Pakistan: The government, people and the army

The system of governance is being continually rewritten and redefined every day through ad hoc measures to suit the whims of a parliament, to protect and facilitate its members, who should all actually be behind bars. This abnormality and deviation from any political propriety have been forced upon the people, who feel that the Army is responsible for subjecting them to this tyranny and that, it is now for them to correct it. - writes Gen (retd.) Tariq Khan in a hard hitting piece.


“Loyalty to country always. Loyalty to government when it deserves it”. – Mark Twain

This shall probably be my last article explaining the distortions in the mad method of governance that we are made to suffer every day. We have now reached atrocious standards of State-sponsored police brutality everywhere and administrative high-handedness; the government’s blatant indifference to judicial rulings, selected application of article 144 and MPO – where some are entitled to agitation while others, children of a lesser God, are not – all point towards bias, partiality, and predispositions. One realizes that nothing matters, no logic is logical enough to move anyone or reasoning reasonable enough to illuminate the way forward. The purpose of further writing is thus lost and has become pointless to continue to do so. Nevertheless, one begins this article without any intent to offend, malice towards nobody, and prejudice to none; all one pleads for is for a patient hearing – to take away what is of any use, to ignore all that is not.

Ours is the 6th largest Army in the world and one is proud to have been associated with it for almost 40 years. It’s an institution steeped in tradition, a peculiar culture, and defined values. Ours was an Army where honor, élan, and comradeship governed the way one behaved. One recalls in 1978, as a lieutenant in Quetta, fired up by the enthusiasm of young blood, recovering a fellow officer who had been wrongly incarcerated by the Police. One was subjected to a Court Martial but survived. Notwithstanding the merits/demerits of taking the law in one’s own hands, the moral of the story evolved around ‘comradeship’. Yet again, while commanding a regiment, in 1999 in the defence of a subordinate, who along with his wife had been embarrassed and humiliated, a whole police station was disciplined in the language that they understood best. This was done on the eve of a promotion board, where though, further advancement was severely jeopardized, solidarity with one’s officer remained a far greater priority than personal progress. The moral of the story, despite the dubious state of ill-discipline, remained loyal to a subordinate. Having participated in over 52 kinetic operations, one recalls never abandoning a wounded soldier to the mercy of the enemy or leaving behind a martyr in the field, at any cost. The moral of this story lies in the responsibility one is entrusted with and the moral commitment to maintaining the integrity and cohesion of one’s own outfit.

Read more: Method to Madness or Just Simply Mad?—Lt Gen (retd) Tariq Khan

With this backdrop, having learned of the very sad and unfortunate case of the Corps Commander’s residence in Lahore, being vandalised and put to the torch, one wonders, what were the circumstances that allowed this to happen. An enquiry, sure to follow, would probably determine the facts of the events and appropriate responsibility where it deserves to be fixed. However, in this story, there are questions to ask and observations to make. The first thing that comes to mind is, did 4 Corps, in particular, and the Lahore garrison, in general, abandon their Corps Commander? Was his personal staff indifferent to the situation and was the Corps Intelligence ignorant of how events were unfolding, though it was in broad daylight and was being shown on every TV channel? Did the guards, comprising the usual company strength desert their post? If this is how things unfolded, then it is an unprecedented display of disloyalty, that is unheard of; especially so when, other military installations of the Navy and the Air Force, in and around the vicinity remained intact and secure with an alert guard and vigilant sentries. If this is true, then one is stunned and can only look on in disbelief.

On the other hand, there is also the possibility of the Corps Commander making a conscious choice to deliberately not resist the agitation. He may have applied his moral judgment and decided not to confront the political protest with his troop. Had this been a simple matter of deploying troops on the streets to contain a political movement, one could be sympathetic towards the Corps Commander’s position of not confronting the conflict and confining the troops to the barracks, and avoiding escalation. But, that was not the case here, it was more of a civilian mob marching onto a military site, threatening sensitive installations, men, and material. In which case, knowingly, not securing these assets, through a considered act of submission, amounts more to deserting one’s post than showing better judgement. Once again, a highly unprecedented position to take and one not easily understood.

In both cases, mentioned, regardless of which it may have been, those sterling values: élan, loyalty, and comradeship have been squarely put to question. It is hard to imagine that this is the Army that one had retired from only a decade ago and that it had undergone such sweeping changes in its attitude and character. We are learning of an Army Act being applied to the arsonists and those involved in this protest, approved and permitted by a government that is actually a non-government, sitting illegally in the provincial seat of power. So it’s been left to this illegal entity to decide the destiny of this hapless nation, while, we the rest of us sit in abject anonymity, wonder-struck at our own irrelevance in this matter.

The Army Act has been applied in the past and has usually failed to achieve what it set out to do. The application of such a law is not only dubious but is also not applicable to civilians, nevertheless, any inquiry, in this matter, should first establish why was there such dereliction of duty by the Army itself. An omission of such grave consequences should be of leading concern to Army itself. Instead of looking for rioters, they should first establish how the rank and file, displayed such a disgraceful posture and bearing. It is why, today, the people of Pakistan, see their Army with contempt and disrespect.

We now live to rue the day, when war heroes such as Air Commodore Sajad Haider, better known as Nosey Haider, are humiliated on the streets of Islamabad by the Police. He may never have imagined in his wildest dreams while putting his fighter into a dive over the Pathankot Airfield in the spectacular raid of 1965, that he led from the front, that one day a half-educated, uncouth, stupid retard, from the Islamabad Police, would question his credentials.

So why such public disdain for the Armed Forces; is it propaganda or have the forces lost their way and now find themselves on the wrong side of where they should have been – that is, recognised for their impartiality, lack of prejudice, and unmitigated fairness? Instead, now we see the pitiful spectacle of dubious people being trotted out before a patronizing media, singing praises for the Army in an asinine campaign to do damage control. People are not stupid or totally oblivious to the reality of the situation and no amount of ‘rent-acrowds’ or orchestrated demonstrations can ever restore the reputation of an army as practical steps and action on the ground, ever can.

Read more: Will they go peacefully? – Lt Gen (retd) Tariq Khan

So as this premier institution takes the flak for the political disaster being perpetuated all around us, one does not know what to make of all this other than watch the country go down into a disastrous abyss, deeper and deeper with each passing day. The recent meeting of the National Security Council condescendingly calls for arriving at a national consensus amongst all stakeholders as an answer to the malaise we are seeing. When national polity is divided and the entire society polarised, coming to any consensus is not only a wishful thought but rather a ridiculous one. Simply following the Constitution, applying rule of law is not only easier but an obvious road to any future stability. Hold the elections – no need for a debate, discussion or consensus.

Clearing the misconception

The Army is considered central to the recent regime change, publically confessed by General Bajwa in his latest bare-all interview. The resulting, artificial government and the horrible state of governance are all placed squarely at the altar of the Army. The total lack of moral, ethical, judicial and administrative standards in the day-to-day governance that one is forced to witness, has only heightened public frustration and anger. The unprecedented arrests of citizens by a desperate government, gone berserk, in a bid to quash any justifiable and acceptable criticism of its maladministration, is now a thing of routine. Intimidating the people into submission and beating them all into obedience is the singular purpose of every government office. The Army is blamed for this aberration that passes for a government today but what is far more important to understand is that, there is a wide and popular perception, that it is only the Army that can correct this unfortunate situation.

The people are not willing to accept the explanation that the Army is neutral, even if such a conscious decision was actually made. The people feel that having first, disrupted normal governance through intrigue, deceit and manipulation, now any declaration of neutrality sustains and exacerbates the actions of this artificial government comprising a coalition of crooks. The country is not being governed through any Constitution, nor any rule of law or regulations. The system of governance is being continually rewritten and redefined ned every day through ad-hoc measures to suit the whims of a parliament, to protect and facilitate its members, who should all actually be behind bars.

This abnormality and deviation from any political propriety have been forced upon the people, who feel that the Army is responsible for subjecting them to this tyranny and that, it is now for them to correct it. They are neither asking for martial law, or emergency or any other abnormal interference in the affairs of the State but are demanding that the Army and the judiciary, do the right thing and force this government to announce a general election at the earliest. It is the Constitutional right of the people, a democratic norm, and the easiest way forward to get out of the mess that we are in.

Well-played political games

So how does one view these political games as they are being played? This sordid saga begins with one stalwart leader who shamefacedly feigned illness and absconded abroad through a visibly fraudulent process. His brother, another illustrious leader, had no qualms, in providing legal guarantees, which he had no intention of honouring. He facilitated the flight of his criminal sibling and is now quietly going about business as if he had nothing to do with it.

Today, he is the proud Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, with this little detail conveniently forgotten, that he too needs to be behind bars for the promises he made but failed to keep. But never fear, in the recent past, this entire family has been found wanting when it comes to morality, decency, truth and honour and have always visibly demonstrated their disdain for any such values – brushing such things away as an unnecessary nuisance.

Read more: Tyranny of Misrule – Gen. Tariq Khan

So why should our worthy Prime Minister be affected by such mundane issues, himself coming from a stock made of sterner stuff with skin even thicker than the stuff he is made of? Benefitting from political conspiracies and administrative intrigues that were set in motion, by the powers that be, this coterie of sworn enemies, banded together to protect themselves from imminent legal action against the crimes that they had committed and the corruption they perpetuated, ascending to power in an unholy alliance that they branded as the PDM.

Having been elevated to the highest authority in the country, these people proceeded to misuse their office and defecate on any hope the people may have placed within them; they did it by flagrantly altering the laws and the rules of business in keeping with their needs. Their actions were driven to quash all criminal proceedings against themselves and to secure legal protection for their actions in the past, the present, and possibly, all the ill, they perceive to do in the future. In this short time, they caused, with blatant disregard for the nation and the State, a complete collapse in governance and perpetuated a reign of tyranny and misrule.

This government has the singular distinction of failing in every single field of governance and administrative activity. This includes foreign policy, the economy, law and order, dispensing justice or maintaining stability. As the people watch in shock and awe, the press is effectively silenced, the media ruthlessly censored, the internet disrupted at will, journalists arrested and every article of the constitution pertaining to fundamental and civil obligations violated with total indifference towards individual rights or human dignity.

Having arrested all the leaders of the opposition, declaring anyone who opposes them as a terrorist and a criminal, they refuse to recognise the people’s mandate by denying them the ballot-box. Resorting to intimidation, blackmail and coercion they have bullied every State institution into submission and are actively pursuing a campaign to malign the judiciary and force it in line with their skewed practices and dubious conduct. Displaying a total disregard for the constitutional obligations for holding elections, they refuse to step down and continue to spread hopelessness and frustration by governing through illegal governments at the provincial level and half a rump-parliament in the federation.

Read more: Veni, Vidi, Vici – I came, I saw, I Conquered -Lt Gen (Retd) Tariq Khan

They have the shameless gall to compare their period of misrule with the last government where there was an established 6% growth in the GDP, now fallen to a dismal 2% today, unprecedented inflation, un-parallel fall of the Rupee in the dollar parity, the massive closure of the manufacturing sector and near full stoppage in exports. Yet they never tire in bleating that they inherited all these ills, which they themselves not only caused but have perpetuated. They are now probably one of the most hated political entity that this country has ever had to suff er in its entire history. This maybe an exaggerated assessment and can be debated but it can only be challenged by holding an election and not by any other means.

There are people and institutions that stand in support of these fools and one would not be amiss to mention here, that one is judged by the company one keeps. Surely it is time to reconsider one’s values, preferences and choices. So if this nation is not to be sacrificed at the altar of false promises, silly compromises and undue obligations – then it is time to stand with the people and the State. However, when people, sitting in government, call everyone else crooks, terrorists and criminals and judge people in keeping with the low standards that they reserve for themselves, yet people exist that believe these one-sided stories, it’s not because they are convinced about the sincerity of such people but that they themselves are compromised.

When the same crooks subject the judiciary to undue criticism and yet people justify such misconduct, it’s not because they are convinced that the judiciary is tainted but that they are obliged, for reasons best known to them. When elections are due and the people demand that they be held, yet the Government remains criminally in violation of articles 5 and 6 and refuses to do so, and some institutions support this Government, it’s not because they do not know the law, it’s just that corrupt practices come in their way and they are totally beholden. This the logic of compromises, corruption and obligations which this country is infected with and one has so often referred to.

Pakistan at the mercy of failed leadership

So it is why, we are now saddled with this motley crowd, who govern us and the country with full abandon, without any holds barred and no inhibitions. We suffer them just as we would a malignant tumour, that we have resigned our fate to. One is always amazed that the subtle difference between a human-being an animal is that one of them, for most of the time, is empowered by reasoning. Yet when some humans, are unmoved by reason, logic and rational and when they fail to measure the impact of their actions as they perpetuate inanity all around themselves, then that subtle difference between one and the other, becomes very difficult to distinguish.

Such people when thrust into roles of leadership, fail miserably to measure up to the rigors demanded of their high office. They easily succumb to the false delusion of grandeur as egos capture the little common sense they have, and greed guides their actions, just as, self-preservation first and foremost, always, drives their decisions. They become sell-outs and each has a price – material, moral and ethical and the only thing left to do is to establish, what is their asking price – which is illustrated by this anecdote.

When Churchill asked a lady if she would sleep with him for a million pounds sterling, she replied, “Why, Mr Churchill, for a Million Pounds, I would go anywhere and do anything”, to which Churchill responded, if she would be willing to do so for 5 Pounds? The lady, obviously taken aback, indignantly retorted, “Churchill what kind of Lady do you take me for”, and he replied, “My Lady, we have already established what kind of Lady you are, all we are doing now is haggling over the price”.

We are now at the mercy of egocentric, selfish, shameless men and women, disguised as our leaders, who merely by their existing and attending office, cause immeasurable damage to the Country, the Nation, and the System. Whereas, one avoids naming people in one’s write-ups, however, for the purpose of demonstrating the values that one would expect of our leaders, one would request that each reader to please, consciously, evaluate who would he/her like his son or daughter to be like: Nawaz Sharif, Shabaz Sharif, Maryam Safdar, Maryam Aurangzeb, Sherry Rehman, Zardari, Fazle Rehman or Imran Khan? The answer will define one’s own character and sense of judgement very plainly.

This note is concluded by stating this reality known to all. The nation is going through troubled times. To get out of this situation no amount of intellectual discussions, debates with wisdom flowing from rhetoric leading to consensus or reconciliation will help. Do not try and juxtapose individual experiences and analysis in a know-it-all attitude or I-know-best syndrome – it never works. For heaven’s sake, just follow the Constitution, hold elections, and be done with it.

Gen 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.

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