Gen Mirza Aslam Beg

Sunday, August 29, 2010 – Altaf Hussains’ appeal to the ‘patriotic generals’, is reminiscent of the appeal made by ACM Ashar Khan’ is his letter to General Zia in 1977, and the putting together of the Grand Democratic alliance (GDA) under the PPP in 1998, which led to military take-over, in1977 and1999. It is the name of the game, played for the last several decades, to pull down elected governments for military take over. Would this game succeed again is a matter of concern. Altaf Hussain told his party workers on 22 August that “military generals had imposed martial law in the past, so they could take a similar action again to weed-out corrupt politicians, and his party would support such an act,” Altaf Hussain is a coalition partner of the government, who has reached a point of such desperation, as a result of corruption of the government; internal differences, on the provincial matters of governance, or perhaps, “Oopar se hukum aya hai”—— (orders from above have come).” Let us first therefore examine Asghar Khan’s appeal to General Zia, to prove the syndrome of military interventions.

In 1977, when the agitation against Mr. Bhutto was gaining momentum, Asghar Khan wrote a letter to Gen Zia, urging him to intervene, because the “country was going to dogs and delay in military take over would be disastrous”. This letter was seen by our Secretary General FRIENDS, Dr. S. M. Rahman who was then advisor Psy Ops in GHQ. Gen Zia, discussed the contents of this letter with him. The moot point is whether, Asghar Khan was acting on his own, or he also “had received orders from above” to make such a move. Asghar Khan was happy, when Bhutto government was toppled and his trial began. And we all know, how impatient Asghar Khan was to see the end of Bhutto, by publicly urging Gen Zia, to“ hang him from the Kohala Bridge”, if the court verdict was wanting in this respect. And there is another example of such a conspiracy in support of the Army take over in 1999.

In 1997, under the leadership of Pakistan Peoples Party, we formed an alliance by the name of Pakistan Awami Ittehad, (PAI) with an eleven point agenda, to mobilise public opinion. On 14th August 1998, a very big rally was held at Nishtar Park, Karachi where Peoples Party really demonstrated its political power. The next day, when we assembled at Bilawal House, for the assessment Nawabzada Nasrullah and the PPP leadership declared “this man (Nawaz Sharif ) must go , and that is our one point agenda now ”. We tried to find out the reason for reducing the movement to one point agenda, to remove Nawaz Sharif, as against the eleven point agenda, but we got no reasonable explanation. It was apparent that they too had “received orders from the above”. Forced by circumstances, we disassociated our selves from the alliance and immediately a new alliance was formed by the name of Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) under the leadership of Peoples Party, joined by ANP, MQM, Tehrik-e-Insaf, Tahirul Qadri and Nawabzada Nasrullah leading a group of about a dozen smaller parties. During the last week of September 1999, GDA leaders called on me. Benazir Bhutto was in self .exile. They wanted me to join the band wagon and told me that “the army was going to intervene, and that it will hold elections in 90 days and they shall be in power, and we want you to be on board with us”. I asked them, “why are you so sure of yourself?” One of the senior members replied “We have received orders from above,” to mobilize the public. And sure enough, Musharraf took over, soon after.

Has Altaf Hussain also received “Orders from above”, one doesn’t know, but something appears to be very intriguing to hear from the Peoples Party Secretary General, Jahangir Badar: “PPP big wigs are looting and plundering. Those who have done nothing for the party have now become big names, looting and plundering and increasing their rates on daily basis. I could also go for the loot by taking a bag in my hand, but I wont . If some government officials want to take action against me, what. I have said, they are free to please themselves.” Imran Khan and Pir Pagara also support Altaf Hussain, which adds to the surprise to this nefarious game.

“The orders from above” formula has worked in the past but it won’t work now. The judiciary is no more part of the game. The Army has burnt its fingers four times, and particularly under Musharraf’s rule, they blackened their faces. During the last two years Army has earned a good name, for what it has done for the cause of democracy, and in aid of civil power. The military thereat from the North and the South, demands un- divided attention of the armed force, who know well how far they can go and not beyond under the present conditions. Altaf Hussain’s statement is rather intriguing. It is either an illusion of a leader, having experienced something based on reality, or it is a ‘political expediency’, induced by some external elements, seeking advantage through unlawful means. No doubt change is needed, to break Zardaris ‘grid lock’ over the party, the parliament and the prime – minister; to remove the ‘deadlock’ between the supreme court and the government on the issue of NRO, and the 18th amendment, and to remove the ‘stagnation in governance’. Change is needed, no doubt, but how to take the first step, is the moot question. Situation therefore demands a very careful and calculated move to take the first crucial step. Any attempt for a military intervention will be a disaster. The judiciary, the government and the opposition therefore, have to step forward to determine the ‘fundamental direction for change’, and the constitutional steps of deliverance and solvency.

We as a nation are a very impatient people, and have never given a real chance to democracy to deliver. The first democratic order of 1972 to 1977, rejected Mr. Bhutto and if General Zia had not intervened, the system would have thrown up new leadership and Mr. Bhutto would have lived his day, to reclaim his right to power, later on, as part of the built- in correctivemechanism of the democratic system. Similarly between1988-99, both, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif were twice rejected by the system, opening the door for new leadership to emerge but Musharraf intervened, stopped the process, and created “political abnormalities” we now have to suffer. Suffer, we must for our sins, but let the process take its course, “which is the best revenge, for the cause of democracy.” Forget about Altaf and his Patriotic Generals. Men do note matter. It is the robustness of the system that lends strength to the nation.

—The writer is former Chief of Army Staff

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