The army chief’s statement

Published: December 24, 2011

The fact is that the government will have to wrest control back from the military piece-by-piece.

So complete is the military’s hold over politics that a mere statement will perhaps not be enough to lower currents tensions in the country’s polity. Still, Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s statement that the army is not plotting a coup against the elected government is welcome and should lead to some reduction in the tension. That it came a day after Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani openly voiced his fears that the moves were being made to send his government packing shows that at least for the moment the army probably will not risk an overt coup. As anti-government as the sentiment among many in the country may be, a military coup is the last thing anyone wants.

That said, even if the army has decided that an overt coup is not plausible right now, there are other ways in which it has in the past interfered with the democratic process. It is an open secret that the military leadership is not happy with President Asif Ali Zardari and they could engineer his resignation while allowing the government to serve out its term. In that context, disavowing a coup is not the same thing as promising to be subservient to a civilian government and to parliament. The government indirectly admitted its weakness when in an affidavit it submitted to the Supreme Court, the ministry of defence said that it had no control over the military. The army chief’s statement does nothing to change that.

In an ideal world, the civilian government would not have to worry about the military, which should be under its control, just like any other institution of the state. However, the fact is that the government will have to wrest control back piece-by-piece. It must begin by standing its ground on Memogate and should demand that if at all the actions of one person are to be investigated, then those of the other, also mentioned in the transcripts, should be probed. Additionally, the PPP needs to be more open about the challenges it faces and not equivocate on issues when it needs to take a stand. In that context, the prime minister’s speech on the floor of the National Assembly on December 22 was most timely and one hopes that the party will now perhaps find its voice which held it in good stead during many years of military dictatorship.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 24th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • Mirza
    Dec 24, 2011 - 1:12AM

    Kudos on a balanced and pragmatic Ed. The coalition govt should come out openly with its secular and liberal agenda and distance itself from the rightwing parties and army’s policy of safe havens for strategic assets. It should lead with the front foot and offer a clear choice between the past failures of rightwing policies and the new liberal Pakistan. The coalition govt must not forget that the nation has never elected a rightwing party in any fair election. With the current coalition seat adjustment, they can still win if they announce the polls today for coming summer. By that time that (earliest) time the voter lists would be ready per SC order. An announcement like that would take the oxygen out of the rightwing campaign and beat them in their own game. BB’s death aniversary can be the time to announce early polls in summer.

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  • Tahir
    Dec 24, 2011 - 3:17AM

    Absolutely right. A vital suggestion for the ppp govt. They can perform a leading role here to minimize the security establishment role in Pakistan. Ppp should be more open on this issue and should bring to the light if any covert plan was there to topple the civilian govt.
    Every one should be brought to justice.

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  • Kamran Shafi
    Dec 24, 2011 - 4:11AM

    Great editorial! Thank you and Zindabad, Express Tribune!

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  • Qasim
    Dec 24, 2011 - 10:50AM

    A master stroke from PPP, which for now has forced army into retreat and judiciary into denials that it would not baptize takeovers as before. But disowning a coup is not the same thing as promising to be subservient to a civilian government and to parliament. Let all politicians, especially Sharif and Imran, understand that unless checked they might be the next target as history suggests. Do not encourage army to interfere in the political process or don’t make hollow claims for democracy ever. Can’t have the cake and eat it too.

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  • ashok sai
    Dec 24, 2011 - 10:58AM

    As a neighbors, we Indians would like to see the democracy to flourish, after all we are much comfortable in speaking to the people’s representative than man holding a gun !

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  • Jp
    Dec 24, 2011 - 11:53AM

    Democracy will not suceed unless all political parties unite against any form of threat to their existance. Political battles should be fought only in the peoples court which are elections.

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  • frank
    Dec 24, 2011 - 1:14PM

    Whether America’s friends in Pakistan, the neo-liberals, like it or not the vast majority of Pakistanis have much more respect for the country’s army than for the country’s politicians cum businessmen cum landlords.

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