The state within state, deep state, invisible state and permanent state or more harshly– an ultimate arbitrator in statecraft. These are oblique references which are often passed about military establishment in Pakistan by people driven by vested interests however, what nation witnessed on eves of PM Imran Khan, visiting GHQ, HQ ISI and Defense Day ceremony at GHQ, defies insinuations of such sort. From top to bottom, every rank and file was avid to receive him, salute him and brief him in depth as of his bounden duty. It was a natural demonstration of love, trust, respect and mutual bond by a body, chemically ready to follow a man who could lead the country to its ultimate destination of shared destiny and Imran Khan is considered a man of such stock by all and sundry. In elections, nation has reposed trust on him to steer the country out fallen in a morass of awesome dimensions. Undoubtedly, it is a verdict of collective wisdom.
The conduct displayed by men in uniform on above mentioned occasions was a perfect illustration of how they think and act. They think and act alike. They have amply showed that there is no wall of ego or hesitation or class. Their hearts pulsate with nation. Precisely this is the reason that nation trusts them. There is never a dispute among the nation about them. It is only vested interests which cast aspersions. Notwithstanding these, nation deeply acknowledges role of Armed Forces in epoch of challenges to bring country thus far, including on path of democracy.
Following results of elections 2018, it is a third democratic transition without any hitch over a decade. It was a decade where fledgling democracy needed time to mature and country had to face worst type of terrorism in its breadth and depth. On top of this, all other institutions which had role to play in running of the country/terrorism, were nearly dysfunctional. It multiplied the crisis. Eventually, they had to take the burnt at all fronts. Ungrudgingly’ they did it splendidly in national vocation. For sake of refreshing the memories, formidable challenges included threat of terrorism, militancy in Baluchistan, restoration of peace in Karachi, frequent escalations on Line of Control/Working Boundary, Indian intrigues in league with Afghan NDS on western border, US mantra of Do More, pressing diplomatic engagements, international commitments, provision of infrastructure and rehabilitation of IDPs, security of CPEC, relief work in natural calamities and enterprises of national importance such as national census and holding of PSL matches. Last but not the least, emergencies calling for SOS response.
Most of these tasks were far beyond their designation but they did it for no consideration other than to afford time to democracy to mature and prevent the country to relapse into situation of even greater proportions because redo is invariably greatly exacting and cost expensive. Apart from this, Armed Forces deserve gratitude for not indulging themselves on tempting opportunities; long march for restoration of Judiciary, sit in at Islamabad, allures of technocrat government, national government and installation of government of own choice, made repeatedly by ruling elite, restrain on mischievous provocations and holding of fair elections under their direct supervision with provision of level playing field to all. All along they pledged to stand for good of the country and did it without infringing on the constitution. It is no ultra-undemocratic role because in developing countries where democratic institutions are also at nascent stage, Armed Forces are also required to act as a stabilization force. Albeit, vanquishing ruling elite allege the establishment of political meddling however, it is bereft of substance because whatever they have done, it was in earnest of concern for the country and democracy. By their overt action of support/followership to Imran Khan without any inhibition, they have left no room to doubt their intent and action.
The views of present civil leadership about Armed forces are empathically clear; they are our assets and source of pride. There is no civil military divide or imbalance. Both are on one page with a common goal to solve problems of the nation with ultimate purpose of making country grow and prosperous. We rise and fall together. The views of military leadership are no less refreshing. There is a perception that Army interferes in civil affairs. Be assured, Army would function like any other government institution. COAS General Bajwa has said clearly “war is still continuing and we have to ensure enduring peace besides, working for development and progress of the country and continuity of democracy is imperative for country’s development. Both views are perfectly in step with each other with no marriage of convenience rather, a merger of creed for national reconstruction.
It is complementary in nature to each other because of huge similarities. Both have worked tirelessly for collective benefit of the nation. Both have made supreme sacrifices to arrive at this stage of takeoff. Both are self-denying. Nation trusts both. Armed with all this, merger would definitely accrue tremendous synergy effect too. On other side, it would dissuade ruling elite to stab the system from back doors. In brief, subject relationship would surely strengthen the platform for good tidings for the nation.
— The writer, retired Lt Col, is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.