation and its top military commanders that beg resolute answers are: How long can the Pak Army fail in is constitutional and legitimate role to protect the nations’ territorial integrity? How long can the Army tolerate drone attacks against the country and its people? How long can the Army continue to support the so-called “war on terrorism”? Will the Army cave in to the American perception of a “free reign” in Afghanistan? Can the Army stay completely “out of the loop” for input on American-Indian alliance against the containment of China and its implicit geo-political threats to the sovereignty of Pakistan?

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Only a competent, efficient, visionary and nationalist democratic government in Pakistan can provide practical policy-orientated resolutions to the nation’s problematics and the predicaments faced in decision-making at present by the armed forces as a vital national institution. Visionary guidance and an appropriate policy-orientated democratic approach in civilian-military relations has been totally absent during the Zardari-Gilani administration: the Army’s constitutional transgressions have been tolerated because the political leadership has been weak, inefficient, manipulative, incompetent and unable to address vital public concerns while serving the vested interest of Pakistan’s traditional ruling elite.

It is true that had there not been Pervais Musharraf, Zia-ul-Haq and Ayub Khan, this country would have been a much better place. But then the civilian administrations have not done much better except in creating chaos, national disarray, corruption, instability, violence, subjecting Pakistan to US-centric foreign policy (we now have open American interference in the Balochistan quagmire) and working tirelessly for their own vested self-interests.

Be mindful, I am not supporting past or future military dictatorships. My question is: Why has the elected democratic government not implemented my proposal of December 12th, 2007 or a similar policy process to rein in military transgressions?

Two wrongs do not make a right: Instead of army bashing, why doesn’t the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly constitute a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for the army leadership to confess all their sins, past and present, before the public and apologize for the recent abduction of prisoners from Adiala Jail – and face the music in a court of law. Rhetoric is easy; to act is the test of political morality!

They won’t do it – because “is hammam men sab nange hain” (everyone is involved equally in sins and evils here)!