Hear hear, Mr Prime Minister

Published: December 23, 2011

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani needs to be thoroughly commended for his very timely and brave speech. PHOTO: NNI

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani needs to be thoroughly commended for his very timely and brave speech on the floor of the National Assembly on December 22. In it, he said many of the things that need to be said at this stage, by the country’s elected chief executive, as tensions between the civilian government and the military simmer to a boil. Perhaps responding to the ministry of defence’s reply to the Supreme Court of a day earlier, which had suggested that the army and the ISI were not under its control, the prime minister very rightly said that there “can’t be a state within the state; [and that] they [the establishment] would always be answerable to parliament”. He added that all institutions of the country are answerable to parliament and this is how things should be in fully functional democracy where rule of law and the Constitution is supreme. The prime minister is also correct when he says that it was the civilian government which put its full weight behind the establishment after the May 2 raid in Abbottabad or after the Salala raid of November 26. For that, he feels, it is getting a very raw deal. Perhaps, one particularly telling remark of his was when he indirectly referred to calls being made regarding the alleged issuance of visas to Americans by the country’s former ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, saying that he wanted to know how Osama bin Laden was living in the country for six years.

Of course, it doesn’t help this government in particular, in that its record on governance and delivering public services to citizens is most inadequate. However, the issue in question is not the performance of the present government per se, but rather that of which institution is supreme according to the country’s Constitution, and whether the powerful military is to be subordinate to parliament. Since the latter represents the popular will of the people, as manifest through the holding of general elections, it necessarily follows that the parliament be sovereign in its role as the nation’s supreme decision-making body, and all other institutions of state be answerable/accountable to it. The reality is otherwise as many of us know. The establishment is in charge of large sections of foreign policy and in many instances also calls the shots with regards to domestic policy. It has appropriated to itself the states policies towards important matters such as ties with America, with India and the country’s participation in the war on terror and the fight against domestic militancy and extremism. What is being advocated is not exactly heretical or extraordinary. It happens, by and large, next-door in India, where an elected civilian government, albeit with allegations of corruption and a tainted public image, has a military that is subordinate to it. The reason that India never had a military coup is because its civilian leaders asserted themselves and the country held regular elections. Parties contested them, the winners making a government, and if they did badly and failed to deliver, the people voted them out at the next election. This, indeed, is how things are done in a mature democracy, something Pakistan can, for now, only aspire to.

In this context, Prime Minister Gilani’s remarks make eminent sense and should be welcomed by all those who want to see the country as a state that operates as a fully functional democracy and not one where the military dominates all other institutions, and where policies formulated by the establishment guide the nation. It goes without saying that in a democracy, all institutions of the state are answerable and hence subservient to parliament. This stand should have been taken by the PPP, which has fought several dictatorships in the past, in the first place, but better late than never. While the prime minister rightly made a strong case for the government to be allowed to complete its term, he did say that the military was “disciplined” and that it “followed the Constitution”. This is also welcome because it does not make for a blame-game and in fact, suggests an attempt by him to assuage the powerful institution, while at the same time clearly saying that whatever is happening will not be taken lying down by the PPP-led government.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 23rd, 2011.

Reader Comments (19)

  • dasmir
    Dec 23, 2011 - 1:41AM

    IFull marks to PM who showed who th eBoss is,people of Pakistan and its representative.Army and ISI will have to come to Parliament on bent knee and accept civilian supremacy or take Pakistan and drown it into Arabian sea.
    Bravo Gilani.You secured your second term

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  • Abby
    Dec 23, 2011 - 1:46AM

    India’s military has never taken over government, yes, but it has still dominated a lot of the country’s policy-making in areas considered vital to the Indian state, so that’s a bad comparison, and do keep in mind that it still hasn’t yet been proven OBL was in that compound in Abbottabad and Gilani should’ve waited for the commission set up on the matter to put out its report before talking about OBL..

    Also, this very civilian government that Gilani heads had its golden opportunity to bring the last army chief to overthrow a sitting democratic government to justice for violating article 6 the constitution but his government saw him off with a guard of honor after signing the NRO with him; after setting that precedent Gilani is in no position to complain about the army’s current role now. The author of this article is clearly just another apologist.

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  • Hafsa
    Dec 23, 2011 - 2:02AM

    Spot on: “However, the issue in question is not the performance of the present government per se, but rather that of which institution is supreme according to the country’s Constitution”

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  • Parvez Amin
    Dec 23, 2011 - 7:18AM

    There is no question that the people are the masters of the country, whether through an elected parliament or in any other form. If there remained any doubt, the Prime Minister removed it with his statement. The mandate to the military given by the people is clear; act as our representatives order.

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  • AnisAqeel
    Dec 23, 2011 - 8:13AM

    Another Bangladesh is in making, who made the first one? Please open your eyes and try to recognize your enemy it may be your most beloved snake in the sleeve.
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/opinion/solve-the-pakistan-problem-by-redrawing-the-map/article2278388/
    Please read the above link and ponder what is going on in the international arena and act carefully but don’t be quiet and speak out clearly and loudly that we do not want Pakistan break once again. We do not want dictatorship but democracy only within a constitution.

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  • ahmad
    Dec 23, 2011 - 8:44AM

    An eye opener for people who rant about performance of govt. Today due to establishments tactics govt. is stuck in saving democracy. They are just not allowed to concentrate on development. If people are not satisfied elections is the answer.
    “It happens, by and large, next-door in India, where an elected civilian government, albeit with allegations of corruption and a tainted public image, has a military that is subordinate to it. “

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  • Javed Basit Hassan
    Dec 23, 2011 - 9:17AM

    Mr. Prime Minister, you said the right things. Military establishment needs to be accountable to the elected government. State within a State is not acceptable by any norms of the society. Constitution is Supreme and no one including the military can bypass it. Rule of law should be ensured and no one is above the law.Recommend

  • Vajdaan Shah
    Dec 23, 2011 - 9:26AM

    Interesting read, nice article! We need more such daring steps across the country to ensure a better Pakistan for everyone rather than just a selected few… but only with patience, steadfastness and strong will we could.

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  • gp65
    Dec 23, 2011 - 9:30AM

    Great Mr. Gilani. You should have held military accountable earlier instead of giving a 3 year extension to Kayani. Khair, der aaye durust aaye.

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  • usman
    Dec 23, 2011 - 9:35AM

    time to stand by the representatives of the people.

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  • Karim
    Dec 23, 2011 - 9:58AM

    In my opinion State within a State means not following the Rule of Law. I am sorry to say that the present government is following that path and there are so many instances. while i believe that the army is following the supreme courts instructions, which is also a rare instance keeping in view the history and traditions of Pak Army.

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  • Dec 23, 2011 - 9:58AM

    This editorial, in the light of history of Pakistan, is of great importance and should be taken very seriously when it says ” However, the issue in question is not the performance of the present government per se, but rather that of which institution is supreme according to the country’s Constitution, and whether the powerful military is to be subordinate to parliament.” Bringing the corruption issue is to confuse the issue. There is no civil and democratic Government in the world that has not faced the charges of corruption at some point of time but that has never been a cause of military becoming above the Parliament of the country.

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  • Feroz
    Dec 23, 2011 - 11:00AM

    People must stand by their representatives and Parliament. Because of the unconstitutional acts of the Military Pakistan has earned the title of a rogue state. Those holding arms legally or illegally should not be allowed to gang up and hold defenseless citizens to ransom.
    Please stand in support of Parliament, the alternative is a lawless brutal Dictatorship.

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  • sharifL
    Dec 23, 2011 - 12:18PM

    Hear hear PM. I may add hear hear Tribune also for telling us the way it is. I am, howver, surprised that most of the comments seem to agree with you. In real life I know few who do. Most of them are either recommending dismissals and some army rule. Let us hear what they want to say, however wrong they may be.

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  • Imran Mohammad
    Dec 23, 2011 - 7:33PM

    It is very easy to extol the virtues of democracy in our comfy settings but why PM has not shone that much vigor in tackling pressing economic and governance issues. If he thinks he can subdue military while he is running most corrupt, dysfunctional and detached from reality and people, government, he is day-dreaming. PM, give some people something to support you when push comes to shove against dictators. Empty speeches does not help.Recommend

  • ashok sai
    Dec 23, 2011 - 7:36PM

    Well done Mr.Gilani, sanity at last.

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  • Siddique Malik
    Dec 23, 2011 - 10:39PM

    Great editorial. I am not a PPP jiala. As a matter of fact, I believe the PPP is more like a property of Bhutto-Zardari families’ property than a national political party. All its leaders — even people like Aitazaz Ashen and Makhdoom Amin Fahim and the Prime Minister himself — act to protect these families’ interests rather than protecting the interests of the people of Pakistan. But I must admire Prime Minister Gilani for having the courage to say what he did about the army. He raises a very good point: if one sheds tears over visas given to American visitors, how about Osama bin Laden living in Pakistan? Who gave him the visa? Also, the Prime Minister is one hundred percent right when he says that no institution should be able to setup a state within the state and that all state institutions should be subservient to the parliament. The prime minister should muster a little more courage and stand up to the Bhutto-Zardari families, and act as someone the people of Pakistan have elected him to be: their prime minister, upon whom, the 18th amendment bestows all executive powers, making the office of the president a mere figurehead. So why does the prime minister allow the figurehead assume control of policy matters? This figurehead caused the mess and now the prime minister is cleaning it up. While the prime minister is doing all this, he must try to put the figurehead in his place. Otherwise, the prime minister’s courage against the army will do Pakistan no good. For now, I admire his courage so much that I dedicate to him the following couplet:

    ہزار خوف ہوں لیکن زبان ہو دل کی رفیق

    یھی رہا ہے ازل سے قلندروں کا طریق

    Siddique Malik, Louisville, Kentucky, USA.

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  • Fahad
    Dec 24, 2011 - 5:07PM

    I posted a comment, and it was put up by the moderator simply because I didn’t completely agree with the editorial?

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  • sami
    Jan 12, 2012 - 2:23PM

    hi, mr prime minister ,i m working in ogdcl in third party contract, today u visit kunnar passakhi deep plant but unfortunately u did not announce our job regularization, sir v know u will do some thing better for us ,thanx

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