NEWS & VIEW
IT is unfortunate that some politicians, intellectual elite, commentators and civil society members through their statements and comments denigrate state institutions and also try to stoke clash between them. They should realize that clash between institutions could shake up very foundations of the state, and the consequences could be disastrous. Shahid Qureshi, editor The London Post, in his recent article captioned ‘Did General Qamar Bajwa missed Indian and Nawaz Sharif Spin on Dawn Leaks?’ stated: “The whole theme of Dawn Leaks was designed to undermine the only surviving and reasonably performing institution – The Armed Forces of Pakistan…Had army and its institutions took the strict action against Geo TV Group’s ISI and its chief General Zaheer-ul-Islam bashing seriously, there would not have been a Dawn leak.” One has right to form an opinion, but one should not give judgment without any evidence.
There is a perception that he tried to provoke military by stating: “Well General Qamar Bajawa, speeches of the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and current defence minister Khawja Asif are enough for you to make up your mind. If you still don’t know who is running Nawaz Sharif and his regime, then you may as well excuse yourself from this role as your stance on ‘Dawn Leaks’ has already damaged the morale of the country and army ranks and files.” This is reflective of poor judgment of the author about the army chief, as army is committed to support the elected government, and would not go against the law and the Constitution. Of course, a situation emerged from the notification issued by Prime Minister’s office and statements from political leaders to which military reacted. Nevertheless, army chief and prime minister displaying wisdom have overcome the differences.
The fact of the matter is that during General Raheel Sharif’s tenure, only once civil-military relations came under stress when a private TV channel had accused the ISI of being behind an attack on its anchor person. The then information minister Pervaiz Rashid had in a statement said “hum ghulail walon ke naheen dalil walon ke sath hein.” It was unfortunate that world’s sixth largest army and 5th largest air force in the world armed with nuclear arsenal was described as ‘ghulail wale’. Since COAS General Qamar Bajwa took charge, there seemed to be complete understanding. But after the controversial notification from Prime Minister’s office with regard to Dawn Leak report, and Director General ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor’s tweet stating “Notification on Dawn Leak is incomplete and not in line with recommendations by the Inquiry Board. Notification is rejected,” led to the standoff.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said there was ‘unnecessary noise’ surrounding the directives issued by the PM’s Office in relation to an investigation into a story published in Dawn, adding that “a formal notification has yet to be issued in this regard. He further said the final notification would be issued by his ministry and would be in line with what he called the “black and white” recommendations made by the inquiry committee.” One can infer from his statement that notification from PM office was incomplete. He also admitted that PM office direction to his ministry was leaked. Yet he said: “Institutions should not address each other through tweets,” in an apparent reference to a tweet by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR). Anyhow, Interior Ministry issued the notification which was in line with the recommendations of inquiry board.
Of course, the relations between the military and the government have been uneasy at times, but they have been on the same page so far as the fight against terrorism and Pakistan’s security issues are concerned. And General Qamar Bajwa is likely to carry General Sharif’s legacy forward. It is true that military dictators in the past were contemptuous of the political leaders, but on the other hand the politicians in their statements and drawing room gossip considered military personnel no more than chowkidars, whereas they are defenders of the nation. They also say that military has no right to interfere in security and foreign policy matters. True enough, in a democratic dispensation, military leadership has to obey the lawful orders of the elected government, but it has to be borne in mind that throughout the world, governments act on the advice of military so far as matters relating to national security are concerned.
In the US, Britain and even in India, what they call, the largest democracy in the world – political leaderships take decisions on the basis of the information provided by intelligence agencies and advice of military leadership. It is matter of record that former Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh had in principle agreed to withdraw from Siachen and agreement to that effect was about to be inked. However, the army prevailed upon the prime minister and convinced him that India would lose strategic advantage, and Indian forces would be vulnerable if India withdrew from Siachen. In 2006, a blistering assessment of British policy in Iraq from the country’s top soldier General Sir Richard Dannatt had left Tony Blair reeling when he said that troops should come home within two years – contradicting the then Prime Minister’s policy that the military will stay “as long as it takes”.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.