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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Duty, Country, Honor

In a message to the Care-Taker Government, Lt Gen (Retd) Tariq Khan highlights the need for purposeful leadership and decisive action, emphasizing the government's duty to either ensure free and fair elections or undertake substantial reforms for stability, justice, and progress in the country.

So nigh is grandeur to our dust, So near is God to man,

When duty whispers low, ‘Thou must,’ The youth whispers, I can

-Ralph Waldo Emerson 

I begin with extending my sincere felicitations to the new Care-Taker Government and live in the hope that they shall be cognizant of the expectations that the people have in this Care-Taker Government.

Obligations and Responsibilities of the Seat of Government

The quote above, from a well-known poem, is specially directed at them and the title is intended to remind them of their obligations. It’s an important perch to sit on, the seat of government – but it has obligations and responsibilities that go with it – moral, ethical and legal.

The country in general and the populace in particular have for too long being subjected to the vagaries of poor governance and suffered the consequences, intended as well as unintended, on account of this mismanagement. I feel that now with polarization of society at its peak, with growing instances of violence, with loss of faith and trust in the ruling elite and that with the departure of one of Pakistan’s most hated governments – having seen the worst of times, we, the people, deserve some relief.

It is obvious to me, and to people everywhere, that we have seen the last of the coterie of crooks, propped up in power, through means foul and fraudulent. Whose sole purpose was to amend laws and fidget with the judiciary in the sole and only purpose of absolving themselves of the crimes that they had committed against the people of this country where they blatantly committed theft against the wealth of this nation – robbing us blind. We all knew that these people were only about protecting their ill-gotten and illicit wealth and at the same time, saving their worthless necks from legal retribution in the crimes that they had committed and through which they had individually and collectively benefited.

Expectations from the Care-Taker Government

The Care-Taker Government appears to be a breath of fresh air and a course correction is now finally on the horizon and a real possibility. There is an air of expectations that sense may finally prevail and propriety would triumph. That the State would cease to wage war against its own people, incarcerating those who did not agree with the government, punishing the rest for protesting – so that in the end, the government itself was the last man standing and the only one standing.

So, we have now witnessed a new PM take up the responsibilities and obligations of a Care-Taker Government. We suffered the pitiful scenes, where the superfluous cries of insignificant politicians loudly attempted to select a mutually acceptable individual; the to’s-and-fro’s of irrelevant politicians in search of a pliant PM who when in chair would look after their interests in any future elections. The whole drama looked more of a joke than any sophisticated political process.

A Pathetic Attempt at Political Theater

. It may have even been funny and worth a laugh had it not been for Raja Riaz being shown as a symbol of political procedure and process – his ill-informed thoughts and philosophical wisdom were being shown as central to deciding who the Care-Taker PM would be – the Raja, Pakistan’s champion, the potential decision maker – a voice of reason and rational – it was beyond being funny and remained a pathetic attempt at fooling an already bewildered people.

It was the final tragedy that we the people had to suffer in this sorry saga being played out, though meaningless, but something that had to be played out anyway. The only solace and comfort some of us had, while watching this aberration going through the motions, was in the knowledge, that these inconsequential midgets and dwarfs disguised as politicians and pretending to govern Pakistan, never really mattered and that this decision was going to be from elsewhere.

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Deriving comfort from this, one is led to believe that the right man would be picked for the job. That he and his cabinet would adopt an unprejudiced, even-handed, unbiased attitude and posture. That this cabinet, having arrived at its own will and taken on this office, would have established objectives for itself and goals for its performances. That they would be confident in their own capacities and capabilities and that they would apply themselves independent of influence and free from corruption. That their functioning would be without fraud or favor to anyone and malice towards none. That their only purpose was to govern the country and do their best for the interest and well-being of the people, first and foremost.

Being a firm advocate for a technocratic Government now for a number of years, I watched the selection of the cabinet and drew some satisfaction that most were specialists and experts in their field.

Illusion of Choice: Rethinking Democracy in Pakistan’s Context

Though I may be a lone voice in this matter, but in the circumstances that Pakistan lives, democracy is an illusion of choice. The problem is with the voters who simply aren’t equipped to vote, and then the parliamentary system where every individual sits in chair to bargain for his support that he may be requested to give. We have seen this over and over again – it is time to arrest the practice.

The powers that be, the Establishment, who are calling the shots today, have an opportunity to change this landscape in totality and push the country towards progress, development and opportunity. However, this cannot happen by minor fidgeting with institutional perimeters and their individual autonomy. Strengthening various disciplines and allowing them space for independent responsibilities is the only way forward, failing which the results can be a disaster. I have assumed here that the Establishment has embarked on a courageous course where the power is distributed between the executive, the legislators, the judiciary and the media, after having suitably reformed the government’s method to implement, function and execute. This is where brave decisions have to be made and implemented. That the legislators maybe a product of a Presidential system which is more suited to our mind-set and that any reforms for the future should help in establishing this system.

Currently the establishment is being blamed for all that is wrong in the country and there are only two ways to change this – first, reduce visibility, interference and influence within government in all fields and let matters unfold as the people would wish them to unfold for better or for worse. Or then, the second option, support the Care-Taker Government in undertaking serious reforms to revolutionize the national political complexion.

This would take time and it would be a few years. However, if embarking on the second option, the people would want to be vindicated immediately, with all recognized wrongdoers incarcerated and punished and the national wealth returned in quick time. It’s the quickest way for the Establishment to restore its image and re-engage with the people as ‘their own’ institution – the peoples’ Army. For now, it is hoped that the Establishment would allow the Care-Taker Government to apply itself with full propriety in the interest of the country and its people, in the best manner and method it chooses to. However, before we embark on advice for the Care-Taker government, in making the choices that lie before it, it is pertinent to examine the concept of democracy, especially as we experience it here in Pakistan.

Socrates’s Critique of Democracy: Drawing Insights from Plato

In the dialogues of Plato, the founding father of Greek Philosophy, Socrates is portrayed as hugely pessimistic about democracy. In Book Six, of The Republic, Plato describes Socrates falling into conversation with a character called Adeimantus, trying to get him to see the flaws of democracy by comparing a society to a ship. “If you were heading out on a journey by sea”, asks Socrates, “who would you ideally want in charge of the vessel? Just anyone or people educated in the rules and demands of seafaring?” “The latter of course” says Adeimantus, “so why then”, responds Socrates, “do we keep thinking that any old person should be fit to be a ruler of a country?” Socrates’s point is that voting in an election is a skill, not a random intuition. And like any skill, it needs to be taught systematically to people. Letting the citizenry vote without an education is as irresponsible as putting them in charge of a trireme sailing to Samos in a storm. That’s why democracy is fundamentally flawed in a country like ours, where it’s more like giving a monkey a razor and letting him loose.

Thus, without the proper reforms, the constitutional protection afforded to the people and judicial propriety – democracy is in name only. It is why I have been strongly recommending a technocratic setup to do the needful before a proper democratic order is put in place.

Read More: Methods of Peaceful Protests against Oath Violators

I congratulated the current Care-Taker government as well as the Establishment, feeling that they may be the right people to do the right thing, provided they chose to do so. Now that they are here, their own mandate must be properly established by them, as to what they really want to do but one thing is certain, ‘it cannot be more of the same’. In this light my very unqualified and unsolicited advice to them is enumerated below in the hope that I can contribute towards their thought process and development of a concept:

  1. First and foremost, you need to come out clearly state as to what is your intent. It may well be to hold a free and fair election on time as stipulated in the This is actually the only mandate of any Care-Taker Government anywhere in the world. You, as a Care-Taker Government are well within your rights to limit your role to only facilitating elections without bias and prejudice, without influence and undue interference in the bureaucratic set-up, other than to ensuring propriety. It is your right not to get involved in pulls and pressures of groups, individuals and government functionaries and ensuring that the law, rules and regulations are applied evenly. You cannot make or invent laws nor define/interpret those already made, as you see fit – you can only implement these on behalf of the people of this country.
  2. However, in the event, you as Care-Takers do not the intend and never did, to hold elections within the stipulated time, then re-label yourselves as a Technocratic Government, that has come to stay for a while till stability and decorum are established at the national However, then it is advisable to arrest all politicians putting them behind bars in an endeavor to make this a level playing field that everyone wants it to be. This has earlier been recommended as one of the desirable courses of action for the Establishment as well. Being with the Establishment on one page on this matter would help empower your actions, however, such empowerment must not be misused or be applied for any other purpose. The stolen wealth of this nation must be returned before release of any individual is considered – no NAB or FIA. This will establish immediate credibility of the government and would make it very popular overnight. It will allow you the space and credibility to undertake the reforms that need to be undertaken.
  1. In both cases elaborated above, the Care-Taker Government has to first establish its own autonomy and authority. The sphere of influence must not only be visible but be felt by all. Thus, for some of the ministers to say that it is the Election Commission’s mandate to decide the date for the elections, is a fictitious statement and does the Care-Takers no service to justify their impotence in the matter through such a perfidy of facts. The Constitution has no provision where Elections can only be held after a census and delimitation of constituencies. The recent case of the wrangling over the President’s returning of the bill and the Care-Takers indecent haste in justifying the Law is another sad illustration of your irrelevance where you need to be more upfront and honest in your dealings. Other illegal, unconstitutional and irregular activities happening around you further demonstrate your uselessness and lack of You must either agree with the Constitution and rule of law, insisting that it be implemented, or then, failing which you should resign – you cannot have it both ways!!!! After all what was the purpose of accepting this office by you – its cannot just be a joy ride.
  2. However, you are also in your rights to claim that the Constitution has to be set aside and that you intend first doing the necessary corrections before any elections take Remember, if this is the position you must take, take it firmly but having taken it, announce it publicly. There is no room for a tentative or ambiguous display of indecisions. If you decide on this, you can no longer be addressed as a Care-Taker Government but a Technocratic one. For this a manifesto must be made public, timelines given and effects described. You shall be judged against the practical manifestations of your commitments and not your rhetoric. You need to prove to the public at large, what you intend doing and why do you find yourself in better position to do it than the people before you. Your objectives must be defined in absolute terms relevant to effect, time and consequences. Your intentions must focus on the economy, law and order, protection of the citizens and the foreign policy – do you as a government feel empowered enough with a sovereign posture to undertake all this. If not, then what is your purpose of being in office – Go home instead of dabbling in matters that are way above your capacity.
  3. Having taken responsibility as ministers of this, that or the other – you need to show whether you are in the saddle or If illegal arrests, raids at night on homes and houses are being undertaken, it is you who will be held responsible. This responsibility and subsequent accountability would be focused directly on the PM, Ministers of Interior and Law, with the rest guilty by association. Having taken this office in good faith, no one now, can walk away from it, saying that he is doing only what he has been told/allowed to do. So, either apply yourself and ensure you can protect the people, announce who is doing the arrests if you know who it is and have the courage to say so. You must be able to state whether these arrests are under your orders and if not then put a stop to such illegal activity and if you cannot– simply resign. Especially, since, in your insistence on sitting in office, then, will only be as inconsequential as a vegetable, such as a cabbage, sitting in your chair. To continue in office, without purpose or objective puts you into a very similar position as the people you replaced – clowns in a circus!!! Ensuring the independence of the judiciary and unprejudiced application of the police is now your mandate. If you are incapable of these basics, then you are also equally incapable of any reforms and have no right to project yourselves as reformers, redeemers or technocrats – resign and go home.
  1. Do not make a laughing stock of yourselves; decide what you want to do and do one thing or the other – elections or Be firm, assertive and decisive. If this is beyond your capacity and capability, then please leave – you cannot be forced to remain in an office where you remain irrelevant and insignificant in the affairs of the State and are only a front enjoying perks and privileges at the cost of your own people. Time for triviality has gone. Your lack of action and incapacity will not be forgiven under the justification that you were ignorant or that you were instructed to behave in a particular manner.

Setting the Course Ahead

Yours is a huge responsibility – to carry the State forward through a very troubled time and set it on the right course or then, alternatively, hold free and fair elections within the given and stipulated time. That is your decision to make and choose – whatever you think you are capable of doing – we, the people will stand behind you once you decide what your decision is and announce it publically.

So far the Government that you represent has shown nothing new and has in fact disappointed many of us – there is still time, can you rise to the occasion? Are you the right people for the obligations and responsibilities bestowed upon you – to be executed with honour and the moral courage to do the right thing. Thus, will you take this occasion and make your families, tribes, people proud of you or will your actions only be viewed with contempt and disgust.

Shall you yearn to be remembered as a man or woman of substance or will your children and the generations to follow recognise you to be weak meaningless, insignificant, twit. The choice is all yours, destiny has presented you with an opportunity to be remembered in history for the remarkable changes you can bring about and at the same time, deny the foul and evil things that the people have being subjected to in this country. By accepting the office you hold, you have formally committed that you are the right person for this job with the strength of character, capacity and intent – are you?

Too many people are thinking of security than opportunity. They seem more afraid of life than death.

-James F Brynes

Lt. Gen (retd) Tariq Khan retired as head of Pakistan’s Central Command and has led Frontier Corps to victory against TTP. He has written and lectured extensively on the issues related to Afghanistan, the United States, and the Taliban. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.