Nawaz and KayaniNeed for balanced civil-military relations 

S. M. Hali

General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the fourteenth Pakistan Army Chief announced his own retirement on the due date of his extended term i.e. November 29, 2013. This declaration ended the string of speculations: that his tenure of service may be further extended; he would be propelled to become the next Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee; or dispatched as Pakistan’s next Ambassador to the USA.

Nary had a day gone by for the clear pronouncement regarding his retirement, that the hounds started baying for Pak Army’s blood. The same detractors, who have launched a campaign to paint Pakistan Army in a negative picture, were once singing praises for the all powerful Army Chief. It is noteworthy that despite the fact that in 2011, “Forbes” magazine had named General Kayani as the 34th most powerful person in the world and in 2012, the same magazine had placed him as the 28th most powerful person on the planet, Kayani resisted temptation to grab the reign of power.

Readers may recall that in January 2008 General Kayani had passed an edict that ordered military officers not to maintain contacts with politicians. It was further made public on 13 February 2008 that General Kayani ordered the withdrawal of military officers from all of Pakistan’s government civil departments. It was an action that reversed the policies of his predecessor, President Musharraf and was welcomed by the military dictator’s critics, who had long demanded that the military distance itself from politics. Following this historical return to barracks by the Pakistan Army and henceforth performing its constitutional duties alone, numerous occasions arose, when the Army could have prevailed to clear the fog and uncertainty of the chaos and mayhem created by the civilian dispensation ruling Islamabad and usurped power but Kayani demurred. The detractors, who find fault with Kayani now, were in the forefront to demand a military takeover to clean the Augean’ Stables of Pakistan’s democratic mess so that they could pick up the crumbs off the breakfast tables of the Generals. Each time Kayani not only refused to succumb to the pressures, but also provided a slight nudge for course correction to the wavering ship of democracy.

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The same critics have started a negative campaign against General Kayani with a premeditated design to depict Pakistan Army in bad light invalidating General Kayani’s efforts to set a precedence to think positively, respect rule of law, help democracy to flourish, improve civil-military relations, show restrain in the most tempting environment to interfere in Government affairs.

Those censuring the Army perhaps have short memories. Indeed Pakistan’s brief history spanning six and a half decades have been marred with military takeovers, but General Kayani attempted to put the genie back in the bottle and set a precedence where no adventurist on horseback would topple the applecart of democracy. Under Kayani’s leadership, the control of Swat was wrested back from the militants; the miscreants in South Waziristan were subdued while militancy in other parts of the country was curbed. Kayani endeavoured to transform Pakistan Army into a professional outfit by disengaging from civilian responsibilities to undo the damage caused by his predecessor General Pervez Musharraf. For the first time, other ranks of Pakistan Army were assured housing and other facilities after their retirement, education opportunities for their offspring and enhanced medical facilities for their dependants. Earlier, these perks were reserved for the officer cadre only. Thus the morale of the fighting force was enhanced throughout the rank and file.

While the entire nation is appreciative of General Kayani’s merited achievements the critics appear to be targeting General Kayani in a manner which smacks of acrimony and rancor towards him. The media campaign against General Kayani is not only skewed but also aimed at tarnishing the image of the ArmedForces to please a few political gurus who want to undermine their own defenders for political point scoring.

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If General Kayani had been involved in a scandal of moral trepidation like General Petraeus of the US Army, then perhaps the hawks yelping for Kayani’s scalp would have been justified.

General Kayani has set exemplary manifestation for Pakistani leadership to follow. He is a thinking General and remained committed to his professional obligations and rule of law. His firm resolve and optimism helped him to steer the Army in the right direction, fully focused in the defence of the motherland. He deserves appreciation of every patriotic Pakistani.

The detractors will have to stop targeting the General, who is retiring honourably after a long and meritorious service in the space of a few weeks. The hecklers must realize that civilized nations bid farewell to their heroes with dignity and pride. General Kayani’s farsighted message for the leadership of Pakistan is clear and meaningful. Perhaps his only crime was to recommend that the entire politico-military leadership improve civil-military relations in a balanced and mature manner and concentrate on real issues to help provide relief to the impoverished masses of Pakistan.

The media too must stop playing favourites or become the handmaiden of politicians with vested interest in scorning the institution of the Armed Forces of Pakistan, which is a bastion of strength and a pillar of society, which is entrusted with the noble task of defending the nation with its own sweat and blood. An organization whose personnel are drawn from the common pool of society, whose skills are honed and polished to become a force to reckon with; who are groomed in an organizational culture which believes in “not to reason why but to do or die!”

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Elusive and unwarranted propaganda against the military’s top leadership not only badly impacts the efficiency and effectiveness of the Army but also impairs their morale and will to lay down their lives in the defence of the nation. The need of the hour is to unite the nation and to create balanced and matured civil-military relations so that the challenges can be met as a solid edifice.