By S. M. Hali
The kind of attacks being launched against the custodians of Pakistan’s frontiers gives the impression that it is open season to target the Army. The kind of tirade that has been unleashed by certain politicians, institutions and some elements of the media give the impression that the onslaught is against the Indian Army or an armed force inimical to Pakistan. Taking cognizance of this blitz, Chairman Senate Defence Committee Mushahid Hussain Sayed has commented that General Kayani’s statement is making a valid point – that sins of the past should not visit the present, and that past individual acts of omission or commission be kept separate from the present role of the institution. He has reiterated that General Kayani’s own track record in supporting democracy and acting in accordance with the Constitution is quite impeccable: he not only broke from the legacy of his predecessor but also was instrumental in facilitating his smooth exit. And he played a pivotal role in preventing a head-on political clash, thereby strengthening the system, by his timely intervention in March 2009, which helped in restoring the Chief Justice.
At this critical juncture, when the country is faced with a multitude of problems, primarily, the war on terror, meltdown of the national economy, acute energy shortage, lawlessness, poverty, hunger and deprivation exacerbated by lack of governance, army-bashing due to past mistakes of previous military leaders, is unjustified and uncalled for, more so, when the Supreme Court has already set the record straight by giving a verdict that reverses an historical wrong (Army’s blatant political meddling in 1988-1990). The Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s statement that “no individual or institution has the monopoly to decide what is right or wrong in defining the ultimate national interest adding that any effort to draw wedge between people and armed forces is unacceptable”, should have been perceived in the correct spirit. Indeed in the words of the COAS, “As a nation, we are passing through a defining phase. We are critically looking at the mistakes made in the past and trying to set the course for a better future.” It is a universal truth that “Weakening of the institutions and trying to assume more than one’s due role will set us back. We owe it to the future of Pakistan, to lay correct foundations, today. We should not be carried away by short term considerations which may have greater negative consequences in the future. Armed Forces draw their strength from the bedrock of the public support. National security is meaningless without it. Therefore, any effort which wittingly or unwittingly draws a wedge between the people and Armed Forces of Pakistan undermines the larger national interest.”
The timing of the media and political offensive is also noteworthy. The Supreme Court decisions to stand ex-army generals trial in quick succession: first in Asghar Khan Case, the court declared that former army chief General (retd.) Aslam Beg and ex-ISI Chief Lieutenant General (retd.) Asad Durrani corrupted the elections held in 1990, secondly on the directives of the apex court, National Accountability Bureau is investigating alleged involvement of ex-army generals in three different cases of fraudulently doling out Railways land in Lahore to a private club, Royal Palm Golf, in 2001 without raising their finger to the then Federal Minister for Railways who was in charge of the organization, financial mismanagement in the National Logistics Cell and a fresh case against retired generals currently serving in Fauji Fertilizer Company Ltd. A sudden shift in judicial scrutiny towards ex-army men has triggered media frenzy, pouring out deluge of criticism on the armed forces at a time when forces are engaged in war against terror on the western borders and are finding it hard to quell militancy at home.
It is heartening that the general Headquarters, instead of shielding its former personnel, some of whom have served at the highest posts, has decided to try them through court martial and has even announced their return to service (without benefits) to face fair and transparent trials.
In the face of such positive developments to try and level culpability of the accused through the institutions empowered to do so, the media trial of ex-service men without being declared guilty is the last thing to bear with as it can push the fighting force, bearing the brunt of the defence of Pakistan against the wall, devoid of the goodwill and support of the nation. Bad eggs are found in every strata of society and the Pakistan Army does not comprise angels. Humans built it and humans serve in it with human weaknesses. The inbuilt system of checks balances and army discipline deter most would be wrong doers. However, to hold an entire institution responsible for the misdemeanor or misdeeds of a few individuals is not only unfair but also contrary to the interests of the nation.
Take the case of military lawyer Colonel (retd.) Inam ur Rahim, who is engaged in lawsuits against the Army. Miscreants have reportedly set fire to his car and allegedly rough handled his son, while he claims that security agencies were responsible for the so called assault. However, senior police officials investigating the incident have termed the claims concocted and baseless, stating it seemed that a conspiracy had been hatched to defame the state institutions by creating a false situation purely for political purposes. They have termed it as the handiwork of someone who wanted to tarnish the image of the Pak Army and intelligence agencies.
At a time, when the state agencies, the people of Pakistan and its media should be united to combat the enemies of Pakistan, it is criminal for anyone to sow seeds of dissension or whimsically spew venom against any agency or institution. The judiciary is free and the accused in various cases will be tried and if found culpable, will be meted with punishment according to their crime. If we deliberately weaken any institution, we are only strengthening the hands of our enemies.