Saturday, February 4, 2012

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Establishment should break shackles and come forward

By: Air Marshal (retd) Shahid Lateef
ISLAMABAD: The present national scene is muddled with disarray, discontent and dejection. The vanquished people feel betrayed, while the victorious leadership is shedding crocodile tears and warning about the dangers being posed to democracy.
In reality, it is the rulers who are endangered due to their pathetic performance, while the institution of democracy being proven, pragmatic and productive in nature, faces no threats. It has become a fashion with the civilian governments, to attribute their failures to the periodic army interventions. Though, there have been sporadic military transgressions, which remained responsible for upsetting the apple-cart, the truth still lies somewhere in the middle.
The cumulative effects of the alternating civil-military leaderships that remained busy in serving themselves and their foreign masters have finally brought this country to the brink of disaster. The current government is plagued with every failure that can occur under the sun. The downslide, therefore, continues unabated.
The US approach towards Pakistan has undergone a radical change. Having realised that Pak military is a major hurdle in the achievement of their agenda on India and Afghanistan, due to divergent interests, they have decided to part ways with our army, and go whole hog behind the civilian government, which they find to be much more amenable and compliant. There is enough evidence to believe that the newly adopted strategy of minimising military influence is being vigorously pursued.
We may start connecting dots from the first move that the government made soon after it took over, to place the ISI under Interior Ministry, which backfired. Having failed in this initiative, the US was requested to make an attempt to cut the armed forces to size, through the infamous Kerry-Lugar Bill, which was also foiled. Then came the Raymond Davis episode in which, two citizens were ruthlessly murdered in broad daylight and the killer was whisked away to safe heavens, making the army/ISI look small and helpless. In continuation of the same endeavour, a huge blow was struck to the military’s image during OBL’s operation in Abbottabad, which was planned particularly to discredit the armed forces and expose the ISI. The brazen display of bullying and barbarism by Nato forces on Salala check post, has been the latest in the series of gruesome and unprovoked aggressions, the reasons for which are yet to be explained. Additionally, the diplomatic offensive by US to malign Pak military, continues unabated and has gained intensity with the passage of time.
The extensions in service granted by the government to COAS and DG ISI, were meant to oblige and seek the armed forces’ alignment with the US objectives. In the most incoherent message heard over decades, the prime minister announced in a hurriedly arranged mid-night TV transmission that, by granting a three year extension to the army chief, the government had provided ‘safety’ to all ‘big four’, up to year 2013. It may be noted that the government and the Chief Justice, both have their office tenures approved up to the same time period. As the COAS’ extension came under intense criticism in various circles, the PM rushed back to his advisers and sought a more palatable justification. Since then, in keeping with his usual pattern, he has changed stance, saying that the country could not afford change of commanders, in the middle of a war, being fought against terrorism.
Nevertheless, the special favour by PM has not received a corresponding response from the army. The PM’s frustration is manifested in his frequent diatribes against the armed forces, for not having acquired the ‘intended’ control over them despite his generosity.
In the continuous process of societal degeneration, the two most treacherous events that have threatened Pakistan, with a potentially explosive and deadly clash between state institutions, involve the NRO and Memogate conspiracies. Both are simple and straightforward cases, but taking full advantage of the intricacies of law, they have been made extremely complex and complicated by the perpetrators. There is a typical characteristic of the evil forces, that crimes in which they are likely to be caught, are compounded and confused beyond comprehension, so that they are difficult to prove in the court of law, where clear and concise evidence is needed.
The first such case is NRO in which, the present government was explicitly instructed by the apex court to approach the Swiss authorities, asking them for return of the laundered money from Pakistan. All the national watchdog agencies remained indifferent, which emboldened the government to show blatant defiance to the judicial orders. Finally, the court is now proceeding with ‘contempt’ charges against the PM, and unless supported by the other power centres, its outcome would be highly doubtful.
The Memogate scandal is far more serious, as it involves a conspiracy against the security and survival of the country. Its credibility has been validated both by the COAS and DG ISI, through affidavits submitted to the SC. The prime witness of the case has been successfully prevented from appearing before the court, due to refusal of providing adequate security needed by him for his protection. The main accused, after brief confinement in the country, has been allowed to proceed abroad, which is being contemplated as the drop scene of this lethal case too. Since the Army/ISI are an involved party in this grievous matter, the responsibility of ensuring an impartial investigation rests squarely on their shoulders. To guard their own prestige, the evolving impression that this drama was staged only to knock out Ambassador Haqqani, must be dispelled.
The forces at play and precarious circumstances faced by the country, present a devastating picture. The political parties are playing politics of sell-offs and self-interest, with least regard to any other consideration. The judiciary is feeling weak, as its main supporters, who also spearheaded the historic ‘lawyers movement’, have been cleverly divided and dispersed. The media is being used to promote vested interests. While there is a deliberate campaign to keep the military establishment on the back foot, due to its past follies, it has to break out of these shackles, come forward and play the traditional role of ‘saviours’, but this time, working within the constitution.
It should encompass taking the NRO and Memogate scandals expeditiously to their logical ends (under Article190); then, assist SC to form a national government of clean and competent individuals, who must reform the entire electoral process and make Pakistan stand on its feet, before conducting free, fair and impartial elections in the country. This has to be accomplished in the true spirit of the solemn oath, undertaken by all armed forces personnel, that they shall protect their motherland under all circumstances, even to the peril of their lives. Dithering at this stage will result in a collective suicide.

The writer is a former Vice Chief Of Air Staff, PAF. Email: shahidlateef57@gmail.com

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