News & Views
ON Saturday, ISPR tweet stated: “Notification on Dawn Leak is incomplete and not in line with recommendations by the Inquiry Board. Notification is rejected.” Most opposition parties support the tweet, but some ruling party leaders, analysts in TV talk shows and a few commentriat observed that the word ‘rejected’ in the tweet was objectionable, as military is subordinate to the government and for that matter to the prime minister. Since inquiry report has not been made public, analysts and panelists do not know what was decided in the meeting of the Inquiry Board or whether any consensus was reached. We know what we are told and we do not know what we not told. Of course, MI and ISI nominees were in the inquiry board, therefore army knows about the recommendations made by the board. Therefore, report of the Inquiry Board should be published to end the debate.
It would be appropriate to give some background to the controversy. An exclusive news story by Cyril Almeida on national security aspects titled “Act against militants or face international isolation, civilians tell military,” was published in Dawn on 6th October 2016. The very title was provocative as if military was responsible for, what they say, isolation of Pakistan in the world. In such crucial times, when Pakistan is confronted with India’s jingoism and war mongering, a story showing rift between military and civilian leadership is fraught. International media, especially Indian media had given prominent space to the news story and molded it to further stir anti-Pakistan sentiment. The story used the language and advanced the stance of the enemies of Pakistan who blame Pakistan military for nurturing terrorists group. Anyhow, it appears that all is not well so far as civil-military relations are concerned.
Pakistan Army is engaged for more than a decade now to root out militancy in the country and is operating in some of the most formidable, inhospitable and difficult areas of the Pakistan – never stepped in by army before. Although, the success rate of rooting out militants is very high, it is at the price of life of the soldiers engaged in the war on terror. Those who lay down their lives, attain the highest honour any Muslim soldier can achieve – the martyrdom. Since Pakistan joined the war on terror, more than 6,000 soldiers have laid down their lives in defence of the motherland, and even more than the NATO soldiers killed in Afghanistan. Those who survive and come back alive and unharmed are willing to go back again to take sides with their comrades in arm once again.
However, a fairly large number of soldiers are reported injured and the figure is more than 12000. And out of these there are many who have been rendered maimed for life by losing their limbs and by suffering emotional and mental stresses. Had it not been a state of art rehab facility managed and operated by the Pakistan Army, these soldiers would have lived a crippled life forever. It is ironical that not even a single politician seems to have visited the facility and encouraged these badly hurt and wounded soldiers, who despite their wounds, both mental and physical, are charged with such a high level of motivation and patriotism that they are still willing to go back and fight. In March 2011, Canadian daily “Toronto Star” published a story by one of its foreign correspondents, Rick Westhead, who reported from Pakistan.
He lauded the spirit and courage of “Pakistan’s wounded and forgotten soldiers”, as they said that none of the political leaders ever visited them. Perhaps it is the media’s general antipathy for the armed forces that the report and the facts detailed by Westhead had not been the subject of news reports. The problem is that chattering classes, and some analysts and panelists pick our military and intelligence agencies for an unbridled vituperative onslaught, castigating them for everything wrong or ill in the country. Since security establishment rarely responds to the freehand vilification and pillory, the chattering classes feeling safe in their minds of not be contradicted or challenged peddle whatever they want to demonise the military and intelligence agencies. It was in this backdrop that former COAS Raheel Sharif had put his foot down during his address at Ghazi base.
There was hullabaloo over his Ghazi base pronouncements to launch into a scurrilous and provocative discourse. If our politicians could vow they would safeguard democracy in any event; if our lawmakers could swear they would defend Parliament’s supremacy; and if the judges could proclaim not to allow judiciary’s independence to be compromised in any circumstances, what was wrong when COAS Raheel Sharif said “military would resolutely preserve its own dignity and institutional pride.” So-called liberal democrats always refer to imposition of three Martial Laws in the past, and believe that they are justified in resorting to scathing criticism of the military. In 20th century, there have been coup de tats in countries including Asia, Africa and Latin America. For decades, dictators had ruled Egypt, Indonesia and many other countries yet they would not denigrate or malign their military. Anyhow, the Quaid’s quotes in this regard should be the guiding principle.
In April 1948, while addressing the civilian officers Quaid-e-Azam said: “The first thing that I want to tell you is that you should never be influenced by any political pressure, by any political party or any individual politician. If you want to raise the prestige and greatness of Pakistan you must not fall victim to any pressure but do your duty as servants of the people and the state, fearlessly and honestly… Civil servants are not bound to obey illegal orders.” Addressing Officers of the Staff College, Quetta 14th June, 1948, Quaid-e-Azam had said: “I thank you, gentlemen, for the honour you have done me and Miss Fatima Jinnah by inviting us to meet you all. You, along with other Forces of Pakistan are the custodians of the life, property and honour of the people of Pakistan. The Defence Forces are the most vital of all Pakistan Service and correspondingly a very heavy responsibility and burden lies on your shoulders.”
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.