Pakistan Army as an institution should be praised because all over the world militaries are meant for tough job that require the ultimate sacrifice of life in the line of duty. On this basis, it has evolved into universally accepted apolitical norms and stood aloof from the glare of public scrutiny. The institutional essence of military does not formulate and execute policies but rather carries out the orders of civilian leaders who are answerable to the people.
Unlike civilian institutions and leadership, Pakistani military enjoys the legal cover of the ‘Army Act’. However, when military is involved in a political process or policy preferences and constantly remains in the public domain through mainstream media claiming credit for achievements, should it be immune to public scrutiny unlike civilian leaders?
Perhaps, to my knowledge, state of Pakistan is one of the rare states in the modern world where the change of command of a federal force has attained the level of coronation. The media hype and the overboard sycophancy in the name of patriotism shattered even the thinnest apolitical veneer, depicting that a de facto sovereign should rule a sovereign state.
General (retired) Raheel Sharif is considered by many as the soldier’s soldier (as most Pakistani generals are generally regarded). The general acclaimed by the ISPR reportedly broke the back of terrorists by launching the indomitable Zarb-i-Azab, an operation exclusive to his commandeering acumen enabling the citizens to feel secure at home. The able general, despite inflated popularity, shied away from imposing direct martial law, as the domestic and international scene was not favorable for such a misadventure.
The ‘Soldier’s General has reportedly accepted a position in Saudi Arabia within days of his retirement from the Pakistan Army! Its hard to rationally analyze this decision as he was seen as the sole savior of Pakistan!
Unqualified praise touching self-aggrandizement, san critical analysis, blurs the thin line between popular consent and capitulation. Contemporary media’s grandiloquent oratory should be amenable to the litmus test of history which is the Achilles’ heel of our retired generals.
General Ayub Khan, who wanted to emulate General Charles De Gaulle, France’s statesman and elected president (1890-1970), celebrated a decade of development but could not prevent the turning of East Pakistan into Bangladesh. In contrast, De Gaulle cemented the unity of France by providing the much-needed political stability not through imposing martial law or using military muscle but donning off the uniform and winning the popular mandate through elections. Similarly, General Ziaul Haq was given the title of Mard-i-Momen by the state controlled media. Luckily, at that time, the cut throat corporate private media channels did not exist, and yet history holds him responsible for religious extremism, bigotry which poses an existential threat to the state today.
The last phase of the Swat military operation (2009) is ascribed as a showcase model of General Kiyani’s praetorian stewardship, also cited as one of the reasons of his extension, disseminating in record short period terrorists who not only challenged the writ of the state but also threatened its sovereignty.
As citizens, we should interrogate how such terrorists managed to organize and establish a base equipped with the FM radio in one of the most law abiding and peaceful regions known as Swat?
And why were the civilians pulverized both physically and politically for demanding such a decisive military action? How did our commando president and thinking general, heading our ace intelligence agency (supposedly), were not aware that the locals disbanded the FM Mullah from the local mosque and complained to the area police station against his illegal FM radio in the formative phase of his bloody campaign?
In the tenure of the commando general, General Pervez Musharraf, on the run Afghan Taliban regrouped and organized in FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), turning into a dreaded entity even in the presence of army in the region. Some analysts believe the Afghan Taliban and other terrorists were assembled in FATA to be used a leverage against the Kabul government. As citizens, we hail the popularity of General Raheel Sharif in the exalted success of the ongoing Zarb-i-Azab but also deserve answers to some questions: Was the militancy the progeny of the FATA people or the outcome of the state policies? Did those policies revise or change or the state only responded through the use of disproportionate force like heavy artillery, gunship helicopters and air force on its own soil against a band of guerrilla militants?
Why is Swat, including the entire PATA (Provincially Administered Tribal Areas), subject to the harsh (Actions in aid of civil power) regulation even after six years of successful military operation? Similarly, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), particularly from North Waziristan, have yet to be repatriated to their native areas after the success of Zarb-i-Azab? Was success not a premature celebration following the devastating terrorists’ attacks on the Bacha Khan University in Charsadda, Khyber Pukthunkhwa, Civil hospital and police training college in Quetta and the recent Shah Noorani’s shrine in Balochistan?
By keeping in mind the prevailing internal political dynamics, apart from discussing the nitty gritty and temporary outcome of some actions, should we not ponder upon the larger question of the negative impact on a country of such abnormal political situation and power equation?
How can the world take a serious view of a state where only one institution is portrayed as functional, overshadowing all other state organs? The ‘Soldier’s General’ has now reportedly accepted a position in Saudi Arabia, within days of his retirement from Pakistan Army!
Is our paramount national interest to the world is to divulge that save one institution our entire system is corrupt, decayed and dysfunctional, rendering us unable to normalize and develop the entire state body accordingly? It is time we should choose between survival and civilized and honorable existence. A strongman on a horseback of the single most powerful institution might ensure the former but the latter can be guaranteed by the internationally accepted and respected norm of civilian supremacy. If the people of this country can establish a formidably strong military institution, why can it not ensure a functional polity? Anybody deliberating and working on these lines can become the De Gaulle incarnate of Pakistan, for these postures as a real challenge.